Samstag, 30. April 2011

Plant of the day (April, 30th, 2011) - Geranium molle L.

Geranium robertianum L. ssp. robertianum, a plant I introduced to you some days ago, is not the only Geraniaceae in my garden. On the meadows I've also found another species of this family: Geranium molle L.(known as “Dovesfoot Cranesbill”in English and “Weicher Storchschnabel” in German).

G. molle L.- Habitus

It's a very small herb, only a few centimetres high. It has radial flowers with pink petals. The petals are divided deeply. The bright green leaves are hand-shaped. The entire shoot is covered with long hairs.

G. molle L. - flower
(here you can see the deeply dvidied, pink petals)

The species is native to Central and Western Europe, but can also been found in North America as a neophyte. You can find it in gardens, at meadows or ruderal wastelands. It's a very endurable species, which likes dry and sandy soils.

Freitag, 29. April 2011

Plant of the Day (April 29th, 2011) - Pinus jeffreyi Ball. ex. A. Murray.

Like yesterdays “Plant of the Day” (Picea breweriana S. Watson) Pinus jeffreyi Ball. ex. A. Murray. (Jeffrey Pine) belongs to the Pinaceae family and like P. breweriana I found this one at the Botanical garden of Solingen, Germany.

P. jeffreyi Ball. ex. A. Murray - habitus

The tree can reach heights between 40 and 60 metres (131,23 – 196,9 feet), so it's a very tall tree (the possible biggest individual of this species (56,7 metres), called “Smoky Jack”, can be found at the Yosemite National Park). The blue-green needles are very long with 23 cm (0,75 feet). They are sitting at the short shoot with always three needles per shoot. The needles are not piercing. The bark is red.

The ripe female cones of P. jeffreyi are very large (30 cm). They are cylindrical and brown-coloured. Young female cones are also cylindrical and red.

 P. jeffreyi Ball. ex. A. Murray - young femal cone

The species is endemic to eastern California, where it grows at the hangs of the Sierra Nevada.
P. jeffreyi can reach altitudes between 1500 and 2100 metres. It's a very endurable tree, tolerant towards frost and dryness but it doesn't like to wet places. It also have low claims toward the soil and can grow at sand or gravel.

Donnerstag, 28. April 2011

Plant of the Day (April, 28th, 2011) - Picea breweriana S. Watson

Picea breweriana S. Watson (commonly known as “Brewer Spruce” or “Siskiyou Spruce”) is a member of the Genus Picea (Spruces) of the Pinaceae Family. It can reach heights between 10 and 16 metres (32,8 – 52,5 feet). 

 P. breweriana - habitus

The long thin branches are hanging from the curved thicker boughs. The needles are long too and straight curved. Their tops are dark green coloured, the underside however has to white bands of stomatas. The bark is grey-brown.

P. breweriana - branch with needles

Young female cones are purple and cylindrical-shaped or egg-shaped. During Maturity, they get a more reddish brown look.

P. breweriana - young, female cones

P. breweriana is endemic to the Western United States. You can only find them in the Klamath Mountains in Southern Oregon and in the Siskiyou Mountains in North California. In these regions, the Brewer Spruce climbs to nearly 6561.7 feet (or 2000 metres). I found this one however in the botanical garden of Solingen, West Germany.

Mittwoch, 27. April 2011

Plant of the Day (Apirl 27th, 2011) - Malus domestica Borkenh.

Malus domestica Borkenh., the apple, is one of the best known fruit trees of the world. Everybody knows this tree and its fruits. It plays a great role in mythology (“Paris apple” of the Iliad, “The story of Adam and Eva” of the bible etc.) and is the origin of so many products like apple juist, apple cake and so on.

The species belongs to the family of the Rosaceae. This is a big family with four sub-families: the Spiraeoide, the Rosoidae, the Prunoidae and the Maloidae, where the apple belongs to.

M. domestica Borkenh.

M. domestica is a tree, which can reach a high between 3 and 10 metres (9,8 – 32,8 feet). It has elliptical leaves with finely serrated margins and a hairy underside. The flowers have white petals and green sepals. Sometimes flowers can also be pink.

M. domestica Borkenh. - flowers


Typical for the apple are its fruits. In Botanical sense, the apple fruit is an accessory fruit. That means, that only the core of the apple is its true fruit. The rest, what we eat, is the bottom of the flower, which becomes fleshy after pollination and grows around the carpels. The true fruit, the center of the apple consists of five free carpels, which forms follicles with the seed in the middle. The wall of the carpels is parchment-like.

The typical fruit of M. domestica Borkenh.

here you can see the true fruit (the "caves" in the Middle and
brown teardrop shaped area arround it) and the "fake-Fruit",
formed by the bottom of the flower


The origin of apple is unknown, but scientists believe, that its ancestor is the Asian wild apple (Malus sieversii (Ledeb.) M. Roem), native in China, with influences of Malus orientalis Uglitzk. Then, during the middle age, it came to Europe. Today over 8.000 breeds of M. domestica exists all over the World.

Dienstag, 26. April 2011

Plant of the Day (April 26th, 2011) - Geranium robertianum L. ssp. robertianum

Geranium robertianum L. ssp. robertianum (commonly known as “Robert Geranium” or “Red Robert” in English and “Ruprechtskraut” in German) is a member of the Geraniaceae family. Species from this family are also very popular as garden flowers.

G. robertianum L. ssp. robertianum

It's a small upright herb with pink petals. The whole flower is radial and five-parted (five sepals, five tepals and so on). The stamens are purple.

The leafs are divided deeply in 3 – 5 leaflets. The flower stem is very hairy (glandular hairs)

G. robertianum L. ssp. robertianum

Sometimes, G. robertianum L. ssp. robertianum is confused with Geranium purpureum Vill.; a neophyte that looks very similar. The best character to differ these species are the colour of the stamens. While the stamens of G. robertianum L. ssp. robertianum are purple, the stamens of G. purpureum are yellow.

I have studied the stamens of these individuals with my magnifying glass. They where purple, although they maybe seem to be yellow, but thats are only pollens.

G. robertianum L. ssp. robertianum

G. robertianum L. ssp. robertianum is very common in Europe. It can be found at wet places because it likes humidity and also at places with a hight content of nitrogen. In our garden, we've two places where the plants is growing very good. The first one is beside some rain barrels. Here, the plant grows out of cracks between the base plates. The other location is next to a bird bath.

Montag, 25. April 2011

Article of the week - The Basic Structure of a higher land plant

During the last days I have used many terms to describe the plants of my blog like shoot, bract, foliage-leaf ore stalk. So in this article of the week, I want to give you a general overlook about the basic structure of a higher land plant. What is a flower exactly? And what is a bract? To clear these an other questions is the goal of this post. First we look at the basic structure of a higher plant.

A ordinary higher plant consists essentially of two parts: the root and the shoot. The term “shoot” in turn is the sum of all leaves (flowers inclusive) and the shoot axis; shoot axis and leaf are forming the shoot. On a shoot, you can have very different types of leafs. The most important leafs are

  • Foliage-leaves: The basic leaf type; responsible for photosynthesis
  • bracts: this are leafs, which carrying a side shoot and also often the blossom. It can be different shaped from the foliage-leaves (Germans be careful: In English “bract” is the same word for “Hochblatt” (leaves of a blossom) and “Tragblatt” (leaves, carrying a side shoot).
  • Cotyledons: a Cotyledon is the first leaf a plant creates after the germination. Some plants have one cotyledone (Monocotyledons) other have two (Dicotyledons) ore even more. The role of the cotyledons is the supply of the young seed.

     cotyledons of a young plant

A leaf always arises from a node. The area between to nodes is called internode. At some species, the internode can be very short, so you can't see it with your eyes any more. The area between the first node and the Cotyledons is called Epicotyl and the area between Cotyledons and root Hypocotyl

A side shoot in turn always arises from the axilla of a bract. A flower is also a side shoot with very short inter nodes ans special bracts, that are used for reproduction (That's also the definition of “flower”: “A compressed, inhibited growth in the shoot, which is used for reproduction”). The totality of all flowers is called “Inflorescence”. They are many types of inflorescences, but this should be the subject of another "Article.of the Week"

as you can see, a side shoot always
arises from the axilla of a (here big) bract


also flowers always arises from a bract

But now we will take a look at the basic building of a foliage-leaf.

Leaf

The basic foliage-leaf consists of two parts. The first one is the upper leaf, consisting the leaf blade and the stalk, and the second one is the lower leaf with the leaf base, where the leaf is sitting at the shoot axis. Sometimes the leaf base also have some small leaflets, that are called stipule. You can finde stipules for example at the Roses (Rosaceae).


stipules at the leaf ground of Rosa spec.
  
The leaves can be shaped very differently. In some cases the leaf blade is divided into smaller leaflets, in other cases, the leaf has no stalk or has been transformed into a thorn or a tendril. In this post, I only want to show you the basic structure of a leaf. The diffrent leaf shapes, metamorphoses and the Phyllotaxis (the kind, the leafs are sitting at the shoot axis) will be the topic of future "Article of the Week" in this Blog.

 the leafs of the walnut (Juglans regia L.) is a
good example for a normal Leaf. Here you can see
leaf blade and stalk

So for now we'll leave the leaves and come to the flowers.

Flower

A basic flower consists of the perianth, stamens (male part) and at least one carpel (female part). Flowers can be zygomorphical (like the flowers of the Lamiaceae) or radial shaped (e. g. the most (not all) Ranucluaceae).

Perianth

The perianth in turn consists of two different leaf types: the Sepals and the Petals. They are different shaped. The sepals are usually small, inconspicuous and green, while the petals are usually conspicuously coloured to attract pollinators. The leaves of the perianth can be free or grown together. In some cases sepals and petals do not differ morphologically. In this case we speak of a perigon, the individual blades are called tepals.

Stamen

A basic stamen consists of a filament and an anther. One anther in turn consists of two counters each with four pollen sacks (two small and two big ones). Sometimes, two of the sacs are reduced or have vanished completely.

Carpel

A Carpel consists of a basal part, the ovary, where you can find the ovules, and a distal part: the stigma, where the pollen is taking. Between the ovary and the stigma a sterile section can exists: the stylus.


In relation to the orientation of the ovary to the petals, there are three positions
  • inferior: the ovary is completely sunk into the receptacle. The sepals put on top of the ovary.
  • Half-inferior: the ovary is sunk into the receptacle to it's middle. The sepals are based middle of the ovary.
  • superior: the ovary is sitting one the receptacle and not sunk. The sepals set to below the ovary
The totality of the Carpels is called the Gymnoeceum. At many higher plants, the carpels are grown together. Such a Gymnoeceum is called coenocarp, the opposite is apokarp (Carpels are free).

A flower can have carpels and stamens. Such a plant is called monoicous. Other flowers have only one of them. That's called dioecious.

Root

The root is the underground organ of the plant. It has two main functions: anchoring the plant in the soil and the recording of nutrients and water. Roots consist of a main root and many small side roots. The side roots often has many hairs, the so called root hairs

Sonntag, 24. April 2011

Plant of the Day (April 24th, 2011) - Lamium album L.

Hi everyone and happy Easter. Today I will show you a new species of the Lamiaceae Family, which will be the third species of this family in this blog. It's Lamium album L., commonly known “White Deadnettle” in English and “Weiße Taubnessel” in German. 

 L. album L. - Habitus

It's a herb with white zygomorphic blossoms and pure green foliage-leafs, which remind at the leafs of the common nettle (Urtica dioica L.) Like all Lamiaceae the plant has a cross opposite leaf pattern and the blossoms are sitting in whorls.

L. album L. - Flowers

L. album is very undemanding towards its places to grow. You can find the plant at hedges or at wastelands. It likes semi-shadowly, fresh places with a high content of nitrogen in the soil. In my neighbourhood I have found many populations at very different places, e. g. my garden or at a wild flower bed next to a road.

I am also planing a new article of the week. This time it will be about the basic structure of a plant.

Samstag, 23. April 2011

Plant of the day (April 23rd, 2011) - Larix decidua Mill..

Like Cryptomeria japonica (Thunb. ex L. F..) D. Don., the plant of this day, Larix decidua Mill., is a species, which I've found at the Botanical Garden of Solingen in West Germany (it was the first time, i saw this species in natura).
Larix decidua Mill. (“European Larch” in English; “Europäische Lärche” in German) belongs to the family of the Pinaceae. The species of the genus Larix are the only members of this family, which aren't evergreen. They loosing their needles in autumn to avoid evaporation during the winter.

L. deicdua Mill. - Habitus

It's a big tree (40 metres (123 feet)). The bright green needles sit in dense clusters on short shoots with 20 – 40 needles per shoot. They are smooth and not piercing. The short shoots sit alternately at the gray long shoots, giving the hanging branches the appearance of a rod.

L. decidua Mill. - Branch with a cone

The species is monoicous, so we have male or female plants. This one is female and has young female cones, that are red coloured.

L. decidua Mill. - young female cone

L. decidua is native to Europe. Scientists believe that the species survives the last ice age in southern Europe and spread out from there after the ice was going back
It's a tree of mountainous regions and can be found in the high mountain forests of the Alps or the Carpathians. In combination with Pinus cembra L, L. decidua even forms a own plant society which is called the "Arolla pine – Larch forest" .
In the flat land on the other hand, it's often planted as a ornamental or forest tree.

L. decidua Mill. - branches

The species like bright places and is very endurable against fiercest, what gives the species a advantage in evolution against other trees, because in other cases it's very weak competitive

Freitag, 22. April 2011

Plant of the Day (April 22nd, 2011) - Capsella bursa-pastoris

At this Good Friday I want to introduce you to a species which belongs to a family we never had before in this Blog.

It's Capsella bursa-pastoris L. Medik. from the Brassicaceae (also known as Cruciferaceae in older books). In German we called this family “Kreuzblütten-Gewächse” (cross-flower plants) in Englisch you may know them as crucifers.

 C. bursa-pastoris L. - Habitus

Capsella bursa-pastoris L. is a small herb with tiny flowers with four white petals, which are arranged like a cross, which gave the family it's name. The sepals are green and inconspicuous. The foliage-leaves are arrow shaped and stem comprising.

The best feature to recognize Capsella bursa-pastoris L. however are the fruits. The Brassicaceae have a special form of fruits, which is called pod ("Schote" in German). The form of the pods is an important distinctive feature of the Brassicaceae for identifying.. In this case C. bursa-pastoris has small, inverted triangular shaped pods.

C. bursa-pastoris L. - closer look at the pods

The fruits also given the species its Latin name: “Capssella” means capsule (or pod), “bursa” bag and “pastoris” shepherd, that means, that the fruits are looking like the bag of a shepherd. In English it's commonly known as “shepherd's-purse” and in German as “Hirtentäschelkraut” (“shepherd's bag” herb), which are both translations of the Latin name.
 
C. bursa-pastoris can be found on ruderal places like bushs, at  industrial wasteland or in wild flower beds at roadsides.It prefers areas rich of nutrients..

C. bursa-pastoris L. - Habitus

Many of today's crops belong to the family of the Brassicaceae, e. g. cabbage (Brassica oleracea convar. capitata var. alba), cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis L.) or rape (Brassica nappus L.) and also many spices like garden cress (Lepdidium sativum L.)or wasabi (Wasabia japonica Matsum.). They are used for meal, as spice and also as producers of natural oil.

Donnerstag, 21. April 2011

Plant of the day (April 21st, 2011) - Asplenium trichomanes L.

During my tour through the botanical garden of Solingen, I found a interesting wall, which was called “wall of ferns”, because the gardeners had planted a couple of ferns on it. One of this ferns is Asplenium trichomanes L., which should be today's “Plant of the Day” (yeah, I like ferns indeed).

Asplenium trichomanes L. - Habitus

Asplenium trichomanes L., commonly known as “maidenhair spleenwort” in English and known as “Braunstieliger Streifenfarn (brown-stalked spleenwort)” in German, belongs to the family of the Aspleniaceae (“spleenworts” in English; “Streifenfarn” in German), giving this family its name. A. trichomanes mainly grows at walls, like in this case, or at rocks

It's a small fern with one-time feathered leafs, which consist of ten to twenty five pairs of bright green leaflets. The rachys (the axis where the leaflets are sitting at) is dark brown; giving the plant its German name, although the rachys isn't the real stalk. The actual stalk is very short and has no glands.

Asplenium trichomanes L. - Habitus

Like other ferns, A. trichomanes often produced some hybrid subspecies after pairing with other species. Because of the fact, that it could be very difficult to differ these subspecies, I cannot clearly say, if this one is the real Asplenium trichomanes L. (Asplenium trichomanes spp. trichomanes) or a hybrid like Asplenium trichomanes ssp. quadrivalens D. E. Mey), so for the moment, we will call it just Asplenium trichomanes L.

Mittwoch, 20. April 2011

Plant of the day (April, 20th, 2011) - Cryptomeria japonica (Thunb. ex. L. F.) D. Don

In my “Article of the week” from Sunday, I've introduced you to some interesting cones from different conifers. One of these plants was Cryptomerisa japonica (Thunb. ex. L. F.) D. Don. During the last days, I had the chance to visit the Botanical Garden of Solingen, a small town in Western Germany. It's a small garden, but it has some very fascinating species, that I will present you the next days in my “Plant of the Day” articles. The first one is C. japonica, a conifer, endemic to Japan. It's also known as “Sugi” in Japanese and as “Japanese Cedar” in English. The species belongs to the Cupressaceae family and is the only member of the genus Cryptomeria.

C. japonica (Thunb. ex. L. F.) D. Don . - Habitus

As you can see, it's a very tall tree (until 40 m or 131,2 ft.). It's evergreen and has long bended needles, which are sitting at long, hanging branches. 

C. japonica (Thunb. ex. L. F.) D. Don . -branches

The light brown cones, here you can see a picture of someone at a tree, are small and spherical. They are sitting at a long upright stalk. The most characteristic feature are the sharp thorns at the back of each seed scale.

C. japonica (Thunb. ex. L. F.) D. Don . - cones

The plant is indigenous to Japan, but it's also existing a variety called the Cryptomeria japonica var. sinensis Sieb. et Zucc. which is endemic to China. Some authors (most of them Chinese) say that this variety is a own species by itself, because it has smaller cones as well as some minor differences in the shaped of the needles. However the true status isn't clear yet.

Dienstag, 19. April 2011

Plant of the day (April 19th, 2011) - Glechoma hederacea L.

Today's plant of the Day is Glechoma hederacea L. from the Lamiaceae family, the same family which L. argentatum, a plant I presented a few days ago, belongs to. In German we called it “Gundermann”, in English it's also known as “Creeping Charlie” or “Ground Ivy”.

Glechoma hederacea L. - habitus

Glechoma hederacea L. is a small herb with purple or violet blossoms, that grows in inflorescences with two to five blossoms per node. The leafs are dark green, kidney-shaped and have a long stalk. As with most Lamiaceae they are sitting cross on opposite sides on the shoot, which is a typical character of this family.

 Glechoma hederacea L. - detais of leafs and flowers

The species is very endurable and can be found e. g. at grasslands, bushes or industrial wastelands, mostly at shady place. I found this in a meadow on a busy street, where it grew up between high grasses. It' very common in the most European countries.

 Glechoma hederacea L. - Habitus in natura

Montag, 18. April 2011

Plants of the Day (April 18th, 2011) - Lichens

Great news, folks. Perhaps you have noticed that some photos in this blog are unfortunately not very sharp. But in recent days I have played a little bit with the settings of my camera and now the images are sharper and clearer. As a demonstration, i have made new photos of the two lichens from the first post and also from two new species.

 Xanthoria paritina (L.) Th. Fr.

Lecanora muralis (Schreb.) Rabenh.


Hypogymnia physodes (L.) Nil.

Pseudevernia furfuracea (L.) Zopf

Sonntag, 17. April 2011

Article of the week: Attack of the cones

My first real article of the week (besides my little excursion in Düsseldorf) is about cones I want to show you pictures of some cones I collected during the last months. But first of all I want to make a little introduction to the wonderful world of cones.

What is a cone exactly? I'm sure everybody has seen at least one cone in his life. They hang from trees or lying on the ground, in the woods and on the street. They are a popular decoration during the christmas season.

But why make the trees this cones? What is their function? In short, cones are the reproduction organs of the conifers (giving this class the name “Coniferopsida”). You can distinguish male and female cones. Sometimes a tree has both of them which is called Monoicous. Sometimes a tree is pure female (having only female cones) or male (having only male cones), which is called Dioecius.

Male cones are responsible for the production of pollen. Because of the fact, that conifers using the wind to distribute their pollen, this male cones are often very small an fragile, which means, that they breaking up easily after sowing the pollen and vanished until next year.

The basic female cones, which should be the main topic here, consist of several ovules, which together form a ear like inflorescence. Every ovule is sitting at a small, short shoot. The complex of ovule and shoot is called “seed scale”, which stands in the axis of scale-like bract: the bract scale.

So bract and seed scales are the only protection for the ovule. As the ovule is otherwise naked, the coniferopsida are also known as Gymnopsermae (together with the Gentales and the Gingkoopsida); meaning "naked seeders".

During the pollination period the ovule forms a small drop: the pollination drop which grows through the input region of the ovule (Micropyle). The task of this drop is to capture the pollen, which came with the wind and pull them through the micropyle into the ovule, where pollination takes place.

After successful pollination, the ovule starts to grow. It becomes bigger and more woody. In this period, the seed scale starts to grow and often becomes bigger than the bract scale. In other cases, there are not two different types of scales e. g. at the Cupressacae). When ripe the bract scale seems only like a small film at the base of the seed scale.

Summarized a female conifer cone is a inflorescence of many small ovules, which are covers by a bract scale, a seed scale and sometimes with only one scale. After pollination, the seed scale starts two overgrow the bract scale and becomes hard and woody.

So that's enough theory for the day. Next I will show you some ripe, female cones of different conifers (and one non-conifer).

The first is a cone of one of the best known conifers of Germany: Picea abies L.


It is a very big oval cone indeed. Maybe you can see the sprial turns with the seed scales screwing to tip. The bract scales have vanished completely.

The next cone is from Pinus nigra J. F. Arnold, a tree a tree that is native to southern Europe, but also occurs in Germany as feral forest tree.

The cones have a typical pyramidal shape and are very big. The best character however are the black coloured bract scales (s. picture), through which the species is easily distinguished from the in Germany native forrest-pine (Pinus sylvestis L.)

The following picture shows also the cone of a pine, which is indigenous to North Americ and came to Europe during the 18th century. It's the cone of Pinus strobus L. (Eastern White Pine)

It's a striking cone, which differs great from the cones of Pinus nigra J. F. Arnorld. They are thinner, longer and bent a little bit. The bract scales have a dark brown colour.

American followers of this blog will know the next species for sure. It's Sequoiadendron giganteum (Lindl.) J. Buchholz, the good old giant sequoia. I found this cone in a botanical garden at the feet of this very impressing tree.

The cone is small and almost round or blunt oval. The scales (here we have only one scale, because it's a member of the Cupressaceae) are rhomboid shaped with a small notch.

My next cone should also be well known by Americans: Sequoia sempervirens (D. Don) Endl. or “coast redwood” in Englisch and the only member of the Sequoia genus (although Sequoiadendron and Metasequoia are often called “sequoia”).

The cones are small and have a long stalk. At it's surface, the scales has a small thin furrow.At first glance, cones of S, sempervirens can be confused with the cones of  Metasequoia glyptostroboides Hu et Cheng. Besides the fact that S. sempervirens is native to California and M. glyptostroboides to China, the cones of first one also are more flat at the top.

The last conifer of today is a very exotic one. Let me introduce you Cryptomeria japonica (L. F.) D. Don, native to eastern asia.


The most interesting feature of this very small, egg shaped cone are the small thornes at the back of the scale, giving the cone a rough scratchy surface. It's sitting at a small stalk.

The last plant of the day is not a member of a coniferopsida, but belongs to the real flowers. It's a member of the Magnoliaceae (Magnolias), a very primitive family of the flowers with big blossoms. I don't know the exactly name of this species, so I will call it Magnolia spp. (if you know the species, leave comment)


What you see here is the fruit of the Magnolia. It consists of many small and free carpells arranged around an axis. After pollination, the fruits become woody and form a fruit of several small fruits, that looks like a cone. In botany, such a fruit is called a follicle.