Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dichondra argentea--Silver Falls Dichondra--Convolvulaceae

This pot near the entrance of the UC Botanical Garden is so charming! The cactus are nice, but I love the Silver Falls Dichondra; it drapes over the contain so gracefully! It will take heat and drought, but not foot traffic. Too bad, I guess I won't have a silver lawn.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Capparis spinosa--Common Caper-A Plant of the Bible

You may know capers as the tiny pickles in tartar sauce made from the flower buds of Capparis spinosa, which are picked by hand. They were also used during Biblical times, apparently as an aphrodisiac. One phrase from Ecclesiastes can be translated as "when the caper has lost its tang" or as "when a man has lost his desire." They are also mentioned in a book from 3,000 BC, Gilgamesh.

The plant is apparently easy to grow, needing little fertilizer or water. I like the way it drapes over the rocks at the UC Botanical Garden. And I love the big petals and fluffy lavender stamens of the flower. Very decorative!

(Sacred Plant)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Malva crispa--Curled Mallow and Ladies

Butterfly walk today at the UC Botanical Garden. We saw mostly Mylitta crescents. But then I noticed some lady damage on this mallow in the herb garden. THEN, I saw the lady caterpillars. Could be West Coast Ladies, could be painted. Either way, there were at least five larvae on the plant, with very little fresh foliage left. I hope they do okay.

Curled Mallow was domesticated in Asia over 2,000 years ago. Like other mallows, it is eatable and has been used for human food. It can be cooked or eaten fresh, like in a salad. It is good for relieving constipation. It is also used to treat gastritis and coughs. Topical treatments can be used to soften skin or reduce the irritation of insect bites.

The leaves on this plant have mostly gone to support the insect population, but in the pictures I found online, the leaves are super curled and super cute. Maybe I'll try to find some seeds to grow this in my garden.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Francoa sonchifolia--Bridal Wreath--Francoaceae

Bridal Wreath is in a family I have never heard of before, the Francoaceae. And no wonder! Plants in this family only grow in Chile. Judging from photos I have seen online, flower color ranges from white to pink to lavender. It is evergreen and long blooming. The flower wands rise gracefully above the thick, low-growing foliage, making a lovely tapestry on the ground. Likes part shade and some water.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Brunsvigia marginata

Another Brunsvigia is blooming directly behind the restrooms at the UC Botanical Garden. On this one, the flowers make a spherical shape in orangy-red. Perhaps this one is butterfly pollinated, because the Plantzafrica website states that the Pride of Table Mountain butterfly visits it. You may want to visit it too.

Don't forget the Plant Sale, TODAY. Buy some plants and see a few plants. Should be fun.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Matthiola Tricuspidata--Three Horned Stock--Brassicaceae

This mustard-family plant is supposed to bloom in June, but it is blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden. Pretty pink-lavender flowers fading to white at the center. It is easy to grow as long as it has good drainage. It wouldn't be easy in the Berkeley Clay in my garden! Like Common Stock, that many people grow in their gardens, this one is sweetly scented.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lycaste cruenta--Orchidaceae and Spanish Moss

This lovely yellow orchid is in bloom now in the Orchid House at the UC Botanical Garden. It needs high humidity, so there is a reason it is not growing outside. One of the wonderful things about the Bot Garden is that it can provide the special conditions that some of these exotic plants need.

Behind the orchid, that blue-gray hanging plant is Spanish Moss, Tillandsia usneoides. It is not Spanish, it is native to the southern US. And it is not a moss, it is a flowering plant, although the flowers are tiny and inconspicuous. It is named after Usnea, which presumable grows in Spain, since it grows all over the world, but is also not a moss, but a lichen. According to Wikipedia, Spanish Moss has been used for building insulation, mulch and packing material. It has also been used to stuff car seats, couches and mattresses. It is now use decoratively in bouquets and arrangements. Sometimes it is used on fences like a vine to provide privacy. Birds like to use it for nests. Many more interesting details about this plant are available here:

It has no roots and instead captures what it needs from the air around it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vernonia nudifolia--Iron Weed

This particular species of Vernonia is from Brazil, but others in this genus are native to Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In Africa, V. Calvoana, V. Amygdalina and V. colorata are eaten as leaf vegetables. It is called "Iron Weed" because the strong stems persist after leaves and flowers are gone. Plants in this genus generally have a bitter flavor, which discourages herbivores. The bitter chemicals have medicinal properties. Another Brazilian Vernonia species can be used to improve wound healing. An African species can be used to control diabetes. These plants have have been used traditionally and modern scientific research has substantiated the effectiveness. Blooming now near the Crop Garden at the UC Botanical Garden.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Corethrogyne filaginifolia CV Silver Carpet

Another common name is California Aster; much easier to pronounce than Corethrogyne. This is an easy perennial with pinkish flowers and silvery leaves. Like full sun and little water. This variety spills charmingly over the low rock wall out in front of the kiosk at the UC Botanical Garden. We have some specimens that will be available for purchase at the big sale on Sunday, September 26. Many other wonderful plants will also be available. Adult butterflies use the flowers for nectar, and checkerspot caterpillars feed on the foliage.

Colletia ulicina--Cunco--Rhamnaceae

Those may look like ordinary leaves, but they are not leaves at all. This plant is leaf-less. Those are spines and they feel like they are made of rusty pins and needles. Sharp and hard! I bet this plant is deer-proof! If you want to keep people out of an area of your garden, this would be a good choice. Plus, it looks more friendly than a cactus. As I recall, it was blooming several months ago, and it is blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden. So it seems to have a long bloom season.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Skipper at the UC Botanical Garden

Cunninghamia lanceiolata--China Fir

Even though this evergreen conifer is called a fir, it is not actually a fir tree. Fir tree cones are upright on the branches, but as you can see, this tree has pendulous cones. The green female cones look cute with their upturned scales. Note that the male (pollen) cones are in a cluster of perhaps
20. I guess the men like company. The mosaic on the ground of the fallen branchlets is just lovely! Also a fire hazard, apparently, but isn't the duff always a fire hazard?

The wood is soft and scented, probably a bit like cedar. Here, the cedar is used for closets or blanket chests. In China, the Cunninghamia is used to build coffins and temples, among other things.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Glottiphyllum linguiforme or Mesembryanthemum linguiforme

Blooming now in the Tropical House at the UC Botanical Garden: a pretty little flower in the ice plant family. It does bear a certain resemblance to those pale yellow and lavender-pink flowers growing along freeways, doesn't it? I think this one must be a bit harder to grow. Linguiforme. I think that means "shaped like a tongue." I guess those leaves look tongue-shaped. But, guess what? Glottiphyllum also means "shaped like a tongue!" So I guess the name ends up meaning "Tongue-shaped leaves shaped like a tongue." Very redundant. But not as redundant as Rattus rattus.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dasylirion Wheeleri--Desert Spoon

I think if I had named this plant, it would be called "Flower Worms." Just look at the shapes those flower stalks take as they emerge from the main stem! Looks fun up close. From a distance, the pale yellow flowers are not that impressive. There were so many bees on this plant when I snapped the pic at the UC Botanical Garden! All honey bees, as far as I could tell.

So this plant is not called "flower worms," it is called Desert Spoon because the base of the leaves are spoon shaped. They are quite rough and stiff, so I think no one would actually want to use the leaves as spoons. I have read that they are used in dried arrangements, however. The other common name is "Sotol" after the alcoholic drink made from the center core after the leaves are removed. It takes one plant 15 years to mature, and then only one bottle of sotol can be made from it. Very slow production. That center core can also be baked and eaten. Native Americans used the leaves to make mats, baskets and thatching. An imposing plant with many human uses.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rhamnus californica--Coffeeberry

Those berries sure are lovely, but I think you would never want to make coffee out of them. I think it was named "Coffeeberry" because the berries look a bit like ripe coffee beans. This species is a very drought-tolerant evergreen. Hardy to about -5 degrees F. Usually grows about 4-6' high, but can get to be 10' high and wide. Likes sun or part shade. Prefers good drainage. In berry and for sale now at the UC Botanical Garden.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Buckwheats and other Plants for Sale

Need a bit of decoration for your patio table? Consider getting something from the UC Botanical Garden. Top: Juncus patens. This rush is very forgiving, very easy to grow. I love the sculptural quality of the leaves. Next: Dudleya. The dudleya are a bit more demanding, but not too hard. They like good drainage and little water, as you would expect with any succulent. The lower two pictures are Eriogonum grande var. rubescens. The buckwheats also like very good drainage. I love the deep pink flowers on this kind.

Buckwheats are hosts to many butterflies, which means that the caterpillars eat them. Blues, Metalmarks, and hairstreaks all use buckwheats.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brunsvigia josephinae--Josephine's Lily

This weird, lilyish-looking plant is now blooming at the UC Botanical Garden. Part of its weirdness is the lack of leaves; like the naked lady, it has no leaves when it is in bloom. It flowers in late summer when rains won't dilute the nectar. Then the leaves and seeds grow when the rains come in the fall. Another part of its weirdness is the interesting curves in the stems that support the flowers. Seems like all these characteristics that make it look strange to us make it very attractive to the sugarbirds which pollinate it. The sugarbirds of South Africa don't hover like hummingbirds. They need a landing platform, which the Josephine's Lily has conveniently provided just below the flower. Cool, huh?