Birthday flowers

I’m a few hours into my 75th birthday — 75 is a seriously round number — and already I’ve gotten (electronically) two wonderful cards, both with flowers on them, both leading to another plant family, the Asparagaceae, though neither depicts an asparagus (instead, a lily-of-the-valley and a  Joshua tree, which are, amazingly, in the asparagus family). As a bonus, the first card introduces (via four flowers) three more plant families I haven’t discussed in my recent postings on plant families —  one of which, the Primulaceae (which comes via the pimpernel plant), I’ll talk about here. As a further bonus, the second card has a nearly naked young man with notable abs (and a woolly mammoth).

The Campbell card. Card 1, from Bonnie and Ed Campbell, a Jacquie Lawson card: an animated creation, with music, which gradually assembles a birthday bouquet of flowers:


The bouquet comes with a mouseover that identifes the flowers and their meanings. The flowers:

poppy (Papaver), rose (Rosa), yellow tulip (Tulipa), dogwood (Cornus), lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria), allium (Allium), cosmos (Cosmos), lilac (Syringa), lily (Lilium), pimpernel (Anagallis), jasmine (Jasminum), violet (Viola)

On the meanings of the flowers, we get things like the poppy meaning pleasure (hmm — the poppy in the drawing is an opium poppy) and the dogwood meaning durability.

In the list just above I’ve boldfaced the genus names that bring us to “new” plant families in my recent project: the primrose family (including Anagallis), which I’ll talk about in a moment; the asparagus family (including Convallaria), which I’ll defer to my discussion of card 2, since that card shows another genus in the family); and the olive family (including Syringa and Jasminum) and the violet family (including Viola), which I’ll defer to another day.

So now to Anagallis and the primrose family, the Primulaceae.

On the genus, from Wikipedia:

Anagallis is a genus of about 20–25 species of flowering plants in the family Primulaceae, commonly called pimpernel and perhaps best known for the scarlet pimpernel referred to in literature. The botanical name is from the Greek, ana, “again”, and agallein, “to delight in”, and refers to the opening and closing of the flowers in response to environmental conditions.

These are annual or perennial plants, growing in tufts on weedy and uncultivated areas.

… The flowers are radially symmetrical and have 5 sepals.

… They were traditionally classified as members of the primrose family (Primulaceae), but a genetic and morphological study by Källersjö et al. showed that they belonged to the closely related family Myrsinaceae. In the APG III system, published in 2009, Primulaceae is expanded to include Myrsinaceae, thus Anagallis is back in Primulaceae again.

[Classificatory note: APG is the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, which provides a classification of flowering plants, a mostly molecular-based system of plant taxonomy, which (however) is revised every so often in light of new evidence. Hence the frequent re-shuffling in botanical taxonomy, at virtually every level.]

[Cultural note: From Wikipedia:

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a play [opening in 1903, in London in 1905] and adventure novel [published in 1905] by Emma Orczy set during the Reign of Terror following the start of the French Revolution. The title character, Sir Percy Blakeney, a wealthy English fop who transforms into a formidable swordsman and a quick-thinking escape artist, represents the original “hero with a secret identity” that was a precursor to subsequent literary creations such as Don Diego de la Vega (Zorro) and Bruce Wayne (Batman).

There were then movie adaptations.]

Sir Percy’s emblem, the scarlet pimpernel flower, is a modest common weed, shown here in the company of other weeds and lawn/garden escapees:


There are hybrid Anagallis cultivars, for instance this striking Anagallis monellii ‘Blue Pimpernel’:


On the family, from Wikipedia:

The Primulaceae are a family of herbaceous flowering plants with about 24 genera, including some favorite garden plants and wildflowers, commonly known as the primrose family. Most Primulaceae are perennial though some species, such as scarlet pimpernel, are annuals.

Genera in the family, beyond Anagallis, include two I’ve posted on before (with photos): the type genus Primula, of primroses (aka cowslips) — Primula vulgaris and gorgeous hybrid primroses, on 4/21/13 — and the genus Cyclamen, of equally gorgeous cyclemens, on 3/12/13. And then there’s the genus Lysimachia, with (among many other species) the groundcover L. nummularia (yellow loosestrife, creeping Jenny, or moneywort):


And L. clethroides, the wonderfully named gooseneck loosestrife, shown here in a 1998 photo from my Ohio garden (taken by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky):


The Temkin card. Card 2 was put together just for me by Vadim Temkin:


The figure in front is the fabulous Johnny Jockstrap, with his amazing abs and thighs, and with a birthday greeting for biiig arnold, that is, me (in a jokey guise from the old days on the Usenet newsgroup soc.motss). Behind him is my major totem animal, the woolly mammoth. JJ and WM are standing in a desert scene with some recognizable vegetation: the Joshua tree. From Wikipedia, with both botanical and cultural information:

Yucca brevifolia is a plant species belonging to the genus Yucca. It is tree-like in habit, which is reflected in its common names: Joshua tree, yucca palm, tree yucca, and palm tree yucca.

This monocotyledonous tree is native to southwestern North America in the states of California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, where it is confined mostly to the Mojave Desert between 400 and 1,800 m (1,300 and 5,900 ft) elevation. It thrives in the open grasslands of Queen Valley and Lost Horse Valley in Joshua Tree National Park. A dense Joshua tree forest also exists in Mojave National Preserve, in the area of Cima Dome.

The name Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. Ranchers and miners who were contemporary with the Mormon immigrants used the trunks and branches as fencing and for fuel for ore-processing steam engines.

Joshua trees are fast growers for the desert; new seedlings may grow at an average rate of 7.6 cm (3.0 in) per year in their first ten years, then only grow about 3.8 cm (1.5 in) per year thereafter. The trunk of a Joshua tree is made of thousands of small fibers and lacks annual growth rings, making it difficult to determine the tree’s age. This tree has a top-heavy branch system, but also has what has been described as a “deep and extensive” root system, with roots possibly reaching up to 11 m (36 ft) away. If it survives the rigors of the desert it can live for hundreds of years with some specimens surviving up to a thousand years.

… Once they bloom, the trees are pollinated by the yucca moth, which spreads pollen while laying her eggs inside the flower. The moth larvae feed on the seeds of the tree, but enough seeds are left behind to produce more trees.

Up to the genus, with some fascinating details on naming:

Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Agavoideae. Its 40-50 species are notable for their rosettes of evergreen, tough, sword-shaped leaves and large terminal panicles of white or whitish flowers. They are native to the hot and dry (arid) parts of North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Early reports of the species were confused with the cassava (Manihot esculenta). Consequently, Linnaeus mistakenly derived the generic name from the Taíno word for the latter, yuca (spelled with a single “c”). It is also colloquially known in the lower Midwest United States as “ghosts in the graveyard”, as it is commonly found growing in rural graveyards and when in bloom the cluster of (usually pale) flowers on a thin stalk appear as floating apparitions. (Wikipedia link)

Another species in the genus, superficially not much like Y. brevifolia: Y. recurvifolia, the softleaf yucca, a garden plant:


Now up to the family. From Wikipedia:

Asparagaceae is a family of flowering plants, placed in the order Asparagales of the monocots.

In earlier classification systems, the species involved were often treated as belonging to the family Liliaceae. The APG II system of 2003 allowed two options as to the circumscription of the family: either Asparagaceae sensu lato (“in the wider sense”) combining seven previously recognized families, or Asparagaceae sensu stricto (“in the strict sense”) consisting of very few genera (notably Asparagus, also Hemiphylacus), but nevertheless totalling a few hundred species. The revised APG III system of 2009 allows only the broader sense.

A sigh about taxonomy.

Some genera in the family, beyond Yucca: Agave, Asparagus, Aspidistra, Camassia (camass-lily), Dracaena (dragon trees, various houseplants), Hosta, Hyacinthus, Muscari (grape hyacinth), Sanseveria (mother-in-law’s tongue), Scilla (squill) — and now from the Campbell card, Convallaria. The strongly scented bulb lily of the valley, or lily-of-the-valley, a delight of the spring garden:


One Response to “Birthday flowers”

  1. javava2012 Says:

    Happy birthday, Arnold.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: