A Different View

by Carl Strang

Usually what attracts the eye are a plant’s flowers. Today’s photo illustrates how a more wandering eye can find delights in other parts of plants.

Do you recognize this junction of stem, leaves and flower stalk?

Do you recognize this junction of stem, leaves and flower stalk?

It’s Jack-in-the-pulpit, showing a beautiful mosaic pattern.

The Range of Winter Botany

by Carl Strang

Most of my focus in winter botany to date has been on plants that have remained standing, more or less. I have been interested in discovering what those dried tops, and particularly the flowers, become when they convert to fruiting structures.

Here is an example from wingstem.

Here is an example from wingstem.

As I run down my list of plants to seek out, however, I have been finding that a lot of them must be categorized differently. Some, for instance, retain green rosettes of live, ground-hugging leaves.

Pussytoes lost its fruiting stems months ago, but the leaves remain intact and recognizable.

Pussytoes lost its fruiting stems months ago, but the leaves remain intact and recognizable.

And then there are the plants that have utterly collapsed. If you are lucky, you may find a stem, but identifying it can be a challenge.

The only reason I know that this fallen rotting stem is a green dragon top is that I knew exactly where to look. The leaf lobes are present in the left side of the photo, but good luck recognizing them for what they are.

The only reason I know that this fallen rotting stem is a green dragon top is that I knew exactly where to look. The leaf lobes are present in the left side of the photo, but good luck recognizing them for what they are.

Here is that same plant when it was flowering.

Here is that same plant when it was flowering.

Finally, some plants vanish without any trace whatsoever.

Don’t strain yourself too much. As far as I can tell, there is no hint above ground of the may apple clone that was here last spring, and will rise again in the coming season.

Don’t strain yourself too much. As far as I can tell, there is no hint above ground of the may apple clone that was here last spring, and will rise again in the coming season.

Understanding such plants more completely thus does not involve finding them in winter, but following them to learn at what point in the season they disappear. I have some sense of what green dragon does, as it (like its close relative jack-in-the-pulpit) is reduced to a collapsed stem by September (female plants then ripening their fruits), but I haven’t paid close enough attention to may apple to be able to account for its disappearance: another item to check in the future.

Family Resemblance

by Carl Strang

A few days ago I found this in my aquarium:

My aquarium has fish varieties native to the Amazon River and its tributaries. I have not been as fastidious with the plants, wanting ones that can stay ahead of the snails. So, over the years I have added freshwater aquatic plants of many varieties without regard to geographic origin. The plant in the photo first bloomed in September of 2003. Right away I recognized something familiar about it. Do you see? It may not be clear in the photo, but this bloom has the same floral structure as a Jack-in-the-pulpit. The plant has bloomed perhaps three times since then. This time I decided to see if my hunch was correct. Going back to my notes I found that this plant is in the genus Anubias. A quick on-line search confirmed my guess. Anubias is an African member of family Araceae, the same family as Arisaema, the genus of the Jack-in-the-pulpit and the green dragon of our local flora.

Another member of this family is the skunk cabbage (shown), which likewise has its flowers at the base of a thick finger-like stalk wrapped in a leaflike spathe. The key to getting past the overwhelming diversity of flowering plants is to study their families.

I can’t leave my aquarium without showing off its present star.

I know, I know, this angelfish is not wild colored, but when I decided to add the species to the aquarium this one, then tiny, appealed to me. Beautiful, yes, but with personality, if you can believe me. And still a food hound despite having leveled off in its growth.

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