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Feb 13, 2015: Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii

Wildflower reports coming out of Washington state (via Oregon Wildflowers) note that one of the earliest flowers of the year, Douglas' grasswidow, is blooming along the Catherine Creek Trail. These photographs were taken three years ago at the same site in mid-March.

The first photograph displays the typical colour of the tepals, while the second image shows a nearby paler variant. Colours of the tepals can range from white to dark-purple. Though they are most often solidly-coloured, they can also display some variegation. Paul Slichter, who runs the Wildflowers of the Columbia River Gorge, has extensive photo-documentation of tepal colour variation in the species: Olsynium douglasii. Note that Paul also took photographs from the Catherine Creek site in early March of 2012 and observed a white-flowered variant, which I suspect had finished blooming by the time I visited.

Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii has been previously featured on Botany Photo of the Day, with an entry that discusses the name and a photograph of wild-collected material grown here at UBC Botanical Garden. I suspect it will be at least a couple weeks before we see any hint of flowers from our plants.

The Burke Museum also has additional images: Olsynium douglasii, while the Garry Oaks Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT) has propagation information and gardening conditions: Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii.

Dec 18, 2014: Arnica latifolia

Arnica latifolia

This photograph is from several summers ago. I hope I've identified the plant correctly. Arnica latifolia is commonly known as mountain arnica or broadleaf arnica. It is widely distributed in western North America from Alaska to northern California and east as far as Wyoming and Colorado. As one common name implies, it is generally a species of mid- to high-elevations. Habitats where it can be found vary, ranging from forests to rocky slopes to meadows.

Identification of Arnica latifolia can be problematic, as plants can be similar in appearance to Arnica cordifolia. The latter species, though, has pubescent leaves and achenes, larger capitula (flower heads) and a tendency to grow as single plants. Complicating the matter of identification even more is that the two species hybridize, and, to quote the Illustrated Flora of British Columbia, "numerous intermediates may be encountered".

Digging a little deeper thanks to the late Dr. Gerald Straley's 1980 Ph.D. thesis, Systematics of Arnica, Straley asserts that Arnica latifolia likely evolved from Arnica cordifolia, and, "The close relationship of these two species can be seen in numerous populations which combine many of the morphological characters of both species". In turn, Straley also notes that Arnica latifolia is likely the progenitor species of the serpentine endemic Arnica cernua and perhaps a hybrid parent of the subalpine-alpine Arnica gracilis.

Something else I will have to keep in mind for future identifications in the field thanks to Dr. Straley is that Arnica cordifolia has leaves that are distinctly fragrant when bruised, compared with little to no fragrance in Arnica latifolia (now I have to wait until next summer to try this...).

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).

Oct 3, 2014: Calluna vulgaris

An ultimately unsuccessful search for a site where I could permitlessly collect some Gentiana douglasiana led me to the Tofino Airport on the west coast of Vancouver Island (the gentian was to be for a phylogenetic study of the Gentianaceae being done by Dr. Jim Pringle and colleagues). Like a few other sites in the Tofino-Ucluelet corridor, the naturalized Calluna vulgaris, or heather, was present in abundance.

Heather is native to much of Europe (e.g., the British Isles) as well as small parts of Asia and Africa. In addition to portions of Canada, it has also established in the USA, Australia, and New Zealand. While the site of today's photographs was a highly disturbed area, in New Zealand at least it has become a major pest of native grassy tussocks within some of their national parks (also see the Global Invasive Species Database). Contrarily, as noted in the first link re: British Isles, heather is in decline in part of its native range due to habitat loss and heavy grazing.

This low-growing shrub (typically to 50cm, rarely to 1m) is generally associated with acidic soils (like much of its plant family, the Ericaceae). It can be the dominant species in a plant community, such as the eponymous heathlands of Europe. Heather is a familiar species to many (vulgaris means "common"), with a long history of cultivation (hundreds of extant cultivars) and many human uses, including as a predecessor to hops in the brewing of beer. Perhaps that will be the eventual fate of these plants in the photographs, given the expansion of microbreweries regionally. It may be a novel way to distinguish one's beers, though the Wikipedia entry does make the uncited assertion that a hallucination-inducing ergot-like fungus may infect leaves and thus contaminate the beer. Psychid-ale-ic.

Sep 17, 2014: Juniperus maritima

Bent, but not broken, this seaside juniper is one of a small population of at most a couple dozen individuals growing in Washington's Deception Pass State Park. These particular plants persisting against wind and saltspray form an atypical ecotype, as no other population is known to grow in this form and in a sand dune habitat. Typically, Juniperus maritima is an upright tree of the rocky margins of water bodies. The largest two known populations of several hundred plants each are in lands bordering Washington's Puget Sound (another common name is Puget Sound juniper), but its range extends northward into lands adjacent to British Columbia's Strait of Georgia. If geography is to be incorporated into a common name, a more inclusive moniker could be argued (e.g., Salish Sea juniper).

Juniperus maritima was scientifically described and published in 2007 (with a type specimen collected from Brentwood Bay, British Columbia). It may be hard to believe that a tree species near large urban areas of North America could escape the notice of botanists until 2007, but part of the reason for this is its extremely close resemblance to the Rocky Mountain juniper, Juniperus scopulorum. To be fair, Arthur Lee Jacobson (in his excellent write-up about Juniperus maritima) points out that the eminent botanist Leo Hitchcock wrote (in 1969): "Plants from the islands of Puget Sound appear to differ somewhat from those [Juniperus scopulorum] east of the Cascades in having the juvenile foliage longer-persistent and in producing cones [berries] that are less fleshy and rather consistently 1-seeded and it is believed not improbable that they will prove to constitute a distinctive race of the species." It did take nearly 4 decades for that distinctiveness to be recognized scientifically, with convincing data coming from chemistry (terpenoid analysis) and genetics (ITS sequences).

More on the subtle physical differences between Juniperus maritima and Juniperus scopulorum can be gleaned from Botanical Electronic News #387 (January 17, 2008): Juniperus maritima, the seaside juniper, a new species from Puget Sound and Georgia Strait, North America. The original paper is available as well: Adams, R.P. 2007. Juniperus maritima, the seaside juniper, a new species from Puget Sound, North America (PDF). Phytologia 89(3):263-283). Additional photographs of this species can be seen via E-Flora BC (Juniperus maritima) or the Burke Museum Herbarium's image collection: Juniperus maritima.

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 28, 2014: Welwitschia mirabilis

The second-last in the plants and biomes of South Africa series is featured today. Taisha writes:

Today, we take a slight detour from South Africa, as this species is not present in the country. Welwitschia is found only in the Namib Desert of Namibia. However, the Namib Desert slightly extends into South Africa where it forms the country's sole area of desert biome. The Namib Desert is one of the smallest and oldest deserts in the world. I chose Welwitschia as it has not been featured on Botany Photo of the Day before and it was not easy to find a plant species in the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool to represent this biome. Still, this species is an interesting representative for the desert. Daniel contributed these photographs of Welwitschia mirabilis from Huntington Botanical Garden.

As implied above, the desert biome occurs in only a small part of northwestern South Africa, primarily the Springbokvlakte area of the Richtersveld. The altitude is between 600 and 1600 m, which results in a slightly cooler climate than other true deserts (though it remains more climatically extreme than the succulent Karoo and the Nama-Karoo biomes). Temperatures can be hot, up to 45°C. Similarly extreme, temperatures can drop over 20°C from day to night. Winter temperatures can be as low as -12°C. Fog from the nearby Atlantic Ocean accounts for much of the precipitation, although there is some variable summer rainfall (~10-80mm annually). True deserts are largely sandy with low organic material in their soils.

The vegetation within the desert biome is typically annual grasses and other plants. After a season with rarely abundant rains, short annual grasses may grow, whereas in most years the annual plants persist as seeds. Some perennials may survive, particularly in areas associated with local concentrations of water.

Welwitschia mirabilis is a monotypic species of the Welwitschiaceae under the plant Division Gnetophyta--a small group of seed plants that have intermediate characteristics between gymnosperms and angiosperms. The oldest specimens of Welwitschia in the Namib Desert are thought to be more than 1500 years old, and recent fossil evidence suggest that Welwitschia was present during the Cretaceous (~112 million years ago). Some photos of the plant in habitat are available via Wikimedia Commons: the biggest known plant and a couple plants in the landscape.

This dioecious (male and female individual plants; male and female cones are shown above) evergreen species has a woody unbranched stem that is shaped like an inverted cone. The stem is surrounded by a bi-lobed crown of green photosynthetic tissue. There are only two opposite, persistent, ribbon-like leaves that grow continuously from a basal meristem and die off at their tips over time. Unique among all extant plant species, after the first two leaves form, the terminal bud dies and the apical meristematic activity is transferred to the periphery and base of the leaves. In other words, it has ever-growing persistent leaves, with the leaf ends being the oldest part of the leaf.

Aug 13, 2014: Saxifraga flagellaris subsp. setigera

These photographs were taken during my mid-July field work in northern British Columbia. Sometimes evocatively called spider saxifrage, another common name for Saxifraga flagellaris is stoloniferous saxifrage. The spidery stolons are a means for vegetative propagation, with genetically identical individuals to the parent sometimes becoming established at the growing tips. This can be considered an adaptive advantage for growing in alpine environments, where a preceding winter with heavy snowfall or an abbreviated wet, cold summer can limit the amount of time a plant has to grow and reproduce. The presence of additional clones can be predicted to increase the chance of reproductive success (through higher quantity of flowers) and the year-to-year survival of parent plants. Being myophilic (fly-pollinated) like many other high-latitude/high-altitude flowering plant species also helps, as flies are abundant and active in Arctic and alpine environments.

The Flora of North America notes 8 subspecies of Saxifraga flagellaris are recognized, and suggests that subspecies setigera is native to northwestern North America, Siberia & the Russian Far East, and Svalbard. Other references, such as the Intermountain Flora, throw out the idea of using subspecies for this taxon, citing few geographic correlations. To me, today's plants do look different compared to the US Rocky Mountain subspecies, Saxifraga flagellaris subsp. crandallii, but it isn't enough to compare a few individuals to determine whether similar-appearing plants should be lumped into one taxon or split into many. One might be looking at the extremes on either end of a range or cline, so it is necessary for taxonomists to do exhaustive comparisons of the characters of herbarium specimens in order to form a scientific assertion that will stand the test of time. Clearly, disagreement still remains.

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.

Aug 5, 2014: Oxalis oregana

Oxalis oregana

Here's a photo of Oxalis oregana, or redwood sorrel. I took this photo in May, within the California coast redwood forest of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This was during an ecology field course.

Oxalis oregana, of the Oxalidaceae, is native to coastal British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. This perennial groundcover grows in dense carpets under the shaded canopy of redwood and Douglas-fir forests. Redwood sorrel is a species that prefers shade--photosynthesizing at light levels of 1/200th of full sunlight. When it is too bright, the three heart-shaped leaves fold downward until it is shady again.

Not seen in this photograph are the delicate, pink to white flowers with five petals. This species also contains oxalic acid, leaving the edible leaves with a sour and tangy taste. This hints at the genus name Oxalis coming from the Greek oxys, meaning "sour".

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 30, 2014: Gentiana douglasiana

This past weekend, I attended Botany BC for the fourth time. We explored areas around Metchosin and Sooke, where plant communities ranged from beaches to montane forests and from bogs to Quercus garryana woodlands without traveling significant distances. On Saturday, I participated in one of the hikes along the San Juan and Jordan ridges, where we walked mostly through montane forest interspersed with open bogs. One of the species I had hoped to see again at these boggy sites was this diminutive annual species commonly known as the swamp gentian. This would be the (undocumented) southern extent of its range in Canada. To the south, this species is known only from a couple counties in Washington (where it is a state-sensitive species). However, the species is much more common in British Columbia and Alaska, though it is almost always found within 50km (30 miles) from the coast. Two exceptions are north of Anchorage from sites in and around Denali National Park, and, intriguingly, a record from the extreme southeast corner of British Columbia at Procter Lake. This suggests that Montanan, Idahoan and Albertan botanists should keep an eye out for it in adjacent districts.

Unfortunately, I didn't spot the gentian on our field trip (and am uncertain if anyone else did either). These photographs were taken last year at the same time of year, but are from Pure Lake Provincial Park on Graham Island (Haida Gwaii), where I spent a couple contented hours in the boggy environs. I believe it was the first time I encountered the species, though I have to note that one of the benefits of getting older and forgetting what I've seen in the past is the joy of discovering something new for the second or third time.

Gentiana douglasiana is a sun-loving wetland species. It is a small curiosity, perhaps, that it is an annual life-cycle species growing in a stressful environment. I more often associate bogs with slow-growing species that do a long-term investment in the maintenance of a persistent individual (while annual species instead invest in many seeds that are dormant in the harshest conditions). In order for an annual species to persist in an always-stressful environment, one supposes that it would need reproductive certainty from year to year, and that seems to be borne out. In the early 1980s, Sheila Douglas studied floral colour patterns and pollinator attraction in bog habitats (in the nearby Drizzle Lake Ecological Reserve). She classified the pollinators into 12 loose groups. Of the 14 plant species she investigated, Gentiana douglasiana was the only annual species, and it had the highest number of her artificial groups visiting the species: 9 of the 12. This hints that Gentiana douglasiana evolved to be a generalist with respect to pollinators, perhaps to guarantee pollinator visitation and presumably higher reproductive success every year. It would of course need further study (see: S. Douglas. 1983. Floral color patterns and pollinator attraction in a bog habitat. Canadian Journal of Botany. 61(12):3494-3501. 10.1139/b83-394 ).

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).

Jun 14, 2014: Filipendula occidentalis

While Taisha was helping with the BC Butterfly Atlas workshop last weekend, I was attending the annual meeting of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. I had the privilege of being on a field trip that had special access to private property surrounding Angora Peak. We observed several state-sensitive / rare / locally-endemic plant species, including Filipendula occidentalis. Other biological treasures in the area included salamanders, long-tailed frogs (didn't get to see the one we encountered before it hid) and petaltail dragonflies (too early in the season to see).

This member of the rose family is only known from Washington's Pacific County and Oregon's Clatsop, Tillamook, Lincoln and Polk counties (and maybe Hood River, seemingly). It is one of two Filipendula species native to North America; the other is Filipendula rubra, commonly known as queen of the prairie. Filipendula occidentalis has a similar common name, queen of the forest. It's a bit of a misnomer, as the species is more associated with either bedrock crevices with near-permanent water seeps or the high-water mark of rocky-shored rivers rather than forest proper. I suppose queen of the seeps isn't acceptable.

The third photograph shows the habitat, as well as some look-alikes from a distance. The angular pipe-brush-like inflorescences of Aruncus dioicus are quickly distinguishable from the Filipendula, but at the distance this photograph was taken, the flowering heads of Heracleum maximum mask the Filipendula exceptionally well (hint: the Filipendula occidentalis is the lowermost cluster of white flowers). We were extremely fortunate to see any plants in flower, as they typically flower in late June / early July in this locale. I was only expecting to see foliage, so the flowers were one of two botanical highlights of the trip.

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 23, 2014: Dalles Mountain Road

Here are several photographs from this past weekend's trip to the Columbia Gorge area east of Portland, Oregon. To read more about the taxonomically-difficult Columbia Gorge lupine, see this entry on "Lupinus onustus" from 2007. The name still doesn't seem to be resolved seven years later. For example, the Oregon Flora Atlas uses Lupinus latifolius × Lupinus sericeus, as does Paul Slichter, but the Burke Museum uses Lupinus latifolius var. thompsonianus. The Balsamorhiza is a slightly less difficult to identify and name properly, though Paul Slichter describes some of the challenges with these as well in his Balsamroots of the Columbia Gorge page. I'm fairly confident that the ones in the close-up photo are of Balsamorhiza deltoidea, though I am now less certain about my identification in this 2007 entry.

And, I photographed the Easter Bunny.

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.


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