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Results tagged “asparagaceae”

Apr 12, 2013: Agave shawii

Agave shawii

Bryant again authored today's entry. He writes:

Thank you to Sandy Steinman (Sandy Steinman@Flickr or his blog, Natural History Wanderings) for today's image of Agave shawii (commonly referred to as Shaw's agave). The photo was contributed via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool.

Agave shawii is a small- to medium-sized member of the Asparagaceae. Basal rosettes of the plants, comprised of thick fleshy leaves with robust marginal spines, usually reach heights of about a meter (3 ft.) high and just under a meter wide upon maturity. It is native to Baja California as well as a few localities in southern California; this particular specimen was photographed at the Regional Parks Botanical Garden in Tilden Park, Berkeley, California.

The reproductive stalk pictured above grows about 3-5 meters (10-16 feet) tall and typically only flowers once! Like most species of Agave, Agave shawii is semelparous, meaning the rosette typically dies after it flowers. Many agaves allocate upwards of 50% of the measureable energy stored within their biomass to forming the reproductive structure and nectar for the proliferation of flowers; Agave shawii can take up to 30 years or more to do so depending on environmental conditions. Though the reproductive process may kill the parent individual, many agaves take up insurance measures in the form of vegetative rosettes that often form on the roots or sometimes the reproductive stem before, during or after the reproductive cycle takes place (see: Arizaga et al. 1995. Insurance against reproductive failure in a semelparous plant: bulbil formation in Agave macroacantha flowering stalks. (PDF) Oecologia. 101:329-334.). Therefore, clones of the parent individual may survive for centuries--often in small colonies.

It should also be mentioned that this species is considered rare and endangered in its California distribution, and imperiled/vulnerable globally.

Jul 18, 2012: Quercus garryana Ecosystems

Bryant is responsible for today's photographs and write-up. He scribes:

The other week, while I was contemplating topics for a series, Daniel handed me a book entitled Nature's Palette by David Lee. The book is written in a combination of scientific and layman's terms, and describes various aspects of colour in plants. It is a fascinating read and provides the inspiration and much of the source material for the following series on plant colour. In this series, I aim to investigate the functional, structural, historical, philosophical, economical and sociological connotations of colour in plants.

The first photograph is of a Camassia quamash meadow with the edge of a Quercus garryana grove in the background, taken at the Mt. Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve on Vancouver Island. The second image was taken at Harewood Plains near Nanaimo, British Columbia. The blues are again Camassia quamash while the pink in the background is Plectritis congesta.

When the Garry oak (or Oregon white oak) meadows and woodlands are in full bloom, they demonstrate some of the most vibrant and extraordinary mass blooms on the west coast of Canada. Unfortunately, Garry oak ecosystems are also among the most threatened ecosystems in all of Canada. When walking through a scene like this, it is hard not to be overcome by a feeling of euphoria, almost as if the vibrant colours have a physical effect on the body. Our appreciation for the beauty of this spectacular bloom is perhaps the reason why there is still Garry oak habitat left, and why there is such a dedicated group of people who protect these remaining sites.

Human attraction to plant colour has existed for millennia. In fact, a Neanderthal skeleton dating roughly 60,000 years old was found buried with concentrated flower remains scattered around the skull, suggesting that a wreath of flowers was placed beneath his head before he was buried. Although there are skeptics of this finding, David Lee is convinced that even the Neanderthals attributed aesthetic value to colourful plants.

More recently, studies have shown that lush landscapes can have beneficial psychological and physical affects on patients in the process of recovering from medical issues. A highly-cited 1984 study observed that post-operative patients recovered more quickly when they had a room with a view of a natural setting as opposed to a view of a brick wall. A more recent experiment, with results published in 2010, concluded that photographs and paintings of a natural landscapes consisting mainly of blues and green are more likely to have a calming effect on hospital patients compared to some types of abstract art.

Feb 22, 2012: Brodiaea coronaria subsp. coronaria

Brodiaea coronaria subsp. coronaria

I think I'll be able to start sharing some photographs from this year soon, as spring is on the early side locally (for now). This image is from last summer, in early July.

Crown brodiaea or harvest brodiaea is a 10-30(40) cm (4-12(16) in.) tall herbaceous perennial, associated in extreme southwest British Columbia with mesic to dry grassy slopes and rocky bluffs (with a few outliers). Its range extends south through Washington and Oregon into California.

A rare rosy-purple to rosy-flowered variant is recognized as Brodiaea coronaria subsp. rosea, found only in three localities in northwestern California. Photographs of both subspecies are available via Calphotos: Brodiaea coronaria.

Dec 21, 2011: Agave tequilana

Agave tequilana

Today's photographs, from a couple different sites in Mexico, are courtesy of retired UBC Botanical Garden staff member, David Tarrant. I sent a request to David for images of Agave tequilana for the "Botany and Spirits" series, and he was glad to share. Thanks again, mi amigo--I wish I could have made a longer entry today from your photographs, but have run out of time today.

Unsurprisingly (given the scientific name), these blue agave (or agave azul) plants are being grown for the production of tequila. This gives us a presumptive clue as to the location of the photographs, as only plants harvested from the Mexican states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas can be used to generate the spirit marketed under that moniker. Tequila is a specific type of mezcal, and if I have misidentified these plants or identified them correctly but the plants are being grown elsewhere, then they are being used for the production of a different mezcal instead.

Dec 16, 2011: Agave attenuata

Agave attenuata

Today's image is courtesy of Priscilla Burcher (aka PriscillaBurcher@Flickr), and I believe this is the first time we've featured one of Priscilla's photographs on BPotD, so, thanks and welcome! The image was submitted via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool (original image).

As noted in Wikipedia, Agave attenuata is one of the few unarmed Agave species. While technically correct, it may be better to use the term "spineless" instead of unarmed, as the former provides additional information; most Agave have spines on the leaf margins (unarmed means lacking spines, prickles, or thorns).

Native to three Mexican states, Jalisco, México and Michoacán, Agave attenuata is associated with rocky outcrops in pine forests at elevations from 1900m to 2500m (6200 to 8200ft.). It is thought to be relatively rare in the wild. In cultivation, however, it is a popular ornamental in warmer climates, and I've seen it in several California public gardens. Many additional images of the species are available via the Plants of Hawaii web site: Agave attenuata, including one that makes me think unpleasant thoughts about others.

A few English common names are used for the species, including swan's neck agave, lion's tail agave and foxtail agave.

Aug 26, 2011: Cordyline australis

Today's entry was authored by Alexis:

Thank you to Tony Foster (Tonyfoster@Flickr) from the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool (image) and Kahuroa at Wikimedia Commons (image) for their photographs of today's species. Cordyline australis produces sweet-scented white flowers that bloom in October to December in the southern hemisphere. The flowers attract flies, which carry out pollination.

This species, also known as cabbage tree, is endemic to New Zealand. It is a common tree in New Zealand, found in a variety of habitats like "swamps, sand dunes, coastal scrub and forest margins, river banks and dry hillsides" (Newhook's Our Trees: A New Zealand Guide (1982)). It grows up to about 20m tall. Parts of the tree can be eaten and are rich in carbohydrates. Historically, Maoris made a porridge-type food out of the sun-dried pith and roots of young trees, and also used the trees as sources of fibre and medicine. Early European settlers found uses for Cordyline australis as well; they fashioned chimneys from the hollowed out trunks, which are fire-resistant, and made beer from the roots.

In 1987, Cordyline australis individuals of the North Island of New Zealand fell victim to a mysterious disease that caused sudden wilting, the falling off of leaves, and death within 3 to 12 months. This condition, simply known as "sudden decline", was later discovered to be caused by a phytoplasma parasite transmitted via an introduced sap-sucking insect.

Jul 22, 2011: Nolina nelsonii

Nolina nelsonii

Alexis wrote today's entry:

Sergio Niebla (sergioniebla@Flickr) took this photograph of two plants of Nolina nelsonii plants (with Agave americana on the right) in La Reforma, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Thank you, Sergio! This species is native only to the state of Tamaulipas, though it is also cultivated, especially in Texas.

Blue nolina or Nelson's bear grass goes by the scientific name Nolina nelsonii. Its physical appearance is often compared to species of Yucca, another genus in Asparagaceae. Nolina nelsonii leaves are narrow and long, up to about 80 cm in length, with miniscule teeth lining their margins. Plants resemble a small trees, with a head of the rigid, blue-green leaves sitting atop a 1-3.7m tall trunk. The inflorescence that protrudes from the foliage can measure 2-3.4m in length, adding to the plant's already unusual appearance.

Nolina nelsonii prefers well-drained soils and sunny environments. Not only is it drought tolerant, but it can also survive freezing temperatures down to -12°C. (Irish & Irish's Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants (2000))

Nov 9, 2010: Ornithogalum arabicum

Ornithogalum arabicum

Today's entry was written by Claire:

Our photograph today was provided by Sean Rangel of Seattle (aka SeanRangel@Flickr) via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thank you Sean! Sean is also the photographer behind www.baublegraphy.com.

The common name of Ornithogalum arabicum is star of Bethlehem, named for the lovely white flowers this species produces. It belongs to the Asparagaceae (though listed as Liliaceae or Hyacinthaceae in references that use different family classifications). Its subfamily, Scilloideae, contains only herbaceous perennials with bulbs.

Though species of Ornithogalum are native to Eurasia and Africa, these monocots are popular ornamental plants around the world (the most commonly cultivated being Ornithogalum umbellatum, which sometimes escapes the garden and becomes an aggressive introduced species). Ornothogalum arabicum, itself native to Mediterranean areas, is one of about one hundred to one hundred and fifty species in this genus. Some members of the genus are edible, while others are toxic. For an edible example, young inflorescences of bath asparagus or Ornithogalum pyrenaicum can be eaten much like asparagus. However, Ornothogalum arabicum and other species contain toxins (often concentrated in the bulbs or the flowers) such as alkaloids and cardenolides (the same group of steroid toxins employed by monarch butterflies as a disincentive for predators or the heart block inducing poisons of Digitalis).

The delicate flowers of this species are fragrant and bee-pollinated. Local gardeners will be disappointed to learn that Ornithogalum arabicum is marginally hardy (at best) and enjoys low to moderate soil moisture with bright sunlight, making it a poor choice for growing outdoors in Vancouver.

For additional photographs of members of the genus, see Ornithogalum via the Pacific Bulb Society. A Close-up View of Three Ornithogalum Flowers provides an excellent photographs and photomicrographs.

Nov 5, 2010: Polygonatum biflorum

A brief entry written by Claire today:

Thank you to BlueRidgeKitties@Flickr for sharing some images of Polygonatum biflorum via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool (original 1 taken in mid-May and original 2 photographed in mid-July).

Smooth Solomon's seal is native to eastern North America, where it tends to grow in rich-soiled woods and thickets. The young shoots and roots can be boiled and eaten, but don't eat the berries as they are known to be poisonous!

More photographs are available via the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's Native Plants Database: Polygonatum biflorum.

Sep 13, 2010: Furcraea foetida var. mediopicta

Furcraea foetida var. mediopicta

Before the written part of today's entry, a couple comments re: BPotD: you'll likely have noticed fewer entries lately, as well as long load times / stalled loading of images. We've determined that the garden's web server is starting to fail, so I'm trying to minimize the load on the server while we work to replace it (and one way to do so is to reduce traffic to the site). Unfortunately, we're not going to be able to move the whole site to the new server until after I take a couple trips that I had planned months ago. I suspect BPotD will continue to be infrequently published until mid-October (and let's hope the server lasts until then).

This month's biodiversity series is about "Tropical Biodiversity". Thank you to mondomuse@Flickr (aka Robert S. of Venice, California) for sharing today's image via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Much appreciated!

Furcraea foetida, known in English as Mauritius-hemp, giant cabuya or green-aloe, is native to parts of the Caribbean and northern South America. Do note that despite the common names, it is neither an Aloe nor from Mauritius. It's not a hemp, either, though it is used economically for extraction of the natural fibre fique (aka cabuya). The export of species of Furcraea from Brazil by the Dutch to its then-settlement in Mauritius eventually led to that common names.

Furcraea is named after Antoine François, comte de Fourcroy,a French chemist and entomologist. Fourcroy was one of four French collaborators in the creation of a standardized chemical nomenclature.

For additional images of Furcraea foetida, see the extensive image collection of naturalized plants in Hawaii: Furcraea foetida.

Botany resource link: A loose follow-up to the Drosera anglica entry a couple weeks ago: "Meat-eating plants losing ground in U.S.", via The Seattle Times, about the decline of carnivorous plants due to development, poaching and suppression of wildfires.

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