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Native Plants of South Florida Free Online Course 2.0

Open to Anyone,  Starting 4/1,  Register now

By John Bradford and George Rogers (bios and creds on class web site)

16 Weekly Lessons April 1 – mid July 2017

Class web site www.nativeplantclass.weebly.com      Read lesson 1 before you register.

Successful participants receive a certificate (not college credit) from the PBSC Horticulture Dept.

The facts:

Registration deadline:  March 26 midnight or whenever class fills at 12 registrants.

This ungraded class is for learning and fun.   Yet is serious adult education taught at the level of a college course.  Please do not waste a spot if you are not serious about compliance with instructions or completion.

All participants begin the same week in early April and end roughly 16 weeks later, working at essentially the same pace, allowing for reasonable contingencies.  We regard three missed weekly deadlines as the limit.

We reserve the right to discontinue anyone for any reason (not keeping up, offensive behavior, not owning the book, not following instructions).

Maximum enrollment = 12.  Minimum = 7.  A pair of persons working together can be a single registration.

First come first served.  Register by e-mailing rogersg@palmbeachstate.edu with name, phone, and e-mail address.  You will receive a confirmation.    At that point order the book as noted below.   We may require proof of book ownership.

The class is centered in PB and Martin counties.

The class entails:

Reading lesson 1 BEFORE registering.

Studying 16 on-line lessons over 16 weeks.

Taking about 6 field trips (more if you wish) on your own with a companion of your choice to examples of habitat types (an extensive list is provided).

A weekly quiz and two computer-graded on-line exams.  The class is not graded, but the feedback is useful to you and to us.

A series of photo collections you submit for instructor feedback.

One guided field trip with John and George at the Kiplinger Natural Area in Stuart. (If unable to attend you may still take the class.)

Purchase our field guide at blurb.com. Use their search function to find Guide to the Native Plants of Florida’s Treasure Coast.   Buy any version of it, including the inexpensive e-book.    The revenue supports our native grasses web site www.floridagrasses.org.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

What does the Leptospron flower have in common with 6 AM?

(It’s twirly) (too early)

Leptospron adenanthum

Fabaceae, pea family

Although John and I have an early field trip planned for tomorrow  (Friday), the rest of the day and evening will be unavailable for blog writing, so jumping the gun a day early..   A couple “new” non-native weeds, both  with a twist,  have popped up hereabouts in Jupiter, Florida.

Fourspike heliotrope (Euploca procumbens) invading from  the American Tropics is perhaps welcomed northward by Global Warming?   A  coiled inflorescence helps with recognition of this and other heliotropes.

 

Twisted weed Euploca procumbens.  Compare its snail shell flower cluster on the left with the keel tip below.

Possessing its own much smaller coil, literally growing alongside the Heliotrope, is Leptospron adenanthum, which is one of several snail-flowered legumes.

Leptospron with foliage

Leptospron flower and foliage,

We could call them “corkscrew vines” or “snail flower vines,” as we could some other legume species, because they have curling in the flower reminiscent of a snail shell.  Several not-closely-related members of the Pea and Bean Family  do  the twist,  three of them lookalike garden flowers distinguished in the notes below. Any of these “snail flower vines”  encountered in Florida are escapes from ornamental horticulture or conceivably from cultivation as fodder.   They are in different genera, which begs the question, “why do distantly related species all evolve independently the same weird contortions?”   There must be something useful to it, some common benefit.  Convergent evolution.

Dangling from tree branches in South Florida, including Cypress Creek Natural Area in Jupiter,  is Leptospron adenanthum, an example of how Mother Nature can take an old groundplan and give it a new twist.   We need to understand the straight basic structure of a pea-type flower as a staring point. Then we’ll put a new spin on it.

Legume Flower

Standard untwisted pea or bean flower.  Be sure to find he banner, wings, and keel.

In most pea-type flowers there are 5 petals:  a banner petal behind the rest of the flower like a photographer’s backdrop;  two wing petals reaching out on either side like stubby arms; and a central keel made of two petals pressed face-to-face to form a single envelope.  The keel resembles a very narrow boat sealed on three sides and open or partly so at the top.    The pollen-making anthers and pollen-receiving stigma lie hidden within the keel where visiting insects land.  The visitor’s weight pushes the keel down, allowing the anthers and stigma to pop up via the open top and touch the underside of the insect.

 

Leptospron adenanthemum close in 1

Leptospron.   The left (as we see it) wing is the landing platform with white lines pointing to the yellow  coiled keel tip.   Just to the right of the  coiled keel tip is additional yellow on the banner.   The large white arch is the lower region of the keel.   The righthand wing is out of the way.

 

Leptospron style

Keel isolated

Leptospron turns the beat around  You have all these petals, but in  novel and complex arrangements with altered functions.  The biggest alteration is to the keel.  It becomes long,  tubular, curled, and coiled.  The keel curls in its lower half to form an arched doorway covering the passageway into the flower.  Then it goes through multiple corkscrew twists toward the tip, there resembling a small snail shell.  The coiled shell is positioned near the central base of the entranceway,  has a yellow tip presumably attractive to a bee, and has emerging from the tip the stigma and anthers, the sexual business parts of the flower.

leptopron diagram dark background lt border

The banner  has a yellowish spot near its base along the same line of sight as the all-critical yellow keel tip.  The two yellowish spots team up to make an emphatic double bull’s eye—bee aim here!

One wing petal takes over as landing platform, leading compellingly to the dual yellowish spots.    This all guides the right bee into receiving and delivering pollen with precision.

To be annoyingly redundant, the  odd modifications include:

  1. Having a wing become the landing platform with nectar guides into the flower
  2. Having the keel arch up over the top of the entrance giving rigidity and definition to the approach. (And maybe the bee’s contact with the arch helps with pollen placement or release.)
  3. Having the distal keel portion coiled to place and pick up pollen surgically at its tip.
  4. Having the banner offer yellowish reinforcement to the small yellow zone on the keel tip.

Night is odd too.   The entrance closes.   The wing petal not serving as the main landing platform (on our right viewing the flower)  folds upward and blocks the arch entranceway. The wing petal (on our left) serving by day as the landing platform seems to rise and push itself against the flat face of the coiled keel tip, hiding its yellow marking, and blocking access.   The flower is closed for business!

 

Leptospron night

Night.  The righthand wing has folded up to block the flower entrance.  The lefthand wing rests against the flat face of the keel  coil, blocking access to it.  

Leptospron pods

Sickle-shaped flat pods.

 

The End

————————————————————————

Notes for over-achievers.

A few  details beyond the main story.   Botanists have suggested the ultra-long keel may filter out “wrong” pollen.  To achieve sperm delivery a pollen grain on the stigma must produce a threadlike pollen tube that grows a microscopic thread, the pollen tube, down through the style to deliver sperm to the eggs in the immature seeds.  Pollen tube, style, and keel are all the same length. Only the correct pollen tubes can go the extra distance.  Those from other species come up short and thus fail to mis-fertilize the eggs..

Tthe anthers and stigma juxtaposed in that tight curling keel risk pollen transfer from anther to stigma within the keel.  But no worries.   Leptospron has a membrane protecting the stigma.    Probably an aggressive bee breaks the membrane.

*Three showy legumes with similar “snail” flowers.  These resemble each other and are mututally confused.  The guide below might help.   As far as I’m concerned, English names for any of them are almost worthless.

Cochlisanthus caracalla (Vigna caracalla, Phaseolus caracalla)

Whole flower twisted or wavy, and the buds twisted (vs. buds straight in the others)

Flowers numerous in dangling clusters (vs. flowers few or one)

Pod resembles green bean (vs. flat)

There is a detailed study of tis species in Ann Bot. 2008 102(3): 305–316.

 

Leptospron adenanthum (Vigna adenantha)

Buds not twisted (vs. twisted in Cochlisanthus)

Flowers few or just one per cluster (vs numerous in Cochlisanthus)

Keel with about 3 full twists (vs. merely looped into nearly a circle in Sigmoidotropis)

Fruit flat and uniquely C-shaped, much broader than that of Sigmoidotropis

 

Sigmoidotropis speciosa  (may be sold as Phaseolus giganteus)

(Often called “Giant Snail Bean)

Flowers few

Keel looped nearly into a circle (not with multiple corkscrew twists as in Leptospron and Cochlisanthus)

Fruit flat, long, narrow, straight, the halves twisting upon opening (much longer and narrower than in Leptospron)

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2017 in Leptospron, Uncategorized

 

Scrub Hickory and its Inner Phylloxerans

Carya floridana

Juglandaceae

carya-floridana-8

Small Scrub Hickory.  All photos today by John Bradford.

Today John and I botanized  a local coastal hammock remnant, Maggy’s Hammock (aka Rocky Point Hammock)  near Stuart, Florida,  species galore in a square mile.   As tempting as it is to start listing, we better pick one species and stick to it.    The alpha trees are Florida hickories, some with trunks, oh say, a yard in diameter.   Florida hickory is well named, being restricted to Florida, living in high dry  habitats.

They are in full bloom today, although their wind-pollinated flowers are not showy.  The males dangle clustered in spikes called catkins.  The females stand solo.

carya-floridana-11

Flowering twig.  Male flowers in catkins.  One green female flower at the twig tip.

Hidden within, the trees have a secret, phylloxeran galls*.

Huh?

To explain the galls it is necessary to refer to another wonder of Florida nature:    Koreshans.    Phylloxerans  have much in common with Koreshsnas, just on a smaller scale:  they both lived on the inside of their globes.

The Koreshans were a utopian community  a couple generations ago at Estero, Florida, near Ft. Myers.  Their village persists  as a state park.  There’s a ton to tell about them, but to stay on-topic, the important thing is that they lived  inside the globe.   Koreshans knew the rest of humanity had the world-wrongside-out.

:This button may help you see where they lived:

koreshan-button

Koreshan Unity button. 19–. Color photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

Today’s phylloxerans are the micro-Koreshans of Maggy’s Hammock.  They live on the inside of their little globose gall the diameter of a grape.    Slice it open…there’s a utopian world within.  Hundreds of tiny Koreshan phylloxerans.

carya-floridana-15

We live inside

OK, cut the crazy crap, what’s a phylloxeran?   They’re kin to aphids, with many species infesting many plants.   They get along famously with grapes and hickories, entailing economic consequences for both.    The most important cultivated hickories are pecans, bothered by phylloxerans.   The pests are more infamous in vineyards, where root-infesting phylloxerans from North America  brought the European wine industry into peril, forcing grafting vines onto imported pest-resistant rootstocks.

See the little rascals inside thei hickory hostel today on our microscopic phylloxeran-cam:

CLICK

They wiggle within a 100% enclosed chamber.  How bizarre.  How did they get in?  A  pregnant female founded the gall.  It formed around her.  She probably died full of viable eggs, populating the gall with siblings.   What’s so great about living in a bubble?    Protection, no doubt.   What is their exit strategy?   Somehow the bugs induce the gall to rupture.   Hold on there:  They can tell the gall to open sesame and make a portal to the infinite universe?  Apparently so.  And it gets weirder:

Phylloxerans can throttle down the plant’s protective chemicals just as the HIV Virus hobbles our human immune system.  Way back the 1890s biologists found phylloxerans to force the host (grapes) to develop extra stomates.  Stomates are little gas exchange valves essential  for photosynthesis.   More stomates = more photosynthesis = more sugar for the tiny lodgers.  We all know it is silly for a parasite to kill its host.   These wise little parasites understand and go a step beyond, helping the  host to help themselves.

———————————————–

*Galls are growths on plants caused by insects, mites, or fungi.  They are usually larval homes for the arthropod that induced them.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on March 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Canada Toadflax, seeds it through to the end

Linaria canadensis

(Linaria comes from Linum, for flax, with similar leaves.  Canadensis means lives in Canada)

Plantaginaceae (traditionally Scrophulariaceae)

Blue skys and  fragrant breeze like paradise today,   so John and I tackled new swampland with a disapproving Osprey complaining from a branch above.    There’s a babbling brook (cynics might say “drainage canal”) leading through the jungle to the St. Lucie River, and on its shore waving in the breeze is a svelte blue wildflower, Canada Toadflax.  Pretty as a picture.

linaria-canadensis-1

Canada Toadflax by John Bradford

This short-lived annual or biennial native likes open sandy habitats across the eastern and central North America and Canada.  One of its habitats is lakeside dunes around Lake Michigan.    Looking farther west, the flower is absent or nearly so from the Great Plains and  desert regions, and then oddly reappears toward the West Coast, either naturally or by the hand of humans.

linaria-lizard

Lounge Lizard

The Toadflax blossom sports a long skinny tube (spur) dangling behind like a ponytail.   The spur is longer than the rest of the flower, and has the diameter of a needle.   Somehow the flower sequesters its nectar deep in the spur.  It is lock and key:  only the insect with the right “drinking straw” can reach down to the secret nectar cache.  Others—scram!

linaria-spurs

Who’s “straw”  reaches deep into those spurs?

We all cry out in curiosity, find the foot that fits the glass slipper!   Who get’s the sweet reward?

Like my safe deposit box, there are layers of security before inserting the key.  The front door to the flower is  closed, so not only must the customer have the right long skinny key, access to the spur requires  pushing the outer door open.   The floral portal resembles a snapdragon…snapped shut.

linaria-face

You gotta get the door open in order to probe the spur.

The flower “wants” the door opened by the correct  visitor because the well  guarded route to the nectar passes by the pollen-making anthers and the pollen-receiving stigma.     The authorized pollinator must be able to get in the door, and then drop off and pick up pollen, and then nail the tasty treat in the spur.

The native insect with the tongue long enough for the spur, and muscular enough for the door is the bumblebee.

However….butterflies participate too.   They can plumb the nectar slipping their needlelike proboscis under the door.  If the probing proboscis effects pollen exchange is anybody’s guess.   They seem to cheat a bit.

Not every flower needs a buggy helper.  Botanists long ago realized that Canada Toadflax makes some perpetually closed flowers never to say hello to bee nor butterfly, yet able to form seeds and fruits.   Why possess such non-conformist flowers?

To counter a conundrum.  On one hand, the showy blue “normal” bug-visited flowers are delicate yet costly.  On the other hand, the nasty sandy habitats dry out in hot weather, cutting the resources to make normal flowers, and resulting in decline to death.

linaria-far

Living on the streamside sand…getting dry.

No problem.

Declining branches during drought,  smaller than those made in good times,  continue flower-making.   But they go to cheap  quick  tough little non-opening  colorless flowers.  These back-up blooms pollinate themselves, short-circuiting the time,  expense, and growth required to attract bees and butterflies.   (They are called cleistogamous, kliste-OG-ah-muss flowers, closed, as in “cloistered.”)

linaria-cleistogamous-spike

Cleistogamous flowers.   On this stunted spike note the decadent progression from the buds at the tip (lower right) to maturing fruits (upper left) bypassing the blue “normal” flower phase, thus skipping insect pollination.

Cleistogamy is not an either-or situation.  As  conditions dry out and as stems decline, the flowers diminish progressively through what one botanist called “decadent” stages, with pure insect-pollination at one end of a spectrum and pure cleistogamy at the other.  There are tweeners.   It would be interesting to alter the balance by adjusting growth conditions.

Such a back-up system when times get tough is handy for an annual or biennial living on borrowed time,  dreading the drought.

——————————————————-

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2017 in Canada Toadflax, Uncategorized

 

Poison Ivy

Toxicodendron radicans

(The misnomer “Poison-Oak” is applied sometimes to this species, although in Florida that name is probably best reserved for the close relative Toxicodendron pubescens and relatives in the Western U.S.)

Anacardiaceae, the Cashew Family, many of which can cause dermatitis

 

Continuing our month-of-Fridays probe into the botany of the Kiplinger Nature Preserve today in perfect weather, John and I found the plant most interestingly in bloom to be poison ivy.    Too bad it is nasty, because the species has a certain charm and fascinating natural history otherwise.

toxicodendron-radicans-2

Leaflets 3 let it be.   All photos by brave John Bradford.

Poison Ivy is not “a” species, but rather the most mind-boggling complex of Mother Nature’s messy handiwork you can find.   Anyone who wants to reduce botany to simplistic species and easy rules better first look at this perplexing tangle of variation ranging across much of Asia, North America, and parts of Tropical America, but neither Europe nor Africa.      Different people can look into the complex and see different species, subspecies, varieties, and even different genera,  with our well known eastern Poison Ivy more similar to the same species in Japan than it is to all the numerous variants in the rest of the U.S. and Mexico.   The big ol’ mess was sorted out painstakingly by Michigan State University botanist William Gillis on the shoulders of predecessors.  The late Dr. Gillis and I shared the distinction of our careers intersecting with the only botanist convicted of booking  a hitman to murder his wife.

A good segue into Poison Ivy.  The writing on P.I. as a poison are infinite, so to pick the weirdest aspect of that history  I know of, as documented by Gillis, hereyago:  indigenous men in California used the irritating plants to oppress women.  When the men wanted to meet and keep the women apart, one guy would strip naked, be body painted, and run around all crazy threatening the women with wet poison ivy branches suspended around his head.   Who would volunteer for that job?  The hazards are numerous.  A better use of the plant, despite the itch, was in the Netherlands to reinforce dikes. Worked better than a little boy sticking his finger in the leak.

toxicodendron-radicans-1

Would you believe Poison Ivy has a role in ornamental horticulture?    It develops red fall color and contributes to the subtle autumn hues in South Florida.     It has served in that capacity cultivated in gardens in climates where fall color is otherwise deficient.

Poison Ivy has the ability to resurrect dead trees.   The vine climbs hugging the defunct trunk, and way up high decides to branch out like the original limbs on the tree.   From the distance such a tree looks like a very odd species. Here is the vine covering a dead tree in flames. CLICK

We’ve been trying to catch it in bloom, so today was a minor triumph.   The flowers are separately male or female, on distinct plants.    In some locales, the male plants have foliage differing from the females, a weird occurrence.  Why?

toxicodendron-radicans-flowers

Blooming P.I. today 2/17/17

The flowers draw bees, and Poison Ivy honey is not unheard of.   No thank you. The blossoms mature into little “berries” which are not berries; they are related to and resemble mini-mangoes: lopsided, flattened, and with a “stone.”  As the fruits age, the outer layer separates from the stone leaving a hollow space, and the outer layer can crack open along lines.

To wrap up, one more oddity.  Commonly allergic reactions come from proteins.    Poison Ivy causes a horrid allergic reaction yet its toxin is not a protein.   Oh however can that be?  Apparently the plant’s poison, urushiol, binds and alters proteins in human skin, and then those altered self-protein complexes kick off an allergy, sort of a vine-mediated auto-immune disorder.    The itchy oil is almost a varnish.   It can collect in sufficient quantities on the leaves to dry into a black spotty paintjob, a skull and crossbones reminder.   Fact is, the Chinese Lacquer Tree is itself likewise a species of Toxicodendron.

toxicodendron-radicans-4

 
9 Comments

Posted by on February 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Shoestring Fern Digs In and Hangs On

Vittaria lineata

Pteridaceae (or Vittariaceae)

(Vitt is Latin for ribbon.  Lineata refers likewise to the ribbon-shaped leaves.)

No fieldtrip today thanks to that killjoy flu epidemic afflicting the building where I work. Trapped at home today recuperating,   I’m stepping back to my native plants class earlier this week where Shoe String Fern entertained the troops

The ferns do look like shoestrings or flattened pine needles. (Or in old Native American names, a giant’s whiskers.)  Many unrelated plants have long ribbon-shaped grassy leaves.  Why would a fern go grassy?    I think it has to do with its lifestyle  dangling from high dry tree trunks, almost always a cabbage palm.

vittaria-lineata-2

Hanging from a Cabbage Palm trunk, by John Bradford.

Most plants open little leaf valves called stomates by day during photosynthesis,  allowing gas exchange, incuding watter loss.  Call it plant-breath.  Shoestring Fern can behave in this normal fashion when water is plentiful.  Unfortunately, up on a trunk with no roots in the ground, the fern can suffer a water shortage.

When that hapens, signaled by a stress hormone,  SSF can switch to a water-saving alternative system called C4 photosynthesis, an adaptation most often seen in desert plants.  A palm trunk can be a desert at times.

When they are in their water-saving C4 mode, the ferns close their stomates when the sun shines,  and open them ony at night,  with two consequences:

  1. Closed stomates block evaporative cooling.   This problem might explain the narrow leaves,  being natural heat-radiators  with a huge collective surface area waving in the cooling breeze.  If you can’t cool by evaporation, switch to letting the wind blow through all those strings.
vittaria-lineata-1

Natural heat radiators.  By JB.

  1. The second consequence of  day-closed stomates is that carbon dioxed needed for photosynthesis must be  sequestered for use the next day when the stomates open at night.  Inside the fern leaf is porous material where the carbon dioxide probably collects to await the morning sun..

The stomates  hide in two protective grooves under the leaf, where the fern also hides its delicate spore-making organs, explaining why you seldom see spores on Shoestring Fern.

vittaria-leaf-section

Shoestring sliced like salami.   The stomates (st) are in the grooves.   The presumed carbon dioxide spongy storing area is labeled ae.  Photo by B. D. Minardi and collaborators.  Photosynthetica 22: 404. 2014.

Moving to another funny ferny feature requires explanation of the fern life cycle.   Ferns alternate between two body forms from generation to generation.   The big normal fern, called the sporophyte,  spawns  as the  next generation tiny green plants you might mistake for moss or algae,  called gametophytes.    And when those reproduce, they re-generate a new  sporophyte.  Round and round: sporophytes beget gametophytes which beget sporophytes and so on.  Chicken and egg.

vittaria-gametophyte

Shoestring Fern gametophytes in dry weather on Cabbage Palm Trunk, highly magnified.  New sporophytes grow from these.

vittaria-gemmae

Close up and personal green gematophyte.  Circled area possibly forms gemmae.

All very interesting today’s species, and much more so in its close relative, the Appalachian Vittaria appalachiana.

Vittaria appalachiana lost its sporophyte.  What?   How can a fern lose one of its flip-flopping generations?     It happened.   This species is known only as gametophytes.   But then you ask, if you need a sporophyte to make a gametophyte, who makes those gametophytes?     Answer:  in the genus Vittaria the gametophytes have little breakaway pieces called gemmae (GEM-ee), which can break off, wash away, and allow non-sexual clonal reproduction.

DNA evidence has helped find the missing sporophyte, revealing that the lonely Appalachian gametophyte comes from a tropical American species called Vittaria graminifolia which still has its sporophyte in its tropical habitat in the West Indies and southward.    How its gametophyte, or very close relative,  got loose all alone and far away in North America would be fun to know.  The case of the runaway gametophyte.

Our local Shoestring Fern has gemmae on its gametophytes too, and appears to use them to mulitply its gametophyte population tucked among old leaf base zones on Cabbage Palms or on the moist palm trunk bases.  Good gametophyte habitat seems to be part of the reason Shoestring Fern hangs around on Cabbage Palm.

There may be a second reason.  We think of epiphytes, airplants, as sitting politely on their hosts, perhaps with white knuckles on windy days.    Out fern does more than grip: its roots burrow into the palm penetrating its outer layers to a depth of at least half an inch.

vittaria-roots

Outer layer of Cabbage Palm “bark” removed from tree and viewed from its inner surface (aboout 1/2 inch deep).   The “worms” are SSF roots that have burrowed into the soft decaying palm tissue and spread aggressively within it.

Palms do not have “bark” in the sense of a woody tree, but they can have similar spongy more or less dead outer layers.    I do not know if the fern roots ever poke in deep enough to steal sap from the palm, very unlikely, and unknown to occur, but they are not shy about running through the outer layers, possibly deriving nutritional benefit from the palm’s decay, and/or whatever soaks in from rain water and stem wash.    The ferns finds a natural “potting medium” handy for its gametophyte and sporophyte’s roots.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2017 in Shoestring Fern, Uncategorized

 

Hottentot Fern

Thelypteris interrupta

(Thelypteris comes from Greek for female fern.   Interrupta probably refers to the “interrupted” creeping rhizome holding regularly spaced leaves.)

Thelypteridaceae

thelypteris-interrupta-2

All photos by John Bradford

Today John and I devoted today to a close look at Jack in the Pulpit rising and flowering in the lengthening days, in the deepest darkest swamp we could penetrate.  Having just covered that species two weeks ago, today’s spotlight shall shine on a friend of Jack’s, Hottentot Fern, locally encountered mostly in swampy realms.

Every time I see Hottentot Fern two thoughts cross my mind:

  1. Thought 1 is, “what an attractive fern.” Some today were as tall as a person, but usually they are about thigh-high. The fronds are a little leathery, distinctively hairless or nearly so, and with the clusters of spores cases forming a pretty embroidered stitch inside the leaf margin.
  2. Thought 2 is, “how in the world did a fern in a south Florida swamp wind up named Hottentot?” Hottentots are residents of arid regions in Southern Africa.   I’ve got a theory, highly speculative, and based merely on hints.
thelypteris-interrupta-4

The clusters of spore cases, caled sori, run around just inside the leaf margin.  Each cluster has a little cover called an indusium.   The individual spore cases appear as tiny black dots exposed beyond the edge of each indusium.

To solve that mystery, seeing the human name Willdenow attached to the fern is a hint. Carl Willdenow was a botanist interested long ago in plant distributions.   Does our fern have an interesting distribution?  Yes,   thinking of it as a Florida fern is so parochial…it was discovered in India, grows in tropical Asia,  inhabits the  American tropics, and yes, is in African plenty, including southern Africa where Hottentots would have known it growing along streams.   Ferns aren’t that common in the desert, so perhaps they know it well.

thelypteris-interrupta-5

The overlapping fern and human ranges help explain the name, but did Hottentots have a special interest in our fern?    It is unlikely to have medicinal importance, but look at those beautiful black spore case clusters under the leaves.  Rich black spores.

Fact:  Hottentots used face paints derived from diverse sources.   Fact:  They used fungal spores…so why not fern spores as well?   May never know, but there is one experiment to try.  Next week John and I will spore paint our faces and take selfies.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on February 4, 2017 in Hottentot Fern, Uncategorized

 
 
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