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Results tagged “written by claire”

Nov 22, 2010: Pachycereus weberi

Pachycereus weberi

Claire again wrote today's entry:

Thank you to sweller of the UBC Botanical Garden Forums for this photograph of Pachycereus weberi (via the BPotD Submissions Forum).

Pachycereus weberi is known as candelabro, or Cardón Espinoso (the common name being an obvious reference to the resemblance of plants to candelabras). Its distribution ranges across desert scrub and deciduous forests of the southwestern Mexican states of Guererro, Puebla and Oaxaca. The genus has a native range of southern Arizona to Central America, and also includes the tallest cactus species, Pachycereus pringlei (an individual grew to 19.2m/63ft). In Pachycereus weberi, plants "only" reach approximately 10m tall and as nearly as wide.

Pachycereus weberi only produces white or yellow flowers. These bloom at night, with bats being the pollinators (as is common in the genus). The edible fruit has spines which dehisce when the fruit matures, possibly a mechanism to prevent eating of the unripe fruit. These spines (modified leaves), extend from the thick stem in a beautiful pattern (see some close-ups via Google Image Search). The seeds of the ripe fruit of Pachycereus weberi can be harvested and ground into a flour.

Nov 17, 2010: Hibiscus laevis

Hibiscus laevis

Thanks once again to Claire for writing today's entry:

This photograph of Hibiscus laevis was taken in July, 2007 by Robert Klips (Orthotrichum@Flickr) of Franklin County, Ohio, USA via the BPotD Flickr Pool. Thank you Robert!

Hibiscus laevis of the mallow family, Malvaceae, is a native to eastern and central North America. The five delicate petals are arranged in a whorl pattern and are imbricate (overlapping), with the flowers reaching up to 13cm (5 inches) across. It's interesting to note that Hibiscus laevis only has one mature flower in bloom each day during its bloom season.

Halberd-leaved rose mallow or scarlet rose mallow are the common names for this species (a halberd is a medieval weapon, while the scarlet appellation is due to the deep red throat occurring in most flowers). The green lantern-like features on the plant in the photograph are flowers in bud, enfolded by huge sepals.

Hibiscus flowers have a bit of an unusual structure. Hibiscus laevis has a central column that bears both the male and female reproductive organs. Five female pistils are present at the top of the column, and the column is then surrounded by numerous anthers emerging from fused filaments (a monadelphous stamen arrangement). This prevents self pollination and promotes bee pollination quite effectively as the anthers (pollen-bearing) and the stigma (female organ) are separated by space. For additional images, including photographs of leaf shape variation and a closer look at flower parts, see AlabamaPlants: Hibiscus laevis.

Nov 16, 2010: Daviesia genistifolia

Daviesia genistifolia

Claire wrote today's accompaniment to the photograph:

Thank you to Brent Miller (foliosus@Flickr) of Portland, Oregon, USA for this photograph of Daviesia genistifolia, or broom bitter-pea. The image was submitted via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool.

Brent notes that his September photograph of Daviesia genistifolia was taken in Karatta, Australia. A native to continental southeastern Australia from southern Queensland to South Australia, this small, shrubby species grows in volcanic and sedimentary rocky areas. This exotic-looking species with its odd "foliage" and brightly-coloured flowers is an important understorey feature, providing nectar and shelter to birds and insects. Daviesia genistifolia, as you may have noticed, does not have true leaves. Instead, the stem and the thorn-like stem outgrowths (phyllodes) are photosynthetic.

Species of Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae) have two main types of fruit. Daviesia genistifolia has the common type: a legume or pod which dehisces and splits along a single seam. However, some tribes within the family, such as the Hedysareae, most often utilize loments--a fruit that splits into one seeded segments from the tip to the base.

Daviesia, although a genus native to Australia, is actually named for an 18th century Welsh botanist, Hugh Davies. In 1790, Davies became a Fellow of the Linnean Society. He contributed much to the botanical knowledge of the British Isles, including a comprehensive work published in 1813, Welsh Botanology.

Nov 12, 2010: Astrantia major cultivar

Astrantia major cultivar

Today's entry is written by Claire. She writes:

I love this photograph of Astrantia major (original) that Marie Viljoen (Marie Viljoen@Flickr) of Brooklyn, New York provided us via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Much appreciated, Marie!

This beautiful plant, Astrantia major, or great masterwort, comes from the umbel family (Apiaceae) to which some of my favourite edibles also belong: carrot, celery and parsley. When I first saw this photograph, I didn't look too closely and believed this flower was from the Asteraceae (or sunflower family). This was because of the look of the ray-like parts emerging from the base of each inflorescence. In fact, these are actually involucres (a type of bract) and not ray florets. The tiny flowers are organized in a small umbel (think "upside-down umbrella"); they emerge from a common node with all the pedicels (or flower stems) of the same length.

Astrantia major is a perennial native to southern and central Europe. The flowers are pollinated mostly by bees and butterflies. The species and its cultivars are becoming extremely popular as an ornamental in gardens; the Royal Horticultural Society has eighty entries for Astrantia in cultivation, with the large majority of these being cultivars of Astrantia major. I highly recommend browsing through more images of Astrantia major as the species and its cultivars have a wide array of colours, ranging from white and pink to deep red. The species is also known for its aromatic roots that contain many compounds such as tannins and coumarins, producing a very distinct odor and taste. Stiegenhaushof, a website by Martin Fankhauser, explains how the root of Astrantia major can be used to flavour spirits! It has a nice blurb on some of its characteristics if you are interested.

Nov 9, 2010: Ornithogalum arabicum

Ornithogalum arabicum

Today's entry was written by Claire:

Our photograph today was provided by Sean Rangel of Seattle (aka SeanRangel@Flickr) via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thank you Sean! Sean is also the photographer behind www.baublegraphy.com.

The common name of Ornithogalum arabicum is star of Bethlehem, named for the lovely white flowers this species produces. It belongs to the Asparagaceae (though listed as Liliaceae or Hyacinthaceae in references that use different family classifications). Its subfamily, Scilloideae, contains only herbaceous perennials with bulbs.

Though species of Ornithogalum are native to Eurasia and Africa, these monocots are popular ornamental plants around the world (the most commonly cultivated being Ornithogalum umbellatum, which sometimes escapes the garden and becomes an aggressive introduced species). Ornothogalum arabicum, itself native to Mediterranean areas, is one of about one hundred to one hundred and fifty species in this genus. Some members of the genus are edible, while others are toxic. For an edible example, young inflorescences of bath asparagus or Ornithogalum pyrenaicum can be eaten much like asparagus. However, Ornothogalum arabicum and other species contain toxins (often concentrated in the bulbs or the flowers) such as alkaloids and cardenolides (the same group of steroid toxins employed by monarch butterflies as a disincentive for predators or the heart block inducing poisons of Digitalis).

The delicate flowers of this species are fragrant and bee-pollinated. Local gardeners will be disappointed to learn that Ornithogalum arabicum is marginally hardy (at best) and enjoys low to moderate soil moisture with bright sunlight, making it a poor choice for growing outdoors in Vancouver.

For additional photographs of members of the genus, see Ornithogalum via the Pacific Bulb Society. A Close-up View of Three Ornithogalum Flowers provides an excellent photographs and photomicrographs.

Nov 5, 2010: Polygonatum biflorum

A brief entry written by Claire today:

Thank you to BlueRidgeKitties@Flickr for sharing some images of Polygonatum biflorum via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool (original 1 taken in mid-May and original 2 photographed in mid-July).

Smooth Solomon's seal is native to eastern North America, where it tends to grow in rich-soiled woods and thickets. The young shoots and roots can be boiled and eaten, but don't eat the berries as they are known to be poisonous!

More photographs are available via the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's Native Plants Database: Polygonatum biflorum.

Nov 4, 2010: Begonia sizemoreae

Begonia sizemoreae

A bit of Botany Photo of the Day news before today's entry: the move to the new server is taking up a significant amount of time, hence the slowdown in entries. However, it seems so far to be resolving the partially-loading image issue during testing, so that alone will make it worthwhile. On a different note, my identification was incorrect on the previous entry, but it might take a little time before I can revise it.

Today's entry was written by Claire:

Thank you to John B. (aka DCTropics@Flickr) of Washington, DC, USA for this lovely photo of a female flower of Begonia sizemoreae (Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool).

Only two genera occur in Begoniaceae: Begonia and Hillebrandia, the latter of which has a single species, Hillebrandia sandwicensis (endemic to Hawaii). Begonia has over 1,400 species and is found across the tropics in the Americas, Asia and Africa (but curiously, not Hawaii).

This particular species, Begonia sizemoreae, is one of over thirty validly described species in Vietnam though there are likely dozens more (ref: Notes on Vietnamese Begonia (Begoniaceae) including three new species (PDF)). The Vietnamese hairy begonia has only recently been described by Dr. Ruth Kiew of Malaysia (if you are a reader interested in begonias, Dr. Kiew has a book out about the Begonias of Peninsular Malayasia).

Begonia sizemoreae, as shown in the photograph, is a monoecious species (having both male and female reproductive organs on the same plant), but is unisexual in that there are separate male and female flowers. Many of us are more familiar with bisexual flowers -- individual flowers with both functional male and female organs. This mechanism Begonia sizemoreae utilizes discourages self-pollination and promotes outcrossing for genetic variability within the population of plants. On the particular flower in the photograph, note the four gorgeous, spiraled stigmas of the female reproductive organ. For pollinators, this presents a challenge as these non-rewarding features very closely resemble the rewarding, pollen-heavy anthers. The insect gets confused from this clever disguise, and in the course of visiting both male and female flowers, pollinates. J.G. in S.F.@Flickr took this photograph of a male Begonia flower from a different species, illustrating the similar appearance of the yellow stamems.

Additional characters of Begonia sizemoreae are visible in the photograph, such as the distinct hairs on the leaf margins that provoke the common name of Vietnamese hairy begonia. Another lovely feature of this species with great ornamental potential is the fruit--a winged capsule containing numerous tiny seeds (photograph also by John B.).

Oct 29, 2010: Oroxylum indicum

Oroxylum indicum

Today's entry is written by Claire. The plate is from the book Flora de Filipinas, Gran edicion, Atlas I. by Francisco Blanco, a Spanish friar and botanist.

Oroxylum indicum of the Bignoniaceae, or trumpet creeper family, is our pick for today's Hallowe'en entry as it has some intriguing, spooky characteristics. Three of its many common names are midnight horror, broken bones tree, and tree of Damocles. The names are due to its lengthy seed pods which range from 40 to 120cm long (1.3 - 4ft). Hanging off the tree in clusters, when dry they rattle in the wind (perhaps like a clattering skeleton?). Fallen seeds piled at the base are also said to resemble a pile of broken bones. Lastly, for those readers who associate bats with Hallowe'en, Oroxylum indicum has a chiropterophilous pollination mechanism (e.g., large flowers that open at night with a wide mouth). One known pollinating species is Eonycteris spelaea, the cave nectar bat. Quite the spine-chilling tree!

Oroxylum indicum is native to deciduous, moist forests of tropical and subtropical south and southeast Asia, including India and China. It is a well-known medicinal plant, with all parts of the plant being used in some way. Oroxylum indicum continues to be commonly utilized and harvested for traditional medicine, as well as being investigated for pharmacological use in the production of treatments for virus-inhibition and anti-inflammatories.

Oct 28, 2010: Capsicum chinense [Habanero Group]

Capsicum chinense  [Habanero Group]

Thanks to Claire for writing today's entry, the last in the food and plant diversity series:

This photograph of Capsicum chinense was provided by Eric Hunt of San Francisco, California (Eric in SF@Flickr) via the BPotD Flickr Pool. His image of habanero peppers was taken at the Alemany Farmer's Market in San Francisco. Much appreciated Eric!

Capsicum chinense is in the Solanaceae. Other cultivated species with edible tissues in this family include tomato, potato and eggplant. Capsicum chinense is well-known for having a number of cultivated varieties, including the Habanero group of cultivars and 'Datil' as well as being a parent of the Naga Jolokia cultivar group (peppers of hybrid origin from Bangladesh and Assam, measured to be the hottest in the world). Nikolaus von Jacquin, who described Capsicum chinense in 1776 from seeds acquired in the Caribbean, incorrectly thought the species came from China (in part the reason for the scientific name Capsicum chinense, "of China").

Chili peppers (PDF) get their incredible heat from capsaicinoid molecules present in the fruit. The hotness is traditionally measured by the Scoville scale in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). However, the Scoville scale is subjective, so a quantitative measure, high performance liquid chromatography, is now used with subsequent conversion to SHU. Peppers from the Habanero group range from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU while the Naga Jolokia group range from a whopping 855,000 to 1,075,000 SHU! By way of comparison, Jalapeño peppers range from 2500 to 8000 SHU.

Some major producing areas of Capsicum (encompassing many cultivated varieties of edible pepper) are Spain, eastern Europe, north Africa, Mexico, and the southwest United States. Originally from the Americas, Capsicum chinense was likely first cultivated in Peru or Bolivia, but spread throughout the world, first locally in the tropical and subtropical New World and then to distant continents. Spicy chilis are now a major ingredient in numerous dishes from cultures all over the world. It can be dried or eaten fresh, ground up, chopped, put in salsas, sauces and more! Pass that Tabasco please!

Oct 26, 2010: Manihot esculenta

Most of today's entry was written by Claire with respect to the first photograph. I've added the second photograph and a little bit of commentary at the end. Claire writes:

Ton Rulkens (tonrulkens@Flickr) provided us with this beautiful photograph via the BPotD Flickr Pool of the flower of Manihot esculenta 'Maria' taken in Chimoio, Mozambique. Thank you Ton for helping us continue with the plant diversity and food series!

Manihot esculenta, or, commonly, cassava, manioc or yuca is a member of the Euphorbiaceae or spurge family. It is originally known from Brazil and Paraguay, but has spread to nearly all tropical regions around the world. There are no known wild types of this plant--it has been classified as a cultigen (like rice), i.e., it is only known from cultivation. The largest producers of Manihot esculenta are Nigeria, Brazil, and Thailand. As it needs at least eight months of sun, and does not tolerate frost well, the plant can only be cultivated in the tropics (and does particularly well in savanna climates).

The large, starchy root is often used as the edible part of the plant (although the leaves can also be eaten if prepared properly) and is the staple source of food for much of the equatorial world. Approaches to processing of the root by different cultures ranges from boiling or baking, to drying or fermenting. Because of its high and pure starch content, cassava has many uses. It is typically known in the temperate world as the ingredient of boba or pearls in tea slushes and tapioca (tapioca pudding anyone?). In countries where it is the staple carbohydrate source, people make alcohol, paste, flour, pudding and syrups out of the root. In addition to a human food, the cultigen is also beginning to be harvested as a biofuel for ethanol production as well as for animal feed. The Animal Feed Resources Information System states that the leaves and stems are used to harvest protein meal for animal feed. Almost six tons of crude protein can be obtained per hectare!

Due to Manihot esculenta's high content of cyanogenic glucosides, cassava is toxic when eaten raw or processed improperly. Cyanides released from the cyanogenic glucosides can cause a disease called konzo, which is permanent and paralytic. Of the two varieties, sweet and bitter, the bitter plants have the highest concentrations and the disease is common in women in children in rural parts of Africa where the bitter variety is very common. The root must be processed and prepared properly in order to remove the majority of these toxins.

Daniel adds: the second photograph features some cassava chips I picked up on the weekend (I knew Claire was writing about cassava this week). These have since been shared with most of the UBC Botanical Garden staff, and it seemed to me that everyone thought they were tasty, if not delicious.

Oct 19, 2010: Vaccinium vitis-idaea

Vaccinium vitis-idaea

Claire Fadul wrote today's entry, as part of the "Plant Diversity and Food" series:

Taken in the Bragg Creek Natural Area in Alberta, Canada, Anne Elliot (annkelliot@Flickr) has submitted this lovely close-up of Vaccinium vitis-idaea or the mountain cranberry via the BPotD Flickr Pool (original image). Thank you Anne!

The hardy Vaccinum vitis-idaea is an evergreen shrub found through the northern hemisphere in boreal regions north to the tundra. You may have heard it called lingonberry, but mountain, lowbush, and alpine cranberry are also used as common names. Vaccinum vitis-idaea is from the Ericaceae--the heath or heather family. Other members of the family include bearberry, cranberry, blueberry, bilberry, Arbutus spp. and Rhododendron spp. Efloras.org cites 46 genera, 212 species of Ericaceae found in North America and roughly 120 genera and 4100 species worldwide

Vaccinum vitis-idaea is a low-growing groundcover. It produces acidic, bright red berries high in tannins and anthocyanins (water soluble pigments found in the vacuole of plant cells). The fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals and were used by people living in northern climates as a remedy against scurvy and deficiencies in the wintertime.

Vaccinum vitis-idaea is not commonly cultivated and is mostly picked wild. The berries can be preserved and are used in many edibles such as jams, wines, baked goods, sauces and more. Because of the tart flavour, they are not commonly eaten raw. The berries are also an important food source for bears, birds, and foxes in the autumn and winter months.

Oct 8, 2010: Oudemansiella mucida

Oudemansiella mucida

Claire selected another wonderful image of a fungus for today's BPotD entry and writes:

I would like to thank Monika F. (monika&manfred@flickr) of Vienna, Austria for sharing this gorgeous photograph (original image) of Oudemansiella mucida via the BPotD Flickr Pool.

Oudemansiella mucida, better known as the porcelain mushroom, is a member of the Physalacriaceae (quite a mouthful!). Monika took this particular photo in Austria, and it is common in temperate regions around Europe. The mushroom is specific to beech trees and lives in clusters mainly on dead branches and trunks, but has also been sighted on live trees. Also called the poached egg fungus, Oudemansiella mucida can be consumed after its outer slimy coat is washed off. I don't believe the name is because of the taste, but likely because of its rounded, white, slimy cap that resembles an egg white. If you're in European forests in autumn, perhaps it might be worth it to take a shot at collecting Oudemansiella mucida.

Eric adds: In addition to what Claire has written, study of this fungus led to the development of a powerful anti-fungal agent commonly used to protect agricultural crops. Oudemansiella mucida and another fungus, Strobilurus tenacellus secrete substances that deter competing fungi. Study of these secretions led to the development of azoxystrobin a powerful anti-fungal used extensively by farmers, particularly for wheat production. It is considered to have low environmental risk because it has low toxicity for mammals, birds, bees, insects, and earthworms. It is highly toxic to some freshwater and marine animals, but the chemical breaks down in the soil and if runoff is monitored may be used relatively safely.

Oct 3, 2010: Diatrype disciformis

Diatrype disciformis

Claire wrote today's entry:

A big thanks to Stephen Buchan of Edinburgh, Scotland for this fascinating photo of Diatrype disciformis, a photo shared via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool.

I was excited to see a photo of an ascomycete - my favorite phylum of fungi! The Ascomycota include molds, morels, truffles, many crop diseases (such as ergot or Claviceps purpurea) and some yeasts (like baker's yeast or Saccharomyces cerevisiae). The array of fascinating microscopic reproductive structures in this phylum of fungi are truly astounding and quite beautiful. If you are interested, I encourage looking into the diversity of these organisms. Ascomycetes are known for their ascospore producing structures, or asci.

Diatrype discoformis is from the Diatrypaceae, a family which includes somewhere between eight and thirteen genera (link suggests 8, Wikipedia lists 13). What you see in this photograph are a number of fruiting bodies that release ascospores--Mr. Buchan notes the pores on the surface of the small discs being the site of spore release. Diatrype disciformis is a saprobe commonly found all year round on dead deciduous trees, usually beech, in the forests of Europe. Thus, its common name is beech barkspot! Sadly, I must say that there isn't too much information on this particular species, but I am glad to share a little knowledge on the Ascomycetes I gleaned from my fungi class last year at UBC with Mary Berbee. Hopefully, everyone can appreciate the bizarreness of Diatrype disciformis that Stephen Buchan captured and perhaps the fascinating lives of these commonly seen fungi.

Sep 29, 2010: Hericium americanum

Hericium americanum

A new author today -- please join me in welcoming Claire Fadul, who will be working as Botany Photo of the Day Assistant from now until April. Claire is a third-year science student. I'm very grateful to those of you who donated to the Online Education fund to help support hiring a student.

Claire writes:

Thank you to swampr0se@flickr from Toronto, Ontario for sharing today's photograph via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. I chose this ethereal photograph for my first entry because of how beautiful this fungus is and how intriguing as well (a big nod to swampr0se for the composition). I was very excited when Daniel allowed me to do fungi for my starting articles as they are a secret weakness of mine---secret no more!

Hericium americanum is a tooth fungus. Its common name is bear's head tooth mushroom due to the teeth-like or icicle-like protrusions from which it disperses its spores. swampr0se notes that her particular Hericium americanum was found on a dead maple. This is indeed common among this species as it is usually found on decaying hardwoods (though it can sometimes also be seen frequenting rotting conifers), defining the species as saprotrophic. For a definition of a saprobe, please take a look at MushroomExpert.com where additional facts can be read about this fungus species, including the fascinating story about its various naming problems throughout the years.

Of course you are asking, "Is it edible?" Why yes, it is! And for all you seafood fans out there, it tastes like lobster. I have no experience in this personally, but Tom Volk certainly does, and provides some recipe suggestions in the first paragraph of his article on Hericium americanum. Sadly, for all of our hungry readers around the world, this species can only be found in eastern North America from late summer through autumn. Luckily for local readers, there are a few other species in the genus such as Hericium abietis that can be found. You can check out Edible North American Mushrooms for some cooking suggestions.

Thank you to BPotD readers for your generosity and I look forward to writing to you in the future!

Daniel adds: Botany resource link: Frequent BPotD contributor Eric Hunt sent along a link a few days ago, pointing out a story on Wired Science that uses a photograph by former UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research director Dr. Quentin Cronk (photo featured on BPotD): Ancient Fossil Flower Is Father of Sunflower Family.


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