Monday, October 28, 2013

Plant Quiz - Answered

I recently posted the following plant quiz...
Been a while... how about a cropped photo plant quiz?

Good luck!

Ben and DenPro both correctly responded that this is a close-up of Clematis virginiana, Virgin's Bower.  Here's the original photo, prior to being cropped...

Note the plumose styles of Clematis virginiana in fruit.
... and here's another photo showing the feathery inflorescences made up of numerous plumose styles when the plant is in fruit.  Like most plants I've noticed this fall, Clematis virginiana seemed to flower and fruit profusely this year.

The dense inflorescence of Clematis virginiana in fruit.
During the summer, Clematis virginiana looks like this, a vine with flowers in axillary panicles, each with four white to cream-colored petaloid sepals, no petals, and numerous pistils in female flowers and stamens in male flowers.  The leaves are compound, often with three leaflets, each of which is toothed on the margins. The similar looking Clematis ternifolia, an invasive species from Asia, has five leaflets that are entire or merely crenate on the margins.

Clematis virginiana in flower.
Clematis virginiana grows in moist thickets, in wooded and open floodplains, and along fencerows throughout the eastern half of North America.  Taxonomically, it is placed in the family Ranunculaceae.

Nice job, Ben and DenPro!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sassafras Color

One of my favorite trees is Sassafras albidum. It’s a native of dry sand country and adds a lot of color and character to black oak savannas.  The leaves occur in three different types: one lobe, two lobes, and three lobes. The crushed leaves and twigs have an unusual but pleasant smell. The cut wood is beautiful and has a pungent chemical smell that is also very good. And of course, the roots have that wonderful root beer smell and flavor, long cherished for sassafras tea. Experts now say the tea can cause stomach cancer, but I’m starting to think so does breathing the air and drinking the water.

Of this remarkable and very attractive tree, Thoreau wrote the following: "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.