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

September 2006 Archives

Sep 30, 2006: Amanita pantherina

Amanita pantherina

“leafdesigner” of Battle Ground, Washington both submitted today's photograph and wrote the text – my gracious thanks to you! Submitted here via the BPotD Submissions Forum: Amanita pantherina. leafdesigner writes:

It's fall, so I thought I would start submitting my mushroom photos again.

The panther amanita, Amanita pantherina, is a common mushroom of the Pacific Northwest's Douglas-fir forests. Although typically encountered during the fall, I found a ‘bumper crop’ of the mushrooms growing in a 30-year old Douglas-fir woodland in April 2005. The photo shows the classic features of this fungus: the grayish-brown cap with white patches (remanants of the universal veil), the collar-like rim around the base, and the flaring annulus on the stem (remnants of the partial veil that covers the gills). In this example, it's torn and partially collapsed.

Like its well-known cousin the fly amanita (Amanita muscaria), the panther amanita contains ibotenic acid, a toxin that produces, according to one text, ‘brief drowsiness...a state of excitement resembling alcoholic intoxication, which may last for 4 hours or more, characterized by confusion, muscle spasms, delirium, hallucinations, and disturbances of vision...’ In other words, this mushroom is nothing to fool around with!

Photography resource link: for inspiration, the photography of Helen Dixon, from Surrey, England.

Sep 29, 2006: Platanus occidentalis

The photographs of Platanus wrightii a couple days ago inspired Dr. Quentin Cronk to submit his photographs of Platanus occidentalis, or American sycamore (or American planetree), from Eno River State Park in North Carolina. Coincidentally, he took these photographs two days before I took the ones in the Chiricahuas.

Dr. Michael Dirr has this advice to give on the landscape value of this tree in his “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” : “If native to an area do not remove the tree(s); however, do not plant it...”. Dr. Dirr cites diseases and pests such as anthracnose and borers along with the messiness of its fallen leaves and fruits as some of its undesirable characteristics. He considers the potential diseases and insects so bad that he concludes the list with “ad infinitum”.

The Flora of North America entry for Platanus occidentalis notes: “Of the angiospermous trees of North America, Platanus occidentalis is one of the tallest (to 50+m) and reaches the greatest trunk diameter (to 4+m)”. Too bad this species is not suited for cultivated landscapes – its size and intriguing bark (amply demonstrated here by Quentin) would make it very appealing as a specimen tree in a large park.

Art resource link: I've linked to this site previously, but the American Society of Botanical Artists has a listing of upcoming art exhibitions in Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, New York, Seattle, Tucson and Melbourne. If you live in (or plan to be visiting) any of these cities, you might like to take the time to visit one of these exhibitions. I'll be visiting the one in Seattle, myself.

Sep 28, 2006: Cucurbita cultivars

A thank you to Monika (half of monika&manfred@Flickr) for submitting today's photographs taken in Vienna, Austria (original image 1 and original image 2). It's worth the time to browse Monika's photographs, particularly since she has photographs from her travels around the world.

The question to ask with cucurbits is, “What aren't they used for?” If you read The Wild and Wonderful World of Gourds from Wayne Armstrong, you'll learn members of this family were or are used for: food, medicine, ornament, a sweetener, currency, an art medium, containers and eating utensils, pipes, musical instruments and clothing – not a bad list!

I believe most, if not all, of the cucurbits in today's photographs have wild origins in Mexico and South America, though if the pale one is actually a melon (Cucumis melo) instead of a squash, it would have its origin in Africa or southwest Asia. Members of the family are found throughout the tropical, subtropical and warm temperate areas of the world.

As an aside, you'll recall how I mentioned Arbutus menziesii is oft a subject of photographers. For proof, see ngawangchodron's Arbutus menziesii – fifty photographs so far!

Sep 27, 2006: Platanus wrightii

I thought I'd follow up yesterday's Arbutus menziesii with another tree species I am anxious to spend more time photographing. These photographs were taken in late March.

Platanus wrightii, or Arizona sycamore, is one of ten species in the genus Platanus; in turn, Platanus is the only genus in the family Platanaceae. The genus Platanus has an odd biogeographical distribution: 1 species found in Vietnam and Laos, another in southeast Europe and southwest Asia, and the remainder in eastern North America, southwest USA and Mexico. The centre of diversity for the species is certainly Mexico, where six of the ten species occur. It reminds me of the distribution of Styracaceae, though more restricted in scope and entirely absent in South America – I'll follow-up with a post about the Styracaceae in a later BPotD.

You might notice in the landscape photograph that the trees are found at the base of the rocky hillsides. More specifically, they are typically found along watercourses which would perhaps be better illustrated with an aerial photograph (I didn't have a spare airplane, though).

The second photograph is an attempt to demonstrate what I consider the ghostly nature of these trees. I like to imagine I'll be able to spend a few weeks sometime making more attempts.

By the way, if you're interested in a close-up of the bark, you can visit this “stumper” I posted on the UBC discussion forums (What is a stumper?).

Sep 26, 2006: Arbutus menziesii

Arbutus menziesiiArbutus menziesii

Two photographs of arbutus (or Pacific madrone) from my 4-day mini-holiday on Galiano Island. It's easy to imagine why some local photographers occasionally have exhibits dedicated to this, Canada's only evergreen deciduous broad-leaved tree (the word “deciduous” was struck out and then later restored - see comments). Myself, I took about a hundred photographs, though most were abstracts and won't find their way onto BPotD. You can see why I'm eagerly anticipating the development of UBC Botanical Garden's Garry Oak Woodland and Meadow, since it will contain two groves of dozens of mature arbutus trees when planted out.

For a bit of information about this species, visit last year's entry on Arbutus menziesii.

Sep 25, 2006: Lachenalia mutabilis

Lachenalia mutabilis

A second thank you in the span of three days to van+s@Flickr for contributing a photo (original image | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). This plant was cultivated indoors at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Thanks again, van+s!

Pretty as it is, this particular lachenalia has the potential to escape from cultivation and become weedy, as has occurred in Western Australia. The fact that it is common and widespread in its native Cape region of South Africa serves as a hint that it is adaptable, and thus likely to pose problems in non-native environments with conditions similar to the Cape.

The epithet “mutabilis” means “changeable”, in this case referring to the inflorescence – the immature stalk and flowers start blue and turn yellowish-green or pinkish as they age. For photographs of the entire inflorescence with the range of colours, see this page from the International Bulb Society and the Lachenalia page from the Pacific Bulb Society's Wiki.

Photography resource link: Nature's Best Photography Magazine's International Awards – scroll down in the middle frame of the page for links to the 2004-2006 award winners. Also, there's a Picture of the Week feature on the site that might interest you.

Sep 24, 2006: Salicornia virginica and Cuscuta salina

Salicornia virginica and Cuscuta salina

Kind thanks to edgeplot@Flickr from Seattle, Washington for this intriguing photograph (original image | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). edgeplot took this image at the beautiful Deception Pass State Park in Washington. Thank you!

If you visit the original Flickr posting, you'll note that edgeplot titled this image “Parasitism in the Salt Marsh”. I prefer an alternative, more Hollywoodish title: “The Halophyte and The Parasite”.

Salicornia virginica, or pickleweed, is the halophyte. If you're confused as to which plant is the Salicornia, it is the green plant with thickened stems – see this photograph for a parasite-free version. It is able to grow in highly saline environments, such as this salt marsh, through its ability to sequester salt into the vacuoles of its cells. For an explanation of that adaptation, see this page on pickleweed (via Great Salt Lake Playa Ecology). The reference refers to a different taxon, but the mechanism should be the same.

The parasite is Cuscuta salina, or salt-marsh dodder. As edgeplot succinctly explains, “The dodder has twining orange stems and creamy white flowers. It is parasitic and unable to photosynthesize, and lives off nutrients taken from its green pickleweed host.” A short summary about dodder is available from the lab of Dr. Colin Purrington: background on the genus Cuscuta (dodder).

Botany resource link: Fruits and Seeds is a chapter in “Botany Online – The Internet Hypertextbook. Features magnified fruit images illustrating structures aiding seed dispersal.

Sep 23, 2006: Fouquieria columnaris

Fouquieria columnaris

A thank you to van+s@Flickr (original image | BPotD Flickr Group Pool) for sharing today's photograph, taken inside a greenhouse at New York Botanical Garden.

One look at this photograph of the boojum tree and I was immediately reminded of my image of Fouquieria splendens. Makes sense, I suppose – they are (now) both in the same genus. However, a search for Idria columnaris yields two-thirds the results of a search for the current scientific name, so this synonym is still often used. At least in one sense, it is too bad that this species has been moved into Fouquieria: Idria is far easier to spell.

The Virginia Tech Forestry has a factsheet on Fouquieria columnaris that is worth visiting to see more of this plant. I particularly like this quote: “VERY UNUSUAL, considered by many to be the strangest looking tree on earth.”. The University of Wisconsin Botany Department has some photographs of this species (of a decent size) showing its habit: Fouquieria (ignore the photo that is titled F. columnaris Flowering Plant – it is actually Fouquieria splendens).

If you have access, you might want to read the following for a detailed examination of the biology of this species: Humphrey, RR. 1933. A Study of Idria columnaris and Fouquieria splendens. Am. J. Bot. 22(2): 184-207.

Photography resource link: I don't often link to camera gear because it seems too many photographers get distracted by the tools instead of taking photographs, so I deliberately try to avoid it (except when I'm researching techniques and learn that I need a different tool). However, I have to make an exception for this: the Seitz 6 x 17 Digital – 160 megapixels scan back camera that can capture an image in 0.5 second (a scan back camera operates more like a scanner, so you have to imagine a really fast, super high-quality, portable scanner with the depth of field of a camera). And for only the low, low price of 28900 Euros or ~ 37000 USD. Fun to imagine in idle moments.

Sep 22, 2006: Tagetes cultivar

Tagetes cultivar

bbum@Flickr, aka Bill from San Jose, California, contributed today's photograph (original image | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Thanks again, Bill – I appreciate the contribution to this month's occasional theme of orange and green (and sometimes white) on BPotD.

I'm not able to tell from this image or Bill's other photographs of this marigold field as to whether these are a cultivar of Tagetes patula or Tagetes erecta, but perhaps someone more expert will make a suggestion. In either case, though, these bright plants have a common name in Mexico that is anything but bright: la flor de la muerte, which translates to “the flower of death” (according to Allan Armitage in his “Manual of Annuals, Biennials and Half-Hardy Perennials”). Unfortunately, Dr. Armitage does not explain the reason for that moniker. Speaking of names, I should also note that the common name “marigold” outside of North America often refers to members of the genus Calendula.

Dr. Armitage notes that the roots of some species produce allelopathic compounds, which can suppress certain weeds. For this reason, and the fact that they can also deter some unwanted insects, Tagetes are sometimes used in companion planting.

Botany resource link: Flora brasiliensis is a project to first digitize the 1840-1906 textual work containing nearly 23000 Brazilian species and then update the information. The site can be a little difficult to navigate, but viewing some of the line drawings can be very rewarding (sorry, I'm not able to link to any images directly).

Sep 21, 2006: Salvia pachyphylla

Salvia pachyphylla

If you'll recall my reaction to the fragrance of the Schima flowers, imagine the opposite reaction when smelling my fingers after squeezing the inflorescence of this plant, blue sage or rose sage. It is quite disgusting (I believe the word “foul” was used), and the smell lingers for some time; it is far better to appreciate this southwestern US and Mexico native for its appearance.

There seems to be some interesting evolutionary biology and taxonomy surrounding Salvia pachyphylla and the closely-related Salvia dorrii, but I haven't been able to track down a published peer-reviewed paper on the subject reflecting modern work. This abstract of a presentation at one of the Botanical Society of America's annual Botany Conferences piqued my interest: The Phylogeny and Adaptive Radiation of Salvia pachyphylla (Lamiaceae).

CalPhotos has a number of images of Salvia pachyphylla if you'd like to browse through more. You could also read the entry in the Jepson Manual about this plant for a description.

Photography resource link: for inspiration, the photography of Tomas Kaspar. You can also view a selection of his images on Flickr: Tomas Kaspar.

Sep 20, 2006: Bidens aurea

The garden originally received this plant as a propagule of a plant collected in the state of Nuevo León, Mexico. Bidens heterophylla was the name attached to the plant at the time, a name which the USDA Plants Database reports is a synonym of Bidens aurea. It is commonly known as Arizona beggarticks (or Arizona beggarstick), even though the vast majority of its range is in Mexico.

From what I can tell, Bidens aurea is a highly variable species. The description of the plant in the Flora of North America (see Bidens aurea) uses many parentheticals to denote that the plant's morphological properties can vary extremely from the norm, e.g., disc florets 12–30(–60+), meaning that the number of disc flowers (the ones in the centre of this composite flower) typically range from twelve to thirty, but over sixty can be found in rare plants. More evidence of variability can be seen online using an image search: Bidens aurea, including these two illustrations, 1 and 2. Despite the poorly-known scientific names on these illustrations, both are apparently synonymous with Bidens aurea (images and synonymy via the Universal Library Compositae page).

I do have to admit to being a bit skeptical that this is all one species based on the extreme differences in morphology, but I've not found anything suitably authoritative to contradict it. Particularly curious is that the FNA treatment does not describe the plant as having nearly-white ray florets, but it's within the realm of possibility that this plant was selected for that very reason (its different flower colour).

Botany / horticulture resource link: Bamboo Research through Washington State University's Extension Unit. The site leans to local resources, but also includes a number of links that are relevant anywhere bamboo will grow.

Sep 19, 2006: Dendrobium speciosum

A kind thank you to Margaret Morgan of Sydney, Australia for sharing today's image. You can see Margaret's preferred crop of this image on this page, but she gave me permission to select a different crop for one of the standard sizes I use for BPotD (so thanks again). I enjoy Margaret's web site quite a bit (since I seem to agree with her on many things), so you might like to visit it as well: Margaret Morgan. Much appreciated, Margaret.

The common name for this orchid is yet another of those lateral-thinking-required misnomers ̵ rock lily. I suppose it is relatively easy to see a superficial resemblance to a lily inflorescence when looking at the mass of flowers. A closer look at each individual flower, however, reveals it is indeed an orchid (and to be fair, some sites do suggest “rock orchid” as a preferred common name).

The “rock” part of the common name is entirely fitting, however. Dendrobium speciosum is often found growing on rocks (hence it is a lithophyte), though it can also be epiphytic (growing on other plants). It is known as one of the showiest orchids in the world, as I'll assert is well-detailed by Margaret's second photograph.

Two excellent pages worth investigating if you'd like to learn more are Dendrobium speciosum from the Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants and the Dendrobium speciosum complex from the Australasian Native Orchid Society.

Photography resource link: I continue to enjoy Alain Briot's essays: Of Cameras and Art via The Luminous Landscape. Also, read the follow-up essay from one of his readers, David White.

Sep 18, 2006: Schima sericans var. sericans

I was excited about having another BPotD “exclusive” to share with you today, i.e., a species that doesn't appear on search engine image results. Unfortunately, I was scooped on this one: “growin”, a member of one of the web's largest gardening sites, posted a few photographs of this particular plant a week ago (though I'll note that he did have to walk in the bed to get these photographs, something not encouraged for garden visitors). Small consolation, perhaps, but today's BPotD pics at least seem to be the first few photographs of this plant in flower on the web.

Taking the time to smell the flowers elicited an “oooooo” from me. I thought it smelled of a sweet vanilla; Douglas thought it had elements of banana. We both agreed, though, that the fragrance was fleeting – you could only smell it for a brief time before becoming desensitized to it.

A native to the Yunnan province in China as well as Tibet, Schima sericans was published as a species in 1997. The draft treatment of the Theaceae in the Flora of China agrees with the assessment of this as a separate species segregated from the (slightly) more common Schima wallichii. Despite some reservations about the assertion that this is one of a number of closely-related species (instead of much morphological variation within a single broad species), we're treating it as distinct for the time being at UBC.

Sep 17, 2006: Crassula capitella

Crassula capitella

A big thank you again to Eric in San Francisco (Eric in SF@Flickr) for offering today's image via the BPotD Flickr Group Pool (original image). An intriguing pattern expertly captured, Eric – thank you!

I believe this is the fourth member of the Crassulaceae to be featured on BPotD, preceded by Dudleya pulverulenta, a cultivar of Aeonium arboreum and Sedum spathulifolium. If you visit those pages, you'll note that a pattern emerges – most of the Crassulaceae are succulents.

Although this particular plant is being cultivated in the Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco, this species is actually native to southern Africa, where, like many succulents, it grows in an arid environment.

For local readers, you might like to visit Riverview in Coquitlam to attend this year's Treefest today (rain or shine!). This event celebrates the nearing-a-century-old arboretum on the grounds of the Riverview Hospital. See the web site of the Riverview Horticultural Centre Society) for more information about this heritage site that is not yet permanently protected from “development”.

Sep 16, 2006: Lobelia tupa

Lobelia tupa

I did mention in the previous entry on Lobelia tupa (or devil's tobacco) about my desire to take a different photograph of this species. Here it is!

Sep 15, 2006: Acacia dealbata

Acacia dealbata

Only a brief entry today - apologies. After checking out this abstract photograph of a pattern on the bark of a silver acacia, though, you can spend a lengthy piece of time reading this fascinating article on acacias from Wayne Armstrong: The Unforgettable Acacias. It spans everything from seed dispersal (by ants) to commercial products (gum arabic).

The Plants for a Future database also has an entry on this southeastern Australian tree: Acacia dealbata Also, please note that it is invasive in southern California.

Sep 14, 2006: Senecio rowleyanus

Senecio rowleyanus

The longest running plant sale at the garden occurs today and tomorrow: the 29th Annual Indoor Plant Sale. I had a grand time yesterday trying to photograph a few of the plants available, since I don't often get the opportunity to work with indoor plants.

A native of southwestern Africa, “string of beads” grows in arid habitats. The succulent beads are actually the leaves, modified for living through extended periods of drought. Dr. T. Ombrello of Union County College has written an intriguing article on the adaptations of this Senecio and the closely related Senecio herreianus, entitled Senecios, With Windows in Their Leaves. The narrow bands you can see on some of the beads consist of transparent tissue to allow light to penetrate the interior of the bead and increase photosynthesis without increasing water loss.

It might be worth revisiting my comments on diversity within the Asteraceae in the BPotD entry on Raoulia australis. There is simply an amazing amount of diversity of form and structure in this plant family.

Sep 13, 2006: Gentiana macrophylla var. fetissowii

Gentiana macrophylla var. fetissowii

There isn't too much online about this taxon, either under its current name or its sometimes-used synonym, Gentiana wutaiensis. I was able to find a photograph of it in flower in this gallery of images from Utrecht Botanical Garden (under Gentiana wutaiensis). Variety fetissowii apparently differs from the slightly-more-common-in-cultivation Gentiana macrophylla var. macrophylla by the shape and length of its flowers and relative length of its calyx. Seems like I'll have to photograph it in flower sometime to help alleviate the paucity of images.

As you'll have noticed if you clicked on the above link, a Flora of China account exists for this Chinese and Kazakhstani plant: Gentiana macrophylla var. fetissowii. However, if you don't have the chance to visit China or Kazakhstan anytime soon, one of the few places elsewhere in the world to see it is UBC Botanical Garden.

Cell biology resource link: The Inner Life of the Cell is a (large) Flash movie demonstrating cellular activities. My favourite is the Golgi apparatus, though it makes a too-brief appearance. I'm not going to pretend that I know about everything that is being demonstrated, but it certainly makes me curious to learn more – with something like this at hand, I might have managed a better grade in Cell Biology. Sent along by Dr. Andrew Riseman.

Sep 12, 2006: Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

'Royal Purple' smokebush is a popular landscape shrub with much to recommend it: autumn foliage colour, drought-tolerant when established and a smoky-appearing inflorescence, to name a few. Part of my reason for enjoying it is that it is in one of my favourite plant families, the Anacardiaceae, and is therefore related to mango, cashew and poison ivy (a plant I admire, but from a distance).

In local news, there is a lecture tonight (link includes event details) with Peter Valder. I met Peter when I was in Sydney a few years ago, and he's warm and funny – I expect his lecture will be very entertaining. If you get a chance to go, I do recommend it. Please also note that he is giving a different lecture on Thursday evening in Seattle (click on the link with his name).

Sep 11, 2006: The Art of Christian Staebler

I'm delighted that Christian Staebler of France offered to share some of his scanner art work on BPotD. I only recall seeing something similar as a modern artwork once or twice in my life, so I think Christian's creations are quite unique and special. The first word that popped into my mind when I saw them was organic, quickly followed by medieval (as in medieval art with its skewed or flat perspectives and emphasis on symbols) and collage. Coincidentally, I was idly thinking to myself about how to flatten perspective in a photograph (thinking of “Medieval style” work) only a few days before Christian contacted me, but I can honestly say I would never have imagined solving my little mental challenge with Christian's method.

Christian has a series of these images which you can browse through on his site here. He is preparing to publish the scans in a book with one scan for each week of the year (and if you know of a publisher who might be interested, send him a note via his web site!). I also highly recommend browsing through the rest of Christian's web site (when you visit a section, use the small navigation bar at the bottom of the artwork to prompt the next piece) – plenty of photographs, drawings and illustrations. As he mentions in the introduction to the site, “The main thing here is Nature. All my works (especially my personal ones) are inhabited by Nature's richness and I hope the emotions show through the images…

I think I should also mention that all plants and animals in his scanner work are found in his garden. Christian noted to me that he doesn't kill any animals for scanning purposes (he says the cats are killing enough) and the dead insects are found here and there.

If you are interested as to what is in the photographs, the first displays a shrew on Filipendula vulgaris (top left), Sonchus oleraceus (front in the middle), Vicia sepium (bottom left) and Centaurea scabiosa (top background). The second image contains wasps, bindweed (Convolvulus sp.?) and a conifer cone on a cultivated rose (Rosa sp.).

I, for one, hope that the book does get published someday, as I know I'll purchase one. Thank you, Christian.

Sep 10, 2006: Sequoiadendron giganteum

Sequoiadendron giganteum

The photographer of today's image is Ken McCown of California (aka ken mccown@flickr | original image | large image on black background | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Thank you, Ken!

Individual trees of giant sequoias rank as the largest trees in the world by volume. The species is endemic to California, where it is found in isolated groves and has a rather narrow distribution in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Ken took this photograph in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, site of the Discovery Tree. This tree was one of the first of the sequoias to ever be seen by people of European descent – and shortly thereafter cut down.

The Gymnosperm Database has much more on Sequoiadendron giganteum, including an entertaining tale about big trees (and the people who search for them). Also, Wikipedia has an excellent entry on giant sequoia, including this quote from John Muir: “Do behold the King Sequoia! Behold! Behold! seems all I can say. Some time ago I left all for Sequoia and have been and am at his feet, fasting and praying for light, for is he not the greatest light in the woods, in the world? Where are such columns of sunshine, tangible, accessible, terrestrialized?

Sep 9, 2006: Leuchtenbergia principis

Leuchtenbergia principis

Many thanks to Amir A. from Israel for sharing today's photograph of Leuchtenbergia principis.

Agave cactus or prism cactus is native to northern and central Mexico. If you are familiar with the world's deserts, you'll know that this distribution means it is found only in the Chihuahuan Desert, an area with exceptional diversity of cacti.

There are a number of ways of measuring biodiversity. In some methods that use numbers of genera and species along with a uniqueness value, Leuchtenbergia would be considered to be contributing to high biological diversity, as it is a monotypic genus (only one species in the genus). Other methods that use genetic diversity as a measure might rate Leuchtenbergia lower; it is closely related to the fairly common Ferocactus (and can hybridize with it). In this way of measuring diversity, an area with Leuchtenbergia and Ferocactus would be considered to have lower diversity than an area with Leuchtenbergia and the so-distantly-related-as-to-be-negligible Fouquieria splendens.

Sep 8, 2006: Cyrtanthus epiphyticus

Cyrtanthus epiphyticus

Only 131 results in a search on Google for Cyrtanthus epiphyticus – a good indication that this South African plant is poorly known. The epithet epiphyticus suggests it grows on trees (its common name is tree lily), but this plant at UBC does not seem to be that fussy – it grows in well-draining gravel in the alpine garden.

Despite the relative obscurity of both this species and the genus Cyrtanthus as a whole, one enthusiast has provided a wealth of information online – the New Zealander Bill Dijk. Bill has not only published photographs online (Cyrtanthus on the Pacific Bulb Society Wiki), but also written a long account of the plants with descriptions and cultivation guidelines: see Cyrtanthus introduction 1 and introduction 2 for these text articles.

Photography resource link: Photographing the Art of Nature – two essays (so far) from landscape photographer Bruce Heinemann. Spectacular photographs in his galleries, as well.

Sep 7, 2006: Magnolia grandiflora

Magnolia grandiflora

Today's photograph is from the personal garden of one of UBC Botanical Garden's horticulturist's, David Grieser. The image was taken by his cousin, Julianne, who is kindly sharing it with us. Thanks to both of you!

I'm looking forward to the time when the garden has its Carolinian Forest fully-funded and established – this species of magnolia will finally find a place at UBC.

As alluded to in its inclusion in the Carolinian Forest, southern magnolia is an evergreen tree native to the southeastern United States. Read more about it on the USDA Forest Service's Silvics of North America: Magnolia grandiflora. Images of its fruit are available from Wikipedia.

Horticulture / botany resource link: Dedicated to the native plants of North America, the Native Plant Network web site provides access to its journal and a propagation protocol database. An exceptional resource if you work with the propagation of native plants, ecological restoration, plant conservation, invasive species or a host of other topics related to North American native plants.

Sep 6, 2006: Lower Nicola Valley

Lower Nicola Valley

I spent part of last weekend breathing in smoke and ash from the Tatoosh and Tripod wildfires while on a trip to British Columbia's Southern Interior. Haze can create exceptional light and shadows or transform landscapes into unique scenes. Although I didn't take full advantage of the photographic opportunities (the weekend wasn't dedicated to photography), I did manage to take a few pictures to share.

The area where this photograph was taken is approximately 95km (60mi) north of the Tatoosh fire. Although I associate this type of scene with the narrow slice of time post-sunset or pre-sunrise, it was actually taken an hour before sunset.

To add a botanical element to today's entry, I suggest reading about the ecology of fire from Wikipedia.

Sep 5, 2006: Littonia modesta

Littonia modesta

Despite both its attractiveness and the year it was planted (~1988), I only noticed butter lily (or Christmas lily) in the UBC Alpine Garden for the first time last week. The epithet modesta means “unassuming” or “moderate”, so perhaps I overlooked it in favour of bolder plants in years past.

The Pacific Bulb Society has a Wiki entry on Littonia; it's worth visiting, as it shares photographs of this South African species as it grows from seedling to fruit. It also includes an image of its tuber.

The tendril-like leaf tips are described botanically as a “cirrhose leaf apex” (see Jim Croft's Botanical Glossary). Functionally, they act as they appear to act, helping the plant “climb” (or at least be supported) as it grows in height.

Sep 4, 2006: Platycerium bifurcatum

Platycerium bifurcatum

Today's image is courtesy of Van in NYC@Flickr (original image | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Van in NYC took this tilted photograph at the Santa Barbara Zoo – it's worthwhile to note that zoos often have extensive botanical collections. Thanks again, Van in NYC!

It's a holiday Monday, so just a few links for an entry today. The Australian National Botanic Gardens provides an excellent information sheet on this New Guinea and Australian native: Growing Platycerium bifurcatum. If you're interested in some of the biology behind staghorn (or elkhorn) ferns, see: Kreier, H and Schneider, H. 2006. Phylogeny and biogeography of the staghorn fern genus Platycerium (Polypodiaceae, Polypodiidae) (abstract, if the full article isn't available). American Journal of Botany. 93:217-225.

For a humourous staghorn fern, see this BPotD submission: Staghorn Fern Bug? (thanks, toutlan!).

Photography resource link: National Geographic has a section on their web site dedicated to photography, with many photo galleries to explore if you've some time!

Sep 3, 2006: Acca sellowiana

Acca sellowiana

A nod of appreciation again to Andreas from Bogotá (aka Quimbaya@Flickr) for submitting today's photograph (original image | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Many thanks, Andreas!

Many references use Feijoa sellowiana as the scientific name for this South American species, but it has generally been accepted to be Acca sellowiana since 1941 (see discussion on this thread, though note that the plant being identified is not Acca – the discussion just veered to a different topic). It's an example of a how a species name can become entrenched and difficult to change in the minds of many people. This is particularly likely to happen when a plant is of economic importance (if I'm allowed to make such a generalization), as is the case with Acca sellowiana.

Feijoa, as it remains commonly known (and adding to the entrenchment of the synonym), is grown primarily for its edible fruit, which is purported to taste like a combination of pineapple and strawberry or pineapple and guava. I haven't sampled it, but it's on my list of things to try. More economic and other information about this species is available from the Plants for a Future Database and the California Rare Fruit Growers.

Botany resource link: Diversity, Endemism, and Extinction in the Flora and Vegetation of New Caledonia, a paper by Porter P. Lowry II of the Missouri Botanical Garden. The online article contains a number of photographs of plants seen nowhere else in the world.

Sep 2, 2006: Cladonia spp.

Two folks from British Columbia contributed today's images, both submitted via BPotD Flickr Group Pool. Lotus J., aka ngawangchodron@Flickr submitted the first image (original image) and Brettf@Flickr submitted the second (original image). Thank you to both of you, much appreciated.

Both photographs demonstrate a member of the genus Cladonia, or cup lichens. One of the distinguishing features of Cladonia is a two-part body consisting of primary thalli and podetia. Primary thalli and podetia are present in both images; the thalli are the “flat little crusty green bits” (most of what can be seen in the first photograph, but not as ubiquitous in the second) while the podetia are the stalked structures. The red parts on the end of some of the podetia are apothecia, a particular type of spore-bearing structure.

Identification of Cladonia can be difficult, and I haven't spent a lot of time attempting to identify the one in the second photograph, though it should be possible with the podetia present. Identifying Cladonia before the podetia are developed, however, is difficult beyond recognizing that it is a Cladonia. As Trevor Goward writes in Plants of Coastal British Columbia: “Though easy to recognize as a group, the cladonia scales are notoriously difficult to identify to species. Still, it can be ‘fun’ trying (consult a technical manual such as Thomson 1967).”

Photography resource link: Photography Locations via The Luminous Landscape. Finding where to photograph can be difficult (especially when travelling), so resources like these are very helpful. I only wish such a thing existed for wildflowers, since this resource concentrates on landscapes.

Sep 1, 2006: Iris domestica 'Dwarf Orange'

Updated October 19, 2006 at 7:08 am local time: I've updated the scientific name to what is currently accepted, Iris domestica. This entry was previously published under the synonym Belamcanda chinensis. See this entry for details. – Daniel

I picked up a few books written by Freeman Patterson (a long interview) earlier this week. The experimental photograph of the Belamcanda is a result of playing with the camera using a long exposure time, small aperture and movement. It's a lot of fun, but I do have to warn others who use digital SLRs that the combination of long exposure time and small aperture will reveal some of the resident dust on the glass plate covering your sensor. I had to spend about ten minutes cloning out the dust spots in the abstract.

As its name implies, Belamcanda chinensis (or blackberry lily, though it's an iris relative) originates from China and nearby areas, including Japan and India. However, it has naturalized in eastern North America to the extent that some administrative bodies are calling it invasive (this link also has photographs that illustrate why it's called blackberry lily).

Gardening information for this perennial is available from the Kemper Center for Home Gardening: Belamcanda chinensis.

Photography-without-a-camera resource link: Primal Images by Jerry Burchfield features “lumen prints” of the Amazon (read the essay for background). The online exhibition is part of the web site of the University of California Riverside / California Museum of Photography. Discovered via the Librarians' Internet Index.

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