Plant Talk 3 Botany in a Day Online Class Pages 37-57


Plant Talk #3

July 20, 2010

Hello there plant enthusiasts!

i want to be sensitive to people’s needs in taking this course. Please get in touch with me if you have questions or feedback. i would also love to offer extra support to people who have already dedicated financial resources in my direction. Let me tailor to fit some instruction or information for you. i will extend the class a bit to make up for the recent gap which was necessary to fulfill other obligations.

Things that have started blooming recently in Appalachia include

Petunia (Petunia spp.) Tomato Family (Solanceae)

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) Mint Family (Lamiaceae)

Morning Glory (Convolvulus spp.) Morning Glory Family (Convolvulaceae)

Phlox (Phlox  spp.) Jacob’s Ladder Family (Polemoniaceae)

Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum) Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Lucifer’s Tongue (Crocosmia sp.) Iris Family (Iridaceae)

Some real die hard plants have been blooming since last mailing and will continue to do so until first frost!

Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia sp.) Loostrife Family (Lythraceae)

Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.) Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Sages (Salvia spp.)   Mint Family (Lamiaceae)

Roses (Rosa spp.) Rose Family (Rosaceae)

i recently returned from the National Rainbow Gathering in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. The Rainbow Gathering was amazing as always but also a lot of work energetically. At the behest of herbalist and teacher 7 Song i helped facilitate plant walks. This is an iconic role formerly filled by Frank Cook. It was a bit surreal to be in such a position. i continue to be so thankful for Frank’s inspiration and humbled to be following in his footsteps in many ways. Teachers like CoreyPine Shane and Greenlight have also participated in such ways in times past. CoreyPine offered some separate classes on combining Eastern and Western medicinal healing modalities and plants. Upcoming teachers Robin Allison and Josh Fox also offered plant walks and medicinal use discussions. Mycol Stevens and Mateo Ryall offered info on mushrooms as well.

One of my major focuses at Rainbow is to inventory the plants found on site. We found close to 100 species including 8 ferns. Typically we find from 150-200 different plants not including ferns so this year’s total was a little underwhelming. Some strange occurrences included the lack of anything in the Chickweed family (Caryophyllaceae) and only one observed member of the Mustard family (Brassicaceae). Every Rainbow seems to be abundant in at least one famous medicinal plant.  

This year’s abundant medicinals included

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) Heath family (Ericaceae)

Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma tsugi)

Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus)

Gold thread (Coptis trifolia) Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae)

Less than 10 main trees were present including Maple (Acer spp.), Oak (Quercus spp.), Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana), Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.), Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus), Spruce (Picea sp.), Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) and American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Following my return from Rainbow i attended a wedding of a close friend. My gift was that of a silvery dried arrangement of Money plant (Lunaria annua) Brassicaceae also known as Honesty. i figure our society as well as any marriage can greatly benefit from both money and honesty especially tied together.

Subsequent to that i taught a class on fermentation with Juliet Blankespoor’s class at Chestnut Herbal School i then worked to preserve food for a winter CSA including  Zucchini, Beans and Tomatoes at Blue Ridge Food Ventures That led to starting Tomato Wine/Mead from left over juices. Just yesterday i completed my fourth year of teaching at the Seasonal School of Culinary Arts where i taught on Gluten and Lactose free foods See the resources section of this website for a handout i wrote for the class cookbook about gluten free living.

Now we will dive into the families covered by last time’s suggested reading. Some sections are covered in brief but i would be happy to expound to anyone looking for more specific info.

Vascular Sporophytes

i don’t have much to add right now to the treatments of Lycopodiaceae, Selaginellaceae, and Isoetaceae. One notation is that many Lycopodiums may be getting moved to the genus Huperzia.  Otherwise these ancient plants do bear some slowing down and appreciation as time allows.

The Horsetail family (Equisetaceae) with only one genus but about 40 species is an interesting throwback plant group that continues to persist. They can even be invasive at times. It is important to harvest from a clean source to avoid heavy metals if you want them for the silica and/or biodynamic uses. Some folks at Rainbow took to the traditional use of this plant as a “scouring rush”

Ferns are typically split up into many more families these days than just Ophioglossaceae, Salviniaceae and Polypodiaceae as treated by Elpel. However, according to fern experts David and Jenny Lellinger the distinctions may not be settled for awhile. Always cook ferns before eating due to the presence of Thiaminase. The traditional use of Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) around the world even cooked is nowadays qualified by the presence of possible carcinogens. The Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) of Northeast U.S. and Canada is the only one i would personally eat comfortably.


Pine Family / Pinaceae




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The Pinaceae is one of the most used plant families for timber trees. Loblolly Pines (Pinus taeda) and Monterey Pines (Pinus radiata) are put into plantations in various parts of the world.

Beer can be made as well as tea from the needles of pine (Pinus spp.) and Spruces (Picea spp.). According to naturalist Doug Elliot the sap from Spruces can also be used like a chewing gum. The smoke from resinous yellow pines especially their cones should not be inhaled in large quantities. Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) can also cause contact dermatitis (Nelson et al., 2007).

Eastern Hemlocks (Tsuga spp.) have been devastated by the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid and will no longer comprise any significant role in the landscape. This majestic tree that has been around for hundreds of millions of years also supported a rich web of biological diversity including trout and other special plants and animals.

The Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) is hosted by Pines  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (Tallamy, 2009). Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida), Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana) and White pine (Pinus strobus) are hosts for the Pine Elfin butterfly  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":2,"uri":[""]}]} (Tallamy, 2009).

The Pinaceae has many dye plants including

 Spruce (Picea spp.) (A. Krochmal & C. Krochmal, 1974; Nicholson & Clovis, 1967)

Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis and Tsuga caroliniana) (Fern, 2009; A. Krochmal & C. Krochmal, 1974; Moerman, 1998; Nicholson & Clovis, 1967)

Pines (Pinus spp.)  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]},{"uri":[""]}]} (Eaton, 1973; Fern, 2008)

Pines tend to grow in drier and more elevated conditions than Angiosperms. In the Western U.S. a succession of Gymnosperms including members of the Pinaceae grow at different altitudes proceeding up the mountains until the tree line is reached and no trees can survive.

Cypress Family / Cupressaceae

Many members of this family are valued in the landscape including Junipers (Juniperus spp.), False Cypress (Chamaecyparis spp.), Arborvitae (Thuja  spp.), and Cypress (Cupressus spp.). They are often hard to tell apart without cones. Numerous cultivars further blur the distinction between species. Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) can host a disease of Apples known as Ceder Apple Rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae). The Eastern Red Cedar is also the host to the Olive Hairstreak butterfly (Satyrium caryaevorum)  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Tallamy, 2009).

Bald Cypress Family / Taxodiaceae

These majestic trees are legendary and striking wherever they occur. i recommend a pilgrimage to the Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) and/or Bald Cypresses (Taxodium distichum) for everyone… Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) was a tree thought to be extinct until it was found in remote China in the 1940s. Now it is found in Botanical Gardens around the world.

Ancient Angiosperms

Many members of these ancient angiosperms break the dicot rule and often have flower parts in multiples of 3’s. They also tend to be more tropical in distribution. Here and in the book they are mostly in the order that they are thought to have evolved.

Star Anise Family / Illiciaceae / Austrobaileyales

This order and the four families within are not covered in Botany in a Day. It is thought to be ancestral to every other flowering plant group other than the Water Lily and Amborella in the Amborellaceae and Amborellales and Cholranthaceae  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (Spears, 2006).

A few special plants occur in this family in Florida and a bit further north including Florida Anise Tree (Illicium floridanum ) and Yellow Anise Tree (Illicium parviflorum).

Schisandra Family / Schisandraceae / Austrobaileyales

The Schisandra family is not covered in Botany in a Day This family is most known for the Adaptogenic medicinal (Schisandra chinensis)  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (Winston & Maimes, 2007). However, a native species occurs in Eastern American (Schisandra glabra). Some have wondered at the potential to use the native species as an analog to the Asian one. The Schisandraceae is sometimes included in the Illiaceae  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (Judd, Campbell, Kellog, Stevens, & Donahue, 2008).

Magnolia Family / Magnoliaceae / Magnoliales

Tulip Magnolia (Liriodendron tulipifera ) is a major source of nectar for bees in the Southeast. Some like myself have taken to calling it Tulip Magnolia instead of Tulip Poplar due to its family affiliation. True Poplars are in the Willow family (Salicaceae) It has also been used as a natural dye plant  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (A. Krochmal & C. Krochmal, 1974). The bark is used for house siding and berry basket making in Appalachia. Tulip magnolia is a host to Promethea moth (Callosamia promethean)  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Tallamy, 2009). Only one other species exists in a very small area of China (Liriodendron chinense ). Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia ×soulangiana) and Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) are two marvelous landscape plants with Asian origins.

Has anybody tried to use the root of Liriodendron to take away bitterness in brewing alcohol as suggested in Elpel? Often people look to add bitterness to alcohol through Hops (Humulus lupulus) in the Cannabaceae, Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) in the Asteraceae or other plants.

Sweet Sop Family / Annonaceae / Magnoliales

The family Annonaceae is also thought to fall in the Magnoliales order  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Judd et al., 2008)but is not included in Botany in a Day. Many food plants occur in the family including

Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) 

Poshte (Annona scleroderma)

Custard Apple (Annona reticulata)

Pond Apple (Annona glabra )

Cherimoya (Annona cherimola)

Soursop (Annona


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