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

November 2007 Archives

Nov 30, 2007: Aseroe rubra

Aseroe rubra

Another thank you to David M. aka petrichor@Flickr (and for sharing an image via the BPotD Flickr Group Pool (original). Appreciated once again, David.

Starfish fungus or sea anemone fungus has previously been featured on BPotD here: Aseroe rubra. Today's photograph illustrates the fungus a bit later in development – considering how quickly stinkhorns develop and fade, I suspect these individuals are only a day further along than the starfish fungus in the previous entry.

Nov 29, 2007: Oenothera pallida

Oenothera pallida

This image is from mid-May of 2007, taken along a roadside pullout near Vantage, Washington. I don't think I've ever mentioned why I visited this particular area. While attending a lecture / book launch by Mark Turner (I've reviewed the book, see the reprint in Botanical Electronic News: Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest), Mark made mention of a locale near Vantage that had “wildflowers and bullet hole-riddled washing machines” as well as the “natural rock garden” look shown in the BPotD entry linked above. Sounded intriguing.

Obviously, I managed to find the natural rock garden on my trip in May, but the search for the washing machines and ilk ended in failure.

Brent Hine and I returned to the location in mid-July, as part of the Intermountain Expedition. The small detour to Vantage was specifically to collect seeds of this plant, Oenothera pallida or pale evening-primrose. The heat was oppressive, in the upper 30s C (96+ F). We didn't stay too long in the area because of the temperature, but we did explore the locale a bit further away from the highway – and, lo and behold, we found the rusting washing machines and fridges, complete with bullet holes. Of course, this brings to mind the thought that the area occasionally has people making the holes, who I doubt are too interested in the local flora.

Oenothera pallida is a species of western North America, found in well-drained, sandy soils of the sagebrush steppe (you can tell in this photo that these are growing in small sand dunes). The Burke Museum has a number of photographs of Oenothera pallida, most of which were taken in the dunes near the Dallesport Airport in Washington. Incidentally, this is an area we tried to visit as part of the expedition, but without a guide to show us how to access the public areas, we could only find fences.

Southwest Colorado Wildflowers also has a number of photographs of Oenothera pallida, including images of the immature capsule.

Nov 28, 2007: Phallus impudicus

Phallus impudicus

A thank you to mudman@UBC Botanical Garden Forums for sharing this scan (original thread). Much appreciated!

Common stinkhorn can be found in the temperate forests and rich-soiled gardens of North America and Europe (and, according to Wikipedia, possibly southeast Australia). Of course, this image isn't of the mature fungus (see: MushroomExpert's Phallus impudicus for photographs). Instead, this is a cross-section scan of the immature stinkhorn, described succinctly in Wikipedia's entry on Phallus impudicus:

Sometimes called the witch's egg, the immature stinkhorn is whitish and egg-shaped and up to 6 cm (2 in) in diameter. On the outside is a thick whitish volva, also known as the peridium, covering the olive-coloured gelatinous gleba. It is the latter which contains the spores and which later stinks and attracts the flies; within this layer is a green layer which will become the 'head' of the expanded fruit body; and inside this is a white structure called the receptaculum (the stalk when expanded), which is hard, but with an airy structure like a sponge. The eggs become fully grown stinkhorns very rapidly, over a day or two.

For those who ask such things, yes, it is edible at this young stage, but it is not commonly eaten.

Lastly, a reminder that if you're a fan of fungi, lichens and slime molds, there is an area of the forums dedicated to these beasties: Fungi, Lichens and Slime Molds Identification & Appreciation.

Nov 27, 2007: Ephedra chilensis

Ephedra chilensis

Today's photograph is courtesy of Douglas Justice, who captured this image a couple weeks ago in the Alpine Garden.

I'm fairly certain there isn't an English common name for this species. While researching this species yesterday due to some confusion over its scientific name and description, we (Douglas, Eric and myself) learned that little work had been done on the taxonomy of the genus Ephedra since the late 19th century. Some modern work has occurred in the past fifteen years or so, but it certainly hasn't trickled into the horticultural literature yet. Of the older horticultural texts we examined, it seemed like the descriptions of Ephedra were all slight variations from the late 19th century work. Ephedra has often been regarded as having little ornamental value, though perhaps that will no longer be true with changing tastes or the propagation of exemplary species.

This plant is presently labelled in the garden as Ephedra americana var. andina. Most information in books (what little there is) will be under that name, though it is now treated as a synonym of Ephedra chilensis. Both names, however, hint at the current distribution of the species: the Andean (andina) mountains of Argentina and Chile (chilensis).

If you'd like to read more about Ephedra, you'll likely find search engine results filled with commercial sites. Instead, I suggest visiting a previous entry on BPotD, Ephedra frustillata.

Nov 26, 2007: Pinus monticola

Pinus monticola

Pinus monticola, or western white pine, is native to western North America. It can be found at many elevations, from sea-level to 3350m (11000 ft.), but local conditions dictate the elevation range of the species. This particular tree was growing at around 600m (2000 ft.) along Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. The trees growing at high elevation can only be found at the southern end of its distribution range, in the Sierra Nevada.

Whenever a North American species conifer is featured on BPotD, I'm obliged to link to two excellent resources: Pinus monticola from The Gymnosperm Database and Pinus monticola from the Silvics of North America.

I find it grimly amusing to note that toothpicks are mentioned as one of the economic uses of western white pine in the Silvics of North America factsheet. It brings to mind a quote I've failed to recall precisely, but was along the lines of: “Surely the supreme value [of trees] is not toothpicks”.

White pine blister rust (photo gallery), a foreign fungal pathogen introduced into North America from Europe (though originating in Asia), is significantly reducing the number of trees. Resistant strains are starting to appear, however, and are being used in breeding programs to eventually restore and reforest affected areas.

Nov 25, 2007: Carpobrotus edulis

An unintentional coda to the series on African plants, today's photographs supplement some of the comments made on the Delosperma cooperi entry regarding the iceplant that is well-known in California. In an illustration of why common names are not perfect, Carpobrotus edulis is also known commonly as iceplant, and it is this species (along with its close relative Carpobrotus chilensis and the hybrid between the two) that Californians will likely know under that moniker.

These photographs were taken along the Point Reyes National Seashore in mid-March of 2006, so it was too early in the year to observe a mass of blossoms. Of the plants in bloom, though, about half were the pink-magenta colouration shown in today's photo, while the other half were the light-yellow colouration also representative of the species. Both colour variations can be seen in the CalPhotos database. Note, also, the strong resemblance of Carpobrotus chilensis to the pink-magenta flowered Carpobrotus edulis type – my identification of the plants in today's photographs may be off (but I think I've sussed out the ID via the Jepson manual: Carpobrotus edulis and Carpobrotus chilensis).

Wikipedia provides a good summary of the use in roadside stabilization (and subsequent invasiveness) of this South African native in California: see Carpobrotus edulis. Little mention is made of the species outside of California, but perhaps that's because it seems the Wikipedia article draws heavily on this detailed factsheet on invasive plants in California. Plantzafrica, once again, provides an account of this species in Africa, where it is known as sour fig.

Nov 24, 2007: Aloe polyphylla

Aloe polyphylla

The final photograph in the series on African plants is courtesy (once again) of Eric in SF@Flickr (and PlantWorld), posted via the BPotD Flickr Group Pool (original). Thank you!

Aloe polyphylla, or spiral aloe, is native to Lesotho, though it is possible that it may occur in the surrounding South Africa. I've been trying to track down the conservation status – words like endangered and threatened are used on various sites, but it doesn't have a place in the 2007 IUCN Red List. It is, however, an Appendix 1 species in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) , meaning it has the highest protection in terms of international trade. The cultivated plant in today's photograph will have been propagated from material in cultivation prior to the implementation of CITES in 1975. once again provides a detailed factsheet on the species, Aloe polyphylla. The US Botanical Garden also has brief article on spiral aloe, emphasizing the threats to the natural populations (including “unsustainable harvesting”).

Nov 23, 2007: Delosperma cooperi

Delosperma cooperi

I'll add to the African series with one of my own. This photograph was taken in early July 3.5 years ago, 2 weeks after I first purchased an SLR camera.

Sunny-day visitors to the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden arriving via the most commonly-used path are greeted by this small patch of trailing iceplant (or pink carpet) throughout the summer. This photograph doesn't communicate the reason for its pink carpet common name – perhaps this image gives a better idea.

Delosperma cooperi is native to the Free State province of South Africa (or at least that's the commonly communicated convention: Plantzafrica's page on Delosperma suggests it may have a much broader distribution).

If you're a gardener, a factsheet about Delosperma cooperi is available from the Kemper Center for Home Gardening. You may also want to read about Paghat's experiences with this species.

Lastly, Cal's Plant of the Week in May 2004 featured Delosperma cooperi.

Nov 22, 2007: Ceropegia ampliata

Ceropegia ampliata

David M. aka petrichor@Flickr (also see: submitted a few photographs of Ceropegia species to the BPotD Flickr Group Pool) to contribute to the series on African plants (original). Thank you, David!

The genus Ceropegia consists mostly of succulent vines or trailing plants found in tropical and subtropical areas of the Africa, Asia and Australia. Ceropegia ampliata, commonly known as bushman's pipe, is native to southern Africa and Madagascar, where it is found on dry, stony slopes.

Like its close relative Stapelia, Ceropegia is fly-pollinated. The tubular flower is lined internally with fine downward-pointing hairs that trap flies within the tube until the hairs (and flowers) wither. During the fly's period of captivity (which may last four days!), sticky pollinia are attached to the body of the fly, and transferred to the next flower the fly visits. Finding it difficult to imagine what the inside of the flower might look like? Sage Reynolds has a web site about Ceropegia, and the page specifically about Ceropegia ampliata has photographs of cross-sections of the flowers (as well as habit photographs and cultivation information).

Sage has also written an overview of the genus in cultivation for Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Ceropegia: Fabulous Vines of the Succulent World. If you'd like to view more photographs of plants in this genus, visit the Flickr group dedicated to Ceropegia.

Returning to the topic of the species in today's photograph, Stoffel Bester of the South African National Herbarium in Pretoria has written an account of Ceropegia ampliata for This article includes a detailed description of the plant and the derivation of its name.

Nov 21, 2007: Adansonia digitata

Today's photographs are from two sources. The flower photograph is from frequent BPotD contributor Dinesh aka dinesh_valke@Flickr via the BPotD Flickr Group Pool (original). Thank you, again, Dinesh! The second image is via the Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Myriam Louviot (original), with use granted under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. A thanks to you, Myriam, as well.

Continuing with the series on African plants, baobab is an iconic species of this continent. Adansonia digitata is widely distributed across Africa with a range that extends into Oman and Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula. It is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental in tropical environments, and the Genetic Resources Information Network suggests it has naturalized in some places. At least with respect to Pacific Islands, it has been graded as having a low invasive potential.

Wikipedia provides a brief summary of Adansonia digitata, but I'd suggest bypassing that link and instead reading the detailed summary from on Adansonia digitata. The latter resource has information on the lemonade-like drink produced from the fruit, the origin of the name (for Michel Adanson), individual baobab trees of note, and an extremely intriguing section on uses and cultural aspects of the species (prisons, rainwater reservoirs, beehives, fishing nets, and food, to name but a few).

Nov 20, 2007: Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Continuing with the series on African plants, today's photograph is courtesy once more of Vicki aka Vicki's Pics@Flickr (original 1 | original 2 | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Many thanks.

Posted to Flickr as Asclepias fruticosa, it seems like these plants were misidentified in the park where Vicki took the photographs in two different ways. The first was a relatively minor error. I recalled from this plant identification thread on the UBC BG Forums earlier this year that the convention today is for African milkweeds to be placed in the genus Gomphocarpus, while American milkweeds (American in the sense of the New World) remain in the well-known genus Asclepias. Examining photographs of Gomphocarpus fruticosus, though, pointed out a mismatch – the fruits of Gomphocarpus fruticosus are tapered. Fortunately, Weeds Australia (and the similar plant on the UBC BG Forums thread above) suggested what I think is the proper identification, Gomphocarpus physocarpus, or, commonly, balloon cottonbush, bladderbush, wild cotton or paina-de-sada. Of course, as often needs to be said with common names, these names are misleading. This species does not produce the cotton of textile use, but is so named because of the cottony appearance of the pappus attached to the seeds.

Native to Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland, Gomphocarpus physocarpus has naturalized elsewhere in the tropics, to the point where it is considered invasive in Hawaii, Norfolk Island, and New Caledonia (source: Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk). Both the Western Australian Flora and the New South Wales Flora Online provide detailed factsheets about this species: Gomphocarpus physocarpus via FloraBase and Gomphocarpus physocarpus via PlantNET.

Nov 19, 2007: Begonia prismatocarpa

Let's see if we can get a small series on plants of Africa going. Thanks again to Eric in SF@Flickr for sharing yet more photographs with BPotD (original 1 | original 2 | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). If you didn't visit Eric's site a few days ago when linked via the Deppea splendens entry, consider doing it now: PlantWorld. Thanks, Eric!

Eric notes that this is one of the smallest-growing Begonia species – the plant in the first photograph is 12cm (5 in.) across, to give an idea of scale.

The genus Begonia is distributed throughout most tropical areas of the world. Like Euphorbia, it is a large genus, consisting of over 1000 different species (to see the diversity of form (particularly in leaf shapes), visit this Begonia photo gallery). Begonia prismatocarpa is native to western tropical Africa, namely Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon and the Equatorial Guinean island of Bioko, where the species was first encountered by Western explorers. Online scans of herbarium specimens and associated data are available via the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

The epithet prismatocarpa refers to “prism-shaped fruit”. I haven't been able to find an image of the fruit for this species, but perhaps the fruit of Burdachia prismatocarpa (illustrations m and n) will be sufficiently demonstrative of what is meant by the term.

Nov 18, 2007: Euphorbia gymnocalycioides

Euphorbia gymnocalycioides

Another thank you to billy liar@Flickr for sharing a photograph with BPotD (BPotD Flickr Group Pool | original). Much appreciated!

This euphorbia bears such a striking similarity to a genus in the cactus family, Gymnocalycium, that it was given the epithet gymnocalycioides (resembling Gymnocalycium). It is a fine example of convergent evolution, a process in which the same adaptive traits evolve in distantly related species or groups as a response to similar environments (in this case, hot and dry deserts). Euphorbia gymnocalycioides is native to Ethiopia while the genus Gymnocalycium is distributed in the grasslands and deserts of southern South America.

The genus Euphorbia has over two thousand species with a striking diversity of form, from annuals to perennials (succulent or otherwise) to shrubs and trees. Most, if not all, contain a milky latex sap that can cause severe inflammation (see the comments re: Euphorbia myrsinites). Another hallmark of the group is highly reduced flowers; see the illustration “Euphorbia cyathium explained” on this page about flowers from an Iowa State University plant systematics course.

Nov 17, 2007: Maianthemum dilatatum

This particular species of false lily-of-the-valley or snakeberry has a distribution range that borders the north temperate Pacific Ocean. In Asia, it is found in Japan and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Its North American distribution stretches from Alaska south to northern California. Generally, in North America, it is found west of the Coast-Cascade Mountains, though it does stretch east along the British Columbia and Washington border, and even has a disjunct population in northern Idaho (distribution map in NA).

I was intrigued by the colonization of the tree trunk by these plants. Or plant – it could be one genetic individual, given that the Flora of North America describes Maianthemum dilatatum with the character of: “Rhizomes sympodial, proliferatively branching.”. The rhizome is a creeping stem; sympodial means that individual plant forms many lateral shoots to expand outwards along the edges of the clump instead of growing only from the terminal point of the stem (i.e., forming a runner). This strategy of growth helps make Maianthemum dilatatum a desirable shady-spot groundcover.

These photographs are from mid-June in 2007.

Nov 16, 2007: Thysanotus tuberosus

Thysanotus tuberosus

The wildflowers of southeastern Australia must be near their peak since David M. aka petrichor@Flickr of Sydney continues to find intriguing plants to share (original via BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Once again, don't forget to visit David's weblog,

Fringed lily or fringe lily is another one of those lily-relative plants that taxonomists have difficulty placing in a particular family. I've seen it listed in the Liliaceae (ASGAP), the Asphodelaceae (Plants for a Future Database), the Anthericaceae (New South Wales Flora Online), and, what seems to be currently accepted by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (and a family I don't think I've heard of before), the Laxmanniaceae. One day, perhaps, all of these vexing taxonomic problems will be resolved and a stable portrait will emerge.

The web page by the Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants (ASGAP) suggested above explains the scientific name of the plant: Thysanotus is derived from the Greek thysanotos, meaning fringed; tuberosus is from the Latin tuberculum, or a swelling. The latter name refers to the underground tubers, illustrated on the NSW Flora page linked-to in the second paragraph.

Nov 15, 2007: Deppea splendens

Deppea splendens

van swearingen@Flickr is the contributor of today's photograph from Huntington Botanical Gardens in California (original | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Thank you!

Golden fuchsia seems to be the common name for this plant (though it's not a fuchsia). On the related topic of its scientific name, a team of Hungarian taxonomists have suggested it be renamed Csapodya splendens, but the GRIN Taxonomy Database has retained Deppea splendens (so far).

Despite the cosmopolitan distribution of its family, the Rubiaceae (madder or coffee family), Deppea splendens wasonly known from a canyon on the south slope of Cerro Mozotal in southern Chiapas, where it naturally occurred as a fifteen- to twenty-five-foot shrub or small tree in pine-oak cloud forest within sight of the Pacific Ocean.” This site was cleared for farmland in 1986; Deppea splendens is now presumed extinct in the wild (though some hope exists that it may be rediscovered on other nearby mountains in Chiapas, Mexico and neighbouring Guatemala). Its original discovery by Western science occurred in 1972, though it remained unrecognized as a novel species for a long time; in fact, it was not published and described in the scientific literature until 1987, a year after its possible demise in the wild.

The quote above is from an account of the species in the April 2000 issue of Pacific Horticulture magazine, available online via San Francisco Botanical Garden: Deppea splendens (PDF) by Kathy Musial. If you have the time to read the article, I can find no better written piece about the species. If you've only a short amount of time, a brief article is available from the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden newsletter: Deppea splendens by Rand Plewak.

A photograph of the foliage is available via frequent BPotD contributor Eric in SF's PlantWorld site: Deppea splendens.

Nov 14, 2007: Lupinus breweri var. breweri

Lupinus breweri var. breweri

Thank you again to one of the good folks at the University of Colorado at Boulder for today's image and write-up. Janice Forbis is the assistant manager of the greenhouse in U of C's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. A big thank you to you, Janice!

Janice writes:

Lupinus breweri var. breweri is native to the western USA (Oregon, California and Nevada) and found in open montane forests at higher elevations of the alpine. It is a member of the Fabaceae or bean family, the third largest family in the number of species. Brewer's lupine is a low-growing mat-forming plant, with silvery-silky leaves and densely hairy blue to violet petals. Alpine plants are strongly adapted to extreme conditions at high altitudes. The mat-forming or cushion habit is an advantage in wind resistance and avoiding damage from repetitive snowfalls. Hairy leaves are a way of limiting water loss in alpine areas which have free draining soils, frequent winds and high temperatures in the summer months.”

“This photo was taken during a week-end workshop, Flora of Mt. Ashland and the Eastern Siskiyous, part of The University of California at Berkeley Jepson Herbarium Weekend Workshop series.”

“It is always interesting to know where a plant name comes from. There are websites and exhibits, such as the one currently at the University of Colorado Museum titled “What’s in a Name? Understanding the World of Plants”. The name breweri is in honor of William Henry Brewer (1828-1910), an American botanist and professor. He was a botanical explorer of the California and Pacific Coast and his recommendations about Alaska led to its purchase by the United States in 1867 (source of plant name information: Michael Charters' Plant Names).”

Nov 13, 2007: Maclura pomifera

A thank-you note to Vicki of the eastern USA aka Vicki's Pics@Flickr is deserved today for sharing her photographs (original 1 | original 2 | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Much appreciated!!

Osage-orange (or a dozen other common names – see the Wikipedia entry on Maclura pomifera) is presently native to Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas in the USA, but is also thought by some to have been extirpated from Missouri and Louisiana. Due to cultivation, though, it is widely naturalized throughout the US and southern Canada.

A few of its common names, hedge-apple and hedge ball, reflect its main traditional economic use. Prior to the invention of barbed-wire, hedges of osage-orange were used as fencing for cattle. After barbed-wire was developed, though, osage-orange still had a role to play; posts for barbed-wire fences due to its wood properties. From the Silvics of North America entry on Maclura pomifera: “Osage-orange heartwood is the most decay-resistant of all North American timbers and is immune to termites. The outer layer of sapwood is very thin; consequently, even small-diameter stems give long service as stakes and posts. About 3 million posts were sold annually in Kansas during the early 1970's [sic]. The branch wood was used by the Osage Indians for making bows and is still recommended by some archers today.

The Plants for a Future database details some of the other economic uses of osage-orange, including shelterbelt plantings, dyes, fuel and (potentially) insect repellents (for the latter, see this factsheet from Iowa State University Horticulture).

Photographs of the entire plant are available from Vanderbilt University's Bioimages: Maclura pomifera.

On a different topic, Botany Photo of the Day will be publishing its one-thousandth entry sometime next month. This is one of those good news / bad news things. The good news is that it is quite the achievement by the community of folks who have built up around BPotD: those who share their images (and sometimes words), those who comment, and those who visit and enjoy. You've helped keep BPotD going far beyond the original predictions for its success.

The bad news, though, is that I'm finding it more difficult to meet the daily responsibility of researching and posting. The work required to create entries in advance before trying to leave town for a few days or weeks has often meant delays while the work gets done (cutting in on photography time!). Next year, I am looking forward to more sleep, more freedom and more spontaneity.

So where does that leave BPotD? We've had some casual discussions at the garden about it, so I have some investigations to make about options. My long-term preferred option is to have a science writing / photography intern share in the duties, but we need to determine if this will be possible. In the short-term, though, it is likely that BPotD will go on a brief hiatus after the thousandth entry or so, since it will occur during the last week of December.

Nov 12, 2007: Quercus garryana

Quercus garryana

A community of lichens surrounds the branches of this Garry oak and catches the late afternoon side-light of mid-November in Ruckle Provincial Park (Saltspring Island, British Columbia). A survey of this epiphytic life on twenty years old Quercus garryana branches in the Willamette Valley of Oregon revealed over thirty-five species of macrolichens, mosses and liverworts can be found on the branches of Garry oak trees in a single grove of the plants. This suggests some dynamic forces are occurring, and indeed, the growth of a new branch opens up an uncolonized area that is subject to ecological succession processes. Some of the epiphytic species initially colonize and jostle for light, water and nutrients, but these are later subjected to a slowly changing environment as branches expand, new branches are grown, and other epiphytes become established. Over time, the composition of the community of epiphytes on older branches changes; see: Stone, D. 1989. Epiphyte Succession on Quercus garryana Branches in the Willamette Valley of Western Oregon. The Bryologist. 92(1): 81-94. doi:10.2307/3244020.

Please note that a second common name for this species is Oregon white oak; for a discussion of the common name, see this previous BPotD entry on Quercus garryana.

Nov 11, 2007: Sadleria cyatheoides

First-time contributor Dana Cromie (a UBC BG Friend of the Garden) has shared today's image from a visit to Hawaii (original | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Thank you, Dana!

I've decided to post the photograph from what I believe to be accurate orientation as well as the flip; a visit to the image on Flickr will also show it in a horizontal perspective. The strong lines of the image gave me a few minutes of enjoyment as I examined the photo in different orientations, so that was my reason for posting it like this.

Commonly known as amau or ‘ama‘u in Hawaiian (and sometimes known as rasp fern), Sadleria cyatheoides is an endemic to the archipelago. It is a plant of wet habitats that can be found from near sea-level to 2135m (7000 ft.). For a small factsheet about the plant, visit Plants of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Many more photographs are available from the Plants of Hawaii site, Sadleria cyatheoides.

Nov 10, 2007: Aesculus hippocastanum

Aesculus hippocastanum

Thanks once again to Lotus J. aka ngawangchodron@Flickr for contributing to BPotD (original via the BPotD Flickr Group Pool).

Horse-chestnut has previously been featured on BPotD in this account of two plants from the Sapindaceae, but I couldn't resist today's photograph. Further reading about this native of the Balkans in southeastern Europe is available in that BPotD entry.

Nov 9, 2007: Elythranthera emarginata

Elythranthera emarginata

Another thank you to Krystyna Szulecka for sharing one of her photographs (posted in this thread via the BPotD submissions forum on the UBC BG Forums). Locate more of Krystyna's images by searching for “Krystyna” on the FLPA web site.

The genus Elythranthera is endemic to southwestern Western Australia, and contains two species and one hybrid. Elythranthera emarginata, or the pink enamel orchid, has a slightly narrower distribution than its close relative the purple enamel orchid, or Elythranthera brunonis. The hybrid formed is a natural one, that is, it occurs in the wild without human intervention: Elythranthera ×intermedia.

An Australian stamp was issued for pink enamel orchid in 1986. A closer examination of the stamp reveals a spotted pattern on the outside of the petal. Fortunately, the photographer behind Terrestrial Orchids of Southwest Australia has documented these: Elythranthera.

A broader understanding of the orchid family can be gleaned from the Orchidaceae pages on the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew site, e.g., orchid flower structure. Illustrations of orchid flower structure are available via the UK's National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens site.

Nov 8, 2007: Pteridium aquilinum

Thank you to Stephen B of Scotland aka stephenbuchan@Flickr for another couple photographs shared with BPotD (original 1 | original 2 | BPotD Flickr Pool). As always, it is very much appreciated, Stephen.

Bracken fern can be found throughout most of the world. The advantage of featuring one of the most widely distributed vascular plants is that there is a wealth of information online.

On its classification: Is it one species with many subordinate taxa (i.e., subspecies and varieties)? Or is there now enough evidence to break up the one species into ten or so distinct species? The Flora of North America's entry on Pteridium aquilinum notes the “disagreement existing among taxonomists” with a summary of evidence pointing to splitting up the one species into multiples, but still opts for a single-species approach. This illustration from the Flora of North America shows the variability of form between taxa.

On edibility: The Plants for a Future database, as always, details the edibility and other economic uses, but accompanies it with a warning about potential health risks of ingestion. The Nova Scotia Museum simply labels it carcinogenic, with the suggestion that it is to be avoided. Wikipedia summarizes how bracken is used (and eaten) by several cultures.

Nov 7, 2007: Quercus suber

Quercus suber

Apologies for the tardiness today. The server's been down due to recent electrical outages on campus. – Daniel

It's not often I permit photographs with people in them to appear on BPotD, but exceptions are occasionally warranted – in this case, for scale. Today's photograph is courtesy of Miguel Rodrigues (the photographer) and Pedro Nuno Teixeira Santos (pictured) of Portugal. Thank you to both of you once again!

Pedro sent along the image and these measurements (by Miguel) of the tree: the height is 19m (62 ft.), the circumference of the trunk is 5.91m (19ft.) and the highest measured diameter of the crown is 37m (121 ft.). As Pedro succinctly states: “It's an amazing tree... one of the biggest cork oaks I have ever seen.”. Pedro has also written about this plant (accompanied by more photographs) in Sua majestade on the weblog, A sombra verde.

Quercus suber, or cork oak, is well-known for the renewable resource it provides: cork. The thick, rugged outer layer of bark can be harvested multiple times over the life of the tree, the first time at 25 years of age and then after every nine to twelve years. The individual in today's photograph appears to have different sections of it harvested in different years, with the reddish area on the right being the most recent site of cork collection. From some trees, the harvest can be one tonne of cork; considering its density, that's an impressive volume of cork.

The cork produced by Quercus suber is high in the waxy substance known as suberin. This, in addition to the quantity of bark produced, provides its most-desirable qualities: elasticity, near-impermeability, and low-density. Wikipedia covers the uses of cork: bottle stoppers, fishing floats and buoys, musical instrument-making, floor tiles and concrete-cork composite materials. If you are interested in the harvesting and production process of wine corks, read natural cork production from one of the cork manufacturers.

An excellent article on Quercus suber is available from Cork Oak (Quercus suber): The Roles of its Bark by Juli G. Pausas of the Centro de Estudios Ambientales del Mediteráneo in Valencia, Spain.

Quercus suber is native to southwestern Europe and northern Africa (in addition to where it grows naturally, it is also cultivated throughout the region; Portugal is responsible for half of the production). The Plants for a Future Database details a few non-cork uses of the species. If you'd like more photographs, visit Friedrich Lohmüller's page on Quercus.

Nov 6, 2007: Tricoryne simplex

Tricoryne simplex

It is somehow heartening to know that it is always spring or summer somewhere in the world. Another thank you to David M. aka petrichor@Flickr of Sydney, Australia for sharing one of his photographs (original via BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Here's another plug for David's weblog as well,, with near-daily photographs of Australian plants.

The genus Tricoryne contains seven species, six of which are endemic to Australia (and one that is also found in New Guinea). Tricoryne simplex is one of the Australian endemics, native mainly to coastal New South Wales. Herbarium records seem to indicate one disjunct population in Queensland near Brisbane and a second disjunct population in the interior of NSW near Cobar, but these seem to be so far from the main distribution range that I wonder if the information has been verified. To see the herbarium records map, visit the New South Wales Flora Online record for Tricoryne simplex, then click on the “AVH map” button to view records from the Australian Virtual Herbarium. It's quite possible that these disjunct populations exist (or existed at one time), but it is also possible that there is some error in the location data, that an error occurred while keying in the location data or that a misidentification occurred.

It seems that it has a not-so-commonly-used common name: yellow rush-lily. This moniker makes more sense if you view photographs of the entire plant: Tricoryne simplex via the Tricoryne simplex via Plants of Sydney.

Lastly, I should note that Tricoryne is typically associated with the Anthericaceae, a plant family that has now been lumped into the Agavaceae (but see comments below – it looks like Tricoryne has been moved into the Hemerocallidaceae.

Nov 5, 2007: Schefflera delavayi

Schefflera delavayi

Delavay's schefflera or sui xu e zhang chai is native to southern China and northern Vietnam. Most people in the temperate world have encountered the genus Schefflera as a houseplant, e.g., umbrella tree, dwarf schefflera and false aralia. The widespread cultivation of these subtropical and tropical members of the genus as indoor plants is now slowly being supplemented by the introduction of a few hardier, temperate species (such as Schefflera delavayi) for use as outdoor plants in mild climates. The plant in today's photograph weathered last year's locally cold temperatures with no ill-effect. It is currently in bloom in the David C. Lam Asian Garden (this photograph is from mid-October of last year).

There seems to be some confusion about the identity of Schefflera delavayi on the web. The plant in this photograph does seem to conform to the Flora of China description of Schefflera delavayi. A search on the web, though, will reveal a few nursery sites showing a seemingly different species with oak-like leaves. I'm not certain of the origin of this confusion.

In the wild, Schefflera delavayi will grow to 8m (26 ft.). Our specimen at UBC Botanical Garden is still under 2m.

Nov 4, 2007: Sternbergia lutea

Thank you again to yildizkonca@Flickr of Turkey for sharing with Botany Photo of the Day (original 1 | original 2 | additional image | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). It's always pleasing to see photographs of a species of Turkey's famed bulb flora!

Commonly known as winter daffodil, lily of the field, yellow / golden autumn crocus, or sternbergia, these common names are suggestive of the fact that this species is an autumn-blooming bulbous plant related to daffodils (narcissus). Sternbergia lutea is listed by GRIN as having an obscure native range, due to its cultivation as an ornamental throughout the Mediterranean region. It has escaped cultivation and become naturalized elsewhere in the world as well, including southern Australia.

Paghat has written about Sternbergia lutea in her garden, while North Carolina State University provides a factsheet on the species. For an overview of the genus, the Pacific Bulb Society Wiki features photographs and descriptions of seven species of Sternbergia, including the rare, white-flowered Sternbergia candida.

For local readers of BPotD, this species can be seen in UBC Botanical Garden, though I don't recall noticing it last week when walking near where it is planted in the Winter Garden. Its floral display may be over for the year.

Nov 3, 2007: Lewisia columbiana

Lewisia columbiana

I get another break today, thanks to Eric La Fountaine and Brent Hine of UBC Botanical Garden. Eric's both the photographer and the writer behind today's entry – thank you!

Eric writes:

Lewisia columbiana (Flora of North America) is found on rocky slopes and crevices in British Columbia and the northwestern contiguous United States. Its thick fleshy leaves and taproot help it withstand dry conditions. It is a small plant — the clumps of a dozen or so plants in the photos are each only around 10 cm across. The small, brightly coloured pinkish flowers attract attention in late spring and summer.

The leaves of this accession collected by Brent Hine, curator of the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden, have an appealing purple tinge, perhaps more prominent than usual due to being found at a high altitude. Brent reminisces about the collection, “There is really nothing quite like the experience of happening upon a plant where you didn't expect it to be. In 2001, I was hiking on Mt. Cokely of southern Vancouver Island in British Columbia. I was among north-facing rock sheets wet with melting snow, small tufts of Vaccinium and other local mountain vegetation clinging to the raw landscape. This was the last kind of plant on my mind, yet suddenly there it was, and I recognized it immediately with a double take! A gratifying personal discovery which was the peak of that day's experiences. The plant in the image has in cultivation retained all of its rosy-cheeked, hunkered-down character just as I found it that day.”

Lewisia columbiana is grown in gardens and has been used for hybridizing Lewisia cultivars. Paghat discusses the merits of the species for Northwest gardens in her article on Columbian bitterroot. Although the outer layer of the root is very bitter (hence the plant's common name), the peeled root was a food source and traded item of early peoples in the region.

Nov 2, 2007: Macleania insignis

Macleania insignis

Today's entry and written accompaniment are both courtesy of Tom Lemieux of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Very much appreciated, Tom – I'm so busy these days that having someone else share the writing is a real treat. This is also a good time to remind folks that photographs taken by people not from UBC are copyright of the respective owner of the image and use is permitted by whatever license the photographer chooses to apply to the image (this is why I always link to the original photographs with Flickr).

Tom writes:

Macleania insignis is a common and widespread species found primarily in lower montane cloud forests from southern Mexico to Costa Rica at elevations of mostly 900-2400m. It is a member of the Ericaceae or rhododendron family and grows as an epiphyte or terrestrial, occasionally even on rocks. A moderate sized shrub (to 2+ m tall), it grows from a caudex or basal swollen stem.”

“This species is the most commonly cultivated Macleania and is offered in some seed catalogs. The specimen photographed here was obtained from the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Florida and grown in the greenhouse for the University of Colorado, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.”

Daniel – Tom added that the reference he used was this factsheet on Macleania insignis via James Luteyn's and Paola Pedraza-Peñalosa's Neotropical Blueberries. Definitely check out this photograph of a Macleania insignis lignotuber growing epiphytically (on another plant, in this case, a tree trunk). Also, if you are interested in caudex-forming plants, there's a forum dedicated to these intriguing growth-forms on the UBC BG forums: Caudiciforms and Pachycaul Trees.

Nov 1, 2007: Argyroxiphium sandwicense

Argyroxiphium sandwicense

Thank you to newsflash66@UBC Botanical Garden Forums for sharing this image via the adaptive radiation. The modern day species of the silversword alliance include members of the genera Argyroxiphium, Wilkesia and Dubautia, and these species occur in the habits of cushions, mat-forming perennials, shrubs, trees and climbing woody vines. Species in the alliance can be found in dry sites (less than 25cm of precipitation per year) to the purported “wettest spot on Earth”, where precipitation can exceed 1000cm in a year. Furthermore, they are found at almost all elevations in the Hawaiian islands, from 75m above to 3750m (see ecological and physical adaptations of the silversword alliance for more).

The question may have arisen in your mind as to how it is known that these plants evolved from an ancestral California tarweed. There are several ways to verify this. The strategy in most cases today would be to determine the relationships of the species by comparing the number of changes in certain molecules. This was done in this case (and it indeed bolstered these facts), but a more traditional method was also used. Artificial hybridization experiments between modern-day Californian tarweed species and members of the silversword alliance were undertaken, with the idea being that if the species could successfully cross, more evidence would be added to the pile (and again, yes, this is the case). More than incidentally, the hybridization experiments also help make inferences as to how this rapid evolution took place, suggesting mechanisms such as autopolyploidy and allopolyploidy (i.e., chromosome doubling within a cross of a single species or a cross between two species).

I've already referenced this site a few times, but here's the main page: read Adaptive Radiation and Hybridization in the Hawaiian Silversword Alliance by Dr. Gerald Carr for more on the science behind the silversword alliance, including this page specifically on today's species, Argyroxiphium sandwicense subsp. sandwicense, or Mauna Kea silversword. To read more about the genus, visit Wikipedia's page on Argyroxiphium.

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