2016 Plant Talk 2 First few pages

Violets at Warren Wilson College

April 2, 2016

Plant Talk 2

Greetings plant enthusiasts!

Here in southern Appalachia a profusion of plants have been blooming for a bit or are starting to bloom including Bluets (Houstonia sp.), Daffodil (Narcissus spp.), Forsythia  spp.,  Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Periwinkle (Vinca sp.) Toothwort-Cresses (Dentaria/ Cardamine  spp.), Camellia spp., Chinese Magnolia Magnolia ×soulangiana [denudata × liliifolia], Snowdrops (Galanthus nivialis) Grape Hyacinth (Muscari sp.) other Hyacinths (Hyacinthus spp.) Ornamental Cherries (Prunus spp.), Juneberries (Amelanchier spp.), Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa), Bridal Veil Spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia), Euphorb (Euphorbia sp.), Poor Person’s pepper (Lepidium  sp.) and several kinds of Violets (Viola spp.) like the ones in the upper right corner of this page which are probably Viola sororia. What plants have you noticed recently?

It is gearing up to be an incredibly busy time here around Asheville, NC as i imagine for many of a community… i have a class at the UNCA Botanical Gardens, Ashevillage and some gardening to do besides. Teaching will also lead me to the area of North Carolina known as the Triangle including  the major cities Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, their representative universities i.e. NC State, Duke and UNC Chapel Hill and their botanical gardens/arboreta. This go round my offerings will include a lecture at NC State on North Carolinian ethnobotany with Jillian De Gezelle, three classes at the Piedmont Earthskills Gathering on Woody Ethnobotany, Plant Family Patterns and Native American Ethnobotany and a class on Foraging and Feasting and a Fermentation Extravaganza at Pickard’s Mountain Eco-Institute to round out the trip.

A photo album can be seen that corresponds to the plants and places mentioned above and later in this class below.

Moving forward with the online botanical education! First, we need to work on having some common language and frameworks upon which to file away all the information to come.

Botany in a Day inside covers and Pages 1-3/4

Front Inside Cover

Make sure to get real familiar with the two inside covers and the first few pages if you have not already. You can also make your own flash card sets with the pictures/terms. The following website has a bunch of premade ones to help you www.quizlet.com/subject/botany. The inside of the front page details flower form and is the same between the 5th edition and 6th edition. 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. This state is labeled officially in botanical terminology as perfect. 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. Monoecious plant families include ones that make nuts such as the Fagaceae (Oak, Beech, Chestnut) Juglandaceae (Hickory and Walnut) Betulaceae (Hazelnut and non nut makers like Alder and Birch)

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 and differs somewhat from the 5th edition and the 6th. The information that is presented is essentially the same but the layout varies. i do like the changes that Tom made in the 6th edition to a more linear and clearly delineated format. However, perfoliate and peltate leaf examples are missing from the newer edition. Though rare they are distinctive and you may want to google them if you have the newer version. Conversely the 6th edition has a greater representation of compound leaves including bipinnate, tripinnate, biternate and triternate which are particularly prevalent in the tropics and in the Bean-Pea family (Fabaceae) and Celery family (Apiaceae). 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 (Galium aparine) and Lilys (Lilium spp.). 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, three and four in the 6th edition 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 in the 5th ed and 23-35 in the 6th ed 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 is the flowers, fruits, leaves etc. Attention to detail will automatically illuminate plants more clearly even without knowing who they are or the terminology to classify what you see. Plants that have been present but 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 belongs to 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 and an updated second edition is available  (Horn, Duhl, Hemmerly, Cathcart, & Tennessee Native Plant Society, 2013). The company that publishes it, Lone Pine, makes guides for many other areas as well. The one for the northwestern U.S. is another favorite (Pojar & MacKinnon, 2004).

On page two (5th ed.) and three (6th ed.) an inset box is of interest for 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. Marking each genus you become familiar with by dotting or highlighting can also be very gratifying. For advanced folks you might mark the families you recognize on pages 215 or 221(5th ed.) and 234/235 (6th ed.). Very advanced folks might take note of which families are missing from page 215 or 234 respectively. Check out the class link below from a few years ago for missing family coverage if you want to see how well you did! http://www.botanyeveryday.com/online-classes/2012-plant-talk-13-missing-plant-families-from-elpel-5th-ed

You are encouraged to determine how many species occur for each genus in your state or region. A state flora (total listing of plants) or the USDA http://plants.usda.gov can help in this regard. The Carolinas share a flora (Radford, Ahles, & Bell, 1968).  However, i often find more useful the flora for the Blue Ridge section of the southern Appalachian Mountains (Wofford, 1989). Dr. Alan Weakley has put together a whole flora of the southeastern U.S. that is free to download and is also updated periodically http://www.herbarium.unc.edu/flora.htm.

Many states have great more contemporary written floras including

             California (Baldwin, Goldman, Keil, Patterson, & Rosatti, 2012)

             Colorado (Ackerfield, 2015; Weber & Wittmann, 2012a, 2012b)

             Florida (Wunderlin & Hansen, 2011)

             Idaho (Davis & Daubenmire, 2012)

             Michigan (Reznicek, Voss, & Herbarium, 2012)

             Minnesota (Chadde, 2013)

             Montana (Lesica, 2012)

             Nebraska (Kaul, Sutherland, & Rolfsmeier, 2012)

Pacific Northwest (Kozloff, 2005)

Pennsylvania (Rhoads & Block, 2007)

Virginia (Weakley, Ludwig, & Townsend, 2012)

Many others states and regions have older ones like the Carolinas one mentioned above such as Alaska (Hulten, 1968), Arizona (Kearney, 1964), Hawaii, (Wagner, Herbst, & Sohmer, 1999), Northeast (Gleason & Cronquist, 1991), Rockies (Weber, 1991),West Virginia (Strausbaugh & Core, 1978). Of course there are great field guides and floras to specific parts of individual states as well.

A number of states have excellent online resources including Alabama, California, Florida, New England, New York, Tennessee.

Another good computer resource for furthering awareness of plant distribution and diversity is the Biota of North America Program (BONAP) 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. i will offer up a plethora of other electronic resources as well that you may want to have at your command in the next class.

What resources are you familiar with that you can add to the list above in your comments below through email or our Facebook group?

Classification Schemes

Thomas includes a description of plant classification schemes that is helpful to wrap your mind around. Carl Linnaeus made a giant leap forward in the 1700s by ordering different forms of life into the now classic binomial system of genus and species. The main focus of Botany in a Day is the family which is next level beyond genus and species. To some degree he also includes the order level which is still very messy and commonly being redefined by further genetic studies.  Thomas also states that the order level does not often offer enough distinction in regards to identification or ethnobotanical application. Anything beyond the order often differs from botanist to botanist and is still in a rather fluid state.

A lot has changed even at the family level especially over the last ten years or so. A number of family schemes have been proposed over the years with Robert Thorne (Thorne, 1976, 1992) and Arthur Cronquist (Cronquist, 1981, 1988) leading the charge in the modern age. Eventually the work of singular individuals mostly classifying plants based on physical form gave way to a worldwide network of people organizing by physical form as well as biochemical and genetic characteristics.

The work of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG) split up and at times fused together various family treatments from former authors in (2003), 2009 (Chase & Reveal, 2009; Group, 2009) and as i found out yesterday most recently this year (The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, 2016). A number of reasons precipitated these changes. Historically plants were grouped together that looked similarly especially regarding flowers and fruits. However, just because one plant taxa looks the same as another one does not mean that they came from the same exact ancestor. This could be because they had slightly different ancestors or through the process of convergent evolution whereupon outside forces such as pollinators or ecotypes drove them to take on similar forms. The goal of classification now is to make what’s called a monophyletic tree whereupon everything is classified in a step wise progression one evolutionary step at a time from one single lineage. Thomas does a good job of explaining that in the 6th ed on page 4.

The big point is that many older references will group plants according to the work of Cronquist, Thorne and others. Many of the most recent edition college level botanical texts are still working off of APG II  (Castner, 2004; Mabberley, 2008; Simpson, 2010; Spears, 2006). The newest edition of Biology of Plants i imagine takes into account the changes from APG III and similarly with Plant Systematics a Phylogenetic Approach however these books cost around $90 each even used so i have yet to add them to my collection (Evert, Eichhorn, & Raven, 2012; Judd, Campbell, Kellog, Stevens, & Donoghue, 2015). Botany in a Day 6th ed. is the best of these book references that i am aware of that takes into account APG III and presents the information in a scientifically accurate yet very approachable and affordable way for the lay public.

Wikipedia does do a decent job of this online as. The website the plant list is my go to source for current correct taxonomy for any plant in the world especially in lieu of an APG III updated flora. It is the product of a partnership of many globally focused botanical research institutions led by KEW gardens in London.

Hopefully the end game is near for significant changes in how plants are ordered. If you are starting now you are lucky! If you have been studying plants for a while in this way my condolences as you probably have a whole lot of knowledge and references using older classifications and will now potentially need to live in the two worlds of old and new. i feel your pain if that helps but still think it is worthwhile to become updated, especially if you are a botanical educator.

For the next class we will cover the pages 4-13 (5th ed) and 5-15 (6th ed) which describe plant evolution and the major groupings of plants It will be posted on April 12th

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. You can find a map of over 3,000 botanical gardens from around the world at the following link http://www.bgci.org/map.php If you join one garden as a member you can often have reciprocal free admittance to over 150 other gardens across the US as well http://www.ahs.org/uploads/pdfs/2013_RAP_Guide.pdf

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 this class and pick up an interesting fact or two. Share these in your comments, through email 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 knowledge can accrue over time.

Praises to all that have donated to the cause. i encourage everyone to give as they are able. Your contributions whether they be financial, commentary or other all greatly help us continue this crucial work of ethnobotanical research and education.

Thanks, marc

Literature Cited

Ackerfield, J. (2015). Flora of Colorado. (B. Lipscomb, Ed.). Botanical Research Inst of Texas.

Baldwin, B. G., Goldman, D. H., Keil, D. J., Patterson, R., & Rosatti, T. J. (Eds.). (2012). The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Castner, J. (2004). Photographic Atlas of Botany and Guide to Plant Identification. Gainesville, FL: Feline Press.

Chadde, S. W. (2013). Minnesota Flora: An Illustrated Guide to the Vascular Plants of Minnesota. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Chase, M. W., & Reveal, J. L. (2009). A phylogenetic classification of the land plants to accompany APG III. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 161(2), 122–127. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.01002.x

Cronquist, A. (1981). An integrated system of classification of flowering plants. New York: Columbia University Press.

Cronquist, A. (1988). The evolution and classification of flowering plants. Bronx, N.Y., USA: New York Botanical Garden.

Davis, R. J., & Daubenmire, R. F. (2012). Flora Of Idaho. Literary Licensing, LLC.

Evert, R. F., Eichhorn, S. E., & Raven, P. H. (2012). Biology of Plants (8th Ed). New York: W. H. Freeman.

Gleason, H. A., & Cronquist, A. (1991). Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. Bronx, N.Y., USA: New York Botanical Garden.

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. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x

Horn, D., Duhl, D., Hemmerly, T. E., Cathcart, T., & Tennessee Native Plant Society. (2013). Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians.

Hulten, E. (1968). Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories: A Manual of the Vascular Plants. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Judd, W. S., Campbell, C. S., Kellog, E. A., Stevens, P. F., & Donoghue, M. J. (2015). Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach (4th ed). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.

Kaul, R. B., Sutherland, D., & Rolfsmeier, S. (2012). The Flora of Nebraska (2nd ed). Lincoln, NE: Conservation & Survey Division, School of Natural Resources.

Kearney, T. H., Peebles, Robert H. et al. (1964). Arizona Flora (2nd ed). University of California Press, Berkeley.

Kozloff, E. N. (2005). Plants of Western Oregon, Washington & British Columbia. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

Lesica, P. (2012). Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: Botanical Research Inst of Texas.

Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s plant-book: a portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Pojar, J., & MacKinnon, A. (2004). Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast (Rev ed). Vancouver: Lone Pine.

Radford, A. E. B., Ahles, H., & Bell, C. R. (1968). Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Reznicek, A. A., Voss, E. G., & Herbarium, U.-M. (2012). Field Manual of Michigan Flora. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press/Regional.

Rhoads, A. F., & Block, T. A. (2007). The Plants of Pennsylvania: an Illustrated Manual. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Simpson, M. G. (2010). Plant Systematics. Burlington, MA: Academic Press.

Spears, P. (2006). A Tour of the Flowering Plants: Based on the Classification System of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group. St. Louis, MO: Missouri Botanical Garden Press.

Strausbaugh, P. D., & Core, E. L. (1978). Flora of West Virginia (2d ed). Grantsville, WV: Seneca Books.

The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group. (2003). An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG II. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 141(4), 399–436. http://doi.org/10.1046/j.1095-8339.2003.t01-1-00158.x

The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group. (2016). An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG IV. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, n/a–n/a. http://doi.org/10.1111/boj.12385

Thorne, R. F. (1976). A Phylogenetic Classification of the Angiospermae. In M. K. Hecht, W. C. Steere, & B. Wallace (Eds.), Evolutionary Biology (pp. 35–106). Springer US. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4615-6950-3_2

Thorne, R. F. (1992). Classification and geography of the flowering plants. The Botanical Review, 58(3), 225–327. http://doi.org/10.1007/BF02858611

Wagner, W. L., Herbst, D. R., & Sohmer, S. H. (1999). Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai’i (Rev Sub edition). Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.

Weakley, A. S., Ludwig, J. C., & Townsend, J. F. (2012). Flora of Virginia. Fort Worth, TX: Botanical Research Inst of Texas.

Weber, W. A. (1991). Rocky Mountain Flora (5th Rev ed). Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.

Weber, W. A., & Wittmann, R. C. (2012a). Colorado Flora: Eastern Slope (4th ed.). University Press of Colorado.

Weber, W. A., & Wittmann, R. C. (2012b). Colorado Flora: Western Slope (4th ed.). University Press of Colorado.

Wofford, B. E. (1989). Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Blue Ridge. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Wunderlin, R. P., & Hansen, B. F. (2011). Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida (Third Edition). University Press of Florida.



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