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Results tagged “boraginaceae”

Jul 16, 2013: Cryptantha flava

Cryptantha flava

Taisha writes today's entry:

Today's photo of Cryptantha flava, or the yellow cryptanth, was requested from hauskurz@UBC Botanical Garden forums, who posted it in this plant identification thread: Cryptantha flava. Thanks hauskurz!

The origin of the names for Cryptantha flava are the Greek words kryptos, meaning "to hide" and anthos meaning "flower", as well as flava meaning "yellow". Yellow cryptanth is a semi-arid perennial found growing in sandy soils of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. This aboveground herbaceous species grows from a taproot and woody underground stem, called a caudex, that bears densely packed rosettes of oblanceolate leaves. The hairy leaves appear in the spring and senesce after they bear a single inflorescence of 45-55 yellow 5-petaled flowers. The flowers produce one, sometimes two, nutlets (two more may be fertilized but are aborted). These remain enclosed in the calyx until later serving as the dispersal unit (see: Casper, B. B. 1996. Demographic consequences of drought in the herbaceous perennial Cryptantha flava: Effects of density, associations with shrubs, and plant size. Oecologia. 106:144-152.).

In today's photograph, there are flowers of both white and yellow on the same plant. Corolla colour is one way in which flowers attract animal pollinators. Some species have corollas which undergo colour changes as they age in order to attract or deter pollinators. By changing corolla colour, the plant is able to direct pollinators to flowers that have not yet been pollinated, increasing outcrossing. In some species, this colour change is onset by pollination.

In a study by Casper and La Pine, colour change from white to yellow in another member of Cryptantha, Cryptantha humilis var. nana, was investigated. It was theorized that the changes in colour and other floral characteristics occur in order to deter pollinators from visiting non-reproductive flowers. It was found that Cryptantha humilis var. nana is self-incompatible, and therefore visits from pollinators to viable flowers are essential to maximize seed production and reproductive potential. They found that this phenomenon was a time-dependent event, regardless of whether the flower is pollinated. Observations revealed that approximately three days after anthesis (when the flower is fully open and functional), the flower turns white and remains so for about a day before wilting. It was discovered that other changes occur simultaneously with colour change such as decrease in nectar and pollen production, and differences in odour and UV patterns. It was also observed that pollinators visited plants of Cryptantha humilis var. nana that had yellow corollas more often than those with white, presumably because it is the flowers with yellow corollas that produce nectar. One might question the advantage of keeping corollas on the plant after pollination, and it is suggested that it may contribute to the attractiveness of the plant to pollinators from long distances. However, it was found that the white flowers did not increase the number of insect visitors, and it is actually the number of yellow flowers that pollinators made their foraging decisions on, rather than the total number of flowers. Overall, it is mentioned that more experimental approaches are necessary to understand the colour change phenomenon (see: Casper, B. B., La Pine, T. R. 1984. Changes in corolla color and other floral characteristics in Cryptantha humilis (Boraginaceae): Cues to discourage pollinators?. Evolution. 38(1): 128-141.).

Jan 3, 2013: Pholistoma auritum

I learned today that California's Pinnacles National Monument is one signature away from becoming the USA's 59th National Park, so I decided to highlight something from my all-too-brief trip there a few years ago.

Pholistoma auritum is a small (to 15cm), fleshy annual species of California, Nevada and Arizona. In California, the species is found in "ocean bluffs, talus slopes, woodlands, streambanks, canyons, desert scrub" from elevations of 0-1900m (0-6200ft.). For the most part, it occupies the southern two-thirds of the state, with only one-few disjunct populations in the north. Common names for the species include fiestaflower or blue fiestaflower.

Apr 17, 2012: Mertensia virginica

Mertensia virginica

Thank you to Wood_Owl@Flickr for submitting today's photograph (original image via Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). Much appreciated, especially since I am on day 9 of 14 leading a botanizing tour and Katherine is busy with exams.

Virginia cowslip or Virginia bluebells is native to moist woods of eastern North America. Like the species of Cardamine in the previous entry, it is also a spring ephemeral.

Mar 21, 2011: Echium vulgare

Claire compiled today's entry:

Steve H from Northumberland, UK submitted the close-up photograph of Echium vulgare flowers via the Botany Photo of the Day Submissions Forum. Thank you Steve! The second photograph of the plants growing in the dry ditch and forming a mosaic of blue was taken by Daniel mid-June in 2009, in Lower Nicola, British Columbia.

Viper's bugloss, blue-devil and blueweed are some common names for Echium vulgare. The species is a native of Europe and much of central Asia, but it has also naturalized in other parts of the world as well, including North America.

There are over 2700 species in Boraginaceae recognized worldwide (with most from Europe and Asia), though that number may change as the phylogeny of the group is resolved (see the Classification section from the link -- may be split into possibly 11 families!). Like Echium vulgare, many species in this family are herbs with prickly-hairy leaves. The coarseness of the hairs (caused by silicon dioxide and calcium carbonate deposits) can be quite an irritant to skin if plants are handled. Though the annual, biennial or short-lived perennial Echium vulgare is ornamental with its succession of blue flowers (caused by anthocyanin pigments) and height (to 1-2m, though sometimes shorter), it can also be a noxious, persistent weed in some regions. If interested in it for your garden, please take the time to research whether it is an appropriate planting for your area.

Other species of Echium are known to contain alkaloid compounds that can cause harm to livestock, even killing cattle, sheep and horses. Another member of the genus, Echium plantagineum, has been cited by the NNFCC (UK's National Non-foods Crop Centre) as being a useful oil crop (link to page with fact sheet).

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