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Results tagged “pinaceae”

Jun 24, 2014: Cedrus brevifolia

Before getting to Taisha's entry, a brief tech update: the software has been upgraded to the latest version for the weblog. We're now waiting on a server upgrade, which should address the speed issues.

Taisha writes:

Today, we have two images of Cedrus brevifolia, or Cyprus cedar (image 1 | image 2). They were uploaded by one of the top contributors to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool, andreas lambrianides@Flickr. Much appreciated, Andreas!

Cedrus brevifolia is a conifer species endemic to the Troodos Mountains of western Cyprus. Five natural stands of trees occur, with the majority of the individuals occurring in a single stand called Tripylos. In an area of 1.99km2 at Tripylos, over 240000 individuals have been counted. This species grows on igneous formations and occurs in pure stands, particularly at higher elevations, or in mixed stands with Pinus brutia, Quercus alnifolia, and Platanus orientalis.

Cyprus cedar can reaches up to 15-20 meters, with a diameter at breast height of 1-1.2 meters. Older trees tend to be flat-topped. The bark is pale greyish-borwn with fissures. The branches spread to form distinctive horizontal layers, and bear spirally-arranged leaves that spread radially. Upright cylindrical male pollen-cones are borne terminally on short shoots. These are a pale-brown when mature. Female seed-cones are also upright. These take two years to mature to a ripened grey-brown colour, at which point they become ovoid-oblong or barrel-shaped.

Cedrus brevifolia is only one of four species of Cedrus, or the true cedars (though some authorities consider Cedrus brevifolia to be a subspecies or variety of Cedrus libani). This genus has a disjunct distribution between those species around the Mediterranean Sea and the western Himalayas. In a study by Qiao et al. it was hypothesized that Cedrus has a high-latitude Eurasian origin. Fossils dating from the Paleocene to Pleistocene have been found in Russia Far East to western Kazakhstan, then across Europe to the central Sahara; the oldest fossils are found in the north.

With climatic oscillations throughout the Tertiary, there were many opportunities for taxa to disperse and subdivide. Qiao et al. propose that the genus' present distribution in several isolated regions could have resulted from vicariance of southerly-migrated populations, followed by further fragmentation and dispersal. They also suggest that the ancestors of Mediterranean cedars might have reached southern Europe in the Miocene based on fossil evidence, and that it is very likely Cedrus migrated into North Africa in the late Tertiary. In addition, the authors also suggest that Cedrus likely did not arrive in the Himalayas until after the Miocene. This would have followed the formation of the Tibetan plateau. The biogeographers note that more fossil evidence is needed to determine the site of origin of Cedrus. The molecular clock estimation of Cedrus divergence times for the phylogeny they constructed was based on the earliest recorded fossil wood from the Paleocene, but the time values obtained could be younger than the real divergence times of the group (see: Qiao, C. et al. (2007). Phylogeny and Biogeography of Cedrus (Pinaceae) inferred from sequences of seven paternal chloroplast and maternal mitochondrial DNA regions. Annals of Botany. 100(3):573-580).

Mar 21, 2014: High Park

High Park

In recognition of the International Day of Forests, we're somewhat ironically featuring an image of a controlled burn in High Park (Toronto). Ironic, because High Park is managed to maintain its rare black oak savanna plant community. Savannas aren't considered forests in the literal sense, but instead defined as grasslands with significant woody plant components. Still, since savannas are in-between open grasslands and closed-canopy forests, I think using a savanna image can be forgiven. Today's photograph is courtesy of swampr0se@Flickr, and made on March 21 two years ago. Thank you for contributing, swampr0se.

I admire the willingness of the City of Toronto to permit and continue with prescribed burns in an urban area (article with additional photographs). We'd love to do something similar with our Garry Oak Meadow and Woodland Garden for long-term management, but our proposals have not been successful to-date.

When nature is no longer permitted to take its course, mimicking natural cyclical events such as fire is often necessary to maintain a semblance of the pre-existing plant community. Over the long-term, though, these practices require periodic re-assessments due to the complications of climate change or other factors (re: climate change, see: Holmes, KR et al. 2013. Biodiversity Indicators Show Climate Change Will Alter Vegetation in Parks and Protected Areas. Diversity. 5(2):352-373. doi:10.3390/d5020352 ). In brief, parks and protected areas boundaries are typically static. If established specifically for particular plant and/or animal communities (cf. parks established for geological features), the shift in vegetation due to climate change may no longer support the plants or animals that were the reason for the establishment of the protected area. Another complicating factor is when natural successional processes occur in parks and protected areas and threaten populations of rare species.

I know few specific details, but one local controversy is alluded to by Dr. Hans Roemer at the end of this interview with him about British Columbia's Ecological Reserves: A Conversation with Hans Roemer. Mt. Tzuhalem Ecological Reserve, where the interview took place, would likely be blanketed with Douglas-fir forest without a history of human intervention. However, (I speculate) due to a combination of human-induced fires by First Nations and later logging of established Douglas-firs, a Garry oak savanna plant community was successfully established in the area (and was, I think, one of the primary reasons for establishing the ecological reserve, as it contains a number of rare species including the endangered Balsamorhiza deltoidea). A suppressed fire regime (preventing both natural and human-induced fires) and successional processes have led to a relatively rapid incursion of Douglas-fir trees into the savanna areas, potentially threatening the rare species associated with the savanna.

To give a bit of context to the following comments, British Columbia's Ecological Reserves were established with the most restrictive protections of any protected area type, with some permitting research as the only allowable human activity. As Hans notes, management for rare species can sometimes conflict with other conservation goals (e.g., "hands-off and allowing nature to take its course"). He states: "No objections arose against 20 years of broom management in the Mount Tzouhalem ER but some [native] Douglas fir in-growth has been managed or started to be managed or stopped in this same ER and everybody is horrified. There is also an issue of what kind of Ecological Reserve (ER) it is. If this is a representative ER, then it could be left alone and there are no objections to going through successional changes. But it could be another ER where we have so many rare plants that you don't want these successional changes. Basically trying to arrest successional change is almost a futile attempt, but there are instances where it can be slowed down. The attempt to slow down Douglas fir in-growth met with very major objections."

Needless to say, unanswered questions remain as to how to address these situations. Is management appropriate or not? If so, does one manage to preserve components (e.g., for populations of rare species) or allow natural processes to take place? What will be the long-term effects of climate change on park and protected areas borders, particularly in instances where no or little buffer / transitional zones exist to provide corridors for biodiversity to shift with the accompanying vegetation changes (e.g., Riding Mountain National Park)? Many vexing questions.

For more on the International Day of Forests, see FAO's page on International Day of Forests, CITES International Day of Forests and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Forests for Fashion event.

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.

Dec 6, 2013: Viscum album subsp. abietis and Abies alba

Again, scribed by Taisha. She writes:

Frost and crisp air have greeted me the past few mornings when starting my commute to UBC, two signs in these early days of December that the holidays are approaching. Around the city, empty lots are being turned into temporary sites for Christmas tree sales, lights are being strung up, and wreaths are being hung upon doors. In the spirit of the holidays, I've chosen to write an entry on Viscum album, or European mistletoe! The images of this species are courtesy of stevieiriswattii!@Flickr, who uploaded them to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool (image 1 | image 2).

Viscum album, a member of the sandalwood family, is a hemi-parasitic evergreen shrub. Hemi-parasites are plants that receive additional nutrients via a haustorial attachment to a host, but are also able to photosynthesize. In the case of mistletoe, their parasitism can lower the host tree's vigour, induce premature mortality, reduce the quality of wood, or induce water stress. As a species, Viscum album is able to infect a large number of host plants. There are five or six subspecies of Viscum album recognized, differing in part by host specificity. For example, Viscum album subsp. abietis (shown today) is a parasite on Abies (fir) species (in today's case, silver fir or Abies alba). Similarly, Viscum album subsp. austriacum parasitizes Pinus (pine) species and rarely Larix (larch) or Picea (spruce) species. Other subspecies parasitize flowering trees or different conifers.

European mistletoe is dioecious and insect-pollinated. The flowers are yellowish to green and inconspicuous. The fleshy white berries ripen through the early winter in Europe, and are bird-dispersed from late winter to spring. Birds do eat the berries, but digestion is not necessary for seed germination. Instead of eating the berries, birds will sometimes disperse the fruit by dropping the berry in flight or while on the tree. The mucilaginous viscin on the outside of the berry allows it to stick to the bark of the tree, where it will eventually germinate and infect (see Kahle-Zuber, D. 2008. Biology and evolution of the European mistletoe (Viscum album). (PDF) Doctoral dissertation, ETH Zurich, No. 18080.

Mistletoe appears extensively in mythology and folklore. To the ancient druids of Britain, mistletoe was a symbol of magical powers and medicinal properties. From Norse legend, Balder (a Norse god and the son of goddess, Frigga), was killed by mistletoe. However, his life was later restored and Frigga, in her joy, said that anyone who passed under mistletoe should receive a kiss. This custom remains today, with kisses being shared under the mistletoe which is commonly used as a Christmas decoration. Where this truly originates, I'm uncertain, although it is known to have been part of Christmas customs since at least the seventeenth century.

If you live in Vancouver, and are looking to decorate for the holidays, the Friends of the Garden are selling hand-made wreaths at the Shop in the Garden until December 23, 2013, or until quantities last!

Mar 7, 2013: Abies equi-trojani

Today's entry was written by Raakel Toppila, who recently completed the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture. She's helping our Garden assess some collections management tools. Raakel writes:

Thank you to James Gaither (aka J.G. in S.F.@Flickr) for today's photographs of Abies equi-trojani (photo 1 | photo 2 | set).

The curious name of this species comes from its occurrence on Mount Ida of Trojan War fame in the northwest of Turkey. Equ, being the Latin word for horse, is likely reference to the legendary horse that brought victory to the Greeks. The distribution of the Trojan fir is limited to a total area of about 3600 ha, with a number of isolated populations ranging in size from 120 ha to 2400 ha in the northwest of Turkey. The tree is valued for its rapid growth rate and high quality timber which has threatened existing populations thanks to illegal logging. That, along with pollution and tourism, has resulted in the decline and endangerment of the species.

Priority was placed on its protection in a national plan for the In Situ Conservation of Plant Genetic Diversity in Turkey. But first, it had to be determined what exactly the target for protection was. Abies, along with many other genera, are known for their *ahem* promiscuity or interspecific hybridization.

The exact taxonomic placement of this particular fir is debated. It been treated as its own species and as a variety or subspecies of both Abies cephalonica and Abies nordmanniana. Additionally, it is remarkably similar to Abies bornmuelleriana which has also been treated as a subspecies and variety of Abies nordmanniana. To complicate things, its morphological intermediacy, hybrid vigour qualities and pollen sterility suggest that it is a hybrid. Recent work (PDF) using DNA fingerprinting techniques have indeed identified three separate species, Abies nordmanniana, Abies bornmuelleriana and Abies equi-trojani. Protection has been placed on the two latter species which have a limited distribution compared to Abies nordmanniana.

Oct 16, 2012: Larix lyallii

Today's write-up and photographs of Larix lyallii are courtesy of Bryant, BPotD work-study student. He writes:

These subalpine (or alpine) larches were photographed on the northeast face of Mount Frosty in British Columbia's E.C. Manning Provincial Park. Larix lyallii is one of my personal favorites for its unusual characteristics and its ability to survive higher altitudes and harsher conditions than most other conifers. Larix is one of the few genera of deciduous conifers (other deciduous conifers). In early/mid-September through early/mid-October in British Columbia, this species changes colour from green to a stunning golden-yellow. Larix lyallii grows in upper montane zones that would otherwise be considered alpine tundra (usually above the treeline of evergreen conifers), as well as on exposed rock outcrops. Its native range follows high alpine environments in southern (primarily southeast) British Columbia, southwestern Alberta and northern Washington, Idaho and Montana (distribution map).

Although trees of Larix lyallii are stunted by the long and harsh winters they endure, their trunks typically remain straight and upright (compared to displaying characteristics of Krummholz formation often seen among subalpine evergreen conifers). This is largely due to the deciduous characteristic, which helps to reduce the effects of winter desiccation and snow loading. The extreme hardiness of this species has helped it to become one of the longer lived species of conifer, with the known record holder being an individual 1,917 years old in Kananaskis, Alberta as of 2012!

Morphologically, Larix lyallii can grow up to 31m tall with a diameter at breast height of 215cm. As one might expect, larger specimens are generally found at lower elevations. The needles are quadrangular and grow in bunches of 30-40 atop abaxially keeled short shoots. They tend to grow in moist immature/rocky soil that is well drained. Plants grow at elevations between 1,900 and 2,380 metres, with slightly lower elevations in the North Cascades (1,830 to 2290m). Larix lyallii may also grow in association with Pinus albicaulis (whitebark pine), Abies lasiocarpa (subalpine fir), and Picea engelmannii (Englemann spruce) at the upper limits of their elevational distributions.

Oct 4, 2012: Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park

I was asked in the comments recently if I had time to photograph autumn colours. Last week, I was in the Alberta and British Columbia Rockies hoping to do just that, but because of the hot and dry autumn, colours were overall poor. In fact, many trees had crisped brown leaves instead of any sort of colouration. This photograph is from my 2011 trip. It's a good example of how photographs can omit--the split stream flows through a triangular piece of land bordered by roads (which you can see via the Google Map).

The yellow-leaved trees are young black cottonwood or Populus trichocarpa while I believe the conifers in the foreground are Engelmann spruce, Picea engelmannii. The other possibilities for the conifers are Picea glauca (white spruce) or the hybrid between the two species.

Aug 1, 2012: Kettle Mountain Meadows

I thought I'd add a visual coda to the series on colours in plants, since Bryant is feeling under the weather today. These photographs are from last weekend's near-solitary field-trip up to the peak of Kettle Mountain while I was attending Botany BC. As of a few weeks ago, these meadows formed part of the northeast edge of the Cascade Recreation Area, but they have now been added to E.C. Manning Provincial Park. One hopes that this might mean additional enforcement in dealing with those who despoil the meadows by driving off-trail (examples of both responsible and irresponsible use if one searches Youtube for "Whipsaw" and "Trail").

Jul 24, 2012: Picea pungens

Picea pungens

Bryant wrote and contributed the photograph for today's entry. It's my fault it's late in being posted, but I've been catching up since going on a collecting foray late last week. He writes:

Continuing with the series on colour, I thought I would dip into the more structural side of things. In particular, I want to focus on blue colouration in foliage. Today's photo is of a compact blue-needled selection of Picea pungens, taken in the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden here at UBC. Picea pungens is a high-altitude species, which grows at elevations between 1,750-3,000 meters in the southern Rocky Mountains. I chose this species because I was intrigued by David Lee's fascination with blue foliage as described in his book, Nature's Palette. Lee's focus is mainly on iridescent blues found in tropical species such as Selaginella willdenowii.

The more subtle blue hues that are found in Picea pungens (commonly the Colorado blue spruce) are not produced by modified anthocyanin pigmentation like the blues found in many flowers. Species like the blue spruce produce a thin film of epicuticular surface waxes on their needles. These deposits diffract light at short wavelengths, which we perceive as a pale blue. This scattering of radiation is a physical phenomenon known as Tyndall scattering--the same reason why the sky and ocean are blue. The surface waxes are thought to reduce the absorption of photosynthetically-active radiation, reduce transpiration, influence gas exchange and lower leaf temperature (see: Physiological Effects of Surface Waxes). These results caused by the diffraction of light by epicuticular surface waxes can be advantageous or disadvantageous depending on the biogeoclimatic location of the individual.

In the case of the Selaginella examined by Lee, the multiple layers of convexly-shaped epidermal cells are what cause the diffraction of a more iridescent blue colour on the leaves. Selaginella willdenowii is a shade-dwelling plant, and the blue iridescence is only found on leaves that are rarely exposed to sunlight. Lee was curious as to why the fern would evolve structures that diffract much of the scarce light that is available to them. After thirty years of pondering this question, Lee's explanation is that the iridescent shade leaves deflect short wave radiation and are thus able to absorb more long wave radiation. This is advantageous in the shaded understory of tropical rain forests, because long wavelength radiation is more available than short wavelength under the canopy.

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-Québec 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.

Nov 14, 2011: Picea glauca

I think I'll forego the plants and mammals series I had planned, and instead share an occasional entry on the topic. Today's photographs were taken near the same site as this photograph. I had returned to that area in early October to perhaps make similar photographs of the to-me intriguing palette of colours, but the leaves had not yet changed enough. While returning to the vehicle, I also decided to check an antler I noted the previous year in the nearby forest, and that's when I stumbled upon this American red squirrel midden I had missed seeing before.

Despite frequenting a forest inhabited by American red squirrels when growing up, I don't recall ever having encountered a squirrel midden before--if I had, certainly not one of this size. Constructed almost entirely of the cones and cone pieces of white spruce, this midden measured approximately 4m x 3m (13ft x 10ft), with a depth at the centre certainly exceeding 30cm (1ft.). It actually took me a minute or so to figure out the origin of this huge pile of cones (despite the obvious burrows), and I even recall looking up to see if the trees here were particularly laden with cones. Eventually, however, I was chided by the midden's proprietor and the obvious was revealed to me.

As squirrels go, this one was relatively uninterested in scolding me for being nearby. Instead, it continued to gather more food for the winter. I had one opportunity to photograph the squirrel beside the midden, but it was too quick for me; the next chance to photograph the squirrel occurred a half-hour later, shared above with it showing off its cone-gathering skills.

Picea glauca, or white spruce, is native to northern North America, one of a only a few tree species native to every province and territory in Canada. Its range extends southwards into the northern USA (and is also found in Alaska). Other common names include Canadian spruce, skunk spruce, and cat spruce, the latter two names referring to the unpleasant odour often associated with the plants.

Rodent middens, when they include a diversity of plant species, are helpful for palaeoecologists to understand the changes in plant communities over time. A recent article: Diaz, FP. et al., 2011. Rodent middens reveal episodic, long-distance plant colonizations across the hyperarid Atacama Desert over the last 34,000 years. Journal of Biogeography. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02617.x .

And, using that as a segue from Jasper to the Atacama Desert, I also thought I'd share a link forwarded to me this weekend: (Nov. 15 edit: apparently the next link only works if you have a Google Account, but you can find the story online if you search for the article title) Desert in bloom: colors explode in Chile's Atacama (additional photographs of the Atacama by Gerhard Hüdepohl).

Nov 2, 2011: David C. Lam Asian Garden

David C. Lam Asian Garden

The intense low sun of a late autumn afternoon in combination with a breeze off the Salish Sea helped to produce this image a couple days ago in the David C. Lam Asian Garden.

While taking the photograph, I was only reacting to the sights and experiences of bright leaves and moving branches. In the back of my mind, I would have had some familiarity with similar techniques or approaches used by other photographers under the same conditions. However, thinking about the photograph a bit more, it could also complement a number of stories about the David C. Lam Asian Garden:

  • - the combination of coastal woodland plants (represented by the Douglas-fir) and cultivated plants of Asian origin (the Japanese maples in the background)
  • - along the same lines, one could also interpret that the solidity of the Douglas-fir represents what was here and what will be here in this place (it is timeless), whereas the maples are fleeting and less solid, less permanent
  • - the maples remind of flames, an allusion to the fire that threatened the Asian Garden earlier this year
  • - the charred scars of stumps and trunks of the few remaining original-growth native trees in the Asian Garden speak to the burning of the site in the early 20th century after it had been effectively clearcut -- had colour film existed then, it is not difficult to imagine a similar photograph being taken a century ago, but with real flames

Sep 26, 2011: Banff National Park

Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park

The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are on my mind as I prepare for a near-annual trip to the region for autumn colours. While this photo won't win any awards for visual drama, do note the golden colours of the deciduous trees and shrubs at the base of the avalanche chutes (particularly evident in the larger version of the photograph). Looking akin to a flow of golden lava at this time of year, these are plant communities of frequent ecological disturbance from the physical effects of avalanches.

Avalanche ecology is a relatively new field of study (if the dates on cited papers are a good indication). Seemingly, the suppression of avalanches is somewhat like the suppression of fire in changing ecosystem dynamics (see the results of a study in the Swiss Alps: Kulakowski, D. et al. 2005. Changes in forest structure and in the relative importance of climatic stress as a result of suppression of avalanche disturbances (PDF). Forest Ecology and Management. 223:66-74). Fortunately for the biodiversity of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, I don't believe avalanches are suppressed (or, if at all, in only a few areas). For a broad overview of the importance of avalanches, see this video on the benefits of avalanches from the USFS National Avalanche Center, or, to learn about the importance for grizzly bears specifically, read grizzly bear use of avalanche chutes in the Columbia Mountains.

Sep 22, 2011: Loch Maree, Scotland

Loch Maree, Scotland

It's been one of those kind of weeks at work, so apologies for too few entries. On the other hand, a nod of appreciation to boobook48@Flickr (aka Lorraine Phelan) for sharing this photograph of a serene scene from Loch Maree, Scotland. Thank you!

Wikipedia provides a well-rounded look at the historical and biological importance of Loch Maree, so that's worth a read.

Broadly distributed through much of Eurasia, the Scots pines of Loch Maree represent, I suppose, the northwestern present extent of the species, though there are a few populations further west in Portugal and Spain, and it is found further north throughout Scandinavia, Finland and Russia. It also previously occurred naturally in Ireland, but was extirpated there. The Loch Maree population is special; to directly quote The Gymnosperm Database entry for Pinus sylvestris: "Trees from the extreme west of the range, in NW Scotland (Loch Maree area, Wester Ross)...show resin chemistry and adaptations to oceanic climates not found in the rest of the species' range. These trees are thought to have survived the ice ages on nunataks off NW Ireland and/or W Scotland, or are possibly derived from Spanish populations (Forrest 1980, 1982; Kinloch et al. 1986); as yet there has been no research as to whether this small endangered population deserves taxonomic recognition."

Sep 8, 2011: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew - Cedar Vista

Updated @ 3:20pm on Thursday, September 8, 2011: Added a second photo to the entry by Douglas Justice of UBC Botanical Garden.

It's been a while since I've shared a scanned image from the John Davidson collection of lantern slides (all of these can be viewed on the gallery of the site dedicated to UBC Botanical Garden's first director, "Botany" John Davidson). Although this isn't one of the slides that he decided to hand-tint, I found it intriguing because I was able to locate a modern counterpart along with the story of how things changed.

A present-day view of this vista can be seen (added) with Douglas Justice's accompanying photograph or on Benjamin Simpson's Hodomania blog, in his entry on Kew Gardens (scroll to the bottom of the page, or here's a direct link to the image). A side-by-side comparison of the images shows the vista having been transformed from a relatively narrow lane with imposing Atlantic and deodar cedars to a wider lane with the addition of other trees and shrubs in a far more informal planting style. These latter plantings are also evident from the satellite photographs of Kew via the Google Maps link below the photograph.

The changing cultivated landscape helps to date John Davidson's photograph, placing it before 1923-1924. However, it is still unknown as to whether this was taken on a return visit to the UK for him, or prior to his immigration to Canada in 1911. Kew's web site helps to determine the date, because they include a brief history of the Cedar Vista:

"Cedar Vista... was planted in 1871...Constant pruning of the trees over the years led to their becoming mutilated, so in 1923-24 director Sir Arthur William Hill felled many and widened the vista by some 12 metres. Today, irregularly spaced trees give Cedar Vista the character of an 'informal avenue'."

Sep 7, 2011: Pinus contorta var. latifolia

Pinus contorta var. latifolia

Fortunately, a nearby forest fire didn't threaten UBC Botanical Garden last night and today. Had we had winds from the typical northwest direction overnight, the situation might have been different (more discussion on the fire).

Today's photograph is instead from Jasper National Park, in a forested area of lodgepole pines that had burned only a couple years ago. I assume this landscape will eventually look similar to this photograph of a lodgepole pine stand 10 years post-burn in Yellowstone National Park.

The USDA's Fire Effects Information System database has an extensive set of information on the fire-adapted Pinus contorta var. latifolia.

Aug 24, 2011: Abies lasiocarpa

Abies lasiocarpa

Alexis is working on a lengthy series to finish off her summer term as a work-study student for BPotD, so an additional recent photograph from me today.

Another day, another thing learned. I was under the impression that there was only one taxon of subalpine fir in much of western North America, Abies lasiocarpa var. lasiocarpa (a second variety, Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica is found at high elevations in the southwest USA; see The Silvics of North America entry for how I understood the definition of Abies lasiocarpa). Digging a little deeper, I learned that the Flora of North America recognizes Abies lasiocarpa as a species distributed from Alaska through to California and a different taxon, Abies bifolia, as a species associated with the Rocky Mountains. Where the two taxa meet, introgression occurs (i.e., gene flow between the species, leading to populations or individuals with intermediate properties). Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica is not formally recognized in the Flora of North America, though the author makes mention that it is likely instead a variety of Abies bifolia and that further study is needed.

The Gymnosperm Database treats the diversity of this group differently, recognizing three varieties of Abies lasiocarpa instead: Abies lasiocarpa var. lasiocarpa, Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica and Abies lasiocarpa var. bifolia. Depending on the taxonomic approach, the plant in today's photograph would either be considered Abies lasiocarpa var. lasiocarpa (if other varieties are recognized, such as in The Silvics of North America or The Gymnosperm Database) or Abies lasiocarpa (if Abies lasiocarpa has no varieties, such as in the Flora of North America). Learning this today has prompted a re-examination of the Abies lasiocarpa in the UBC Botanical Garden collections, as we'll now have to decide which approach to use and then update the name on the plants from wild-collected seed from the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia.

A recent study has shown that small mammals prefer the seeds of other subalpine conifers over those of subalpine fir. This has generated a hypothesis that subalpine fir may have a competitive advantage over its coniferous cohorts, as its seeds are less likely to be eaten by rodents and it may therefore have higher establishment of seedlings (see: Lobo, N. et al. 2009. Conifer seed preferences of small mammals. Can. J. Zoo. 87(9):773-780. doi:10.1139/Z09-070).

Aug 22, 2011: Wells Gray Provincial Park

The hike through the wildflower meadows of Trophy Mountain in Wells Gray Provincial Park has been called A Hike to Remember. That's indeed the case, as it is one of the best mass displays of wildflowers in British Columbia. In typical years, it peaks in early August, but thanks to the heavy snows and cool spring locally, it was delayed a couple weeks. Earlier in the year, about a month preceding this swath of colours, the hillsides are covered in yellow from the Erythronium grandiflorum (which I've not seen).

By the way, for those who don't often read comments from previous entries, you may have missed that you can click on the photographs on BPotD, and then sometimes enlarge them again (the square grey box in the upper right corner of the image).

Apr 26, 2011: Pinus contorta var. contorta

Pinus contorta var. contorta

A trip to the Shorepine Bog Trail in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve did not yield the hoped-for sighting of the introduced Darlingtonia californica (seen as recently as last year, and introduced over ten years ago). I'll excuse it on being too early in the season, given the hesitating spring. I am a bit curious as to why Parks Canada staff allow the plants to persist, given that they are non-native in many definitions of that term, but perhaps they are doing some long-term monitoring.

It was, however, an opportunity to enjoy the natural "bonsai" of the shore pines in the area. The boggy area is much smaller in extent than Burns Bog, so it is far more difficult to isolate individual plants from the background--I opted for a texture photograph of the landscape instead.

Pinus contorta has 3 or 4 varieties depending on the taxonomic reference. Variety contorta, the shore pine, is described in the Silvics of North America: "The thick-barked trees are relatively small, short-lived, and inherently branchy. Now mostly confined to marginal sites (muskegs, dunes, serpentine soils, rocky sites), this race pioneered forest succession in the Pacific Coast region at the end of the lce Age. Needles are short, rather narrow, and have more stomata per unit area than the leaves of inland races. Flowering is abundant, and female strobili tend to mature earlier than the male. The cones are reflexed and persistent. Cones usually open not long after they mature, but serotiny is increasingly common toward the interior. Seeds are small to medium-sized, and germination is slower than that of the interior races. Early height growth nearly always is faster than that of inland populations at the same latitude. Local variations include a chemically distinctive northern muskeg ecotype extending south to western Washington."

Pinus contorta var. contorta is one of the Great Plant Picks for local gardeners.

Apr 14, 2011: Olympic Peninsula Forest

Olympic Peninsula Forest

Today's entry was written by Claire:

This serene photograph of an enchanted forest on the Olympic Peninsula was submitted via the BPotD Submissions Forum by ferngirl42 of Seattle, WA.

If you are familiar with Pacific coastal forests in the continental northwest US, you'll know rainfall is one of the major factors in forest density and composition. The annual rainfall in some areas exceeds 350cm (~ 12ft.), permitting blanketing forests consisting mainly of western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), western red cedar (Thuja plicata) and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). The vegetation cover is so dense, hardly any sunlight pierces through the canopy. Close to the shoreline, though, the forest stalls, and light penetrates to the forest floor.

Near the shoreline, the Sitka spruce are not only exposed to the light, but also to the constant salt-laced maritime breeze (and sometimes ravaging winds). The burls (or burrs) are wood deformations caused by a stress to the growing tips of the plant. Some hypothesize that the salt-laced wind is responsible for burl formation in these Sitka spruces, others suggest viral or fungal damage. In general, the largest burls are found further south on coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), but the first and second largest burls known are on display in British Columbia, at Port McNeill, with the largest weighing in at 30,481kg (69,200lb).

In the thread posting, ferngirl42 also makes mention of searching in this area for Polypodium scouleri, a fern commonly known as leathery polypody. Scouler's polypody (named for John Scouler), or leather-leaf fern, can be found across the western coast of North America. It is sometimes epiphytic, and ferngirl42 notes that she has found it growing on the burls of these huge conifers.


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