Plant Talk 8 Botany in a Day Online Class Pages 147-160


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Plant Talk #8

November 14, 2010

Hello there plant enthusiasts! Happy Mid Fall!!!…Wow, already half way through the season… We have been graced with amazing weather near Asheville with day temps in the 60s and night temps in the 30s and 40s. However, we did just get an amazing first snow about a week ago. The killing frost has come for most tender things and another shift of the seasons is upon us. Hopefully, as the cold comes, and time slows down, more people can peruse through the information presented at the site here and make some commentary. This class alone took me around 30 hours plus to prepare so remember you can always feel free to skim and/or read in installments too! You can almost always follow links by clicking on scientific names for most plants to find much more info from the USDA site However, you may notice that the USDA classification tends to follow the older patterns reflected  in Botany in a Day rather than recent research vastly redefining many of the families below.

A photo album of plants related to this class can also be found by clicking the link below.
Facebook Photo Album Plant Talk 8

What’s Blooming

Well not much blooming now around Asheville. Some Mums (Chrysanthemum spp.) continue to represent for the Asteraceae. The native Witchazel (Hamamelis virginiana) just finished blooming. Some other normally spring blooming plants seem to get faked out around this time of year with a bit of premature blooming including Forsythia viridissima (Oleaceae), Rhododendron (Ericaceae), and Hosta Hostaceae.


Most of the fruits in temperate areas are gone now. However, some Apples and Pears will hang late on the tree.

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

I have talked about developing a class solely around red fruits and disentangling yummy from dangerous. You can see some examples in the photo album. Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) Ericaceae are probably the most famous red fall fruit in North America. Notice it is the same genus as Blueberry! Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin) Lauraceae fruits are used as a flavoring akin to Allspice (Pimenta dioica) Myrtaceae. Viburnums (Viburnum) and Barberry (Berberis) are edible but often need sweetening and make better jellies. Literally hundreds of species from the Rose family (Rosaceae) are edible while a few are probably too bitter to be enjoyed. The Asian Dogwood (Cornus kousa) Cornaceae has a custardy pulp but bitter outside. However, the Southern Dogwood (Cornus florida) fruits are not edible. The aril of Yews (Taxus) Taxaceae is said to be edible in small quantities but the seed is DEADLY! Fruits from Hollies (Ilex) are not considered to be edible and some may be toxic. However, not all Holly fruits are red!

In the southern U.S. Citrus will be coming on soon! Other winter delicacies i can remember from holidays in South Florida include Star Fruit (Averrhoa carambola) Oxalidaceae, Papaya (Carica papaya) Caricaceae and Black Sapote (Diospyros digyna) Ebenaceae. Notice the last is the same genus as Persimmon! When/If in Florida some crucial plant stops among many others include

The Educational Concerns for Hunger Orgnization (ECHO) in Ft Myers  

Ford/Edison Estate Botanical Gardens in Fort Myers

Fruit and Spice Park in Miami  

Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Miami

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota

University of South Florida Botanical Gardens in Tampa

i have shared two links to photo albums for ECHO at the Facebook Botany Everyday group.

With a new season new categories have come to vie for your attention back in the Temperate world….

Qualities of Leaves

The leaves have pretty much come and gone around Asheville. Maples (Acer) Aceraceae/Sapindaceae are famous for their oranges and reds. Hickories (Carya) Juglandaceae have a very distinctive mustardy yellow. Plants from the Hamamelidaceae like Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) and Witch Alder (Fothergilla spp.) have amazing tricolor change leaves as does Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) formerly from that family but now in the Altingiaceae. Burning Bush (Euonymus spp.) Celastraceae puts on quite a stunning Fall show in many places.

Things in the Fagaceae family like Oaks (Quercus) and Beeches (Fagus) are notable in that their leaves persist longer than most temperate angiosperm trees. Some like the Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) in the southern U.S. are evergreen. In the North the trees let go of the leaves over a prolonged period. This makes for a helpful identification characteristic or more work yard work if one is prone to continual leaf collecting.

Wild Greens

Many cold loving plants experience resurgence in the fall. This includes several plants in the Mustard family (Brassicaceae). i have noticed Cress (Barbarea) and some kind of wild  Brassica from this family in particular lately. Docks (Rumex) Polygonaceae and Chickweed (Stellaria media) Caryophyllaceae are also in resurgence mode. This is as good time to power up on these nutritious plants and others that are full of vitamins and minerals. As Frank Cook would say “Eat Something Wild Everyday”

Winter Interest

Winter interest is a broad category including evergreens, interesting bark, neat growth forms, late or early flowering qualities, etc. Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) Rosaceae is a popularly planted evergreen shrub that can sometimes have fruit and flowers at the same time! The fruits in small quantities are probably not poisonous but are also normally too bitter to be considered edible for most people either. Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is a common feature around Asheville and according to a sign i saw in the UNCA Botanical gardens our #1 most invasive plant. The irony is that people still profit off selling this in the market while the government simultaneously pays big money to get rid of it. Many other plants such a Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) Aceraceae/Sapindaceae and Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') Betualaceae.

Of course travelling south brings about a good bit of winter interest from a very different perspective as mentioned above and you may observe in some of the photos in the photo album for this class J.

Recent Activities

The LEAF festival happened just after the last post. Wowsers!!! This continues to be my favorite festival ever and a good time was had by many Plant wise, i led a tree walk  a Luke Learning Deer led a plant walk, a medicine by taste class was taught by Josh Fox, Plant Spirit Medicine i think with Corey Pine Shane, Pine Needle baskets with Geri Littlejohn and tea making with Natalie Bogwalker. This would be an amazing little ethnobotany side car for any festival event as you can see! Turtle Turtlington and i have joked about writing set lists for plant walks and talking about them like Grateful Dead concerts. For example…Corey Pine opened up with a Yellow Root and then went into Spice Bush back into Yellowroot then Ginseng with an Adaptogen jam….Get the idea…:-)

My last class in Appalachia for the year occurred at the Appalachian School of Holistic Herbalism i did a botany overview and plant walk for people that had come to Asheville from all over the eastern part of the country for an herbalism intensive! i also did a botany over view for the full medicinal herbal class folks. The best part was a walk to Dupont Falls near Brevard, NC of which some pictures are in the photo album as well. The best part of that day in particular was the spontaneous addition of good friend, teacher and fellow Frank Cook student John Immel. John went to Harvard for a degree more in technology but then found Ayurveda partly through Frank and has his own practice in Asheville and an amazing website as well On the ride there, during our class and at dinner after spending time with John really helped me deal with my continuing challenges and grief at the passing of Frank…

Soil testing is a good task to take on now. The labs at North Carolina State University have a lot less to deal with in the Fall as do many others most likely. If you wait till the flood of the spring you may have to wait weeks or longer for results. Proper soil conditions are the essential foundation for the growth of any plant. Not all soil is alike and some plants need a specific type! i got to participate in a stunning day of soil testing and other forms of farm observation and participation at Spring House in Vilas recently for which i am very grateful :-).

A lot is a foot in the world today. Massive transitions are underway…i have slowed way down recently to observe myself, my patterns and the patterns of the world. More than anything of course i have been observing the patterns of the plants :-)! i encourage you to dig down deep for your essential connection to nature and how to strengthen that bond as much as possible in these trying times....

Upcoming Events

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Conference is a premier event in the Southeast for supporting Sustainable Agriculture. This year it will be in Winston Salem December 3-5

Yay for Florida in the winter! Mycol Stevens will be hosting an Earthskills Gathering on his land from January 27-31. i have had the pleasure to visit with Mycol a few times in this locale. His enthusiasms and innovations are bound to inspire. Other notable teachers such as 7 Song, Doug Elliot, Corey Pine, Corey Pine, Didi Wildrover, Chad Ananda, Luke Learningdeer are planning to attend and many other notables may be there as well. Numbers are limited! Reserve a space if you are interested. There is an event page on Facebook if you want further info and/or contact Mycol at if you are want to reserve a spot.

Mead Report

Mead brewing is such a magical occupation….i must admit to a bit of transfixtion this season. The funny thing is that i almost never drink in quantity. Which means i will have a bunch of mead for a long while to come hopefully.… In some ways i have been humbled by my connection to Mead brewing this year. It can be a bit of an involved process time commitment wise and energetically. i tend to keep bottles from special occasions, label them, clean them and fill them with “appropriate” new tasty beverages.

Each step of this process is like a meditation on the alchemy and on the people whether it be… the event/s where the bottle has been, the story of the beverage going within and where it will be shared again…

So lots of meditating while washing and labeling. Now, around 10 gallons remain to be processed in various ways including the Tomato, Butternut Squash, Elderberry, and a couple gallons from Springhouse Farm and Amy Fiedler. This is the last big task before blast off out to the western U.S. for a while…. The Goldenrod Ginger and Lauraceae brew have been racked and both are tasting amazing!

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 147 – 160

i have taken to including the current orders that families are ascribed to as defined by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group II (APG II) in the 2003 issue of Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 141(4), 399-436 and presented in three sources (Heywood, Brummitt, Culham, & Seberg, 2007; Judd, Campbell, Kellog, Stevens, & Donahue, 2008; Spears, 2006).  These are the fundamental sources for the proposed taxonomy below!

This relationship is sometimes at odds with Elpel and especially around the Lamiales order in this particular class. 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.

This time’s class covers four orders including the Mint (Lamiales), Teasel (Dipsacales), Aster (Asterales) and the Gentian (Gentianales). The taxonomy of the Mint order is a main focus and has been vastly redefined by genetic analysis and other studies. In particular the Figwort Order (Scrophulariales) referred to by Elpel no longer exists nor does the Madder order (Rubiales). Many members from the Scrophulariaceae family are now often moved to other families including primarily the Plantain (Plantaginaceae) and Broom Rape (Orobanchaceae) families

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