Archive for the ‘Taxonomic vs. common’ Category

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.


Fried eggs and fairy wands

June 18, 2018

Also blazing stars, gayfeathers, and wandflowers. All plants, colorfully named. Providing a little exercise in taxonomic names vs. common names.

The fried eggs come from Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky, who posted this on her Facebook page yesterday:

(#1) EDZ: “Portrait mode makes fried egg flowers even more absurd” (by erasing the flower stem, so that the flower appears to be floating in the air)

The fairy wands I came across at Palo Alto’s Gamble Gardens this morning:

(#2) Angel’s (fishing) rods, wand flowers, or fairy wands