April 7, 2012
Plant Talk 2
Greetings Plant Enthusiasts!
What a special time of year. Full moon Good Friday into Passover, Easter. Spring has sprung and i am immenently grateful. Just finished a 5 week sojourn out west teaching 8 classes visiting over 15 households and 10 botanical gardens and arboretums! The trip was amazing for sure and i am especially thankful to all of my hosts and the wonder of botany.
Spring is getting into swing here in the Appalachian Mountains. Recently i have taken notice of Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), Roses (Rosa spp.) and Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa) blooming prolifically around Asheville. In Texas where i was a few days ago the Blue Bonnets (Lupinus texensis), Paintbrush (Castilleja spp.) and Evening Primrose (Oenothera spp.). Out in California one of my favorite flowers ever California Poppy (Escholtzia californica) is well on its way. Goldenseal (Hydrastis candensis) like the one on the right photographed last year will be blooming soon as well. What plants have you noticed recently?
Today i will participate in a Plant Symposium in honor of dear friend and teacher Frank Cook. Twelve local plant people will lead classes as well as a number of students from the Warren Wilson College community. Follow the link below for more information.
Botany in a Day inside covers and Pages 1-3
Front Inside Cover
Make sure to get real familiar with the two inside covers and the first few pages if you have not already. The inside of the front page details flower form. Most plant families were traditionally based on the similarity between the flowers. The female parts when present are in the middle of the flower and the male parts, when present, surround the female. The petals follow next which are then surrounded by the sepals. Petals tend to be colorful and sepals green. However, when sepals and petals are essentially the same they are called tepals. This often happens in Lily like plants. Most plants tend to have bisexual flowers with both female and male parts. It is worth paying attention to the plants that either are monoecious with male and female flowers separate but on the same plant or dioecious with separate male and female plants. Dioecious plants will always need both males and females around to make fruit. Hollies (Ilex spp.) are a good example of this.
Regular flowers are also known as actinomorphic or radially symmetrical. They can be cut from any angle through the center just as spokes on a wheel and have two equal halves. Irregular flowers are also known as zygomorphic or bilaterally symmetrical and can only be bisected in half up and down to get equal pieces. Members of the Mint (Lamiaceae) and Orchid (Orchidaceae) families are good examples of plants with bilateral symmetry. The progressive fusion of pistils is interesting from an evolutionary perspective and can help with family identification. However, you may need at least a hand lens if not a microscope to witness these features on many plants. Petal number, flower shape, flower color, and presence or absence of the male/female parts can get you pretty far along the path to family level plant identification.
Back Inside Cover - Leaf Terms
The inside of the back cover includes a basic guide to leaf terms. During the growing season leaves are one of the most telling features as to what group a plant might be in. Always look at whether the leaves are oriented opposite or alternate each other on the stem first and foremost when trying to identify a plant. Notice after that whether leaves are simple or compound. Woody plants are particularly easy to identify by leaf orientation and form. Very few plants have whorled leaves i.e. (Cleavers, Lily’s) and this is a distinctive identifier when present.
On page one Thomas lays out for us how his book works. First you need to start with a little history. Pages two and three state further information from last class about how plants are ordered at different hierarchical levels. Next, Thomas takes on seven of the most major flowering plant families of the world. Just these seven contain almost 20% of all flowering plants known on the planet! Branching out to others families is easier once you are familiar with these major seven. Two methods include using the keys on pages 25-36 or looking up scientific/common names in the index and following them to the family page. Start to pay attention to the plants in your immediate vicinity first. Notice the details that make them different whether it be flowers, fruits, leaves etc. Attention to detail will automatically illuminate plants more clearly even without knowing who they are or terminology to classify what you see. Plants that have been present the whole time unnoticed will all of a sudden be surrounding you wherever you go. i agree with Thomas that books organized by family are easier than ones organized by color once you pick up on patterns of plant growth and development. Almost anywhere i go in the temperate world i can know what family a plant is in now. If plants are grouped by family it is not hard to quickly find what members are around from the guide and start drawing new connections.
Page two has an inset box of interest to you. Thomas describes how he has listed the diversity of each genus for the world, the U.S. and to his home state of Montana. He also marks each plant he recognizes with a dot. You are encouraged to determine how many species occur for each genus in your state. A state flora (total listing of plants) or the USDA http://plants.usda.gov can help in this regard. Marking each genus you become familiar with by dotting or highlighting can be very gratifying. For advanced folks you might mark the families you recognize on pages 215 or 221. Very advanced folks might take note of which families are missing from page 215. Check out the class link below from last year for missing family coverage if you want to see how well you did!
For the next class we will cover the pages 4-13 which describe plant evolution and the major groupings of plants
Below are items to think about/comment on. Please write me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave information in the commentary under this class. The comments box seems to be not accepting entries currently. i have an email in to our web designer to hopefully rectify this shortly.
What are a few new plants that just started blooming with the ripening of Spring?
Go to a landscape nursery, botanical garden or some other concentrated place of flowering plants and observe patterns in flowers, leaves, growth forms etc.
Post some CLEAR pictures of a flowering plant that you would like to know either at the group on Facebook or in an email to me.
Check out one of the websites i mentioned in the introduction to this class and pick up an interesting fact or two.
Botanical learning is an incremental process. Botanizing just a little bit each day can amaze one in how much can accrue over time.
Praises to all that have donated to the cause. i encourage everyone to donate as they are able. Your contributions greatly help me continue this crucial work of ethnobotanical research and education.