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Results tagged “ubc botanical garden”

Nov 21, 2014: Apium graveolens var. rapaceum 'Ibis'

A short entry by work-learn student Tamara Bonnemaison today. She was also the photographer.

Last week I woke up to the first frost of the year, and decided it was the perfect time for a morning stroll through UBC Botanical Garden. Walking through the Food Garden, I was reminded of the feeling of surveying my small farm after a frost, feeling at once relieved that the busy season was over, and disappointed at the loss of income that a frost represented. Now that I am a student, I can walk through a garden and focus instead on the pattern of ice crystals kissing the edges of leaves, and wonder at the biology that allows some plants to withstand freezing while others succumb at the slightest dip in temperature. This celeriac, Apium graveolens var. rapaceum 'Ibis', looked like it was only gently touched by the frost, and the knobby stem will remain delicious for many cold months.

Celeriac, also called knob celery, is a type of celery grown primarily for its flavourful knobby hypocotyl (stem below seed leaves), leaves, and roots. It is cultivated in temperate vegetable gardens and farms around the world, but is most popular in Europe. Celeriac requires a long growing season, and the taste of its gnarly-looking stem sweetens after a frost, making it perfect for wintery dishes such as these recipes for remoulade and soup. I haven't yet tried these, but they look particularly delicious.

Celeriac has a number of the qualities that allow it to survive and stay tasty in cold weather. A report by the FAO discusses frost physiology in common vegetables, and Apium gravoeolens var. rapaceum exhibits a number of the traits that the FAO lists as ways that plant species tolerate cold temperatures. For example, the large, fleshy stem has a high heat capacity, preserving the day's heat well into the night. Also, the entire plant is able to gradually "harden" by increasing concentrations of solutes such as sugar to lower the freezing temperature of its tissues. All that is to say that it is very convenient that starchy root vegetables such as celeriac achieve their peak late in the season, just in time for the thick soups and comfort foods that feel so good to eat in the winter.

Oct 25, 2014: Franklinia alatamaha

Franklinia alatamaha

Visitors to UBC Botanical Garden during this time of year are strongly advised to spend some time in the Carolinian Forest Garden, primarily for the autumn colours and fruits. There are a few late-flowering plants, though, such as the species highlighted today.

I've had my eye on photographing this particular plant since September when I first noticed the flower buds forming, but it took until October before the first flowers opened. Some early photo attempts were also discarded; as you can see from the swelling buds above the open flower, the flowers are borne in the axils of the leaves, and from some of the easily-accessible places to photograph it, the blade of the leaf would cut across the flower and be a distraction. This necessitated waiting a few more days for different flowers to open. On this particular day, though, I had decided not to bother attempting to photograph it due to the wind. I changed that decision when I walked around the plant and noticed I could place the yellow foliage of a distant tree behind the plant. A fast lens and some patience in waiting for a gap in the wind yielded today's image.

Franklinia alatamaha is one of two species cultivated in UBC Botanical Garden thought to be extinct in the wild (with a few more on the brink). Known only from a small area in Georgia (in the USA) along the Altamaha River, Franklinia alatamaha was last collected in 1803, perhaps going extinct soon after. The first documented observation of the species was in 1765, though it took another two decades to scientifically publish the name. Named by William Bartram, this monotypic (single species) genus honours Benjamin Franklin, who was a friend of William's father, John Bartram.

Others have written on the story of the Franklin tree in detail, e.g., see Penn State Extension's Tree of the Month article on Franklinia alatamaha or Terrain.org's article on America's "First" Rare Plant. Seeing this plant always invokes in me thoughts about how many species have gone extinct in human history without any scientific (or cultural) trace of their existence (these thoughts then prompting a number of vexing questions on conservation efforts and extinction). Attempts to reintroduce Franklinia alatamaha into the wild have not been without controversy, as some still hold the hope that wild plants yet remain.

Oct 17, 2014: Malus 'Belle de Boskoop'

Malus 'Belle de Boskoop'

It's that time of year again--UBC Botanical Garden is hosting its annual Apple Festival this weekend. Like most previous years on BPotD, we're highlighting one of the 70+ apple cultivars available for sale (more for tasting and viewing). This year's image is similar, but different, to the one that Taisha did last year of Malus 'Okana'. Other previous entries: 'Rubinette', 'Creston', SPA493 (now known under the trade name Salish, one of my favourites), 'Cox's Orange Pippin', 'Golden Russet', 'Melrose', 'Elstar', and 'Jonagold'.

'Belle de Boskoop' has been in cultivation for over 150 years, originating as a chance seedling in or near the horticulturally-famous Boskoop, a town in The Netherlands. I don't have any personal experience with this cultivar, other than tasting it today. I would like to say it is "out of this world" given the concept behind today's image, but though I liked the acidity of the apple, the texture was a bit soft for me. From what sources suggest online, the edibility improves over time--time which one has, as it keeps for up to 6 months, with the flavour improving as it ages. My understanding from speaking with some of the Friends of the Garden is that it is also a very popular seller to people who grew up in northern Europe (in fact, one Danish commenter on another site mentions, "This is not considered an eating apple, but THE cooking apple for much of northern continental europe." Read a review, plus this comment and many others here: 'Belle de Boskoop' on Adam's Apples). To read more thoughts, also check out this 'Belle de Boskoop' review on The Fruit Gardener weblog (and additional comments).

There perhaps might be some questions about how today's photograph was done. The photo was taken from inside my office, using external flash units for much of the lighting. The flash looks overdone for my taste, but dialing the flash down or adjusting the position of the flash units in order to create shadows on the surface of the apples resulted in the rain-droplet "stars" on the window pane being diminished, so choices were made. I would have preferred to have also gotten the shadow across the body of the apple effect that Taisha succeeded with in the 'Okana' photograph, but I think I would had to have made an exposure for that and an exposure for the background, then blended the two images together. As it is, the image-editing program was used to remove the narrow supports below the apples (which I also taped to the glass to stay in place).

Aug 6, 2014: Rhododendron cinnabarinum subsp. xanthocodon Concatenans Group

Rhododendron cinnabarinum subsp. xanthocodon Concatenans Group

A couple of months ago, I spotted a rhododendron while walking along Lower Asian Way in UBC Botanical Garden's David C. Lam Asian Garden. The contrast between the upper blue-tinged young leaves and the lower older yellow-hued leaves was striking. When I approached, I saw that it was named Rhododendron cinnabarinum subsp. xanthocodon Concatenans Group. This evergreen species' foliage has a pleasant aroma that I would describe as spicy or cinnamon-like. Maybe the epithet made me think of cinnamon, and despite seeming like it describes the smell, it actually refers to the cinnabar-red flowers of some of the other subspecies that were first introduced into cultivation from the Himalayas in 1849.

Earlier in the year, fleshy yellow flowers adorned this plant. Plants that are attributed to subspecies xanthocodon have lilac to mustard-yellow flowers. Unfortunately though, I didn't photograph it when it was in bloom. However, you can see what they looked like (and a selection of other Rhododendron taxa we have here at the Garden) in this thread on the UBC Botanical Garden Forums, with photographs taken by Wendy Cutler. Worth noting, as an aside, is that the nectar from this species is reputed to be the most poisonous of the entire genus.

Jul 15, 2014: Carpinus fangiana

Carpinus fangiana

For the next week or so Daniel is away on holiday, so Eric La Fountaine and I will be looking after Botany Photo of the Day. I'm sure Daniel will be happy to share some photographs from his trip when he returns. In the meantime we have an image of Carpinus fangiana (synonym: Carpinus wilsoniana), or Fang's hornbeam. Although unregistered, the tree in this photograph was given the cultivar name 'Wharton's Choice'. I took this photograph about a month ago after this smooth-barked, semi-weeping species caught my eye only a few steps from the Garden's entrance. It stands out with its long, impressed-veined leaves and light-green, bracteate fruiting catkins. The male catkins grow up to 6cm, whereas the female catkins can be up to 50cm long (hence another common name, the monkeytail hornbeam).

Carpinus fangiana, of the Betulaceae, is a rare species native to central and western China. It grows on limestone hills in dense deciduous mixed forests with plenty of summer cloud cover and high rainfall. Carpinus fangiania has only recently been introduced into cultivation, and is now frequently planted as an ornamental. The plantings of this species here at the UBC Botanical Garden were only accessioned in 1986. The particular tree in the photo (as well as others here at the Garden) was grown from seed received from the Shanghai Botanical Garden that was wild collected in Hunan.

Fang Wen-Pei (1988-1983) lends his name to both the species' epithet, fangiana, as well as the common name, Fang's Hornbeam. Fang Wen-Pei was a Chinese botanist who collected over 20, 000 specimens, and described over 100 new species. He was well known for his work with the genera Acer and Rhododendron (see: Lancaster, R., Rix, M. 2011. 705. Carpinus fangiana. Curtis's Botanical Magazine. 28(2):103-110).

Jun 26, 2014: Eriophyllum lanatum

Eriophyllum lanatum

Woolly sunflower has been featured previously on Botany Photo of the Day (see Eriophyllum lanatum for an extended write-up and a photo of the whole plant). This photograph was taken last Friday evening in the Garden's Garry Oak Meadow and Woodland Garden. This area of the Garden is starting to look its summertime-brown, with most species drying and going to seed. Eriophyllum lanatum is one exception, with flowering just on the other side of peak. A few other members of the Asteraceae (or composite family) are also in bloom, as well as Allium cernuum (nodding onion) and some flowering shrubs (Holodiscus discolor, Sambucus caerulea, and what I thought was rather prolific this year, Philadelphus lewisii).

Jun 19, 2014: Weigela coraeensis

Weigela coraeensis

I've spent some time this week working with a contractor to improve the BPotD software, so commenting sign-in should now work again. There are still a few issues, but we'll be addressing these soon. I'm also looking at upgrading the server, which should somewhat resolve the absurd comment publishing times.

Taisha is the author and photographer for today's entry. She writes:

Weigela coraeensis, or Japanese weigela, is shown here from UBC Botanical Garden's David C. Lam Asian Garden. This shrubby species, like many other angiosperms, has the floral trait of flower colour change. This trait means the plant retains its flowers post-pollination, though the flowers are now rewardless and of a different colour (they also remain turgid). Colour change in flowers has been suggested to be a strategy evolved by plants to enhance pollinator attraction while minimizing visits to non-reproductive flowers. Others have posited that the rewardless colour-changed flowers encourage pollinators to leave and thereby reduce geitonogamous self-pollination.

Although the ability to change flower colour seems useful, this function does not occur in all angiosperms and often does not even occur between closely-related plant species. In a study by Suzuki & Ohashi from the University of Tsukuba, the researchers examined how floral traits and pollination differ between colour-changing and non-colour-changing species. They compared anthesis and floral retention, nectar productivity, daily petal colour changes, responses of floral traits to pollination levels, flower visitors, flower visitor choice behaviour, daily changes in pollen receipt and removal and seed production between Weigela coraeensis (colour-changing) and Weigela hortensis (non-colour changing) plants in a shared environment. Although a variety of insect pollinators visited the flowers of these two species, the researchers chose to focus on the primary visitors, bees.

In their study, Suzuki & Ohashi found that bees strongly preferred to visit the flowers of Weigela coraeensis, which lead to a greater proportional seed set for this species over Weigela hortensis. They attributed the bees preference to floral colour over nectar production, and suggested that the bees were capable of learning where to return by using the colour difference as a cue to choose nectar-rewarding flowers. Both Weigela species secreted nectar for 2-3 days before reducing production, and retained rewardless flowers for a few days afterward, although Weigela coraeensis's petals changed from white to red-purple with decreasing nectar production and Weigela hortensis maintained the same colour. When pollination was artificially enhanced, nothing changed for Weigela coraeensis. This suggested that these plants received sufficient pollination when openly pollinated. With Weigela hortensis, no change was initially observed, but after a few days flowers rapidly fell off before reducing nectar production.

When pollinators were artificially reduced, the duration of the coloured flowers of Weigela coraeensis increased for a day or two. This implied that flower retention of this species functions primarily to enlarge overall floral display to attract pollinators, rather than to compensate for insufficient pollen receipt. On the other hand, when pollinators were reduced, Weigela hortensis did not extend the retention of rewardless flowers. This suggested that open-pollinated flowers of this species were experiencing pollination difficulty at their site, and it was proposed that the extension of floral retention by Weigela hortensis was to compensate for the pollination difficulties, as insects hardly discriminated against aged flowers of this species.

The researchers also pointed out that they studied these two species in the same environment, despite differing natural habitats. Weigela coraeensis occurs in temperate regions below an altitude of 700m, whereas Weigela hortensis grows on snowy hills and mountains up to 1800m. They point out that in their natural habitat, Weigela hortensis plants may benefit from having non-colour changing flowers. This species has the ability to adjust display size when pollinators are rare, while limiting self-pollination when they are common. Additionally, the retention of rewardless flowers with invariable colour may help Weigela hortensis save metabolic (resource allocation to nectar production, and cost of producing anthocyanins) and/or ecological (increased geitonogamy caused by larger displays) costs--both of which are important when floral colour change does not greatly increase visits by experienced pollinators. At higher altitudes, conditions may either severely limit photosynthesis or pollinators may not be willing to take risks, potentially leaving Weigela hortensis to become more adaptive.

Suzuki & Ohashi further noted that these considerations suggest that the necessary conditions for the evolution of floral colour change would be favourable photosynthesis, intense competition for pollinators by neighbouring plants, and a dependence for visits by both experienced and inexperienced foragers. They also pointed out that the elevation difference between the habitats of these two species met these conditions (see: Suzuki, M.F. and K. Ohashi. 2014. How does floral colour-changing species differ from its non-colour changing congener? - A comparison of trait combinations and their effects on pollination. Functional Ecology. 28:549-560).

May 8, 2014: Plectritis congesta

Plectritis congesta

Despite it not showing up in any additional entries, I have been working on BPotD quite a bit the past couple weeks. I've applied the security patches for the software that runs the weblog, and with that came a bunch of work in updating templates. Unfortunately, this didn't resolve the issue of the absurdly-long comment publishing times, and I've been exploring other options to address this. The most direct option has involved a lot of bureaucratic waiting. Still waiting, but I can't forestall new entries any longer.

Today's entry was written and photographed by Taisha, who (in a bit of good news) will be staying with BPotD over the duration of the summer. She writes:

Plectritis congesta, or seablush, is a common wildflower in southwestern British Columbia. Its range extends south to southern California. This species, now in the Caprifoliaceae (formerly Valerianaceae), tends to grow on coastal bluffs in partly shaded spring-wet slopes from coastline to mid elevations. Seablush is a species associated in part with what Canadians call the Garry oak ecosystem. It often forms large showy patches--which we can see in today's photograph taken here at UBC Botanical Garden a couple weeks ago. An annual, Plectris congesta blooms in late spring with a cluster of small pink flowers sitting atop a fleshy square stem. The flowers provide nectar for native bees including bumblebees, but can also attract butterflies such as (in Oregon) the endangered Fender's blue butterfly (Plebejus icarioides fenderi) or (from Vancouver Island to Oregon) the rare Taylor's checkerspot butterfly (Euphydras editha taylori).

Apr 17, 2014: Meliosma oldhamii var. oldhamii

Both the author and photographer for today's entry, Taisha scribes:

A couple of weeks ago, the Garden Blog posted a Q&A with David C. Lam Asian Garden curator and horticulturalist, Andy Hill. One of the questions asked of Andy was to tell us about a plant in the Asian Garden we likely hadn't heard of before. Andy responded with worm-head trees, or Meliosma spp, of which we have a few species growing in the Garden (Andy provided a map of the three species planted here). The genus name Meliosma, he notes, comes from the Greek meli meaning honey, and -osma referring to smell. He also mentioned that the buds of the immature leaves look like many worms all huddled together before they develop and open in the spring.

When I read the blog entry I realized I too was one who overlooked the Meliosma trees, despite walking by one every time I come to the garden (see point 'A' on the map link posted above). Intrigued by the common name of worm-head tree I thought I would pop outside and see these leaf buds for myself. Personally, I have never seen any worms huddle in a way that looks like the immature leaves, but was curious if this was some sort of worm phenomenon and did a few Google image searches (by the way, "worm huddle", "worm cuddles", and/or "worm gang" were not useful, while "worms on trees" and "worms attack trees" yielded some results). See my photos from a week ago of the leaf buds of Meliosma oldhamii var. oldhamii and decide for yourself about a resemblance to worm-clusters.

Meliosma oldhamii var. oldhamii is a member of the Sabiaceae, but sometimes classified in its own family Meliosmaceae with other members of its genus. The species is native to southern China, southern Japan, and Korea. It is named in honour of Richard Oldham, a botanical collector from Kew who gathered a specimen from Korea in 1867. This species has compound leaves with seven to fifteen ovate-lanceolate leaflets that increase in size toward the terminal leaflet. Despite Meliosma referring to a honey-smell, this species has a faint aroma of sour milk radiating from the leaves, particularly in warm, humid weather. The worm-head tree has small cup-and-saucer flowers that are produced in upright panicles after the leaves have expanded. The inflorescences, often produced at the tips of the branches, are large--sometimes more than 40cm tall and across. In the late summer, reddish drupes follow the flowers and add to the appealing exotic and tropical appearance.

This species information on Meliosma oldhamii var. oldhamii has been adapted from text that will be provided in the upcoming Vancouver Trees App. Over 1100 taxa are featured in the app that Douglas and Daniel (and many others) have been working on these past few months. The app will not only provide information on the genera, species and cultivars of trees in Vancouver, but also include maps of where to see individual specimens, photos and a glossary.

Apr 15, 2014: Rhododendron sp.

Rhododendron sp.

I tagged along while Douglas was leading a walkabout with the Horticulture Training Program students this afternoon, camera in-hand. I'd say all of the students with cameras stopped to take a photograph of this rhododendron. So, I did too. It's been a goal this year to make sure I have my camera with me while walking in the Garden for other tasks, be it for safety inspections or interviews or general walk-abouts, and it is revealed in the quantity of photos so far this year: roughly 3500 (many of these are duplicates, though, to attempt to improve focus or composition). That's ahead of my usual pace in a calendar year (from 9000 to 10500 in each of the last 4 years), as I've not had any significant travels for photography yet.

This is an as-yet-unidentified specimen belonging to Rhododendron, subgenus Rhododendron, section Rhododendron, subsection Triflora. With approximately a thousand species in this highly ornamental genus, rhododendron taxonomists and specialists generally find it easiest to work with a hierarchical subgeneric (below genus level) taxonomy. Norman Todd, a Victoria (Canada) rhododendron enthusiast, wrote about subsection Triflora for the Victoria Rhododendron Society: T is for Triflora.

Apr 3, 2014: Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Pacific Spirit Regional Park

One of the things we don't emphasize enough at the Garden is the fact that we neighbour Pacific Spirit Regional Park. The cliffside forest to the west of the David C. Lam Asian Garden, the Garden's entrance and our parking lot provides biodiverse frames for our views of Georgia Strait and the distant Gulf Islands. This photograph, from our parking lot, shows what can happen (oh so very rarely) when one encounters a combination of late afternoon autumn light and a retreating (or advancing) fogbank directly above where the open water meets the cliff.

Ecological processes are difficult (for me) to photograph, but I do think this image at least partially illustrates the effect of vegetation on light attentuation--where the foliage is thickest, most of the light is absorbed or reflected. Thin or no foliage, of course, permits light to pass through. Figure 1 in Schäfer, K. V.R. & Dirk, V. W. (2011) The Physical Environment Within Forests. Nature Education Knowledge 2(12):5 shows how the intensity of light reaching the forest floor and lower levels of the forest declines with canopy height in an oak forest in the summertime.

The variable amount of light reaching the forest floor in different seasons can prompt niche differentiation, defined on Wikipedia as "the process by which natural selection drives competing species into different patterns of resource use or different niches". As an example, the floor of eastern North American hardwood forests, where one finds species such as Trillium grandiflorum flowering in the early spring, has a number of early spring-adapted plant species that complete growth and flowering before the leaves fully emerge on the canopy trees. The forest floor species that occupy the same physical space but instead grow and develop during the summer have to deal with the low intensity of light and generally drier soil conditions (but, conversely, do not have to be adapted for potential early spring conditions such as harsh frosts or snow). Occupying (potentially competing for) the same space but adapted to conditions associated with different times, spring- and summer- flowering species can be considered to niche differentiated.

Evergreen forests, like the second-growth forest of Pacific Spirit Regional Park, do not have the same springtime phenomenon. However, one can still observe the effects of light attenuation by paying close attention to the changes in species composition as one transits from the edge of the forest to the core (as one might also observe in forests bordering clearcuts, or riverbanks in the tropics). High light levels at the forest edge generally promote an elevated diversity of shrubs and herbaceous plants, whereas the forest core tends to have fewer of these types. Do note that it is not necessarily an elevated diversity of native species, as invasives tend to be better competitors in these edge sites (at least early on).

I had promised to share photograph details from time to time. This image is actually 3 photographs composited together, using a technique known as tone mapping, which "addresses the problem of strong contrast reduction from the scene radiance to the displayable range while preserving the image details and color appearance important to appreciate the original scene content". In other words, it is a high dynamic range, or HDR, image. The three photographs were exposure bracketed, so one underexposed, one was overexposed, and one was somewhere in the middle. These were then combined in software that algorithmically composites the three into a single image, essentially drawing from the highlights of the underexposed image (so that the photo is not entirely blown out), the shadows of the overexposed image (to preserve detail in the shadows) and pulling both of these closer to the middle exposure of the photo. I'm oversimplifying, but that's the gist of it.

HDR images have a poor reputation among many in the digital image world, with the critique that most applications of the technique exceed the boundaries of believability. If done subtly, though, the tool is useful for overcoming the limitations of a single exposure on a camera while still preserving what was seen by the photographer. I hope that today's photograph falls into the believable group, but feel free to disagree.

Mar 26, 2014: Rhododendron praevernum

Rhododendron praevernum

Better late than never for an entry, I suppose. It was a long day working on an app we're getting close to completing (sorry, not a BPotD app) -- more details on that soon. In the meantime, enjoy this photograph and write-up, both by Taisha. She writes:

This photo of Rhodoendron praevernum is from an unnamed selection of the species made by noted Rhododendron enthusiast, Del James. I took this photo a couple of weeks ago on March 7th, when the plant was in the midst of blossoming in the David C. Lam Asian Garden. This species opens its flowers earlier than quite a few others locally--which makes sense when thinking about its epithet, praevernum. Daniel and Douglas today reminded me that vernum pertains to spring (the Latin word for spring being vernus), while prae is Latin for "before".

To reinforce the notion that this is an early bloomer, Daniel has photographs of this species (perhaps even the same plant) from February of 2003. If you're interested in learning more about the rhododendrons of UBC Botanical Garden, see the January 2010 issue (20:1) of Davidsonia (PDF) where Douglas goes into detail about some of the (approximately) 450 taxa grown in the Garden. It includes a mention of today's plant. To see a regional bloom calendar for rhododendrons, check out "Twelve Months of Flowering Rhododendrons" (PDF) from Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens.

Feb 21, 2014: Zinnia grandiflora

Zinnia grandiflora

Taisha is both the author and photographer for today's entry (though I made a crop of her original photograph, which is here). She writes:

Zinnia grandiflora is also known as Rocky Mountain zinnia, plains zinnia, or prairie zinnia. I took this photo late last August in UBC's E. H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden. I wanted to feature something from UBC Botanical Garden, and settled on an older photo as most of the flowers I've photographed at this time of year have been written about previously, like Eranthis hyemalis and Galanthus nivalis 'Viridapice'. To follow what else is in bloom in the Garden, several people post updates to the Talk About UBC Botanical Garden forum.

According to Flower Breeding and Genetics (Neil Anderson, ed.), Zinnia belongs to the tribe Heliantheae within Asteraceae, and consists of 19 species of annual herbs or perennial shrubs. The centre for diversity of the genus is Mexico, with species mainly distributed throughout North America. One exception is Zinnia peruviana, which has a native range from Arizona to Argentina. Many annual zinnias are cultivated for use as bedding plants and cut flowers. Linnaeus named the genus in honor of German anatomist and botanist, Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759).

Zinnia grandiflora is a perennial member of the genus. Plants grow in small mounds low to the ground, spreading vegetatively by creeping rhizomes. Yellow flowers cover the mat of needle-like leaves when it's in flower. Thriving in gravelly soil without much need for water, this species is found growing wild in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

Feb 13, 2014: Helleborus x hybridus (Royal Heritage Strain)

Helleborus x hybridus (Royal Heritage Strain)

Taisha is the author and photographer for today's entry. She writes:

Helleborus x hybridus (Royal Heritage Strain) is a welcome harbinger of spring here at UBC Botanical Garden, blooming now in the European Woodland section of the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden. Because they often flower in mid-winter, members of this genus are commonly named Christmas or Lenten roses. They are not true roses, belonging instead to the buttercup family or Ranunculaceae--a family containing many early-spring flowering species.

Helleborus is a genus of about twenty herbaceous perennial species, most of which are grown for their ornamental value. Helleborus x hybridus (Royal Heritage Strain) is a hybrid strain of seed with a wide variety of colours and tones in the sepals of the nodding blossoms. Leathery serrated leaves subtend the flowers and are spread along the thick stem.

Enjoying the sights of early blooms is one thing, but one can also wonder about the reasons behind early-spring blossoms. Phenology in plants is the study of lifecycle events (like flowering) and how the timing of such events are influenced by climate and environmental conditions. These conditions could include such things as temperature, length of day, elevation, disturbance, and competition from neighbours. Despite the potential drawbacks to blooming early such as tissue damage from fluctuating and sub-zero temperatures or few active pollinators, there are some adaptive advantages to flowering a little earlier than other adjacent plants. For example, early blooming plants may have increased exposure to light in the early days of the year before deciduous trees leaf out and other species grow up around it. This is particularly advantageous for hellebores, which are generally woodland species.

With regard to pollinators in the late winter or early spring: yes, it is likely that only a few are active. However, those few only have a limited amount of flowers to choose from and visit, so the advantage to being an early-spring flowering species is that there are few other competitors attempting to attract pollinators. For Helleborus spp., the number of insect visits (often bumblebees or Bombus spp.) is primarily determined by flower display and density. Evidence also suggests that early blossoms favor out-crossing. With fewer overall blossoms in early spring, pollinators must travel greater distances and therefore disperse genes over greater distances. Although the flowers of Helleborus are functionally hermaphroditic (protogynous) and self-compatible, a little pollen from a flower farther away may result in progeny that have additional frost- or disease-resistance.

Feb 3, 2014: Coreopsis rosea

Taisha is both the photographer and writer for today's entry (photos are from last autumn). She writes:

Coreopsis rosea, or the pink tickseed, is a perennial species in the Asteraceae. This taxon is found on sandy shores or marsh edges of coastal eastern North America, in three disjunct groupings: 1) Nova Scotia, Canada; 2) Massachusetts to Delaware, USA; and 3) South Carolina & Georgia, USA. It is also an ornamental species of gardens. Plants bear composite inflorescences, with pink (to white) ray flowers surrounding yellow disc florets. Stems are 10-60 cm in height and lined with a series of oppositely-arranged linear-lanceolate leaves. The dry fruits (cypselae) are oblong without wings or pappi (modified calyces).

The pink tickseed is globally rare. In Canada, it is a federally endangered species (latest assessment: 2013), occurring only at the northern limit of the plant community termed the Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora (ACPF) (a region which extends south to Florida). This floral group is threatened mainly due to habitat loss along the American eastern seaboard and adjacent Canada. In Nova Scotia, dams are of particular concern, as their placement often corresponds with watershed lakes that serve as habitat for species of the ACPF. Over half of the most important shorelines on watershed lakes in Nova Scotia have been lost as ACPF habitat. As Coreopsis rosea is at its northernmost limit in Nova Scotia, it is thought that length of growing season may be a determining factor for its distribution and abundance, as well as other species in the community.

In a study by Lusk & Reekie from the Acadia University Department of Biology, the researchers sought to test the effects of length of growing season (particularly with respect to hydrology and flooded conditions) on species from the ACPF including Coreopsis rosea. The hope was to gain a better understanding of the limiting variables affecting this group to better manage and maintain the plant community.

Beginning at the end of June 2004, Lusk & Reekie transplanted Coreopsis rosea (along with Hydrocotyle umbellata) at three lakes with different hydrological regimes within southwestern Nova Scotia's Tusket River system. The transplants were planted at several depths on three different occasions using four week intervals. The researchers visited the plants every two weeks, only ceasing over the winter months. Water levels, plant survival, flowering, and plant growth were measured, observed and recorded. At the end of August 2005, the transplants were harvested, dried, and weighed. It was found that transplant date and depth both affected the biomass and flowering of Coreopsis rosea with results varying at each of the lakes. In general, transplants planted higher on the shoreline and earlier in the year were both larger and more copiously flowering than those planted lower along the lakeshores or later in the year.

With this information, Lusk & Reekie suggested that dam reservoirs can provide appropriate habitat for certain Coastal Plain species if water levels are managed. They proposed that lowering water levels of reservoirs in the spring and during times of high precipitation would increase growing season and decrease flood stress. The authors also suggested to raise water levels in the autumn to prevent cold damage. Lastly, the researchers suggested their study can be used to address gaps in the ACPF recovery plan (PDF), in order to better help protect and conserve at-risk species within this group (see: Lusk, J, and EG Reekie. 2007. The effect of growing season length and water level fluctuations on growth and survival of two rare species and at risk Atlantic Coastal Plain flora species, Coreopsis rosea and Hydroctyle umbellata. Canadian Journal of Botany. 85(2):119-131).

Jan 28, 2014: Stauntonia hexaphylla

Another entry from Taisha today. She writes:

Stauntonia hexaphylla is a member of the Lardizabalaceae. The photographs show some of the fruit produced by the plants here at UBC Botanical Garden this past autumn (additional photographs of Stauntonia hexaphylla available via Wikimedia Commons). Daniel's longest lens was used to photograph the fruits on the vine in the third photograph, since no fruits were lower than ~8m (26 ft.) above ground level.

It took a while before the Lardizabalaceae was proposed as its own family in 1821, given that the first member of the family was described and published in 1779. Prior to the 1821 publication, species were placed in the Dioscoreaceae, Menispermaceae and even Fabaceae. Stauntonia was first recognized as its own genus in 1817 (published 1818) by De Candolle and thought to be closely related to Lardizabala for many years. Recently, it has been recognized that Stauntonia is more closely related to the genus Akebia (e.g., Akebia quinata). For a recent account of the family, see Christenhusz. 2012. An overview of Lardizabalaceae. Curtis's Botanical Magazine. 29(3):235-276.

Stauntonia hexaphylla is native to most of Japan, although is now cultivated and found in gardens around the world. Here at UBC Botanical Garden, we have three or four individual plants in the David C. Lam Asian Garden. According to Douglas Justice (UBCBG's Associate Director, Collections & Horticulture), these twining vines have flowered regularly and copiously over the last 15 years or so. However, 2013 was the first year that fruit were noticed, despite multiple clones and plenty of pollinators visiting the bell-shaped flowers at anthesis.

Douglas has a few hypotheses for the surprise of the small purple edible fruit (I tried a bite of one--the texture of the flesh is a little like dragonfruit except slimier, and has a sweet, yet subtle, flavour). Douglas mentions that this species isn't particularly hardy, and there could be a developmental problem associated with fruit formation at cooler temperatures here in Vancouver. Other possibilities he suggests include plants in the garden possibly not producing female flowers until now (Stauntonia hexaphylla is typically monoecious), or viable pollen has not been produced in the past. For now, the rare occurrence of fruits on the vines here at UBC is still a mystery, with more investigation and observation needed to determine why they may have appeared this past autumn.

Nov 28, 2013: Lysichiton camtschatcensis

Lysichiton camtschatcensis

Lysichiton contains only two species: the yellow-spathed Lysichiton americanus (and here and here), and today's species, the creamy-white-spathed Lysichiton camtschatcensis.

This photograph was taken in mid-May this past year, when the late afternoon light was setting the leaves aglow. Unlike its North American cousin, white skunk cabbage or Asian skunk cabbage (or, perhaps white swamp lantern) is not consistently malodourous; some plants have even been reported as sweet-smelling. The cluster of plants in the David C. Lam Asian Garden have little scent compared to the other species that can be found in the BC Rainforest Garden. Despite this, they still manage to attract fly pollinators (myophily). If the fly in this photograph looks a bit fuzzy and distorted to you, it is actually perched on the opposite side of the leaf and only its shadow is evident.

Like Lysichiton americanus, Lysichiton camtschatcensis prefers wet habitats along streams, ponds, or high water-table soils. As well, it also grows in extensive colonies. This species is native to northern Japan and northeastern Russia.

For gardening information and additional photographs, see Missouri Botanical Garden's factsheet on Lysichiton camtschatcensis.

Oct 30, 2013: Acer palmatum

During Monday's class with the students in the Horticulture Training Program, we visited the Nitobe Memorial Garden. Although I primarily teach the introductory plant sciences course, I also find the time to explain the history of the Garden and its components. Today's photographs are both cropped versions from the same source image, which was composed quickly and taken handheld after the tour was completed.

Acer palmatum, or Japanese maple, is native to both Japan and South Korea. The plant in today's photograph is possibly a cultivar, but if it is, that information has been seemingly lost sometime during the past five decades. Like many Japanese species, it was first described and published scientifically by Carl Peter Thunberg, a Swedish botanist who visited Japan for a span of 14 months in 1775-1776. It should be noted that Thunberg didn't have the luxury of traveling the countryside to botanize (due to restrictions on movements of foreigners in Japan), so his collections were limited to areas that typically had some measure of cultivation. Indeed, he published many species with the specific epithet japonica, though they were actually of Chinese origin and introduced in Japan. A search on the International Plant Names Index shows over 4700 records of species named by Thunberg, but there is some duplication of names; perhaps the true number is around 2000.

Read more about Japanese maples in gardening situations via the Royal Horticultural Society: Acer palmatum, a factsheet from North Carolina State University: Acer palmatum, and Missouri Botanical Garden: Acer palmatum.

Botany resource link: in case there isn't a BPotD entry published tomorrow for Hallowe'en, Spooky Orchids via the North American Orchid Conservation Center displays thirteen North American native orchid species with an accompanying blurb.

Oct 22, 2013: E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden

E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden

For nearly the past two weeks, the weather in Vancouver has been foggy. While much of the city has been subject to foggy mornings and sunny afternoons (most days), the Garden has been blanketed in fog almost the entire time thanks to the Garden's proximity to the water.

I find it difficult to photograph the Garden as a landscape, because there are often human structures or elements lurking in the frame: a residential tower, barbed-wire fence, stadium lights (you can see these in this Google Pathview from near where this was photographed), plant labels (I see at least two in this photo), sprinkler heads and street lights. The fog helps to mask some of those visual distractions, at the expense of clarity in distant objects.

Oct 18, 2013: Malus 'Okana'

Malus 'Okana'

Again, Taisha is both the writer and photographer. She writes:

The leaves are falling, the fall colours are vibrant, and the fruit is for the picking-- particularly the apple! This upcoming weekend of October 19-20 is the annual Apple Festival, held by the Friends of the Garden (FOGs). With all the hard work from the FOGs, staff, and other volunteers, this year's event is sure to be a success! Some forecasts show sun for Vancouver over the weekend, which is also pleasant considering last year we nearly were left bobbing for apples in the rain!

The Apple Festival is a family event for all ages in celebration of Malus. Each year, 44 000 lbs or 20 000 kilograms of apples are sold, including both heritage and newer varieties. Not only will apple fruits be for sale, but attendees can also see demonstrations on grafting and pressing, buy a grafted-onto-rootstock tree for the backyard or patio, or taste up to 60 varieties of apples in the apple-tasting tent. One of the highlights this year is the appearance and sale of the newly-named variety Malus 'Okana'.

The 'Okana' apple (PDF) was selected by David Evans of Oliver, British Columbia. Evans first discovered the 'Okana' apple tree among a grove of Malus 'Spartan' in 1998. It was bulked up vegetatively by grafting, and (as of 2005) 900 trees of 'Okana' were being grown on M26 rootstock. The selected traits for this cultivar were colour, sweet flavour, and ease of harvest. /p>

I did try this charming red apple after photographing it. The bright white flesh was sweet, hardly tart, and slightly acidic. It is exceptionally crisp and quite juicy. A very satisfying apple, and if you are local, you can try it for yourself this weekend--the Apple Festival runs both Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4pm.

Also, after checking out the main events at the Apple Festival, you may want to pop over to UBC Farm. Along with their on-site booth at the Apple Festival, the Farm will be offering tours of their Heritage Orchard on Saturday at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm.

Daniel adds: Here are some of the apple cultivars previously featured on BPotD: Malus 'Elstar', Malus 'Jonagold', Malus 'Melrose', Malus SPA493, now marketed as 'Salish', Malus 'Cox's Orange Pippin', Malus 'Creston', and Malus 'Rubinette'.

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