Plant Talk 5
Greetings Plant Enthusiasts!
Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa), Yellowood (Cladrastis lutea), Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) and the pictured Peony's (Paonia spp.) are all just starting to bloom right now around Asheville. The Princess tree has a fascinating story from its name both botanical and common to its alluring flowers former position in the Scrophulariaceae now in its own family the Paulowniaceae (Group, 2009; Haston, Richardson, Stevens, Chase, & Harris, 2009)!
The Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) are also still putting on quite a show. These can make for beautiful sprays of bouquets that unfortunately are not that long lasting. Appreciating the turn from Spring to Summer and the ephemeral nature of many currently flowering species.
What plants around you are in flower or fruit? Include a few down below in the commentary section if you get a chance. Make a bouquet for someone you love and one for yourself too! Think, colors, heights, textures, smells….
Below are featured some upcoming events happening mostly around North Carolina, the Southeast as well as other botanically based musings around their significance, opportunities and intricacies. Feel free to skip ahead to the next section covering the text readings if you like.
This weekend is the LEAF festival one of Frank Cook’s favorite gatherings www.theleaf.org. Several plant walks will be offered from the likes of Corey Pine Shane, Mateo Ryall and myself. One of my favorite festivals ever….
Next week, i head to the Society of Ethnobiology conference to do a workshop on mead making in Denton, TX www.ethnobiology.org . i have taken note of over 120 species of plants and fungi used in the process of brewing in Asheville with the list continuing to grow. This coupled with certain events, times of year, places, people and the like has woven quite a complex tapestry of ethnobotanical knowledge and awareness. This especially because it mixes an awareness of healing regimes from around the world including European, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic, Native American, and others. They are paying my airfare, entry and even offering a stipend. i will be staying with good friend and colleague Jim Veteto and his family. This will be my first time attending this special gathering centered on the academic pursuit of the quickly developing practice of ethnobiology research. Next year they will host a joint meeting with the other major ethnobotanical group the Society for Economic Botany right down the road in Cherokee, NC… www.econbot.org . Giving thanks!
We will be premiering the movie “The Green Man” a tribute to Frank Cook at Pickard’s Mtn outside Chapel Hill, NC www.pickardsmountain.org. Food and beverage creations inspired by Frank Cook will be shared. This is a benefit for the work of Plants and Healers International www.plantsandhealers.org.
Two of Frank’s great friends, colleagues, and teachers Sandor Katz and Patrick Ironwood will be major parts of the Food for Life gathering hosted at Ironwood’s family lands and organization Sequatchie Valley Institute www.svionline.org , www.wildfermentation.com. Here we will also be premiering the Frank Cook film on Friday for the Chatanooga, TN area.
Medicine’s from the earth is an annual gathering happening outside Asheville the same weekend as Food for Life. Nationally and internationally renowned herbalists from around the country attend this very science and technical detail oriented conference. i hope to be there as a work trader www.botanicalmedicine.org.
Next comes the Firefly Gathering, which will feature over 200 classes this year! This year for the second time we will also have an Ethnobotany Intensive following after the main gathering www.fireflygathering.org.
The Rainbow Gathering www.welcomehome.org is where various people from around the U.S. study plants intensively in a different state each year amongst a host of other activities and thousands of people from all over. It will be in Montana this year. i have only missed Rainbow once since Utah in 2003. However, this year i will be attending the conference below. Very excited as it is the region where Frank Cook earned his Master’s degree in 2009. This is also an area that i was blessed to visit in 2009 through the help of my family, Alex Laird and a cool group called the Big Green Gathering.
i was recently accepted to present on my work on the Botany Every Day website and Facebook group at the annual conference for the Society for Economic Botany in England www.econbot.org. i could currently really use any support anyone can muster to facilitate my making it over there…
Botany in a Day Pages 25-36
Using keys can be downright intimidating to some and at least a bit tricky to get a hang of for many. Organizing your thoughts in a systematic logical progression is essential.
The monocots and dicots are a big separation amongst the flowering plants. They have their own key on page 36. We discussed the differences in the last class and they can be revisited on page 14.
Next to this key is a useful guide to woody plants by their fruits. The trees are a very accessible group to get to know as most areas have trees in the tens versus lower growing plants by the hundreds or thousands.
The Asters are a natural distinction unto themselves numbering in the thousands in North America alone. Something on the order of about 1 in 8 plants in North America inhabit the Aster family.
Understanding the terms covered in both inside covers and on page 26 is essential to going deep with your exploration of botany. However, much enjoyment can come from looking at the major patterns illustrated along pages 27-36.
Regular Dicot Flowers with Numerous Petals
Not too many wild plants fit in this group and many of them are succulent or aquatic.
Irregular Dicot Flowers
Most of these plants have distinctive flowers that are easy to distinguish. However in the Lamiales order i.e. Mints (Lamiaceae), Snapdragons (Scrophulariaceae), Verbenas (Verbenaceae), and Plantain (Plataginaceae) it can get tricky. This is especially the case in the tropics where several more families such as Acanthaceae, Bignoniaceae and Gesneriaceae join the party. Most of the Peas, Violets (Viola spp.) and Touch me Nots (Impatiens spp.) are rather apparent when in flower and from the habits of their leaves.
Regular Dicot Flowers 0, 3, 6 petals
This is an uncommon pattern as you may recall. Typically monocots have parts in 3 and 6s not dicots. This is mostly a primitive characteristic seen in the Magnolia (Magnoliaceae), Bay Laurel (Lauraceae), PawPaw (Annonaceae), and Barberry (Berberidaceae) families amongst others.
Regular Dicot flowers 4 petals
i can often place a plant to family from four petals, form and bloom time alone in temperate realms. Brassicas flower early and tend to be yellow, white or occasionally purple.
The Coffee family (Rubiaceae) has mostly square stemmed low growing members in the temperate world with petals that are white and occasionally blue and are blooming now as well. Some examples include Cleavers/Ladies Bedstraw/Sweet Woodruff (Galium spp.), Bluets (Houstonia) and Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens).
The Olive family (Oleaceae) is a mostly woody major one in the temperate zone of the U.S. with four petals. It tends to contain trees and shrubs as representatives here with fragrant white and sometimes blue petals. Some examples include Fringe Tree (Chionanthus spp.), Lilac (Syringa spp.), Ash (Fraxinus spp.) and Jasmine (Jasminum spp.).
Regular dicot flowers 5 united petals
Many of these plants with tubular flowers have distinct inflorescences that make it easy to place them in a family. Phlox’s in the Polemoniaceae are an excellent example that will be blooming soon in many locales.
Regular Dicot Flowers 5 separate petals
This is by far the most common pattern as can be seen from all the illustrations on page 36. Thus it will take the longest to learn and distinguish.
Flowers are by far the easiest way to determine a plant. But, the goal overtime is to build a portfolio of characteristics including growth habit, leaf orientation, leaf form, color, hairiness, smell, fruit characteristics, bark, sap, ecotype etc.
Just notice characteristics and differences…attention to detail is key. The vocabulary of botany can take you as far as you want to go. A flora may feature hundreds of technical terms. However, with the knowledge above and practice with the keys in Botany in a Day you can go really far toward a practical understanding of the plants around you. However, i encourage you to check out the Flora for your area to get a sense of the overall scope. A great flora for the Southeastern US by Alan Weakley can be downloaded for free www.herbarium.unc.edu/flora.htm A good book or two on plant terminology may also be helpful (Bailey, 1963; Cady & Gordon, 2005; Harris & Harris, 2001; Smith, 1997; Stearn, 2002).
For the next class we will cover other major mostly non-woody temperate food plants it will be posted around May 24th.
Below are items to think about/comment on. Please write me directly at email@example.com or leave information in the commentary under this class. i would really love to hear what you have to say!!!
In the meantime…
-What plants around you are in flower or fruit? Include a few down below in the commentary section if you get a chance.
-Make a bouquet for someone you love and one for yourself too! Think colors, heights, textures, smells….
- Read the entries in Botany in a Day and the site here on the 7 major families discussed last time if you have not already.
- Attend a workshop or a class and write up a brief description of plants or information learned.
- Begin to make a photo album of a certain nature spot as the seasons progress.
- Post any clear photos of question plants to Facebook or send in an email.
- Make a meal including some wild foods and tell us what you decided to put in it.
Praises to all that have donated to the cause. i encourage everyone to donate as they are able financially, commentarily, or energetically... Your contributions greatly help me continue this crucial work of ethnobotanical research and education. Please let me know your thoughts in general and anyway i can help this class serve you best.
Bailey, L. H. (1963). How Plants Get Their Names (2nd ed.). Dover Publications.
Cady, M., & Gordon, S. (Eds.). (2005). Plant Names Explained, Botanical Terms and their Meaning. Boston, MA: Horticulture Publications.
Group, T. A. P. (2009). An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 161(2), 105–121. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x
Harris, J., & Harris, M. (2001). Plant Identification Terminology (2nd ed.). Spring Lake, Utah: Spring Lake Publishing.
Haston, E., Richardson, J. E., Stevens, P. F., Chase, M. W., & Harris, D. J. (2009). The Linear Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (LAPG) III: a linear sequence of the families in APG III. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 161(2), 128–131. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.01000.x
Smith, A. (1997). A Gardener’s Handbook of Plant Names Their Meanings and Origins. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications Inc.
Stearn, W. T. (2002). Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners: A Handbook on the Origin and Meaning of the Botanical Names of some Cultivated Plants. Portland, OR: Timber Press.