Wednesday, June 5, 2013

More Distractions

 My blog posting is actually catching up to my photography, and I'm nearly ready to post the results of my Sunday trip to Butterfly Botanical Area.  But first, a downtown adventure.  Last summer a botanist friend alerted me to an unusual-(to us)looking plant in front of several homes in downtown Quincy.  I photographed the seed pods last October, and after much struggling, managed to identify it.  Well, the plant is blooming again and I discovered that I had not recorded the information I found last fall.  Starting from scratch, I discovered that the plant is not in any of the field guides I own, including my old copy of Jepson.  More on Jepson later. 
I did the wild thing of typing "blue flower with weird seed capsule" into my browser, then clicked on "images."  After scrolling down a few pages of flower photos, I spotted it: Nigella damascena, a non-native that is widely cultivated in temperate regions, but is native to the Mediterranean region and SW Asia.  Click on the above photo for a close-up of the seed capsule (ovary).
 Next, I dived into the lore.  It turns out this plant is known as Love-in-a-mist, Devil-in-the-bush, and Ragged Lady.  Wow!  Our species really has a love-hate relationship with love. 
 I was also surprised to find it is a member of Family Ranunculaceae, the Buttercup family.  I was glad that I don't know too much.  If knew about the Buttercup on the level of a professional botanist, I would immediately know what traits the members of this family have in common.  Instead, with my amateur's view, I can be amazed at the great diversity of flower shapes that are in this family.  This includes Buttercups, Larkspurs (Delphiniums), Columbines, Clematis, and Monkshood, the latter being one of the most poisonous plants on the planet.  Sometimes the feeling of amazement is more fun than knowledge.
 In the same meeting with my botanist friend, I was told of another unusual plant in someone's front yard down at the end of Andy's Way (the road between the fire station and Moon's restaurant).  I drove down to get some photos and an amazing thing happened.  The second I stared at the plant, the technical name Tradescantia popped into my mind.  I had no books with me, just the camera.
 As I drove to Alley Cat to do my research, I wondered where that name came from.  I knew I had not read or uttered it in many years, so I assumed it came out of one of my few botany courses in college.  Sure enough, it was one I learned at University of  Florida Graduate School in a course called Local Flora.  The plant is Spider Wort in the Family Commelinaceae.  I've labelled it T. virginiana, but further searching has me now thinking it's more likely T. occidentalis. 
 While trying to sort out these plants and my brain function, I was taken by the music on the radio and Julie's amazing flower bed in the side yard of the cafe.  It turns out the most spectacular-looking blossoms there were Clematis (above) and Delphiniums (below) of several colors, all of which are also in the Buttercup family, demonstrating the point I made earlier.
Clematis and Delphinium are used as popular names as well as scientific names.  The various species of Clematis may have other popular names as well as being called simply Clematis.  A species of Clematis found in the Northwest is Clematis occidentalis, or Virgin's Bower....moving on to one more distraction before posting those Butterfly Valley photos.

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