Sunday, September 25, 2016

Common Names--Too Many Choices

Since people have been using plants "forever" you'd think plants would have long ago gotten generally-agreed-upon common names. But that is not the case. The internet is revealing that across the U.S. we call the same plant by many different names (earlier post). 

It is not the internet's fault, of course. We've been calling plants by different names all along, but now, instead of digging in my local plant identification book, I google the plant and come up with a series of different responses. For example Lithospermum incisum came up on the USDA plants list as narrowleaf stoneseed, at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center as golden puccoon. and on as fringed gromwell. 

fringed puccoon, Lithospermum incisum
narrowleaf stoneseed, golden puccoon,
fringed gromwell, Lithospermum incisum

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Plant Story--Three-Leaf Sumac

You walk by without noticing. Its a nondramatic shrub, but very common across the whole western half of the United States link

Rhus trilobata three-leaf sumac

The USDA calls it skunkbush sumac. Other sources call it three-leaf sumac, skunkbush, lemonberry sumac and in the older literature, squawbush. It is Rhus trilobata in the sumac and poison ivy family, Anacardiaceae.

The name skunkbush comes from the odor of the shrub, which many people find unpleasant and I have never noticed.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Tallgrass Prairie--the Lost Ecosystem

Romance is in the eye of the beholder. Many people find forests romantic. Many fewer love prairies.

So let me talk about tallgrass prairie.

tallgrass prairie, Nebraska

Most people have never seen a tallgrass prairie. Just two hundred years ago, tallgrass prairie extended from the forests of Kentucky and Tennessee to the middle of Nebraska and Kansas, from the Gulf of Mexico to southern Canada.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Plant Confusions--The Three Bergamots

THREE unrelated plants are called bergamot, a pear, an orange and a mint.

Monarda fistulosa, wild bergamot
wild bergamot
The original plant to have the name bergamot was the bergamot pear, Pyrus communis, (rose family, Rosaceae). (Link scroll down to lemon bergamot pear). Pears came to Europe from Asia before Roman times and were very popular fruits. Many sizes and shapes developed, across the Middle East and in Europe. Bergamot pears were a variety with a very round fruit. The food timeline website (link) suggests the name was from Pergamos, a village in Cyprus, because these bergamot pears
came from the Middle East during the Crusades and were also called Syrian pears. The Oxford English dictionary states the name is from their Italian name bergamotta, from the Turkish