Botany Photo of the Day
In science, beauty. In beauty, science. Daily.

October 2007 Archives

Oct 31, 2007: Gentiana × macaulayi 'Kingfisher'

Gentiana × macaulayi 'Kingfisher'

Thank you to new contributor frandango@Flickr for submitting today's photograph (original | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). As always, it is nice to see photographs from a new face.

Autumn-flowering gentians provide a visual contrast to the season's reds, browns and oranges. UBC Botanical Garden grows a fair-sized patch of these 'Kingfisher' gentians in the Alpine Garden near the entrance to the bed of Asian plants (photograph).

I'm not trained in garden design, but I'd like to imagine that if these were planted in combination with an orange-autumn-foliaged shrub or tree, the fallen leaves in combination with the blue gentian flowers would be very appealing (I've been fascinated with blue-and-orange combinations lately, though, so I'm perhaps blinded by that).

To read more about gentians, George L. suggested the link to the Gentian Research Network in comments to last month's entry on Gentiana algida. For a shorter read, Wikipedia provides a summary of gentians.

Oct 30, 2007: Arctium minus

Arctium minus

Another thank you is due to Anne from Alberta (aka annkelliott@Flickr) for contributing a photo to BPotD (original via BPotD Flickr Group Pool), so... thank you once again!

Well, I don't want to bore anyone, but I do need to mention that I had a dream with burdock in it a couple nights ago. Travelling along a forested road in my dream, I remember a forest understorey dominated by burdock (and that's about all I remember).

Arctium minus, or lesser burdock, is native to most of Europe, temperate west Asia and northern Africa. However, it has been introduced to North and South America, as well as New Zealand. In North America, it is now found across the continent. Its spread isn't surprising given the dispersal mechanism used, epizoochory (cf. epianthropochory).

Lesser burdock has a long history of culinary and medicinal uses, discussed in the Plants for a Future database and (briefly) in Emergent Vegetation of the Urban Ecosystem. For the usual excellent factsheet, Arctium minus at offers both a description and extra photographs.

Oct 29, 2007: Boronia hippopala

Boronia hippopala

Thank you to Nuytsia@Tas on Flickr for another wonderful photograph (original | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Much appreciated!

The Australian genus Boronia has recently been the subject of taxonomic scrutiny. Marco Duretto of the Tasmanian published a paper in 2003, “Notes on Boronia (Rutaceae) in eastern and northern Australia” (Muelleria 17:19–135), that described several new species, including Boronia hippopala or velvet boronia. It seems like the taxonomic investigation was well overdue; in Tasmania alone, the number of taxa leaped from six to fifteen (see: Some Giant Steps for Threatened Boronias pp. 18-20 PDF). Of these nine taxa, one seems to have been a range expansion of a taxon known from elsewhere in Australia, one was a re-recognition of a previously-described species that had since been lumped together with another species, and the remaining seven taxa had never previously been described.

Members of the citrus family, or Rutaceae, boronias have some typical qualities of the family: evergreen woody shrubs with fragrant flowers. Your chances of sampling the scent of velvet boronia (and mine) are quite limited though; other than the few plants in cultivation, Boronia hippopala grows in a small woodland and scrubland area of eastern Tasmania measuring no longer than 7km (4.3 miles) at its widest. This factsheet on Boronia hippopala (PDF) contains more detailed information about the species, including description, ecology and threats.

Oct 28, 2007: Pinus longaeva

Pinus longaeva

In its high mountain habitat, Greast Basin bristlecone pine is subject to weathering from ice crystals and dust, particularly from the direction of the prevailing wind. On the side of the tree away from the wind, the individual continues to eke out an existence, but on the side of the tree facing the wind, the trunk tissue is subject to a “death by a hundred million cuts”. This abrasion over hundreds of years will first wear away the living tissue of the trunk and then begin work on polishing and sculpting the dead interior wood, as is shown in today's photograph.

Oct 27, 2007: Codium fragile subsp. tomentosoides

Codium fragile subsp. tomentosoides

Thank you to Courtnay H, aka Seaweed Lady@Flickr, for sharing today's photograph (original image via BPotD Flickr Group Pool. If you love the sea and plants (like me), you certainly should view Courtnay's photographs on Flickr.

Courtnay suggests the following link to accompany her photograph: Codium fragile subsp. tomentosoides via Algaebase. If you visit that page, the word “weed” is used (Courtnay calls this photograph “beautiful invader”); indeed, this species is listed in the Global Invasive Species Database, with a comprehensive list of common names: dead man's fingers, green fleece, green sea fingers, oyster thief or Sputnik weed. Originally from Japan, it is now found in many temperate waters worldwide, its dispersal due to “shellfish aquaculture, recreational boating, and transport on ship hulls”.

The common name of oyster thief is due to this alga's tendency to proliferate in shellfish beds, where it can smother the shellfish with its rapid growth and colonial expansion. Sputnik weed is, as you might guess, a fifty year old common name from eastern North America. The introduction of this species to eastern North American waters was first observed around the same time as the launch of the Soviet Union's satellites.

Oct 26, 2007: Unidentified Moss

Unidentified Moss

Apparently, identifying the species of moss residing on top of a rock in the middle of a river is quite difficult. I put in a call to one of the local moss experts explaining my photograph, naively thinking that there can't be that many species of mosses living on stream-rocks. It turns out that there can be that many. Similar to terrestrial species of moss, a good macro photograph with fruiting structures (or even better, a specimen in hand) is required to take a stab at identification.

This photograph was taken in-camera and processed a bit less than I normally do. The effect of the water is due to a specialized glass filter and long exposure.

Oct 25, 2007: Dasylirion acrotrichum

One last series of photographs from David Tarrant for the time being (thanks yet again, David). David writes: “This is Dasylirion acrotrichum, locally known as cucharilla. The flower spike photographs were taken much earlier this year. The base of the leaves has an attractive spoon shape (cucharilla means “little spoon” in Spanish). The leaf bases are collected to decorate structures called suchiles (spelling? I couldn't find other references – Daniel) and other religious offerings as seen on this one in El Charco del Ingenio from earlier this year.”

Two English common names for this species are green desert spoon and frayed sotol. Frayed is in reference to the leaf-tips, as the leaves terminate with several strands of dry fibrous tissue; photographs of the foliage can be seen on the Dasylirion page of Andrea and Friedrich Lohmüller's site.

Dasylirion acrotrichum is endemic to the deserts of Mexico. If you plan to do more online research on this species, note that the name Dasylirion acrotriche is also often used.

Oct 24, 2007: Acer japonicum 'O-taki'

Acer japonicum 'O-taki'

Along Upper Asian Way in UBC Botanical Garden is one spot that is a favourite of mine in October. Here, two poorly-known cultivars of downy Japanese maple face each other on opposite sides of the path: Acer japonicum 'O-taki' and Acer japonicum 'O-isami'. Both colour in rich shades of gold and red, and, to my memory, reliably so in Vancouver's climate.

The maple enthusiasts who participate on the maples forum have shared a few more photographs of Acer japonicum 'O-taki' throughout the seasons in the maple photograph gallery.

Wikipedia provides a broad summary of this species and its cultivars, with particular emphasis on a description of the species as well as characteristics that distinguish it from other maples with a similar appearance: Acer japonicum.

Oct 23, 2007: Billardiera scandens

Billardiera scandens

A thank you to David M. aka petrichor@Flickr of Sydney, Australia for submitting today's photograph (original | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). David's weblog, dedicated mostly to plants (and plant photographs) of Australia is here:

Billardiera scandens is a native of eastern Australia, where it is commonly known as apple berry, common appleberry, apple dumpling or snotberry. As you might guess with its apple-related common names, the ripe fruits are indeed edible. It is most often an evergreen climbing vine or groundcover, though will sometimes form a small shrub. The genus Billardiera is endemic to Australia, though most species occur in the west.

For today, we'll do a link round-up:

Oct 22, 2007: Fothergilla major

Yesterday's wet and rainy day was spent indoors being treated to André Gallant's visual whirlwind of travel photography, people photography and “dreamscapes”. On the latter theme, he talked about three techniques: panning, composite montages (which I've never tried) and Orton imagery. It inspired me to share another photograph using the latter technique today (a link from the previous entry, added here for easy finding: Orton Imagery - A How-To Guide for Photographers).

I wasn't certain what to title today's entry, as I would normally title it using the name of the garden area. However, this garden bed currently lacks a descriptive name. It is planned to transform this into a themed area (incorporating elements, if not more, of a sensory garden), but plans can often be difficult to turn into reality for whatever reason.

In any case, I've decided to name the entry after the most prominent plant in the photograph. The orange-red Fothergilla major (witch-alder) is native to the southeastern United States, where it characteristically grows on dry highland ridges. It's been recognized as a horticulturally-desirable plant, having won a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit (Fothergilla major via BBC Gardening). An extensive factsheet about witch-alder is available from the Center for Plant Conservation.

The genus Fothergilla is named after John Fothergill, a philanthropist and patron of Sydney Parkinson and William Bartram.

Oct 21, 2007: Daphniphyllum macropodum

This particular specimen of Daphniphyllum macropodum in the UBC Asian Garden is exhibiting some aberrant behaviour this year. The leaves are usually held upright or horizontal, with a tendency to hide the fruit. As you can see, these leaves are drooping, causing the fruit to be quite prominent. It makes for an eye-catching pattern.

Daphniphyllum macropodum was previously featured on BPotD.

Oct 20, 2007: Sorbus yuana

Sorbus yuana

During this time of year, visitors to the Asian Garden are greeted by an excellent colour display from this tree, Sorbus yuana (sorry, no common name). It often helps that there's been some rain and the foliage is wet, saturating the colours even more brilliantly.

Sorbus yuana was only described as a species twenty or so years ago, several years after it was first collected during the 1980 Sino-American Botanical Expedition to Yunnan, China. Likely its scientific discovery took so long due to its habitat and location: steep ravine slopes above 2000m (6500ft.) in a remote mountainous region of China (source: Flora of China entry for Sorbus yuana).

A follow-up on the 1980 expedition was shared by Michael S. Dosmann and Peter Del Tredici in a 2005 report in Hortscience, “The Sino-American Botanical Expedition of 1980: A Retrospective Analysis of Success”. The authors state that of the 621 germplasm collections made, 258 accessions still survive in cultivation in one of eighteen botanical institutions. Of those, however, 115 are represented by only a single specimen at a single location (i.e., there's no redundancy). In the case of Sorbus yuana, however, it is one of the 143 collections that can be found at multiple institutions: Arnold Arboretum, Holden Arboretum, UBC Botanical Garden and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

Oct 19, 2007: Opuntia robusta

Can we squeeze in another photograph from David Tarrant? I think so (thanks again!). David writes, “This is Opuntia robusta which is very common around here [near San Miguel de Allende, Mexico]. The flowers were taken in April and the fruit this past weekend. The fruit is delicious and known locally as tuna. Also, the young pads of these are delicious as a steamed vegetable once the thorns are removed.”

Wheel cactus is native only to northern and central Mexico, though it has naturalized elsewhere, including South Australia, where it is considered a noxious weed (risk assessment). The genus Opuntia can be found in arid sites from southern Canada to southern Argentina (including the Caribbean Islands and the Galapagos), making it the most widespread of cacti.

I don't think I have to explain the epithet robusta; if I do, suffice it to say that this species can grow to 6m tall with a 6m spread (20ft.), with pads measuring 30cm (1ft.). I can't find a top-notch image of this cactus in its full height and spread on a non-commercial site, though one photograph on the CalPhotos site for Opuntia robusta gives a hint.

Photography resource link: André Gallant is a Canadian photographer who does stunning work in colour, often with a nature focus. André often gives workshops alongside Freeman Patterson. To unite this with today's entry a bit, one of the locales visited by André in his workshops is San Miguel de Allende. Lastly, on the topic of workshops and seminars (and if you're a local reader), André is speaking this weekend at the Abbotsford Photo Arts Club (APAC) annual conference. Saturday's sessions are mostly full (or at least the ones I was interested in when I looked earlier this week), but André is also presenting for most of the day on Sunday in Burnaby. You can register for the Sunday presentations through the APAC site – I'll be there.

Two kinds of pumpkins from the UBC Food Garden's small pumpkin patch are shown in today's photographs. Absent are at least two other cultivars in the patch, 'Atlantic Giant' and a white-fleshed variety. 'Schooltime' was on Botany Photo of the Day last year, accompanied by a large set of links about pumpkins, so that's the place to go if you're looking for further reading today. I'll add one more link to the list: photographs of pumpkin cultivars via the Pumpkin Patch.

From what I've been able to gather, 'Hybrid Grey Crown' appears to have been bred in New Zealand and is now percolating slowly into other markets in the world – perhaps a false conclusion, though, as I'm drawing my conclusion from the number of online vendors from particular countries. As is sometimes the case with vegetables, it can even be difficult to determine the name — it seems to be sold as 'Hybrid Grey Crown', 'Grey Crown' or 'Grey Ghost', with the latter name only appearing on North American sites (at least one vendor adds Hybrid Grey Crown in brackets after using 'Grey Ghost'). For a relatively recent introduction, it does seem to already have a confusing set of names. Had it been up to me, I would have chosen a name that no one would have changed – perhaps 'Vampire Pallor' or 'Zombie Flesh'.

Despite resembling the outward appearance of popular Halloween critters, 'Hybrid Grey Crown' is not very suitable for carving. It is thin-skinned, thick-fleshed and small seed-cavitied. However, its sweetness and thick flesh make it excellent for food use, as it produces both quality and quantity (via Pumpkin and Winter Squash Evaluation PDF), as well as the marketing literature).

Oct 17, 2007: Sesamum indicum

Sesamum indicum

Thank you to Nagraj Salian@Flickr from Mumbai, India for sharing today's photograph — here's the original via the BPotD Flickr Group Pool. You might like to view Nagraj's photo sets of flowers or his hiking / trekking trips, by the way. Thanks Nagraj – we're always pleased to have a first-time contributor!

If you haven't guessed from the name of the genus, this is the species responsible for sesame seeds and oil. Cultivated since antiquity, its origin is unknown; GRIN (the Genetic Resources Information Network) suggests a possible origin of Sesamum indicum in India or Africa (the Wikipedia entry goes into more details). Its plant family, the Pedaliaceae, has a similar range, i.e., primarily tropical Old World.

Whenever a spice is featured on BPotD, it's a given that we turn to Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages. Once again, Gernot doesn't disappoint. His detailed page on Sesamum indicum is fascinating, particularly the discussion on hot-pressed oils vs. cold-pressed oils (which I now understand). This transitions into a discussion on how sesame seeds are used for culinary purposes in various cultures.

One property of sesame not touched on by Gernot but mentioned on the GRIN page is allergenic responses to the plant, particularly contact dermatitis. The Botanical Dermatology Database goes into detail: Pedaliaceae @ BoDD (scroll down to Sesamum indicum).

On a final note, I see that Gernot is involved in a museum display on spices. If you're in or near Oldenburg, Germany before the end of this year, do visit the Chiles, Devil’s Dung and Saffron exhibition at the Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg.

Oct 16, 2007: Laetiporus gilbertsonii

Laetiporus gilbertsonii

A thanks to Mike Bush (former director of Lotusland) for sending along today's photograph in an email with the subject line “30mph stopper!”. Mike now has a weblog, BushBlog where he has written about this Fungus Amongus in Santa Barbara and then provides an update on its fate (hint: a dinner plate).

The eastern North American species of chicken-of-the-woods has previously been featured on BPotD, Laetiporus sulphureus. Prior to the start of this decade, conventional thought was that all Laetiporus in North America were one species, L. sulphureus. However, a closer look revealed that there were multiple species, and so Laetiporus sulphureus has been split up. In the case of today's fungus, Laetiporus gilbertsonii is to-the-eye indistinct from L. sulphureus. Grown in culture, however, it will not reproduce with the eastern North American L. sulphureus, making it biologically distinct. By some definitions, that is enough to classify it as a separate species.

In his weblog entry, Mike mentioned that this fungus was growing on a Eucalyptus. Knowing the substrate a fungus is growing on is often useful in identifying it, and that's the case here, as it helped eliminate the conifer-loving Laetiporus conifericola. For more on Laetiporus, visit Michael Kuo's page on Laetiporus sulphureus and relatives. The Fungi of California site provides additional information and more photographs: Laetiporus gilbertsonii.

Photography resource link: The Garden at Night: A Photographic Journey by photographer Linda Rutenberg. Linda visited 19 botanical gardens in the US and Canada and photographed them at night (and yes, UBC Botanical Garden is one of them!). I've found two newspaper articles about her project and book, if you'd like to read more: Moonlight transforms the ordinary into things of beauty via the Montreal Gazette and 'Lady of the Night' Rutenberg vividly captures world of darkness from the Montreal Chronicle. (PS: I've added the book to UBC BG's Amazon store (USA and elsewhere | Canada | UK) if you are interested in purchasing it. I'll be buying a copy.)

For those readers in California, I note that Linda is giving a night photography workshop in San Francisco and lectures at Descanso and Huntington gardens.

Oct 15, 2007: Stephanomeria diegensis

Stephanomeria diegensis

Updated October 17 at 1:35pm Pacific time: Tom Chester has identified this plant as Stephanomeria diegensis. The entry written below was written for when the plant was identified as Stephanomeria virgata – see comments below.

Thank you to dionysia@Flickr for today's photograph. dionysia is a first-time contributor to BPotD (original | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Many thanks!

Rod wire-lettuce or twiggy-wreath plant is native to Oregon, Nevada and California (and considering its presence in San Diego, presumably parts of Mexico). It is an annual of disturbed places, so like yesterday's Tithonia, is often considered a weed.

The Jepson Manual recognizes two subspecies of Stephanomeria virgata, the few-flowered Stephanomeria virgata subsp. pleurocarpa and Stephanomeria virgata subsp. virgata. However, sometimes someone takes a closer look at oft-overlooked plants, and shares observations that seem to disagree with what's been published, such as Tom Chester's examination of Stephanomeria virgata and Stephanomeria diegensis (Jepson's account of Stephanomeria diegensis). The Flora of North America treatment of Stephanomeria also needs to be thrown into the mix (though it largely relies on older treatments, so again differs from Chester's observations). However, it does go some way to explaining the problems: four hair-pulling words to any taxonomist, “Hybrids are found frequently”.

Oct 14, 2007: Tithonia tubiformis

Once again, thank you to David Tarrant for sending along images of a species poorly-documented on the web.

The Mexican common name for this species is palocote. It is often considered an agricultural weed, and is indeed featured on the Weeds of Mexico site (with a series of photographs): Tithonia tubiformis. An illustration of the species is also online, via Missouri Botanical Garden's Rare Books scanning project.

Epianthropochory. It's a new word for me. It means dispersal of seeds by and on humans (think burrs or seeds with awns that get stuck on socks or shoelaces). Tithonia tubiformis is listed as one of the species that uses these methods in Vibrans, H. 1999. Epianthropochory in Mexican weed communities. American Journal of Botany. 86:476-481. If you shy away from reading the scientific papers I occasionally suggest as resources, I suggest giving this one a try as I think you'll find it quite readable (and interesting). The paper discusses the prevalence and distribution of large adhesive-fruited weeds in agricultural areas of Mexico, and culminates with questions about the origin and evolution of these species.

Oct 13, 2007: Corylus avellana 'Lewis'

Corylus avellana 'Lewis'

Jacki of Oregon, aka jacki-dee@Flickr, shares this photograph with us today (original | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Thank you once again, Jacki.

After enjoying some chocolate with hazelnuts embedded in it last night, selecting today's photograph of hazel seemed an obvious choice. Jacki mentions that Oregonians will sometimes call these filberts, though that term applies to the related Corylus maxima elsewhere (note that the Wikipedia entry does make mention of the Oregon idiosyncrasy).

Hazelnut production in North America is concentrated in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia (with Oregon leading the way). Global production (PDF), however, is led by Turkey, with a 74% share, followed by Italy with a 15% share (2002 figures).

For recipes, visit the Hazelnut Council site. On the other hand, if you are interested about the wild plant, Corylus avellana, visit Trees for Life, dedicated to restoring the Caledonian Forest.

Lastly, a note for locals: the UBC Apple Festival is taking place this weekend. In previous years, I promoted the event with a photograph, but I've simply been too busy. Fortunately, Andy Hill has put together a set of images on the garden weblog giving you a taste of the event: 17th Annual Apple Festival.

Oct 12, 2007: Cycas taiwaniana

Cycas taiwaniana

Thank you to Michael Charters, the person behind the oft-referenced-by-BPotD for sharing today's photograph. Michael submitted it via the BPotD Submissions forum on the garden's site; the original image is in this thread: Cycas taiwaniana. I should also mention that one of Michael's ongoing projects is “What's Blooming at the Los Angeles County Arboretum?” – certainly makes me want to visit! Thanks, Michael.

Michael has also described this photograph: “This is the female strobilus or cone of a Cycas taiwaniana, or as it is sometimes listed, Cycas revoluta var. taiwaniana, showing the sporophylls or cone scales. The cone scales are modified leaves which will bear 2-8 ovules that will eventually become seeds after fertilization.” To read more on cycad biology, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney has produced the top-notch The Cycad Pages. I'd also be remiss if I didn't suggest the Gymnosperm Database's entry on the Cycadales.

Cycas taiwaniana is listed as endangered (A2acd) by the IUCN Red List, meaning “An observed, estimated, inferred or suspected population size reduction of greater than or equal to 50% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer, where the reduction or its causes may not have ceased or may not be understood or may not be reversible, based on ... direct observation, a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat, and actual or potential levels of exploitation.” Quite grim. The Wikipedia entry on cycads summarizes in plainer language: “In recent years, many cycads have been dwindling in numbers and may face risk of extinction because of theft and unscrupulous collection from their natural habitats, as well as from habitat destruction”. Also, read the New York Times article by Lauren Kessler: “The Cult of the Cycads”.

Oct 11, 2007: Heliconia stricta (tentative)

Heliconia stricta

Thank you once again to Earl B. of the USA for sharing another one of his photographs, this time from a vacation to Costa Rica. Much appreciated!

If my identification is correct, and it may not be considering there are over a hundred species of Heliconia as well as a number of cultivars, this is Heliconia stricta. Sometimes commonly known as dwarf Jamaican heliconia, it is not native to Jamaica but rather northern and western South America as well as Brazil. Like many Heliconia species, however, it is cultivated as an ornamental throughout the Caribbean.

The family Heliconiaceae belongs to the order Zingiberales, meaning it is related to bananas (Musaceae), true gingers (Zingiberaceae), birds-of-paradise (Strelitziaceae) and cannas (Cannaceae).

To view some of the diversity within the family, visit the Heliconia gallery at Project Amazonas or the Heliconiaceae page at the commercial Montoso Gardens in Puerto Rico (note: this isn't an endorsement of their commercial services).

Oct 10, 2007: Haemanthus albiflos

Haemanthus albiflos

Another thank you to badthings@Flickr for sharing an image with us (original | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Do visit the Two Gardens weblog; badthings (aka MMW) is the primary writer and photographer. Plenty of colourful images and some handy book reviews are mixed in with the erudite garden blogging.

Since I have a soft spot for South African bulbs, here's another. Haemanthus albiflos is commonly known as paint brush (though it is of course not the Indian paintbrush or Castilleja spp. of the Americas and northeast Asia). Note that in the linked page re: South African bulbs, a second species of Haemanthus is shown, Haemanthus coccineus. The scarlet-red flowers of Haemanthus coccineus helped earn the genus its name, which translates to “blood flower” – one imagines that if Haemanthus albiflos had been used to name the genus, it would not have been named as such.

Graham Duncan wrote an extensive article on Haemanthus and their cultivation, describing Haemanthus albiflos as “highly variable, evergreen and virtually indestructible”. The South African National Biodiversity Institute has an article specifically on Haemanthus albiflos, while Wikipedia provides summaries (and extra photographs and colour plates): Haemanthus and Haemanthus albiflos.

Oct 9, 2007: Cardiospermum halicacabum

Thanks again to David Tarrant for sending along a couple photographs from his local botanical garden in Mexico (I will visit one day, I promise!).

Cardiospermum halicacabum is known commonly as balloon vine, love-in-a-puff or, in Mexico, as frolitos (little lanterns). This woody vine is related to maples, although at first glance it more closely resembles the also-related golden raintree, Koelreuteria paniculata, because of the inflated fruit capsules.

The meaning of love-in-a-puff and the name of the genus, Cardiospermum, are linked. Cardiospermum broken down into its component parts means heart (cardio-) and seed (sperma-). The seeds are not shaped like hearts, but instead have a white heart-shaped pattern on the round and otherwise brown seeds (source with more photographs).

Cardiospermum halicacabum has a pantropical (and subtropical) distribution. For further reading, Cal's Plant of the Week featured this species a few years ago. Also, more photographs are available via the Image Archive of Central Texas Plants.

Oct 8, 2007: Polypodium glycyrrhiza

Peeking at the undersides of licorice fern fronds at this time of year often rewards you with a display of their orange, naked sori. The sori are clusters of sporangia, or spore-containing structures (see this illustration of the fern life cycle). The term naked is used because the sori lack a protective covering called the indusium; for comparison, here's a photograph of sori (partially) covered by indusia on Polystichum.

The epithet glycyrrhiza means sweet root and refers to the genus Glycyrrhiza, a member of the bean family. The root of Glycyrrhiza is better known as licorice (or liquorice). The rhizomes and stems of Polypodium glycyrrhiza are similarly flavoured, hence the common name of licorice fern.

Polypodium glycyrrhiza is distributed along the coastal regions of western North America, as well as the Kamchatka region of Asia. The Hardy Fern Library provides a detailed description of licorice fern.

Oct 7, 2007: Acer circinatum

Acer circinatum

I'm thinking that Botany Photo of the Day really needs more Acer circinatum photographs; these aren't enough: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Photography resource link: I should admit that I've only just recently discovered Eliot Porter, but I now have “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World” (selected images) and “Nature's Chaos” in my library (thank you, used book stores!). Yesterday's image was taken with his works in mind, i.e., attempting to photograph a complicated, messy landscape in a manner that retains the chaos, but not so much as to be unpleasant.

Oct 6, 2007: Skagit Valley Provincial Park

Skagit Valley Provincial Park

I made my annual trek yesterday to view the autumn colours (particularly Acer circinatum) in Manning Provincial Park and the adjacent Skagit Valley Provincial Park. In my opinion, the colours were average or a bit better along the Highway 3 roadside, so not as spectacular as the previous two years. On the hiking trail I went on, though, the colours were non-existent to below par. Admittedly, the trails don't seem to be as good as the highway roadside for colour, but the trails have the distinct advantage of being away from wind-causing, noisy highway traffic.

After a brief bit of disappointment regarding the maples, I mentally switched gears and started to photograph other things, like this scene from the Skagit River trail. There are two or three spots along the first 6km (3.75 miles) of the trail where the floor of the forest is dominated by the moss shown here, Hylocomium splendens for stretches of 50m (160feet) or so. Invariably, these are areas shaded by coniferous trees and therefore with acidic soils, but that combination of factors is present elsewhere along the trail where the moss isn't found in such quantity. So why only in these brief stretches? I don't know. If forced to make a guess, I would suggest two possible reasons (or a combination thereof): marginally increased local humidity or that this is a successional stage in the re-establishment of plants after a rock and mud slump. The latter strikes me as a good possibility; the ground beneath the thick layer of moss was quite rocky and, after the heavy rains of last year, a new rock and mud slump occurred elsewhere along the trail — approximately 50m wide!

From the Bryophyte Flora of North America entry for Hylocomium splendens, we learn that stair-step moss or stepped feathermoss is “one of the most common and widespread mosses of the circumboreal forest and Arctic tundra, which covers huge areas of Alaska, Canada, northern Europe, and Siberia” and also present in northern Africa, Australia and New Zealand. To view more photographs of Hylocomium splendens, visit the Bryophytes of North America photo gallery or the Northern Ontario Plant Database (the latter has a description of the moss and more resource links.

Oct 5, 2007: Dryas octopetala

White mountain-avens can be found in Arctic and alpine areas of Europe, Asia and North America (extending as far south as Colorado). It is colony-forming and quite common along higher elevation rocky roadsides in Jasper and Banff National Parks; mid-September is a good time to witness it in fruit en masse.

The US Forest Service provides a detailed account of Dryas octopetala (PDF). For a quicker read, Paul Slichter writes about Dryas octopetala on his wildflowers of Oregon and Washington site.

Oct 4, 2007: Populus trichocarpa

Populus trichocarpa on the shores of Medicine Lake

Black cottonwood has previously been featured on BPotD here: Populus trichocarpa. Two resources to add to those listed there: the Silvics of North America treatment of Populus trichocarpa and GRIN's Populus balsamifera subsp. trichocarpa (a synonym; the previous BPotD touches on the naming issue).

This photograph was taken on the shores of Medicine Lake in Canada's Jasper National Park. “Medicine Lake” should actually be in quotes — it's not a true lake, as it only exists for part of the year. The in-flowing Maligne River backs up in this area for several months of the year due to the volume of glacial meltwater, forming the lake-like body. The water slowly drains via a series of sinkholes, travels through a cave system and then emerges 16km / 10miles downstream in Maligne Canyon. You can estimate the summer high-water mark from the band of vegetation-free shoreline.

Entomology / photography resource link: Via the Zooillogix weblog, mantis photographs by photographer Igor Siwanowicz. If you want to see more of Siwanowicz's work (and trust me, you want to), visit his gallery: Igor Siwanowicz.

Oct 3, 2007: Tricholomopsis rutilans

Tricholomopsis rutilans

Monika F (aka monika & manfred@Flickr) is the contributor of today's photograph (original via BPotD Flickr Pool). Thank you!

One of the common names for this species isn't well-illustrated by this photograph of a mature specimen. A photograph of younger individuals on the Fungi of California site, however, fully justifies the common name: plums and custard. Also known as red-haired agaric, Tricholomopsis rutilans is native to coniferous woodlands of the Northern Hemisphere (and before anyone asks, it's only barely edible).

Michael Kuo and Roger Phillips both provide descriptions of this fungus. If you're interested in more photographs, the folks at have a series of images on Tricholomopsis rutilans. The Illinois Mycological Society provides a key-based description of this fungus, as well.

In BPotD news, a photograph from a couple years ago is appearing in film! This image of the golden spruce makes a few-second cameo in Mark Leiren-Young's “The Green Chain” (warning: turn your speakers down). The Green Chain recently debuted at the Montreal World Film Festival and is now playing at the Vancouver International Film Festival, where it's been nominated for a “Climate for Change” award. I'll let you know what I think of the film next week after viewing it, but from what little I've seen so far, it has me intrigued (here's the first review via The Green Chain Weblog).

If you're interested in forestry issues, you should also be following Mark's “Trees and Us” podcasts on The Tyee: Trees and Us with Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Why Humans and Nature Collide with John Vaillant and Why Rocket Science is Easier Than Forestry with Jean-Pierre Kiekens.

Oct 2, 2007: Quercus ilex

Quercus ilex

Pedro Nuno Teixeira Santos, writer of the Portuguese a sombre verda weblog, sent in today's photograph (either taken by himself or his friend, Miguel Rodrigues). The weblog is “...dedicated among other things, to show some of the larger and oldest trees of Portugal.”, and this particular photo is part of a posting entitled “(Probably) the world's most beautiful holm oak”. A few facts and figures shared by Pedro: the trunk has a circumference of 3.91m and the diameter of the tree's crown measures almost 25m. Thank you for sharing, Pedro.

In English, Quercus ilex is often commonly known as holm oak, holly oak or evergreen oak. It is native to Mediterranean Europe (including Turkey) and Africa.

The specific epithet for this oak, ilex, is also the scientific name for the holly genus (Ilex spp.). As noted by Wikipedia, the leaves on lower branches of the holm oak are toothed or somewhat spiny, resembling the leaves of Ilex aquifolium (European holly) — hence the association.

The Plants for a Future Database details the economic uses of Quercus ilex, with one glaring omission: truffle production. A relatively recent agricultural alternative, orchards of Quercus ilex are being grown to produce Tuber melanosporum, the black truffle. This new development (which is increasing forest cover) is summarized in the abstract of a 2006 paper, “Cultivation of black truffle to promote reforestation and land-use stability”.

Lastly, if you read French, here is a description of Quercus ilex. If not, a brief English summary is available from Oregon State University: Quercus ilex.

Oct 1, 2007: Ocimum basilicum

Ocimum basilicum

Thank you again to Cliff aka The Marmot@Flickr for sharing today's photograph (original | BPotD Flickr Group Pool).

Basil is native to Africa and southeast Asia. Its culinary use as a herb in southeast Asia dates back over five thousand years.

Whenever a spice is featured on BPotD, I almost always recommend visiting Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages for the best overview of the plant, and today is no exception: basil. Other resources you may wish to investigate include Ocimum basilicum via (for photos or a quick read), Purdue University's New Crop Factsheet for basil regarding its crop use, or Wikipedia for an overview including cultural aspects of the herb.

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