Monday, November 1, 2010

Plant Quiz - Keith's Got It!

I recently posted the following plant quiz...

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Well, October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month have come to an end. Thank you to all who participated by posting photos of pink plants.

Along with the "unpinking" of Get Your Botany On! comes this plant quiz...


Good Luck!
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Keith was able to pick up on my subtle hints and correctly determine that the photo above shows a berry of Actaea rubra forma neglecta. In the typical forms, Actaea rubra (Red Baneberry) has red berries...


... and Actaea pachypoda (White Baneberry or Doll's Eyes) has white berries...


However, there is a fairly common form (the more common form in some places, including where I saw it in Douglas County, Wisconsin) of Red Baneberry with white fruits (called Actaea rubra forma neglecta, shown below). Amazingly enough, there is also a rare form of White Baneberry with pink or red fruits (called Actaea pachypoda forma rubrocarpa, which I have never seen). The ranges of these two species of Actaea overlap in the northern half of eastern North America, as Actaea rubra is found throughout much of western North America and in the northern half of the eastern half of the continent, and Actaea pachypoda is found from Quebec to Florida and as far west as Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.


So how would one tell the difference between these two species if the fruit color is not reliable? Actaea rubra has pedicels (flower/fruit stalks) that are green or brown when in fruit, whereas Actaea pachypoda has pedicels that are pink to red when the plant is in fruit. In addition, the pedicels of Actaea rubra are slender (up to 0.7 mm in diameter, and thinner than the inflorescence stalk), whereas those of Actaea pachypoda are thick (0.7 to 3.0 mm in diameter, and about as thick as the inflorescence stalk). A third character to look for is the scar that remains on the berry when the stigma falls off and the plants are in fruit. In Actaea rubra, this scar is small, whereas in Actaea pachypoda, this scar (the "iris" of the "doll's eye") is larger.

Both of these medicinal species were used heavily by Native Americans. Actaea rubra was used to treat coughs, colds, and other illnesses; Actaea pachypoda was used to treat sore throats. The way I am feeling right now, I sure wish I had a little bit of both of these on hand.

Congratulations, Keith, for figuring out this plant quiz!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not right for Actea, so I'd say snowberry, Symphoricarpus albus. Looks a litte bit like a casper ghost..
M

Keith said...

It sure looks like Actaea but Scott wouldn't give such an easy quiz. How about Gray Dogwood, Cornus racemosa?

Scott Namestnik said...

Not Actaea pachypoda, not Symphoricarpus albus, and not Cornus racemosa...

Tom said...

Yogurt covered raisin! :)

Anonymous said...

A rather large drupe of Poison sumac Toxicodendron vernix?

Heather said...

Looks like Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
but the berry is really big.

Scott Namestnik said...

Good guess, Tom, but this berry was plucked right from the raceme.

Sorry, Anonymous... I learned this summer just how allergic I am to Toxicodendron vernix (even though I had been in it before with nearly no reaction), and there is no way I would hold one of its drupes in my hand!

I agree, Heather, that the berry pictured does look somewhat like the drupe of Symphoricarpos albus, but that's not what it is.

I admit, this one is a little tricky.

Kirk said...

Gaultheria hispidula ?

Scott Namestnik said...

No, not Gaultheria hispidula.

Keith said...

I'm detecting subtle clues in Scott's responses. How about Actaea rubra forma neglecta, the white-fruited form of Red Baneberry?

Scott Namestnik said...

Good work, Keith!

Anna Ashmore said...

Nice Reading. Thanks.
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