Montag, 29. August 2011

Plant of the Day (August 29th, 2011) - Clematis vitalba L.

This time, I want to show you Clematis vitalba L. from the Ranunculaceae family; one of the few Lianas, that are native to Germany. In my country, this plant is known as “Gewöhnliche Waldrebe”, while in English, it's known as “Traveller's Joy”.

C. vitalba - flowers

It's a Liana, which can climb until 30 metres (or 98.4 feet). The climbing shoots are thick and woody. The leaves are pinnate. Each leaflet has an arrow-shaped leaf-blade with a heart-shaped base and a long stalk. They are

C. vitalba - leaves

The inflorescences are terminal panicles with many flowers. Each flower has five white petals and many, thin and long stamens. As with all Ranunculaceae, the ripe fruits of C. vitalba looks a little bit like a morning star. The styli of each fruit become very long after ripening and serve the fruit as propagation organ.

C. vitalba - flowers

C. vitalba is native to Middle Europe , but is also an invasive neophyte in New Zealand. It's a pioneer plant, which settles on clearings or edges of woods but can also be found in many cities on ruderal wastelands or parks. It likes nutrient-rich, calcareous soils and bright, fresh places to grow. This species is also able to kill the plants on that it climbs, because it robs them of the light. 

 C. vitalba - ripe fruits (note the long styli)

Dienstag, 23. August 2011

Plant of the Day (August 23rd, 2011) - Epilobium angustifolium L.

Today, I want to show you probably one of the most beautiful weeds in the world. This plant is Epilobium angustifolium L. (sometimes also Chamerion angustifolium (L.) Holub.) from the Onagraceae family. In English, this plant is known as “Fireweed” or “Rosebay Willowherb” while in German, we call it “Schmallblättriges Weidenröschen”.

E. angustifolium - habitus

But let us first take a general look at the Onagraceae (“Willowherbs” or “Nachtkerzen”, because this is a very interesting family. The inflorescences of this plants are often racemes, which consists of several “levels” of flowers. Each “level” blooms only one day and one night, then it start to fade and the flowers of the next “level” opens. The pollinators are often moths, which pollinates the plant at night.

E. angustifolium- inflorescence

So, now we look at E. angustifolium. It's a large herb, which grow to heights between 50 and 120 cm (sometimes 200 cm (6.6 feet)). It's a perennial plant with a very sweeping root system and an upright growing stalk, which is round or a little bit edged. The leaves (width: 3 millimetres) are narrow and lanceolate, what is also the reason for the Latin name (“angustifolium” means “narrow leaf”). They've a white leaf-vein on their back and a weakly serrated edge, which is bent downwards. The leaves follow the alternate leaf-pattern.

E. angustifolium - leaves

The inflorescence is one terminal raceme, which is rich of beautiful, cygomorphic flowers. Each flower has four narrow sepals, four purple petals and a four-part stigma. The flowers open from bottom to top.

E. angustifolium - inflorescence

E. angustifolium is common all over the northern hemisphere, so it can be found in Europe, North America and Asia. It prefers bright, lime-poor soils and is a very typical plant of ruderal wastelands. It also grows on rocks and grows in ruins and demolition sides. After World War II, it was also one of the first flowers, that grew in the bombed cities of Europe. It also spreading out in forest after clearings or forest fires (which gave the plant the name “Fireweed”)

 E. anugstifolium - leaves of a younger plant

E. angustifolium - leaves

Samstag, 20. August 2011

Plant of the Day (August 20th, 2011) - Quercus robur L,

Today's “Plant of the Day” is the good old oak Quercus robur L. (in German known as “Stieleiche” and in English as “Pendunculate Oak”) from the Fagaceae family. In some literature, this species is also known as Quercus pendunculata L.
Q. robur - Habitus

It's normally a large tree, which can reach heights until 50 metres (16,4 feet). The young bark is greyish and smooth but with age, it becomes brown and deeply cracked. The tree trunk is highly branched, even in its lowers regions.

Q. robur - leaves

The leaves are between 5 and 15 cm long. They are following the alternate leaf-pattern and have a deep-green dorsal site, while their ventral site is a little bit brighter. The leaves are lobed or deeply sinuate. They are also completely bald and sitting directly at the shoot (sometimes, they have a very short stalk).

Q. robur - leaves and young acorns

The flowers are unassuming catkins, which are found clustered at the end of the shoots. The fruits are nuts: the so called acorns, which mature in autumn. They are sitting in a small cup, which is called the cupule. The cupule have a long, pendunculating stalk, which also gave the species is name.

Q. robur - young tree

At the first sight, Q. robur can easily be confused with Quercus petraea (Mattuschka) Liebl.. (“Traubeneiche” in German and “Durmast oak” in English). But this species has stalked leaves, while the leaves of Q. robur are sitting. The fruits of Q. petraea have also no stalk.

Q. robur - young plant

Q. robur is common throughout Europe (except Iberian peninsula, Scandinavia, South Greece and the high alpine). It likes nutrient-rich and deep soils but can also be found on alternate wet soils (e. g. gley soils). This plant also needs bright places to grow and cannot grow at shady locations. Because of this, Q. robur was repressed by the fast growing beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), which shaded its environment. So today, you found natural oak forest only on sites, where the beech cannot grow (e. g. floodplains or dry, nutrient-poor soils). The tree also benefits from anthropogenic influence. So, it can also be found in parks, clearings or man-made forests

Q. robur - acorn and young root (the acorn
was dig by a squirrel and the plant came out of
 the acorn)

The wood of Q. robur is endurable and it's easy to work with it. So, it's used as timber and furniture-wood, but also to make wine barrels. In past, the acorns were also an excellent feed for pigs, because of their high content of starch. So in the fall, the pigs were driven into the forest by the farmers to eat.

Q. robur - cotyledon (inside the acorn)

Freitag, 12. August 2011

Plant of the Day (August 12th, 2011) - Pastinaca sativa agg.

So, this time, I want to show you Pastinaca sativa L. from the Apiaceae Family (aka Umbelifferaceae). In English, this plant is known as “parsnip” and in German as “Pastinak”. They are two subspecies or varieties of this plant: Pastinaca sativa ssp. sativa var. pratensis (wild form) and Pastinaca sativa ssp. sativa var. sativa (cultivated form), but I can't say, what I have photographed.

P. sativa - habitus

It's a medium high herb with heights between 30 and 120 centimetre. The shoot-axis is deeply furrowed, wrinkled and a little hairy. The leaves are simple pinnate with 2 – 7 leaflets. Each leaflet is egg-shaped with a tip, a cuneiform base and serrated edges.

As with most Apiaceae, the inflorescence of P. sativa is a double-umbel with 7 to 20 umbels per double-umbel. The petals are yellow. After the first year, the root of the plant is transformed into a yellow, thin beet (which is much thicker in the cultivated varieties). The beets look like carrots. They have a sweet taste and a high content of Vitamin C.

P. sativa - umbels

The plant is native to Europa and was first cultivated by the Romans as vegetable over 2.000 years ago During the middle age, it was cultivated all over Europe, because it's very endurable and not prone to plant diseases. Today, it has been largely supplanted by the potato and the carrot in agriculture but is still a very popular vegetable and spice.

P. sativa - leaves

It grows on base-rich and nitrogen-rich soils and bright places, so it can and be found at meadows but also at embankments, ruderal wasteland and quarries. I found this one at the remains of a demolished house block.

Mittwoch, 10. August 2011

Plant of the Day (August 10th, 2011) - Hordeum vulgare L.

Today's “Plant of the Day” is Hordeum vulgare L. from the Poaceae family. In English, this plant is known as “Barley” and in German as “Saat-Gerste”.

 H. vulgare - habitus

H. vulgare is a grass, that can reach heights until 120 centimetres. The leaves are narrow and very long. Their leaf sheaths enclose the whole stem; this is a good distinctive feature towards the very similar looking grass Secale cereale L.(rye). The whole plant is bald.

H. vulgare - leaf-sheat and leaf

The species belongs to the so called “ear-grasses”, that means, its inflorescence is a real ear, where the flowers are sitting directly on the floral-axis. These flowers are arranged multi-line. Each flower has a narrow, lineal-shaped glume and a very long awn. Another interesting feature of H. vulgare is the flexibility of their floral-axis. If you bend them, it will not broke, which is a good distinctive feature towards other species of the Genus Hordeum.

H. vulgare - ear

Hordeum vulgare L. is one of the worlds most important grains. It's also one of the oldest, cultivated cereals and was first planted over ten-thousand years ago in the Orient. Today it's used as forage grass, while dry plants are used as malt to make beer and other alcoholic beverages. It can also be found very often on ruederal wastelands, roadsides and parks. In this case, some seeds were spread by the wind from the fields.

Montag, 8. August 2011

Plant of the Day (August 8th, 2011) - Epipactis helleborine

Normally wild orchids are very rare in Europe and protected by laws. This is because orchids are very demanding toward the soil and the ecosystem. But there is one orchid, which has managed to spread in a large scale. This species is Epipactis helleborine (L.) Crantz or “Breitblättrige Stendelwurz” (German) or “Broad leafed helleborine”. (English) from the Orchideaceae family (Sub-family: Epidendroideae).

E. helleborine - habitus

This plant can reach heights until 80 centimetres. The leafs are egg-shaped and growing horizontally. The bracts are longer than the flowers.

E. helleborine - inflorescence

Then inflorescence is a terminal raceme. Each flower has 3 green sepals and three white to pink petals. As with all orchids, the lower petal of E. helleborine is bigger than the other tepals. This strucure is called Labellum (lip). Flowering time is between July and August. 

 E. helleborine - flowers

This plan is native to the old world (Europe, North Asia, Norh Africa) but can also be found in North America as neophyte. It's one of the most common orchids and can be found in forest, parks at partial shaded places. Unlike most orchids, E. helleborine tolerates to a certain extent the lack of lime in the soil (while the most orchids need a very calcareous soil). The content of lime in the soil also determines also the height of the plant and the colour of their flowers.

E. helleborine - leaves

Samstag, 6. August 2011

Plant of the Day (August 6th, 2011) - Conyza canadensis (L.) Cronq.

Today's “Plant of the Day” is Conyza canadensis (L.) Cronq from the Asteraceae family (subfamily Asteroidiae). In English, this plant is known as “Horseweed”, “Butterweed” or “Colstail” and in German as “Kanadisches Berufskraut”.

C. canadensis - habitus

It's an upright growing herb, which can reach heights between 20 and 150 centimetres (or between 0.7 to 4.9 feet). The robust, edged stalk is rich of branches and leaves. Both, shoots and leaves, are covered by many rough hairs. The foliage leaves are narrow-lanceolate and bright green.

C. canadensis - leaves

Like all Asteraceae, the inflorescences of C. canadensis consists of many small heads, which consists of many small flowers by themselves. As a member of the Asteroidiae subfamily, this species has radial, tubular flowers in the centre of the head and cygomorphical ray flowers in the periphery. The tubular flowers are yellow, the ray flowers white; the latter are very small and short. All heads are combined to a larges, terminal paniclse again. So, each panicle can consist of until 100 heads.

C. canadensis -inflorescences

This species is native to the USA and the Southern regions of Canada, but is also a neophyte in Europe and all over the world. It's very undemanding towards its places to grow or its soils. You can find it at ruderal wastelands, roadsides, gardens and building sites. After World War II, it was one of the first plants, that grew in the ruins of the bombed German cities. This year (2011) seems to be a good year for this plant, because I've found many exemplars in cities like Düsseldorf or Solingen.

 C. canadensis - stalk

Donnerstag, 4. August 2011

Plant of the Day (August 4th. 2011) - Asplenium ruta-muraria L.

After a long time, I’ve a new fern for you. It's Asplenium ruta-muraria L. of the Aspleniaceae fern-family. If you remember yourself to the earliest days of my blog, you maybe also remember, that I've already shown you a fern of this family: Asplenium trichomanes L.

The common English name of Asplenium ruta-muraria L. is “wall-rue”, while in German this plant is known as “Mauerraute” (means the same).

A. ruta-muraria - habitus

It's a small fern with only 15 – 20 centimetre long fronds. These fronds have a green stalk (rachys) with a dark brown base and a triangular outline. They are mostly double-pinnate; the leaflets are oval to cuneiform.

The sori are sitting in long rows on the ventral side of the leaflets. They are not covered by a veil (indusium).

A. ruta-muraria - habitus (closer)

This species is native to the whole northern hemisphere. As the name suggests, A. ruta-muraria grow a walls, but it's original habitat were rocks and crevices. Today, it can be found on many walls, even in cities. It's very undemanding towards the rock, but prefers lime more than acid places.

Dienstag, 2. August 2011

Plant of the Day (August 2nd, 2011) - Phleum pratense L.

Hello everybody. I'm back and it's time for a new “Plant of the Day” Article. This time, it's about a very common grass: the “Timothy grass” or Phleum pratense L. (and “Wiesen-Lieschgras” in German) from the Poaceae family.
P. pratense - habitus

It's a grass, which can reach heights until 1 metre. Its stalk has a lightly thickened ground. The leaves are medium long and narrow; their ligula until 5 Millimetres long and serrated.

P. pratense - inflorescenses (flowering)

This species belongs to the panicle-ear grasses, that means, the inflorescence is in fact a panicle with very short stalks, so it looks like an ear. This plant has only one terminal inflorescence.
Each flower has two glumes, which are separated deeply. Each glume has a short, laterally placed awn. Together, the glumes look like a boot jack.

P. pratense - flowering inflorescences

Because of this, the plant can easily distinguish from Alopecurus pratensis L. (Meadow foxtail); just crinkle the inflorescence and look at the glumes.

Flowering time is between June and September.

P. pratense - habitus

Timothy grass is native to Europe and Northern Asia. It prefers wet or fresh soils and is a characteristic species of fat meadows (Fettwiesen) and pasture (together with the clover Trifolium repens L.). It's also a very popular forage grass for the cattle.