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Results tagged “february-17”

Feb 17, 2015: Cocos nucifera (dwarf cultivar)

Cocos nucifera

Adding the second in her series, Tamara Bonnemaison scribes:

We continue our series on extraordinary seeds with this image of Cocos nucifera, generously shared by Ahmad Fuad Morad@Flickr. The photo shows seedlings of an ambiguously-named "aromatic dwarf" cultivar of the coconut palm, taken in Sungai Pau, Malaysia. Thank you Ahmad!

The previous entry about extraordinary seeds featured Phoenix dactylifera, or the date, and today we discuss the coconut. I am tempted to turn this series into a cookie recipe--perhaps if I featured Triticum and Brassica napus (for canola oil) next, we could put together a tasty treat from those four ingredients! I have selected Cocos nucifera for this series as it has the second largest seed in the world, and it also has an unusual endosperm that provides us with both coconut water and coconut "meat". The prize for largest seed in the world goes to Lodoicea maldivica (a 2013 BPotD entry).

Like the previously featured date, the coconut fruit is a drupe, composed of a relatively thin exocarp (skin), and a dry, fibrous mesocarp that is about as different from the date's sweet flesh as possible. Below the mesocarp one finds the endocarp, the hard pit that surrounds the seed of all drupes. In coconuts, the smooth endocarp is polished and made into bowls, jewellery, and all manner of crafts. If you would like to make your own coconut endocarp bowl (you could call it a coconut shell bowl to whomever you give it to), here are some instructions. Before making a coconut bowl, it is recommended that you drain the coconut water by finding the coconut's soft "eye". Coconut endocarps have three eyes or germination pores, but only one of those is soft - the other two are often called the 'blind' eyes. Below the germination pores nests the single embryo, whose radicle will break through the soft eye when germinated.

The coconut's seed is well protected by its husk, and so its testa (seed coat) is very thin. Within the papery brown testa is the endosperm, the tissue that surrounds and provides nutrition to the developing embryo. In the coconut seed, the endosperm goes through a nuclear phase of development, during which it is present in liquid form. This "coconut water", has recently gained popularity as a nutrient-rich and refreshing drink, but I wonder if anyone would buy it were it labeled with its botanical descriptor: glass of nuclear coconut endosperm, anyone? As the embryo develops, the endosperm begins to form cell walls, and this cellular endosperm is deposited in layers against the testa, forming the coconut's "meat".

The white coconut meat is rich in fat, and can be eaten as is, or made into coconut milk and oil. In coconuts that have avoided being eaten or damaged, the germinated embryo will form an absorbing organ called a nursing foot, which swells into the cavity of the coconut and absorbs the nutritious endosperm over the period of about one year. These seedlings are still not quite safe--apparently the nursing foot is also called a coconut apple, and is quite delicious.

This article is focused on the coconut fruit and seed. If you would like to learn more about Cocos nucifera in general, read this great article by the The Private Naturalist - The Coconut Palm.

"If you could count the stars, then you could count all the ways the coconut tree serves us."--Phillipine proverb

Feb 17, 2014: Thermopsis rhombifolia

Thermopsis rhombifolia

Taisha is the author of today's entry. She writes:

Thermopsis rhombifolia is also known as the buffalo bean, golden bean, or prairie thermopsis. This photo was taken by Michael McNaughton (aka michaelmcnaughton55@Flickr) who has recently started contributing to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thanks for sharing with us, Michael!

A member of the pea family or Fabaceae, Thermopsis rhombifolia, is primarily distributed through the Canadian Prairies and the Central Great Plains of the United States. Habitat-wise, the species prefers xeric grasslands with alluvial soils. The slender stem with slightly zigzagged branches holds dark green leaves divided into three leaflets. The inflorescence, a raceme, bears bright yellow flowers which are either scattered or collected in whorls. Characteristic of much of the family, the fruit is a leguminous pod.

According to Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moerman, Thermopsis rhombifoia was/is used by the Cheyenne as an analgesic or cold remedy, by smoking the dried leaves. The Blackfoot used the yellow petals to colour their arrow shafts yellow. Also, the flowering time of the buffalo bean, suggestive of its common name, indicated to the Flathead and Blackfoot that it was prime buffalo hunting season and (for the Blackfoot people, at least) time to collect buffalo tongues in preparation for the Sun Dance.

Feb 17, 2012: Forest in New Brunswick

Forest in New Brunswick

This photograph is from two autumns ago, when it was a later-than-usual year for autumn colours in eastern North America. Fortunately, one small stretch of Highway 215 near the New Brunswick-Qu├ębec border was nearing peak in late September, though I only discovered it on my last day in the area. It's not really a "Natural Landscape" (how I've categorized it), as the shrubs and herbaceous plants in the foreground are trimmed low from time to time (they are along the roadside). It's not really an intentional cultivated landscape, though.

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