Friday, May 16, 2014

Spring 8

 New job is keeping me busier than usual.  Catching up on the last few days.

 Time to take a peek at some things I've been ignoring: the very cultivated, the very small, the very inconspicuous.  

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a favorite of mine, though I sometimes ignore 
the pink variety on the grounds that it is a cultivar. 

The flowers of flowering dogwood are actually small and inconspicuous--
it is the bracts (modified leaves) below the inflorescence that we first notice.

This little red-flowered weed (whose name I"ll remember tomorrow) has halberd-shaped leaves that taste very like sour apple--very nice in a salad, I'll bet--making this fellow lucky to have a lawn so blest.
(It's Sheep- or Field-Sorrel, Rumex acetosella.)

Some small grasses, including some in my lawn, are in their glory right now.  Many people 
would be surprised to know that grasses have flowers at all, small and petal-less as they are.

Here is the first portrait of the red maple I have been following for Nature's Notebook and these pages.  
The fruit is almost ripe, having turned a rusty red different from the bright red flowers of April.
The fruit on its neighbor a short distance down the same street is still mostly green.  
Why? it may be that my maple, very near an intersection, gets more sun than the other.

Maples are supposed to be dioecious--the whole tree either male or female.  My red maple is this way--a vigorous female.  (Being all one sex is rather uncommon in the plant world, by the way, with most flowers bisexual, being both male [producing pollen] and female [producing ovules & forming seeds].)  Others are monoecious, with flowers either male or female, but both found on the same plant.  But most common are  bisexual (aka androgynous) plants and flowers.  What, then, to make of Norway maple, which has male and female AND bisexual flowers on the same tree, and even the same inflorescence?  Such plants glory in the term androgynomonoecious!

The flowers visible here are bisexual, having both pollen-producing stamens (little yellow structures 
on the ends of stalks inside the flower facing us) and a pistil (protruding from the flower's center, 
and ending in a double-curl) that contains the ovules and becomes the fruit.

Sugar maples have been revealing themselves; the ones I have been watching have at least two neighbors on the same street.  One of the two close neighbors of the tree I've been following turns out to be female: it is modestly hung with keys. 

Most of the keys are visible in upper center, marking this tree as a female.  The many holes in the leave tell us that insects are emerging. and that sugar maple leaves are tasty!

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