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Botany Photo of the Day
In science, beauty. In beauty, science. Daily.

Jul 28, 2014: Lysimachia maritima

Empetrum nigrum

Today we have a photo of Lysimachia maritima, or sea milkwort. Today's photo was uploaded to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool by Stephen Buchan (aka --Green Light Images--@Flickr), a Scotland-based photographer. Thanks for sharing, Stephen!

NOTE: This text is a replacement for the text originally published on July 28. We had misidentified the plant in the photo, as Empetrum nigrum, as you can see from the unedited comments. Sorry for the confusion.

Lysimachia maritima (synonym Glaux maritima) is an herbaceous perennial of the Primulaceae which is widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere. Low and spreading, it forms mats to 5 cm tall. The plant is somewhat succulent. Common names include, sea milkwort, sea milkweed, and black saltwort.

Flowers appear from late spring through the end of summer and have 5 pink sepals rather than petals. The common name saltwort indicates its tolerance for salty environments. The fleshy leaves hold fresh water to help it thive in these conditions. Its low spreading form and succulent leaves are in fact also tolerant of wind, cold and dampness. Lysimachia maritima is even found in alkaline meadows in desert regions in Utah.

Jul 25, 2014: Geastrum triplex

Today we feature the fungus Geastrum triplex, commonly known as the saucered or collared earthstar. These images (image 1 | image 2) were taken recently at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and uploaded to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool by Hugh Nourse (aka Hugh and Carol Nourse@Flickr). Thanks for sharing, Hugh!

Geastrum triplex, of the Geastraceae, is an earthstar fungus. The earthstars are comprised of the genera Geastrum, Astraeus, and Myriostoma. Earthstars are modified puffballs that have a thick outer skin that splits into star-like rays (Geastrum saccatum was featured on Botany Photo of the Day in 2011). The rays, after splitting, often curve to expose the spore case (inner skin) for spore dispersal. Some earthstars are hygroscopic, though, most geastrums (including Geastrum triplex) are not. After the rays split, the central region of Geastrum triplex often (not always) breaks loose to form a broad cup or saucer around the flattened spore case. The spore case of the saucered earthstar is not elevated on a stalk (like others in the genus), and holds powdery, brown spores that are round and warted.

Geastrum triplex is a saprobic (feeding on dead or decaying matter) fungus that is widely distributed across North America. It grows alone or in groups in forest humus, often under hardwood trees. This species (like all earthstars) is noted to be difficult to find when immature because individuals are inconspicuous, and often develop underground. If you do happen to find this fungus when it is young (white inside), it is considered edible according to Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora. When they are older (and easier to find), they are apparently often too tough and fibrous to eat.

Jul 21, 2014: Hoita strobilina

It's always a treat to feature a photograph from the late James Gaither (aka J.G. in S.F.@Flickr). Today we feature Hoita strobilina (image 1 | image 2), or Loma Prieta hoita, of the Fabaceae. These photographs were taken in Regional Parks Botanic Garden, in Tilden Regional Park in the Berkeley Hills in July of 2009, and uploaded to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thanks again, James!

Hoita strobilina is a threatened, perennial herb endemic to California. It occurs naturally in chaparral or oak woodland on serpentine, or Franciscan-formation substrata. It descends into gravelly creek beds draining from the mountains into the Santa Clara Valley. This species went largely unnoticed (and without protection measures) until a comprehensive monograph was conducted. It is now listed as rare, threatened, or endangered in California and elsewhere by the California Native Plant Society. The CNPS also notes that this species is threatened by urbanization, and possibly by feral pigs and foot traffic.

Jul 18, 2014: Salicornia bigelovii

Salicornia bigelovii

Many thanks to Pete Veilleux (aka pete@eastbaywilds.com@Flickr) for this photo of Salicornia bigelovii! Pete took this photo of pickleweed (commonly known as annual glasswort, dwarf glasswort, dwarf saltwort, as well as sea asparagus) in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico back in April, 2009 and uploaded it to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool.

Salicornia bigelovii, of the Amaranthaceae, is an annual halophyte. This succulent species has jointed stems that are initially green, age to yellowish-orange, and mature to dark red. Perfect flowers are sunken in cavities and are arranged in a three-flowered cymose pattern, with the middle flower being slightly elevated in comparison to the other two lateral flowers. The cymes are held in a terminal spike and later bear seeds that lack endosperm and contain a peripheral, bent embryo.

Pickleweed occurs on temperate, subtropical, and tropical coastlines of the New World. It ranges from coastal Nova Scotia, Canada, south to Florida and along the Gulf Coast to the Yucatan Peninsula to the Bahamas and West Indies. It also occurs along the Pacific coast in California, northern Baja California, and Sonora. Salicornia bigelovii tends to grow on saturated substrates of quartz sand, or sand and shell deposits and tolerates salinities up to 120 parts per thousand (to read more about how this species is able to grow in such saline environments, here is a link provided in a previous Botany Photo of the Day entry on Salicornia virginica and its parasite Cuscuta salina).

Salicornia bigelovii is a salt-tolerant terrestrial vascular plant with potential as a crop plant for arid, coastal, hyper-saline sites. It has been successfully cultivated, and can be irrigated with salt water. The seeds of this species contain 31% protein, 5-7% fibre, and 5-7% ash. The seeds also contain good-quality oil, and have up to 26-33% oil (exceeding oil seed levels of both cotton at 15-24%, and soybean at 17-21%). It is suggested that the seeds could be used for cooking oil, biofuels, and as supplements to poultry and fish diets. Each pickleweed plant can produce 250-640 seeds per plant, and when supplemental nitrogen was added to plots in a California salt marsh, seed production increased from 200000 seeds/m2 in unfertilized plots to 1 million seeds/m2. Some also note that the whole plant could be used for livestock forage, and as a biofilter for removing nutrients from saline aquaculture wastewater. Fresh and dried whole plants are also edible. Fresh shoots have been marketed in Europe and California as a garnish for salads, however the shoots only have a short shelf life of ~6 days (see: Falasca, S. Ulberich A. Acevedo, A. 2014. Identification of Argentinian saline drylands suitable for growing Salicornia bigelovii for bioenergy. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. 39:8682-8689; Lonard, I. Judd, F., Stalter, R. 2012. The biological flora of coastal dunes and wetlands: Salicornia bigelovii J. Torrey. Journal of Coastal Research. 28(3):719-725).

Jul 16, 2014: Allium cristophii

Allium cristophii

A quick entry for the day about Allium cristophii, or the star of Persia. This photo was uploaded to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool back in May of this year by Christopher (aka c.young@Flickr). Thanks for sharing, Christopher!

Allium cristophii (subgenus Melanocrommyum), of the Amaryllidaceae, is a bulbous perennial native to Iran, Turkey, and central Asia. It is planted ornamentally for its large, spherical, purple flower heads of over 100 individual flowers that bloom in the spring. The flower heads of this species are noted to be amongst the largest produced by ornamental onions at 20-25cm in diameter.

The star of Persia is mentioned to be easily grown. Planting in rich, sandy to gritty soil in well-drained loams in full sun should do the trick. Apparently they do well in dry, sunny areas, particularly as over-moist soils may cause bulb rot. This species may colonize over time. If you want to control unwanted spread, deadhead the flowers before seed set.

Today I did want to write about Helianthus annuus, as this species was mentioned in the news yesterday. However, it has been featured on Botany Photo of the Day both last year and in 2007. To quickly summarize, it was highlighted in the news from Nature that this flower species bends to track the path of the sun, and researchers have found it is not only a response to light, but also to an internal clock. To see more, check out the article and accompanying video.

Jul 15, 2014: Carpinus fangiana

Carpinus fangiana

For the next week or so Daniel is away on holiday, so Eric La Fountaine and I will be looking after Botany Photo of the Day. I'm sure Daniel will be happy to share some photographs from his trip when he returns. In the meantime we have an image of Carpinus fangiana (synonym: Carpinus wilsoniana), or Fang's hornbeam. Although unregistered, the tree in this photograph was given the cultivar name 'Wharton's Choice'. I took this photograph about a month ago after this smooth-barked, semi-weeping species caught my eye only a few steps from the Garden's entrance. It stands out with its long, impressed-veined leaves and light-green, bracteate fruiting catkins. The male catkins grow up to 6cm, whereas the female catkins can be up to 50cm long (hence another common name, the monkeytail hornbeam).

Carpinus fangiana, of the Betulaceae, is a rare species native to central and western China. It grows on limestone hills in dense deciduous mixed forests with plenty of summer cloud cover and high rainfall. Carpinus fangiania has only recently been introduced into cultivation, and is now frequently planted as an ornamental. The plantings of this species here at the UBC Botanical Garden were only accessioned in 1986. The particular tree in the photo (as well as others here at the Garden) was grown from seed received from the Shanghai Botanical Garden that was wild collected in Hunan.

Fang Wen-Pei (1988-1983) lends his name to both the species' epithet, fangiana, as well as the common name, Fang's Hornbeam. Fang Wen-Pei was a Chinese botanist who collected over 20, 000 specimens, and described over 100 new species. He was well known for his work with the genera Acer and Rhododendron (see: Lancaster, R., Rix, M. 2011. 705. Carpinus fangiana. Curtis's Botanical Magazine. 28(2):103-110).

Jul 12, 2014: Pereskiopsis aquosa

Another entry from Taisha, who writes:

Today, we have several photographs of Pereskiopsis aquosa from retired Garden staff member, David Tarrant. Thanks for sharing, David! David mentioned in his email to us that this is currently flowering in his garden after the commencement of summer rains in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He recounted that he had found a plant blooming in a garden trash pile about four years ago, and then took a cutting. The cutting formed a small rangy three-stemmed shrub about a metre in height. His plant now produces these buttercup yellow blooms, but David notes that like so many other cacti, the flowers only last a day.

In the email, David points out that it difficult to find anything written about this cactus species. He was right! This species is endemic to Mexico. It is distributed in the states of Jalisco, Colima, and Nayarit where it grows in tropical deciduous forests between elevations of 300-1800 metres. I also managed to dig up a bit about the evolution of the subfamily this species belongs to, the Opuntioideae.

The leafy habit of Pereskiopsis aquosa is curious, and the evolutionary history of leaf characters in the subfamily Opuntioideae is of interest (as well as below-ground storage morphology). This species-rich subfamily (the second most speciose subfamily in the Cactaceae with ~350 members) has a wide diversity of leaf and ground storage organ characters. Most genera in the subfamily possess early deciduous terete leaves that can be up to 2cm long, but are often much shorter. However, the genera Austrocylindropuntia, Quiabentia, and Pereskiopsis have persistent leaves. In addition to being described as distinctively persistent, the leaves of Pereskiopsis are flat, fleshy, ovate to spathulate, and up to 8cm long and 5cm wide.

The possession of persistent leaves within Opuntioideae, a family that is marked by stem-succulence, has given rise to some theorizing that the ancestral opuntioid was similar to either Austrocylindropuntia, Quiabentia, or Pereskiopsis. Others, however, have suggested that because of the reduced vasculature (transport tissue) in the persistent leaves within these genera relative to the relictual cactus leaves of earlier diverged Pereskia, that these persistent leaves are instead a derived character that actually represent an evolutionary reversal from within an ephemeral-leaved ancestral lineage. Based on the results of a character state reconstruction of ancestral leaf habit for the Opuntioideae, performed by researcher M. P. Griffith, the latter hypothesis is supported. His results showed that there were at least two derived independent adaptations of enlarged, persistent leaves in the Opuntioideae. Griffith explains that although most cacti possess a suite of morphological and anatomical adaptations for survival in arid regimes (such as stem-succulence), not all cacti may benefit. In areas where aridity is not the absolute limiting factor in growth (such as the habitats of Pereskiopsis, Quiabentia, and Austrocylindropuntia) increased surface area and photosynthetic capacity is actually adaptive.

Instead of Pereskiopsis, Quiabentia or Austrocylindropuntia representing the early morphology of Opuntioideae, Griffiths suggests that the early morphology of this subfamily may be best represented by the genus Maihueniopsis sensu lato (in the broad sense). The untenably monophyletic Maihenueniopsis is the deepest lineage within the Opuntioideae, and is characterized by being early deciduous, globular-stemmed, diminutive, and often geophytic. This genus, along with Puna, possess many characters that are plesiomorphic (ancestral) for the subfamily Opuntioideae. Some other hypotheses have suggested that the earliest Opuntioideae were true geophytes, though this remains unresolved. (see: Griffiths, M. P. (2009). Evolution of leaf and habit characters in Opuntioideae (Cactaceae): reconstruction of ancestral form. Bradleya. 27:49-58).

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