Plant Talk 3 Pages 4 – 13 in Botany in a Day (5th ed) Pages 5 – 14 in Botany in a Day (6th ed)
Greetings plant enthusiasts!
Things, i have noticed blooming recently include Bear Corn (Conopholis americana), Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spp.), Bridal Veil Spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia var “Plena”), Celadine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia), Honesty (Lunaria spp.), Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Lily of the Valley (Convallaria sp.), Little Brown Jugs (Hexastylis spp.), Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana), Periwinkle (Vinca sp.), Trillium spp., Trout Lily (Erythronium sp.), Tulipa spp., Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonum odoratum var. odoratum) and Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica).
A corresponding photo album featuring hundreds of pictures of plants, fungi, butterflies and birds can be seen at the following link.
How about you? How many of these plants above do you recognize? How many do you know the family of? Take some time to look one up in Botany in a Day and learn something new this way!
What’s ready to eat
Brassicaceae members Garlic Mustard and Honesty from the list above are invasive and edible. Native favorite foods Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are up and Morels (Morchella spp.) are out. Ramps in particular often lead me to think about ethical foraging. i just came across a great article that addresses this concern. It is important to realize both Ramps and Morels have potentially poisonous lookalikes.
The greens abound currently! Other great foods from the Brassicaceae are available including Armoracia, Barbarea verna, Cardamine spp., and Lepidium spp. Chickweeds (Stellaria spp. and Cerastium spp.) are still around. Violets (Viola spp.) are in full effect and i continue to eat Wild Onions (Allium vineale). A favorite cooked green of the Cherokee, Sochane (Rudbeckia laciniata) has emerged and I have been transplanting new babies where they are overrunning other plants in the native plant woodland garden that i manage. Hostas are also emerging which are considered edible according to a number of sources. They are eaten traditionally regarding some wild species in Japan (Calavan, 1972; Carter, 2012; Fern, 2008; Hollis, 2011; Hosking & Samuels, 2015; Kelley, 2014). What’s your take, knowledge, experience with eating Hostas? Important to realize that when emerging they greatly resemble the potentially deadly but mostly found in the wild False Hellebore (Veratrum spp).
Botany in a Day Pages 4-13
The evolution of plants covered in the next few pages can verge from fascinating to overwhelming. Can anybody really conceive of what 300 million years looks like? Yet we are burning in 300 years petrochemical products that were generated millions of years ago by the deposition of ancient huge Horsetails (Equisetum spp.), Ferns, and Wolfpaws (Lycopodium spp.). 300 million and 300 share the same denomination yet the order of magnitude difference is almost beyond human comprehension.
One potentially important lesson is that some plant groups have significantly more history, tenacity and adaptive ability on this earth than others. We are in the midst of the 6th great extinction that has been witnessed by the earth. Some people term it the Anthropocene because of the vast influences of humans on the earth’s biochemical systems. Elizabeth Kolbert (2014) has written a fascinating book regarding this concept. The vast majority of everything that has ever lived has already perished. The last great extinction happened 65 million years ago when a giant asteroid hit the Yucatan peninsula. We have a lot to learn from some of the ancient beings that have survived so much.
After the botany overview in the text most people tend to skip over the single celled plants, lichens, ancient non-vascular spore plants (Mosses, Hornworts and Liverworts) and vascular spore plants (Horsetails, Club Moss, Ferns).
Some sources especially ones regarding ethnobotany treat the ferns and their allies along with lichens all together (Abbe, 1985; May, 1978; Mickel, 1979; Phillips et al., 1980; Rogers, 2014; Vitt et al., 2007).
Lichens have their own special literature as well (Bolton, 1972; Brodo et al., 2001; K. D. Casselman, 1994, 2001; K. L. Casselman, 2001; Gordon, 1980; Kappelle & Sipman, 1992; Lindsay, 1855; Lücking et al., 2008; McClure, 1992, 1992; McCune, 2009, 2009; McGrath, 1977; Nunez-Zapata, 2015; Pope, 2005; Purvis, 2000; Sérusiaux, 1996; Umaña & Sipman, 2002; Walewski, 2007).
i am less familiar with the moss, liverwort, hornwort literature (Churchill et al., 2000; Kimmerer, 2003; Martin, 2015; McKnight et al., 2013; Munch, 2006; Oshima & Kimura, 2017; Pope, 2016; Schenk, 1997; Söderström et al., 2008; Welch & Crum, 1959).
Paleobotany is a fascinating science that looks into the lineage of these plants and the evolution of others (Armstrong, 2015; Cleal & Thomas, 2009; Graham, 1996; Niklas, 2016; Stevens et al., 2014; Stewart & Rothwell, 2010; Stinchcomb, 2013; Taylor et al., 2009; Willis & McElwain, 2014; Xiang et al., 2000).
Ferns tend to intimidate folks for some reason. Relatively few ferns live in any given area of the temperate world. Only 36 genera live in North America total (Cook, 2007). Some species such as Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) live all over the world. A couple small pocket references can unlock most of the ferns of the east (Evans, 2005; Hallowell, 2001). A couple other references will allow a more complete conception of Fern diversity in general (Cobb et al., 2005; Olsen & Steffen, 2015; Vitt et al., 2007; Walewski, 2016; Wherry, 1995). i have found quite a few good resources for Costa Rican/Panamanian and by extension Central American ferns as well in my research (Barrington, 1993, 2012; Grayum & Churchill, 1987; Kluge, 2006; Lellinger, 1977, 1989a, 1989b, 2003; Rojas, 1999). i have collected a few for Jamaica in particular and the Caribbean more broadly as well (Kelly, 1985; Newton & Healey, 1989; Proctor, 1953, 1961, 1984). Florida also has a number of guides to the ferns (Long & Lakela, 1971; Nelson, 2000; Small, 1931) as does Hawaii (Bohm, 2009; Palmer, 2008; Valier, 1995).
Fern taxonomy like several other botanical categories has undergone quite a reformation in recent years (Kato, 1993; Lellinger, 2002; Schuettpelz & Pryer, 2007; A. R. Smith et al., 2006).
Due to their aesthetic beauty and growth in the shade ferns are a popular subject for cultivation (Dunk, 1983, 1994; Hoshizaki, 1975; Hoshizaki & Moran, 2001; Mickel, 2003; Olsen, 2007; Olsen & Steffen, 2015).
Only a few ferns in general are safe for consumption and traditionally eaten and even some of those are in question. Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) which only naturally grow in the Northeast, Midwest and Canada/Alaska, seems to be the most prime. Bracken fern mentioned above has been eaten all over the world but has been known for decades to potentially cause cancer (Fenwick, 1989; Pamukcu et al., 1980; B. L. Smith et al., 1994). This effect may even extend to the consumption of milk from cows that have grazed on Brackens. However, there is some question if part of this effect is immunosuppression versus the pure carcinogenic nature or various compounds (Latorre et al., 2009). Ferns also have an enzyme called thiaminase that breaks down vitamin B12 and therefore should always be cooked in order to deactivate this anti-nutrient. A new book on edible ferns of the world by friend and colleague Lukasz Luczaj (2022) has recently been published for folks wanting to take a deeper dive into this subject.
According to a conversation i had with Frank Cook, he took note of much fern eating by people in New Zealand in particular. Fern eating is popular in Japan as well. i have found a little information on the ethnobotany of ferns including in New Zealand, the Andes and Japan (Abbe, 1985; Franquemont, 2012; Lellinger, 2002; May, 1978; Rogers, 2014; Shawcross, 1967; Tryon, 1959).
Conifers represent a very accessible group to approach. Only around 630 total species have been described in the whole world (Groombridge & Jenkins, 2002, p. 236). However, breeders have developed many varieties with dramatic results in increased diversity. Most places in the temperate world have less than ten species of native conifers. Landscape varieties are often easy to identify to genus, though to species can be difficult. A number of great references exist to help with teasing apart the many conifer types (Eckenwalder, 2009; Farjon, 2008, 2010). Conifers are much older than flowering plants. Their range has also been much diminished from a former wider distribution. They tend to live in harsher conditions than the flowering trees as well. Only a few families represent the majority of conifer diversity including the Cupressaceae, Pinaceae, Podocarpaceae, Taxaceae, and interestingly the monotypic Gingkoaceae. The first two have the lion’s share of the species. A few other more subtropical southern hemispherica and Asian families also fall in the conifer group including the Araucariaceae, Cephalotaxaceae, Cycadaceae, Sciadopityaceae, and the Zamiaceae. The Ephedraceae is an outlier that can grow in various places of the temperate world as well (Kay, 1996; Wyk & Wink, 2015; Zhang & Belnap, 2015).
The flowering plants are relatively young compared to the other plant groups. Yet as can be seen on page 13/14 of Botany in a Day they contain the vast majority of species now growing on the planet (Elpel, 2004/2013). Therefore, they will be the main focus of our studies this year. We will revisit the conifers more in depth during the class about woody plants as well.
Elpel points out a couple other very useful resources for this exploration of the plant world Wildflowers of North America by Frank Venning (1984) and Plant Identification Terminology by James G. Harris (2001). Consider purchasing these books as well if you are able. Learning terminology is an incremental process. Flash cards help some. A number of good online resources exist with card sets already made and the ability to generate others. Quizlet is a favorite i have explored so far and mentioned last class as well http://quizlet.com/subject/botany/. Ultimately, some form of repetition will be necessary to cement certain words into your vocabulary. One bonus is that by learning many of these words you may better understand the roots of romance languages. You can thereby learn French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish easier and may do better on the GRE as well if that is of interest. See the resources section for a list of other electronic resources that may be available for further study.
On page 12/13 one can see a way to conceptualize how plants fit into the greater classification of other biological organisms. The use of domains has overtaken kingdoms as the ultimate level of classification. The main point of this for me is how humbling it is to be a small part of one domain while seeing that organisms we commonly lump together as inhabit microbes two whole domains to themselves and parts of another.
For the next class we will cover the pages 14-24(5th ed) 15-22(6th ed.) which describe the two major classes of flowering plants and patterns of seven major plant families of the world. It will be posted around 4/25.
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.
Take a notebook with you and record what distinguishes the blooming plants you see from each other.
Take the quiz on page 24 (5th ed.) This is omitted in the 6th ed.
Check out one of the websites i mentioned in the introduction to this class and pick up an interesting fact or two. Share them with us!
Most people in the world get the vast majority of their food from around 30 plants. An indigenous culture may easily make use of over 150 species of plants for food throughout the year. How many different plants do you consume annually?
Check out this resource library linked below related to the concept of Permaculture and do the world a favor by learning something new about this concept that we all need to hold strongly if we as humans are to make it through… Earth Care Library http://www.earthcarelibrary.org/
Please let me know your thoughts in general and anyway i can help this class serve you best.
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.
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Armstrong, J. E. (2015). How the Earth Turned Green: A Brief 3.8-Billion-Year History of Plants. University Of Chicago Press.
Barrington, D. S. (1993). Ecological and Historical Factors in Fern Biogeography. Journal of Biogeography, 20(3), 275–279. https://doi.org/10.2307/2845635
Barrington, D. S. (2012). The Fern Genus Polystichum (Dryopteridaceae) in Costa Rica 1. Mobt Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 98(4), 431–446.
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Bolton, E. M. (1972). Lichens for vegetable dyeing. Studio Vista Publishers ; Robin & Russ Handweavers.
Brodo, I. M., Sharnoff, M. S. D., & Sharnoff, S. (2001). Lichens of North America. Yale University Press.
Calavan, M. M. (1972). Cultural, environmental, and socioeconomic factors in food use: The Sansai case. Southeast Asia Development Advisory Group of the Asia Society.
Carter, A. (2012, May 7). Eating hostas. Of Plums and Pignuts. https://scottishforestgarden.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/hostas/
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Casselman, K. L. (2001). Lichen Dyes: The New Source Book (2nd rev. ed.). Dover.
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Evans, A. M. (2005). Ferns & Fern Allies of the Smokies. Great Smoky Mountains Association.
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Farjon, A. (2010). A handbook of the world’s conifers. Brill.
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Gordon, F. A. (1980). Dyeing with Sticta Coronata, New Zealand’s King of the Dye Lichens. Naturally.
Graham, A. (1996). Paleobotany of Puerto Rico: From Arthur Hollick’s (1928) Scientific Survey Paper to the Presentation to the New York Academy of Sciences. NYAS Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 776(1), 103–114.
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Hollis, J. (2011, April). Mountain Gardens / Home. http://www.mountaingardensherbs.com/
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Hoshizaki, B. J., & Moran, R. C. (2001). Fern Grower’s Manual: Revised and Expanded Edition (2nd ed.). Timber Press, Incorporated.
Hosking, R., & Samuels, D. (2015). A Dictionary of Japanese Food: Ingredients and Culture. Tuttle Publishing.
Kappelle, M., & Sipman, H. J. M. (1992). Foliose and fruticose lichens of Talamanca Montane Quercus forests, Costa Rica.
Kato, M. (1993). Biogeography of Ferns: Dispersal and Vicariance. Journal of Biogeography, 20(3), 265–274.
Kay, M. A. (1996). Healing with Plants in the American and Mexican West (3rd ed.). University of Arizona Press.
Kelley, P. (2014, June 24). Raw Edible Plants: Hosta species. Raw Edible Plants. http://rawedibleplants.blogspot.com/2014/06/hosta-species.html
Kelly, D. L. (1985). Epiphytes and Climbers of a Jamaican Rain Forest: Vertical Distribution, Life Forms and Life Histories. Journal of Biogeography, 12(3), 223–241. https://doi.org/10.2307/2844997
Kimmerer, R. W. (2003). Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Oregon State University Press.
Kluge, J. (2006). Fern endemism and its correlates: Contribution from an elevational transect in Costa Rica. Diversity and Distributions, 12(5), 535–545.
Latorre, A. O., Furlan, M. S., Sakai, M., Fukumasu, H., Hueza, I. M., Haraguchi, M., & Górniak, S. L. (2009). Immunomodulatory effects of Pteridium aquilinum on natural killer cell activity and select aspects of the cellular immune response of mice. Journal of Immunotoxicology, 6(2), 104–114. https://doi.org/10.1080/15476910902972465
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Lellinger, D. B. (1989b). The Ferns and Fern-Allies of Costa Rica, Panama, and the Choco: Psilotaceae through Dicksoniaceae. American Fern Society.
Lellinger, D. B. (2002). A Modern Multilingual Glossary for Taxonomic Pteridology. American Fern Society.
Lellinger, D. B. (2003). Nomenclatural and Taxonomic Notes on the Pteridophytes of Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia, III. American Fern Journal, 93(3), 146–151.
Lindsay, W. L. (1855). Experiments on the dyeing properties of lichens. Printed by Neill and Co.
Long, R. W., & Lakela, O. (1971). A Flora of Tropical Florida: A Manual of the Seed Plants and Ferns of Southern Peninsular Florida. University of Miami Press.
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Łuczaj, Ł. (2022). Edible ferns of the world: Ethnobotany, foraging and cooking. Independently published.
Martin, A. (2015). The Magical World of Moss Gardening. Timber Press.
May, L. (1978). The Economic Uses and Associated Folklore of Ferns and Fern Allies. The Botanical Review, 44(4), 491–528. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02860848
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Mickel, J. T. (2003). Ferns for American Gardens. Timber Press, Incorporated.
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Newton, A. C., & Healey, J. R. (1989). Establishment of Clethra occidentalis on Stems of the Tree-Fern Cyathea pubescens in a Jamaican Montane Rain Forest. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 5(4), 441–445.
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