Sunday, May 24, 2020

Visiting Hawaii--Botanist on Oahu

In December, my husband and I visited Hawaii, staying in Honolulu for a week. Today (May 2020) there's a two week in-your-hotel-room quarantine for people arriving in Hawaii. I daydream about making taking a three week trip but probably not. So I'll reminisce.
Waikiki from Hau Tree Lanai
Waikiki Beach at sunrise
Of course there were beautiful sunrises, such as this one, over Waikiki. But wait, that's a plant picture, a hau tree, Hibiscus tiliaceus (mallow family, Malvaceae), frames the photo. (This is after all, a botanical post).

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Plant Story--Blue Mustard, Chorispora tenella

Spring is the blooming time of many plants of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, from shepherd's purse to black mustard to clasping pepperweed, but also radishes, cabbages, and oilseed rape. The family is pretty easily recognized because the flowers have four petals in the shape of a cross, the source of the older (still valid) family name Cruciferae.
blue mustard, Chorispora tenella
blue mustard, Chorispora tenella
Blue mustard, Chorispora tenella, is one of the spring mustards. Actually, its seeds germinate in the fall, the young plants lay low over the winter and put on a spurt of growth in spring to flower in April or May, dying in the heat of midsummer. That life cycle is described as being a winter annual, and like many winter annuals, if conditions are right, blue mustard seeds will germinate in spring and grow rapidly, making them also "spring annuals."

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Visiting Native South Florida

In February I visited south Florida. Lots of it looks like this:

south Florida

Which is very different from the look of the native vegetation:

wild south Florida

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Plant Story--Puccoon, Lithospermum

In ecology classes, some student always complained about the difficulty of learning the scientific names of plants, and I long ago came up with examples where the common name is no easier. One of those is puccoon.
puccoon, Lithospermum
fringed puccoon, Lithospermum incisum
The plants called puccoon are in the genus Lithospermum (borage family, Boraginaceae). Neither puccoon, which means "dye-plant" in Virginia Algonquian, nor Lithospermum. which means "stone seed" in Latin, is a familiar word to Americans. Stone seed and gromwell (what is a gromwell?) are other common names for Lithospermum species, but I learned it as puccoon.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Cinnamon and Cassia, A Tangled Story

Cinnamon is a spice that has been valued for millennia. It is made from the inner bark of trees in the genus Cinnamomum (sound it out, it is fun to say) in the laurel family, Lauraceae, native to southeastern Asia. The first known records are from China, about 2800 BCE. Cinnamon has been imported to Europe since Egyptian times.
Cinnamomum, the tree that produces cinnamon
Cinnamomum, source of cinnamon. New leaves are red.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Names and Confusions


Last month, researching cucumbers (Cucumis sativa), I discovered that recent studies show that they were unknown in Europe before the 1300s. Originally from northern India, cucumbers were cultivated in southern Asia long ago but stayed there. Detaileded studies of cucumber reports from Europe before 1300, published in 2007-2009 by Janick, Paris, and Parrish, found the fruits drawn or described in Europe were actually Cucumis melo, melons, if not more distant relatives (Bryonia, Ecballium and others).

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Plant Story--Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule

Every spring I notice henbit in my neighborhood, one of the early flowers of spring. It grows as a weed, slipping into the corners of lawns or the edges of driveways.
henbit, Lamium amplexicaule
henbit, Lamium amplexicaule