Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hundreds Attend Global Warming Protest

The latest email funny to make the rounds. I'm sure most of you have seen it already.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From the mind of Hackelia virginiana...

Marianne sent me this article from The Onion today...

I Have Completed Stage One Of Our Plan To Take Over The World
By Bur #318 January 7, 2009 Issue 45•02

Bur #318 reporting: Primary objectives have been met. Ready Parent Organism Beta 51.2-6 for execution of Stage Two.

I repeat: Stage One of our plan to systematically seize control of the entire planet is complete.

Stage One, Sequence A: I have successfully detached myself from Parent Organism Beta 51.2-6. Strategic placement of Parent Organism Beta 51.2-6 near the edge of Trail 9 resulted in direct fiber contact, which resulted in coerced stem separation, which resulted in total detachment from Parent Organism.

Stage One, Sequence B: I have successfully attached myself to the host sock. As planned, the 100 percent cotton sock proved suitable for my naturally adhesive hooks. In this regard, our calculations were beyond sound—they were flawless. Prior concerns that wind resistance might prematurely dislodge me from the sock were entirely unfounded. The denim pant leg adjacent to the host sock acted as a protective barrier, holding me firmly in place for the duration of the journey.

Stage One, Sequence C: By my best estimate, I have successfully traveled 3.45 miles from Parent Organism Beta 51.2-6. I now sit at a prime vantage point from which to colonize the surrounding hills and meadows. Contact with foreign soil forthcoming.

Dominion over the earth shall soon be ours.

Ready Parent Organism for further seed deployment. I shall proceed forward to Stage Two: random disbursement of our precious bur alleles across a remote location. The production of new parent organisms will initiate the production of new burs, which will initiate the production of new parent organisms, which will initiate the production of new burs, which will initiate the production of new parent organisms, which will initiate the production of new burs.

Burs #2–3,953: Prepare to ward off potential predators with your coarse, inedible exteriors. Let the jaws of neither rabbit, bird, nor deer stand in the way of our collective destiny. Parent Organism Beta 51.2-6 must be allowed to reproduce. In a matter of centuries, the world's fields, weed patches, river basins, and forests will be inundated with our species, thus awarding us total control over every life form on the planet.

Burs #3,954–6,772: Prepare to continue Parent Organism Beta 51.2-6 growth in the direction of the Trail 9 footpath. If, in the event of my demise, another bur should have to complete the Stage One objective, shifting Parent Organism one and one half inches closer to the footpath would increase the odds of direct fiber contact by 46.6 percent.

A mere 7,869,371 stages remain incomplete. I will now commence with the execution of Stage Two, as planned.

Stage Two, Sequence A: Make direct contact with foreign soil. Determining current location....

Current location unknown. I appear to be submerged underneath a large pile of fabric. No soil is visible. I will now attempt to disengage myself from the host sock in an effort to reach the ground. Disengaging now….



I am unable to disengage. Repeat, unable to disengage. I lack the propulsive anatomical structure required for terrestrial locomotion. Alas, I will have to wait until the cotton fibers on the host sock naturally loosen themselves from my tenacious grip. Stage Two and total domination of the planet await. Assuming wait position. Wait position assumed. I am now waiting. Time rewards the patient bur.

Incoming movement detected. Movement approaching quickly. I shall now analyze the movement….

The movement is hostile. I am now entering defensive posture. Hostile contact is imminent. I shall now scan the area for a possible escape route….

Negative! Escape is impossible! Hostile contact imminent! Assuming hiding position! Position failed! Initiating reinforced grip on cotton! Reinforced grip failed! I am now experiencing forced detachment from the host sock! All is lost! Bur #2: Recommence Stage One, Sequence A! Recommence Stage One, Sequence A!

I have failed you all. May future burs learn from my errors and carry on the sacred goal of world domination. Do not give up hope, friends. Victory will one day be yours. Farewell, fellow burs, and long live the Parent Organism!

Long live the—

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Hamamelis vernalis (Ozark witchhazel) inhabits
gravel bars and rocky streambeds on the Ozark
Plateau in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
Why its range is so restricted compared to its
cosmopolitan cousin, Hamamelis virginiana
(American witchhazel), is a mystery. Perhaps
the ancient geology of the region holds the answer.
The two can be distinguished from each other
by flowering time and color. H. virginiana
flowers in the fall and has pure yellow flowers
while H. vernalis flowers in the spring (as
"vernalis" means spring) and has yellow flowers
with reddish inner calyxes. The bloom period,
however, can overlap as these were found
blooming during the same weekend (January
10 & 11).

Top: Hamamelis virginiana
Bottom: Hamamelis vernalis

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Botanical Moment in Time, Captured and Preserved

Dr. Verne O. Graham pauses beside Swertia/Frasera caroliniensis, American Columbo, in Cook County, Illinois, 1923. Published on page 427 of Herman Pepoon's Annotated Flora of the Chicago Area, this picture is rather famous and well-loved in the Chicago Region.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nathaniel Lord Britton and William Starling Sullivant

Botanist and Taxonomist Nathaniel Lord Britton was born on January 15, 1857 at New Dorp, Staten Island, New York. Britton founded (1891) and served as Director-in-Chief (1895-1929) of the New York Botanical Garden. Among his other botanical accomplishments were publications of such works as The Flora of Bermuda (1918), The Bahama Flora (1920, with Charles F. Millspaugh), The Cactaceae (1924, with Joseph Nelson Rose), and An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada (1896-1898, financed by Judge Addison Brown). Britton also began Flora Borinquena (a flora of Puerto Rico), but was not able to finish this work before he passed away in 1934.

Botanist, Bryologist, Surveyor, and Engineer William Starling Sullivant was born on January 15, 1803 in Franklinton, Ohio. Sullivant's major contribution in terms of vascular plants was A Catalogue of Plants, Native or Naturalized, in the Vicinity of Columbus, Ohio (1840). After this work, Sullivant turned his focus to mosses. Sullivant published Musci Alleghanienses (1845), Contributions to the Bryology and Hepaticology of North America (1846-1849), The Musci and Hepaticae of the United States East of the Mississippi River (1856), Musci Boreali Americani Exsiccati (1856, with Leo Lesquereux), Musci Cubensis (1860, based on collections by Charles Wright in Cuba), and Icones Muscorum (1864, 1874). The Saxifragaceous plant Sullivantia ohionis (now known as Sullivantia sullivantii) was first discovered by Sullivant in Ohio, and was named for him by Asa Gray and John Torrey; Asclepias sullivantii (Asclepiadaceae) was also named for Sullivant, who discovered it). Sullivant passed away in 1873, before he was able to finish working on bryophyte publications for Venezuela (based on collections by August Fendler) and the North Pacific (based on collections by Charles Wright).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another Famous January Birthday

I don't have any recent plant photos to share as a quiz, so my quiz will be botanical trivia instead. What American botanist was born on this day (January 15) in history?

Bellis perennis

Good call, Scott. English Daisy is an uncommon lawn weed in the Midwest. This colony was near the parking area at Russ Forest in Michigan. It also grows just inside the north gate at Bendix Woods, where it has persisted for at least 20 years. Interestingly, the latter colony has migrated several feet over the years.

Plant Quiz

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Krigia cespitosa!

Keith Board nailed the quiz.

I saw a lot of this little guy in 2008. I assume that the wet spring had much to with it.

Plant Quiz!!!

Here is a quiz plant, for those interested in such. The photo was taken in late June at MU Forestry Camp near Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Following Keith's advice of not moving the image, the photo will enlarge if you click on it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Vacation from the Tracheophytes

Santa Claus, who turns out to be my wife (who knew?), after slyly achieving family-based funding, scored me a new macro lens for my DSLR. If that ain't love, then ride me to Texas. Then the Gods of birthday, via UPS, their incarnate vehicle of choice, delivered into my heathen hands a tripod worthy of an earth bound misfit such as I. This new setup has both changed and challenged my technique to such magnitude that I feel like I'm learning the camera all over again. Anyway, I was able to get out for a few photos yesterday and thought I would share.
This half decomposed acorn exoderm drew my attention from several meters away. There are some fascinating landscapes at our feet to which we are seldom privy. It goes to show that trips to the Grand Canyon and Uluru (aka Ayer's Rock) are very scale-centric.

I'm hoping my new setup will help me with mosses. I have made several attempts to learn to identify mosses over the past several winters. I have found them to be quite tedious and the few keys out there are not very well written; at least that is my excuse. I have heard Paul Redfern (Missouri bryologist of global esteem) quoted as saying "keys are written by people who don't NEED them, for people who can't USE them". While there is much wisdom in that, I manage to learn a few more each year before spring and the bigger, showier organisms pull me back to reason. Now armed with macro capabilities, I have vowed to photograph as many as possible this winter in order to put together a personal photographic guide that I can use to keep sharp during my summer hiatuses. Here are a couple of common species of mosses and a lichen from my resent excursion.
This is Leucobryum glaucum of the Leucobryaceae. I'm sure many of you may already kn0w it. It is the gray-green moss that is always growing in cute little tufts. It seems to prefer dry acid woodlands. It is interesting that the blades of the leaves in this genus are very reduced and what appear as leaves are only the remaining "midrib" (technically "costa" in moss-speak). Sporophytes are uncommonly encountered.
This is Atrichum angustatum of the Polytrichaceae. As with other Atrichum, it has several longitudinal gill-like ridges (called "lamellae") on the adaxial (upper) leaf surface. This is also a species of dry-acid woodlands.
This lichen was just too out of control not to photograph. It is certainly a species of Cladonia (same genus as British Soldiers), but seeing how there are 128 species in North America and that many look just like this, I don't dare veture a guess as to a species. The keys to idenification with this group, as with many lichens, are based on chemical tests that most of us don't have the equipment, will or brains to delve into.
That's it for now. I'll post more as I get photos and, more importantly, as I get them identified. Wish me luck.

Flora and Fauna

Last June I noticed this backlit Showy Lady's Slipper in Hammond, Indiana with the silhouette of a strange and beautiful bug. Is it a Katydid nymph? I have no idea.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thomas Nuttall


Thomas Nuttall was born in Long Preston in Yorkshire on January 5, 1786. He moved to America in 1808, and stayed until 1841. Thanks to the encouragement of Benjamin Smith Barton, Nuttall changed professions from a printer to a naturalist.

Monday, January 5, 2009

It's January 5... Happy Birthday to....

What famous botanist and birder, who spent plenty of time in the Great Lakes Region and also some time in Missouri, was born on this day in history?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

None of the pictures on the latest post would expand, so here's another try!

Winter Greens

A surprising number of native plants are green in winter. It would be interesting and fun to list them sometime, and maybe even do a slideshow. Here are a few I’ve seen recently:

Gaultheria procumbens, Teaberry, Wintergreen. This plant was called “Petit the des bois” (little tea of the woods) by the French fur trappers in North America. Amazingly, it’s a shrub - albeit vertically challenged! Sometimes regarded as a "subshrub."

Tipularia discolor, Crane Fly Orchid. This plant produces a single leaf in autumn and takes advantage of ample sunlight reaching the forest floor in winter. When it flowers in summer it is scapose, that is, having a “scape” (leafless flowering stem) and the scape is without chlorophyll. It is named for Tipula, a genus of Crane Fly that the flowers resemble. Some Orchids are thought to mimic the look of insects so well as to mislead the insects to attempt copulation, thereby transferring pollen. Orchid mimicry is amazing, and well worth a little browsing time on the Internet. I don’t know whether anyone has actually seen Crane Flies on this plant, but it would be fun to watch a flowering colony during the night and document what shows up. And who says freckles can't be attractive? Just look at Yasmine Bleeth!

Aplectrum hyemale, Puttyroot or Adam-and-Eve Orchid. This is another Orchid that produces a winter leaf (hyemale = of winter), but the flowering scape on this one sometimes has a little greenish cast to it. The leaf has a very strange texture, sort of crinkly like cellophane, and the veins are extremely tough, like reinforced shipping tape. One sometimes finds a leaf that’s been chewed a little and then left alone. Perhaps they are too tough to bother with or they taste bad. Both of these Orchids are common south of the Chicago Region but rare as hen's teeth around here.

Finally, a frozen pool at Ambler Flatwoods, just for fun.