Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blighia sapida

Before Lindsay and I went to Jamaica this past June, Andrew Blackburn told us that while we were there we had to try the Akee and Saltfish, the national meal of Jamaica. While I did have the chance to try saltfish, akee was not in season when we were there. Akee is the fruit of Blighia sapida (Sapindaceae), an evergreen tree native to Africa but grown throughout the Caribbean islands and in tropical areas around the world. It is the national fruit of Jamaica.

These photos of flowers and maturing fruit were taken in Jamaica in June 2008. The photo below is of a nearly mature akee fruit that we saw in Costa Rica in November 2007.

If ever you come across an akee fruit at this stage, don't eat it! Akee is mature when it turns yellow-orange and splits to expose three shiny black seeds. The seeds are surrounded by fleshy, yellowish arils. Only the arils are edible, and only after being boiled. Eating an unripe akee or parts other than the arils leads to vomiting, seizures, and Japanese vomiting sickness (a fatal hypoglycemia). Apparently it is illegal to bring akee into the US because so many people have died from eating unripened akee.
On this date in 1932, Dorothy Popenoe, the wife of Frederick Wilson Popenoe (who was an agricultural explorer who specialized in South American crops and who was responsible for introducing avocados to American kitchens) died at the age of 33 from eating an unripe akee in Guatemala.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This Date in Botanical History...

On December 29-30, 1940, the Germans firebombed London, leading to hundreds of fires around the city. Among other things, this devastation destroyed plates and text from Curtis's Botanical Magazine.

If you're ever doing research on Brazilian or French plants, be alert if you see collections by Auguste Francois Marie Glaziou. On December 30, 1970, John Wurdack noted that Glaziou had actually changed location, date, and morphology collection data on specimens collected by other botanists and considered them his own collections!

Is everyone else enjoying this mild, spring-like weather? Lindsay and I were on a bird count in Ohio on Saturday, and a honeybee flew past me and landed on the ground! Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera with me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Correction: Lepidodendron sp. actually Sigillaria sp.

The post below was the result of a quiz of a fossil I put on GYBO quite a while back. Prem Subrahmanyam was kind enough to not only correct the identification but to also provide the reason (a very interesting one at that). I refer you to his comment below.
Keith nailed this one. It is Lepidodendron. A genus of vascular "trees" from the Carboniferous period (~300MYBP) that are closely related to quilworts (Isoetes) and club mosses (Lycopodium). This partiular specimen was found by a botanist friend in Arkansas. During the Carboniferous period, modern land masses were located along Earth's equator and the world was warmer and more humid. Plants like Lepidodendron lived in the lush swamps that formed the massive coal, oil and natural gas reserves that presently fuel our modern world. As we all know, by re-releasing the carbon of the Carboniferous we are warming the earth and thus altering the patterns of biotic distribution.

An Ancient Quiz

Here is the latest quiz plant. Given the inherent generalities of paleobotany, genus will be fine.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Toxicodendron radicans it is

Dana and Justin correctly identified the frozen branch as that of Toxicodendron radicans.

This is how it grows on the fence along the southern boundary of our property...

... and here are a few of the remaining, nutritious fruits that are eaten and then spread by a variety of birds...

This probably explains why the plant has this shrubby growth around all of our fence posts. The birds eat the fruit, sit on the post, and poop out the seeds; then the plant grows up along the post. Urushiol, the chemical that causes the itchy rash in people, is not poisonous to birds.

Toxicodendron means "poison tree," and radicans means "rooting along the stem." Can you believe that there is a cultivated variety of poison ivy with variegated leaves?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Deep Freeze Plant Quiz

If you hadn't heard, we had a bit of freezing rain the other day. Cold, wet weather is certainly no reason to stay indoors! Knowing few boundaries, I have posted the next plant quiz.

Yeah, that's how I roll.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Would a Rosa by any other name smell as sweet?

The Psoralea/Orbexilum post raised a recurring debate I have with myself. At what point do you accept or reject changes in nomenclature? I strongly believe that science is one of the most democratic of endeavors in which one can be involved. I say this based on the notion that science is based on peer review and the general acceptance (or the failure of rejection) of ideas by a group of informed people. However, the inevitable slop that is inherent to ideas and proof easily, and often, muddy the waters.

Having become a student of botany and Midwestern flora in the late 1990's, I had to jump in and learn whatever names were given by my mentors and/or the current flora in use for the region. And I did so with little questioning simply because one doesn't realize how much grey area exists until one gains familiarity with the sticky issues.

Case in point; the Psoralea/Orbexilum situation. If you were a botanist before 1930 (prior to the switch from the American Code of Botanical Nomenclature to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature) there were many names like Orbexilum that you are seeing come back into usage. Also, there are names that have changed more recently such as Aster/Symphyotrichum. So the question is, how do you (and by "you" i mean YOU specifically and not in the collective sense) know what name to use?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pre-Christmas Plant Quiz

Here is a quick plant quiz for those whose minds are already wandering to spring and green things. Unlike most quizes, this one has the gift of flowers.

This plant occurs from the Chicago Region south.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Love Affair of Gaura biennis and Schinia gaurae

I don't know if it was the cool temperatures, the abundant rainfall or some other stochastic influence, but Gaura biennis was extremely flamboyant in the Ozarks this summer. Everywhere I went, large, diffuse inflorescences of white turning to shades of pink were found.

Admittedly, I have mostly ignored Gaura biennis over the years; finding it gangly and somewhat weedy. But it really out-did itself this year and I took notice. Camera in hand, tripod in tow, I headed down my gravel driveway to a nice specimen for a quick photo. Knowing them to be nocturnal bloomers and having noticed that the flowers were at their peak in the morning when I left the house and mostly shriveled by my evening return, I got to them just after sunrise.

After taking some quick photos, the kind where you don't really see the subject for the equipment, while rushing to beat the light, wind or self-imposed time constraints, I began to study the flowers. In this conscious effort to slow-down and enjoy the moment, the flowers struck me as peculiar. The perianth was tilted about 45 degrees toward the sky, and the stamens where all lined up perpendicular to the ground with the style between the stamens but dropped below their line by a few millimeters. It was the arrangement of the stamens that most drew my attention. I couldn't help but notice that they formed a triangle in outline. Further study revealed a ring of nectaries encircling the base of the style and that the anthers split along the uppermost edge. This made me think about pollinators.
Returning to the house, I grabbed my copy of "Butterflies and Moths of Missouri" and looked for moths that feed on Gaura that might fit what has to be an interesting pollination syndrome. I found that Schinia gaurae (the Clouded Crimson)(picture below from feeds, nectars, rests and lays eggs on species of Gaura and primarily on Gaura biennis. Still curious, I googled for images of this fun little moth. Several of the images demonstrated that the moth is almost the identical size and shape of the stamen arrangement on the Gaura biennis flowers. I also noticed that the back end of its wings are somewhat fluffy, not unlike miniature feather dusters. To cap it off, the adult moth's peak emergence is well in line with the bloom dates of G. biennis.

So at this point I am thinking that Schinia gaurae obviously visits the flowers to get a little nectar and as it aligns itself to drink, the fluffy wing bases get dusted with pollen. It just makes too much sense. Unfortunately, the only references I can find says that G. biennis is pollinated by long-tongued bees. My dream of a "form meets function" world instantly goes up in a cloud of disappointment. After all, what do these Gene Simmons bees have to do with my elaborate Gaura stamens? Are there really nocturnal bees? I needed more info.

I decide to wait until the dead of night before I visit my little population of flowers. At 1am I just can't stand it any longer. I jump in the truck which has become nothing more than a mobile flashlight at this point, and head down the driveway. I get out and eye every flower....nothing. I look closer and find the nectaries, which were dry during the day, are now pumping huge luscious drops of nectar. I must taste one, and I do. It's sweet, but hardly a meal for a curious primate. I also notice that the style is now in line with the anthers and not below them as in the flowers from the day, or should I say night, before. In the anticlimax, I stand a moment, hoping to hear an owl or something to salvage the night, when I notice an erratic flash in the headlights. It's a moth. Surely it is just drawn to the light. It lands on a flower. It's Schinia gaurae!!!! It lights, aligns itself, and drinks. The stamens are covered, the wings are in contact with the anthers and I am ecstatic. I watch for a while, then jump in the truck and head home for a beer and some contemplation about how wonderfully cool life and life on earth is.
Of course, the scientist in me realizes that this merely constitutes circumstantial evidence and in no way proves that Gaura biennis is pollinated by Schinia gaurae. And since I still don't know what the interaction of the plant with long-tongued bees is, they cannot be ruled out. But the novice naturalist, the child, the innocent believer in me is satisfied. At least until next year.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Symphytum officinale

Common Comfrey it is, in the Boraginaceae. I saw this plant from the highway a couple years ago and there wasn't a good place to pull off. By the time I got turned around and back to the area it was pouring rain so I gave up, thinking I'd be back in a few days, but it was forgotten until last May. Strangely, its wetland rating is FACU and at this site it was thriving in a mucky lowland seep.

From a distance it looks like a giant Mertensia with flowers darker and only partially opened. It has leaf tissue decurrent along the stem, making it look strongly winged. It's a native of Europe, escaped from cultivation here and rather attractive. "Officinale" meaning "of the shops," a reference to some historic use in medicine, and hence its prevalence in apothecary shops.

Good call, Scott!

Easy Plant Quiz

This was growing in low, mucky ground in Hobart, Indiana. Photographed May 25, 2008. I'll have to admit I didn't know what it was at the time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hypericum punctatum

That's right, Ellery. The quiz plant was Hypericum punctatum. With flowers or even leaves, this would have been a much easier quiz, as H. punctatum and H. perforatum are very easy to tell apart during the growing season. Outside of the growing season, there aren't as many characters to use to distinguish the two. H. perforatum would have a more angled stem formed by decurrent leaf bases. Also, H. perforatum is more woody/shrubby than H. punctatum. This character isn't as obvious from the photo I posted, but in seeing the plant in person this is more obvious. Finally, the sepals of H. punctatum are blunt to acute, while those of H. perforatum are linear-lanceolate and attenuate.

The genus name Hypericum comes from the ancient Greek name Hypericon, which was derived from the word meaning "over a picture." Flowers were often collected and placed above pictures in the house to ward off evil spirits at Walpurgisnacht, the midsummer festival associated with the summer solstice that later became known as the feast of St. John. The specific epithet, punctatum, refers to the black and transparent dots on the leaves and petals.

Nice job, Ellery. And good guesses, Keith.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Snow Angel?

When I got home from work on Friday, it was dark out, but I noticed a snow angel in our yard. I went out today to take a photo...

Any thoughts? There are no tracks leading to it. My guess was a Cooper's Hawk, but if that's what it is, it must not have hit its target.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

October in Nashville

As most of you know, I was in Nashville, Tennessee in October for the Natural Areas Association annual conference. I showed a few photos from my conference field trip at Botany Slide Show, but I thought you might like to see some of the photos that I didn't show.

Nashville is located in what is known as the Central Basin of Tennessee. While this natural region is now at a lower elevation than the surrounding Highland Rim, before being eroded it was at a higher elevation in the form of a dome. Caves and sinkholes are very common throughout the area.

We first visited a limestone barren. I expected something similar to the dolomite glades of Missouri, but this community was very different. I now understand why these areas are sometimes called "pavement."

One of the plants I was hoping to see on the limestone barrens was the Federally Endangered Dalea foliosa. I've seen this prairie clover on dolomite prairies near Chicago, so I wanted to compare the habitat and associate species. Unfortunately, our guides had not located any Dalea foliosa this year in the places it had been seen in past years. They thought it might have been due to weather conditions. When they showed us the place it had been seen in past years, I was surprised at how shrubby it was. I'm wondering if this rarity hasn't been shaded out at the site we visited.

While we didn't find Dalea foliosa, we did see Dalea gattingeri (but it wasn't flowering). While this species is not Federally or State listed, it is restricted to the limestone barrens of the southeastern US.

Also on the limestone barrens, Theo Witsell and I came across the tiny Scutellaria parvula.... not rare, but often overlooked because of its size.

After the limestone barrens, we visited a couple of cedar glades. As seen in the photo below, the cedar glades have the obvious presence of more grasses and Juniperus virginiana. It's hard to believe, but these communities have apparently not been fire-maintained.

One of the plants we saw in the cedar glades was Grindelia lanceolata. The genus is named for the Latvian botanist David Hieronymus Grindel (how about that for a middle name, Dana and Justin??). This isn't an uncommon plant, but it was one I'd never seen. I'm surprised to see that it's known from Wisconsin, as it seems to have more of a southern distribution overall. It would be interesting to compare the few remaining cedar glades in Wisconsin to those in the southeastern US.

Along a roadside near a cedar glade we saw the State Threatened Silphium pinnatifidum, or S. terebinthinaceum v. pinnatifidum. I'd only read about this gem in the past. It grows in cedar glades in scattered counties within Tennessee (and in a band from Wisconsin to Georgia).

If you've actually read this far, you're in luck. The next two species that we saw in the cedar glades are rare in Tennessee, and one of the two is endangered in the US.

Astragalus tennesseensis is listed as Special Concern in Tennessee, but it's only known from a handful of counties in the state on cedar glades and limestone barrens. Unfortunately, it flowers in the spring, so we were only able to find the remains of some fruit.

Lastly, Echinacea tennesseensis, Federally Endangered; the first species from Tennessee ever to be designated as Federally Endangered. This species is only known from three counties within one watershed in the Central Basin of Tennessee, even though plenty of appropriate habitat is present in other watersheds nearby. Where it is present, it is abundant. At the first cedar glade, we only found it in fruit.

Rain had started to fall pretty steadily by the time we arrived at the next cedar glade. I decided I would leave my camera in the bus, as I assumed we wouldn't find anything else exciting in flower. After a 1/2 mile walk, we arrived in an opening full of Echinacea tennesseensis, and several were still in flower. I took a few photos with my cell phone, but decided it was worth a jog back to the bus in the rain to get my camera. Well worth the exercise...

Snowy Update

Well, it's winter here in northern Indiana. We were handed between 8 inches and a foot of snow on Thursday and Friday. It's beautiful, but not too good for botanizing.

Today, I went to the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society annual conference in Indianapolis. Among the speakers were Mike Homoya, Doug Tallamy, Steve Yaninek, and Jim McCormac. All were excellent and very inspiring (have you ever heard anyone compare a Cooper's Hawk to a combination of Wayne Gretzky, Mike Tyson, and Genghis Kahn???), leading to a better conference than I expected. This was the second time I'd seen Dr. Tallamy speak, and the first time I'd seen the others. If you ever have the chance to hear any of them, I hope you don't miss out. In addition to these folks, it was nice to rub shoulders with the likes of Kay Yatskievych, Paul Rothrock, Lee Casebere, Kevin Tungesvick, Steve Dunbar, Cathey Meyer, and others.

Here are a couple of interesting websites that I obtained at the conference...

After you look at this second webpage, let me know when you're ready to schedule a January trip to central Mexico with Lindsay and me to see the wintering Monarchs.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Denizen of the Dry Country

The rare and spectacular Baptisia leucophaea is hard to find in Indiana, but in sparsely wooded sandy fields at the South Bend Motor Speedway it grows by the hundreds, putting on a spectacular display in spring. There is talk of the area being subdivided for housing, and it will probably happen when the economy improves. Note the surveyor’s stake in the background. Long live Cream Wild Indigo, and long live Earth’s ever-shrinking natural areas!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Composite Quotes

Here are the quotes that Karen and I read to accompany the composite slide show.

Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
Sister Yarrow, Knight’s Milfoil,
grown near battlegrounds,
harvested by squires before sword-clang.
Soldier’s Woundwort
clotted blood through Britain,
staunched the flow on Russian steppes,
saved riders of the Golden Horde,
sanguinary poultice,
love charm, astringent tea.
-John Caddy,

Antennaria parlinii (Parlin’s pussytoes)
The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.
-Gertrude S. Wister

Aster ericoides (heath aster)
Chide me not, laborious band!
For the idle flowers I brought;
Every aster in my hand
Goes home loaded with a thought.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Apology

Aster lateriflorus (side-flowering aster)
The Autumn wood the aster knows,
The empty nest, the wind that grieves,
The sunlight breaking thro' the shade,
The squirrel chattering overhead,
The timid rabbits lighter tread
Among the rustling leaves.
- Dora Read Goodale, Asters

Aster novae-angliae (New England aster)
The purple asters bloom in crowds
In every shady nook,
And ladies’ eardrops deck the banks
Of many a babbling brook.
-Elaine Goodale, Autumn

Aster shortii (Short’s aster)
The aster greets us as we pass
With her faint smile.
- Mrs. Sarah Helen Power Whitman, A Day of the Indian Summer

Aster umbellatus (flat-top aster)
One dark and stormy night in 1994 I was awakened from a deep sleep by a loud thump. Creeping carefully down the stairs, I discovered to my astonishment that a large bouquet of Aster on the dining table had disappeared! In its place was a cornucopia of composites, including Symphyotrichum, Ionactis, Eurybia, Sericocarpus, Doellingeria, Ampelaster, and Oclemena! Once again, a plant taxonomist had struck in dark of night, taken a simple two-syllable genus with the same English common name, and replaced it with a handful of four- and five-syllable Latin tongue-twisters. Whatever can we do about such things?
-Alan Weakly, The Curious Case of the Disappearing Asters

Cacalia plantaginea (prairie Indian plantain)
For myself I hold no preferences among flowers, so long as they are wild, free, spontaneous. Bricks to all greenhouses! Black thumb and cutworm to the potted plant!
-Edward Abbey

Carduus nutans (musk thistle)
When on the breath of Autumn's breeze,
From pastures day and brown,
Goes floating, like an idle thought,
The fair, white thistle-down;
O, then what joy to walk at will,
Upon the golden harvest-hill!
- Mary Howitt, Corn-Fields

Centaurea maculosa (spotted knapweed)
What is a weed? I have heard it said that there are sixty definitions. For me, a weed is a plant out of place.
-Donald Culross Peattie

Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (ox-eye daisy)
All summer she scattered the daisy leaves;
They only mocked her as they fell.
She said: "The daisy but deceives;
'He loves me not,' 'he loves me will,'
One story no two daisies tell."
Ah foolish heart, which waits and grieves
Under the daisy's mocking spell.
- Helen Hunt Jackson (Helen Hunt), The Sign of the Daisy

Cichorium intybus (chicory)
It has made its way, on wind,
far into the city, and it nods there,
on streetcorners, in what July wind
its slips garner. Since childhood
I have loved it, it is so violet-blue,
its root, its marrow, so interred,
prepared to suffer, impossible to move.
Weed, wildflower, grown waist-high
where it is no one’s responsibility
to mow, its blue-white
center frankly open
as an eye, it flaunts
its tender, living lingerie,
the purple hairs of its interior.
Women are weeds and weeds are women,
I once heard a woman say.
Bloom where you are planted, said my mother.
-Catherine Rankovic, Blue Chicory

Coreopsis lanceolata (sand coreopsis)
The mockingbird says, Hallelujah, coreopsis, I make the day bright, I wake the night-booming jasmine.
-Barbara Hamby, from Thus Spake the Mockingbird

Coreopsis tripteris (tall coreopsis)
With zealous step he climbs the upland lawn,
And bows in homage to the rising dawn;
Imbibes with eagle eye the golden ray,
And watches, as it moves, the orb of day.
- Erasmus Darwin, Loves of the Plants

Echinacea pallida (purple coneflower)
Flowers construct the most charming geometries: circles like the sun,
ovals, cones, curlicues and a variety of triangular eccentricities, which
when viewed with the eye of a magnifying glass seem a Lilliputian
frieze of psychedelic silhouettes.
- Duane Michals, The Vanishing Act

Erigeron philadelphicus (marsh fleabane)
There is a flower, a little flower
With silver crest and golden eye,
That welcomes every changing hour,
And weathers every sky.
- James Montgomery, A Field Flower

Eupatorium maculatum (spotted Joe Pye weed)
The joe-pye weeds will stand as sentinels
Their lavender riches offered to the sky.
The prairie grasses, gardens of the desert,
Will move in a rhythm to match our own.
-Kathy Stevenson, from Prairie Reverie

Helenium autumnale (sneezeweed)
Radiant color
In amber fields of plenty
Celebrate summer
-Karla Dorman, Sunflower Fields

Helianthus divaricatus (woodland sunflower)
Light-enchanted sunflower, thou
Who gazest ever true and tender
On the sun's revolving splendour.
- Pedro Calderon de la Barca, Magico Prodigioso (sc. 3), (Shelley's translation)

Helianthus giganteus (tall sunflower)
And the yellow sunflower by the brook, in autumn beauty stood.
- William Cullen Bryant

Helianthus occidentalis (western sunflower)
You're expected to see
only the top, where sky
scrambles bloom, and not
the spindly leg, hairy, fending off
tall, green darkness beneath.
Like every flower, she has a little
theory, and what she thinks
is up. I imagine the long
climb out of the dark
beyond morning glories, day lilies, four o'clocks
up there to the dream she keeps
lifting, where it's noon all day.
-Frank Steele, Sunflower

Heliopsis helianthoides (false sunflower)
The Sunflow'r, thinking 'twas for him foul shame
To nap by daylight, strove t' excuse the blame;
It was not sleep that made him nod, he said,
But too great weight and largeness of his head.
- Abraham Cowley, Of Plants

Krigia biflora (false dandelion)
Little girls, and boys come out to play
Bring your dandelions to blow away
Dandelion don't tell no lies
Dandelion will make you wise
Tell me if she laughs or cries
Blow away dandelion, blow away dandelion
-The Rolling Stones, Dandelion

Liatris spicata (marsh blazing star), Liatris aspera (rough blazing star)
One by one the prairie species come,
Fill every niche of time and light.
Their names spill into poems on the tongue,
Liatris, aster, needlegrass. We watch
The wash of Renoir's colors through
The bluestem grass, the herons sweeping
Home. In evening light the junipers
Could almost be bison, gently grazing.
-Robin Chapman, Prairie Restoration

Parthenium integrifolium (wild quinine)
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
-William Blake, Auguries of Innocence (excerpt)

Prenanthes racemosa (glaucous white lettuce)
'Tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes!
- William Wordsworth, "Lines Written in Early Spring," Lyrical Ballads, 1798

Ratibida pinnata (yellow coneflower)
Eagle of flowers! I see thee stand,
And on the sun's noon-glory gaze;
With eye like his, thy lids expand,
And fringe their disk with golden rays:
Though fix'd on earth, in darkness rooted there,
Light is thy element, thy dwelling air,
Thy prospect heaven.- James Montgomery, The Sunflower

Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan)
All in the Downs the fleet was moor’d,
The streamers waving in the wind,
When black-eyed Susan came aboard;
‘O! where shall I my true-love find?
Tell me, ye jovial sailors, tell me true
If my sweet William sails among the crew.’
-John Gay, Black-eyed Susan (excerpt)

Rudbeckia laciniata (wild golden glow)
O Susan, Susan, lovely dear,
My vows shall ever true remain;
Let me kiss off that falling tear,
We only part to meet again.
Change, as ye list, ye winds; my heart shall be
The faithful compass that still points to thee.
-John Gay, Sweet William’s Farewell to Black-eyed Susan (excerpt)

Senecio obovatus (round-leaved ragwort)
Ragwort thou humble flower with tattered leaves
I love to see thee come and litter gold
- John Clare c.1835, The Ragwort

Silphium integrifolium (rosin weed), Silphium laciniatum (compass plant)
Look at this vigorous plant that lifts its head from the meadow,
See how its leaves are turned to the north, as true as the magnet;
This is the compass-flower, that the finger of God has planted
Here in the houseless wild, to direct the traveller's journey.
Over the sea-like, pathless, limitless waste of the desert,
Such in the soul of man is faith.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline

Silphium terebinthinaceum (prairie dock)
I see you there in glory shining bright,
Following the sun and its path of light.
Standing tall above all others in the field,
You grow, conquer, and do not yield.
- Katherine R. Lane, Poem to a Sunflower (excerpt)

Solidago juncea (early goldenrod)
Welcome, dear Goldenrod, once more,
Thou mimic, flowering elm!
I always think that Summer's store
Hangs from thy laden stem.
- Horace Elisha Scudder, To the Goldenrod at Midsummer

Solidago ptarmicoides (stiff aster)
I am half dead with Aster. I got on very fairly until I got to the thick of the genus, around what I call the Dumosi and Salicifolia. Here I work and work, but make no headway at all. I can't tell what are species and how to define any of them ..... I was never so boggled ..... If you hear of my breaking down utterly, and being sent to an asylum, you may lay it to Aster, which is a slow and fatal poison."
- Asa Gray, late in his life

Solidago rigida (stiff goldenrod)
And in the evening, everywhere
Along the roadside, up and down,
I see the golden torches flare
Like lighted street-lamps in the town.
- Frank Dempster Sherman, Golden-Rod

Solidago uliginosa (bog goldenrod)
Nature lies disheveled, pale,
With her feverish lips apart,--
Day by day the pulses fail,
Nearer to her bounding heart;
Yet that slackened grasp doth hold
Store of pure and genuine gold;
Quick thou comest, strong and free,
Type of all the wealth to be,--
- Elaine Goodale (Mrs. Charles A. Eastman), Goldenrod

Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion)
Upon a showery night and still,
Without a sound of warning,
A trooper band surprised the hill,
And held it in the morning.
We were not waked by bugle notes,
No cheer our dreams invaded,
And yet at dawn, their yellow coats
On the green slopes paraded.
- Helen Gray Cone, The Dandelions

Tragopogon dubius (sand goat’s beard)
Then did we question of the down-balls, blowing
To know if some slight wish would come to pass
-Quoted by Ann Pratt, Wild Flowers (1857)

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Lycopodium obscurum (Ground Pine, Princess Pine)
Lycopodium complanatum v. flabelliforme (Trailing Ground Pine)

Lycopodium clavatum (Running Ground Pine)

Lycopodium tristachyum (Ground Cedar)

Lycopodium lucidulum (Shining Club Moss)

It was a spectacular day in Sebert Woods! Blustery winds brought down all manner of brightly colored leaves (as well as large limbs) and it was marvelously mosquito-free! I was reminded of Margeret Micklethwait’s line: “Sometimes a rough wind surges through the trees, making a sound like wild and stormy seas, and rushing waves…” Photos from the day include Lycopodium obscurum, L. complanatum flabelliforme, L. clavatum, L. tristachyum, and L. lucidulum. Some of these club mosses are now being called by outlandishly different names, and I’ll hop on that bandwagon eventually. In the meantime, if anyone is splitting the Lycopodium obscurum/dendroideum/hickeyi complex, please feel free to comment. What a pleasant autumn day!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sassafras albidum

"The odoriferous sassafras, with its delicate green stem, its three-lobed leaf, tempting the travelers to bruise it, it sheds so rare a perfume on him, equal to all the spices of the East. Then its rare-tasting root bark, like nothing else, which I used to dig. The first navigators freighted their ships with it and deemed it worth its weight in gold." Henry David Thoreau, journal entry, August 31, 1850.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cool Bugs!

Walking Stick on Sassafras albidum and Nursery Web Spider on Pyrola rotundifolia at Wintergreen Woods Nature Preserve in Laporte County, Indiana, earlier this year.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Unusual Trees

The silver maple (Acer saccharinum) reaches out over South Olive Street in South Bend, Indiana. The oak (Quercus sp.) was on a county road south of South Bend. I believe it's gone now.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Botany Slide Show Update

Botany Slide Show is scheduled for November 8, 2008. That's just over 1 month away! Please feel free to show up anytime after noon. The slides will likely begin around 5 PM, but we want to have time to discuss botany, conservation, recent publications, specific sites, etc. before we become immersed in slides. Lindsay will be making antelope chili (antelope courtesy of "Shotgun" Thomas). At this point, I have the following people signed up:

Karen (slides), Paul, and Catherine
Andrew (no slides)
Scott (slides) and Lindsay
Justin (slides and quiz) and Dana (slides)
Bruce (slides)
goooooood girl (slides)
Vic and Marge (no slides)
Bryn (maybe slides), John, and Rilo
Keith (slides)
fish n' chips95 (no slides)
Tony (maybe slides)
Brad (slides)
Nicole (no slides)
Stu (no slides)
Tyler (no slides)

Also, the following people requested shirts:

Karen (L)
Andrew (L)
Scott (XL)
Lindsay (S)
Justin (XL)
Dana (L)
Bruce (L)
Bryn (XL)
Keith (XL)
Tony (XL)
Brad (L)

If you're coming and haven't let me know, please let me know as soon as you can. Also, if you wanted a shirt but you're not listed here, let me know.

I look forward to seeing all of you November 8.

Bonus Plant Quiz

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Regional Variation in C-value. Why?

The Rotala ramosior post of a few days ago got me thinking. Scott mentioned that it has a C-value of 10 in the Chicago region. In Missouri, it has a C-value of 4. In Indiana it has a C-value of 2. Swink and Wilhelm say, as reiterated by Scott, that it occurs in ditches and areas of recent excavation. Unless ditches and recently excavated sites are pristine, pre-settlement natural community types, I don't see how it could possibly be a 10. Even Running Buffalo Clover, a disturbance dependant species, has a C-value of 3 in Indiana.

Because of this regional bias, I am increasingly convinced that C-values should not be regionally specific. In my opinion, a species’ behavior, as expressed by its fidelity to undisturbed habitat, does not vary from region to region. Rotala ramosior is as weedy in Missouri as it is in the Chicago region and Indiana. Therefore it should have the same C-value regardless of region. Am I missing something? Can anyone give me a reason to believe otherwise?

Latest Plant Quiz

Here is the next quiz. Let's hope fish n' chips95 doesn't get it first.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Fall is here. Today, in LaPorte County, Indiana, I saw Hamamelis virginiana (Hamamelidaceae) in bloom. Below is a photo.

I can't imagine anyone has claimed the Hamamelidaceae yet, so I'll claim it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Plant Quiz Answer - Rotala ramosior (these quizzes are just too easy)

It's nice to know that Justin is safe and sound... I hadn't heard anything from him lately, and was beginning to wonder if "goooooood girl" had gotten ahold of him (see the post on Gentiana saponaria if you're lost).

Rotala ramosior has a C-value of 10 in the Chicago Region, and is a plant of Special Concern in Michigan. It is found most commonly in wet, sandy soils with little competition, often around ponds, in ditches, and where excavation has taken place. It therefore can be considered an early successional species that requires some form of disturbance. This plant was photographed several years ago in Southwest Michigan, growing around an excavated pond with Hemicarpha micrantha (Special Concern in Michigan) and Gratiola virginiana (Threatened in Michigan).

Nice work, Justin. Looking forward to your next quiz.

Your Next Plant Quiz

I'm running out of photos to use for quizzes! Here's the next one... it's an old photo, so the quality isn't great.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cleistogamy - Another Try!

Here's a second try at posting the cleistogamous flowers picture, since the other won't expand when selected.

Polygala polygama v. obtusata it is!

Great work, Scott! Racemed Milkwort is one of those admirable denizens of the dry country, showing up in places that are very hot and well-drained.

Polygala = much milk, a reference to the milky sap. Polygama = many marriages, a reference to the many flowers, some of which are cleistogamous and attached to the roots, or on short racemes (above ground) at the base of the plant. Several species of Polygala smell like wintergreen near the base and among the roots. The plant in the second picture was re-planted (and even watered) after the picture was made.

Photographed July 2, 2008 in a Black Oak savannah in Porter County, Indiana. The next plant quiz is yours, Scott.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Plant Quiz Answer - Gentiana saponaria

You've got it, Keith! Nice work. The quiz photo was of Gentiana saponaria.

This species of gentian is found in sandy moist prairies and in black oak savannas in the Chicago Region. The photos of this plant were taken in September 2007 in a savanna in NW Indiana.

Keith, the next quiz is yours...