Botany word of the month.

Panicle

A few weeks ago, I received a question from a gardener in the city who wanted to know about the best hydrangeas to grow in Calgary. Due to our climate, we’re not able to overwinter the really showstopping bigleaf types (H. macrophylla) that gardeners in warmer regions can, but we still have some extremely nice selections to choose from. I suggested that, due to sufficient cold hardiness, smooth hydrangeas (H. arborescens) and panicle hydrangeas (H. paniculata) tend to fare best in our part of the world – and then he wanted to know: what on earth did I mean by the word ”panicle”?

Good question! The term panicle is often associated with grasses. Most grass panicles are easy to identify. Here is an example: Take a look at the fuzzy top of foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum, a beautiful but persistent, troublesome weed here in Alberta). That lovely plume is a panicle, a type of compound flower head that features long, sliver-like awns, which can cause pain for livestock that accidentally graze on the plant.

With hydrangeas, what we think of as one huge flower is actually a panicle. Like the fuzzy flower head of foxtail barley, a hydrangea’s panicle is a compound inflorescence. It is made up of tiny individual florets, which are attached via pedicels (stem-like structures) to “branches” called racemes. Panicle hydrangeas are named for this type of floral arrangement.

Do you grow hydrangeas (any types)? If so, which ones are your favourites? (If you have any, please feel free to link up to photos of your hydrangeas on your blog or website – I’d love to see them!).

Plant profile: Mugo pine.

Pinus mugo

Particularly at this time of year, when the new candles are formed, mugo pines may appear to be the angriest shrub of the plant world, looking for all the world like they are furiously gesturing to the idiot that cut them off in traffic. (Now you’ll never see them the same way again. You’re welcome). 😉

Mugos have shorter needles than most pines, but they’re still fairly long (up to two inches), elegant as befitting pine trees, and clustered in pairs. If you touch the needles, they’re not particularly soft like some other pines. Again, that sort of fits with the whole angry thing.

On the larger cultivars, the branches are supposed to sweep upwards in stiff arcs, but the shrubs themselves sometimes acquire a sprawling habit as they age (I completely understand this as I have, too), so this isn’t always accomplished as well as it should be. When left unkempt, unattractive bare spots often open up in the centre of the shrub. (You can – carefully and judiciously – prune the shrubs every few years to maintain a more tidy, compact shape). Smaller cultivars, such as the lovely ‘Mops’ (which really does look like a ploofy green mop turned upside down and stuffed into the ground), tend to be a tad more well-behaved.

Once you’ve got the ID down pat on these, you’ll start to realize how common they are, at least in urban areas here on the prairies. Their hardiness and compact size (small and smaller) make them tough to beat as landscape specimens. They’re pretty much a go-to for residential and commercial foundation plantings. Although it does occur in particularly harsh years, mugos tend to resist winter desiccation a bit better than many other conifers, and that’s a big deal around here.

This article that was published in the Calgary Herald in 2010 has some great tips for pruning and candling mugos to maintain a compact form.

What are your favourite conifers (small or large) in the garden? (It doesn’t matter where you live, I’d love to hear about them! They don’t have to be suitable for the Canadian prairies).

List of Greenhouses, Garden Centres, and Nurseries in Alberta.

I’ve created this resource to hopefully help connect the eager gardeners in the province with local growers and businesses that rely on our support….

If you garden in Alberta, please feel free to share this far and wide!

person holding a green plant
Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

List of Greenhouse, Garden Centres, and Nurseries in Alberta

North

Dunvegan Gardens – Grande Prairie – 780-532-8280
Willow Valley Greenhouse – Grande Prairie – 780-831-4508
Braeheid Gardens – Sexsmith – 780-933-5159 – shopbraeheid.com
Sunkissed Acres Greenhouse – Wembley – 587-298-5477
Riverside Greenhouses – Beaverlodge – 780-831-4508
Christie’s Gardens and Greenhouses – High Prairie – (780) 536-0204 –https://learnplantgrow.com/
Flower Frenzy Greenhouse – High Prairie – 780-536-0099
Fern’s Greenhouse – Girouxville – 780-323-4420
Trees and Lillies Gardens – Peace River – 780-624-1148 – https://www.treesandlillies.com/page/page/7927224.htm
Grow North Gardens – Fairview – 587-989-6672 – https://www.grownorthgardens.com/
Westway Gardens Greenhouse – Bittern Lake – 780-672-6029 –http://www.westwaygardens.com/
Amicis Gardens – Manning – 780-836-5940
Birch Meadow Greenhouses – Athabasca – 780-675-4187 – https://www.birchmeadowgreenhouses.com/
Bellis Garden and Greenhouses – Bellis – 780-636-2669
High Q Greenhouses – Sturgeon County – 780-939-7490 – https://highqgreenhouses.com/
Pots ‘n’ Pansies Greenhouse and Garden Centre – Barrhead – 780-305-6310
De Herdt Gardens – Barrhead – 780-674-2844 – https://www.deherdtgardens.com/
Green House The Little Farm – Sangudo – 780-785-2829
Granola Garden Centre – Gunn – 587-859-1633
Honey’s Greenhouse – Onoway – 780-913-0641
Bison Grow and Greenhouses – Bilby – 780-499-4829
Arch Greenhouses – Edmonton – 780-438-4349 – https://archgreenhouses.com/
Ellerslie Gift and Garden – Edmonton – 780-988-6622 – ellersliegift.com
Apache Seeds – Edmonton – 780-489-4245 – gardening@apacheseeds.ca
Kuhlmann’s Greenhouse – Edmonton – 780-475-7500 – https://kuhlmanns.com/index.php/contact
Millcreek Nursery – Edmonton – 780-469-8733 – http://www.millcreeknursery.ca/
Bonnie Doon Flowers Garden Centre – Edmonton – 780-440-3053 – https://www.bonniedoonflowersgardencentre.com/
Greenland Garden Centre – Edmonton – 780-467-7557 – http://www.greenlandgarden.com/
Sunstar Nurseries – Edmonton – 780-472-6103 – http://www.sunstarnurseries.com/
Brenneis Greenhouses – Edmonton – (780) 473-7736
Arrowhead Nurseries – Edmonton – 780-472-6260 – https://www.arrowheadnurseries.com/
All Seasons Garden Centre – Edmonton – (780) 448-2385
Dor’s Garden Shop – Edmonton – 780-909-7881
BMR Greenhouses and Water Gardens – Edmonton – 780-986-0787 https://www.bmrgreenhouses.com/
Visser Farms and Greenhouses – Edmonton – (780) 473-4759 – http://www.visserfarms.com/about.html
Kiwi Nurseries Ltd. – Acheson – 780-962-9297 – https://kiwinurseries.com/
Cheyenne Tree Farm – Beaumont – 780-929-8102 – http://cheyennetree.ca/
New Beginnings Greenhouse – Beaumont – 780-929-1235 – https://newbeginningsgreenhouse.com/
Salisbury Greenhouse – Sherwood Park – 780-467-5743 – https://www.salisburygreenhouse.com/
Wallish Greenhouses – Sherwood Park – (780) 467-3091 –https://www.wallishgreenhouses.ca/
Aspen Ridge Greenhouses – Sherwood Park – (780) 464-5527 – http://www.aspenridgegreenhouses.com/
Estate Gardens – Sherwood Park – 780-922-6329 – https://www.estategardens.ca/
Sherwood Nurseries – Sherwood Park – 587-409-4442 – https://sherwoodnurseries.ca/
South Cooking Lake Greenhouses – Sherwood Park – (780) 922-6765 – http://www.southcookinglakegreenhouses.ca/
Greenland Garden Centre – Sherwood Park – 780-467-7557 – https://kiwinurseries.com/
Creekside Home and Garden – Spruce Grove – 780-470-0527 – http://www.creeksidehomeandgarden.ca/
The Big Greenhouse – Spruce Grove – (780) 960-4769 – https://www.thebiggreenhouse.ca/
Golden Greenhouses – Spruce Grove – (780) 987-3675 – http://goldengreenhouses.com/
Local Nursery – Spruce Grove – (780) 987-9133 – https://www.localnursery.ca/
Aspen Grove Nurseries – Spruce Grove – 780-962-3148 – https://aspengrovenurseries.com/
Hole’s at the Enjoy Centre – St. Albert – 780-438-4349 – https://www.holesatenjoy.com/
St. Albert Greenhouse – St. Albert – 780-939-3110
Alpine Greenhouse – Parkland County – 780-470-0007
Gardiner’s Greenhouse – Parkland County – https://gardinersgreenhouse.com/
Baraka Gardens – Smithfield – 780-221-5023 – https://barakagardens.com/wp/
Dina’s Greenhouse – Gibbons – 780-983-5364
Char-Mar Growers – Millet – 780-387-4285
Deb’s Greenhouse – Morinville – 780-939-9690 – https://www.debsgreenhouse.com/
Jones Family Greenhouse – Lamont – 780-896-2402
Bloom ‘n Bucket – Calmar -780-994-0944 – https://thebloomnbucket.com/
Templeton’s Greenhouses – Edson – 780-723-4540
Castle Garden Greenhouse – Kitscoty – 780-846-2694
F’laura ‘n Company Greenhouse – Vermilion and Kitscoty – 780-808-9672
Dutchak’s Greenhouse – Vermilion – contact info TBD
Kathy’s Greenhouse – Marwayne – 780-847-2586
LCJ Greenhouses and Gifts – Bon Accord – 780-921-2192
Prairie Gardens – Bon Accord – 780-921-2272 – https://prairiegardens.org/
Moe’s Gardens and Greenhouse – Bonnyville – 780-826-4500
Gardener’s Junction Greenhouse – Cold Lake – 780-594-1312
Rod’s Greenhouse – Vegreville – 780-603-0531
Fjellstrom Greenhouses – Vegreville – 780-657-2015
Thiel’s Greenhouses – Bruderheim – (780) 796-3501 – https://www.thielsgreenhouse.ca/
Willow Valley Greenhouse – Warburg – 780-848-2634
Glamery Greenhouse – Westlock – 780-349-2931
Westlock Garden Centre – Westlock – 780-349-5348

Central

Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre – Red Deer – 403-346-5613 – http://www.parklandgarden.ca/
Bluegrass Sod, Nursery, and Garden Centre – Red Deer – 403- 347-7211 – https://bluegrassnursery.com/garden_centre/red-deer/
Landover Nursery and Greenhouse – Red Deer – 403-350-1293
Ever-Green Greenhouses – Red Deer – 403-347-6484
Coal Trail Greenhouses – Blackfalds – 403-347-4425 – https://www.coaltrailgreenhouse.ca/
West Haven Nursery and Farms – Spruce View – 403-728-2100
On Earth Greenhouses – Lousana – 403-506-5853 – https://www.onearthgreenhouses.com/
DnA Gardens – Elnora – 403-773-2489
Westerose Greenhouse – Wetaskiwin – 780-887-8385
Arber Greenhouses – Westaskiwin County – (780) 352-7520 – http://www.arbergreenhouses.com/
Aspen Greenhouses – Lacombe – 403-885-4516 – https://www.aspengreenhouses.com/
Wolf Botanicals – Lacombe – 403-782-5729
Market on Twelve – Lacombe – 402-782-4783
Patio Gardens – Lacombe – 403-782-0888
Tranquillity Greenhouses – Clive – 403-348-6579
Green Acres Greenhouse – Leslieville – 403-729-2585
Arbutus Nursery – Ponoka – 403-783-6208
Bobtail Nursery – Ponoka – 403-704-4008 – http://www.bobtailnursery.ca/
Country Gardens and Greenhouse – Ponoka – 403-704-4145 – http://www.countrygardensandgreenhouse.ca/
Forster’s Greenhouses – Forestburg – 780-582-2460
PJ’s Plantation – Tees – 403-348-9803
Spade to Spoon Market and Greenhouse – Irma – 587-281-4884
Off the Beaten Path Greenhouse – Irma – 780-842-8411
Battle River Landscape Supply and Design – Camrose – 780-672-9718
Green Valley Gardens – Camrose – 780-781-6728
Echoglen Gardens – Donalda – 403-883-2849 – https://www.echoglengardens.com/
Silver Creek Greenhouses – New Norway – 780-855-3988
Howe’s Greenhouse – Castor – 403-884-2651
Wickham Nurseryland – Lloydminster – 780-875-7568/306-825-3262
The Planted Earth Greenhouses – Sylvan Lake – http://www.theplantedearth.ca/
Holly’s Greenhouse – Rimbey – 403-843-2892
Tail Creek Greenhouse – Stettler – 403-742-0909
West Country Greenhouse – Rocky Mountain House – 403-844-7617
Country Garden Greenhouse – Rocky Mountain House – 403-729-2029
The Plant Ranch -Rocky Mountain House- Facebook: plantranchgreenhouses – 403-845-5807
Friedt Flowers and Veggies – Sundre – 403-850-8137
The Garlic Ranch – Sundre – contact info TBD
Bearberry Creek Greenhouses, Nursery, and Water Gardens – Sundre – 403-638-4231 – http://www.bbcreek.ca/
Dragonfly Greenhouse – Caroline – 403-846-4476

South

greengate Garden Centres – Calgary – 403-256-1212 – https://www.greengate.ca/
Spruce It Up – Calgary – 403-201-7525 – https://spruceitupgardencentre.com/
Garden Retreat – Calgary – 403-255-7097
Plantation Garden Centre – Calgary – (403) 277-4769 – https://plantationgardencentre.ca/
Plant – Calgary- (403) 585-4226 – https://plantshop.ca/
Star Burn Horticultural – Calgary – 403-478-7040
Country Gardens and Nursery – Calgary – 403-246-0611
Golden Acre Garden Centre – Calgary – (403) 274-4286 – https://www.goldenacre.ca/
Cobblestone Garden Centre – Calgary – (403) 273-4760 – http://www.cobblestonegarden.ca/
IncrediGrow Garden Centre – Calgary – (403) 255-0740 – https://www.incredigrow.ca/
Quickgrow Indoor Garden Centre- Calgary – 403-276-5156- https://www.quickgrow.com
Bluegrass Nursery, Sod, and Garden Centre – Calgary – (403) 226-0468 – https://bluegrassnursery.com/
Garden Scents Garden Centre – Calgary – https://www.gardenscents.ca/
Bloomfield Garden Centre – Calgary – 403-466-7978
Country Gardens and Nursery – Calgary -(403) 246-0611 – https://www.countrygardensyyc.com/
Blooming Baskets – Airdrie – 403-616-1720
Jim Bob’s Nursery and Garden Centre – Carstairs – 403-246-0611
La Greenhouse – Carstairs – 403-337-0036
Lohr-a-Lee Greenhouse – Olds – 403-438-0030 – https://www.lohralee.com/
Countryside Landscapes and Garden Centre – DeWinton – (403) 938-1835 – https://www.csgcl.com/
Saskatoon Farm – DeWinton – (403) 938-6245 – http://www.saskatoonfarm.com/
Beaver Dam Nursery – Okotoks – 403-938-4394
Brassard Greenhouse – Cluny – 403-734-2114 – https://www.brassardgreenhouses.com/
Moore’s Greenhouse – Strathmore – (403) 934-4885 – http://www.mooresgreenhouse.net/
Eagle Lake Nurseries – Strathmore – 403-934-3670 – https://www.eaglelakenurseries.com/
Countryside Greenhouse – Rosedale – 403-823-8733 – https://www.countrysidegreenhouses.com/greenhouse-garden-ce…
Long Coulee Growers – Champion – 403-485-8216
AVB Greenhouses – Standard – 403-814-0710 – https://www.avbgreenhouses.com/
Bloomin’ Acres – Brooks – 403-363-9416
Water Valley Forest Nursery – Cremona – 403-637-3912 – http://www.watervalleyforestnursery.com/
Eastern Slopes Rangeland Seeds – Cremona – 403-637-2473 – http://www.esrseeds.ca/ (by appointment only)
Anything Grows – Cochrane – (403) 932-9922 – https://www.anythinggrowsalberta.com/
Branched Out Nursery – Cochrane – 403-851-1323
Aspen Crossing – Mossleigh – https://www.aspencrossing.com/garden-centre – 403-534-2129
Vales Greenhouses – Black Diamond – 403) 933-4814 – http://valesgreenhouse.com/
Bow Valley Garden Centre – Canmore – (403) 675-0701 – https://bowvalleygardencentre.ca/
Spring Break Flower Farm – Hillcrest – 403-563-3302
Bailey Hill Greenhouse – Cowley – 403-628-3491
The Blue Mouse Greenhouse – Pincher Creek – 403-627-4087
Grumpy’s Greenhouse – Pincher Creek – 403-627-4589 – https://www.grumpys.ca/
Dan’s Greenhouse – Lethbridge – (403) 327-3271
Green Haven Garden Centre – Lethbridge – (403) 327-6172 – http://www.greenhavengarden.ca/
Country Blooms Garden Centre – Lethbridge – (403) 331-5660 – http://countryblooms.ca/
Blondie’s Gift and Garden Centre – Dunmore – 403-504-0040
Windmill Garden Centre – Medicine Hat – 403-526-3447
Hilltop Greenhouse – Monarch – (403) 553-3175 – http://www.hilltopgreenhouses.ca/
Sunnyside Nursery – Taber – https://www.sunnysidenurserytaber.com/
Coaldale Nurseries – Coaldale – (403) 345-4633 – http://www.coaldalenurseries.ca/

If I have missed any or any of the contact info needs corrections, please let me know in the comments.  This is, of course, a work in progress….

Botany word of the month.

It appears that my intentions and reality do not mesh, yet again…a Botany Word of the Week is just simply too much for me to maintain on top of all my other projects.  But I love creating these posts and I hope you enjoy reading them – so I’ll switch to a monthly format which should be far easier for me to complete. We’ll see…intentions, you know….

Dehiscent

If you have a medical background, you’ll already know what this term means…except I’m going to use it in relationship to fruits.

When they are mature and dry enough, dry dehiscent fruit split open to release their seeds. Dehiscence is this act of breaking open at a seam. The part that splits is the pericarp (comprised of ovule-bearing structures of the flower called carpels).

The dry dehiscent fruit you are probably most familiar with belong to legumes.  Peas, beans, and lentils fall into this category.  They all have one carpel and if you’ve ever shelled garden peas, you’ll recognize the way that carpel splits open (except that you’re facilitating the split before it’s “supposed” to happen. When you allow peas to dry for harvesting, and they split open, then you’re letting them do their thing).

Do you remember this post I did a couple of years ago about the ‘Le Puy’ lentils I grew?  What I’m describing there is the explosive way the dehiscent fruit burst open when they’re ready.  And I’ll never forget the way that the seed pods of the Caragana shrubs that lined the driveway to my childhood home audibly crackled and violently burst on hot, late summer days, showering the seeds everywhere.

lfpnormandeau

‘Le Puy’ lentils…not yet dry enough to split open.

Peanuts are one dehiscent legume that don’t – thankfully – burst open when dry.   You have to help them along by breaking them open yourself.

There are always exceptions. Some legumes have indehiscent fruit, and their carpel does not split open when dry.  If you have a honey locust growing in your yard, that’s a good example.

Legumes aren’t the only dry dehiscent fruit.  There are capsules, which have more than one ovule.  Lilies and poppies have capsules.  There are also follicles, of which plants such as columbines have more than one.  Siliques are another.  These are a type of elongated fruit that kind of resemble legumes.  If you’ve ever allowed your radishes to set seed, that pod you’re looking at is a silique.  Just for fun, there are also silicles, which are not as long as siliques.  Honestly, I’m not making this up, even if it sounds a bit giggle-inducing.

What is your favourite dry dehiscent fruit to grow?  

 

Some links for further reading:

https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/termfr1.htm

http://science.jburroughs.org/resources/flower/fruit2.html

 

Botany word of the week.

Aggregate fruit (as well as some bonus chatter about accessory and multiple fruits, pseudocarps, drupes, achenes, carpels, and…um…monkey bread?)

Occasionally (or possibly frequently, given the weird world we live in), things turn out to be different than advertised. Sort of like that purse I ordered off of the Internet. But I digress….

Case in point: raspberries and strawberries.  Are they actually berries?  You already know where I’m going with this!

What does it mean to be a berry?  Quite a few things, really, but one of them is that the fruit must develop from a flower possessing one ovary.  Strawberries and raspberries don’t fit the bill.  If you take a look at the fruit of a raspberry, you’ll notice that it is made up of a bunch of little nubs. You could pull each one apart, kind of like a loaf of monkey bread.  (Mmmm…how can you tell I haven’t eaten breakfast yet?).  Each one of these is called a drupe (drupelets), and they are produced from the multiple ovaries of a flower.  Each drupe contains a seed.  In the case of a strawberry, those little seed-like things on the outside are not actually seeds, although they do contain seeds. Those small bumps are called achenes.  Because these fruitlets were all joined together, they are called aggregrate fruits.  (Just to be confusing, not all multiple fruits – those with more than one ovary per flower – are aggregate.  Some don’t join together to form a single entity).

Raspberries

And, to add to the fun, strawberries are categorized as an accessory fruit (aka pseudocarp) in addition to an aggregate fruit. Some of that yummy fleshy stuff we eat is made up of tissue that originates near the carpel (modified leaves that surround the ovules) of the flower.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way…I’m off to enjoy an aggregate fruit smoothie!  (Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?).  Do you grow raspberries and/or strawberries in your garden?  What ways do you use them in cooking and baking?  

Sources:
Geggel, Laura, “Why are Bananas Berries, but Strawberries Aren’t?”, LiveScience, January 12, 2017, https://www.livescience.com/57477-why-are-bananas-considered-berries.html.
UCMP Berkeley , “Anthophyta: More on Morphology,” accessed March 3, 2020, https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/anthophyta/anthophytamm.html.  (This is a really good resource if you need a refresher on how fruits are formed).

 

Botany word of the week.

Pappose

A plant that bears a pappus (or more likely, pappi) is said to be pappose. With purpose.  And no porpoises.  (Please stop me before I go any further).

What’s a pappus, you say?

See this dandelion flower (actually a cluster of florets) that has gone to seed?  If you’ve ever held one in your hand and pulled a single seed away from the head, and then eyeballed it really closely…you’ll see that the fine, fuzzy white stuff on top (actually a modified calyx) sits above the thin brown seed like a skeletonized parachute.  The parachute calyx is a pappus, and although you can’t see all of them really well without a microscope, if you could count, you’d find that there are around 100 bristle-like filaments comprising each one. As dandelion seed is dispersed via wind, this pappus structure proves very useful, able to carry the seeds up to 100 kilometres (62 miles).

SONY DSC

Dandelions aren’t the only plants that are pappose – you’ll find that most members of the daisy (Asteraceae) family are as well – but I’ve got one more fascinating dandelion pappus story to share before I sign off on this post. Get this: In 2018, researchers at the University of Edinburgh (using some cool gadgets such as a wind tunnel, lasers, high speed cameras, and x-ray microtomography) discovered the precise number of and the specific way the filaments in each pappus are arrayed makes even more of a difference to the efficiency of wind dispersal of the seeds than previously thought. It was an accepted theory that the resistance (drag) of individual filaments to wind makes dandelion seed so good at flying. It turns out that the way that moving air flows around each individual filament – and the filaments around it – creates a sort of stabilized vortex ring, allowing the seeds to stay buoyant for an impressive time and over long distances. You can read all about the physics of this amazing adaptation here.

Sources:
Martina Ribar Hestericova. “Dandelion seeds create vortexes to remain aloft.” Physics World. October 22, 2018. https://physicsworld.com/a/dandelion-seeds-create-vortexes-to-remain-aloft/.
Nature. “Revealed: The extraordinary flight of the dandelion.” October 17, 2018. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07032-6.

Flowery Friday: Valentine’s Day edition.

I quite often set up theme days in the Alberta Gardening Facebook group I administer (especially during the winter, when we’re all suffering from cabin fever!). This morning, for some Valentine’s Day fun, I requested that everyone list their favourite red, pink, and white garden flowers/veggies/fruit.  I thought I’d do it here, too, and compare answers.  So far, they’ve posted amazing photos of petunias, daylilies, tomatoes, onions, raspberries, roses, poppies, tigridia, dahlias, peonies, and painted daisies…and they’re still at it.

I’ll start us off.  Next to sweet peas, roses are my very favourite flower, and I’m especially fond of the hardy roses that withstand our crazy cold climate and look pretty marvelous doing it.  The Explorer series is one example…and you have to admit these rich red double flowers of the beautiful shrub rose ‘Champlain’ are quite stunning.  (If you’re ever in the small town of Pincher Creek, in southern Alberta, you’ll see this rose featured in the Lebel Mansion rose garden, maintained by the Oldman River Rose Society).

IMG_4440

What are your favourite red, pink, and white garden flowers (or vegetables or fruit)? Please feel free to link up to photos on your blog, Instagram, whatever – show us the plants that you love!  ♥

Botany word of the week.*

Marcescence

This is the retention of the dead and dry leaves (and sometimes other parts such as fruit or seed pods) on some deciduous trees through winter.  Persistence, or as I like to think of it: a relentless lingering, somewhat along the lines of my cat’s queries for elevenses, twelveses, oneses, twoses (you get the idea).  Some trees seem to exhibit marcesence as  a trait – oaks are apparently one of them, although our climate isn’t mild enough for most Quercus spp. so I can’t perform a decent study on multiple varieties.  I did take a wander past the row of bur oaks (Q. macrocarpa) that grow near the train station in my neighbourhood, and while there were a few single leaves straggling on the branches, the trees were pretty much completely bare.  But we have to count that as an insufficiently representative sample (which, incidentally, also seems to be my cat’s views on the amount of food I give her).

IMG_3354

There are several theories on what causes marcescence, and what purpose it serves.  I believe in the case of this elm tree (and others like it in our city), the early frosts and severe cold we received back in September led to a failure of the formation of the abscission zone.  (This is an area of separation created by the natural weakening of cell walls between the petiole and the leaf.  While deciduous trees abscise in autumn, conifers do it pretty much all the time.  Another big difference is that deciduous trees normally fling everything off and conifers are, well, waaaaaaay more reserved). The leaves in my photo basically died on the spot and the tree wasn’t quite ready for that to happen. The wind took most of them off but some are still hanging around, waiting for spring like the rest of us.

Some researchers speculate that marcescence is a defense mechanism for the tree, protecting it from the munching of herbivorous predators such as moose and deer (who are going to eat fresh, tender young branch tips over icky dry foliage every time.  You can’t blame them, really).  Another idea is that the dry leaves act like little windproof shawls for the leaf buds, protecting them from winter desiccation.  Perhaps.  Still another thought is that the trees are deliberately generating their own mulch, dropping it at just the right time – spring, not autumn – for maximum moisture retention and as a source of nutrients.  Far-fetched?  Maybe, maybe not.

So what happens in the spring, when the buds of the new leaves break?  The marcescent leaves may remain on the tree, still waiting for a really strong wind to snap them off, or they may be pushed off the tree by the new growth, in which case they are instantly sucked up into a magical vortex so that you never have to rake them up.  

Then again, there are never any guarantees when it comes to magic, so have that rake handy, just in case.

Sources:
Finley, Jim. “Winter Leaves that Hang On.” PennState College of Agricultural Sciences. 2012. https://ecosystems.psu.edu/research/centers/private-forests/news/2012/winter-leaves-that-hang-on.
Gast, Richard. “Marcescence: An Ecological Mystery.” Adirondack Almanack. November 19, 2017. https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2017/11/marcescence-ecological-mystery.html.

*To be completely truthful, I’m not sure which specific day of the week the Botany Word of the Week will be posted.  Or that it will actually be posted weekly.  It may kind of float around and periodically pop up and surprise you.  Hopefully that’s okay.  

Flowery Friday: Sweet peas.

SPFPNormandeau

The package from Burpee Seeds classified this sweet pea as “High Scent,” which immediately captured my attention and imagination as I stood in front of the racks of seeds in the garden centre in early spring. Sure enough, they didn’t falsify such a claim.  These sweet peas smell like all the deeply delightful Lathyrus odoratus cultivars – whatever they were – of my childhood.  I’m growing them out on the balcony and I keep stepping outside for a sniff.  I may be a little obsessed.