Botany Photo of the Day
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January 2008 Archives

Jan 31, 2008: Nitobe Memorial Garden

Eric La Fountaine has been very helpful to me these past few weeks while I work to meet a deadline, so once again, here are a couple of his photographs and a write-up!

Vancouver has been graced with a few good snowfalls this year. These photos were taken late January, in Nitobe Memorial Garden. The garden was not yet open for the day, so the fresh layer of snow was undisturbed, except for the few paths that had been cleared by horticulturist, Junji Shinada, who has tended the garden for over 15 years. The white snow outlines the graceful form of the cherry trees and highlights the bridges, ponds and other structural elements typically found in Japanese gardens.

Opened in 1960, Nitobe Memorial Garden is one of the most authentic Japanese gardens found outside of Japan. Professor Kannosuke Mori of Chiba University came from Japan to design the garden and remained to oversee construction until the official opening. The planning and construction of the memorial was chronicled in the garden's journal, Davidsonia, by John W. Neill, now deceased, who was the University of British Columbia landscape architect appointed as the university liaison to work with Professor Mori during construction.

Jan 30, 2008: Chimonanthus praecox 'Grandiflorus'

Chimonanthus praecox 'Grandiflorus'

Thanks again to Eric La Fountaine for the write-up and photograph today!

The bright snow-covered flowers of Chimonanthus praecox 'Grandiflorus' indicate the reason for the first half of the species' common name, winter sweet. If you pass by the plant on Upper Asian Way in the David C. Lam Asian Garden, the sweetness drifts heavily in the air — even on a snowy winter day. 'Grandiflorus' has yellow flowers with maroon centres, which are larger than those of the species. The Royal Horticultural Society gave the cultivar an Award of Garden Merit in 1928 and a First Class Certificate in 1991. The heady fragrance is intoxicating, especially in winter when few flowers bloom in the garden. The scent of the species and its other cultivars is said to be even stronger than 'Grandiflorus'.

Native to China, Chimonanthus praecox is a multibranching deciduous shrub that can grow to 4 metres or more in height and spread. The winter bloomer is hardy to USDA Zone 6.

Jan 29, 2008: Romulea phoenicia

Romulea phoenicia

One more photograph and write-up from Jackie Chambers today. Thanks again!

Romulea are cormus perennials closely related to Crocus. There are more than 80 species within the genus, and they are endemic to Europe, the Middle East and South Africa.

Romulea phoenicia is native to Lebanon and Northern Israel. Like many geophytes from this part of the world, they are well suited to the winter rains and hot dry summers. Leaves emerge at end of autumn and die back after flowering and fruiting at the end of winter. Purple flowers are produced between January and April. Flowers are 25-35mm and have 6 petals. The entire plant reaches 5-10 cm height (view more photographs).

The species name phoenicia may refer to both the flower’s endemic range and to the flower’s colour. The ancient Phoenician civilization centered around an area that is today's coastal Lebanon and northern Israel; this coincides with the plants natural distribution. The term Phoenicia is derived from the Greek word phoinix meaning purple-red. This is a reference to a dye traditionally produced by the Phoenicians in the city of Tyre.

Royal Purple, or Tyrian purple, is derived from the mucus secreting gland of the Spiny Murex snail. The production of this dye was labor intensive and expensive which explains why it was used only for royal and ceremonial garments (read more on the dye making process).

Jan 28, 2008: Pinus roxburghii

Thanks again to Douglas Justice for both today's write-up and photographs.

As I wrote the other day, last year at this time my wife and I were in India. Driving through Corbett Park on the way to our “forest rest house,” we passed through forested rolling hills and crossed a number of washes and streams. It was while bouncing along over one of these boulder-strewn washes at about 1200m elevation that I noticed what were clearly pine trees in the distance. We did stop, after much pleading, but I had to take the photographs from inside the vehicle (it is a tiger reserve).

Pinus roxburghii is a fairly wide ranging species, common in the Himalayas at low elevations from Pakistan in the west through northern India and Bhutan in the east. Both from a distance and close-up, I guessed that it was a three-needled pine, reminiscent (at least to me) of Pinus ponderosa (western yellow pine). Chir pine is somewhat distantly related to any of the North American three-needled pines, however. According to most accounts, this species is more closely related to Pinus pinaster (maritime pine) and Pinus canariensis (Canary Islands pine). Keith Rushforth (in Conifers, Christopher Helm, London, 1987) notes that fossils show Pinus roxburghii and Pinus canariensis once formed a single population across southern Europe to the Himalayas.

Chir pine is named for the so-called father of Indian botany, the Scotsman William Roxburgh. As for the etymology of the name “chir,” I can only find that in Urdu, chir means milk. My guess is that the resin, which is utilized for a wide variety of uses (see the Wikipedia entry), is white. Perhaps one of our Indian Botany Photo of the Day correspondents and/or a chir pine expert can expand on this.

Jan 25, 2008: Cylindropuntia fulgida

Cylindropuntia fulgida

Thanks yet again to Eric La Fountaine for today's write-up and photograph!

The Brown Mountain Trail, located in Tucson Mountain County Park just south of Saguaro National Monument West, near Tucson, Arizona, offers excellent views of the Tucson Mountains and the forest of massive saguaros, Carnegiea gigantea that spread out from the western base of the range. Near the entrance to the trail, is a group of very large Cylindropuntia fulgida. As I and my companion returned to the car the sun was setting, creating this gorgeous view as its glowing rays filtered through the spines.

These cactus grow in a branched treelike form 1-3 metres high. Flowers often develop on the small fruit in the following season, creating chains, which are the origin of its common name, chain-fruit cholla. The species has several common names, including jumping cholla. Unfortunately, I found out the reason for this name as I approached to take photos. Stem segments of this cholla and other cylindropuntias easily detach. My pant leg caught hold of a few broken segments on the ground at the base of the plant. The spines have a way of digging in, and pulling on one end seemed to drive the spines on the other end in deeper. I guess the pain was worth it.

Jan 24, 2008: Orchis galilaea

Orchis galilaea

Thanks once again to Jackie Chambers for today's write-up and photograph! Just a reminder: Jackie is presenting on Wildflowers of Israel and Jordan in early February.

The most striking feature of the Galilee orchid is the tiny human form created by the lobes of the lower petal. Each flower is only 10-12 mm, but there are usually 15-90 per stalk. The flowers spike rises about 40-70cm above a group of basal leaves. This terrestrial orchid is native to Lebanon and Israel. There are several colour forms within this species, the flower colour and markings can range from white, green, and yellow to pink. For more photos please see: Orchis galilaea on the Gallery of the World's Bulbs site.

The name of the genus Orchis is derived from the Greek orchis, which means testicle, and refers to the pair of underground tuber-like structures at the base of the orchid. This also explains why this genus has often been regarded as an aphrodisiac and used in fertility treatments.

Research suggests that Orchis galilaea relies on a sexually deceptive pollination strategy. Instead of producing a reward of nectar for visiting pollinators this orchid produces a scent that mimics the female sex pheromones which attract male bees (Halictus marginatus) to the flowers. Members of the orchid family exhibit a wide range of pollination techniques.

Jan 23, 2008: Maianthemum racemosum subsp. amplexicaule

Maianthemum racemosum subsp. amplexicaule

And another thank you to Eric La Fountaine today for the write-up and photograph... appreciated once again.

This cheerful clump of flowering large false Solomon’s-seal was photographed at the entrance of the Native Garden here at UBC Botanical Garden last spring. This accession* has been removed from the garden and the bed photographed is now vacant and being prepared for another planting, but other accessions of the taxon remain in the Native Garden for viewing next season. Maianthemum racemosum subsp. amplexicaule is native to British Columbia and much of western North America. The flowers are followed by small red berries. Maianthemum spp., formerly called Smilacina, are cultivated to make attractive plantings for woodland gardens. By entering the name into the taxon search at E-Flora BC, species and distribution information can be accessed.

*Accession is a term used in museums, botanic gardens and other curated collections to identify an item in the collection. In the case of our botanic garden, an accession is a single taxon acquired on one date from one source. The accession may consist of more than one individual of the taxon, but different acquisitions of the same taxon would be considered separate accessions. Each accession is assigned a unique number for horticultural and research data management. In the example of the Maianthemum racemosum subsp. amplexicaule 037041-1003-2003, 037041 is the identifying number, 1003 represents the source of the plant and 2003 is the year that it was entered into our records.

Jan 22, 2008: Saccharum ravennae

Thank you to Douglas Justice for both the write-up today and the photographs!

On a short vacation to India this time last year, one of our stops was Jim Corbett National Park, a fascinating mixed deciduous and evergreen forest and grassland reserve famous for tigers. The emptiness of the chaurs (rolling grasslands) was a beautiful antidote to the noise and chaos of the crowded towns and cities of northern India.

There were plenty of wild animals to be seen—this is standard fare for visitors to the park—but I admit I was more interested in the flora and stunning landscape. Our guides, Gurvinder Singh and Geeta Bhatnagarof (of Joint Adventures), were somewhat disappointed that we didn't see any tigers, but there was plenty of evidence that the big cats were nearby. We could hear them roaring and purring (mating behaviour, evidently). I was so absorbed in plant watching, I hardly noticed. Let's just say I didn't get out of the vehicle to check out the fresh scratch marks on the bark of a Butea monosperma (flame-of-the-forest).

The first image, shot from the relative safety of our four-wheel drive vehicle, shows how easy it is to not see a tiger. Note that this grass, tentatively identified as Saccharum ravennae, has been burned. The area is routinely and systematically torched in the dry season both to discourage the forest from expanding, and shorten the grasses (some of which will grow to 8m or more), thus maintaining good wildlife-viewing opportunities.

Jan 21, 2008: Diapensia lapponica subsp. lapponica

A big thanks to two people today: first of all, “LabTea”, of the UBC BG Forums, for sharing today's photo with us today (BPotD Submissions Forum | original thread). Secondly, thanks to Brent Hine for the write-up!

This is the kind of miniature shrub which can only be properly appreciated by lying flat on the ground – or perhaps seeing it here, for most of us. No pretender, Diapensia lapponica is a classic circumboreal alpine plant (not circumpolar, as in Wikipedia's account), meaning it may be found around the globe in northerly latitudes. There are two subspecies, lapponica and obovata. The difference is in leaf shape: lapponica's leaves are spathulate, or narrow and linear from the base, widening to a rounded tip. Within Canada, subspecies lapponica favours cold habitats. It is also chionophobic (snow avoiding), so it prefers windy, exposed sites. Canada's Ellesmere Island provides ideal habitat – cold, windswept and drier than many southerly locales. Although it is an alpine plant, in the far north Diapensia lapponica subsp. lapponica grows at or near shorelines, typically among rocks in small, acid soil pockets.

As can be imagined, it would be challenging indeed to duplicate these conditions for success in the home garden. I for one would welcome the opportunity to visit Ellesmere Island – during the diapensia's growing season!

This little charmer belongs in Diapensiaceae, a small family including southerly woodlanders Galax, Shortia, and Pyxidanthera.

A fine mini-article is on NARG's (North American Rock Garden Society) website, where it was featured as “Plant of the Month for February 2002”.

Jan 18, 2008: Lagerstroemia fauriei

Lagerstroemia fauriei

Thank you again to Eric La Fountaine for today's write-up and photograph!

The peeling bark of the Lagerstroemia fauriei growing at the front entrance of the garden provides winter interest when few plants are blooming. Crepe myrtles are popular landscape trees in warmer areas of North America, but the commonly planted Lagerstroemia indica selections and their hybrids with Lagerstroemia fauriei are poor performers in our cool maritime climate. Fortunately, Yakushima crepe myrtle thrives in our region. While not as showy in bloom as Lagerstroemia indica, the small white flowers are borne on graceful terminal panicles and release a lovely fragrance.

A rare tree in its native habitat, the island of Yakushima in southern Japan, Lagerstroemia fauriei can reach a height of 10 metres, but in our garden it is slow growing, eventually forming a slender, multistemmed, open-branched tree of 5 to 8 m tall.

Lagerstroemia fauriei is featured in The Jade Garden - New and Notable Plants from Asia written by three of UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research's curators: Peter Wharton, Brent Hine and Douglas Justice.

Jan 17, 2008: Phyllostachys vivax 'Aureocaulis'

Thank you to “Weekend Gardener” of the UBC BG Forums for sharing another photograph via the BPotD Submissions Forum (in this thread). Always enjoyable, WG, thanks.

The Royal Horticultural Society Garden Rosemoor provides an excellent summary article about golden Chinese timber bamboo, with suggested links to the American Bamboo Society and the European Bamboo Society. For information about the genus, Wikipedia provides a short description of Phyllostachys.

Jan 16, 2008: Kiger Gorge

Kiger Gorge

Kiger Gorge on Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon displays a pattern sometimes seen in gorges and valleys in the Great Basin of North America – a mass of vegetation on one side of the valley, little on the other side. In the case of Kiger Gorge, the U-shaped valley runs north-south (this photograph is taken from the Kiger Outlook, looking north). The east-facing green slope should receive roughly the same amount of sun as the dry, brownish west-facing slope, but (I am guessing) the difference of when the sun shines on each slope accounts for the disparity; the slope with the western exposure will receive direct sunshine from mid-morning to early evening (after the air temperature has risen), whereas the east-facing slope starts to fall into shadow during some of the hottest hours of the day in mid-afternoon. I do have to caution that this is only an educated guess; other factors could be at play, such as microclimates caused by air movement or precipitation.

View a topographic map of Kiger Gorge (click on the map on that page for a larger image) or view the terrain map via Google for some insight into this glacier-carved landscape.

This photograph is from the 2007 Intermountain Expedition. Brent Hine will be sharing a presentation on this trip later this month at UBC Botanical Garden in “Explorations in the Great Basin”.

Jan 15, 2008: Retama raetam

Today's photographs and write-up are supplied by Jackie Chambers, a UBC Botanical Garden horticulturist. Thanks, Jackie! As an aside, Jackie is presenting on Wildflowers of Israel and Jordan in early February.

The small, white flowers of Ratema raetem (or white weeping broom) measure between 8-10mm long, and are produced in late winter and early spring. They exhibit the banner, wing and keel petal structure that is typical of the pea family. These flowers emit a sweet, honey fragrance. It was the smell of honey in the middle of the desert that first drew my attention to this plant...that and the fact that it was practically the only other living thing in the vicinity!

Retama raetam is adapted to survive extreme drought conditions. Its roots go deep into the earth, while the slender branches reduce the amount of surface area exposed to dry desert air. While it does produce very small leaves, they are quickly dropped in order to conserve water. The majority of photosynthesis is carried out by the green photosynthetic stems. For more information on plant adaptations to desert conditions please see the article Plant Adaptation in the Extreme Desert in Israel by Dr. Ori Fragman-Sapir.

Retama raetam is endemic to North Africa, the Middle East (Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon) and Sicily in southern Italy. It was introduced to Australia as an ornamental in the 1840s and has since naturalized. It is on an Alert List for Potential Weed Species in South Western Australia (PDF).

Jan 14, 2008: Echinocereus rigidissimus

Another couple photographs and a write-up from Eric La Fountaine today – thanks again, Eric!

This cactus, with alternating rings of pink/red on its stem was an intriguing find on a hike with friends during winter holiday in Tucson. No one was quite sure what it was. When I showed the photo to UBC Botanical Garden's Curator of Collections, Douglas Justice, he returned from his office in minutes with a name and description that matched. The species is native to the Sonoran Desert in southwestern USA and northwestern Mexico. Plants are generally unbranched and grow 6-30 cm tall. Along the trail we found them in small groups of solitary stems. The rainbow hedgehog cactus can sport some very bright colouration; very nice selections are available commercially.

The Sonoran Desert is not the lifeless wasteland that some might think. It is full of fascinating plants and creatures and can be quite green at times. For a quick description of the desert Blue Planet Biomes has an educational webpage for teachers and students. The Center for Sonoran Studies offers a Natural History Tour of the Region. Information for people wanting to visit the Sonoran Desert National Monument can be found on the US Bureau of Land Management website.

Jan 11, 2008: Hebe 'Silver Dollar'

Thank you to Eric La Fountaine for both today's photographs and the written accompaniment.

A recently introduced cultivar, Hebe 'Silver Dollar' is a sport of the popular Hebe 'Red Edge'. Ease of care and year round performance have made hebes very popular with gardeners. The play of the low angled sunlight across the colourful, rain dappled branch tips caught my eye. The distinctive branch structure with opposite leaves held in perpendicular rows is typical of the genus. The diversity of size and form of the plant make it adaptable to many garden designs.

There are around 90 species of Hebe and all but one are found in New Zealand, where it is the largest plant genus. Most species are endemic to New Zealand, but hebes also occur in southeast Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, French Polynesia and South America. Probably due to its year-round fresh evergreen appearance, the plant was named after the Greek goddess of youth.

An article in the Seattle Times, Hardy Hebes extolls the virtues of hebes for Northwest gardens. Many hebes are tender, so winter hardiness is a concern to growers. The Hebe Project at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center of Oregon State University reports on garden trials of many Hebe cultivars as to cold tolerance and other factors of concern to area horticulturists.

Jan 10, 2008: Beschorneria albiflora

Thank you again to Eric in SF@Flickr (also see: PlantWorld) for sharing a couple of his great photographs with BPotD (original 1 | original 2 | BPotD Flickr Group Pool. Appreciated, as always!

The genus Beschorneria contains perhaps a dozen species. Most of the species are endemic to the mountains of central and southern Mexico, with the exception of Beschorneria albiflora; its range extends southwards from Mexico into the northern Guatemala.

A 1989 article in The Plantsman (10(4): 193-199) by Michael Maunder, “A Survey of the Genus Beschorneria in Cultivation” contains perhaps the best account of this group of plants, with brief descriptions of all species known at the time. For Beschorneria albiflora, the distribution and ecology: “Found in the highlands of Oaxaca and Chiapas states, and northern Guatemala. In Chiapas it is found in dense montane scrub on the exposed ridges of the Sierra Madre...There it occurs with genera of arcto-alpine affinities such as Alchemilla pinnata, Arenaria bryoides, Draba volcanica, Gaultheria spp. and Vaccinium spp.”

Maunder also cites Matuda (the author of the plant name for this species) when writing that the fresh flowers (of some species) are sometimes eaten fried in egg.

A third photograph of this particular plant, showing its habit, was taken by Stan Sheb and shared via the Wikimedia Commons.

Jan 9, 2008: Trachycarpus fortunei

Thank you to Eric La Fountaine of the gardens here at UBC for both today's photographs and text!

This Asian palm has a long history of cultivation in China and Japan as a source of fiber. Tolerant of cool summers and considered the hardiest of palms, it has become a popular landscape plant in maritime areas of British Columbia. Gardeners have successfully grown the tree as far north as the Alaska panhandle and Scotland.

A December sunset made the golden stems stand out in contrast to the lovely green fruit in this view. This plant was previously featured on BPotD in bloom (May 05, 2005) and as an abstract (December 18, 2006).

A group of Trachycarpus fortunei have survived outdoors in the ground in Plovdiv, Bulgaria since 1973. They are reported to have withstood temperatures as low as -27C (see: The Polar Palms of Bulgaria).

Four different people are responsible for today's entry:

Thank you all for contributing!

Balanophora species are among the most unusual of all higher plants that have been featured here on Botany Photo of the Day. The list of novel characteristics for this genus is lengthy. According to Mabberley (The Plant Book, 2nd ed. 1987, Cambridge), these root parasites are known to parasitize at least 74 species in 35 families (one species, the comparatively well known and widely distributed Balanophora fungosa, has at least 25 host species). Above-ground parts are small and distinctly fungus-like, while underground, the plants produce large tuberous growths without any discernable roots. The tubers are the source for a wax-like substance, balanaphorin, which is the food reserve (instead of starch) for the plants. This material is also used for torches in Java.

Some species of Balanophora are dioecious (male and female flowers are produced on separate plants), while others are monoecious (separate male and female flowers borne on the same plant), such as Balanophora fungosa. In general, the inflorescences burst out of the tuberous structures, leaving a collar at ground level around the base of the flower stalk. Flowers are myiophilous (fly-pollinated) according to some authors. The seeds, which are exceptionally tiny (ca. 7 micrograms apiece) are borne without enclosing carpels. Plants in the genus (and the family, Balanophoraceae) are echlorophyllous (have no chlorophyll) and are holoparasitic (entirely parasitic—completely reliant on their hosts for survival). The 15 species in the genus are all native to the Old World Tropics. For the more botanically inclined, the Angiosperm Phylogeny Web Site and the Parasitic Plants Connection include some fascinating tidbits about the family Balanophoraceae and its relationships to other parasitic plants.

Jan 7, 2008: Eucalyptus deglupta

Eucalyptus deglupta

Thanks again to van swearingen@Flickr for sharing an image with us (original | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Appreciated, as always!

Rainbow gum or rainbow eucalyptus is native to Indonesia, Papua-New Guinea and the Philippines. Its presence in the Philippines makes it the only species of Eucalyptus native to the northern hemisphere.

The World Agroforestry Centre contains a fact sheet on Eucalyptus deglupta.

Jan 5, 2008: Tulipa hybrid

Tulipa hybrid

From last April, this is another unnamed errant tulip growing amongst the Tulipa 'Zurel'. I much preferred visiting the fields where these occasional oddballs would show up; fields of tulips that were perfect felt too managed.

Jan 4, 2008: Hamamelis × intermedia 'Fireglow'

Hamamelis × intermedia 'Fireglow'

May as well start the new year with fireworks...

I've previously written about Hamamelis ×intermedia 'Fireglow', so I'll refer you to that entry today while I continue to enjoy a sliver of time off after madly rushing to submit the John Davidson web site for review by the end of the December. It should be available for public viewing sometime in February, if all goes well.

For those readers of today's Vancouver Sun article, “No One-Hit Wonder”, welcome! My suggestion is to start your visit by checking out the main Botany Photo of the Day page and the main UBC Botanical Garden Forums page, and explore from there!

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