Montag, 28. November 2011

Plant of the Day (November 28th, 2011) Armillaria solidipes Peck.

Today's “Plant of the Day” is not a real plant but a fungus (however, fungi are also a part of plant science; while the zoology has got the microbes, which are also no real animals in the strict sense ;-)). The name of this fungus is Armillaria solidipes Peck. from the Physalacriaceae; known as “Dunkler Hallimasch” in German (unfortunately, I've found no English name).

A. solidipes - stock

It's a large fungus. The cap has a diameter of 3 to 10 centimetres (sometimes 20). The young cap is hemispherical but will become more flat or curved later. The outer surface of A. solidipes is flesh-brown to reddish-brown and covered with dark-brown scales. The gills (“Lamellen” in German) on inner site are bulged to straight. Gills of younger individuals are white, while the gills of older fungi are mottled reddish-brown.

The stem is white, with an average height of 15 centimetres and 3 centimetres in diameter. They're fibrous and become hollow in the old. The spores are also white and have a diameter of 10 micrometres. The whole fungus has a pleasant, earthy odor, which reminds a little bit of Maggi (a German soup sauce).

 
A. solidipes - mushroom & gills

A. solidipes can be found all over the world as parasite on dead and living conifers. One individual of this species, a fungus in the Malheur National Forest in Oregon, is also the biggest living creature of the world. Its mycelium (the totality of all hyphae) has an area of 965 ha and a total weight of nearly 600 tons. In some regions, this species has become problematic, because it can kill some trees very fast.

Regarding the edibility: the raw mushroom is poisonous.

Donnerstag, 24. November 2011

Plant of the Day (November 24th) - Origanum vulgare ssp. vulgare L.

Today's Post is about Origanum vulgare L. from the Lamiaceae family. The common name is Oregano, while other names are “Wild Marjoram” (in English) or “Dorst” “Dost” or “Echter Dost” (German)

O. vulgare - habitus

It's a small herb, that can reach heights between 20 and 50 centimetres (7.9 in to 19.7 in). Like at the most Lamiaceae, the leaves of O. vulgare are arranged after the cross-opposite leaf-pattern. They're egg-shaped and have a simple edge (sometimes, the edge is slightly serrated). The stalk grows upright and is (like the leaves) covered with many oil-glands. Normally, it's dull green but in some cases red overflooded.

The bracts are deep purple

O. vulgare - habiuts

The inflorescences are double cymes, which forms fake umbels, which are also known “corymb” (a form of the panicle). The pink petals of the flowers are cygomorph; a typical character of the Lamiaceae. Two of the five petals are fused to an upper lip, while the lower petal is called the “under lip”

O. vulgare is a very aromatic plant, which is rich of essential oils, which give the species a very aromatic taste.

O. vulgare - habitus

Originally, this species is native to the Mediterranean Area, but natural stocks can also be found in all temperate areas of Middle Europe, while the plant is cultivated all over the World.
Wild Oregano grows on warm, sunny places on lime. You can find it e. g. in warm, bright forests or on rocky slopes.

O. vulgare, especially the sub-species ssp. viridium is a popular spice, which is used in the Spain, Italian and Greece. Probably, it's best known for its role as spice for pizzas. However, I think, that my photos show O. vulgare ssp. vulgare, the wild form, but this form is also very aromatic (I've smelled it ;-))

Freitag, 18. November 2011

Plant of the Day (November 18th, 2011) - Rumex scutatus L.

Hi everybody,

today's article is about Rumex scutatus L. from the Polygonaceae family, a close relative to the garden sorrel. In German, this species is known as “Schild-Ampfer”. Unfortunately, I've found no English name, but the translation of the German one is “Shield Sorrel”.

R. scutatus - habitus

It's a small herb, which can reach heights between 20 and 40 centimetres. The shoot grows erect, but is also slightly bent. The leaves are grey-green to blue-green and conspicuously pike-shaped to triangular. They have also a long stalk.

The inflorescences are racemes with six tepals; distributed on an inner and an outer circle with three tepals per circle. The outer tepals are green, while the inner ones (also called Valven in German) are red and until six millimetres long. Unlike some other species of the Genus Rumex, the “Valven” of R. scutatus have not any callus.

The main task of these “Valven” is to protect the fruit after ripening.

R. scutatus - leaves

R. scutatus is native to Middle Europe, South Europe and Asia Minor. It's a typical inhabitant of warm, rocky slopes, hillsides and scree but can also be found on warm places like ruderal wasteland or walls (e. g. old harbours. Railway tracks or gravel pits). It prefers calcareous and base-rich soils.

Freitag, 11. November 2011

Plant of the Day (November 11th, 2011) - Humulus lupulus L.

This time, I want to show you Humulus lupulus L. from the Canabaceae family. In German, this species is called “Echter Hopfen” (true hops), while in English it's known as “common hop” or “wild hops”.

H. lupulus - habitus

Hops is a creeper, which can reach lengths between 3 to 6 metres (9.8 to 19.7 feet).The decussate leaves are lobed deeply but sometimes also undivided. Their dorsal site is dark-green and covered with some bristles, while the ventral site is brighter and with some yellowish glands. There are also stipules.

H. lupulus - female inflorescences

The species is dioecious. The male flowers are located in panicles, while the unconscious female flowers are fused with the bracts, which overgrow the female flowers. So, the “female inflorescence” looks similar to a cone.

H. lupulus is native to the temperate areas of Middle Europe and North America. It grows on wet or fresh soils with a high content of nitrogen. Typical habitats are floodplains, the edges of forests or hedges. Sometimes it can also be found in parks.

H. lupulus - female inflorescences

Of course, hops is probably best known of its role in the production of beer. Together with barley and malt, it's one of the three ingredients of beer and the chemical ingredients of hops give the beer the typical bitter taste. Some of this ingredients are myrcene or caryophyllenes. Their ratio determines the taste of the beer significantly. Therefore, hops is cultivated in many breeds today; each with a different ratio of chemical ingredients.

Some literature say, that hops contains oestrogens and because of this fact, the consume of too many beer leads to the growing of a breast. It's true, that oestrogens are ingredients of the hops, but its level is so low, that it cannot cause a hormonal reaction.

Montag, 7. November 2011

Plant of the Day (November 7th, 2011) - Ficus carica L.

Today's Post is about Ficus carica L. from the Moraceae family. I'm sure, that the most of you know this species because it's just the "common fig" (“Feigenbaum” in German), one of the most common fruit trees in the World.

F. carica - habitus

In nature, F. carica is a shrub or a tree, which can reach heights until 10 metres (32.8 feet). The bark is grey and the stem branched richly. The characteristic leaves are alternate and digitate; the typical form of fig-Leaves. Inside the plant is a caustic milky juice

The inflorescences of this monoecious species are pear-shaped and consist of many inconspicuous flowers with five white tepals, between 3 and 5 stamens and only one stylus per flower.

F. carica  - leaves

There are also two kinds of flowers: pure female flowers with only tepals and stylus and hermaphroditic flowers with tepals stamens and stylus. In Germany, we call the first type “Essfeige” and the second one “Bocksfeige”. The “Essfeige” (the pure female one) will later become the edible fruit.

Probably, the most complicated aspect of F. carica is its pollination biology, which is closely connected with the reproduction cycle of the fig-wasp (Blastophaga psenes). In coordination with the reproduction, the fig has three flowering times in Early Spring, Midsummer and Late Summer. In short, the pollination works as follow

  1. The female Fig-wasp enters a hermaphroditic flower (“Bocksfeige”) and lays its eggs in the stylus. This happens during the first flowering in the early spring.

  2. Both, male and female wasps will hatch from the eggs. The male wasps will fertilize the female ones and then die immediately after hatching. This happens during the second flowering time in Midsummer, when the pollen is ripe. The pregnant female wasps leave the
    flower and take the pollen with them.

  3. A pregnant female wasp enters a new flower. Now, two scenarios are possible: the wasp can enter a new “Bocksfeige” and start the reproduction cycle again or it enters a “Essfeige”. However, in contrast to the “Bockfeige”, the wasp is not able to lay its eggs and dies but pollinates the flowers with the pollen. As a result, the inflorescence will become a fig, which in fact consists of many small drupes.

  4. If the wasp chooses the first scenario, the reproduction cycle will repeated and for a second pollination in the last months of summer.
F. carica - fruit (proabably after Third flowering time)

F. carica is native to Mediterranean Areas and the Arab space, where it was first cultivated thousand years ago. Later it came to Europe and the colder Regions of the world as ornamental tree. But today, it can also be found as wild plant on temperate spots all over Middle Europe (e. g. slopes, cities, vineyards and so on). It's very undemanding toward the soil and has no problems with dryness but needs a warm place and a deeper soil to grow.

All photos show a wild fig 

Freitag, 4. November 2011

Plant of the Day (November 4th. 2011) - Rubus laciniatus Wild.

Today's “Plant of the Day” is Rubus laciniatus Wild. from the Rosaceae family and the big genus of Rubus (blackberries). In English, this species is known as “Cutleaf Blackberry” or “Evergreen Blackberry” and in German as “Schlizblättrige Brombeere”, what's also the translation of the Latin name. (laciniatus means cutleafed).


R. laciniatus - habitus

Like all Blackberries, this plant is a climbing shrub, which can climb to heights until 3 or five metres. Their stem is angular and bald, while its “thorns” are between 6 and 8 millimetres long (in fact, the thorns of the Rosaceae are spikes. A spike is a pointed protuberance of the epidermis while a thorn is a special leaf-morphology (cactuses have thorns). However, because it's usual to speak of a thorn in the context with roses, I'll use this word also in my blog.).

R. laciniatus - leaves

The leaves are pinnate to double pinnate, while the leaflets are digitate, what is an unique character of this species.

Each flower consists of five green sepals, five white to pink tepals and 20 stamens and carpels. The ripe fruit is a typical blackberry, which is in fact not a berry but consists of many small drupes.

R. laciniatus -fruits

Originally, R. lanciniatus comes from England, but today, it can be found worldwide as wild growing garden plant. Like all blackberries, it prefers nutrient-rich and calcareous soils at bright places. So it can be found on ruderal wastelands, clearings or the edge of forests.

 R. laciniatus - habitus