Cotinus and the cousins of Cotinus

Noted at Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden earlier this week: Cotinus coggygyria. A handsome large shrub or small tree that I grew in my Columbus garden. A silhouette of the plant in Columbus, in a photo taken by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky in 1998:


From Wikipedia:

Smoketree or Smoke bush (Cotinus [Gk. kotinos ‘wild olive tree’] …) is a genus of two species of flowering plants in the family Anacardiaceae, closely related to the sumacs (Rhus).

They are large shrubs or small trees, native to the warm temperate northern hemisphere. The leaves are deciduous, alternate, simple oval shape, 3–13 cm long. The flowers are clustered in a large open terminal panicles 15–30 cm long with a fluffy grayish-buff appearance resembling a cloud of smoke over the plant, from which the name derives. The fruit is a small drupe with a single seed. Often classified in Rhus in the past, they are distinguished by the leaves being simple (not pinnate) and the ‘smoke-like’ fluffy flower heads.

… The smoke trees, particularly C. coggygria, are popular garden shrubs. Several bronze or purple-leaved cultivars of C. coggygria have been selected, with warm pink inflorescences set against purple-black foliage; the most common in commerce are ‘Notcutt’s Variety’ and ‘Royal Purple’. When brought into cultivation together, the two species will form hybrids; some garden cultivars are of this parentage.

On the family, a new one in this series of postings, from Wikipedia:

The Anacardiaceae (the cashew or sumac family) are a family of flowering plants bearing fruits that are drupes and in some cases producing urushiol, an irritant. The Anacardiaceae include numerous genera with several of economic importance. Notable plants in this family include cashew (in the type genus Anacardium), mango, poison ivy, sumac, smoke tree, marula, yellow mombin, and cuachalalate. The genus Pistacia (which includes the pistachio and mastic tree) usually is now included, but has sometimes been placed in its own family, Pistaciaceae.

Cousins of Cotinus: Anacardium. This culinary nut came up (with a photo) in a 4/11/13 posting on the vexed topic of “Tree nuts”, in which tree nuts are distinguished from peanuts (ground nuts), and the hassle of culinary nuts vs. botanical nuts is exposed: in particular, there are culinary nuts that are, botanically speaking, seeds (almonds, macadamias, pignolias). (Background complexity in the posting “Stone fruits, nuts, and berries” of 3/20/13.) The cashew is another culinary nut that is a botanical seed, with the added complexity that the tree produces an accessory fruit, to which its kidney-shaped true fruit (containing a seed that serves as a culinary nut) is attached.

Cousins of Cotinus: Mangifera.


From Wikipedia:

The mango is a juicy stone fruit belonging to the genus Mangifera, consisting of numerous tropical fruiting trees, cultivated mostly for edible fruit. The majority of these species are found in nature as wild mangoes. They all belong to the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. The mango is native to South Asia from where it has been distributed worldwide to become one of the most cultivated fruits in the tropics.

Mangifera indica — the “common mango” or “Indian mango “— is the only mango tree commonly cultivated in many tropical and subtropical regions.

… The trees are long-lived, as some specimens still fruit after 300 years.[4] In deep soil, the taproot descends to a depth of 6 m (20 ft), with profuse, wide-spreading feeder roots; the tree also sends down many anchor roots, which penetrate several feet of soil.

… The ripe fruit varies in size and color. Cultivars are variously yellow, orange, red, or green, and carry a single flat, oblong pit that can be fibrous or hairy on the surface, and which does not separate easily from the pulp. Ripe, unpeeled mangoes give off a distinctive resinous, sweet smell.

… The English word “mango” (plural “mangoes” or “mangos”) originated from the Malayalam word māṅṅa via Portuguese (also manga) during spice trade with Kerala in 1498. The word’s first recorded attestation in a European language was a text by Ludovico di Varthema in Italian in 1510, as manga … When mangoes were first imported to the American colonies in the 17th century, they had to be pickled because of lack of refrigeration. Other fruits were also pickled and came to be called “mangoes”, especially bell peppers [this was a common usage in Columbus OH and surrounding areas when I lived there], and by the 18th century, the word “mango” became a verb meaning “to pickle”.

A cooking site treats fish tacos with mango salsa — nice name, enticing dish. But I’m really taken with the Mango Shrimp Salad from Miami in Style:


Shrimp, mango slices, avocado slices, arugula, vinaigrette with cilantro.

Cousins of Cotinus: Rhus and Toxicodendron. From Wikipedia:

Sumac … is any one of about 35 species of flowering plants in the genus Rhus and related genera, in the family Anacardiaceae. Sumacs grow in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world, especially in Africa and North America.

Sumacs are shrubs and small trees that can reach a height of 1–10 m (3.3–32.8 ft). The leaves are spirally arranged; they are usually pinnately compound, though some species have trifoliate or simple leaves. The flowers are in dense panicles or spikes 5–30 cm (2.0–11.8 in) long, each flower very small, greenish, creamy white or red, with five petals. The fruits form dense clusters of reddish drupes called sumac bobs.

… Sumacs propagate both by seed (spread by birds and other animals through their droppings), and by new shoots from rhizomes, forming large clonal colonies.

… The fruits (drupes) of the genus Rhus are ground into a reddish-purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads or meat.

… Some species formerly recognized in Rhus, such as poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans, syn. Rhus toxicodendron), poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum, syn. Rhus diversiloba) and poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix, syn. Rhus vernix), have the allergen urushiol and can cause severe allergic reactions. Poison sumac may be identified by its white drupes, which are quite different from the red drupes of true Rhus species.

Bobs of Rhus glabra, the smooth sumac, which yields a refreshing drink:


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