Cottage Blooms

Cottage Blooms

Cottage blooms are part of the cottage feel…the escape from reality we all look forward too. When the city life is far away. we can relax and enjoy our gardens. Whether part of an organized garden with annuals and perennial plants bought from a local garden centre, or provided by Mother Nature, the beauty they give us is inspiring!

Cottage blooms show below are merely a small sampling of the variety found in the garden and the meadow around my cottage.  Norfolk County, Ontario has a wide variety of Carolinian wildflowers that brighten up the day.

cottage and beach 235

Buttercup wildflower

 

 

cottage and beach 196

 

 

cottage and beach 234

cottage blooms

 

 

 

even more nikon 320

 

 

Roadside garden with Yucca plant

Roadside garden with Yucca plant

Cottage blooms can also break up large expanses of otherwise boring spaces such as along roadsides where local clearance by-laws rule. Small planting of perennials such as this Yucca, combined with wildflower perennials such as the Purple Coneflower and annuals will provide a nice touch of colour while ensuring a garden that will not get too large and out of control.

 

panosonic 251

 

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

wild violet

This lovely yellow violet was found growing in mass between the Red Sycamore plants. Across my 1.8 acres there are many clumps of violets. Despite merely being 2 cm across, the flowers are dainty and delightful!

 

summer 004

Shasta Daisy from garden centre

 

 

summer 041

 

 

summer 059

 

 

summer 267

 

 

Whether planted or part of the randomness of nature, all blooms delight the eye and dazzle the senses. If you do not have a cottage, just take a drive through the countryside on warm ,sunny day and you won’t be disappointed.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy is a toxic plant that many campers, cottagers and rural gardeners are familiar with. I myself have been a victim of its rash and blisters and have become quite familiar with those leaflets three and so I do let them be. Only when I began to research Poison Ivy did I realize how little I did know and how far back people have been dealing with the consequences of coming in contact with this plant.

 

History of Poison Ivy

Originally rumored to have come from Europe, Poison Ivy has been in Americas for centuries. In fact, it was even documented as being observed first hand in Bermuda and the Americas by Captain John Smith in his publication Generall Histories of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles written in 1624. “The poysoned weed is much in shape like our English Ivy, but being but touched, causeth rednesse, itching, and lastly blisters, the which howsoever after a while passe away of themselves without further harme, yet because for the time they are somewhat painfull, it hath got itselfe an ill name, although questionlesse of no ill nature.”

Even in the 1784 First Volume called Memoirs of the American Society of Arts and Science mentioned a plant that “produced inflammations and eruptions”. They then went on to nickname the plant as “poison Ivy”. Since then there have been countless articles, research and trials attempting to control the spread of this toxic plant.

Poison Ivy Plant Classification

Poison Ivy as we know it to be called is really just one of many poisonous plants in the family of Anacardiaceae. In fact the cashew tree whose name forms the basis of this family does have toxic resins in the casing that surrounds the nut itself.

The English word for this family is derived from two Portuguese words which describe how the cashew nut grows… “ana” which means upward and “cardium” which means heart. Originally native to Northern Brazil, the Cashew was taken by the Portuguese to Goa in India around the year 1560-65 and now they are grown in parts of Africa and throughout Southeast Asia.

 

 

Cashew  Apples

Cashew Apples

The cashew nut is really a seed, whose casing, called a cashew apple, contains skin irritating chemicals, one of which is related to the oil;  Urishiol found in poison ivy. In fact, roasting does destroy the compound, but just as with poison ivy, the smoke contains the chemical and inhalation causes severe lung irritations.

Interestingly enough the mango, which is in the same family, has an urushiol oil based allergen that can also cause dermatitis and even anaphylaxis in in some people. The urushiol is present in the mango leaves, stems, skin and sap. Eating unripe, pickled or cooked fruit, the skin of the mango is edible but susceptible people may still get dermatitis of the lips, or the tongue. Generally ripe mangos should be peeled before consumption to avoid the oils. Despite this, further research has provided data stating the during the mango primary ripening season, it is the most common source of plant dermatitis in Hawaii.

Originally Poison Ivy was known as Rhus radicans;  part of a the genus Rhus which contains over 250 species of flowering plants including all varieties of sumacs, poison ivy, and poison oak. Research data has suggested that the Genus be split in to 6, based on redefined plant characteristics. In this case there would be only approximately 35 plants left in the Rhus genus.

Created from further botanical clarification, botanists generally accept the reclassification of Poison Oak, Poison Sumac and Poison Ivy in to the genus Toxicodendron, which is Greek for two words, meaning toxic and tree. All three of these plants contain some version of chemical compounds called pentadecylcatechols or PDC’s. Found in the clear sap of these three plants as well as other members of the Anacardiaceae or Cashew family worldwide, the PDC’s are generally referred to as urushiol.

This term was taken from the Japanese name for a tree there called Toxicodendron  vernicifluum. Despite the toxic chemicals there, the Japanese have used an oxidized form of the tree sap, to produce its famous finish for their lacquer ware.

Poison Ivy Range

This particular toxic plant ranges from Canada to the north down through the United States, areas of Mexico and in to South America. Poison Ivy may be found in these countries up to approximately 1,500 M (4,900 ft) but is extremely common along the edges of wooded areas, in open fields and other undisturbed areas.

While it is recognized as a creeping plant, it also grows bush like. Regardless of the style of growth, poison ivy is considered officially a noxious weed here in Ontario Canada and in the U.S. states of Minnesota and Michigan. Although some varieties  are shade tolerant, all forms of this poison plant prefer sun and in fact Poison Ivy was recently located at my favourite beach!

 

 

Beach-side Poison Ivy warning sign

Beach-side Poison Ivy warning sign

Poison Ivy Forms

Basking in the sun, this shrub form is merely one of the three ways this plant can be found. In fact, the shrub can grow one main stem with side branches, up to over 1 metre (3 ft) tall. Certainly as it is called ivy, given a good support pole, plant or tree, poison Ivy can grow taller than you can imagine. A good example, (Or bad) is the large mass of vines attached to a pine trees at my cottage by hair like brown aerial roots to a height of over 25metres (80 Feet). The last form is as a groundcover of 10-25 cm (4-10inches), as often seen in campgrounds and growing between other native plants along roadsides.

Trillium and poison ivy roadside

Trillium and poison ivy roadside

 

Description

 

Roots

The vine and bush plants have a rhizome root base. This allows the roots and new plants to spread from the subterranean nodes. The aerial roots attach themselves to the plant / object for support and nutrition.

Poison Ivy root runner

Poison Ivy root runner

 

Stems

Poison Ivy stems are woody and grey. On small plants the colour may not be as noticeable, but is definitely seen on bush and trees climbing forms. In fact, the wood on the vines of poison ivy that are climbing up the pine trees at my cottage have a dark grey to reddish tint. Their hair- like roots, which are reddish in colour are also poisonous to humans.

450px-Poison_ivy_vine

 

Leaves

Despite knowing the old saying” leaflets three, let it be”, there are other plants with similar three leaf configuration. Generally there is one leaf and the end and two below that which are side by side. They are normally 10-20 cm (2-4inches) in length, with toothed or lobed edges, although occasionally the edges can be smooth.

Of course when they are small, but still containing urushiol, they begin with two leaves only, so weeding in the front of a rural garden especially can be dangerous if gloves are not worn. In the spring, the new leaves are a reddish green colour, changing to deep green and then yellow, orange and red in the fall before dropping off.

 

 

Flowers

Despite having poison ivy in various locations at my cottage, I had not seen the flowers myself until recently when visiting my favourite beach. In full sun the shrub form had developed 2.5 to 7.5 cm (1-3inch) clusters of the small green flowers. The tiny 5 petal blooms are quite often hidden under the leaves themselves.

 

Poison Ivy flower

Poison Ivy flower

 

Fruit/seeds

Small flowers produce small seeds and these tiny white berries are round, hard and about 0.4 cm (1/8inch) that have ridges in them that make them appear to have segments like a peeled orange. Forming in the fall, the berries contain the seeds of the plant which are spread by the over 50 species of birds that eat them with no ill effects.

 

Poison Ivy Berries/seeds

Poison Ivy Berries/seeds

 

 

Toxicity

It is estimated that 85% of the population is sensitive to the urushiol toxin found in all parts of the poison ivy plant. Skin reactions range from a slight dermatitis called Rhus dermatitis, to blisters. These blisters result from blood vessels somehow developing gaps in response to the chemical in the oil and then fluid leaks through in to the skin.  The blister themselves do not contain the urushiol.  In severe cases these blister cause tissue damage and may need plastic surgery to repair. In extreme situations, anaphylaxis may occur.

If you believe you have bruised the plant and released the oil, wash the affected area immediately with soap and water. Rubbing alcohol will also remove the oil and now specific lotions are available at the drugstore. According to recent testing, there is a compound in crushed Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) that relieve the effects of recent contact with poison ivy in about 85% of people tested. Dermatologists recommend oatmeal baths and baking soda to relieve the itching and there are prescription cortisol based lotions for more severe cases.

Remember that all clothing and even tools need to washed down well in the same way, because the oil remains potent indefinitely and it will re-poison you.  Further risk comes from transfer by other animals and even of burning the plant. Dogs for example have some resistance due to their thick fur and the natural oils there, but can transfer it to their owners’ hands. Smoke from burning any and all parts of this plant contain the oils and can cause serious allergic reactions inside lungs of susceptible people.

Control

Controlling Poison Ivy is a challenge regardless of the affected area, because of its toxic oils. As a result, the number one thing to remember is to wear protective clothing. Cloth or leather gardening gloves are recommended over rubber as according to several sources, the urushiol is soluble in rubber. Even in the garden at the cottage I wear gloves as …surprise…poison ivy alert under the perennials!

 

Poison Ivy in my garden

Poison Ivy in my garden

 

If the poison ivy is a few plants, growing as ground cover, then carefully pulling them out with all the roots works. Then the plant needs to be discarded safely. I have a large plastic pail with a lid, and the smaller pieces go in there to die completely. After a month, once there is no sign of life, I dig a hole about one foot deep and bury them.

When poison ivy is growing on a larger scale, the task of control definitely becomes difficult. One suggestion for large mass plants is covering them over with tarps and soil so no light reaches these and they will die. Of course they need to remain covered for several years before it is safe to assume they are dead.

Shrub forms of poison ivy are very difficult to deal with. If the shrub is not too large, herbicide spray can be used. The newest generation of these sprays interfere in the plants photosynthesis when the leaves are saturated. It is important to wear protective gloves , face shield  and disposable gloves when using these products.

Controlling Poison Ivy is possible, however, even using herbicides that do not leach in to the soil, getting rid of it for good is highly unlikely. In addition, beware of home remedies that are dangerous, such as pouring salt or bleach all over them because the soil is then contaminated and the chemicals can leach in to the water table.

Summary

While contact with poison ivy can have toxic consequences, by wearing gloves in the rural gardens and watching vegetation you are walking through carefully you can minimize your risk. If you live in the country and have dogs, the chances are much higher you may contact it from their coats. In that case, having a knowledge of treatment including rubbing alcohol and lotions would be a good precaution.

 

 

 

Forests in Fall

Forests in Fall are amazing places and recently, I found myself them observing one up close and personal when walking through one of many local conservation areas near my cottage. The air was crisp, the sun quite warm, and there were countless birds chirping and flitting from tree to tree. While most of the forest floor was carpeted with thousands of dry, deciduous tree leaves  the air was frequently filled with the scent of pine from the tall white and red pine overhead.

 

 

Beneath the towering trees, while shuffling my feet through the leaves, I began to notice native plants still thriving despite the mid-November weather. In this area, zoned climate region 5A, with nights recently below -4 ? Celsius and current daytime temperatures this weekend up to 11?, it seems native plants are definitely heartier  than I realized.

Carolinian Forest Native Plants

There are many locations of Carolinian Forests in South Western Ontario. Previously I have written in detail of Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island (Pelee Island blog August 2012) as l provided information on other locations as well as plants that are native to this eco vegetation area. However, I had no idea of exactly how hardy these plants could be until I witnessed their vigorous state just today.

In fact forests in fall can contain a wide variety of plants still splendid in green. On my recent walk I noticed, a few Golden Rod plants in bloom, dandelions and even a milkweed pod just beginning to burst.

 

 

 

 

Most of the black, pin and giant oak trees as well as the poplar had shed their now brown leaves. The white, red, and scotch pines waved their deep green needles back and forth in the wind, while sending a small cascade of dry needles and pinecones to the ground below.

fallen pine needles

fallen pine needles

 

Also helping these needles and their cones fall to the ground also were a wide variety of aviary creatures…birds of all sizes and colours. In fact, there were many tiny sparrows and chickadees flying from branch to branch with such speed that glances were a treat and photos were almost an impossibility!

Thankfully the native plants below were just waving in the wind, waiting to be noticed. Throughout the mounds of brown crunchy leaves in this primarily oak forest, there were native ferns with deep, rich, healthy green frons. Occasionally there were the tiny, green lobbed leaves of the Hepatica Americana plant, sticking out from the sloped banks above the walking trails that extended many kilometres through this county park.

Native Americana Hepatica

native fern in November

 

 

Nature in Harmony

Nature works in harmony with itself, when man does not interfere, which is evident as see by trees, helping everything for purifying the air to providing homes and food for living things of all sizes.

Hearty plants are aided by natural windbreaks and mulch. Full evergreens change the flow of cool winds that blow through all forests in fall by diverting it around the trunks directly and through the branches and needles as well.  Deciduous tree also diver the strong breezes as some of them in this conservation area where I walked, are up to three meters around.

On the ground, below these trees, the thick leave layer provides insulation to plants there like a multilayered blanket. This layer also provides a moisture barrier for worms and other insects as well, as countless bacteria and fungi that do most of the work in breaking down the organic matter of forests in fall.

Soil microorganisms mineralize or chemically convert organic compounds in to simpler forms, once the fungus family have begun the process of what is known as mineralization. Mineralisation is the biological process in which organic compounds are chemically converted to other simpler organic compounds or inorganic forms, such as carbon, ammonium or phosphate,  which are basic elements required for plant growth.

Mushrooms and toadstools

Regardless of the time of year, woodlands have trees and plant life in various stages of decomposition.  In fact, my walk through the Backus Conservation Area forests in the fall, revealed logs rotting away everywhere. These natural sources of compost eventually break down completely and add to the soil levels of the forest floor.

Before that happens, the breakdown delivers nutrients to local plants through the surrounding soil as well as to the parasitic plant forms that grown on the decaying wood. Many varieties of mushroom and other fungi were thriving well in the in the grown in the damp, shady areas on the forest floor, despite the colder November temperatures. On my walk I found many such life forms whose colour and variety were amazing.

 

 

 

After further investigation, I discovered that toadstools are not an official plant genus or species, but are part of the Kingdom of Fungi. As with all Kingdoms, this one has many Family, Genus and Species, which include mushrooms, mold, yeast, lichen, rust and truffles.

Fungi Kingdom

Forests in the fall contain many fine examples of this Kingdom as I witnessed firsthand on my walk. There were mushrooms that grew directly out of the rotting wood while others had stems. In addition to the interesting shapes the colour range was amazing as I noticed green scaly mushrooms and large almost flowery looking orange ones that looked like some alien flower species.

 

 

These wildly coloured and unusually shaped living things where but the tip of a huge subject that now intrigues me. In fact, off I go to research the fascinating subject of Fungi. After all, Mother nature’s gardens are certainly inspiring…especially forests in fall!

Autumn the Colourful Equinox

Autumn the Colourful Equinox

Autumn is a wonderfully colourful time of year that is enjoyed by gardeners and non-gardeners alike. From the tall stands of drying grasses, to the late blooming perennials, there are subtle earth tones to the bright and bold shades. Certainly in Ontario, Canada where I call home, even the trees shout out their presence.  Each limb is full of coloured leaves that put on quite a show before they drop to the ground, hence the term fall.

Recently, watching the neighbours piling theirs along the curb to be sucked up and taken away, I was wondering about the countless others who were doing the same, or merely admiring the colours of fall. Either way we all know that colder weather is coming. For gardeners the temperature change also means it is time to put the gardens to rest with winter protection of some sort.

 

 

What to do with all those leaves?

Speaking for myself, I leave my leaves alone.  Of course with seven tall evergreens on my property, only the wind delivers them from the gardens around me. In fact if I rake at all, it is to put a layer on my garden with evergreen boughs on top to hold the leaves in place for additional protection. Despite this being my ritual, gardening sources present two different viewpoints about using leaves for winter garden protection.

 

Some believe any disease on the leaves will transfer to the soil and plants that will grow there in the spring, while others believe they will help provide a more even temperature throughout the winter and keep   strong winter winds from drying out the soil. The one thing both schools of thought share is that oak leaves break down very slowly and are best left off gardens and out of any compost pile.

 

Compost

 

 

Speaking of mulch, I think it is very nice of my neighbours to rake up their leaves nicely, for me to mulch. I do not compost them but neatly transfer those soggy leaves in to green garbage bags and put them on my back patio in a sunny spot. Quite by accident (or should I say laziness) I left several bags over the winter until early summer and discovered they had mulched quite nicely. The sun’s rays and the dark plastic helped the damp leaves form lovely rich compost.

 

What a gorgeous view!

Putting all uses aside, today seeing trees full of coloured leaves, the yellows through to red shades, mixed with each other, certainly made me wonder why and how they change to such magnificent shades. Again, I resorted to my gardening books and the internet to find the facts I probably learned many years ago in school and have since forgotten. Fall splendor is nothing more than good, old fashioned chemistry, whether here or on the other side of the world. Yes, the Northern Hemisphere worldwide gets to share in the lovely Fall or Autumn leaf colour changes from September through to late November.

 

 

Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a term most of us learned in school, from the Greek words  “photo” or light and “synthesis “which means putting together. This process, describes how most plants and trees make food for themselves. Like many other scientific processes, it is complicated when studied in depth, but has quite a simple explanation. Water in by the roots,  plus Carbon Dioxide from our air are the basics need for sunlight  and the green chlorophyll in leaves , to form two major compounds.

 

The first is oxygen which is given off and purifies the air around us, and the second is Glucose. Yes my dear, leaves produce glucose for immediate use as energy and some is stored for later use. Of course unlike in humans, the storage is beneficial and does not increase pants size or cause health issues.

 

Instead the stores are used once the September equinox arrives and the weather changes. While temperature is a factor in slowing photosynthesis, the decreased amount of UV in the suns rays shuts off the green chlorophylls food making ability. Then the stored glucose which is trapped in the leaves begins to turn red. Also now visible are orange carotenes and yellow xanthophylls which were hidden by the green.

 

Colour guide

Certainly leaf colour cannot by itself be a guide to trees but if you are looking for a tree that produces a specific colour palette in the fall, here is a general guideline. Of course checking with a local nursery would certainly help or finding a good sourcebook or on line.

Red Leaf colour

Red Maple trees are known to produce the brightest red leaves, as does the shrub called the Burning Bush.  Additionally a few other maples  including Japanese,  turn a lovely shade of red, as do some oaks such as Red, Pin and Scarlet, Dogwood, Sassafras and Sweetgum to name a few. Let’s not forget the Japanese maple!

 

Sumac changing colour

Yellow and orange Leaf colour

Some of the trees known for yellow and orange leaves are Hickory, Ash, and some Maples, Poplar, Tulip Tree, White Oak, a number of Japanese Maples and Chestnut. Also some Sassafras, Sweetgum, Beech, Birch and Sycamore foliage changes to lovely golden hues tones between the yellow and orange shades.

 

Maple in Transition

 

Season Science

Gardeners always find something to do each season and as we are not weather persons, I will not try and be one now. However, not until the digging bug better known as curiosity, picked at my brain again, did I really think  how Geography of about Equinox, Hemispheres and latitude.

Equinox

Equinox from Latin “aequus” or equal and “nox” which is night is the day in September when the Northern Hemisphere, or half of the Earth, has equal hours of day and night. As the planet we call home, shifts while it spins, we in the northern side get tilted back from the sun’s rays while the south moves forward for more. This means the Southern Hemisphere is planning and planting their vegetable gardens while we are putting ours to sleep.

 

Equinox

 

 

Hemispheres

Hemisphere comes from two very long Ancient Greek words that translate to mean “half of a sphere. Here on the earth using latitude or longitude (north to south division) there are four map based hemispheres.  The North-South the division is the equator and East-West the dividing line is the prime meridian

 

Northern Hemisphere

 

 

Latitude Travels

Combining fall experiences from across the world would be interesting but staggering by volume. Instead, I remembered my globe and decided to follow the approximate latitude of Ontario, Canada to find out what Fall looks like around the world. Latitude is the system of parallel lines that are used to mark a position on the planet, from east to west with the Equator being Zero degrees and the North or South Pole being Ninety degrees.

 

Latitude

 

WWF- World Wide Fall

Fall comes to most of the world but not all at once. In the Northern Hemisphere, September, October and November are considered fall, which is the hottest time for the Southern Hemisphere.  Then during March, April and May when the northern half of the planet is beginning its growing season, people in the south experience Fall.While there is some variation across the globe, East to West and closest to the Equator, almost every continent experiences seasonal foliage colour changes, as the temperature drops and sunlight diminishes.

Using my finger as a pointer, I traced my way through countries from west to east, writing their names on a list as I circled the earth. Then I began digging through my photographs and the wonderful world of Wikepedia , leaving you with the inspirational colours of to leave  you  with an inspirational tour of Autumn around the world!

 

 

Mt Tremblant, Quebec, Canada

country lane Great Britain

autumn in La Rioja Spain

Cacak Serbia

Great Wall of China

Kyoto Japan

Alberta’s Larch trees in Fall

Plant Family Classification

Recently I have been busy researching and writing all manner of plant related areas and have developed a new realization of how plants are connected from the past to the present, and from one part of the world to another, just as we are. Until now, it never occurred to me that the mums on my porch are possible direct descendants of one, on another porch, in another country long ago or that someone in a distant country may be watering their own pot of mums.

 

 Certainly being inspired by my garden has led me on some unexpected paths. Even in reading about many of the common plants I have written about, the Asteraceace family keeps popping up. With my curiosity peaked, I began to look at the connections between plants and have discovered the scientific classification of all living things. While we humans are on another branch… all life on this planet is a part of the tree!

Perhaps my condensed version of plant classification will interest you to read on and provide you with a basic understanding of plant names you see printed everywhere.

 Classification

Taxonomy, from the Greek words “taxis” or arrangement and “nomia” which means method, is the name given to the academic method of classifying all living things. This method groups organisms that share characteristics and gives each group a name. Then the scientific community has placed these groups in a hierarchy based on their order of importance, which shows where that group fits in the big picture.

The biological classification is very complicated once you delve in to it, but on a simple level it gives the relative connection between organisms or plants. To do this, it uses taxonomic ranks, including, among others (in order from most inclusive to least inclusive): Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. Living things are classified into five kingdoms that are Prokarya, Animalia, Plantae, Fungi and Protoctista. Of course we are far down the Animalia branch, just as the plants in our gardens are down in the Plantae branch, but today I am checking out plant classification while leaving the humans being…

 

 

 

 

Read more at Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/classification-of-living-things.html

Plant classification beginnings

 

Aristotle to Pliny the Elder:

Historical records reveal that early forms of organism classification begin with Aristotle (Greece, 384-322 BC) who began some of the first recorded plant studies. One of his students named Theophrastus (Greece, 370-285 BC) continued the work and wrote a publication classifying 480 plants including Crocus and Narcissus which are still used today. Pliny the Elder (Rome, 23-79 AD) wrote a 160-volume work which described a large number of plants even giving some Latin binomial names.

 

 Pre-Linnaean plant taxonomists:

While many learned scientist worked on plants worldwide, I found that records stated that no significant taxonomic works replaced the ancient texts for approximately 1500 years as the visual and physical means were exhausted. With the development of the early optical systems such as magnifying glasses and microscopes, classification began in earnest again, as the structure of organisms could be studied in detail.

 

early compound light microscope

 

 

Globally the botanists and other scientists worked on studying plants and classifying them. I could find no females listed although I am certain they did exist. Instead, I have included only a sampling of the male botanists who impacted the taxonomy of plants through the years.

Andrea Cesalpino ( Italy, 1519–1603),  wrote a book  that described over 1500 plant species, including two large plant families Asteraceae and Brassicaceae which are still in use today.

 

 

 

 

 John Ray (England, 1627–1705) wrote a large number of significant taxonomic works with information and classifications of over 18,000 plant species.

Gaspard Bauhine (Switzerland 1560 m-16624)in his work Pinax, proposed two name classification of over 6000 plants.

In the same time frame, the next major taxonomic works were produced by  Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (France, 1656–1708), which included over 9000 species in 698 genera. History states that these works specifically influenced one young student Swedish student named Carolus Linneaus.

 The Linnaean era:

Carolus Linnaeus( 1707-1778) became a botanist who led the field on plant classifying. He published major works and fully put in to place the binomial naming system that had begun with his predecessors.

 

Many of his works, including the largest publications Species Plantarum ( The Species of Plants 1753) and Systema Naturae were translated to English making them more accessible to the scientific world. In fact, Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, translated many of Linnaeus’s published works. Even today, before naming a new plant discovery, Linnaeus’s work is used as the reference point to ensure any name chosen for it, has not been previously used.

The Binomial System:

Based on the largest system of plant identification groups, plant tags in nursery pots would need to be huge! Certainly each plant belongs to a Family, whose name always ends in “aceae”. All members of a particular family share certain groups of characteristics that are not found in other families.

For example, looking up Family names such as – Rosaceae (rose family) or Liliaceae (lily family) provide information and understanding of all the plants in that family. Examples of this information would include data on the plants requirements to grow, the physical characteristics, seed information and more found below the family classification, comes the two levels that make up what is known as the Binomial System.

Whether aware of it or not, most gardeners worldwide are  familiar with the Binomial System as commonly displayed on nursery stock plant tags .Until I looked in to classifications, I knew of Genus and Species,  but generally referred to plants by what is their “common name”. The biggest drawback here is that there are many common names for any one plant. According to one article I read, the White Lily and marsh marigold both have over 200 common names.

Thankfully, the scientific community uses the more precise Binomial system in naming of a plant and for further understanding of the characteristics of the group that plant is classed in. While this system was introduced by several men, it was to Carolus Linneaus who is credited with permanently ensuring the advancement of this system. Expressed in Latin, the twodivsions are the genus and the species.

 

 

Genus:

Each plant family is further divided in to groups of plants that are more closely related, with from one genus to as many as 950 genera (plural). The first part of the binomial system is the genus and it always starts with a capital letter.

 

Species:

Each genus is further subdivided into species. This is the second word in a plant’s botanical name and begins with lower-case letters. Most genera contain two or more species that share most characteristics and reproduce by seed with minor variations. In addition members of a species do not usually interbreed successfully with members of a different species. Species names begin with lower-case letters.

 

Genus and Species name selections:

There are many ways these names were determined, including choosing a name to honour the person who discovered the plants, a famous person they admire or even the country the plant originated from. One good everyday example of this is the Coffee Plant. The official genus name  comes from one aspect of the plant…its use as a beverage….so it is named after Coffea, the Latinized form of the Arabic word for beverage. The species name of Arabica, was given as the plant was thought to have originated in Arabia. So now anywhere in the word you see a plant with the botanical name, Coffea Arabica, you would find the same unique plant.

 

Coffea arabica

 

For the scientific community these classifications ensure that any further identification and research across the world, is connected and all information shared applies to the same plant no matter where it is located. Still plant classification can be difficult as some species in nature closely resemble another, there is interbreeding that produces subspecies and hybrids even in the wild.

 

Subspecies, Variety:

If there is a third word, or short form such as subsp, ssp., or var., in a plants botanical name, that indicates a subspecies or variety.  While these terms are not interchangeable to a botanist, to regular people it means the plant has most characteristics of their species with a slight difference such as in flower color or leaf size. These plants can interbreed to form fertile seeds that will grow in to identical plants.

 

Cultivar: (horticultural variety or clone)

A cultivar is a plant or group of plants propagated by careful breeding for some desirable characteristic. Their name is usually the genus name with the species, followed by the cultivar name in quotation marks.  One example we see regularly are popular ornamental garden plants like roses ,camellias, daffodils, and azaleas where cultivars are deliberately bred for colour and form .Even the vast majority of the world’s food has been cultivated and selected for resistance to disease, improved yields and flavours.

 

Hybrid:

This is a distinct plant resulting from a cross between two species, subspecies, varieties, cultivars, strains – or any combination as well as between two plants belonging to different genera. While some hybridization can occur in the wild, usually it is done deliberately by horticulturalists trying for an effect, such as those trying to hybridize African Violets that produce a blue flower. Unfortunately often hybrids cannot produce fertile seeds or if seeds are produced they grow the stronger strain or plant used. Once I had an odd annual hybrid plant thet was a lime green instead of its usual white and the plants began to revert even before seeds were produced.

Strain:

Many popular annuals and some perennials are sold as strains that are usually the result of breeding and deliberate selection for a certain characteristic like height or flower colour. Again those characteristics can easily disappear in the next generation of the plant, especially if left to pollinate naturally.

http://theseedsite.co.uk/families.html

From the plant world’s point of view classification has gone from B.C. era where studying was done by sight, scent and physical characteristics to DNA studies which are used in Genetically Modifying plants. But, as far as gardeners are concerned whether it be annual, perennials, vegetables or trees and shrubs, how they adorn out gardens and life our spirits is the most important thing.

From garden centres and green house, plants come in all shapes and sizes no matter where in the world we are. The tags generally contain information on each one, certainly the genus and species name, which has more history and information attached to them than we realized. Now when I buy a plant I can almost imagine someone in their country garden on the other side of the world… reading the same plant’s tag !

 

Poison Ivy Spreading on Pelee Island

Poison Ivy spreading on Pelee island came as quite a shock to me! Poison ivy is not new to rural gardeners  and has been the subject of many an information search. This noxious weed has even been  mentioned in a few of my past blogs and  found intermittently in my cottage garden,so it certainly should come as no surprise that I have witnessed first hand that it can indeed spread widely! Still, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that even on vacation I would find it… on an island!

Yes, I have currently visited Pelee Island and there the, rash inducing vine was  just waiting for me!  I was walking along enjoying the beautiful island scenery on a lovely sunny day, unaware of what lay below! Walking between the stones in the older section of the island’s cemetery, I saw one particular head stone had fallen over and a weed sticking out between the pieces. Thinking of respectfully clearing it away, I reached down only to catch myself in time to avoid touching the three leaves!

Point Ivy rest in Peace

 

After recovering from that surprise, I scanned other areas of the cemetery and noticed the Poison Ivy spreading to the point of taking over a family plot. Then of course there was more! Several trees had it climbing up their bark, it was growing in the sand and on the path at Fish Point Park…Canada’s most southerly point and it was on almost every walking trail! 

Poison Ivy spreading on Pelee Island

Now I was careful to walk, as the Buddhists would say, with mindfulness! My eyes were peeled to the ground around me as I walked in sandal-ed feet. Despite this green plaque, I did have a lovely time and would recommend visiting Pelee. On the horticulture front, there was an unusual site…that of some strange disease that left red bumps on the leaves of the poison Ivy. Could this be our salvation?

 

Poison Ivy with disease

 Poison Ivy Spreading on Pelee Island

I have decided that while there are many things that kill the toxic weeds in small patches, killing in large scale requires a great deal of work. What is not apparent with all sprays, blocking and cutting controls methods is the HUGE amount of patience and dedication required by the murderer ( alias the gardener)!

Surely if birds or contaminated soil brought the seeds to this island, how do we stand a chance against Poison Ivy spreading ? In fact, whether here in Ontario or our neighbours to the South, it seems the berries from poison ivy are an attractive food to a wide variety of birds .According  other sites I have read, over 50 species of birds are known to eat the small white round berries.

After further reading, I have come to realize that despite my personal run-ins with poison ivy, the rash, blisters and swelling, it is just another weed that can be controlled with lots of work. The biggest surprise was how interesting the information was on this particular plant is.

Many sites provide good information on how the birds transport the seeds. Stating that the non-digestible seeds are, passed out in to the soil and fertilized by the very birds that ate them, certainly explains the plants spread. I assume then, as Pelee Island and the surrounding area is on a major migratory route and home to vast varieties of birds, finding this Poison Ivy spreaad to an island shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Poison Ivy Friend

 

In fact the extent of this particular poisonous plant is from parts of Mexico in the south, in to the northern parts of Canada. Details provided in my searching say the plants can grow in most types of soil, from pH 6.0 to 7.9 (slightly acidic to slightly basic) and can tolerate moderate shade to full sun. Wow, it certainly is resilient!

One natural factor against the plant is high altitude as provided by the Rocky Mountains. The thinner air above 4000 feet seems to stifle these plants and to provide a physical barrier in both Canada and the U.S.A, with Poison Ivy on the east and poison Sumac in the west. Certainly nature does what it wants and like all perennial weeds, poison Ivy is determined to spread unless we work on controlling it.

Control and elimination are something that plaques many of us, especially if we have suffered with the rash, blisters and pain left by the urushiol from all parts of this plant .Yet, to the Japanese this oily compound is highly valued  as a finish  used  since the 16th century as the finish on their Lacquerware. The process they use is quite fascinating, but the source there is an urushi tree (Rhus vernicifera) which is becoming rare. At least with a tree, other trees would be safe from the clinging vine that eventually can strangle them and walking trails would be safer.

Despite any risk in my hiking on Pelee Island, the views and people there were lovely and I would recommend the ferry ride as well. From the most southern point of Canada, looking across the vast expanse of the sand point and the water beyond, the poison ivy spread  on Pelee Island was forgotten…and inspiration was supreme!

 

Pelee Island Fish Point Park

 

 

Other sources of information:

www.ontariotrees.com

 

www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weedguide

 

Enhanced Species: Poison Ivy

 

www.stutler.cc/pens/wajima/urushi.html

 

Water Flora

Water flora was not a subject I had considered until recently. After writing the article about vertical planting, I felt motivated to explore more aspects of the world than my everyday locations. From our regular routes along streets whether on foot, by bike or car, we see the commercial and official faces of business and homes, so my goal was to find something unique like water flora.

Part of the unique or unusual is just finding what makes me feel good, even though it might hold no interest for anyone else. To capture this feeling, I took a lovely floating trip on a local river. Besides enjoying the shallow but cooling water I got to see so much life. In the kayak, not only do I get to see water flora and nature relatively undisturbed, but I get to peek into people’s backyards. I will admit, that my undercover stealth work started years ago and I still love it!

 

When my mother, sister and I went to the East coast every summer, we took many trains that wound their way through secret spots behind houses. Being an avid gardener even by age 11, I appreciated looking at gardens normally never seen. There were mounds of rusting old cars and boats, with an occasional pond or fountain that would fascinate me! 

As a teenager, I began to notice green house, scarecrows, sunflowers, veggies and all sorts of growing things. Now, years later, my snooping involves GO trains and floating by in my kayak admiring the  back yard gardens of huge homes. 

Such riverfront backyards show a personal side of the families that live here, as children’s playhouses, lawn chairs, old docks and boats of all shapes and sizes come and go.  There are also lovely, tiered gardens, tennis courts and broad expanses of beautiful green lawns.

 

Certainly as I drift by in my kayak, these lovely landscaped yards filled with blooming annuals and perennials are a lovely treat. Combined with the splendour of tall flowing willow trees, bobbing wildflowers and, interesting wildlife, my voyages are always memorable. Of course, Mother Nature providing the best water flora of all!

wild Forget-me-nots

 

lovely water flora

lovely water flora

 

 

 

 

 

For me, not many things are cooler than paddling around a bend, listening only to the wind, and discovering new blooms and birds. Certainly some of the wildflowers are not new to me and some normal garden perennials are even in the tall blowing grass of abandoned spaces all along the river.

Not to be outdone are the occasional wild iris and other aquatic plants found peaking their blooms up from the water’s edge. Once I even saw a raccoon washing his lunch. Everywhere I look there are swooping birds looking for a fish snack and big birds that just stand and scoop, like the White Egret and the Blue Heron. There are also Canadian geese, ducks galore and swans bobbing up and down the river and even out in to Lake Ontario.

White Egret and Blue Heron

 

Not to be outdone by a bird, I decided to add a new page to my memories and brave the waters of Lake Ontario. After braving waves galore on my way out of the harbour, my arms seemed to find the pace needed to glide the kayak out past the freighter break wall to wide open water. Wow, what a view…all around and even below!

 

Kayak voyage

 

 

Yes, below when the sun shone, was an underwater garden or amazing water flora. The clear water below was home to lovely greenery growing on the rocks, tall plants beyond that and fish smoothly swishing between them. From my viewpoint both the fish and the lovely green vegetation were magnified by the water to look larger than life.

 Water Flora in Port Credit Harbour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Regardless of their size and whether I have any idea of the species of life in the aquatic garden, as the picture shows, they are amazing! In fact I was so enthralled at aquatic landscaping that I checked the net for further information, and to my amazement, the term I thought was my idea, is in fact a real subject with countless websites.

Below is one listing that has a great deal of information and many photos that shows the setting up and progress of underwater or aquatic gardens’.

www.aquatic-gardeners.org

 

Another interesting site is:www.tfhmagazine.com. On this site, in the search box type aquatic gardening and the first result found, aquatic gardening nano bears further reading. Here you can learn about plants and whether the tank should be left only for the plants or include fish.

At the moment, I am leaving water flora of gardening until I have the time and space. Who knows, what the future brings, as lunar landscaping is certainly out of my range, maybe aquatic gardening with amazing water flora would be a whole new world…do plants live longer when they don’t need a garden hose to water them?

 

Spring’s bloom

 Springs’s Bloom

Perennial Daffodil

 

Inspiration can come to us from many things with results we may least expect out of the clear blue sky! Who knew this would happen for me recently when my garden’s rising shoots were the beginning of a new plant and a new idea that had never crossed my mind. While gardening guru I am not, certainly I have lots of experience in the field, in weeding lawns, gardens and wondering what that funny coloured bug was. As I type even now the question pops up… what words of wisdom could I share?

Wisdom, learning and sharing garden thoughts, joys and failures, certainly connects us and often makes us see the world from a brighter place. If nothing else it can make us look outside of ourselves, breathe a little deeper and relieve stress even for just a short while!

Spring’s bloom is a time to enjoy nature’s beginning without worry. After all, do plants stress about wearing the season’s latest styles, or if their blooms are big enough? No they just grow and provide pleasure for us and food for assorted bugs and often provide the inspiration needed for us to start our very own growth.

While seeing buds bloom and shoots grow might not be what inspires some to branch out, for some reason it was the muse I needed for a new start. Whether my blog takes off in any way to be as lovely as a flower is yet to be seen, but certainly it is my hope.

 

 

Trillium welcomes Spring

 

So far it may seem like yet another site, but I hope to peak your interest of gardens and nature with pictures, facts, hints and inspirations…all with a sense of fun! Certainly most of us can all use more fun in our stress filled lives and as we dream, plan and work in our lives and gardens. In fact, where would we be without all those parts of our lives…how could we bloom where we are planted, to quote an old saying.

Speaking of blooms, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are up and ready to burst! Despite the unusual weather…from shorts in March and early April to parkas the next day, the poor defenceless plants and bulbs have survived! In fact, with the last of the snowflakes finally leaving us this week and the sun’s warming rays, there is a glorious crop of spring flowers along city streets and country roads and in awakening fields.

Spring’s bloom in the field of my country estate has tiny violets and other wild flowers coming to life. As I write this looking out over my garden, masses of deep purple and red tulips are just waiting for a bright sunny day or two to open. Okay, 1.8 acres does not an estate make, and the Ottawa Tulip Festival has nothing to worry about, but my tulips are lovely as you can judge for yourself.

Remember, there are flowers everywhere….just keep your eyes open…and enjoy!