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Results tagged “january-03”

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.

Jan 3, 2012: Crataegus x lavallei

The series on Botany and Spirits was intended to conclude on December 23, but a flaky web connection at work that day frustrated attempts to do much online. Back from holidays today, we'll end the series and then move on to the entries that Katherine has been producing. For today's photographs, we can thank reader Richard Jaffe of San Jose, California, who sent them along when I requested images for the series. The photograph of the fruit is from his garden designed by Thomas Church.

Crataegus × lavallei is commonly known as Lavallée's hawthorn. This hybrid has been known since about 1870, when it was discovered at Arboretum de Segrez, an institution established by the French botanist and horticulturist Pierre Lavallée. Most older references will state the hybrid is a cross between the female parent Crataegus stipulacea or Crataegus pubescens crossed with the male parent Crataegus crus-gallii. However, the name of the female parent has been corrected to Crataegus mexicana while the name of the purported male parent has shifted to Crataegus calpodendron. Hawthorn taxonomy is a relatively complicated matter, thanks in part to the fact that apomicts are present (plants reproduce asexually), leading to the possibility of hundreds of microspecies being recognized. Depending on one's approach, one could recognize anywhere from two hundred to one thousand species in the genus.

On the topic of confusion and preferred nomenclature, Richard noted that the beverage in the second photograph was produced from a recipe for "hawthorn schnapps"--but Richard also recognized it was actually a vodka infusion. In Europe, schnapps is a distilled spirit made from fermented fruit, such as apples, pears, or cherries (of note, all of these are in the rose family, like hawthorn). However, schnapps is a term sometimes used for infused vodka products, such as the hawthorn-flavoured vodka in the second photograph. Vodka itself is a distilled spirit, made from different plant sources ranging from grains to potatoes to soybeans. The word schnapps is used yet again to describe a spirit mixed with flavouring and sugar (technically, a liqueur) that can have a lower alcoholic content; this is the popular use of the term in America.

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