Sunday, February 25, 2024

Still Winter? More Flowers!

It is still winter for me. The ground is brown and cold. Oh, I can see a trace of green in the lawn and a new shoot or two on the iris, if I look carefully.  My snowdrops and crocuses are out of the ground, but not yet flowering. So, here are photos of summer flowers for cheer. Just a few more months...

sunflower Helianthus annuus

Annual sunflower, the cultivated Ukrainian sunflower, Helianthus annuus

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Polyploidy, Multiple Copies of the Genome. Part 1. Basics

One peculiar characteristic of plants, not much shared by animals, is polyploidy, multiple copies of all the chromosomes. In plants and animals, DNA, the genetic material, is bound up in protein-wrapped bodies called chromosomes. Organisms have several to many chromosomes, usually as pairs. For animals, each species has a characteristic number--humans 23 pairs, dogs 39 pairs--with very little variation. One of the ways that plants are DIFFERENT is that chromosome number can vary a lot, between species but also between plants of the same species growing next to each other.  

carrot flowers
carrots, flowering

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Plant Story--Sambucus nigra, Black Elderberry Uses and Folklore

Since prehistory times, humans all over the world have collected black elderberries, the fruit of black elder (Sambucus nigra, viburnum family, Viburnaceae) (see previous post: link). The plant has been used medicinally for that long as well. In addition, it grows into a nice tree, 20, sometimes 30, feet tall, with useful wood. The leaves were used as insect repellents. Folklore abounded, some protecting the plant, some considering it accursed. My herbal, traditional, and folklore books have long sections on elder. Here is a selection of what they say.

elderberries, Sambucus nigra
black elderberries, Sambucus nigra

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Plant Story--Sambucus, Elder or Elderberry, Widespread Tasty Berry

Species in the genus Sambucus are called elder. That somehow doesn't sound right to my eastern North American ear, so I always say elderberries. That name I prefer is clearly weird--the tree doesn't always have berries, or the berries are just the fruit of the elder--but I'm not alone in this speech pattern, you can see it in a lot of U.S. writing. Historically and properly, it was elder, but bear with me, I keep sticking -berry on the name.

Elder with berries, southern Scotland
Elderberry with berries

They are shrubs or small trees with richly green long divided leaves. They produce big clusters of small white flowers that turn into brightly-colored berries.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Flowers, Since its Midwinter

 It has been snowy and cold, icy and cold, windy and cold, and just cold the last week. So here are so plant photos to remind you of warmth. 

Ixora
Ixora

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Travel Story--Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

It was a rainy September day two years ago when I visited the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. We walked from our hotel, down old streets and past local markets. 

fall in Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh in September

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Plant Story--Lovely Fernbush, Chamaebatiaria millefolium

The plant I call fernbush is an American shrub native to the U.S. west, from eastern Oregon and Idaho south to California and New Mexico. It grows to be about 10 feet tall, spreading to 10' wide. It has leaves with lots of divisions, hence the name fernbush, with a rich spicy scent. The flowers rise in spikes of white flowers with yellow centers. The USDA plants data base calls it desert sweet. An older plant book called it tansybush, because the leaves look like, and smell a little like, the garden plant tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). 

fernbush Chamaebataria millefolium
fernbush Chamaebataria millefolium