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Results tagged “written by claire”

May 5, 2011: Thalictrum thalictroides

Thalictrum thalictroides

Claire is the author of today's entry:

Marie Viljoen (M Viljoen@Flickr | Marie's blog) from Brooklyn, NY, provided this photograph of Thalictrum thalictroides, taken in early April. Thank you again, Marie!

Thalictrum thalictroides, or rue-anemone, is a native of the eastern USA, found from the Great Lakes to northern Florida, and west as far as Oklahoma. Originally, Thalictrum thalictroides was named as Anemone thalictroides by Linnaeus. In 1839, Édouard Spach placed it in a genus all to its own - Anemonella (a name that persists in most modern references). Spach asserted that its tuberous roots and umbelliform inflorescence were a few of the characters that separated it from Anemone. The species was later redescribed by Boivin and Eames and placed in Thalictrum, which modern molecular work also supports. It is easy to understand, however, why Linnaeus originally thought Anemone, with its flowers on plants to 20cm tall appearing much like petite anemones. Thalictrum thalictroides is an early spring bloomer, and the rust-coloured leaves at emergence will eventually turn green towards the start of summer.

May 4, 2011: Eugenia uniflora

Eugenia uniflora

Today's entry was written by Claire:

This photograph of a profusion of Eugenia uniflora fruits, shared by 3Point141@Flickr, was taken at Hunt Grove, Merritt Island, Florida, USA. Thank you 3Point141!

These Surinam cherries (or Brazilian cherries or pitanga in Brazil or a number of other common names), belong to the myrtle family. The Myrtaceae is known for evergreen shrubs and trees containing essential oils (think eucalyptus trees). Eugenia uniflora is a native of tropical South America, but the species has been widely cultivated for both its ornamental value and edibility. Areas of the world where it has been cultivated include Florida (as a common hedge plant), China, India and southeast Asia. Eugenia uniflora fruits are easily eaten raw and can also be made into jams and even distilled into liquor. The seeds are highly aromatic and resinous and the woody stems can contain up to 28.5% tannins in the bark.

Apr 28, 2011: Colus pusillus

Colus pusillus

Today's entry was written by Claire:

This vibrant photograph of the fungus Colus pusillus was taken by andrikkos (andrikkos_from_droushia@Flickr). Much thanks andrikkos! I was intrigued by the two other posted photographs from andrikkos as well: Colus pusillus 2 and Colus pusillus 3.

Belonging to Phallaceae, or the stinkhorn family, the fruiting bodies produce sticky masses of fetid smelling spores called gleba. The foul smell is intended to attract flies and other detritus-loving organisms that aid in dispersal when the sticky spores coat the insect's bodies. This particular fungus bears the common name craypot stinkhorn, and the visible fruiting parts, like others in Phallaceae, originate from an egg-shaped structure that emerges from the forest floor. Additional detailed pictures of this fungus are on Michael Kuo's MushroomExpert.com: Colus pusillus.

Colus pusillus bears its gleba on the pileus, the underside of the fragile receptaculum (the cage-like structure - on a common mushroom-type structure this would be the underside of the cap). Colus pusillus is thought to only occur in Australia but the few species described to this genus are widespread throughout the world. From Mycobank, here is the original description of Colus pusillus.

If you know more about this Australian fungus, please feel free to correct or comment!

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.

Apr 12, 2011: Anemone pratensis

Anemone pratensis

Preparing for the launch of the redesigned web site has been taking all of my work time and more, so apologies about the too-seldom BPotD entries (particularly since it's spring in many places). As you may note, the www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org web site name is no more, and everything has been moved over to www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca domain. No links to the old site name should be broken, however -- it should be a seamless transition. In anticipation of upgrading the BPotD software to the latest version for the redesign, the "On This Day" feature has been removed as it is not available for that version. However, I've plans to replace it with "date tags", so if you click on "april-12" in the tag list below the recent entry, you should get the entries from April 12 in all years. Also, should I find a suitable student this summer, one of his/her tasks will be to update older entries to current standards (should mean overall speed and search-by-tag improvements for plant families).

On to today's entry, written by Claire:

beranekp@Flickr from Teplice, Czech Republic, posted this image of Anemone pratensis (syn. Pulsatilla pratensis subsp. bohemica) via the BPotD Flickr Group Pool. Much appreciated beranekp!

Daniel, on nomenclature/classification for this taxon: as noted in this entry, the evidence seems to suggest that all Pulsatilla species should be moved into Anemone. For a discussion on the topic, see the Flora of North America entry for Anemone and the current determination of Anemone pratensis by the systematic botanists at the US Agricultural Research Service. That said, I don't think anyone has published the name Anemone pratensis subsp. bohemica yet, so I couldn't use that for today's entry, though this should be considered as such.

Claire continues: Members of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup family), pasque flowers are a common sight in meadows throughout the world. If considered as Pulsatilla instead of the larger Anemone, there would be about 33 species in the genus. Anemone pratensis is distributed over a broad range of Europe, from as far north as Norway to Bulgaria at its southern limits. The species survives altitudes up to 2100 meters, but it can also be found near sea level. There are four named subspecies of Pulsatilla pratensis (Daniel: see above re: taxonomy): subsp. pratensis, subsp. bohemica, subsp. hungarica (endemic to Hungary), and subsp. nigricans. Subspecies bohemica is an endangered plant in the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic.

All subtaxa of Anemone pratensis are extremely toxic. Somehow utilized in folk medicine for treating eczema, gout and rheumatis, the species can also cause skin infections or affect the central nervous system.

If you're looking to cultivate this perennial, it tends to flower between March and May, and the flowers perched on to-15cm tall stems are a spring favourite of bees. In the summer, plants spread their fluffy achenes with the help of wind.

A nature photography site in Czech has additional photographs: Pulsatilla pratensis subsp. bohemica. More information on Pulsatilla pratensis subsp. bohemica can also be found through Botany.cz (I use translating tools to read these pages).

Apr 6, 2011: Coprosma brunnea

Coprosma brunnea

Before starting today's entry, some of you will have perhaps noticed that most BPotD's are being published late at night recently. We're pushing hard here at UBC Botanical Garden to complete a redesigned web site for next week, so perhaps things will settle down soon. Also, thanks to the kind donations of BPotD readers and UBC Botanical Garden Forums participants, it looks like I'll be able to advertise for a summer work-study position to help with BPotD. Claire Fadul, hired under the winter-spring work-study program (thanks to donations), is helping for a few more weeks. She wrote today's entry:

This beautiful close-up of a Coprosma brunnea berry is courtesy of Liddy2007@Flickr via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thank you Liddy!

Coprosma brunnea, the aptly-named opal berry, (many Coprosma species also have the nicknames "mirror bush" or "looking-glass bush") is a native of New Zealand. This species is an open, mat-forming, evergreen shrub. The attractive berry is edible, though not considered sweet-tasting. The wood of this species can be used to make yellow dye.

Coprosma shares an intriguing characteristic with a few other New Zealand genera: some Coprosma have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the palisade cell layer of leaves, stipules, and domatia. C. Van Hove and A. S. Craig investigated this phenomenon and observed that the symbiosis is not an obligate one (it doesn't have to occur for plant survival).

Coprosma belongs to the Rubiaceae (or madder family. Rubiaceae has a world-wide distribution (though mostly tropical), and with over 600 genera and 13 000 species, it is the 4th-largest family of flowering plant ranked by species diversity. Many Rubiaceae have properties that prevent self-fertilization. In the case of Coprosma brunnea, the species is dioecious (separate male and female plants, so cross-pollination is required). To ensure development of the beautiful fruit in a cultivated environment, it is therefore necessary to have both male and female plants of this wind-pollinated species.

Apr 4, 2011: Eriastrum densifolium subsp. sanctorum

Eriastrum densifolium subsp. sanctorum

Claire Fadul wrote today's entry:

Dale Hameister (Dale Hameister@Flickr) of Redlands, CA provided us with this vibrant photograph of Eriastrum densifolium subsp. sanctorum (taken in early June last year) via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Much appreciated Dale!

Eriastrum densifolium, or giant woollystar, (this particular sub-species is the rarer Santa Ana woollystar) is a common sight in the drier places of California and can usually be found in sandy soils and seasonally dry washes. California is the centre of present-day biodiversity for the Polemoniaceae, or phlox family. Nowadays, the family is mostly found in the New World (approx. 25 genera containing 400 species in North and South America vs. only 3 genera in the Old World). However, what few fossil records exist (Polemoniaceae tend not to grow in places conducive to fossil formation) indicate the presence of Polemoniaceae pollen from Eocene Spain and Pliocene Europe (as well as Miocene California and mid-Eocene Utah).

Eriastrum densifolium subsp. sanctorum is both endemic and endangered in southern California, where it inhabits alluvial washes around the Santa Ana River floodplain. The Seven Oaks Dam is a major threat to the long-term survival of Eriastrum densifolium subsp. sanctorum, as it reduces crucial sediment and new sand deposits the plant relies on for reproduction. Fortunately, a number of people, including professors and students at Cal State Fullerton, are conducting long-term research with an eye to conservation of this rare taxon.

Blooming in the summertime, Eriastrum densifolium subsp. sanctorum has particular pollinators which also share the same habitat requirements of sandy washes. Depending on the location, Burk et al. in a 1989 field study found digger bees, anise swallowtail butterfly, and various hummingbirds to be common pollinators, as well as the "giant flower-loving fly", Raphiomidas actoni subsp. actoni. Some of these species may be mutually dependent on the Santa Ana woollystar, so it is important to continue conservation efforts for the endangered woollystar in order to preserve all constituents of this fragile ecosystem.

Mar 25, 2011: Oxalis palmifrons

Oxalis palmifrons

Claire Fadul, BPotD work-study student, is the author of today's entry:

Nhu Nguyen (Xerantheum@Flickr) of Berkeley, California submitted this photo of Oxalis palmifrons, taken in his garden, via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Much appreciated Nhu!

Oxalidaceae is the wood sorrel family, containing mostly annual and perennial herbaceous plants (some shrubs, too). Oxalis has the highest species diversity within the family, with over 90% of the members of this family ascribed to that genus. Of the roughly 700 species in Oxalis, most are distributed in the tropics and subtropics, though some can be found in more temperate regions. Oxalis palmifrons is a native of the arid Karoo region in the Western Cape of South Africa.

Oxalis contains species of ornamental and food value, but the genus also has its "villains", with some species being pesky weeds. Reproduction in Oxalis can vary from bulbils to runners to seeds. Many species have evolved heterostyly, where male and female parts are spaced apart on the flower (height or location) to ensure they are not self-fertilized. The delicate pink flowers of Oxalis palmifrons are shown on the Pacific Bulb Society wiki: Oxalis palmifrons.

Flowers, though, are not what Oxalis palmifrons is known for -- it's the foliage that is of most horticultural interest. The plants tend to form a dense, low cover over the soil during the winter. Their leaves are quite tiny (1cm on average), but can contain up to 20 "fronds" on each leaf, and will fold at night and reopen during the day. Leaves of Oxalis palmifrons are also covered in hairs, which can help reflect the high-intensity sunlight plants experience in the arid Karoo.

Mar 23, 2011: Banksia media

Banksia media

Claire wrote and organized today's entry:

This photograph of Banksia media, taken at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens in Ballarat, Australia, is courtesy of Eric (sftrajan@Flickr) of San Francisco, California (shared via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). Thank you Eric!

Banksia is a fascinating genus in Proteaceae that is (mostly) endemic to Australia. One species in the genus is more broadly distributed, ranging to New Guinea and the Aru Islands, while a recent fossil discovery (published in 2010) also places the genus in New Zealand in the distant past.

Banksia media of Western Australia is but one example of a genus known for spike inflorescences that can contain thousands of flowers (though not all species have this characteristic). The cylindrical spikes of Banksia media can be up to 15cm tall and nearly 10cm wide when flowering. When flowering in the wild from winter to spring, the spikes are an irresistible perch, with the flowers being a treat to pollinators. Both birds and bees flock there due to nectar production. The bright yellow color of the thousands of flowers gives the species the common name of golden stalk.

In the summer, the once-flowery spikes of Banksia media become woody cones filled with hard follicles. As the species is fire-sensitive (no lignotuber to regenerate vegetatively after fires), new generations of the plant rely on propagation from seeds residing in the soil. Gardeners in coastal areas of Australia enjoy this plant for its ability to tolerate a range of soil conditions, moisture regimes and salt spray.

Mar 21, 2011: Echium vulgare

Claire compiled today's entry:

Steve H from Northumberland, UK submitted the close-up photograph of Echium vulgare flowers via the Botany Photo of the Day Submissions Forum. Thank you Steve! The second photograph of the plants growing in the dry ditch and forming a mosaic of blue was taken by Daniel mid-June in 2009, in Lower Nicola, British Columbia.

Viper's bugloss, blue-devil and blueweed are some common names for Echium vulgare. The species is a native of Europe and much of central Asia, but it has also naturalized in other parts of the world as well, including North America.

There are over 2700 species in Boraginaceae recognized worldwide (with most from Europe and Asia), though that number may change as the phylogeny of the group is resolved (see the Classification section from the link -- may be split into possibly 11 families!). Like Echium vulgare, many species in this family are herbs with prickly-hairy leaves. The coarseness of the hairs (caused by silicon dioxide and calcium carbonate deposits) can be quite an irritant to skin if plants are handled. Though the annual, biennial or short-lived perennial Echium vulgare is ornamental with its succession of blue flowers (caused by anthocyanin pigments) and height (to 1-2m, though sometimes shorter), it can also be a noxious, persistent weed in some regions. If interested in it for your garden, please take the time to research whether it is an appropriate planting for your area.

Other species of Echium are known to contain alkaloid compounds that can cause harm to livestock, even killing cattle, sheep and horses. Another member of the genus, Echium plantagineum, has been cited by the NNFCC (UK's National Non-foods Crop Centre) as being a useful oil crop (link to page with fact sheet).

Mar 16, 2011: Passiflora umbilicata

Passiflora umbilicata

Today's entry was written by Claire:

Submitted via the UBC Botanical Garden's Botany Photo of the Day Submissions Forum, Basorrie of North Carolinia, USA took this photograph of Passiflora umbilicata, a passionflower, at 3000m (9,800ft) in the Bolivian Andes above Cochabamba. Thank you Basorrie!

Passiflora umbilicata is indeed restricted to a high altitude range among the Andes of Bolivia and Argentina. It is a fast-growing, evergreen vine that produces beautiful complex-appearing flowers, a trait common to its genus of 500+ species. Passiflora contains a variety of flower morphologies, though the majority seem to follow the formula of three carpels, five stamens, five petals, and five sepals. In many species, the petals have become wiry and brightly colored, while the sepals look like what we normally think of as petals. As in this photo of Passiflora umbilicata, many species have a set of coloured bracts at the base of the flower. Passiflora umbilicata is pollinated by the genus' most common pollinator, bees. Other species are pollinated by larger insects such as butterflies and moths, or even bats and hummingbirds.

The fruit of Passiflora umbilicata is edible, much like the commercial passionfruit--Passiflora edulis. Not all species' fruits are edible, however, and many can be toxic, possessing cyanide-containing compounds. For these species, this could be a potential defense mechanism against being eaten before the fruit is ripe.

For a wide selection of photographs illustrating the traits of Passiflora, I highly recommend "Ian's Passiflora Website" courtesy of Ian Webb and his astounding Passiflora collection.

Mar 4, 2011: Polygala chamaebuxus

Polygala chamaebuxus

Today's entry was written by Claire:

Jacki Dougan (aka jacki-dee@Flickr) of Portland, Oregon provided us with this image of Polygala chamaebuxus. It was photographed after the snowfall that besieged the Pacific Northwest last week (via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). Thank you and stay warm Jacki!

Polygala chamaebuxus belongs to a genus containing several hundred species, but the total number remains unclear until further study defines the limit of the genus (which of these closely-related species belong to Polygala and which are sufficiently different to be in a separate genus?), according to the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group: Polygalaceae. The family, however, contains approximately 940 recognized species. Some of you may know the milkworts, named as a group due to some European medieval time (incorrect) beliefs that the species Polygala amara stimulated breastmilk production. First Nations of North America and subsequent European colonizers used a different species, Polygala senega or snakeroot, as a remedy for snake bites, insect bites, and respiratory illnesses.

Polygala chamaebuxus, commonly called shrubby milkwort, is not known for having (or not) either of these properties, but it is a lovely evergreen shrub. Native to the mountains of central Europe, in milder climates it blooms in the late winter to early spring (and can sometimes bloom on and off all winter long). Paghat writes of Polygala chamaebuxus var. grandiflora 'Kamniski', and makes mention of fragrant flowers with a pleasant, waxy smell.

Feb 28, 2011: Marah fabacea

Marah fabacea

Botany Photo of the Day work-study student Claire Fadul wrote today's entry:

Damon Tighe (Damon Tighe@Flickr) of Oakland, California took this exquisite photograph of Marah fabacea in Fremont, California, and shared it via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thank you Damon!

I found Marah fabaceus, a native of California, a fitting remembrance of my recent trip to San Francisco for reading break (Marah fabaceus var. arestis is the specific Bay Area variety). This photo certainly evokes the warm, sunny, early spring weather I experienced there and the abundance of blooming flowers all over Golden Gate Park. I wouldn't be surprised if I glanced over one of these around the city as this perennial begins growth in December and flowers as early as January!

Being in Curcurbitaceae, which is also the family containing pumpkins, melons, and gourds, Marah fabacea is the most common of seven species in this genus of wild cucumbers (also called manroots). Wikipedia states that its wide range--nearly the entire span of California--encompasses that of all other native species of Marah in California, and hybrids between species are relatively frequent.

These wild cucumbers have a number of interesting structural features from roots to leaves, and were commonly used by the native peoples of California. For example, the seeds inside the fruit were once used as beads for jewelry or ground down for a cosmetic mascara. The roots of Marah fabacea (aptly called manroot due to their tuberous and fleshy appearance resembling that of a human foot), aid the plant after fires by sending up young shoots when surface vegetation has died. Here's a whopping one I found, by photographer and landscape architect Paul Furman.

Marah fabacea is monoecious and the delicate flowers that can be seen in the photo are male (from what I can tell with my limited knowledge) due to their bunching structure. The female flowers are borne on a single stem and a spiky ovary is visible below the flower (i.e., it is epigynous). This small spiky ovary will eventually become the cucumber-like fruit. Sadly, Marah fabaceus does not produce a pleasant snack--the prickly fruit is poisonous.

Daniel adds: Regarding the name, some excellent references state Marah fabacea (International Plant Names Index, Tropicos, GRIN), while others suggest Marah fabaceus (The Plant List, USDA PLANTS database, and most others). I chose the former, as that seems to be the originally published name.

Jan 31, 2011: Mimetes fimbriifolius

Mimetes fimbriifolius

Claire wrote today's entry:

Today's photograph of Mimetes fimbriifolius, taken in Western Cape, South Africa, is courtesy of Marie Viljoen (marieviljoen@Flickr) of Brooklyn, New York. You may want to read Marie's weblog post, Walking above Muizenberg, where she writes about encountering this tree (and many other plants). Thank you Marie!

A proteaceous species endemic to the Cape Peninsula of South Africa, Mimetes fimbriifolus is currently classified as a rare species, though it was once commonly found on Table Mountain. Also called tree pagoda, this species has been heavily harvested for its wood for the past three centuries, one of the main detriments in sustaining its population. A thick, cork-like trunk is characteristic of Mimetes fimbriifolus, and the tree can reach up to four meters (13ft.) tall with wide-spreading branches. The interesting flowers and coloured bracts, located at the tips of the branches, are shaped this way to facilitate pollination by nectar-eating birds--usually sunbirds or Cape Sugarbirds.

Mimetes fimbriifolus is one of the largest and longest-lived members of its genus. Despite a lifespan reaching possibly a century (in which it has many reproductive years, but takes a decade or so to mature), seed production is the only mechanism by which it propagates in the wild; adult individuals are unable to re-sprout from stump or roots like some shorter-lived members of its genus. This has been particularly disadvantageous for this species in recent centuries, as the natural cycle of fires was replaced with more frequent burnings upon European colonization of the area. These too frequent fires have also been a detriment to the species, as populations of Mimetes fimbriifolius can be wiped out when plants do not have enough time to mature and produce seeds before the next adult-killing fire. Mimetes fimbriifolus has evolved some mechanisms to resist fire during its life cycle: seeds are often stored deep underground by ants (protection); seed germination is triggered by a fire (it would typically be many years between natural fires, so germinating post-fire would provide opportunity for the seedling to reach adulthood); and juvenile trees have a thick, fire-resistant bark with buds deep within, so a partially-burned juvenile can re-sprout. However, these adaptations are negated with too-frequent burning.

Jan 27, 2011: Averrhoa bilimbi

Averrhoa bilimbi

Today's entry was written by Claire:

3Point141@Flickr provided us with this photograph via the BPotD Flickr Pool of the fruit and flowers of Averrhoa bilimbi, a tropical tree belonging to Oxalidaceae (taken in Pinellas Park, Florida). Much appreciated 3Point141!

Oxalidaceae, or the wood sorrels, is a small family of 6 genera and 770 species distributed in temperate to tropical regions. Common to the family, and also visible with the flowers of Averrhoa bilimbi in the photograph, there are five petals and stamens in multiples of five in the whorl.

Averrhoa bilimbi (named after Averroes, a Muslim astronomer and philosopher) is a long-lived tree that produces an edible, refreshing fruit. Some common names of this species are (funnily enough) bilimbi, cucumber tree, and pickle fruit - the latter two attesting to what the fruit resembles. Averrhoa bilimbi is often compared with another popular, cultivated tree in the same genus called Averrhoa carambola, which most people know as starfruit or carambola.

The species likely originated on the Maluku Islands of Indonesia, but varieties are now commonly found throughout southeast Asia and other tropical areas worldwide. It has been cultivated in tropical regions for centuries and has accumulated a swath of local common names: Averrhoa bilimbi nomenclature via Wikipedia.

Averrhoa bilimbi can often reach heights of ten meters or higher. It can be found in gardens for ornamental purposes (as you can see, the flowers are very exotic) but it is typically grown for local production of food. The fruit is quite acidic and cannot always be eaten raw (though it is sometimes a snacking food). Fruits can also be sweet or savoury depending on the cultivated variety. Pickling, cooking, sugaring, currying, and juicing are some ways Averrhoa bilimbi is used in local cuisine.

Ecology resource link (added by Daniel): Frequent BPotD contributor, Eric in S.F., suggested a note regarding a newly-immigrated kudzu-eating bug in the southeast USA. Kudzu (Pueraria lobata), a member of the Fabaceae, is an invasive scourge in southeast USA. One would think that a kudzu-eating insect would be welcome, but it turns out that it also happily feeds on soybean and peanuts (also Fabaceae), causing a potential threat to those industries. Also, residents are concerned that the rather-smelly bugs can cause quite the odour when they congregate in the thousands. Read more via Alabama Cooperative Extension: State's Residents Should Be on Watch for Kudzu Eating Insect.

Jan 24, 2011: Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi

Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi

Another entry from Claire today. She writes:

This photograph of Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi was taken at the Rutgers Floriculture Greenhouse by Elena (mycologie@Flickr) and provided to us via the BPotD Flickr Pool. Much appreciated, Elena!

Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi belongs to a family of succulent herbaceous species and soft-stemmed shrubs, the Crassulaceae. Crassulaceae has about 34 genera and 1370 species spread over a wide range of the world (frequently in drier regions). This family is known for CAM photosynthesis, which they and many other groups of taxa utilize. CAM is an acronym for Crassulacean Acid Metabolism, an adaptive strategy to allow maximum water storage.

This beautiful species is a native of Madagascar, but is widely cultivated as an ornamental and houseplant. As it is a succulent, it requires little water and is very low maintenance. Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi easily establishes and can take root from even one leaf being transplanted (it has escaped cultivation and become invasive in some subtropical places).

The common name is lavender scallop, due to the slightly purplish/pinkish tinge of the leaves. Some pictures of the vegetative parts can be found on the University of Connecticut's Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Greenhouses site: Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi.

Jan 19, 2011: Mida salicifolia

Mida salicifolia

...and we're back. Sorry for the gap of a few days, it took us a while to sort out some of the issues in the set-up of the software behind the scenes. I hope it's all resolved now, and the biggest issue of photographs not loading should finally be fixed.

Claire wrote today's entry (thanks again, Claire):

A change from flowers for today. Tony Foster (Tonyfoster@Flickr) from Kaeo, New Zealand, provided this photograph (via the BPotD Flickr Pool) of fruit of the small tree, Mida salicifolia. Much appreciated Tony!

A native to the North Island of New Zealand, Mida salicifolia of the Santalaceae is a small tree found in mixed podocarp forests. The Santalaceae contains 44 genera and 990 species and is broadly distributed throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world.

A hemi-parasite like other members of its family, Mida salicifolia parasitizes through its roots, where it steals some nutrients from its host (often the kauri tree, Agathis australis). However, the species is also capable of photosynthesizing and living independently. A well-known example of another hemi-parasitic species in the family is mistletoe.

Maire taiki is the Māori name for Mida salicifolia, but there are several other species of native New Zealand trees bearing the name maire such as maire hau (Leionema nudum)and maire tawake (Syzgium maire). The Māori Dictionary has additional matches for maire. English common names include New Zealand sandalwood and willow-leaved maire.

The leaves of Mida salicifolia are lance-like (salicifolia = "leaves of a willow") and glossy. Its flowers (see photos on link) are quite diminutive in comparison to the size and appearance of the bright red berries (7-12 x 6-8 mm). Often this species is confused at a glance with small trees of Nestegis species (common names also being maire), but can be easily distinguished by looking at the leaf arrangement: Mida salicifolia has alternate leaves while Nestegis spp. have opposite leaves. Additional photographs of the flowers and vegetative parts of Mida salicifolia (and another member of the family, Korthalsella salicornioides can be found on the University of Auckland, Biological Sciences website: Santalaceae.

The New Zealand Plant Conservation Network (also linked above) states that Mida salicifolia is in decline in areas where browsing occurs from introduced mammal species such as goat, possum, and deer. However, it is relatively widespread, and remains particularly abundant on possum-free islands.

Jan 12, 2011: Scadoxus multiflorus

Scadoxus multiflorus

Today's entry was written by Claire:

Richard Droker (wanderflechten@Flickr) of Seattle, Washington, provided us with this image taken in Zimbabwe of two Scadoxus multiflorus plants (via the BPotD Flickr Pool). Thank you Richard!

The Amaryllidaceae spans worldwide and currently includes 73 genera and 1605 species (including yesterday's Rhodophiala rhodolirion). It is common for members of this family to produce showy inflorescences from a single scape, and many are geophytes (growing from an underground storage organ, such as corms or bulbs).

Scadoxus multiflorus is a rhizomatous perennial that produces a pseudostem--a stem-like structure that is composed of the tightly-bundled leaf bases. Originating in tropical Africa, the species contains three subspecies. Two of the subspecies found commonly in cultivation are subsp. multiflorus and subsp. katherinae; descriptions and photographs of these can be found via the Pacific Bulb Society's Wiki: Scadoxus. A third subspecies, Scadoxus multiflorus subsp. longitubus is rare in cultivation and restricted to lowland rainforests from Guinea to Ghana (for more on many Scadoxus species, see Glorious Scadoxus (PDF) by Jonathan Hutchinson).

Plants only produce a single inflorescence each flowering season, from December through March (late summer to autumn in the southern hemisphere). The species grows in a number of habitats ranging from mountainous areas to savannah grassland to woodland. Scadoxus was previously placed in the genus Haemanthus (literally, "blood- flower"), but in addition to still being called blood-flower, it is also commonly known as "fireball lily". Calling it blood-flower may be a bit misleading depending on your interpretation, since Scadoxus multiflorus, like all nine species of the genus, is very poisonous. Some indigenous peoples of Africa have uses for the poisonous alkaloids found throughout the plants, including treating water bodies to poison fish and coating arrow tips. It is known to be lethal to livestock, who may eat it when other food sources are scarce.

Dec 3, 2010: Hypericum perforatum

Hypericum perforatum

Claire continues with the medicinal plant diversity series:

Thank you to Marianne (marcella2@Flickr) of Alkmaar, Netherlands for this gorgeous photograph of Hypericum perforatum, or St. John's wort, provided via the BPotD Flickr Pool. Zeer gewaardeerd!

Hypericum perforatum is known as common St. John's wort -- the name "St. John" stems from the traditional harvest time of Hypericum perforatum during the day of St. John on June 24th. The species belongs to a genus that includes a whopping 370 species worldwide. It has spread, via introduction, to temperate and subtropical regions in North America and Asia, with origins in Europe. Sadly, it is an invasive species or noxious weed in many countries, particularly because it is very toxic to livestock and can be lethal.

Contrasting to the effects it can have on animals, Hypericum perforatum's primary medicinal application is treatment for mild to intermediate forms of depression. It has also been used for less serious maladies like scrapes and cuts (early studies show some positive results for having antibacterial properties against gram-negative bacteria). The most medicinally-active chemicals in Hypericum perforatum are hypericin and hyperforin, which have proven to be effective in treating depression . These chemicals may function as inhibitors of monoamine oxidase, a compound associated with the illness. A study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews suggests common St. John's wort is more effective than a placebo and equivalent to tricyclin antidepressants for short-term treatment. St. John's wort contains many other compounds (including oils, tannins, and flavinoids) that have been suggested as medicinal, though further research is needed.

Hypericum perforatum can be a lovely ornamental in gardens, drank as an herbal tea (though the taste, I was told, is a bit peculiar) and produces colours for dyes: a pleasant purple when the buds and fruits are crushed and yellow when the flowers are used. Needless to say, this is an intriguing and important species that could take some more looking into!

Nov 30, 2010: Leonotis leonurus

Claire continues the medicinal plants series, and writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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