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Results tagged “lamiaceae”

Oct 17, 2013: Origanum 'Nymphenburg'

Origanum 'Nymphenburg'

Taisha is both the author and photographer with today's entry.

The ornamental Origanum 'Nymphenburg' is a member of the Lamiaceae, or mint family. This photo was taken this past summer in late July in UBC Botanical Garden's E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden. From a browsing of search engine results, this cultivar is little-known in North America. It seems to have originated in Europe (where it can be found with some effort in the horticulture trade), and presumably it is named after either Nymphenburg Palace or Nymphenburg Porcelain. Of those two options, it is most likely to be named after the castle and its gardens.

Origanum contains about 60 species, known commonly as the oreganos and marjorams. Some are cultivated for culinary use, but as noted above, Origanum 'Nymphenburg' is primarily an ornamental cultivar. This aromatic perennial herb holds ovate leaves arranged oppositely on a square stem. Many bilabiate flowers of purple are collected terminally in a corymbose-panicle. The attractive inflorescence of this taxon appeals to numerous insect visitors, including, on this day, Neophasia menapia, commonly known as the pine white (butterfly).

Botany resource link (added by Daniel): a macro timelapse video of germinating seeds and opening leaf & flower buds by Daniel Csobot.

Sep 24, 2012: Callicarpa pilosissima

Today's entry was composed by Bryant. He writes:

Thank you to James Gaither (aka J.G. in S. F.@Flickr) for these images (photo 1, photo 2, and photo 3) of Callicarpa pilosissima.

The first photograph illustrates a remarkable pattern that occurs as the inflorescence of Callicarpa pilosissima develops, while the second photo shows that the pattern is best visible in the early stages of floral development. Its peculiar inflorescence has gained the species some popularity as an ornamental outside of its native range of Taiwan. In the wild, this shrub grows in mixed montane forests at elevations ranging from 500-1500m.

Taxa in the genus Callicarpa are often referred to as beautyberries, and given its native range, this species is sometimes called Taiwan beautyberry. For an excellent summary of the ethnobotanical uses of the genus, see: Jones, WP and AD Kinghorn. 2008. Biologically Active Natural Products of the Genus Callicarpa. Curr Bioact Compd.. 4(1):15-32. doi:10.2174/157340708784533393. Callicarpa pilosissima is noted as having some small cytotoxic effect against leukemia in mice. Other members of the genus seem better-studied and have additional demonstrated uses, including as insect repellents. Research into the chemical constituents of species of this group is ongoing.

Callicarpa pilosissima was formerly considered a member of the Verbenaceae, but is now placed under the Lamiaceae (or mint family). The Lamiaceae are closely related to the Verbenaceae and many of their species share common aspects, such as quadrangular stems and aromatic leaves. The Lamiaceae is a relatively large plant family of roughly 250 genera and well over 7,000 species.

Jun 2, 2012: Lamium album

Lamium album

Updated (belatedly) on June 20, 2012: the photographer had a misidentification with the image. The original image posted was instead Lamium galeobdolon -- fortunately, the photographer had an additional image of this species, so that was inserted in instead.

Thank you to Michaël Mazars (aka Mikl - Concept-Photo.fr (CRBR)@Flickr) for sharing an image with us via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool (original image). Always great to highlight a new contributor!

Known as ortie blanche in France (where the photograph was made), other common names for Lamium album include white deadnettle and bee nettle. This species is native to Europe and western Asia, though it has now naturalized in eastern Canada, northeastern USA, Alaska and Mississippi.

Jun 15, 2011: Vitex lucens

Vitex lucens

Another entry written by Alexis today. She writes:

Tony Foster @ Flickr photographed these Vitex lucens flowers in Northland, New Zealand (also see a photograph of an entire tree via Wikimedia). Thank you, Tony!

First encountered by Western explorers in 1769 (by Banks and Solander), Vitex lucens, also called New Zealand teak or mahogany, is perhaps best known by its Maori name puriri. This is a tree species that is endemic to the North Island of New Zealand, where it is a constituent of coastal and lowland forests. Puriri can reach 20m in height and 1.5m in diameter and several books and online sources have described it as being a "handsome" tree. Indeed, it produces many attractive flowers that bloom in May, some of which can be spotted on the tree all year round. The flowers contain much nectar and darken in colour as they age.

Puriri timber is of great value. The dark brown wood is hard, dense and heavy, making for New Zealand's strongest and most durable timber. It has been used to construct railway ties, fence posts, and bridges (from Metcalf's The Cultivation of New Zealand Trees and Shrubs (1987)). However, this valuable wood is not without its challenges. In addition to the irregular grain that makes working with it difficult, Vitex lucens often falls victim to the puriri moth or ghost moth, Aenetus virescens, which bores 1cm diameter holes in the tree trunks (ref: Eagle's 100 Trees of New Zealand 1978)).

The Maori people had several uses for puriri. They used the wood to build weapons, garden tools, and eel traps--puriri timber is one of the few in the area dense enough to sink in water. The tree also had significance to Maori funerals; infusions made from boiling the leaves were used to cleanse and help preserve bodies, the leaves were carried or shaped into a coronet during funerals, and often puriri trees were used as burial sites.

Read more about Vitex lucens (PDF) via the National Association of Woodworkers NZ Inc.

May 28, 2011: Lamium maculatum

Lamium maculatum

Today's entry was written by Alexis:

beranekp@Flickr shares today's photo from České Středohoří (Central Bohemian Uplands), Czech Republic. Thanks, beranekp!

Lamium maculatum is a member of the mint family that is distributed throughout western Asia and Europe. Europe and Asia are home to about 50 species of this genus. Though they do not possess any stinging hairs, Lamium species are commonly called dead-nettles because they resemble stinging nettle, Urtica dioica.

Lamium maculatum is usually a low-growing and sprawling plant, reaching only about 30cm in height. In the wild, Lamium maculatum is variable in the colour of its petals and the shape & toothing of its leaves (via Flora Europaea). Furthermore, the species is widely used as an ornamental plant and has many cultivated varieties that vary in foliage and flower colour; the Royal Horticultural Society currently lists almost 40 different cultivars of Lamium maculatum. This species is tolerant of shade and areas of transition from shade to light, making it desirable for use as groundcover in gardens. Additionally, Lamium maculatum has a fairly long blooming season, often lasting from April to September. Read more on garden use of dead-nettles from the Chicago Botanic Garden: A Comparative Study of Ground Cover Lamium (PDF).

May 27, 2011: Plectranthus graveolens

Plectranthus graveolens

An entry written by Alexis:

Today's photo of a Plectranthus graveolens flower was taken by andrikkos (andrikkos_from_droushia@Flickr). Thanks, andrikkos!

Plectranthus graveolens is a shrub native to the eastern states of Queensland and New South Wales in Australia. Growing up to 1m tall, its branches are densely covered in retrorse (pointing backwards) to spreading hairs. The flowers and both sides of the leaves are also hairy. Plectranthus graveolens typically grows in rocky areas of open forest, but can also be found in monsoon forests and rainforest.

The name "sticky cockspur flower" may be used to refer to this species, as well as "native coleus" or "sticky-leaved plectranthus". The epithet graveolens originates from the Latin words gravis and olens meaning "heavy" and "smell", and indeed, Plectranthus graveolens is known for emitting a strong and somewhat unpleasant odour. The scent of the similar Plectranthus cremnus (once thought to possibly be a subspecies), however, has been described as being more pleasant and Geranium-like.

Mar 14, 2011: Botanical Insecticides and Antifeedants

Key to Figures / Image Credits

Figure 1. The photograph of Mentha spicata was shared by Doug (shyzaboy@Flickr) of Troutville, VA via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). Thank you for the contribution, Doug!

Figure 2. The illustration of Cinnamomum zeylanicum is from Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen (Band I), via Wikimedia Commons.

Figure 3. The photograph of the larva of Trichoplusia ni is courtesy of Alton N. Sparks, Jr., University of Georgia, Bugwood.org, Wikimedia Commons.


A belated ending to the Celebrate Research Week @ UBC series, due to a little bit of miscommunication. Here is the last entry for the series this year, organized by Claire. Claire introduces today's UBC researcher:

Yasmin Akhtar is a research associate in the insect toxicology lab with Dr. Murray B. Isman and lectures in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. She works with botanical insecticides and antifeedants.

Yasmin writes: Culinary herbs including mint (Mentha spicata) (Figure 1) and spices such as cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) (Figure 2) are used as insect control agents. Figure 3 shows a cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni) larva, considered to be an agricultural pest.

Plants are sources of a bewildering array of natural products including terpenoids, phenolic and alkaloids, likely exceeding 100,000 chemical structures. Many of these chemicals provide defensive functions for the plants protecting them against herbivores and pathogens. Based on their defensive chemistry complex, vascular plants have been considered a valuable resource of natural insecticides, insect growth regulators, and behaviour modifying agents. Behaviour modifying agents may influence the feeding and oviposition (egg-laying) behavior of insects and may also serve as repellents.

The main focus of research in our lab is the development of botanical insecticides and antifeedants. We are exploring the potential use of natural pesticides based on plant essential oils. Some of these oils and their constituent chemicals are widely used as flavoring agents in foods and beverages and are even exempt from pesticide registration in the United States. Plant essential oils meet the criteria of reduced risk pesticides (Isman, 2008).

Plants producing essential oils that have been exploited for insect control include a number of herbs, most notably from the mint family (Lamiaceae), such as garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and various species of mint (Mentha spp.). Other important sources are tropical trees, notably clove (Syzygium aromaticum) and cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum). Many of the essential oils have shown insecticidal, repellent, feeding deterrent (Jiang et al., 2010) and antimicrobial effects against a number of pests. Some of these oils or their constituents serve as active ingredients in commercially available insecticides, herbicides or repellents. Thymol, for example, a key essential oil constituent of garden thyme, is registered in Europe for the control of two important parasitic mites of the honey bee (Apis mellifera). Eugenol, a primary constituent of clove oil, is an active ingredient of a broad-spectrum insecticide (EcoPCO® D) sold by EcoSMART Technologies. Essential oil of rosemary is the active ingredient in two botanical insecticides currently used in the United States (HexacideTM and EcotrolTM).

We are also looking at the development of non-toxic crop protection chemicals that mimic naturally occurring bioactive odorants and tastants, and that are relatively easily prepared from commodity chemicals (Akhtar et al., 2010). We also look at the role of experience on the feeding behavior of larvae and oviposition choices of the subsequent moths with emphasis on habituation and dishabituation as well as learning and memory in insects (Akhtar et al., 2009). Cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni), green peach aphids (Myzus persicae), confused flour beetles (Tribolium confusum), rust red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum), and fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) are the major research insects. We also work with two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae). Bioassays are conducted to determine the feeding and oviposition deterrent effects of an essential oil. Feeding deterrent substances deter feeding in insects. Similarly, oviposition deterrent substances deter insects from laying eggs on the plants. Since insect damage to plants may result from feeding/oviposition or from transmission of pathogens during feeding, the chemicals that reduce pest injury by rendering plants unattractive or unpalatable may serve as potential substitutes for conventional insecticides.


Akhtar, Y., Yu, Y., Isman, M.B., and Plettner, E. (2010). Dialkoxybenzene and dialkoxyallylbenzene feeding and oviposition deterrents against the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni: potential insect behavior control agents. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 58: 4983-4991. DOI: 10.1021/jf9045123

Jiang, Z.L., Akhtar, Y., Zhang, X., Bradbury, R. and Isman, M.B. (2010). Insecticidal and feeding deterrent activities of essential oils in the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Journal of Applied Entomology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0418.2010.01587.x

Akhtar, Y., Shikano, I., and Isman, M.B. (2009). Topical application of a plant extract to different life stages of Trichoplusia ni fails to influence feeding or oviposition behaviour. Entomologia experimentalis et applicata. 132: 275-282.

Isman, M.B. (2008). Botanical insecticides: for richer for poorer. Pest Management Science 64:8-11.

Nov 30, 2010: Leonotis leonurus

Claire continues the medicinal plants series, and writes:

Thank you to Meighan (Meighan@Flickr) of Vancouver, Canada for these photograph of a fascinating shrub, Leonotis leonurus (via the BPotD Flickr Pool). Original images are here and here. Thank you, Meighan!

To some, Leonotis leonurus is best known as wild dagga (a name sometimes used for Cannabis sativa, but note that Leonotis leonurus has no biological or chemical relationship to Cannabis sativa). However, to gardeners, one of its "lion" common names (lion's ear, lion's claw, lion's tail) is more often applied to this lovely perennial shrub with bright orange pubescent flowers.

The species is relatively hardy as well as being tolerant of drought. In South Africa, it is found in grasslands where it grows among rocks. Of the nine recognized species of Leonotis, Leonotis nepetifolia is the only one naturally found outside of Africa (in southern India).

Leonotis leonurus is classified in the mint family, Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae). The Lamiaceae is chock-full of aromatic, herbal, and medicinal plants such as oregano, lavender, sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme and teak, to name just a few. The medicinal properties of Leonotus leonurus are well-known to African and east Asian cultures (the species has naturalized through much of the tropical world). The Zulu and Xhosa peoples of southern Africa (along with others) utilize this plant for both human and animal medicine, including treatment of respiratory symptoms, snake bites, and skin ailments. Premarrubiin and marrubiin are two compounds present in the plants that may be linked to healing effects, as similar compounds are used in the treatment of wet coughs and bronchial disease. Leonurine, an alkaloid present in the leaves, shoots and flowers, is a well-known active compound in some communities -- it is documented to have mild sedative and euphoric effects when smoked, hence the name "wild dagga". Indeed, Leonotis leonurus was used by the Khoikhoi people as an inebriant (PDF).

I would think the majority of us prefer to enjoy lion's ear in our gardens, as the flowers attract bees and butterflies in addition to their beautiful orange colouration. Since it has a late flowering season, I'm hoping that Meighan's lion's ear survived the cold front we had last week, so that it can be enjoyed just a little longer.


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