Plant Talk 2 Botany in a Day Online Class Pages 17-36




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Plant Talk #2

June 23rd 2010

Hey plant enthusiasts,


i do at least a little botany every day. i encourage you to do the same independent of how much time you have to give to this class. Please also give me a sense of our class size. Drop me a line to at least let me know you are interested and following along.

We also have a group on Facebook that provides another interface. Feel free to post photos in particular. However the clarity of photos is essential! It is hard enough to identify plants in the flesh let alone on the screen! If possible get shots of leaf, flowers/fruits and the overall plant.

The Forage Ahead yahoo group listserv is a great place to look for very stimulating discussion from people across the country on wild edibles. Thousands of people including several PhDs offer very sound advice on all manner of identification, education and preparation.

What’s Blooming

Many very special plants are blooming right now in Appalachia. A broad overview follows below. Most of these plants will be treated in more depth as their respective families are covered further. How many of these do you recognize? Follow links embedded in scientific names for more information from the USDA including…pictures, distribution, etc. Notice that the USDA common name sometimes differs from the one i feel most drawn to. Many of these plants are edible medicinal or both. However some are poisonous as well…


Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa),

Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii )

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Chestnut (Castanea  spp.)

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), 

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica),

Crown Vetch (Securigera varia),

Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)


Marigolds (Tagetes  spp.),

Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)

Mullein (Verbascum  spp.)

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis),

Spikenard (Aralia racemosa),

Sumac (Rhus  spp.),

Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans),

Verbena (Verbena  spp.),

Viburnum (Viburnum spp.),




In the monocots the Daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) continue to bloom. This is certainly one of our most choice wild/cultivated edibles. Shoots, roots, flowers and unopened buds are all prepared in a variety of ways  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]},{"uri":[""]}]} (Couplan, 1998; Facciola, 1998). Many Lily like plants are blooming now. Formerly these were all lumped together in the Lily family (Liliaceae). Now many new families have been separated out. Collectively all of these families are grouped in the same order known as Liliales. Just as aceae denotes a family designation in scientific plant naming so does les denote the order level of classification.  Hostas (Hosta  spp.) are another monocot genus in that order that are starting to bloom. Frank Cook spoke of Hosta edibility and its pursuit in England. Francois Couplan  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"suppressAuthor":true,"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (1998)also mentioned some use of Hosta for food. Anybody else care to weigh in?

The Sunflower/Aster family (Asteraceae) is coming on with various Daisy like plants (Chrysanthemum  spp.), Knapweed/Batchelor’s Buttons (Centaurea  spp.), Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.), Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.), Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) and Chickory (Cichorium intybus) for example. How many of these commonly distributed plants do you recognize? What other plants in this family have you noticed blooming? i recently keyed in on a beautiful little pink flower going off right now called Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) However, it’s also considered a noxious weed. So pick some flowers for a sweetie and don’t let it spread its seed…

Color patterns of flowers i have noticed include white umbels, soft pinks, bright yellows and oranges. The Bellflower (Campanula spp.) and Larkspurs (Delphinium spp.) offer a welcome cooling blue color.

Pages 17-23 Seven Major Plant Families

How empowering to know that by learning the patterns on these 6 pages that you can identify about 20% of all the flowering plants in the world to family!!! The percentage is significantly higher in temperate regions. These plant families also happen to represent some of the most useful families in the world.

Go out and try to find a member of each of these families to identify. Here are some suggestions for plants currently blooming in many places.

Mustard/Brassicaceae             Any of the spring Brassicas including Radish (Raphanus spp.), Arugula (Eruca vesicaria), Cabbage, Kale, Mustard etc. (Brassica spp.)

Mint/Lamiaceae                      (Monarda didyma), All Heal (Prunella vulgaris)

Celery/Apiaceae                      Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), Hog Parsnip (Heracleum spp.), Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), Sweet Cicely Osmorhiza spp.)

Bean/Fabaceae                        Perennial Pea (Lathyrus latifolius), Clovers (Trifolium )

Lily/Liliaceae                          Day Lily (Hemerocallis fulva), Asiatic Lily’s

Mallow/Malvaceae                  Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Aster/Asteraceae                     See a list a few paragraphs above


Pages 25-36 Keys

The information presented on these pages may seem very daunting even for experienced botanists! Pages 25-27 are the essential base. For new people you may want to initially just focus on the category title for each key at first. Reflect on the essential differences highlighted by each grouping.

Essentially much plant identification is about flowers (size, color, male parts, female parts), leaves (size, position, edge, color), surfaces (hairy, smooth, sticky), growth form (prostrate, low growing, shrub, tree) and fruit type.

The monocot key on page 36 is very helpful. Many monocots only grow in wetland type environments and might be easily confused.  Several of these water plants are some of the world’s worst weeds and shown in the table below  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]},{"uri":[""]},{"uri":[""]},{"uri":[""]},{"uri":[""]}]} (S. R. Kaufman & W. Kaufman, 2007; Miller, 2007; Randall & Marinelli, 1996; Weber, 2003; Weed Science Society of America, 2007). Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a terrible invasive but a great water detoxifier. Most of these plants grow in tropical to subtropical conditions and may escape when dumped from aquariums.


Scientific Name

Common Name



Sagittaria sagittifolia Linnaeus


Hawaii arrowhead




Pistia stratiotes L.






Hydrilla verticillata (L. f.) Royle






Lagarosiphon major (Ridley) Moss






Ottelia alismoides (Linnaeus) Pers.





Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms


Water Hyacinth


Potamogeton crispus L.


Curlyleaf Pondweed


A big distinction within the flowering plants are the Monocots and Dicots. A summary of typical differences follows below though several exceptions do exist.


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