Friday, December 30, 2011

Plant Quiz - Too Easy

I recently posted the following plant quiz...


Name that plant...

Photo taken in September in northcentral Indiana.  Good luck, and happy new year!


Too easy, I guess. Keith quickly correctly identified the plant above as Solidago flexicaulis. Nice call, Keith!

Who says you can't identify asters and goldenrods vegetatively?! 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Green in Winter: Chimaphila maculata

Despite having a wide distribution in Indiana, Spotted Wintergreen is not very easy to find, though it can be locally frequent where it occurs. This little shrub is especially at home in sandy acid soil beneath oaks, but sometimes it shows up in other habitats. Several species of plants that grow in low light conditions have thick, dark green leaves with wide veins that allow light to penetrate deep into leaf tissue and perhaps even pass through to other leaves. Photographed in LaPorte County in December, 2011.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Plant Quiz Solved - Viola pedata!

Good call, Scott! It is Viola pedata, Birdfoot Violet, a denizen of the dry country. It's especially at home in dry sand among a thin growth of Black Oak and Sassafras in the northern third of Indiana. Charles Deam also found it on sandstone ridges in a few counties along the southern edge of the state.

Birdfoot Violet at Ober Savanna Nature Preserve, Starke County, Indiana

The winter leaves are markedly different than those of the growing season. In winter, the leaves are coriaceous (thick and leathery), on very short petioles, usually very purple, and the lobes are short and wide. New leaves emerge in spring with long and very narrow lobes. Here's a photo of purple winter leaves and the old, withered leaves lying on the ground.

Here's a clue: some plants produce winter leaves that are shaped a little different than those of spring and summer. Also, here's another photo that offers a few more clues. This is an Indiana native plant, photographed December 23, 2011. Good luck!

Plant Quiz Solved - Trailing Arbutus!

Good call, "Euphorb!" It is Epigaea repens, Trailing Arbutus. At home on acid slopes, this tiny native shrub stays green all winter and flowers in April and May. The flowers emit a very strong, very attractive spicy fragrance that can be detected from a distance. Look for it on the steepest slopes, especially cool north and east-facing ones where mosses are abundant. A photo of this plant in flower is posted below.

Photographed December 26, 2011 in northern Indiana

Photographed April 25, 2009 in northern Indiana

Green in Winter: Little Tea of the Woods

The french fur trappers who came through the Great Lakes region called this delightful little subshrub Petit the de bois meaning "little tea of the woods." It's the plant we know as Wintergreen or Teaberry, Gaultheria procumbens, and it has an enjoyable wintergreen flavor and aroma. Find a forest with sandy, acid soil and this tiny shrub is a possibility. It's one of several native plants that stay green all winter and add color to the winter landscape.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's About Time

Yes, in fact it is about time that I compose another post for Get Your Botany On!, as it's been nearly two months since my previous post.  But that's not what I am referring to with the title of this post.  I'm referring to the fact that it is about time that one of this country's great botanists gets immortalized on a postage stamp.

This is the third in a series of stamps acknowledging the contributions of American scientists.  Previous stamps in this series have recognized:
  • Barbara McClintock, a cytogeneticist known for her work on the genetic structure of maize;
  • Josiah Willard Gibbs, a physicist, chemist, and mathematician known as the father of physical chemistry;
  • John von Neumann, a mathematician and computer scientist known as one of the greatest mathematicians of the modern era, as well as for his work in quantum mechanics and nuclear physics;
  • Richard Feynman, a physicist known for his work in the field of quantum mechanics as well as for assisting with development of the atomic bomb and introducing the concept of nanotechnology;
  • Gerty Cori, a biochemist known for her work on carbohydrate metabolism;
  • Linus Pauling, a chemist and biochemist known for his work in the field of quantum chemistry;
  • Edwin Hubble, an astronomer known for discovering that there are galaxies outside of the Milky Way; and
  • John Bardeen, a physicist known for inventing the transistor.
In the current set of stamps, botanist Asa Gray is recognized along with three other American scientists.

Here is information on each of these scientists from the U.S. Postal Service webpage:

Melvin Calvin (1911-1997) advanced our understanding of photosynthesis and conducted pioneering research on using plants as an alternative energy source. He won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1961. The stamp art includes a photograph of him taken by Yousuf Karsh. The background shows excerpts from the carbon cycle, and chemical symbols and structures he used to represent the process of photosynthesis.

Asa Gray (1810-1888), one of the nation's first professional botanists, advanced the specialized field of plant geography and became the principal American advocate of evolutionary theory in the mid-nineteenth century. The stamp art features illustrations of plants studied by Gray and the words "Shortia galacifolia" in Gray's handwriting.

Maria Goeppert Mayer (1906-1972) developed a theoretical model that helped explain the structure of the atomic nucleus; for this work she became the only woman other than Marie Curie to win a Nobel Prize in physics. The stamp art combines photographs of Mayer with a chart and a diagram she used to illustrate aspects of the atomic nucleus.

Severo Ochoa (1905-1993), a biochemist, was the first scientist to synthesize ribonucleic acid (RNA) and competed in the race to decipher the genetic code. He won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1959. The stamp shows Ochoa in his laboratory in 1959, along with figures representing some of his work on protein synthesis.

Art Director Ethel Kessler worked with Designer Greg Berger to make each stamp a carefully structured collage of photographs, signatures, and representations of equations and diagrams associated with the scientist's research.

Unfortunately, the post office in my town doesn't carry these stamps.  I was able to purchase them online at face value plus $1.00 for shipping and handling.  These are "forever" stamps, so buy a bunch now and use them forever. 

Not to be greedy, but what I want to know is when the Merritt Lyndon Fernald stamps are coming out so that I can stock up on those!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Juday Creek, South Bend, Indiana

Clear water is an unusual phenomenon in northern Indiana, but this stream flows clear even after heavy rains. It is my hope that landscape developers will do more to preserve and restore the natural features of the land in and around their projects, allowing water to move gradually through natural areas, being cleaned as it percolates through soil. Then it could seep into attractive, meandering streams instead of being shunted immediately to mud-walled ditches and fouling everything downstream with silt and chemicals. If we truly had clean, oxygen-rich water in our rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands, our quality of life would be improved dramatically, and our fish, wildlife, and native plant life would be much more diverse. Special thanks to the many people who work to keep Juday Creek clean and intact!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Plant Quiz Solved - Oenothera laciniata!!

Good call Nick! It is Oenothera laciniata, Ragged Evening Primrose, a common native plant of bare sandy soil. These leaves seem a bit too large, but basal leaves often are noticeably different, and so are winter leaves. On a side note, I have never even thought about tasting this plant! What does it taste like?

Exploring the dune country of Lake County, Indiana last weekend, I was surprised at the many subtle colors in the winter leaves of this plant.