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Results tagged “named by linnaeus”

Feb 16, 2015: Phoenix dactylifera

Phoenix dactylifera

Tamara Bonnemaison launches a BPotD series with today's entry. She writes:

We kick off a series about exceptional seeds with the story of a 2000 year old Phoenix dactylifera seed that was successfully germinated. Thank you to 3Point141@Flickr for submitting this lovely photo of a plant in the cultivated Medjool Group of Phoenix dactylifera. This photo was taken at Excalibur Fruit Trees Nursery in Florida, USA.

Phoenix dactylifera, or the "true" date palm, has played an important role for thousands of years of human history. In 1963, a stash of seeds "dating" (sorry, couldn't help myself) from AD 70 was discovered in Masada, a fortress in present-day Israel. In 2005, Sarah Sallon of the Hadassah Medical Organization managed to germinate just one of the ancient date seeds, and that seedling has now grown into a palm tree called "Methuselah". Date palms are dioecious, and it had been hoped that Methuselah would turn out to be female and produce fruit. Unfortunately, this date palm plant is now known to be male, and Sallon and her team will need to undertake careful breeding with modern date palms to produce females that are as close as possible to the ancient cultivated variety. Learn more about Masada and the discovery of these seeds from this National Geographic article: "Methuselah" Tree Grew From 2,000-Year-Old Seed.

The date palm is a 15-25m tall plant that is perhaps native to western India or southern Iraq, but a long history of use and cultivation has made it difficult for botanists to determine its exact place of origin. The fruit of Phoenix dactylifera is likely well known to all BPotD readers; this fruit was cultivated as a staple food and even to make date wine as early as 4000 BCE, and is still commonly eaten today (mmmmm, date squares). Other parts of the date palm may not be as sweet, but are equally useful. For example, palm hearts are used as a vegetable, the fibres can be woven to make a textile, the leaves are used to make mats, and the seeds produce a nutritious oil. For a more comprehensive list, view the Food and Agriculture Organization's Date Palm Products bulletin.

Although the date palm can be wind-pollinated, the standard practice in cultivation is to hand-pollinate the flowers The flowers are borne at the top of the tree and covered by a protective spathe that splits open when the flowers are mature. The fruit is a one-seeded drupe, which goes from green to yellow to reddish-brown as it ripens. This brings us to the seed. Date seeds are oblong, ventrally-grooved and have a small embryo. A hard endosperm made of cellulose surrounds the embryo, which is surrounded by the mesocarp (the fleshy, sweet part of the date) and finally the epicarp or exocarp (the date's skin). These are common features of the seeds of many fruits, and my search to uncover just what allowed Methuselah's seed to remain viable for two millennia revealed little.

Seed longevity is poorly understood by the scientific community, but is gaining more attention with the growing interest in (and need for) seed banks. A 2008 paper by Loïc Rajjou and Isabelle Debeaujon, Seed longevity: Survival and maintenance of high germination ability of dry seeds, sums up our current understanding of the different factors that affect seed longevity. Rajjou and Debeaujon report that seeds are able to protect themselves with their testa (seed coat), antioxidants, and by reducing their metabolic activity; seeds also have the ability to repair their DNA and decontaminate themselves. It is not clear which of the above qualities allowed the Phoenix dactylifera seeds found in Israel to remain viable for such an extraordinary long time, but it is likely that high levels of antioxidants present in date seeds contributed to this high longevity (date seeds are being studied for antioxidant qualities which could be used to improve human health and longevity). The date seeds also benefited from the dry, dark conditions present in Masada Fortress.

Science overload? Have a look at Shevaun Doherty's artistic exploration of the Methuselah date for an entirely different way of understanding Phoenix dactylifera.

Dec 4, 2014: Daucus carota

Daucus carota

An entry from BPotD Work-Learn student Cora den Hartigh, who writes:

Today, we have a different sort of image from a Canadian photographer living in Munich, Germany. Anne Hoerter takes her subject apart and slowly reconstructs it with photographs, sometimes using up to 40 or 50 images to achieve a single piece that is alive with motion and depth. The graceful movement Anne was able to embody with this stunning artistic representation of Daucus carota, or wild carrot, took three months to produce. Thank you, Anne! You can see more of Anne's work at her website, Áine - Fine Art Photography.

Daucus carota is a familiar umbelliferous species known by many common names, including wild carrot, bishop's lace, and (in North America) Queen Anne's lace. It is a Eurasian and north African native that is widely naturalized in other temperate areas of the world. In North America, one hypothesis is that its initial spread was due to being carried across the continent by settlers in grain sacks. Described by Linnaeus in 1743 in Species Plantarum, Daucus carota has also been recognized widely in poetry and folklore. William Carlos Williams' personifying poem is one example. Williams refers to a purple 'mole' in the white inflorescence. This 'mole' is actually a single anthocyanin-rich flower coloured deep red or purple at the centre of the umbel. Presumably, this single flower helps attract pollinators, perhaps acting as a nectar guide. Another story explains this red flower as a speck of Queen Anne's "blood" dropped from a needle prick while sewing lace.

The little red flower is a particularly useful diagnostic character given that the plant's feathery leaves, floral structure and tall-standing growth habit are similar to a number of poisonous relatives: poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), water hemlock (Cicuta spp.) and fool's parsley (Aethusa cynapium) are counted among these! Unlike many of its toxic family members, Daucus carota tends to grow in dry open habitats and has solid hairy stems. When young, its roots are edible and smell like fresh carrots. With age the roots grow woody and the floral structure curls inward like a vase. I always look for those hairy stems and think of the ditty "Queen Anne has hairy legs"!

In many jurisdictions where the species has naturalized, Daucus carota is considered to be a noxious weed. Doug Larson's oft-cited quote, "a weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows", comes to mind. Brushing up against the leaves can, in some people, cause skin to be more susceptible to UV damage, but this plant can be exceedingly useful. As a companion crop, it boosts tomato production and cools lettuce; as a dyestuff, it imparts creamy tones. Medicinally, the plant dates back to early Greek and Roman writings for digestive disorders, kidney stones, skin tonics, aphrodisiacs, insecticides ... the list goes on. The seeds are also a tasty flavouring for soups and stews not unlike asafoetida; however, they should be consumed with some caution. A relative of Daucus carota, silphium, is thought to have been harvested to extinction for use as a contraceptive and general tonic in ancient Cyrene (Lybia today). So important was silphium that coins were imprinted with the image of the plant. This paper from Economic Botany provides some fascinating archaeological investigation, while Wikipedia gives a good overview. Experimental trials in rats have suggested that extracts from Daucus carota seeds have "...at a lower dose showed anti-implantational activity [of the fertilized ovum into the uterus], whereas higher doses caused fetus resorption. The main effect of the extract appears to be an abortifacient activity." Perhaps not ideal for dinner party soup stock.

Daucus carota has been featured once before on Botany Photo of the Day.

Nov 5, 2014: Celastrus scandens

Celastrus scandens

Botany Photo of the Day Work-Learn student Tamara Bonnemaison contributes both the photography and the written entry today. She scribes:

At this time of year, the winter rains begin to hit Vancouver, and our local world recedes into tones of grey and misty green. Unless, of course, one happens to be strolling through UBC Botanical Garden's Carolinian Forest. Here, the rich yellows and reds one expects to see in eastern North America instead brighten our soggy, West Coast souls. This Celastrus scandens caught my attention with its bright fruit, and I am pleased to finally have taken a photo worthy of sharing with you, the fine readers of Botany Photo of the Day.

Celastrus scandens is a fast-growing woody vine native to central and eastern North America. It was given the common name of American bittersweet by European colonists who thought it resembled the unrelated bittersweet of their homeland, Solanum dulcamara. American bittersweet can be found in many habitats, including dune thickets, roadsides, and forests, and will grow to over 10 meters when given access to a climbing structure. In the garden, it can be used as a sprawling shrub to quickly cover hillsides or unsightly rip-rap, or can be grown on a trellis or fence. The plant photographed was wisely planted along a chain-link fence at the far edge of the Botanical Garden<, where it will soon hide this necessary but uninspiring structure.

The fruit of this species are particularly interesting. The three-valved capsules enclose a fleshy aril (an outgrowth from the funiculus, or attachment point of the seed), and burst open when the seed is ripe. I look forward to seeing this in action as the autumn progresses, but for now I had to make do with the many photos of this phenomenon available online, including one at the University of Michigan's "Climbers" web site. The bright red aril covers the seeds, and serves as further enticement for the birds who aid dispersal. The fruit is toxic to humans, and was used by the Cherokee to make poison.

The other visually-arresting aspect of this species is its stem. Having no tendrils, American bittersweet relies on twining of the stem apex for its ability to climb. I was not able to take a satisfactory photo of the twining woody stems, but I found them to be quite beautiful. Illustrative photos of the twining stems are available from Prairie Moon Nursery. The stem usually twines dextrally (left to right), and before photographing this plant, I had never considered that plants might have an equivalent to human left and right-handedness. In an attempt to understand why plants twine in one direction over the other, Edwards, Moles and Franks (2007) carried out a study that concluded that twining direction could not be explained by plants tracking the sun across the sky. The same study also concluded that the Coriolis effect was also not responsible for twining direction (on a completely unrelated side-note, the Coriolis effect also does not explain the direction that water drains in your sink). Edwards et. al's full paper, "The Global Trend in Plant Twining Direction", is available online. Now that we have an idea about what doesn't determine a plant's chirality, are there any sources that can explain what does? The best that I could find was the 2011 publication of Burnham and Revilla-Minaya, Phylogenetic Influence on Twining Chirality in Lianas from Amazonian Peru. This article gives the somewhat unsatisfying answer that "genetic, developmental, and physiologic perspectives" are required to understand why a plant may twist to the left or to the right.

Oct 31, 2014: Pontederia cordata

Tamara Bonnemaison writes today's entry, which features a representative of a family never previously highlighted on Botany Photo of the Day, the Pontederiaceae:

Today, regular BPotD contributor 3Point141 (3Point141@Flickr) shares his striking photo of Pontederia cordata, taken on the shoreline of Turkey Lake, Orlando, Florida, USA. Rusty Clark ((Rusty Clark@Flickr) also contributed her image of the species in flower. Thank you to both contributors!

Pontederia cordata, or pickerelweed, is a rhizomatous, emergent perennial that grows in wetlands from Argentina north to eastern Canada. It typically has lance-shaped leaves with rounded lobes, but the leaf shape in particular is quite variable and has led to the naming of several now-synonymized varieties. From June through November in eastern North America, pickerelweed sends up a large spike displaying hundreds of light blue flowers. This species grows prolifically and forms dense stands that, when blooming, are stunning in the wild and in garden ponds. To get an idea of how impressive a stand of pickerelweed in bloom can be, have a look at the fourth image shown on Dr. Spencer Barret's lab's site on floral displays.

Pickerelweed is common, is adapted to a wide range of wetland conditions, and grows rapidly and aggressively - traits that make the species useful in constructed wetlands in North America. Collins, Sharitz and Coughlin's (2005) study, titled "Elemental Composition of Native Wetland Plants in Constructed Mesocosm Treatment Wetlands" examines the beneficial role that Pontederia cordata can play in treating runoff from coal-fired power plants. Power plant runoff is both high in heavy metals and acidity, and the species selected for constructed wetlands treating this runoff must be able to survive such difficult conditions. Collins et al. found that Pontederia coradata was able to establish in shallow wetlands receiving acidic and polluted runoff, and was successful in taking up a moderate amount of heavy metals. Pickerelweed and the rush species, Juncus effusus, were particularly effective in accumulating iron and aluminum. Constructed wetlands can be used to treat water contaminated by many sources, and Pontederia cordata is being examined as one of an assemblage of plants that can be used to remove organic solvents, phosphorus, and other contaminants.

The characteristics that make pickerelweed useful in North American wetlands urge caution in other parts of the world. The species' aggressive nature has allowed it to become invasive in some countries, including Kenya. It has naturalized, though is not recognized as invasive, in areas of Europe, Australia and western North America.

Oct 23, 2014: Schinus molle

Botany Photo of the Day work-learn student Tamara Bonnemaison writes today's entry:

As a child, I spent many winters traveling through central Mexico with my parents, who were enamoured with the stark landscapes of the southern Chihuahuan Desert. One of our favourite camping spots, deep in the state of San Luis Potosi, was in an abandoned homestead, complete with the crumbling walls of an old adobe house and a thriving coral made of planted nopal (likely Opuntia ficus-indica). Next to the ruins of the house was one singular, fragrant tree, the only plant larger than a shrub as far as the eye could see. This tree, which the locals called a pirul, was a young child's dream. It's long, drooping branches made a green and cool oasis around the tree's trunk, and the pirul's fruit were nearly always to be found; clusters of tiny, glistening, pink and purple pearls that I used as "food" for my dolls drooped plentifully from the tree's branches. When crushed, the fruit and leaves left a strong, peppery scent that has stayed with me into my adult life. Seeing Gabriella Ruellan's (aka Gabriella F. Ruellan@Flickr) images of Schinus molle brought back a flood of wonderful memories of my childhood, and allowed me to finally connect the magical tree of my memory to its botanical name. Thanks Gabriella for sharing these photos.

Unknown to my childhood self, Schinus molle, or Peruvian pepper tree, is not native to central Mexico, and instead comes from the Peruvian Andes and northern South America. The seeds can be used as a replacement for the true pink peppercorns of the Piperaceae (the pepper family). During the 16th century, explorers and traders were quick to recognize the value of Schinus molle as a spice and rapidly spread the species around the globe. This hardy, drought-tolerant and beautiful species has become naturalized and even invasive in many parts of the world. It has become a serious problem in warm, arid areas including parts of South Africa, Australia, and the USA. It saddens me to think that it is inadvisable to plant Peruvian pepper tree anywhere outside of its native range.

Gabriella's photo shows bore holes in the fruit of Schinus molle. In the comments along with her image posting on Flickr, Gabriella hypothesizes that insects eating the seeds help keep this species in check in its native range. Peruvian pepper tree has been used and investigated for its insecticidal and insect repellant qualities, but it seems the insects that damaged the seeds in Gabriella's photo have not read those studies! While trying to investigate the insect that caused the damage shown in the photo, I learned that the peppertree psyllid, Calophya rubra, feeds on the tree's leaves, causing pits and leaf curls. Also, the omnivorous looper caterpillar, Sabulodes aegrotata and many scales are considered Peruvian pepper tree pests. It is not altogether surprising that I could not find an example of a borer that favours Schinus molle, given that I am entirely unfamiliar with the insects of Latin America. If any BPotD readers can shed some light on this subject, please share!

Oct 15, 2014: Hamamelis virginiana

Hamamelis virginiana

Today, we have the third in the series on Hamamelidaceae guest-written and photographed by Martin Deasy. Martin writes:

The sight of Hamamelis virginiana with its tangle of bare twigs covered in yellow blossom is one of the most striking sights of the late autumn and early winter. Widely distributed in the deciduous forests of eastern North America, it forms a small, spreading tree with small branches. It is well known as the source of the witch hazel extract widely used as an astringent, obtained from a decoction of the stems.

Assigned its own tribe (Hamamelideae) within subfamily Hamamelidoideae, the genus Hamamelis is characterized by strictly 4-merous, hermaphrodite flowers, with long, ribbon-like petals that are circinate (rolled like a fire-hose) in bud. A whorl of 4 staminodes secrete a nectar reward for pollinators. The anthers have only one sporangium per theca, and each theca opens outwards by a single valve, rather as if the anther were releasing its pollen through a pair of car doors.

Unlike other Hamamelis species, which flower from late winter into early spring, Hamamelis virginiana flowers in the autumn, from October until Christmas (in the northern hemisphere), and is pollinated by insects (mainly small flies). Following pollination, the pollen tube penetrates downwards towards the base of the carpel, at which stage it ceases development and overwinters before growth is recommenced--and the ovule fertilized--in late spring. There is thus a delay between pollination and fertilization of up to 7 months.

A possible explanation for Hamamelis virginiana's eccentric phenology (flowering period) has been suggested by observations from the Ozark mountains, where the species overlaps in range with the later flowering Hamamelis vernalis. In unusual years in which both taxa flowered simultaneously, it was observed that, given the choice, insect pollinators strongly favoured Hamamelis vernalis. This raises the possibility that the displacement of its flowering period into the late autumn might represent an adaptive strategy allowing Hamamelis virginiana to avoid having to compete for pollinators with its more appealing relation. Even then, relying on insect pollinators during the coldest parts of the year proves very inefficient , one study finding the rate of fruit set to be less than 1% (ref: Anderson and Hill 2002).

The issue of the numerous disjunct distributions characteristic of the Hamamelidaceae has already been partly treated in yesterday's post on Trichocladus crinitus. Hamamelis offers another particularly good example. Of the five Hamamelis species, three are from eastern North America, while two are east Asian--the classic "Tertiary Relict" disjunct distribution that has fascinated and teased botanists since it was first noticed in the 18th century. As the climate cooled in the Oligocene (ca. 35mya-23mya), the high-latitude Tertiary flora seems gradually to have been forced southwards, ultimately into its present-day refuges of either eastern Asia or southeastern North America.

The original geographical area occupied by the northern Tertiary flora included territory now submerged beneath the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans--the so-called "land bridges" (though they should not be thought of as mere bridges: they constituted fairly permanent land in their own right). Asia and North America have historically been connected by a substantial landmass known as Beringia, and it seems plausible that the extant Hamamelis species may have differentiated from an ancestral population present in or around Beringia. In this context, it is striking that the Japanese hamamelis (Hamamelis japonica, from the islands of southern Japan) is more closely related to the American species than to the Chinese Hamamelis mollis.

Sep 25, 2014: Cichorium intybus

Cichorium intybus

Another entry today that was written by Taisha prior to her departure. She wrote:

Thank you to Mats Ellting (aka Mellting@Flickr) for today's image of Cichorium intybus, or chicory. Mats uploaded the image to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool.

Cichorium intybus is a member of the Asteraceae or sunflower/aster family. The species is considered to be native to a wide swath of Eurasia (USDA GRIN), but it has also naturalized in other areas of the world where it has been introduced. Since this species has been cultivated globally for centuries for medicinal and culinary uses, its native range may be smaller than suggested by the Germplasm Resources Information Network (they do note, "exact native range obscure"). It was first transported to North America in the sixteenth century. The species can now be found in much of North America growing abundantly along roadsides, lawns, pastures, fields, and waste places. In some places (like British Columbia), Cichorium intybus is considered a noxious weed.

It is presumed that the ancient Egyptians were the first to cultivate this species, using it for medicinal purposes, a type of coffee, a vegetable crop, and occasionally for animal forage. Since then, it has been cultivated for many additional applications, and can be divided into types according to their use: "industrial" or "root" chicory is grown for the taproot to produce a coffee substitute or for inulin and fructans; "Brussels" or "witloof" chicory is grown in such a way that the roots are used for the production of etiolated buds or chicons by forcing; "leaf" chicory is used as a fresh or cooked vegetable; and "forage" chicory has been used since the 1970s to increase herbage availability in perennial pastures for livestock (see: Street, R., et al. 2013. Cichorium intybus: Traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology, and toxicology. Evid. Based Complement Alternat. Med.. doi: 10.1155/2013/579319 ).

Cichorium intybus varieties have important medicinal uses. Different parts of the plant have been used medicinally for a variety of complaints such as surface wounds, swelling and inflammation, stomach ailments, and diabetes. Nonetheless, many of this species' constituents have not been studied for pharmacological potential. Chicory is reputed to have a long history of traditional therapeutic use in areas where it has been naturalized. According to Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moerman, the Cherokee made a tonic infused with the roots to treat nerves, and the Iroquois used a root decoction as a wash and poultice applied to chancres and fever sores.

Sep 5, 2014: Sanguinaria canadensis

Sanguinaria canadensis

The start of the school year is always a busy time, so apologies for the lack of postings.

While photographing this past April for the Vancouver Trees app we are nearing completion on (oh, so very near), I took a break from woody plants and played with a patch of bloodroot at VanDusen Botanical Garden. The leaves of Maianthemum (canadense?) briefly provided a spotlit background. When rendered out-of-focus through the use of a large aperture, the overall impression to me is of a flower and the Northern Lights.

The eastern and central North American Sanguinaria canadensis has been featured twice previously on BPotD: the cultivar Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex 'Plena' (the 14th-ever BPotD entry); and the flowers of the species from above: Sanguinaria canadensis.

Bloodroot, as you might guess, has roots and rhizomes with a reddish juice (scroll down on this page for photos). This liquid contains a number of alkaloids, primarily sanguinarine. While toxic with sufficient doses (one of the symptoms being "tormenting thirst"), bloodroot has a long history in traditional and contemporary medicines. These are detailed in Agriculture and Agri-food Canada's Medicinal Crops factsheet for the species, with indigenous uses primarily being for the treatment of respiratory or throat and mouth ailments. These uses have continued into contemporary medicines, and sanguinarine can be an ingredient in cough syrups, expectorants and anti-gingivitis rinses & toothpastes.

For cultivation and propagation details, please see the Alpine Garden Society's site: Sanguinaria canadensis. Gardening details can also be found on the Missouri Botanical Garden's Gardening Help site: bloodroot.

Aug 21, 2014: Cunonia capensis

Taisha continues with the South African plants and biomes series. She writes:

The forest biome of South Africa is up next. To accompany this entry, we have two photographs (image 1 | image 2) of Cunonia capensis (also known as the butterspoon tree, rooiels in Afrikaans, and umLulama in Zulu) from University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. These were uploaded to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool by James Gaither (aka J.G. in S.F.@Flickr), who has since passed away.

The smallest biome in South Africa, the forest biome covers less than .25% of the country. Still, it is divided into two regions: Knysna forest along the southern Cape coastline, and the Amatole further east inland. The Knysna-Amatole forests are part of the afromontane archipelago--discontinuous regions analogous to sky islands. Knysna occurs on gentle slopes between 5-1220m, while the Amatole Mountains lie between 700-1250 m. Rainfall and temperatures vary between ~500-1220 mm and ~10-25°C respectively with the Amatole Mountains being both wetter and cooler than Knysna. The soils of these forests are generally acidic and nutrient-poor.

The floristically diverse forests have some 636 and 649 vascular plant species recorded respectively. Evergreen trees primarily form a continuous canopy, covering layers of vegetation that include (but aren't limited to) lianas, herbaceous species such as ferns, and epiphytes. Because of the dense shade from the layers above, the ground layer is almost absent.

A species that can be found in this biome is Cunonia capensis, the tree featured in today's photographs. Cunonia capensis, of the Cunoniaceae, is a tree found along the coast and adjacent inland areas of South Africa. In the forest it may reach up to 10m in height, and about half that height in the open. The showy, scented flowers appear in February and continue through March. They are collected in cream-coloured spikes, as shown in the first photograph. The fruits are brown two-horned capsules that release fine, sticky seeds. Seeds are either wind-dispersed or may also stick to visiting birds that fly off with them attached to their feathers, legs, or bills. One of the more prominent characteristics of Cunonia capensis is the pair of stipules that enclose the growing tip of developing branches. They are large and are pressed together and look much like a spoon--hence one of the common names, butterspoon tree. The second photo shows this phenomenon, as well as additional images via the Fernkloof Nature Reserve site: Cunonia capensis.

Aug 1, 2014: Gnetum gnemon

Gnetum gnemon

Today's photo is of Gnetum gnemon, of the Gnetaceae. This photo of the male strobili was uploaded to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool by Mike Bush (aka aviac@Flickr). Many thanks, Mike!

Gnetum gnemon (PDF) is an evergreen tree native to southeastern Asia and the western Pacific Islands. It grows from tropical lowland forests to lower montane forests, ranging in elevation from near sea level to 1700 meters. It prefers well-draining sites in areas that receive 3000 to 5000mm of mean annual rainfall.

Gnetum gnemon, commonly called melinjo, is used extensively in cuisine. In Malaysian-Indonesian cuisine the young leaves, strobili, and young and ripe fruit are used in cooked dishes. The seeds are consumed raw, boiled, roasted, or processed by pounding the kernels into cakes or crackers. In Malaysia it is common to see young leaves and shoots in seafood dishes. In Vanuatu, the leaves and male strobili are boiled and flavoured with coconut cream. In Fiji, young leaves are cooked in coconut milk and the fruits are also consumed. You may find the fruits to be used as a substitute for coffee in the Philippines. In Papua-New Guinea, the leaves and young cones accompany meat and are often served with a sauce made from the red pulp of Pandanus conoideus.

This species also has medicinal and practical uses. The sap has been used in traditional medicine to treat eye complications. The timber from the wood is utilized for beams for houses, tool handles, and box-making. The wood may also be made into paper or used for fuel. In Papua-New Guinea, the bast fibres (phloem fibre) under the outer bark are sometimes used for making cordage for string bags, bowstrings on musical instruments and fishing lines.

Jul 2, 2014: Berberis vulgaris

Berberis vulgaris

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

This photo of Berberis vulgaris, or barberry, was taken by Monceau@Flickr (and shared via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). The inspiration for this entry originates from the results of a study published a few months ago. The press release associated with the study, "Are plants more intelligent than we assumed?", was forwarded to us by a UBC colleague and instructor, Dr. David Brownstein. Thank you to Monceau@Flickr and David for contributing to today's post!

The journal article published was Adaptive and selective seed abortion reveals complex conditional decision making in plants by Meyers et al.. In the study, the researchers document ecological evidence in Berberis vulgaris for "plant intelligence" and behaviour. Behaviour, they note, is the response of an organism to internal or external stimuli. In plants, behaviour is most often expressed in the form of growth and development. Only rarely has plant behaviour been documented as a result of interactions with other trophic levels (e.g., consumers or parasites of plants). In the case of plants of Berberis vulgaris, adaptive and selective seed abortion in response to predation by a species of fruit fly was documented.

Berberis vulgaris is a deciduous shrub found in dry scrub and open forests throughout Europe. This species is predated upon by the European specialist fruit fly, Rhagoletis meigenii. The fruit flies oviposit (usually) one egg per fruit, and the larva will then feed upon the seeds within the fruits. In the developed fruit of barberry, there are typically two seeds. As the larva develops and feeds it will consume most of both seeds, indicating that more than one seed is needed for optimum development of the larvae. As a defense response, the barberry plants have the ability to abort the development of the initially-infested seed, and thereby starve the larva. This both saves the remaining seed and halts resource allocation to the damaged seed.

However, the researchers also discovered that the infested seeds are not always aborted. It depends (at least in part) on the number of seeds within the fruit and the presence of environmental stressors. If there are two seeds, then barberry will abort the infested seed 75 percent of the time in order to save the intact seed. However, if only one seed is within the fruit, the infested seed is aborted only about 5 percent of the time. This selective seed abortion response provides a fitness advantage to the host plant, as there may be a small chance the larva will die and the seed will remain functional. Additionally, if there is an external stressor such as water constraints, seed mortalities are greatly increased--but only if another intact seed exists (allowing the parent plant to save resources for better conditions).

This conditional behaviour of seed abortion is what the researchers claim is the ecological evidence for simple reasoning and complex decision-making in Berberis vulgaris. This complex behaviour sheds light on behavioural abilities of plants and on coevolutionary relationships. But, it also raises questions on the evolution of these coordinating capabilities and the physiological mechanisms.

May 16, 2014: Anemone blanda

A short entry from Taisha today, who writes:

A few weeks ago, I spotted a nice pop of purple (a colour that usually catches my eye) tucked away behind the Garden's amphitheatre. A closer look revealed it was Anemone blanda. In the Ranunculaceae, Anemone blanda is also known as the Grecian windflower or winter windflower. The genus Anemone is composed of about 120 species of perennials found mostly in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Within the genus, members can be divided into three groups: woodland and alpine pasture species that flower in the spring, Mediterranean or Central Asia species with early summer blooms, and larger herbaceous species that flower later summer into autumn.

Anemone blanda, is a herbaceous perennial native to southeast Europe and Turkey. This species is valued for its daisy-like appearance in the spring. The winter windflower is a spreading species that is great for the garden and prefers well-drained soil with partial sun--making it good to plant under deciduous trees which can help provide its preferred conditions.

Mar 17, 2014: Trifolium pratense

Trifolium pratense

The photo workshop is over, and it's time to get back to work-work. I don't have any photographs to share on BPotD from the workshop, as our assignments didn't align well with plant photographs. But, when I successfully apply some of the principles learned to my plant or garden photos, I'll make mention of it.

Taisha had a good break from me, and she starts the week with this entry she wrote:

For today, I'm highlighting a photo of Trifolium pratense or red clover. With today being St. Patrick's Day, I thought I would try and find a photograph of what is considered the traditional shamrock, Trifolium dubium. However, I wasn't successful, so instead I offer this three-leaved alternative. Thank you Anne Elliot (aka annkelliott@Flickr) for uploading this to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Much appreciated!

The shamrock is symbol that many associate with St. Patrick's Day. According to folklore, the shamrock was used by St. Patrick to explain the Christian holy trinity to the pagan Irish. In present times, wearing a shamrock on March 17 is a St. Patrick's Day tradition (link requires registration on National Geographic site). This practice dates back to the 17th century.

Trifolium pratense is a leguminous perennial native to Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. It is now distributed globally in temperate regions because of its usefulness in agriculture--it is generally excellent for livestock and poultry as food (either grown as a forage crop in pastures or used in hay and silage). Red clover is also commonly planted for green manure and as a rotational cover crop because of its ability to fix nitrogen by means of a symbiotic relationship (PDF) with Rhizobium spp., a group of soil bacteria species that reside within the root nodules.

Mar 12, 2014: Francis Beidler Forest

Francis Beidler Forest

It was a long day at the workshop today, and an even longer one tomorrow, so another brief entry.

One of my favourite places in my two trips to the southeastern USA, Francis Beidler Forest near Charleston, South Carolina, protects old-growth cypress-tupelo swamp. Both bald-cypress (Taxodium distichum) and tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) are present in this photograph. The base of bald-cypress trees is buttressed (often with accompanying knees), while the base of the tupelo trees seem like swollen trunks (the leftmost two trees completely in the image are tupelo, while the next larger one is a bald-cypress). It is difficult to see in the photograph at this size, but the bark is also quite different: tupelo bark resembles the platiness of some reptile skins, while bald-cypress bark is stringier and forms a bit of a diamond pattern.

Mar 6, 2014: Petrea volubilis

Another thank you directed toward retired UBC Botanical Garden staff member David Tarrant for sharing some of his photographs from Mexico. Today, the species is Petrea volubilis. David writes: "Petrea volubilis is a woody vine species native to Mexico and Central America. Its tough ovate leaves feel like sandpaper, hence one of its common names: sandpaper vine! The flowers are exquisite, borne on arching pendant racemes with equally showy bracts. The bracts last a little longer than the actual flowers, making for a showy garden plant".

Petrea volubilis is also know by other common names including queen's wreath and purple wreath. David noted its native range, but it is widely cultivated in tropical regions for outdoor ornamental use or temperate regions with overwintering indoors.

The genus is named in honour of Robert Petre, 8th Baron Petre, a noted horticulturist and botanist. Surprisingly, the name Petrea was suggested in 1732 or 1733, when Petre was only twenty years old (a specimen was first collected for Western science in 1732 by William Houston, who suggested the name). Linnaeus continued to use the name and formally applied it in his 1753 Species Plantarum, designating Petrea volubilis as the type specimen. Linnaeus also notes of Petrea volubilis: "...variolis correptus, longiori vita dignissimus, utpote qui Florae indicae domicilia exstruxit in Europa omnium splendissima. Perhaps someone with better Latin comprehension can interpret, but I muddle through this as "crooked vine, worthy of more cultivation, since it is always splendid when flowering in European greenhouses". I'd very much welcome correction, but don't bother using Google Translate, which isn't quite there yet with its Latin ("smallpox corrected a life worthy of the homes built in Europe, the splendid as that of Flora of India").

Mar 5, 2014: Pinus sylvestris

Pinus sylvestris

Taisha is the author of this entry. She writes:

Today, we have a photo of Pinus sylvestris, commonly known as Scots pine, showing the needles and male cones (microstrobili). The image is courtesy of Marianne (aka marcella 2/tovje@Flickr, and was shared via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. The Flickr pool has another image of the species in habit by Stephen Buchan (aka --Green Light Images--@Flickr). Thank you both for sharing!

Pinus sylvestris is the second-most widely distributed conifer in the world (exceeded only by Juniperus communis), with a native range spanning beyond the Arctic Circle to southern Spain, and from western Scotland to eastern Siberia. The species grows at elevations from sea level to 2400 meters (~8000 ft.).

The last major episode of widespread glaciation, about 10 000 years before present, occurred during the Pleistocene. During this time, many plant species survived in small isolated ice-free areas known as glacial refugia. For Scots pine, evidence so far suggests the species survived in four main refugia as well as an area south of glacial extent (the Russian Plains). The four refugia were: 1) the Iberian Peninsula, 2) the northern Apennine Peninsula, 3) south of the Carpathian and Sudeten Mountains, and 4) the Balkans. As the glaciers retreated, Pinus sylvestris recolonized Europe. However, it is still unclear which routes and specific refugial populations had the most prominent roles.

In a study by Prus-Glowacki, et al., some suggestions about the recolonization patterns of the Scots pine after the last glaciation are made. They propose that the Iberian and Apennine Peninsulas populations either did not at all, or only slightly contributed to recolonization. Furthermore, they state that the Balkan refugium contributed as a source area for Scots pine migration into central and western Europe, while those ancestral populations from eastern Europe and Siberia primarily contributed to the present gene pools in central Europe and Scotland. Lastly, the researchers note that the origin of the Scottish populations is unclear, as they form a distinctly separate group derived from more than one glacial refugium after the last glaciation (see: Prus-Glowacki, et al. (2012). Genetic variation of isolated and peripheral populations of Pinus sylvestris (L.) from glacial refugia. Flora-- Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants. 207(2):150-158).

In a previous BPotD entry from 2011 about Loch Maree, Scotland, Daniel mentions Pinus sylvestris and briefly touches on the biogeography of this species, with particular attention to its presence in the Loch Maree area.

Feb 26, 2014: Helonias bullata

Helonias bullata

The photograph today is courtesy of Michael Hogan (aka hoganphoto@Flickr), who submitted it via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool (original photo). Thank you for sharing, Michael.

Swamp-pink is a threatened species throughout its entire range of the eastern USA (from Delaware to Georgia), primarily due to habitat destruction. New Jersey, where today's photograph was taken, contains both the most and the largest remaining populations (a "stronghold", partly due to the Pinelands National Reserve). Like yesterday's alpine-groundsel, the common name suggests its habitat: "...wetland habitats. These include Atlantic white-cedar swamps; Blue Ridge swamps; swampy forested wetlands which border small streams; meadows, and spring seepage areas. The plant requires habitat which is saturated, but not flooded, with water..." (via the Center for Plant Conservation's fact sheet on Helonias bullata).

This Trillium relative is a herbaceous perennial species. Evergreen leaves grow near the ground in a rosette, so can be hidden and protected by leaf-litter and snow during the winter and early spring. A single flowering stalk is produced, reaching as high as 90cm (3ft.) while in bloom (mid-April to June) and even higher (to 150cm) in fruit.

Additional photographs of swamp-pink can be seen on Michael's site: Helonias bullata (includes close-ups and habitat threats) or the site of Steve Greer: Helonias bullata.

Jul 18, 2013: Protea cynaroides

Protea cynaroides

Taisha wrote today's entry:

Today's photo is of Protea cynaroides, or the king protea. This image of the national flower of South Africa was taken by Marie Viljoen@Flickr on January 8, 2012 in its native country. Thanks Marie!

Protea cynaroides is native to South Africa, where it is found across much of the biodiverse fynbos region of the country at elevations from sea level to 1500 meters. It mainly grows in sunny areas with acidic, well-draining soil. Bloom times, flower colour, flower size and leaf size vary significantly across its range, associated (at least in part) with differences in geoclimatic factors. The genus name Protea is fitting then, considering it is named after the Greek god Proteus, who according to mythology was said to be able to change his shape at will. The specific epithet means "like Cynara", in reference to the resemblance the flowering heads have to artichokes.

King protea is known for its large, showy, dome-shaped inflorescences made up of many tepaloid flowers subtended by stiff showy bracts. This evergreen shrub has glossy leathery leaves growing from a thick woody stalk.

Jul 2, 2013: Adiantum pedatum

Adiantum pedatum

Another entry written by Taisha today:

Today's image of Adiantum pedatum was taken by swampr0se@Flickr on May 22, 2011. Ferns from this genus are among my favourites. I am drawn to the aesthetic contrast between the dark-coloured stipe and rachis to the bright green and glossy pinnules. Thanks swampr0se for the photo!

Adiantum pedatum of the Pteridaceae is one of about two hundred species in the genus Adiantum. Members of this genus are known for their glossy fronds that shed water readily and their gleaming blackish-brown stipes. Uniquely, this genus bears sporangia on the abaxial margins of the pinnules covered by a false indusium (formed by inrolling of the margins), rather than on the margin of the lamina like many other ferns. The arching fronds grow from creeping rhizomes that spread and form colonies over time. The fan-shaped blade is segmented into rounded lobes separated by shallow sinuses. This species sporulates from summer through autumn.

The northern maidenhair fern is found growing on humus-covered slopes and moist lime soils across eastern North America, however there are disjunct populations in China and other parts of eastern Asia. Adiantum pedatum is a part of the Adiantum pedatum complex comprising of three other species, Adiantum aleuticum, Adiantum myriosorum and Adiantum viridimontanum. Those species belonging to the Adiantum pedatum complex are characterised by pedately-divided frond clusters growing from clump-forming rhizomes. In a study looking at the biogeographic disjunction of the Adiantum pedatum complex between eastern Asia and North America by Lu et al., it was suggested that the Adiantum pedatum complex is of Asian origin dating to 4.27 million years ago (Ma) in the Pliocene. Migration to North America seems to have occurred in the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene via the Bering land bridge. Lu et al. also propose that the clades within North America, Adiantum pedatum and Adiantum aleuticum, dispersed back to eastern Asia about 0.8Ma, likely by way of the Aleutian Islands south of the Bering sea. (see: Lu J-M. et al. 2011. Biogeographic disjuction between eastern Asia and North America in the Adiantum pedatum complex (Pteridaceae). American Journal of Botany. 98(10):1680-1693.).

Jun 22, 2013: Paris quadrifolia

Taisha is the author of this entry. She writes:

Today's photos of Paris quadrifolia, or herb paris, in habit and close up were taken by stevieiriswattii!@Flickr on May 14, 2013 (submitted via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). They were taken in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) region of Germany. Thank you for the images, steveiriswatti!

Paris quadrifolia of the Melanthiaceae is a perennial species found in shaded woodlands of Europe. Its range extends eastward to include western Asia, Siberia, and the Himalayas. In the last century, populations have been in decline in most western European countries due to the destruction of broad-leaved woodland. For a detailed account of the species see: Jacquemyn, H. et al.. 2008. Biological Flora of the British Isles: Paris quadrifolia L.. Journal of Ecology. 96:833-844.

Herb paris grows from a creeping rhizome. Plants have symmetrical leaves occurring in two pairs. Extending above the leaves is a single inconspicuous flower with green sepals and yellow petals. The eight bright yellow stamens are exserted upward, almost appearing protective of the purple-red ovary. After pollination, a many-seeded berry on a pedicel will develop, presented enticingly for the picking. However, it is not advised to consume the fruit, rhizomes, or any of the foliage, as herb paris is poisonous in just small doses.


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