Freitag, 27. April 2012

Plant of the Day (April 28, 2012) - Torreya nucifera (L.) Sieb. & Zucc.

Today's “Plant of the Day” is a new conifer. This time, it's Torreya nucifera (L.) Sieb. & Zucc. From the Taxaceae family, so it's related to Taxus baccata L. (yew), which I have already shown you in my blog before. In English, this plant is known as “Japanese nutmeg-yew” while the common German Name is “Japanische Nusseibe” (means the same). In Japan, the homeland of this species, this species is known as “Kaya” ().

T. nucifera - habitus

It's a evergreen tree, which can reach heights between 15 and 25 metres (49.2 to 82.0 feet). The bark has a brown color, while the branches are very long and slender. They give the tree a pyramidal look. The green, smooth needles are arranged in parallel rows (however, they are originally arranged in a spiral pattern, but the leaf-base is twisted). They have two white stomata-lines on their ventral site.

T. nucifera - bark

T. nucifera is normally dioecious, with male and female individuals. However, some trees can be monoecious or even bisexual. In Botany, such a plant is also called subdioecious. The male cones are globular and only a few millimetres long. They're arranged in doubles under the shoots and have a bright colour. Female cones are green and arranged in clusters at the end of the shoots with three to eight cones.
As with all Taxaceae, the seed of T. nucifera is surrounded by a fleshy layer: the Aril. In contrast to T. baccata, this Aril has a green colour. It's eaten by birds, which spread the seed.

T. nucifera  - leaves (dorsal site)

As the name suggest, T. nucifera is native to Japan (Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu) but can also be found on the Island of Jeju-Do, an autonomous province of South Korea. It's also planted in other parts of the world, especially in Botanical Gardens or parks. It grows on moist soils, but is otherwise very undemanding and can grow in shade or semi-shade and on sand, loam and clay.

T. nucifera - leaves (ventral site with white stomata-lines)

The wood has a beautiful, yellow colour and was used in Japan as timber. In past, they were used to make “Go” boards (“Go” or “囲碁” is a popular, Japanese Board Game), but because of overcutting, the tree is now protected. The seeds are also used to make vegetable oil.

Dienstag, 24. April 2012

Plants of the Day (April 24th, 2012) - Elegia carpensis (Burm. f.) Schelpe & Restio tetraphyllus Labill.

Today, my blog becomes very exotic, because this time, I want to show you two plants from a family, which can only be found at the coastal regions of the Southern hemisphere. I mean the Restionaceae, while the two species are Resito tetraphyllus Labill. and Elegia capensis. (Burm. f.) Schelpe
Common English names for the first one are “Tassel cord rush” or “Plume rush”, while the second one is called “horsetail restio”. In German, R. tetraphyllus is known as “Strickbinse” while E. carpensis is known as “Elege”.

The Restionaceae are grass-like herbs. In fact, they fill in the role of the Poaceae in the Southern Hemisphere.

a) Elegia carpensis (Burm f.) Schelpe

E. carpensis is a large (maximum height: 3 metres or 9.84 feet), upright growing plant with thick, bamboo-like stalks, which are divided in nodes and internodes (like the Poaceae). Each node has a dense whorl of narrow, needle-like branches. Because of this, the plant looks a little bit like a horsetail, which is also the reason for its English name. The actual leaves are very small and inconspicuous. In fact, the whole photosynthesis is made by the green stalk.

E. carpensis - habitus (here you can see the similarity
to a horsetail)

Another distinctive feature of E. carpensis is the large, leaf-like structure at every node (similar to the Ligula of the Poaceae), which protects the growing point of the stalk. When they gets older, this structure becomes brown and leathery and fells finally off, if flowering time is reached.

The plant also have perennial, underground rhizomes.

E. carpensis - foliage; the brow spot on the
right side is the leaf-like structure)

E. carpensis is dioecious (pure male or female plants). The inflorescences of both genders are panicles with small, radial to star-shaped flowers. The six tepals are arranged in two circles with three tepals per circle. They have a brown (young) to dark-brown (old) colour. The ripe fruit is a one-seeded nut. Flowering time is from October to November and ripening in March.

As the name suggest. E. carpensis is native to South Africa (the regions arround the Cape), where it forms dense stocks. It grows in an altitude between sea-level and one mile (1.600 kilometres) on sandy, nutrient-poor soils. It prefers wet places, but can also grow on dry soils, but here, it is smaller and has a brighter colou

b) Restio tetraphyllum Labill.

R. tetraphyllum (in some literature also Baloskion tetraphyllum (Labill.) L.A.S.Johnson & B.G.Briggs) is an evergreen, grass-like herb, which grows in dense tufts. The slender, upright stalks have a blue-green colour. The leaves are very small and lie flat on the stalk. The plant reaches heights between 50 and 160 centimetres (19.7 to 63.0 inches).

R. tetraphyllum - habitus with inflorescences

Like E. carpensis this species have underground rhizomes, which are used for vegetative propagation.

The inflorescence is one terminal panicle. R. tetraphyllum is also dioecious with male and female plants. In both cases, the flowers are small spikelets (“Ährchen” for my German readers). The number of this spikelets is varying. Some flowers have only a few ones, while other individuals can have up to 400 spikelets per panicle.

R. tetraphyllum - inflorescences (possibly female spikelets)

Male spikelets are globule and have one circle with six, reddish-brown tepals. The glumes (“Hüllspelzen”) are oval and pointed. Female flowers are also reddish-brown, but more oval or elliptical. Their glumes are broader and have an awn. They've also only 4 tepals. The ripe fruit is a grey-brown nut. Flowering time is in the southern spring and summer, while ripening time is in the southern autumn.

R. tetraphyllum is native to Australia. The main distribution area are the Eastern regions of New South Wales, but the species can also be found in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. It grows on river banks on swampy and sandy soils

Samstag, 21. April 2012

Plant of the Day (April 22nd, 2012) - Adonis vernalis L.

It's spring and more and more flowering plants awake from their hibernation. This little beauty is Adonis vernalis L. from the Ranunculaceae family (the most Ranunculaceae are in fact typical, early flowers of spring). The German name for this species is “Adonisröschen”, while the English names is “(yellow) pheasant's eye”.

A. vernalis - habitus

It an upright growing herb, which can reach height between 10 and 40 centimetres. The alternate arranged leaves are finely pinnate with many narrow leaflets, which forms a dense foliage, which reminds a little bit to a whorl (but it's not)

A. vernalis - pinnate leaves

The inflorescence are terminal flowers (4 to 7 per plant). There are five, green sepals and between 10 and 20 petals. These petals are narrow to cuneiform and have a golden-yellow colour. As with the most Ranunculaceae A. vernalis has many stamens, which are also yellow, and free carpels. The ripe fruit is a compound nut; consisting of many small nuts. Flowering time is between April and May.

A. vernalis - flower (you can see the petals
and the numerous stamens)

A. vernalis is native to Siberia and the Altai mountains and is a species of the dry grasslands and plains in this region. So, it prefers warm, sunny and dry places with only a low-developed soil. However, because of clearing and grazing habitats for A. vernalis were created also in other regions of the world. It can be found in scattered areas in Middle Europe, Eastern Europe and the Alps on dry grasslands .But it's still a very rare plant in this region, because dry grasslands are also rare here..

The plant contains glycosides, so it was used as medicinal plant to cure heart diseases. On the other hand, a high dose of these ingredients can be lethal

Mittwoch, 18. April 2012

Plant of the Day (April 18th, 2012)- Cyathea medullaris (G. Front) Sw.

After a long time, I present a new fern in my blog. But this Fern is completely different from the ferns, I've shown you before. It's Cyathea medullaris (G. Font) Sw. from the Cyatheaceae family. The Cyatheaceae are a very old family, which exists since the Jurassic, when they form entire forests. Today, the members of this family are still belonging to the biggest, remaining ferns on Earth. In English, C. medullaris is known as “Black Tree Fern” and in German as “Schwarzer Becherfarn”. In the Maori language, this plant is called “mamaku” or “katata”.

C. medullaris - habitus

It's a large fern, which can reach heights until 20 metres (65.6 feet). The triply pinnate frond's are also very large with a maximum length of 5 metres (16.4 feet). Their stipes have a characteristic black colour and are covered with black, hexagonal scales at the base. Each scale has marginal spines and leaves a hexagonal mark on the stipe, what is also a distinctive feature of this species.

C. medullaris - triply pinnate frond

As with the most ferns, young fronds of C. medullaris are rolled in a form, which reminds to the head of a fiddle. These young fronds are also covered with scales, which also have marginal spines.

C. medullaris - a young rolled frond at the base
(note the scales covering it)

The sori are arranged on the ventral site of the fronds. They have no veil.

C. medullaris - the black stipe

C. medullaris is endemic to New Zealand. It can be found mainly in the lowlands of the Northern Island but also in the coastal regions of the Southern Island. It grows in forests and is very undemanding towards the soil. However, it grows very slow.

Montag, 16. April 2012

Plant of the Day (April 16th, 2012) - Microcachrys tetragona Hook F.

Today's “Plant of the Day” is Microcharys tetragona Hook F. from the Podocarpaceae family. It's a monophyletic species and the only member of the Genus Microcharys. In Germany, this plant is known as “Maulbeereibe” (Mulberry yew) and in English as "Strawberry Pine" or “Creeping Pine (however, “Creeping Pine” is the common name of many, small conifers from different families).

M. tetragona - habius

It's a small, evergreen shrub, which reach heights between 0,2 and 20 metres. The slender branches are long and whip-like, while the green, scale-like leaves are arranged in four rows around the four-angled branches. This leaves are very durable and remain for many years at the shoot. Their margin is cilliated.

M. tetragona - female cones

M. tetragona is monoecious, so we've male and female “cones” at the same plant. In both cases, the flowers are located at the end of the shoots. Male “cones” are egg-shaped and very small (only 3 millimetres) with twenty stamens per “cone”. Female “cones” are a little bit longer (6 to 8 millimetres) and also egg-shaped. They have a reddish colour.
In both cases, the “cones” are fleshy, so they are no real cones, which are woody. In Botany, such a structure is also called Strobilus.

M. tetragona - habitus

The anatomic features of the species are also the reason for its name. “Microcharys” is Grecian and means “small catkins”, which alludes to the small, upright “cones”. “Tetragona” means “four-angled” and is an allusion to the branches.

This species is endemic to Tasmania and grows in the mountainous and alpine regions in the West of the Island. It's very undemanding toward the soil and can grown on loam or sand.. However, it requires a moist ground for optimal growing conditions.

Montag, 9. April 2012

Plant of the Day (April 9th, 2012) - Primula elatior (L.) Hill.

It's spring and many plants start to bloom. So, today's “Plant of the Day” isn't a conifer but a species with a coloured flower. This species is Primula elatior (L.) Hill. from the Primulaceae family. In the German language, this plant is best known as “Hohe Schlüsselblume” while an English name is “True oxlip”

P. elatior - Habitus

It's a herb with an maximum height of 30 centimetres (11.75 inches). The stalk grows upright, while the green leaves are arranged in a rosette. They have a wrinkled surface and a irregular serrated margin. Both sides of the leaves are hairy.

P. elatior - Flowers

The inflorescence of P. elatior is a nodding, one-sided umbel. The fused sepals are green, while the also petals are yellow to golden-yellow.
They are also grown together and form a long funnel with the nectar at the ground. Because of this, the main pollinators of P. elatior are bumblebees and butterflies, that can reach the nectar with their long proboscis.
Flowering time is between March and May and the fruits are capsules.

P. elatior - rosette

P. elatior is native to Europe and Eurasia, where it grows on fresh, nutrient-rich soils at shady places (mostly in the Mountainous regions, rare in the lowlands). You can find it e. g. in floodplain forests, ravine forests and mountain meadows. It's also an indicator for loam within the soil.

Typical ingredients of the roots are Terpenes, Saponins and Glycosides. So, root extract was used to cure cough.

Sonntag, 8. April 2012

Plant of the Day (April 8th, 2012) - Juniperus squamata Buch. -Ham. ("Meyeri")

Happy Easter everybody

Today, I want to show you a new conifer. It's Juniperus squamata Buch.-Ham. from the Cupressaceae family. In English, this species is known as “Flaky Juniper” or “Himalayan Juniper” while a common German name is “Schuppiger Wacholder” (Scaly Juniper). The Chinese name of this plant is “gao shan bai (高山柏), which means “high mountain cypress”. My pictures show a cultivar named “Meyeri”

J. squamata - habitus

It's a large scrub or small tree, which can reach heights between 8 and 12 metres (26.3 to 39.4 feet). The brown bark is very scaly, what is also the reason for its trivial name. The branches (Langtriebe) are ascending or growing horizontally, while the branchlets (Kurztriebe) are short and curved.
The needle-like leaves of J. squamata are arranged in whorls with 3 leaves per whorl. They are also a little bit bent. In the most cases, the leaves are protruding, but sometimes also lie flat on the branchlets.
All leaves have a blue-green color .

J. squamata - berries, bark and leaves

The ripe cones of J. squamata are typical juniper “berries”, with a fleshy cone scale, which is the result of a fusion between seed-scale and the bract-scale. These berries have a black to bluish color. The most junipers are dioecious, so we have male and female plants. However, in some case there are also monoecious individuals.

J. squamata - habitus

J. squamata is native to Asia with a focus in the Himalayas (with its riparians China, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Burma and Bhutan)1). It's a alpine plant, which grows in heights between 1600 to 4500 metres. Typical habitats are mountainous forests, roadsides or thickets. As evergreen shrub, J. squamata is also a popular ornamental plant and cultivars (most of them “Meyeri”) are often planted in gardens or on cemeteries.

1): In some literature, you will read that J. squamata is also native to Taiwan, but this isn't actual any more. In past, Juniperius morrisonicola Hayata (a Taiwanese species) was treated as sort of J. squamata but current DNA-researches have proven, that J. morrisonicola is a own species.

Montag, 2. April 2012

Plants of the Day (April 2nd, 2012) - Skimmia japonica Thunb. & Skimmia reevesiana (Fortune) Fortune

Sorry, but the last two Fridays, I hadn't the time to write an article, so the last ones came only in weekly intervals.

Anyway, this time, I don't want to show you another conifer but two flowering plant's. Both are species from the genus Skimmia and members of the Rutaceae family. The first species is Skimmia reevesiana (Fortune) Fortune, while the other species is Skimmia japonica Thunb. German names of this plants are “Japanische Skimmie” (S. japonica) and “Japanische Fruchtskimmie” (S. reevesiana). In England, both plants are known as “Japanese Skimmia”. The name “Skimmia” refers to the word “Shimiki”, which is the Japanese name of the genus.

S. japonica - habitus

Both plants are evergreen shrubs. S. japonica can reach heights between 2 and 7 metres, while S. reevesiana is smaller with maximum heights between 1 and 2 metres.

 S. reevesiana - habitus

The leathery leaves of both species are arranged in dense rosettes at the end of each branch. In both cases, the leaf-blade is elliptical over oval to lanceolate. Their dorsal sites have a dark-green colour, while the ventral site is a little bit brighter.
With a length between 1 to 10 centimetres, the leaves of S. japonica are a little bit longer than the leaves of S. reevesiana.
The leaf vein of S. reevesiana is hairy.

S. japonica - inflorescences

The pale bark of S. reevesiana has a grey-greenish color and is very smooth.

The inflorescences of both species are panicles. The petals of S. reevesiana are yellowish-white, while the petals of S. japonica are reddish-brown to red. In both cases, the ripe fruits are small globular berries with one seed inside. Both species are normally dioecious with male and female individuals. However, some plants and cultivars are monoecious with hermaphroditic flowers.

S. reevesiana -berries

Both, S. reevesiana and S. japonica are native to East Asia and can be found in Japan, China and Korea, but also in East Russia and the Philippines. They prefer fresh, cool soils and a humid climate. So, they grow in the undergrowth of mountainous forests, which are a good example for such a place. S. reevesiana grows in height between 1200 and 2600 metres. 
S. reevesiana - inflorescence with closed flowers (middle)

As evergreen shrub, plants from the Genus Skimmia are very popular ornamental trees for parks, gardens and cemeteries. So, cultivars of these two species can be found all over the world today. Interestingly, S. japonica bears no fruits in foreign regions like Middle Europe. Perhaps, the species has not yet found suitable pollinators