Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Book Review: _Anatomy of a Rose_ by Sharman Apt Russell

Anatomy of a rose is a book about flowers, especially about the thing that they do and that they are that human often overlook. Flowers grow, bloom, they rely on pollinators to reproduce but many have backup plans just in case the pollinators fail, they communicate with specific pollinators, they both cooperate with and trick their pollinators (and the pollinators do the same), plants cooperate and compete with one another, some plants are carnivorous, some plant regulate their body temperature. Flowers that are pollinated by bees may be more colorful than we can imagine, as bees can see higher wavelengths of light than we can.

The author talks about the effects that flowers have on humans. We love color, we want to be around flowers, and we want flowers to ‘heal’ us. Even though flowers have their own purposes and are not here to serve us humans, we do find much delight and practical use in them.

This is a fascinating book about a world in which we humans are often merely astonished spectators, unable to quite see the entire story. Nonetheless, the author manages to describe this world in terms that make the lives of plants and their pollinators relevant to our own experiences. The descriptions of plants as advertising, communicating with one another, engaging in sexual activities, and participating in games of cooperation and competition with one another and the creatures they depend on are useful metaphors to help us understand what it is we are actually seeing when we look out on a field of wildflowers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Native wildflower paper #2: Bloodroot

This picture is ©Daniel Reed -

The bloodroot is a wildflower that grows in wooded areas before the leaves grow out on the trees. It has one large leaf that wraps around the large single blossom. It opens its bloom to the full sunlight and closes up again at dark. The flower is made of numerous ray-like white petals surrounding many golden yellow stamens and a small green pistil.

According to the National Audubon Society’s field guide to wildflowers, Native Americans used its reddish sap as dye and as insect repellant.

According to Wikipedia, the Bloodroot is fertilized by small bees and flies, and partners with ants to spread its seeds. The ants will carry the seeds back to their nests, eat off the fleshy part of the seed called an elaiosome and then dump the seed into the colony’s trash heap, where it will germinate

Native wildflower paper #1: Jack-in-the-Pulpit

One of the things I will be posting on this blog is my homework assignments for the Naturalist-in-Training courses. Here is some of what I have done for BFUN202.

Native wildflower paper #1: Jack-in-the-Pulpit

(By the way, I am going to try and only use my own photographs. If I use anyone else's I will cite the source. Otherwise, you can assume the picture is my own work.)

The first thing I noticed about the Jack -in -the -pulpit is that it is not what I was taught in grade school to recognize as a flower. Rather than having petals and stamens and bright colors, it is characterized by its leaf-like spathe and club-like spadix. This is characteristic of the flowers known as arums. It is also primarily green in color and is very easy to overlook if you are not careful. This flower blooms in the springtime before the tree canopy in the forest is filled out with leaves, in order to take advantage of the abundant sunshine. I found this one (or rather, someone else in the group I was with) found it near the trail head on the Rock Run loop at Bernhiem. As most flowers that have a maroon color (see the underside of the spathe in this case) Jack is pollinated by insects such as beetles and flies.

Jack has an interesting way of changing with changing conditions in it's environment. It can actually change it's sex--producing pollen as a male when resources are tight, and accepting pollen and producing seed as a female when resources are more abundant.

Other interesting things about Jack-in-the-Pulpit is that it contains calcium oxalate crystals and will cause intense pain to the mouth if eaten. Reportedly, Native Americans used the dried root in many medicinal uses from headache to contraceptive. But this is only recommended for true professionals!

I got some of my information from: