One of four US National Parks (+ 1 US Nat'l Monument) named after plants, the roughly 800 000 acres (324 000 ha) of Joshua Tree National Park is solely located in southern California. Despite its size, that's less than 1 acre for each annual visitor – 1.25 million. Many of the visitors are photographers, and the body of photographs for this place reminds me of a question asked by Guy Tal in his essay: “Does the World Need Another Aspen Image?” (applied to the Joshua trees, of course).
Botany Photo of the Day
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Dec 12, 2006: Joshua Tree National Park
Dec 10, 2006: Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens
I spent most of the past eight hours preparing BPotD entries for my upcoming vacation from BPotD, so I've selected an image of a previously featured plant today. To learn more about the greater yellow lady's slipper, visit the BPotD entry from October 2005: Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens.
Dec 9, 2006: Puya santosii
You receive a special treat today from Andreas of Bogotá (aka Quimbaya@Flickr | original image 1 | original image 2 |BPotD Flickr Group Pool). I know I'm not likely to ever see this in the wild, so I'm thankful for your sharing, Andreas! (As an aside, Andreas, Steve Swinscoe is trying to contact you re: Ceroxylon quindiuense).
There is very little online information about this rare species. For example, other than a few small photographs in the Flora Illustrada del Páramo de Chingaza (here), what you see today is the extent of what's available online for images.
I did find one species-specific tidbit of information from – believe it or not – the California Department of Fish and Game; it appears California DFG hosted an international conference on bears. This PDF on bear habitat assessment posters displayed at the conference makes mention (page 11) of research about the spectacled bear and its role as a dispersal agent for seeds in its habitat, including the seeds of Puya santosii. I imagine Puya santosii is not the only bromeliad to benefit – plants in the family Bromeliaceae are an important component in the diet of this second-most endangered bear species in the world.
Photography resource link: for inspiration, Daily Walks, the photography of Californian Diane Varner. After spending some time viewing the photographs, you might be curious to read about Diane and her postprocessing technique.
Dec 8, 2006: Echinocereus rigidissimus (likely var. rubrispinus)
The simplest name to apply to this plant is the common one: rainbow hedgehog cactus. I made an attempt to figure out the most recent accepted scientific name and had to abandon it. “billy liar” stated this plant's name was Echinocereus rigidissimus var. rubrispinus (the varietal epithet meaning red-spined), but when checking the nomenclature, I ran into a few problems. The USDA Plants Database entry on Echinocereus rigidissimus doesn't subdivide the species into subspecies or varieties. However, the distribution of this taxon extends from southwest USA into Mexico, so it is quite possible that the variety rubrispinus only occurs in Mexico, and so wouldn't be covered in the USDA database.
This does seem to be the case after browsing through Echinocereus Online where it lists the taxon Echinocereus pectinatus var. rubispinus as occurring in Chihuahua, Mexico. This reference suggests that Echinocereus rigidissimus var. rubrispinus is an outdated name. However, looking back at the USDA database, it seems those taxonomists would make the opposite conclusion, based on their listing of Echinocereus pectinatus var. rigidissimus as a synonym for Echinocereus rigidissimus. Conclusion? Confused.
Dec 7, 2006: Alnus incana subsp. tenuifolia
Stumps with the jarring linear patterns of chainsaw cuts are one of the sad results of last week's storm at UBC Botanical Garden. Now that most of the snow is melted, it is easier to assess some of the damage to the plant collections (another round of losses will take a couple months to determine – damage from temperature). My unprofessional observations, confirmed in a casual conservation with one of the horticulturists, suggest the following numbers:
- 1) the low dozens of woody plants need to be removed outright
- 2) woody plants with minor to severe damage number in the hundreds
- 3) if the garden had a formal design, where plants had to be replaced by others of the same species and a similar size or shape to retain structure, the assessed damage would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars
Since the garden components with the most damage tend to be more informal or naturalistic in design, the lost plants yield an opportunity to grow something different in those areas. Still, the cost to the garden in the lost investment of time into the plants (growing, pruning, interpretation, labelling and so on), the replacement cost of new plants and the time to clean up the damage (time taken away from other projects) will easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
I generally try to avoid pop culture references on BPotD, but I have to admit to thinking of Treebeard's rumblings when I walk around the garden: “Many of these trees were my friends” (from the Lord of the Rings movies).
Thinleaf alder (the subspecies tenuifolia) is native only to northwestern North America, while the broader range of the entire species spans much of North America and Europe. The Flora of North America reports on this taxon: Alnus incana subsp. tenuifolia. The Burke Museum unfailingly contains an excellent set of images: Alnus incana subsp. tenuifolia.
Botany resource link: Weeds of Mexico (Malezas de México), a project by Dr. Heike Vibrans Lindemann of the Colegio de Postgraduados en Ciencias Agrícolas. The site contains factsheets and photographs on over three hundred species in a clean, easily-navigable format. If you've time to spare and can translate between Spanish and English, you can help the project by offering to translate the Spanish factsheets into English.
Dec 4, 2006: Hesperantha coccinea
A shot of colour today from two months ago.
Names galore for this species. The long-standing scientific name Schizostylis coccinea has been dropped by many in favour of Hesperantha coccinea. Eric La Fountaine cites the relevant papers here, while a quick summary of the rationale behind the name change is available from the Pacific Bulb Society's mailing list archives.
The common name is also the subject of some disagreement. The South African National Biodiversity Institute uses river lily. Similarly, the Pacific Bulb Society prefers scarlet river lily. On the other hand, Wikipedia notes Kaffir lily as a common name; personally, I'd avoid this, now that I've learned how kaffir is an ethnic slur.
Art resource link: While at an art supply store on the weekend, I noticed a poster advertising an upcoming art show and sale by local painter Rachel Daws. Visit the paintings and recent work to jump straight in.
Dec 3, 2006: Musa (unknown hybrid)
Today's photograph is courtesy of Mary Farmer, aka miconia@Flickr (BPotD Flickr Group Pool | original image). Mary has diligently and expertly documented the development of flowers on the banana plant in her Panama backyard, using both photographs and words. I find the whole set of photographs fascinating, so I highly recommend spending the time to browse through them.
Mary expands her commentary on this banana plant and other Panamian plants she encounters in her weblog, A Neotropical Savanna. Again, well worth visiting, as she invites you along on her journey to learn about tropical plants.
Photography resource link: Eric Fredine has updated his web site with photographs from his newest exhibition, Horizons. I briefly entertained the thought of flying to Edmonton to see the exhibit (he is one of my favourite photographers), but I thought it more environmentally-sensible to wait until circumstances necessitated a trip. The web exhibit will do for now!
Dec 2, 2006: Nicotiana glauca
The highly poisonous tree tobacco is native to Bolivia and Argentina, but it has naturalized elsewhere, including Hawaii, southern USA and the Mediterranean. Cal Lemke's Plant of the Week highlighted Nicotiana glauca 6.5 (!) years ago, so do visit PotW for more info.
On another topic, I mentioned the Festival of the Trees blog carnival a few weeks ago. I submitted this BPotD entry on Thuja plicata for yesterday's festival, and it made it in. Go check it out: Festival of the Trees 6 at Arboreality. Be warned: there are a lot of fine links in this edition, and you'll find your weekend slipping away.
Dec 1, 2006: Sorbus hupehensis
It was something special to stand near this Chinese mountain ash on Wednesday morning. While most of the garden was still and (dare I say it) frozen, this tree was alive with activity. Thirty American robins (Turdus migratorius) or so and three varied thrushes (Ixoreus naevius) assembled on it, eating the fruit. Although a few birds would sit on the branches of the tree and down a half-dozen or more fruit before flying off briefly, the more timid of the birds would swoop in, pluck a fruit, and return to perch on neighbouring more-sheltered conifers. The effect was a small scene full of motion, which I was not expert enough to express in photographs. Sound was also present – a stream flows nearby, and its gurgle was interrupted with the hushed punctuation of flapping wings and, not very often, the occasional vocals of the robins and varied thrushes.
The snow beneath the tree was also marked by the activity, with fallen fruit and chunks of icy snow creating a pock-marked scene unlike anywhere else I observed in the garden that day. There was also an odd smell (again, the only one I noted while taking photographs); it took me back about 17 or 18 years, to when I used to shovel grain on the farm. The grain bins would sometimes leak, and there would be a small clump in the pile of grain where the water caused a mix of germinated seeds and mould to mass together. These had to be shovelled out and tossed aside, but the smell from disturbing them was the same smell I noticed under the Sorbus hupehensis. Strange.
Photography / art resource link: I linked to the photography of Edward Burtynsky earlier this year in this entry – if you felt a connection to his photographs, you might consider seeing the documentary Manufactured Landscapes. The film follows Burtynsky as he travels in China, and has just been nominated in the documentary category in the Sundance Film Festival.
Nov 28, 2006: Enkianthus campanulatus
Thanks to an early (and heavy) snowfall in Vancouver, snow-laden trees broke powerlines supplying the UBC campus somewhere around 3 AM local time on November 27. No power, no functioning web server! When power was restored yesterday at 5 PM, the server also didn't restart automatically as it should due to a failure of an external component. It had to wait to be restarted manually, so that's why the web site came back online today at 8 AM. C'est la vie!
Today's duotone image was taken in the Asian Garden on the day before the snow started falling, last Friday. Redvein enkianthus was previously featured on Botany Photo of the Day (May 13, 2005), so do visit that entry if you'd like to see the flowers of the plant.
If you're considering growing the plant, reading the information on the Kemper Center for Home Gardening would be helpful. For an even more detailed horticultural examination of the plant, Washington State University's Extension Service has a Plant of the Month entry for Enkianthus campanulatus.
Nov 27, 2006: Callitriche stagnalis
One kind of folk taxonomy divides plants into three groups: plants we adore, plants we abhor and plants we ignore. Pond water-starwort is surely in the third group, along with many other little-acknowledged freshwater aquatic plants. Still, admirers exist.
One example: when Richard Lansdown, the world expert on Callitriche species, visited UBC Botanical Garden earlier this year, he called this particular variant of Callitriche stagnalis the most beautiful he's ever seen. Unfortunately, the information about whether this variant is from a local population or “wild” collected elsewhere in British Columbia (it is not native to BC, hence the “wild”) was lost when the curator of the Native Garden vanished more than a decade ago.
A second example of admiration: the name Callitriche means “beautiful hair”, which, according to the Jepson Manual entry, is a reference to its slender stems.
For more information on pond water-starwort, visit the Skye Flora page on Callitriche stagnalis. If you would like to learn more broadly about how some species of plants have evolved to survive underwater, I recommend visiting the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden's page on freshwater aquatic plants; it discusses many aspects of the specialized adaptations required for life in a medium different than air.
On a different tack, the garden is venturing into e-commerce territory with the opening of the UBC Botanical Garden Cafepress Store. The store includes a section for Botany Photo of the Day images; in addition to the existing 2007 calendar, I'll be adding cards and prints over the next week. I'll post more information about the store in the next couple of days, too.
Botany resource link: The island of Rum was made (botanically) infamous when it was discovered to be the site of botanical fraud. If you haven't read the book “A Rum Affair” (and I'll admit that I haven't), you can learn more about this story from the BBC or Watsonia, the journal of the Botanical Society of the British Isles.
Nov 26, 2006: Paeonia peregrina
A special thank you to those who commented on yesterday's photograph. I appreciate the gist of what you've expressed, and I'll not forget or ignore it. I'm keeping my word re: today's photograph though, as I could use a bit of colour myself. We're likely to have the coldest temperature we've had in a long while in Vancouver in the next couple days, so it's particularly delicious (and escapist) to revisit summertime now. Today's photograph was taken half a revolution ago.
Paeonia peregrina seems to have a few English common names. Balkan peony is a reference to its distributional range in southeastern Europe and Turkey. Dr. Allan Armitage calls it “poison peony” in his set of horticultural stock images, but that name doesn't appear elsewhere online. Personally, I'd opt to use a translation of the epithet peregrina to create the common name, which doesn't seem to have been done in English. This seems to have been the practice in French, though: pivoine étrangère, or strange peony. Such a common name would demand an explanation of why this particular species was considered strange or foreign to botanists of the time. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer today, but I'll check some reference works tomorrow to see if I can figure it out.
Lastly, a head's up. I've decided to take a “vacation” from BPotD between December 16 and January 14. Although there will still be a daily photograph, two things will be different: 1) the photographs will be a series of abstracts and 2) I am going to post without scientific comment (the vacation part). Many of the abstracts have literal counterparts previously featured on BPotD, so I will reference those if available. If you're not a fan of abstracts, I hope you'll be able to be patient until mid-January.
Nov 24, 2006: Asclepias fascicularis
Send some warm thoughts to Cliff aka The Marmot@Flickr, since he's shared this photograph (original image) with us via the Flickr BPotD Group Pool. Cliff's organized a Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Flickr set, if you're interested in seeing other images from RSABG. Thanks Cliff!
Calflora.net points out that fascicularis means bundled, referring to the attachment of leaves to the stem. Cliff's photograph gives a sense of this, though it is perhaps more clear in the series of photographs accompanying Burke Museum's page on Asclepias fascicularis. If you browse these photographs, you'll note that more than two leaves are attached at each node of the stem, a leaf arrangement termed whorled. This explains one of the common names of this species, Mexican whorled milkweed, though narrow-leaved milkweed is also used.
To learn more about this western US and northwest Mexico native, visit the photo database at Calphotos (Asclepias fascicularis search) or read a description of the plant on Calflora.net's page on narrow-leaved milkweed.
Photography resource link: The Landscapist is “intended to showcase the landscape photography of photographers who have moved beyond the pretty picture and for whom photography is more than entertainment”. Not your typical photo weblog!
Nov 23, 2006: Muehlenbeckia axillaris
How does one take a good photograph of a plant that is a large creeping mat? In thirty years, this sprawling wirevine (or creeping pohuehue) has covered an area of more than 9 m2 (over 97 sq. ft.!) in the Australasian section of the Alpine Garden. I will need to consider how to take a photograph that captures the full extent and habit of the plant to share later, but in the meantime, I have these closeups. At the least, you'll have an idea of its rich autumn colour in scattered shade.
Since there is little to judge scale with in the photographs, I need to mention that the upright stems reach only 5cm (2in.) or so high. These stems are densely packed together (hence the term mat). In the first photograph, I estimate three to four thousand stems are present in the frame.
The Plants for a Future database notes the edibility of the fruit of this Australian and New Zealand native, while a description of the plant is available from the New South Wales Flora Online: Muehlenbeckia axillaris.
Lastly, if I were to title the first photograph, I'd call it “Lightfall”, since it reminds me of a waterfall of light.
Nov 22, 2006: Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Today's photograph was submitted by Martin LaBar of
southern California South Carolina (aka Martin LaBar@Flickr (original image | Flickr BPotD Group Pool). Martin has a number of plant and plant-related photographs in his Flickr photo sets, so do visit them if you have the opportunity. Thank you, Martin!
“Probably originating from Mexico or Guatemala” is the native origin suggested by a reference for Caesalpinia pulcherrima in the International Legume Database & Information Service (ILDIS). However, much like Lantana camara, red bird of paradise or Barbados pride has been introduced to so many warm places around the Earth, its distribution should now be considered purely pantropical.
The Wikipedia entry on Caesalpinia pulcherrima links to this interesting article by Dr. S. Allen Counter (a professor of neurology and neurophysiology at Harvard Medical School) in the Boston Globe: Amazing Mystery. Dr. Counter details the medicinal properties of Caesalpinia pulcherrima and asks the question of how indigenous knowledge can (and so very often does) precede Western medicine's knowledge of the human health uses of a plant.
Photography resource link: Musings on Photography is a weblog by Paul Butzi of Carnation, Washington. Its tagline, “Musings on photography from an artist perspective and art from a photographer perspective”, gives you an idea of what you'll experience if you visit the site.