Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘plants

New Zealand: two plants to ward off scurvy

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On the grounds surrounding the museum in Russell on February 10th I found various cultivated native plants, along with little signs that identified some of them. The one shown above is Apium prostratum subsp. prostratum var. filiforme (yikes!), known in Māori as tutae koau and in English as shore celery and New Zealand celery. The one shown below is Lepidium oleraceum, called nau in Māori and Cooks [sic] scurvy grass in English. British sailors ate both of them to ward off scurvy, as the last link and another explain in more detail; in fact those plants were the first two ever gathered for food by Europeans in New Zealand.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2017 at 4:56 AM

New Zealand: fern with sporangia

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Look at the prominent sporangia (spore-bearing bumps) that I saw on this fern frond in Queenstown on February 21st.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 16, 2017 at 4:50 AM

Pickleweed

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Click to enlarge.

In the wetlands of California’s Martinez Regional Shoreline on November 2nd of last year I came across the strange-looking (to me) plant shown here. I had no idea what it was, but when we were walking back to the car I noticed a woman coming toward us carrying a bunch of plastic buckets. On impulse I asked: “Are you a native plant person?” She said she wasn’t specifically, but it turned out she was indeed a biologist and knew a fair amount about the native species there. She identified my mystery plant as pickleweed. She added that its genus had changed and she couldn’t remember which of the two names that came into her mind is the current one. I looked it up later and found that the latest name is Sarcocornia pacifica (changed from Salicornia). I also learned that other common names for the plant are sea asparagus; perennial saltwort; American glasswort; and Pacific samphire, along with a folk-etymologized version of that, Pacific swampfire.

If pickleweed seems a strange name, I found the explanation for it in an article on a website from British Columbia: “Sea asparagus is edible and is sold in some stores, particularly seafood, local food, or specialty stores. It is picked wild and often pickled. It has a salty taste, and can be cooked in a variety of ways.” The Watershed Nursery website adds: “Pickleweed is a halophytic (tolerant of salty conditions)…. Salicornia species are being tested as a biofuel crop as it is composed of 32% oil and being a halophyte can be irrigated with salt water.”

Also strange is the disjoint distribution of this plant, which includes Long Island, where I grew up on the other side of the country from California.

Below is a closeup showing why this plant has traditionally been put in the goosefoot family (botanists now classify it as a member of the amaranth family).

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Click to enlarge a bunch.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 6, 2017 at 4:45 AM

Snake-cotton

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Soon after we drove into Arizona from New Mexico along Interstate 10 on October 17, we pulled over at the Texas Canyon rest area, where I was pleased to come across some snake-cotton. When I searched online later I found that two species are native in that area, Froelichia arizonica and Froelichia gracilis. I can’t tell which one this is.

If you want, you can have a look back at the Texas Canyon rest area from our 2014 trip to the Southwest.

You can also review the only other post in which a species of snake-cotton has appeared here.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 27, 2016 at 4:52 AM

Not Spanish moss

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UPDATE. Based on Bill Dodd’s comment that he thought this is a lichen, Usnea trichodea, rather than the epiphytic vascular plant known as Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides (where usneoides means ‘looking like Usnea‘), I returned to Monument Hill on January 3, 2017, and confirmed that this is indeed a lichen. I observed the bone-like articulations Bill mentioned, so this probably is the “beard” lichen Usnea trichodea. I’ve updated the text below and added a link to the true Spanish moss of Texas.

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An alternate common name for California’s lace lichen, which you saw last time, is Spanish moss. That’s stretching the truth, because a lichen isn’t a moss, and it’s been a couple of centuries since Spain had any claim over California. In Texas, Spanish moss is a differently incorrect common name: Tillandsia usneoides is an epiphyte, a plant that grows on another plant or object for physical support but not sustenance.

On November 30th I visited Monument Hill State Historic Site in La Grange, 75 miles southeast of my home in Austin, and thought I found Spanish moss in some of the trees there. After the original version of this post appeared, Bill Dodd said in a comment that he thought the pictures actually showed a lichen, Usnea trichodea. I now believe he was right. Click the excerpt below if you’d like to zoom in on the intricate texture of this lichen.

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© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2016 at 5:07 AM

Mexican hat seed head remains

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Two posts back you saw an early stage in the disintegration of a sensitive briar inflorescence. Now, from the greenbelt off Taylor Draper Lane on October 7th, here’s a much later stage of a different species, Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). If you’d like a reminder of what a fresh Mexican hat flower head looks like, you can revisit a post from 2014.

To get greater depth of field and keep more details in focus than would have been possible with natural light alone, I added flash. That mixture of light sources accounts for the sky looking darker than normal.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2016 at 5:00 AM

Those silky strands again

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The last time you saw Clematis drummondii was as a constellation of flowers in far north Austin on September 7th. Some of the plants there that day were more advanced and their flowers had begun producing the silky strands that when still further along and dingier give the species the common name old man’s beard. None of that dinginess here yet, only a fresh silvery green sheen.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 12, 2016 at 4:53 AM

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