Plant Talk 7 Botany in a Day Online Class Pages 129-145


Plant Talk #7

October 8, 2010

Hello there plant enthusiasts! Happy Fall!!!…Another shift of the seasons is upon us.

A photo album corresponding with this class can be found at the following link

What’s Blooming

The blooming is really slowing down now. Almost everything flowering is in the Asteraceae family. Notable plants are Goldenrod (Solidago spp.), Aster (Aster spp. Eurybia spp. and  Symphyotrichum spp.) and Ironweed (Vernonia spp.). The other day i noticed that Abelia ×grandiflora in the Caprifoliaceae is still blooming to the delight of pollinators.

Many grasses are putting on a show. The Miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis) is in full effect. If you ever plant this terribly invasive being please buy a sterile cultivar! One of my favorites is the Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) from Southern South America hardy to zone 5  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (Hogan, 2003).


i recently collected fruits from Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin) at Eagle Feather Organic farm, the United Plant Saver’s Sanctuary and Warren Wilson college to add to a Lauraceae Mead. Kefir Pears (Pyrus communis) are also ripe on several trees including one Frank Cook showed me in Hot Springs.

After frost the flavor is supposed to improve in Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), Chokeberry (Photinia spp.), Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana), Medlar (Mespilus germanica), Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in the Rosaceae and Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) in the Ebenaceae.

The poisonous Dogbane (Apocynum spp.) has aesthetically interesting paired fruits. Teasel (Dipsacus spp.) is an escaped Eurasian plant that has wicked spines. However, it also has potential ornamental and medicinal uses  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]},{"uri":[""]}]} (Ball et al., 2001; Van Wyk & Wink, 2004).

Recent/Upcoming Activities

The True Nature Country Faire was a lot of fun. i led two plant walks and helped with a benefit dinner. Unfortunately very few people showed up due to inclement weather on Sunday.

North Carolina Natural Products Association meeting

At the united Plant Savers Sanctuary we saw a number of special plants. First i went on a Prairie walk with Hank Huggins who has helped steward the land for almost 20 years! He showed us a number of flowering plants including Maxmillian Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) Slender Mountain Mint, Aster, and Ironweed. We got to see some nice grasses in particular as well Purple Top (Tridens flavus), Big Blue Stem (Andropogon gerardii ) and Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans).

Other interesting plants that had gone to seed include Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) Rubiaceae, Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium ) Apiaceae, and Monkeyflower (Mimulus ringens) Scrophulariaceae. Another species called Black Sunflower (Helianthus mollis) had already gone to seed. We also took note of False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa), Cup Plant (Silphium sp.), Calamus (Acorus calamus ) and Pinnate Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata ) which looked in foliage a lot like Sochane (Rudbeckia laciniata). Hank had a great way of weaving prairie management practicality with neat anecdotes of ethnobotany. He especially laid out the controlled burn regime for prairies which was helpful to hear.

Next i went on a walk with Betzy Bancroft herbalist extraordinaire, UPS secretary and neighbor to Rosemary Gladstar. We covered Northern White Ceder (Thuja occidentalis) and then i felt drawn to check out Rebecca Wood’s class. We had a nice repartee covering All Heal (Prunella vulgaris ), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Sister Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), Maple (Acer spp.), Violet (Viola  spp.), Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin), Paw Paw (Asimina triloba), Ash (Fraxinus americana), Sassafrass (Sassafras albidum), and Dogwood (Cornus florida).

A fascinating class on Native Pollinators with Jim Wachter and the end of Robert Eidus’s class on Ginseng farming rounded out the educational offerings.

i picked up an interesting plant at the conference that was sold as Aztec Dream Herb (Calea zacatechichi). This plant hearkens from Central America and Mexico, used medicinally for cholera, colic, in appetence and has a fascinating ethnobotany aligning with the common name  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (Johnson, 1999). Another interesting plant was the Ololuiqui (Turbina corymbosa syn Rivea corymbosa) in the Convolvulaceae which is apparently one of the magic plants of the Mexican indiginous.

In the meantime I have also done plant walks at Joyce Kilmer for the Appalachian School of holistic Herbalism and at Warren Wilson College as well.

The Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) is this weekend. Most tickets are sold out by now. However, if you are coming i will lead a plant walk focusing on trees and the Frank Cook legacy at 10:15 a.m. Saturday.

My winter CSA food preserving job at Blue Ridge Food Ventures has ended for the season. There is still time to sign up for the winter CSA for those around Asheville

The Butternut (Cucurbita moschata) Wine/Mead and Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) wine/mead are tasting pretty good. The next step is to flavor and bottle them. This weekend marks the end of mead starting for the season. After uncovering some preserved materials i am hoping for small batch brews  of Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) Mead/Wine and a Pennsylvania Rainbow Mead with Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) and a touch of Goldthread (Coptis trifolia).

Now i 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 information.

Pages 129 - 144

i have taken to including the current orders that families are ascribed to as defined by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group 2 (APG2) and presented in three sources  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]},{"uri":[""]},{"uri":[""]}]} (Heywood, Brummitt, Culham, & Seberg, 2007; Judd, Campbell, Kellog, Stevens, & Donahue, 2008; Spears, 2006). This relationship is sometimes at odds with how Elpel’s text goes. In theory every family he features would be lined up within their respective orders in an evolutionary progression. Some families are changing orders due to genetic analysis. Some physical characteristics that had previously aligned families have been shown to have evolved in parallel and not be evidence of direct relationship.

However, i can already start to see patterns in floral characteristics, phytochemistry and even utility for fiber and certain food stuffs along modern order level classification lines.

Linaceae / Flax Family / Malpighiales

Flax (Linum usitatissimum) is famous for fiber, omega fats and industrial uses. I have little to add to Elpel except that the Flax order that he refers to does not exist under APG2.

Polygalaceae / Milkwort / Fabales

The new order designation confirms the similarity of floral parts to the Bean family (Fabaceae). The plants in this family have very pretty flowers though sometimes diminutive. Whereas the family above moved into the Malpighia Order this family moved out and into the Bean order Fabales

Araliaceae / Spikenard Family / Apiales

Devil’s Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa) fruits are putting on quite a show right now.  (Aralia nudicaulis) was apparently one of the Sarsparilla plants. Young shoots and leaves of the afore mentioned as well as California Spikenard (Aralia californica), Spikenard (Aralia racemosa) and Aralia spinosa are edible and have been used by traditional societies wherever they occur  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]},{"uri":[""]}]} (Couplan, 1998; Facciola, 1998).

The young  leaves of a number of species are eaten and used for tea in Asia including (Acanthopanax divaricatus, Eleutherococcus senticosus, Acanthopanax sessiliflorus, Eleutherococcus pentaphyllus), Udo (Aralia cordata), Japanese Angelica tree (Aralia elata) and Ming Aralia (Polyscias fruticosa)  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Facciola, 1998). The roots as well as young shoots of Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus) have been used by the Inuit in Alaska but the prickles can cause very painful easily infected wounds  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Couplan, 1998).

Ginseng is one of the most famous medicinal plants in the world. Trade to China from Appalachia was booming already in the early years of colonization. Now most wild ginseng has been harvested and wild simulated and even intensively cultivated practices have rushed to fill the gap. The literature on Ginseng is of course profuse and some choice sources for information can be found in the medicinal resources section of the site.

Triterpine saponins occur in the Araliaceae including English Ivy (Hedera helix)  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (Wink & Van Wyk, 2008). English Ivy may also cause contact dermatitis  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (Nelson, Shih, & Balick, 2007). However, it can aid in the detoxification of indoor air  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Judd et al., 2008). Handling the root bark of Aralia spinosa has caused severe dermatitis in some cases  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Couplan, 1998).

The fruits of Devil’s Walking Stick along with other species are eaten by songbirds including the Wood Thrush, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Blue Jay, Eastern Bluebird, and White Throated Sparrow  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (J. H. Miller & K. V. Miller, 2005).

Fruit is also possibly eaten by Red Fox, Striped Skunk, Eastern Chipmunk and foliage is a moderate preference by White Tailed deer  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":2,"uri":[""]}]} (J. H. Miller & K. V. Miller, 2005). Insects love members of this family in bloom. The tiger swallowtail butterfly is attracted to the flowers  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":2,"uri":[""]}]} (J. H. Miller & K. V. Miller, 2005).

At least a couple invasive plants come from the Spikenard family. English ivy is a fierce exotic invasive. Octopus Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) is invasive in South Florida  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (S. R. Kaufman & W. Kaufman, 2007).

English Ivy is a dye plant  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]},{"uri":[""]}]} (J. Cannon & M. Cannon, 2003, 2003). Vines of ivy can be used for various decorations. English Ivy is famous for covering buildings but can cause some damage to the outside surface. Many Aralia spp. are beautiful plants with showy blossoms.

Apiaceae / Celery Family / Apiales

The Apiaceae is one the major families for culinary herbs and root crops. This family includes Celery (Apium graveolens), Carrot (Daucus carota) Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), Dill (Anethum graveolens). It also contains many great wild edibles i.e. Sweet Cicily (Osmorhiza spp.)  Honewort (Cryptotaenia canadensis) and Osha (Ligusticum spp.).

Many medicines come from the celery family. In his copy of Botany in a day Frank Cook  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"suppressAuthor":true,"uri":[""]}]} (2006)noted a medicinal use which he learned from 7Song of Osha for clearing the mind like Calamus. He also noted the use of Parsley seed tea for alcoholism. Frank is cited twice in the text for information on the poisonous nature of some Sanicles (Sanicula spp.) and the weedy presence of Japanese Parsnip (Torilis japonica) in California  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"locator":"132,134","uri":[""]}]} (Elpel, 2004, pp. 132,134).

Due to the extremely poisonous nature of some members in this family always be careful to POSITIVELY IDENTIFY!!! , Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata), and Cow Parsley (Aethusa cynapium) contain convulsant poisons.  Neither of the Apiaceae hemlocks are closely related to the tree named hemlock (Tsuga  spp.) that is in the Pinaceae. Triterpine saponins occur in the Apiaceae (Wink and Van Wyk, 2008). Skin irritation and photosensitation can occur from contact with parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) Large Bullwort (Ammi majus), Chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris), Carrot/queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota), Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum) and (Heracleum sphondylium)  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Nelson et al., 2007). Furanocoumarins are often the cause of inflammation  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Wink & Van Wyk, 2008).  

Many members of the Apiaceae are known to bring in beneficial insects. Members of the Celery family are hosts to the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (Tallamy, 2009). Parsley and Carrot are the larval hosts for the Eastern Black Swallowtail and Anise Swallowtail butterflies  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (Schneck, 1990).

Many of the Appalachian introduced and naturalized species are invasive. These include Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), Spreading Hedgeparsley (Torilis arvensis), and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]}]} (J. H. Miller, Chambliss, & Bargeron Charles, 2006). Gout weed (Aegopodium podagraria) can also spread aggressively however it is imminently edible used like parsley and also is known to indicate nitrogen rich soils in Europe where it is from  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (S. R. Kaufman & W. Kaufman, 2007). Giant Hogweed is an introduced problem plant of the North from Maine to British Columbia  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":2,"uri":[""]}]} (S. R. Kaufman & W. Kaufman, 2007). Poison Hemlock forms dense stands that are toxic to most animals where one plant can make 30,000 seeds  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":2,"uri":[""]}]} (S. R. Kaufman & W. Kaufman, 2007). Bur Chervil (Anthriscus caucalis) is a European plant that is considered a weed in the western U.S.  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Ball et al., 2001).

A few plants have been used for dyes including Carrots  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (J. Cannon & M. Cannon, 2003), Petroselinum crispum (CITATION) and Purple fennel (Foeniculum vulgare “Purparescens”)  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"uri":[""]},{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Buchanan, 1995; J. Cannon & M. Cannon, 2003).

Many plants in the Celery family make good fresh cut flowers including Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota), Dill (Anethum graveolens), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and Ammi (Ammi majus).

Gentianaceae / Gentian Family / Gentianales

Numerous species are famous for their use as bitters including Centaury (Centaurium erythraea), Cross Gentian (Gentiana cruciata), Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea), Spotted Gentian (Gentiana punctata) Purple Gentian (Gentiana purpurea) and G. pannonica, G. asclepiadea, G. scabrae.  ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM {"sort":true,"citationItems":[{"position":1,"uri":[""]},{"position":1,"uri":[""]}]} (Facciola, 1998; Van Wyk & Wink, 2004).

The bitter root of Green Gentian (Frasera speciosa) was mixed with greens and eaten by Western Native Americans <!--></

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