2013 Plant Talk 2 Pages 1-3

March 30th 2013 Daffodils

Plant Talk 2

Greetings Plant Enthusiasts!

What a special time of year. Full moon Passover, Good Friday into Easter. Spring has sprung and i am very grateful. That said it has been frigid in Appalachia and everything is a week or two behind in blooming relative to the last couple of years. Hopefully this will allow us to get a good fruit crop of Apples, Blueberries, Juneberries and Cherries this year.



Daffodil (Narcissus spp.), Forsythia spp.,  Bluets (Houstonia sp.), Periwinkle (Vinca sp.) Toothwort-Cresses (Dentaria/Cardamine  spp.), Camellia spp., Chinese Magnolia Magnolia ×soulangiana [denudata × liliifolia], Snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) Grape Hyacinth (Muscari sp.) and Poor Person’s pepper (Lepidium  sp.) are some of the plants blooming around Asheville, NC. What plants have you noticed recently?

i have been actively working on co-writing a chapter for a book on Botanical education with friend and colleague Bruce Hoffman. Our chapter details the amazing array of electronic resources for learning about plants. Many of the scientific names for classes here are linked to the incredible USDA database www.plants.usda.gov/java/ This database includes almost all the plants in North America with a host of information and over 40,000 pictures. The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) is another great resource for understanding plant distributions www.bonap.org. The TROPICOS database includes all of the nomenclatural, bibliographic, and specimen data accumulated in the Missouri Botanical Gardens electronic databases during the past 25 years www.tropicos.org. This system has over 1.2 million scientific names and 4.0 million specimen records and tons of pictures. The QUIZLET website is a great collection of flashcards generated by various people that can help you learn botanical terms. You can also make your own flash card sets as well www.quizlet.com/subject/botany. Other online resources will be discussed in the classes germane to their specific focuses.

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 the 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 other families is easier once you are familiar with these major seven. Two methods for identification 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. i can know what family a plant is in almost anywhere in the temperate world 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. My favorite wildflower guide for southern Appalachia is arranged this way (Horn, Duhl, Hemmerly, & Cathcart, 2005) .

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 It will be posted on April 13th

Below are items to think about/comment on. Please write me directly at marc@botanyeveryday.com or leave information in the commentary under this class.

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. Share these in your comments or at the Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/botanyeveryday/?ref=ts&fref=ts


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.

Thanks, marc

Literature Cited

Horn, D., Duhl, D., Hemmerly, T. E., & Cathcart, T. (Eds.). (2005). Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians: The Official Field Guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society. Edmonton, Canada: Lone Pine Pub.

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