Monday, February 28, 2011

Tulbaghia fragrans--Sweet Garlic

Sweet Garlic is in the onion family, but it is not an onion or garlic which are in the Allium genus. This plant is closely related and is edible, but people don't seem to eat it much anymore. At one time it was considered the more "genteel" seasoning because it doesn't cause garlic breath the way real garlic does.

In bloom now at the UC Botanical Garden.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kalanchoe laxiflora--Milky Widow's Thrill

I think of Kalanchoes as succulent houseplants, but this one is growing nicely outside at the UC Botanical Garden. The pink and green buds with the coral flowers make a lovely display on this K. laxiflora. Plants in this genus commonly contain cardiac glycosides,which are poisonous. Where they are native in Africa, they can cause grazing animals to become sick. Traditionally, plants in this genus have been used to treat hypertension, infections, and rheumatism. Scientists have found chemical compounds in Kalancoes have been shown to have anti-tumor and sedative effects.

What an interesting common name! Why is this plant thrilling? And why would a widow find it more thrilling than anyone else? I am totally clueless! If you know the answer, let me know.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Leucadendron tinctum--Spicy Conebush

Another Leucadendron is in bloom at the UC Botanical Garden, L. tinctum. It is called spicy Conebush because of the smell of the flowers.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Leucadendron eucalyptifolium--Fragrant Conebush

Is this Conebush yellow, or chartreuse or gold? Maybe a mix of those colors. Blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden, it is like a beacon in the South African Section. In fact, Leucadendrons are native only to South Africa, although they are grown all over the world now. The male and female flowers are on separate plants (dioecious). This one is male; you can tell because of the pollen in the second pic. As the common name indicates, it is supposed to be fragrant, but I forgot to sniff. I will have to go back.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ferraria crispa--Spider Iris

Spider Iris is stunning! Just stunning! The deep maroon-brown petals with a green lettuce edge surround an animal print central flower. Each flower only lasts for a short time, but it has many, making for a long bloom season. Native to South Africa and in bloom now at the UC Botanical Garden. Also available for sale on the plant deck.

Most species in this genus like a Mediterranean climate, winter wet, summer dry. Most smell awful and are pollinated by flies, but this one smells like vanilla. I wonder what pollinates it....? The flowers of this species vary widely, from almost black to pale yellow. They are small, and tend to fade into the dirt and foliage, but it worth the hunt to find them.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Phylica pubescens--Featherhead

What a great common name! This plant is very feathery and soft. And it just glows! Totally love it! It is the the Rhamnaceae, the same family as Ceanothus, but it doesn't look anything like ceanothus.

It looks like it is covered in flowers, but those are actually the bracts of flower cluster that you see. The very small flowers are hidden inside.

The flowers can be used fresh or dried in bouquets. In bloom now at the UC Botanical Garden.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Salvia sonomensis-- Creeping Sage

I don't know why, but I just love the low-growing plants. This one is especially nice because of the gray foliage and lavender flowers. It is supposed to bloom in May and June, but it is blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden. This sage likes shade or part shade and is cold tolerant to 0 degrees F. It is easy to grow, and will even tolerate clay soils as long as it is not watered in the summer. Deer resistant and attractive to hummingbirds. This is a really good one for home gardens.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Papilio zelicaon--Anise Swallowtail

It is a little early for Anise Swallowtails to be laying eggs, but maybe they will start when the weather gets a little warmer. The eggs are small, maybe about the size of a poppy seed, very spherical and pale yellow when first laid. Can you see those dots on the fennel in the first pic? Those are eggs. They darken before they hatch. Then a tiny caterpillar, abot the size of a comma, emerges and starts eating its eggshell. When it has enough of that, it moves on to eating foliage. After molting (shedding its skin) several times, it grows into the large caterpillar shown in the second pic. Then it attaches itself to the substrate with a silken button and silken girdle, as shown in the third pic. This one is on the shingles on the front of a house. Next, it sheds its last caterpillar skin, revealing the chrysalis underneath. The butterfly forms inside and emerges, sometimes a few weeks later, and sometimes a few years. Sometimes people think of this last part of the cycle, when the butterfly forms in the chrysalis, as metamorphosis. However, to an entomologist, the whole process, from egg to adult, is metamorphosis. Insects change over their entire life.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lomatium dasycarpum--Biscuit Root

So many people find Anise Swallowtail caterpillars on fennel, which is a weed imported from Europe. Nobody documented introductions at that time, but probably missionaries brought it over to eat. Even now, fennel bulbs are available at the grocery stores around here. It has a nice mild licorice flavor. It is great cooked or fresh.

But what did the caterpillars eat before the missionaries arrived? Lomatium and Yampah. The close relationship between fennel and lomatium is clear. They both have highly divided leaves and flat-topped clusters of flowers. In addition, they are both edible. Lomatium is sometimes known as Biscuit Root because Native Americans turned it into mush and then made dried cakes which could be easily stored and consumed later.

Swallowtails must have had fewer generations per season before they started eating fennel because lomatium and yampah have a much shorter growing season. Around here, I can find caterpillars on fennel in August when the lomatium is all dried up.

Swallowtails overwinter as chrysalides (chrysalises) and sometimes they spend several years as a pupa. Some people say that this is because they get confused with a food plant being available for a much longer season. Others say that it is an adaptation to drought that was common before fennel came on the scene. In some years in California there is so little water that the lomatium doesn't have enough leaves to feed the caterpillars. So a few emerge every year, thus hedging their bets, so at least some of the females find healthy plants on which to lay eggs.

I took the insect pics years ago.But the Lomaium pics are recent and it is in bloom now at the oak knoll in the UC Botanical Garden.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oemleria cerasiformis--Oso Berry

Oso Berry is blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden, which is in Stawberry Canyon. And if you look at the sign, the plant is from Strawberry Canyon. I might suspect that the plant was there before the Garden, except that it was accessioned in 1971. Or maybe it was growing there all along and they didn't get it identified until 1971? I don't know.

Oso means bear. Apparently bears like to eat the berries. In addition, other wildlife such as birds coyotes also eat them. I have read that they are so yummy that the humans usually don't get a chance to taste them. I'll try to come back later in the season and get a pic of the fruits.

This plant is native to California, Oregon, Washington and up into Canada. It likes full sun or part shade. It does fine with wet or dry soils. Seems like a very adaptable plant. They mature at 6-20'.

Native Americans chewed the twigs. Supposedly they have anesthetic and aphrodisiac properties. I wonder if it works...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Scoliopus bigelovii--Slink Pod

Sorry for the lousy pics! Taken at the Botanic Garden in Tilden, but it isn't their fault!

This unusual flower in the lily family has dull coloring and a weird smell. Because of the odor it is sometimes called fetid adder's tongue. It is pollinated by fungus gnats. After pollination, the seeds develop, and the heavy seed pod hangs to the ground, leading to the other common name, Slink Pod. Once on the ground, slugs eat the walls of the pods so that the seeds have an easier time getting out. Then ants take the seeds to feed on the elasiosomes so ants are involved in dispersal, too. This plant is involved with several animals!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chamaebatia australis--Southern Mountain Misery

Southern Mountain Misery grows in southern California and Mexico. The foliage has resinous dots that smell a bit like witch hazel. Mountain Misery (C. foliosa) grows in the Sierra Nevada, and apparently has a less pleasant smell. I guess the resins on the plants got on people's clothes and made them miserable and that is where the name came from.

It has ferny foliage and pretty flowers from November to May. With that long winter bloom season, I wonder why I have never seen it in a private garden. Maybe that is because it is picky about soil and therefore hard to grow. If you want to see it, it is blooming now, at the Botanic Garden in Tilden.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Abies bracteata--Santa Lucia Fir

This fir is the rarest in the world, naturally occurring only in the Santa Lucia Mountains of California. The pictures were take at the Botanic Garden in Tilden Regional Park, which has a very nice stand of the trees.

The cones look almost furry because of the one inch long bristles that stick out all over it. When ripe, the cones fall to pieces, so you don't see them on the ground, you only see seeds.

Much planted as an ornamental because of its cone-shape and graceful branches.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dodecatheon hendersonii--Shooting Stars

I think this plant is called a "shooting star" because of the back swept petals. It gives the flower an interesting shape. This flower is buzz pollinated. That means that bees hang on to the petals and beat their wings to get the firmly attached pollen to dislodge via the vibrations.

Blooming now at the UC Botanical Garden.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Aristolochia californica-Pipevine

Once again, pipevine is in bloom at the UC Botanical Garden. On a tour at the Botanic Garden in Tilden recently, our docent told us that these flowers are different from others. Most flowers buds are covered in green sepals. By the time they open, the flowers are close to full-size. However, you can watch a pipevine flower develop from a little tiny nub. I looked closely and could find nothing that looked like sepals. I couldn't find normal flower parts. Then I tried a book. I don't do much research in books anymore, but sometimes I turn to Jepson or Munz. In this case I found that Aristolochia has no petals and no corolla. What we normally think of flower parts are completely absent. When looking at the pipevine flower, you see fused sepals. Maybe that is part of the reason why it doesn't have bright colors, lovely scent or what I think of as a flower shape. This one is weird.