Friday, June 24, 2016

Daily Diversity! Week 6

Here are the species for this week!

Canada Anemone
Scientific name: Anemone canadensis
Anishinabemowin name:  Wabesgung

This herbaceous, perennial native (also known as “crowfoot” due to its apparent resemblance to the bird’s distinct foot shape) can be found in moist meadows, thickets, streambanks, and lakeshores in North America.
Fun fact: People indigenous to North America once used this plant as an astringent and as antiseptic for wounds, sores, and nosebleeds.
For more information, check out this website!

Black cherry

Scientific name: Prunus serotina
Anishinabemowin name: Sawemin

Black cherry, not to be confused with chokecherry (the leaves of which are smaller and less glossy, chokecherry itself alternatively classified as a shrub), is a woody plant and a pioneer species!
Fun fact: This plant was introduced into Western and Central Europe as an ornamental tree in the mid-1900s, where it is now classified as invasive.
For more information, check out this website!

White Baneberry / Doll’s eye
Scientific name: Actaea pachypoda
Anishinabemowin name:  Waabokaadaak

This herbaceous perennial produces a tiny white berry with a black dot in the middle which appearance gives it the name “doll’s eye”.
Fun fact: Both the berries and entire plant are extremely toxic to humans! The berries, the most poisonous part of the plant, contain cardiogenic toxins which can lead to cardiac arrest and death. You have been warned!
For more information, check out this website!

Wild sarsaparilla
Scientific name: Aralia nudicaulis
Anishinabemowin name: Kada kuns

This plant, known by many other names (false sarsaparilla, shot bush, small spikenard, wild liquorice, and rabbit root), is sometimes confused with poison ivy, as it sometimes grows with groups of three leaflets.
Fun fact: This particular plant has been used to induce sweat, cleanse the blood, and invigorate. The roots would be brought on long expeditions for indigenous groups to chew on for energy.
For more information, check out this website!

Juneberry, or Serviceberry

Scientific name: Amelanchier arborea
Anishinabemowin name: goziwaakominagaawanzh

This tree is native to eastern North America and usually grows 16-40 feet tall.
Fun Fact: The berries of this plant are edible and can be made into pies (the objectively best dessert one can make).
For more information, check out this website!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Daily Diversity! Week 5

Here are the species for this week!


Scientific name: Jeffersonia diphylla

Anishinabemowin name: unknown

What a rarity! This perennial plant grows in deciduous forests with limestone soil, making it so rare that it has been listed as threatened or endangered in 5 states.
Fun Fact: The name “diphylla”  comes from the fact that the plant has two leaves. In Greek, “di” means “two” and “phyll” means “leaf”!
For more information, check out this website!


Scientific name:  Impatiens capensis

Anishinabemowin name: ozaawashkojiibik

This annual plant gets its name from the way the flowers can be yellow or orange with red dots, giving it the look of a jeweled pendant or “necklace of the woods.”
Fun Fact: Jewelweed is known for its skin-healing properties. It is especially effective against a poisonous plant that grows with it in the woods. Check back here tomorrow to what that plant is!
For more information, check out this website!

Poison Ivy

Scientific name: Toxicodendron radicans

Anishinabemowin name: nimkikibug

Keep your eyes peeled for this rash-inducing plant. Growing as vines or shrubs, poison ivy is common across North America. If you do come into contact with it, the Jewelweed from yesterday can help heal your skin!
Fun Fact: Although this plant is poisonous to most humans, white-tailed deer actually love to eat it!
For more information, check out this website!

White Oak

Scientific name: Quercus alba

Anishinabemowin name: wiishkobi-mitigomizh

This eastern deciduous hardwood can be found as far north as Ontario and as far south as Florida. It can sometimes even grow over 100 feet tall!
Fun Fact: Some white oaks have been found to be over 450 years old! What a wise tree!
For more information, check out this website!

Northern Red Oak

Scientific name: Quercus rubra

Anishinabemowin name: wiisagi-mitigomizh

The northern red oak (not to be confused with the southern or Spanish red oak) is native to the eastern US and southern Canada, and it provides an important source of lumber!
Fun Fact: Although we often hear about foreign plants invading North America, the red oak is an example of a North American plant that has actually become invasive in Asia.
For more information, check out this website!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summer Pop-up Programs in the Gaffield Children's Garden at Matthaei Open the Door to Creative Nature-Based Play

Kids and parents invited to join us for summer activities in the Gaffield Children's Garden. Every Monday throughout the summer we're offering a different hands-on nature-play experience. These are free, low-key guided programs that connect children with nature and that parents and other family members can easily replicate at home. Free. 

A few guidelines: 
  • As seats open up, kids can join in to play. If the seats are full, please come back when one is available!
  • These are onsite activities and all materials stay in the Gaffield Children's Garden at Matthaei when the programs finish at 11:30 am. While all materials remain here, these activities are easy to duplicate at home.
  • Age range for pop-ups is approximately 3-9 years of age.
Summer dates & times: 

All pop-ups 10 - 11:30 a.m.

June 20 
June 27 (Bubbles!); 
July 4 (Seashells), 11, 18, & 25; 
Aug. 1, 8,15, 22, & 29. 

Matthaei-Nichols Student Interns Get a Taste of Taxonomy and Plant ID

"What is that plant" is just the first of many questions to ask when identifying or classifying a plant. 

A rose is a rose is a rose.... But what family is it in? And how do you know for sure? Student interns at Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum learned a lot in a short space of time June 15 when they took part in a plant ID class at Matthaei. Conducted by Arb and Gardens' curator David Michener and native plant specialist Mike Kost, the class was designed to introduce summer interns to the diverse and complex world of plants and plant taxonomy: the description, identification, classification, and naming conventions used in botany and plant-related studies.

"Why do we even bother to ID plants?" asks David Michener as the class began. He explains that it's a way to communicate what plants are to a large number of people---a universal descriptive language. That means no common names if you want everyone on the same page. "And once you have a name," David says, "you can classify it according to genera, family, and so on."

Beginning indoors in the lab the class started with grasses and sedges. "Sedges have edges, and rushes are round," goes the old memory device. Beyond that, the world of grasses opens up to reveal a vastly complex system of identification. "There are specialists devoted just to sedges or grasses," Mike Kost notes.
Plant keys are critical for identifying specimens.
Sample plant key from the University of Misssouri

After an hour in the lab students are ready to go out into the field to observe in real life some of the plant structures and processes botanists use to identify plants. Those might include the parallel leaf venation that is usually a strong indicator for iris-family plants, or the blossoms of Aster-family plants, each of which is composed of many individual flowers.

"It makes sense that we'd offer a class like this," says Mike Kost. We're all about plants." Though Matthaei-Nichols interns come from all across campus and bring different perspectives to their work here as they help out in every department, a basic understanding of plants and plant ID processes is important enough that Michener and Kost will likely offer this class every summer.

Interns in the medicinal garden at matthaei examine a large
stand plants in the pea family.

A rose blossom

Students get to work on grasses and sedges. 

Curator David Michener (left) explains characteristics
of tradescantia, a plant in the spiderwort,
or Iridaceae, family

Mike Kost (right) explaining grasses to interns.

A flower on a tulip tree in the medicinal garden at Matthaei.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Invasive Pest Parades as Botanical Cousin

Have you stumbled across the toxic and invasive giant hogweed in Michigan? Probably not. More likely you've discovered the native cow parsnip, which resembles hogweed in many ways.

As you head outdoors this summer, there are certain plants and animals to look out for. Some, like poison ivy, are fairly widespread and easy to identity. One plant pest that’s not found much in Michigan—even as it receives a lot of coverage—is giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). It’s thought that this member of the carrot family (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae) was introduced as an ornamental because of its size and striking appearance. Despite its good looks giant hogweed contains a sap that can cause photo-dermatitis, a severe reaction in which skin that comes in contact with hogweed sap blisters when exposed to the sun. Add to this the fact that giant hogweed also resembles cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum), a native plant in the same family, and you’ve got a recipe for ID confusion!

The flowers of giant hogweed are
umbrella-shaped and domed on top.
Cow parsnip flowers are flat on top.
Matthaei-Nichols natural areas manager Jeff Plakke says that several visitors have reported seeing giant hogweed on our properties.

“Giant hogweed has been talked about a lot recently and is intriguing because it's so big and the sap is very toxic,” says Plakke. Good news: it’s not giant hogweed, which is so far not widely spread in Michigan. “What some people are reporting is the native cow parsnip which looks similar,” Plakke adds.

One obvious distinction between giant hogweed and cow parsnip is that “giant hogweed grows much, much larger,” according to Plakke.  Cow parsnip may reach 7 feet in height; giant hogweed up to 14 feet tall. Leaves of cow parsnip can get almost 3 feet wide, while giant hogweed leaves may span as much as 5 feet.

Hogweed stems are green with
pirple splotches.
Cow parsnip stems are
green with fine white hairs.
Cow parsnip grows in a number of places at Matthaei Botanical Gardens including along the trails in the Fleming Creek floodplain and along the edge of Willow Pond. At the Arb there are colonies of cow parsnip growing along the River Road (Nichols Drive) and in the wetland boardwalk area. A large patch near School Girl’s Glen bridge has been reported numerous times over the past few years, Plakke adds.

Check out these links for more information:

A good website with pictures of both cow parsnip and giant hogweed for comparison is New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation

(Photos courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Daily Diversity Week 4!

Here are the species for this week!

Shagbark Hickory

Scientific name:  Carya ovata

Anishinabemowin name:  bagaan 

The shagbark hickory is a large, deciduous tree, and its nut is edible and has a very sweet taste.
Fun fact: Shagbark hickory wood is used for smoking meat and for making bows of Native Americans of the northern area.
For more information, check out this website!


Scientific name:  Arisaema triphyllum

Anishinabemowin name: zhaashaagomin

This herbaceous perennial plant is pollinated by flies. It produces smooth, shiny green fruits that grow in a cluster on the spadix.
Fun fact: Meskwaki Indians used to drop the seed of this plant into a cup of stirred water and if the seed went around four times clockwise, a patient in question would recover. It it went around less than four times they would not.
For more information, check out this website!

Black Swallowwort

Scientific name:  Cynanchum louiseae

Anishinabemowin name: ininiwizh

This perennial, herbaceous vine has oval-shaped leaves and is in the milkweed family. It is a self-pollinating plant.
Fun fact: Black swallowwort is actually native to Eurasia, and aggressively chokes out other species native to parts of the Midwest. Keep an eye out for this troublesome plant!
For more information, visit this website!

Wild columbine

Scientific name: Aquilegia canadensis

Anishinabemowin name:  Misudidjeebik

Wild Columbine, an herbaceous perennial native to woodland and rocky slopes in eastern North America, can readily hybridize with other species in the genusAquilegia.
Fun fact: Aquila (the root of the plant’s genus Aquilegia) means “Eagle” in Latin and refers to the claw-like spurs at the base of the flower. The name “columbine” comes from the Latin word for “dove,” as the inverted flowers are said to resemble a cluster of doves.
For more information, visit this website!

Green Dragon

Scientific name: Arisaema Dracontium

Anishinabemowin name: unknown

This herbaceous perennial plant is native to North America and is mainly found growing in damp woods.
Fun fact: When it is small and young, this plant is usually male, but when it becomes larger and gets older, it becomes female! In plants, this is called gender diphasy.
For more information, visit this website!