Archive for the ‘Taxonomic vs. common’ Category

perennial, evergreen, hardy

June 4, 2019

From an exchange on Facebook a few days ago, in which (at least) two of the participants use the term perennial to refer to plants that are green all year round, that don’t lose their leaves for a dormant season. The discussion was set off by DA (not knowing the privacy wishes of the participants, I refer to them by their initials), posting about a practice that puzzles him:

DA: I never understood why [people] bother to plant [fruit] trees that don’t bear fruit.

To which DS replied with a number of reasons for the practice, but along the way introducing perennial in the sense ‘green all year long’ (relevant materal boldfaced):

DS: They provide many other benefits, for birds, shade, soil augmentation … they hold together hills so they don’t wash away .. and much more. Besides, they can be lovely. As far as I know, there are no perennial fruit trees so they can’t be used for privacy.


Parade of Fangs, Eye of the Pumpkin

May 12, 2019

I’ll get to the fangs and the pumpkin eventually, but first a taxonomic puzzle in botany and two botanical puzzles in (Mexican) Spanish, triggered by this Pinterest photo from a while back:

(#1) [as captioned by its (Mexican) poster] Lirio plantasonya


The white and the red

April 19, 2019

The (Christian) liturgical colors for the season: white for Easter Sunday, red for today, Good Friday, the day of crucifixion (and for some churches, red for all of Holy Week). White the color of purity and perfection, and so of Jesus as Christ. Red the color of blood and sacrifice, and so of the crucifixion.

As it happens, yesterday’s events included a visit to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, where I encountered two especially notable flowers, one white, one deep red. First, the flowers, not (at first) identified:

(#1) Blanchier

(#2) Rougier


Two moments of iridaceous naming

April 7, 2019

Moment one, the name game: this photograph of a plant in bloom, presented as an identification quiz by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on Facebook yesterday:

(#1) EDZ’s hint: “neither roses nor daffodils”. Guesses from readers: jonquils, tulips, crocuses, and, finally bingo!

Moment two, today’s morning name: montbretia, which turns out to be a name for Crocosmia hybrids, like this one:

(#2) Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’


Aquatic carpentry

February 5, 2019

A Wayno & Piraro Bizarro from the 4th, presenting an exercise in cartoon understanding and jogging some reflections on comics conventions:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

To understand the cartoon, you need to appreciate that it shows a situation from everyday life (the office of a carpentry business)  juxtaposed with, or translated into, another, more remarkable, world (an undersea, aquatic, world, populated by specific fish, which you need to recognize).


Suspended Christmas

January 31, 2019

(Thanks to a cascade of medical conditions that began at the beginning of this month and has consumed much of my time, I’m still working my way through Christmas-oriented postings. Better late, as they say. [And yes, the back-truncation better late is in my files.])

The classic vehicle for carrying Christmas ornaments is the Christmas tree, an up-standing object. But suspended vehicles are also possible: hanging baskets, for instance, or this festive arrangement in Virginia Transue’s dining room that takes advantage of a chandelier:

(#1) Virginia’s 2018 smilax chandelier, with ornaments


Needles and scales

December 20, 2018

It began with a plant at the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, a plant that reminded me of a cedar shrub, with scale-like leaves. This turned out to be Fabiana imbricata violacea (or Chilean heather — it was in the central Chile section of the garden, in fact), in the Solanaceae, the nightshade family (also including tomatos, potatoes, tobacco, petunias, and much more). Then in the South Africa section, a rather similar shrub, with scale-like leaves; this turned out to be a variety of Coleonema pulchellum (or confetti bush), in the Rutaceae, the rue or citrus family (which generally have broad leaves).

The coleonema was growing together with some (broad-leaved) plants with interestingly contrasting foliage: some scented geraniums and some Martin’s spurges. Bringing in two more plant families — respectively, the Gerianaceae (or geranium family) and the Euphorbiaceae (or spurge family).

All this led me to Calluna vulgaris, or heather (given that I already had “Chilean heather”), in still another plant family (the Ericaceae, the heath or heather family), with needle-like or scale-like leaves. And of course to cedars, with their scale-like leaves. Well, the cedars I first thought of were “Japanese cedars” — Cryptomeria japonica, in the Cupressaceae (or cypress family). But wait! The well-known cedar trees, the cedars of Lebanon, are Cedrus libani — with needle-like leaves, in the Pinaceae (or pine family).

Ah, needle-like leaves — not just in (some) conifers, like the fir tree (in the Pinaceae), but also in other families: for example, in rosemary, in the Lamiaceae (the labiate or mint family, otherwise mostly broad-leaved).

Two themes here: leaf types (broad, needle-like, scale-like) and plant families (including a number not already in my inventory, even though the plants in them are very familiar). Plus, of course, the familiar agony about common names (think about those heathers, and those cedars). Details follow.


Nomenclature as destiny

October 9, 2018

A Scott Hilburn cartoon from 4/24/18:


As they are called, so shall they serve. So says the law.


Lantana on the trail

August 16, 2018

Another report on the plants out my front door and in my neighborhood. A scene around the corner from my house in Palo Alto, showing a street planting of trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) between the sidewalk and the white picket fence around an urban farmhouse (a survival from an earlier time):

(#1) Northeast corner of Emerson and Homer, across Emerson from the Whole Foods; across Homer from tech and fashion shops; diagonally across from the Greek restaurant Taverna (formerly the Mexican restaurant La Morenita)


Friends of friends

August 6, 2018

At Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden this morning, two sort of familiar plants — a big upright succulent just coming into bloom, a small tree (or large shrub) with silver-green leaves and still green berries. The first a new (to me) variety of the familiar spectabile species (‘Autumn Fire’ rather than ‘Autumn Joy’ — hey, fall is coming fast), with a unfamiliar (to me) genus name (Hylotelephium instead of Sedum). The second both like the familiar olive (Olea europaea) and like the familiar  Russian-olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), but not quite either of them: a merely olive-like Elaeagnus rather than an actual Olea, and commutata ‘silverberry’ rather than angustifolia.