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Results tagged “ericaceae”

Oct 3, 2014: Calluna vulgaris

An ultimately unsuccessful search for a site where I could permitlessly collect some Gentiana douglasiana led me to the Tofino Airport on the west coast of Vancouver Island (the gentian was to be for a phylogenetic study of the Gentianaceae being done by Dr. Jim Pringle and colleagues). Like a few other sites in the Tofino-Ucluelet corridor, the naturalized Calluna vulgaris, or heather, was present in abundance.

Heather is native to much of Europe (e.g., the British Isles) as well as small parts of Asia and Africa. In addition to portions of Canada, it has also established in the USA, Australia, and New Zealand. While the site of today's photographs was a highly disturbed area, in New Zealand at least it has become a major pest of native grassy tussocks within some of their national parks (also see the Global Invasive Species Database). Contrarily, as noted in the first link re: British Isles, heather is in decline in part of its native range due to habitat loss and heavy grazing.

This low-growing shrub (typically to 50cm, rarely to 1m) is generally associated with acidic soils (like much of its plant family, the Ericaceae). It can be the dominant species in a plant community, such as the eponymous heathlands of Europe. Heather is a familiar species to many (vulgaris means "common"), with a long history of cultivation (hundreds of extant cultivars) and many human uses, including as a predecessor to hops in the brewing of beer. Perhaps that will be the eventual fate of these plants in the photographs, given the expansion of microbreweries regionally. It may be a novel way to distinguish one's beers, though the Wikipedia entry does make the uncited assertion that a hallucination-inducing ergot-like fungus may infect leaves and thus contaminate the beer. Psychid-ale-ic.

Aug 6, 2014: Rhododendron cinnabarinum subsp. xanthocodon Concatenans Group

Rhododendron cinnabarinum subsp. xanthocodon Concatenans Group

A couple of months ago, I spotted a rhododendron while walking along Lower Asian Way in UBC Botanical Garden's David C. Lam Asian Garden. The contrast between the upper blue-tinged young leaves and the lower older yellow-hued leaves was striking. When I approached, I saw that it was named Rhododendron cinnabarinum subsp. xanthocodon Concatenans Group. This evergreen species' foliage has a pleasant aroma that I would describe as spicy or cinnamon-like. Maybe the epithet made me think of cinnamon, and despite seeming like it describes the smell, it actually refers to the cinnabar-red flowers of some of the other subspecies that were first introduced into cultivation from the Himalayas in 1849.

Earlier in the year, fleshy yellow flowers adorned this plant. Plants that are attributed to subspecies xanthocodon have lilac to mustard-yellow flowers. Unfortunately though, I didn't photograph it when it was in bloom. However, you can see what they looked like (and a selection of other Rhododendron taxa we have here at the Garden) in this thread on the UBC Botanical Garden Forums, with photographs taken by Wendy Cutler. Worth noting, as an aside, is that the nectar from this species is reputed to be the most poisonous of the entire genus.

Apr 15, 2014: Rhododendron sp.

Rhododendron sp.

I tagged along while Douglas was leading a walkabout with the Horticulture Training Program students this afternoon, camera in-hand. I'd say all of the students with cameras stopped to take a photograph of this rhododendron. So, I did too. It's been a goal this year to make sure I have my camera with me while walking in the Garden for other tasks, be it for safety inspections or interviews or general walk-abouts, and it is revealed in the quantity of photos so far this year: roughly 3500 (many of these are duplicates, though, to attempt to improve focus or composition). That's ahead of my usual pace in a calendar year (from 9000 to 10500 in each of the last 4 years), as I've not had any significant travels for photography yet.

This is an as-yet-unidentified specimen belonging to Rhododendron, subgenus Rhododendron, section Rhododendron, subsection Triflora. With approximately a thousand species in this highly ornamental genus, rhododendron taxonomists and specialists generally find it easiest to work with a hierarchical subgeneric (below genus level) taxonomy. Norman Todd, a Victoria (Canada) rhododendron enthusiast, wrote about subsection Triflora for the Victoria Rhododendron Society: T is for Triflora.

Mar 26, 2014: Rhododendron praevernum

Rhododendron praevernum

Better late than never for an entry, I suppose. It was a long day working on an app we're getting close to completing (sorry, not a BPotD app) -- more details on that soon. In the meantime, enjoy this photograph and write-up, both by Taisha. She writes:

This photo of Rhodoendron praevernum is from an unnamed selection of the species made by noted Rhododendron enthusiast, Del James. I took this photo a couple of weeks ago on March 7th, when the plant was in the midst of blossoming in the David C. Lam Asian Garden. This species opens its flowers earlier than quite a few others locally--which makes sense when thinking about its epithet, praevernum. Daniel and Douglas today reminded me that vernum pertains to spring (the Latin word for spring being vernus), while prae is Latin for "before".

To reinforce the notion that this is an early bloomer, Daniel has photographs of this species (perhaps even the same plant) from February of 2003. If you're interested in learning more about the rhododendrons of UBC Botanical Garden, see the January 2010 issue (20:1) of Davidsonia (PDF) where Douglas goes into detail about some of the (approximately) 450 taxa grown in the Garden. It includes a mention of today's plant. To see a regional bloom calendar for rhododendrons, check out "Twelve Months of Flowering Rhododendrons" (PDF) from Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens.

Feb 27, 2014: Cassiope mertensiana

Cassiope mertensiana

Taisha is the author of this entry. She writes:

Today's photo is of Cassiope mertensiana, or white mountain-heather. This species is featured in Alpine Plants of British Columbia, Alberta, and Northwest North America, authored by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon. Mike Hays is the photographer, sharing his image both in the book and with us on Botany Photo of the Day. Thank you, Mike! For local readers, do note that Andy MacKinnon will be giving a talk next week at the Native Plant Society of BC's Annual General Meeting on "Life above the Treeline: Plant Adaptations to the Alpine".

Cassiope mertensiana of the Ericaceae is, of course, an alpine species of western North America. It is found in open forests, meadows, rocky slopes, heathlands and tundra. White mountain-heather is a mat-forming dwarf species with opposite evergreen leaves. The white solitary flowers are bell-shaped and held upon a bending red stalk.

According to Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moerman, Cassiope mertensiania was used by the Nlaka'pamux (formerly known as the Thompson) as a remedy for tuberculosis where a decoction of the plant was taken over a period of time.

Taxonomically, some references suggest the name should be Andromeda mertensiana, but most references retain Cassiope mertensiana, including The Plant List and the Jepson eFlora.

Jan 14, 2014: Richea scoparia

Richea scoparia

Taisha is again the author. She writes:

Today's image is of Richea scoparia or the honey richea. It is sometimes called the kerosene plant due to the fragrance when the foliage is crushed. This photo was taken by Rotuli@Flickr in mid-December of 2013. Thanks Rotuli!

The ericaceous Richea scoparia is one of nine Tasmanian endemic species in the genus. The two other species in the genus, Richea continentis and Richea victoriana, are endemic to southeastern mainland Australia, where they are found in alpine bogs or high-elevation wet areas. The subject of today's BPotD, Richea scoparia is also a highland dweller with a preference for rich and boggy soils. This woody shrub is slow-growing, eventually achieving a height of around 1.5 meters. The stiff, palm-like leaves are narrow and pointed, while the flowers of Richea scoparia are arranged in a spike. White, red, pink, or yellow petals are fused to form a calyptrum (i.e., a cap of fused petals).

The nectar-filled calyptra of honey richea are often removed by visiting lizards in search of a sweet reward. This seemingly-destructive act actually provides a reproductive advantage for the species. Mats Olsson and colleagues from the University of Sydney and University of Gothenburg conducted a study on the interaction and coevolution between Richea scoparia and the lizard species Niveoscinus microlepidotus (or snow skink) on Mount Wellington, Tasmania. In seeking the nectar by removing the calyptra, the reptiles expose the plant's reproductive organs--much improving rates of pollination and outcrossing compared to those flowers with intact calyptra (as observed by Olsson et al.). Although the reptiles don't carry pollen themselves, they do facilitate pollination through other vectors such as insects and wind. Intriguingly, the removal of the calyptra was shown to increase the number of seeds dispersed by the honey richea. Plants in their study with lizard-removed calyptra released seeds successfully in 87% of the flowers, compared with 0% in those flowers with intact calyptra (see: Olsson, et al. Lizards as a plant's 'hired help': letting pollinators in and seeds out. (PDF) Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 71:191-202).

Jan 8, 2014: Vaccinium angustifolium

Vaccinium angustifolium

Taisha continues with her series on mimicry and deception; she writes:

Today's image features Vaccinium angustifolium, or the low-bush blueberry. It was chosen from the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool and is courtesy of the late James Gaither (aka J.G. in S.F@Flickr). He photographed these flowers at U.C. Berkeley Botanical Garden in mid-April of 2012. We continue to be grateful for James' contributions.

You may be wondering why I've included a blueberry bush in a series about mimicry. Truthfully, it's not Vaccinium angustifolium I am going to highlight, but rather an associated fungal species known as Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi. This fungus causes mummy-berry disease in many species of Vaccinium (including Vaccinium angustifolium). It employs several mimetic techniques to infect its hosts. Unfortunately, we've not been able to track down a high-resolution image freely available for BPotD use, but the link in this paragraph contains many images scanned from slides for your perusal.

Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi infects species of Vaccinium in two specifically timed stages (link contains illustration of life cycle). The primary stage of infection takes place when the blueberry is in bud-break. The mummy-berry fungus infects emerging leaves and shoots with wind-dispersed ascospores. The secondary stage of infection is where some mimicry takes place.

The ascospore-produced fungal blight that develops on the leaves and some flower clusters generates conidia (asexual, non-motile spores), developed more or less synchronously with the blooming flowers of the blueberry plant. In order for the conidia to disperse from the leaves to the stigma (the initial site of the secondary infection), the pathogen uses host mimicry and deception in order to take advantage of the host's typical pollinators. By producing a sweet odour and reflecting ultraviolet light at an analogous wavelength to that of the blueberry flower calyces, pollinators are lured to the conidia-laden blighted leaf tissue. The conidia are transferred to the pollinator, and then transported to the stigmatic surface when the pollinator next visits a flower.

Once on the stigma, secondary infection and a second round of mimicry begins when the spores germinate on the stigmatic surface. From Ngugi, HK and Scherm, H. Pollen mimicry during infection of blueberry flowers by conidia of Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi. Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology. 64(3):113-123, the authors state in the abstract: "Similar to blueberry pollen tubes, conidial germ tubes of Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi adhered selectively to imprints of stylar transmitting tract tissue on nitrocellulose membrane, with adhesion in both cases occurring at the tips of the tubes. By contrast, hyphae of the related Monilinia fructicola, which is nonpathogenic on blueberry and does not cause gynoecial infection, adhered indiscriminately to the entire membrane". In other words, the conidia of Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi mimic the pollen of the species of Vaccinium, through a "match" with the stigmatic surface. Continuing on, the hyphae growing from the conidia will then navigate the same path as the pollen tubes through the stylar canal and into the ovary. The thallus or body of the fungus then grows within the developing fruit, resulting in "mummification". This mummified fruit later falls to the ground and serves as an overwintering structure for the fungus.

Dec 5, 2013: Rhododendron ericoides

Rhododendron ericoides

Another entry written by Taisha:

This image of Rhododendrom ericoides is courtesy of Damon Tighe@Flickr (uploaded via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). Thanks Damon!

Rhododendron ericoides is described as a shrub with slender branches holding linear leaves and red tubular-cylindric flowers that are collected into a small umbel. The species grows at elevations up to 4000 meters (on Mount Kinabalu).

Rhododendron is a genus with approximately a thousand species, so it is often useful for rhododendron researchers to recognize smaller groups within the genus. Eight subgenera are typically used, along with sections and subsections within these if necessary. Rhododendron ericoides is a member of the subgenus Rhododendron according to the latest (2008) research (PDF). Most older references will state it is a member of the subgenus Vireya, but Vireya is now considered a section of subg. Rhododendron, and Rhododendron ericoides actually belongs to a different section than Vireya: section Discovireya. See the linked PDF reference for the specific details that define the subgenera and sections, but for sect. Discovireya some of the properties include a tubular-cylindric corolla and the valves of its capsular fruit not twisting after dehiscence (opening).

The Vireya group of rhododendrons has often been the subject of biogeographic research (biogeography is a science that studies the spatial distributions of past and present organisms, and of related patterns of variation over the earth). This is in part because of the famed Wallace's line intersecting the distribution of the group within Malesia (e.g.,, see Brown, GK, et al. 2006. Historical biogeography of section Vireya and the Malesian Archipelago. Journal of Biogeography. 33(11):1929-1944).

Sep 24, 2013: Vaccinium ovalifolium

Vaccinium ovalifolium

I realized that I had photographs of most local species in the Ericaceae (or heath family), with the main exceptions being good images of Vaccinium spp. and Pyrola spp., so I am now in the process of developing a presentation on the family (and photographing for the gaps). On the strength of this plant walk description of the Olallie Meadows near Seattle, I decided to visit the area a couple weekends ago to photograph some blueberry species while in the area. I didn't see as many berries as I hoped; perhaps the area was already picked over. Certainly, the bears had visited from some evidence on the path. Still, I did see the three species highlighted in the write-up. Vaccinium ovalifolium was very common, and, as the author of the linked write-up noted, "well worth eating but not as tasty as the other two [Vaccinium membranaceum and Vaccinium deliciosum]".

Oval-leaf blueberry or early blueberry has a mildly curious distribution. The species can be found in east Asia (Japan and far east Russia), northwestern states and provinces in North America, South Dakota, Michigan and eastern provinces of Canada. Its typical habitats as stated in Flora of North America are "Moist or mesic coniferous woods, transitional habitats adjacent to these coniferous stands, cut-over coniferous woods, verges of road cuts, margins of coniferous woods, peaty slopes". This maps well to the typical association of blueberries with slightly acidic soils.

Additional photographs (including photos giving a bit more perspective of the plant) of oval-leaf blueberry are available from the Burke Museum: Vaccinium ovalifolium.

Apr 17, 2013: Sprengelia propinqua

Sprengelia propinqua

Bryant is again the author of today's entry, and he writes:

A big thank you to Bill Higham (Bill Higham@Flickr) for contributing today's image of Sprengelia propinqua via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Sprengelia propinqua, commonly known as western swampheath, is a member of the Ericaceae. It was previously thought to be within a single variable species, Sprengelia incarnata, but recently separated out as distinct species by some taxonomists. The species is endemic to Tasmania: Sprengelia propinqua distribution map.

Sprengelia propinqua and its close relative Sprengelia incarnata were both part of a 2011 study: Johnson, KA and PB McQuillan. Comparative floral presentation and bee-pollination in two Sprengelia species (PDF). Cunninghamia 12(1):45-51. This study provides additional justification for the cleaving of Sprengelia propinqua from Sprengelia incarnata, due to the observed differences in their antherial structures and pollen grains. These differences have caused the pollinators of both these species to employ differing techniques to harvest pollen from the nectar-less flowers. Pollinators who visited Sprengelia incarnata used the process of sonication to harvest pollen, whereas pollinators who visited Sprengelia propinqua tended to use a scraping technique to dislodge the slightly more cohesive pollen grains. In some cases, pollinators from the same genus (e.g., Exoneura or Lasioglossum) can employ these different techniques when visiting the respective species of Sprengelia.

Mar 5, 2013: Rhododendron mucronulatum

Rhododendron mucronulatum

This photograph was taken yesterday in UBC Botanical Garden's Winter Garden. I visited the site to observe the progress on the accessibility pathways being developed in partnership with the Garden's new neighbour, the still-under-construction St. John Hospice.

Rhododendron mucronulatum, or Korean rhododendron, is native to China, Japan, Korea, China and Mongolia, where it is frequently found inhabiting birch (Betula) and larch (Larix) forests and forest margins. These deciduous shrubs (maximum height about 2.5m (8 ft.) are one of the earliest-flowering Rhododendron species in UBC Botanical Garden. Our plants have a particular airiness about them, which I tried to capture in the image; however, some other online images show plants with a higher density of inflorescences and shorter branch internodes (i.e., less "twiggy"), e.g., Rhododendron mucronulatum 'Deep Pink' via the Missouri Botanical Garden. Additional photographs can be found via the virtual arboretum hirsutum.info: Rhododendron mucronulatum.

Photography resource link: the photography of Barney Wilczak. Be sure to browse the galleries!

Nov 16, 2012: Cladina stellaris and Stereocaulon tomentosum

Cladina stellaris and Stereocaulon tomentosum

Bryant is the author of today's entry:

I would like to thank Richard Droker (aka wanderflechten@Flickr) for this image of a lichen community near White Pass, Yukon. The highly branched/shrub-like species of lichen towards the upper half of the image is Cladina stellaris (formerly Cladonia stellaris) and the more coral-like species occupying much of the lower third of the image is Stereocaulon tomentosum. The vascular plant is crowberry, or Empetrum nigrum. If you think that this image looks like a miniature forest, you are not the only one. A major economic use of Cladina stellaris is for miniature trees on small scale models by hobbyists and architects alike.

Lichen communities like this one can dominate a local environment. Often forming dense mats, lichen communities can out-compete plant species for real estate by preventing seedlings from establishing themselves. Seedlings that do manage to take root may be pulled out or damaged by the repeated swelling and contracting of the lichen with changes in moisture. Lichen communities can also affect the underlying soil systems by regulating soil nutrients, retaining soil moisture, and maintaining microbiological communities.

Cladina stellaris (commonly known as star-tipped reindeer lichen) often forms large and rather dense mats in its widely distributed range. As its common name suggests, it is a major source of food for both reindeer and caribou, especially in the winter. Cladina stellaris contains the liver-toxic substance usnic acid, used in products like perfumes and antibiotics. Usnic acid has a bitter taste, which has deterred indigenous peoples from eating raw lichens. However, reindeer and caribou can tolerate the acid with the aid of rumen microorganisms. It has even been proposed that usnic acid aids in digestion by reindeer because it can be successfully metabolised by the rumen microbes. Indigenous peoples discovered that the partially digested lichen found in the first stomachs of reindeer and caribou can indeed be eaten, as the usnic acid has been broken down.

Stereocaulon tomentosum is a woolly lichen with rounded gall-like growths that contain blue-green algae. Richard has also taken a close-up image of the woolly hyphae and gall structures.

Nov 6, 2012: Enkianthus campanulatus

Enkianthus campanulatus

Finally, a small break for me from the grind of teaching and grant-writing. Time to catch-up a bit!

Enkianthus campanulatus, or redvein enkianthus, has twice been featured on Botany Photo of the Day: Enkianthus campanulatus in flower and the trunk shape of Enkianthus campanulatus.

This photograph was made last year on November 5. I haven't checked on this plant the past couple weeks, but when I last glanced at it, it seemed to be colouring nicely again this year, so it might be worth looking for if you are a local and able to visit the Garden later in the week. I just had a look--it has lost almost all of its foliage already, though a nearby plant still has a little colour. This specimen is in the Alpine Garden, near the pond in the Asian continental bed.

Not all specimens of Enkianthus campanulatus in the Garden colour as nicely this one. This particular plant gets exposed to enough sunlight that it produces significant amounts of anthocyanins (the pigments responsible for the red colouration) in its leaves during the autumn. Exposure to sunlight is typically a benefit to plants; in general, the more light the greater the rate of growth (with exceptions). However, as chlorophyll molecules are broken down in the autumn, sunlight is thought to become somewhat detrimental to the plant. The light (and associated increased temperature) from the sun increases the rate of oxidative reactions, thereby binding nutrient ions so that they can't be resorbed into the overwintering tissues of the plant. There is some evidence that the autumn production of anthocyanins in leaf tissue helps bind the molecules responsible for oxidative reactions (i.e., anthocyanin is an antioxidant), permitting the resorption of the valuable mineral nutrients such as nitrogen.

Apr 9, 2012: Rhododendron flammeum 'Red Inferno'

Rhododendron flammeum 'Red Inferno'

Frequent BPotD commenter and occasional contributor Earl Blackstock of the eastern USA sent along today's photograph (taken April 12, 2011) via email.

Earl writes: Mr. Ernest Koone, owner of Lazy K Nursery in Pine Mountain, Georgia developed and registered this selection [originally found in south Georgia]. This plant and all my native azaleas I purchase from Ernest. This flower opens as a bright orange and after a few days turns an intense deep red as seen in this picture. I e-mailed Mr. Koone this photo and Ernest e-mailed me back the following: 'I think that is a GREAT flower and your picture is magnificent, showing the full range of color development'".

Rhododendron flammeum is native to Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. It is commonly known as Oconee azalea. Flower colour is notably variable in this species, ranging from yellow to red (and includes oranges and pinks). The Callaway Gardens weblog entry on Oconee azalea makes note of this, advising: "Because there are several kinds [species and / or colour variants] blooming at the same time there is often cross pollination and the resulting seeds and plants display a wide color range. That is why is it important to purchase native azaleas in bloom if you want a specific color."

Feb 27, 2012: Rhododendron 'Cornubia'

Today's entry was written by Douglas Justice, UBC Botanical Garden's Curator of Collections. Douglas writes:

Rhododendron 'Cornubia' is one of the few hybrid rhododendrons cultivated in the UBC Botanical Garden collection. The parentage of this beautiful plant includes three Himalayan species, all of them superb in their own right and all of them cultivated in our collection. The cross is Rhododendron 'Shilsonii' (Rhododendron barbatum × Rhododendron thomsonii) × Rhododendron arboreum 'Blood Red'. 'Cornubia' is not a common plant locally and is notoriously shy to flower, especially when winters are cold. Our specimen, which was a bit of a mystery plant for many years, is located in the David C. Lam Asian Garden where it is growing exceptionally well, and now blooming with some regularity.

The focus in the Asian Garden has always been on species rhododendrons, but for the past twenty or so years, our attention has increasingly shifted to the cultivation of plants of known provenance (i.e., from documented wild-collected seed). Hardly the place for a hybrid rhododendron, but 'Cornubia' had only flowered once or twice since it had been planted in the early 1990s, and until about ten years ago, when it was finally identified, it had an old label that identified it as Rhododendron fulgens, which it clearly was not. One of the problems with a large rhododendron collection (or any collection of plants for that matter) is that identifications need to be verified, labels applied, and records kept up to date. The process has to be repeated periodically, because, as everyone knows, plant names change, specimens are moved and labels are inevitably lost (or stolen). From a curatorial perspective, we know better than to be doctrinaire about the "purity" of our collections. It's a beautiful plant. It's correctly labeled, and growing well. We'll keep it where it is.

Oct 27, 2011: E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden

E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden

A photograph from early this morning in the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden here at UBC. I'm making a bit of an effort to photograph anything red in relation to plants at the moment. This is in preparation for an early December presentation I'll be giving entitled "Red Reverie", in which I'll be discussing the colour red in plants, on topics ranging from food plant pigments to leaf colours, from attracting pollinators to preventing herbivory. Busy again today with meetings, but thought I'd sneak in a quick image for BPotD. For local readers of BPotD, autumn colours will continue to persist through this weekend, particularly in the Alpine Garden and the Carolinian Forest.

Aug 12, 2011: Kalmia microphylla var. microphylla

A day-trip to collect specimens for a couple research projects earlier this week yielded an opportunity to photograph these small western alpine laurels. Growing at an elevation of 1920m (6300 ft), these diminutive plants (10cm / 4in) are referable to the broadly distributed Kalmia microphylla var. microphylla of western and northern North America. A second variety is recognized by the Flora of North America, Kalmia microphylla var. occidentalis, which tends to be both taller (sometimes to 80cm) and distributed only from Alaska to Oregon at lower elevations. Anatomically, leaf blade shape and dimensions are also used to distinguish the two varieties, with variety microphylla having shorter, stouter leaves.

According to Flora of North America, flower colour is "rose-purple, rarely white", so I was fortunate to find one of the white-flowered plants. Only one small section, perhaps 0.5m2, of the entire local population of these plants was white, so it is possible that the white-flowered individuals were growing clonally.

The US Forest Service's Celebrating Wildflowers site has an excellent account of Kalmia microphylla, and more photographs are available via CalPhotos: Kalmia microphylla.

Oct 19, 2010: Vaccinium vitis-idaea

Vaccinium vitis-idaea

Claire Fadul wrote today's entry, as part of the "Plant Diversity and Food" series:

Taken in the Bragg Creek Natural Area in Alberta, Canada, Anne Elliot (annkelliot@Flickr) has submitted this lovely close-up of Vaccinium vitis-idaea or the mountain cranberry via the BPotD Flickr Pool (original image). Thank you Anne!

The hardy Vaccinum vitis-idaea is an evergreen shrub found through the northern hemisphere in boreal regions north to the tundra. You may have heard it called lingonberry, but mountain, lowbush, and alpine cranberry are also used as common names. Vaccinum vitis-idaea is from the Ericaceae--the heath or heather family. Other members of the family include bearberry, cranberry, blueberry, bilberry, Arbutus spp. and Rhododendron spp. Efloras.org cites 46 genera, 212 species of Ericaceae found in North America and roughly 120 genera and 4100 species worldwide

Vaccinum vitis-idaea is a low-growing groundcover. It produces acidic, bright red berries high in tannins and anthocyanins (water soluble pigments found in the vacuole of plant cells). The fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals and were used by people living in northern climates as a remedy against scurvy and deficiencies in the wintertime.

Vaccinum vitis-idaea is not commonly cultivated and is mostly picked wild. The berries can be preserved and are used in many edibles such as jams, wines, baked goods, sauces and more. Because of the tart flavour, they are not commonly eaten raw. The berries are also an important food source for bears, birds, and foxes in the autumn and winter months.

Sep 8, 2010: Pterospora andromedea

I wasn't expecting to see many species in bloom on a trip this past weekend to the Merritt area of British Columbia, but a backwoods drive yielded a few late-blooming plants. Among the expected asters in bloom were a few of these pine-drops still in flower (spotted first by my friend), though most had gone to seed.

Plants of Pterospora andromedea can be found in western North America and northeastern North America, though in several of the northeastern US states, the species is listed as endangered or threatened, including New York. Once relatively common in New York, the reasons for its decline are apparently unknown. However, in western North America, it is a relatively common species (I've seen plants 3 or 4 times in the past couple years, in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon). The species is typically associated with dry to mesic coniferous or mixed forests. Plants grow to 1m (3.3ft) or more.

Pterospora andromedea is a parasite, and more specifically, it is a mycoheterotroph. Like Monotropa uniflora, plants of the species extract photosynthates (and most mineral nutrients) from an underground relationship with a fungus that has in turn gained its sugars from a nearby woody plant. In the case of Pterospora andromedea, the known fungal associates are members of the genus Rhizopogon. I was going to write that Pterospora andromedea is achlorophyllous (lacking chlorophyll), but that is incorrect: Cummings and Welschmeyer in "Pigment composition of putatively achlorophyllous angiosperms" determined that Pterospora andromedea does produce trace amounts of chlorophyll a.

Pterospora means "winged seed", a property evident in the photographs available on the Botanical Society of America site. The epithet andromedea is seemingly a reference to Andromeda of Greek myth, but a couple web sources give different reasons why; one refers to the flask shape of the flowers, another mentions the flower colouration.

Apr 17, 2006: David C. Lam Asian Garden

David C. Lam Asian Garden

This photograph was taken last year in the David C. Lam Asian Garden at UBC on April 10. If the weather forecast for this week is correct, a similar scene should be visible this weekend. The cool spring weather in the local area has contributed to a closer-to-average timing of flowering for many plant species, unlike last year's early display. While such phenomena as flowering times vary from one year to the next, studying the long-term trends can help inform about climatic changes on scales from micro- to regional to global. The recording and comparison of the timing of recurring natural events is known as phenology.

One of these days, I'm going to whip up a quick database to help the Friends of the Garden post the results of their fifteen year (or longer?) phenological observations of the magnolias at UBC.

Another note for local readers: I've two presentations in the next two weeks, both to the Vancouver Natural History Society. This Thursday, I'm presenting to the VNHS Botany section on "Plants of the Southwestern United States" featuring photographs from my recent trip. On the following Thursday, I'm presenting on John Davidson at the VNHS Annual General Meeting.


a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research
6804 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4
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