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Plant Biology

Virginia native plants

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Full-Text Articles in Life Sciences

Nitrogen Fixation In Roots Of Ceanothus, W. John Hayden Jul 2019

Nitrogen Fixation In Roots Of Ceanothus, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Roots are usually out of sight and, therefore, out of mind. But as any good gardener will tell you, it is of utmost importance to understand those unique plant organs, even if their essential functions occur hidden from cursory observation. The red roots of the 2019 VNPS Wildflower of the Year, Ceanothus americanus, are particularly important because they host symbiotic bacteria that perform the essential function of nitrogen fixation. These prominent, knobby, distinctively pigmented roots are also the inspiration for the common name Redroot, applied to many species in the genus.


There's Much Left To Learn: Clethra's Chromosomes, W. John Hayden Oct 2015

There's Much Left To Learn: Clethra's Chromosomes, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Many would argue that chromosomes, genes, and DNA form the ineluctable essence of modern biology. Not only do these fundamental components of living cells provide moment-to-moment instructions by which cells carry out basic life processes, they also control inheritance of characteristics from one generation to the next. These essential functions of DNA stem from its repetitive structure. Hugely long DNA molecules are built from just four components, referenced by their singleletter abbreviations, A, C, G, and T. It is the specific sequence of these As, Cs, Gs, and Ts that constitutes the coded information of DNA. Moreover, molecular biologists have ...


When It Comes To Clethra: Roots Matter, W. John Hayden Jul 2015

When It Comes To Clethra: Roots Matter, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Roots, too often, are out of sight and out of mind, but they are critical for vigorous, healthy plant growth. All plant enthusiasts—including gardeners, farmers, foresters, and naturalists—should think about and appreciate roots if they wish to acquire a holistic understanding of plant biology. This article introduces readers to the mycorrhizal roots of the 2015 VNPS Wildflower of the Year, Clethra alnifolia (Sweet Pepperbush), and explores the diversity of mycorrhizae in a closely related family, Ericaceae.


Upside-Down Anthers Of Clethra Stand Out, W. John Hayden Apr 2015

Upside-Down Anthers Of Clethra Stand Out, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

For the most part, the flowers of the 2015 VNPS Wildflower of the Year, Clethra alnifolia (Sweet Pepperbush), are unremarkable. Five separate sepals, 5 sepa rate petals, 10 stamens in 2 whorls, and a 3-carpellate superior ovary—an organization that can only be considered prosaic among the dicots. One floral feature, however, stands out: the anthers in the open flowers are upside-down! (See Figure 1A.) Further, these upside-down anthers open by pores (Figures 1B, 1C) rather than longitudinal slits, as in most flowering plants. These pores initially form on what would normally be the lowermost extremity of the anther, the ...


Native Orchids In Winter?, W. John Hayden Jan 2015

Native Orchids In Winter?, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

A very special place in Southwest Virginia will soon expand its borders, thanks in part to the annual fundraising appeal by the Virginia Native Plant Society. The Cedars Natural Area Preserve supports ex ceptional natural communities including rocky, dry limestone glades and woodlands located across nearly 20 square miles in Lee County near the Powell River. The karst landscape, where thin soils develop over easily dissolved limestone bedrock, creates terrain that tends to be rolling, rocky, rugged, and full of sinkholes, caves, and sinking streams. The preserve is a haven for rare plants that have adapted to the mostly thin ...


2015 Virginia Wildflower Of The Year: Sweet Pepperbush, Clethra Alnifolia, W. John Hayden Jan 2015

2015 Virginia Wildflower Of The Year: Sweet Pepperbush, Clethra Alnifolia, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Clethra alnifolia is a rhizomatous shrub with aerial stems from 1 to 3 m tall. Leaves are simple, alternate, and bear stellate hairs; petioles are short, 5–10 mm long; leaf blades are obovate to oblong, 5–10 cm long, with relatively blunt apices, cuneate (wedgelike) bases, and margins that are entire toward the base but finely serrate above the middle; venation is pinnate with secondary veins that extend to leaf margins. Stipules are lacking. Flowers are borne on erect terminal racemes that may be solitary or accompanied by additional racemes terminating few-leaved branches arising from upper nodes. Raceme axes ...


Little Things Reveal The Big Picture, W. John Hayden Jan 2015

Little Things Reveal The Big Picture, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

As enthusiasts who enjoy native plants in natural habitats, we tend to focus on gross morphology— aspects of plant form that can be readily observed with the naked eye or with a hand lens. And there is plenty to see at the gross level. The Flora of Virginia contains 1,269 pages of keys and descriptions devoted to gross morphology of the commonwealth’s botanical treasures. Morphological diversity, however, does not stop at the magnifi cation limit of a hand lens. Light and electron microscopes open up whole new worlds of intricate structure for appreciation and study. And tiny structural ...


Two Honeysuckles: A Tale Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, W. John Hayden Feb 2014

Two Honeysuckles: A Tale Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

There are about 180 species of Lonicera (honeysuckles) widely distributed in the north temperate zone. These are mostly shrubby plants, but in Virginia, we have two species that are woody vines (lianas). These two lianous honeysuckles should be familiar to all Virginia Native Plant Society members. One is this year’s VNPS Wildflower of the Year, Lonicera sempervirens (coral honeysuckle), and the other is Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle), widely and deservedly reviled as one of our most aggressive invasive exotic species. Together, these two plants make an odd pair, a sort of botanical Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. What is ...


Redbud Cauliflory: The Inside Story, W. John Hayden Jan 2013

Redbud Cauliflory: The Inside Story, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

One of the most distinctive features of redbuds, Cercis canadensis, the 2013 VNPS Wildflower of the Year, is its production of flowers on mature trunks and major branches, a habit termed cauliflory. Redbud flowers also form on young, one-year old twigs; as explained below, twig- and trunk-borne flowers are parts of a single developmental continuum; twigs bearing flowers eventually becoming trunks and large branches that continue to bear flowers.


2013 Virginia Wildflower Of The Year: Redbud, Cercis Canadensis, W. John Hayden Jan 2013

2013 Virginia Wildflower Of The Year: Redbud, Cercis Canadensis, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Redbuds are small trees or shrubs that may attain heights of 10 m or so. Leaves are alternate and two-ranked, simple, entire, deciduous, broadly cordate, with an acute apex, 611 cm long, 712 cm wide, and palmately veined. Petioles have two swollen pulvini, one at its connection with the stem, the other at its junction with the leaf blade.


Closely Paired Flowers Produce Single Fruit, W. John Hayden Jul 2012

Closely Paired Flowers Produce Single Fruit, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Perhaps one of the most striking features of partridge berry (Mitchella repens), the 2012 VNPS Wildflower of the Year, is its closely paired flowers that yield a single berry fruit (figure 1). That these fruits are double structures, formed by pairs of flowers, is revealed in the presence of two discrete rings of five sepals each on the fruit apex, or in some cases, by a single ring of 10 sepals. Viewed in isolation, without context, the nature of these double fruits may seem perplexing, but as in so many things, a comparative perspective helps to make sense of conundrums ...


Partridge Berry: Simple Beauty Belies Complexity, W. John Hayden Mar 2012

Partridge Berry: Simple Beauty Belies Complexity, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Superficially, plants seem so simple. Rooted in place, they do not move around. And while plant growth is a dynamic process, without time-lapse photography, growth events are so imperceptibly slow that, to us impatient humans, plants seem both immobile and static. Nevertheless, there is a lot going on inside the plant body, and this is especially true for the events of reproduction that play out inside flowers and fruits. As one of my students recently commented, “I used to think it was just a matter of pollen plus stigma and, presto-change-o, seeds happen.” That student, I hope, learned otherwise, as ...


2012 Wildflower Of The Year: Partridge Berry, Mitchella Repens, W. John Hayden Jan 2012

2012 Wildflower Of The Year: Partridge Berry, Mitchella Repens, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Although partridge berry is a small and creeping herb, its jewel-like beauty rewards attentive naturalists year-round.


Oak Galls: A Strange Biology Indeed!, W. John Hayden Jul 2011

Oak Galls: A Strange Biology Indeed!, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Anyone who takes the time to look closely at several branches of oak will soon find one or another peculiar anomaly among the leaves and twigs. One can easily find structures resembling Ping-Pong balls, hard knots, fluffy tufts, horns—either single or clustered, or irregular thickenings, to mention just a few possibilities. These abnormal growths are galls, structures caused by the presence of small insect larvae living inside the tissue of the plant. Galls can be found on a wide variety of plants. They are common, for example, on the stems of goldenrods, and the leaves of maples, but oaks ...


Hybrid Oaks: Full Of Vexation And Wonder, W. John Hayden Mar 2011

Hybrid Oaks: Full Of Vexation And Wonder, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Distinguishing different species of oak in the forests of eastern North America can be challenging. For one thing, there are simply a lot of different species to sort out. A recent reference (Stein et al. 2003), describes 50 species in the genus Quercusoccurring naturally east of the 100th meridian, and 90 species are distinguished for all of North America north of Mexico (Nixon 1997). With so many species to parse, confident identification requires careful study of leaves, stem and leaf hairiness, and fully mature acorns with their caps. But care is not always enough, because in addition to the ...


2011 Wildflower Of The Year: White Oak, Quercus Alba, W. John Hayden Jan 2011

2011 Wildflower Of The Year: White Oak, Quercus Alba, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Emblematic of strength and longevity, white oaks grace the deciduous forests of eastern North America.


2010 Wildflower Of The Year: Wild Ginger, Asarum Canadense, W. John Hayden Jan 2010

2010 Wildflower Of The Year: Wild Ginger, Asarum Canadense, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Wild ginger is a low herbaceous plant. The stem consists of a branched creeping rhizome at or just below the soil surface. Soft-hairy leaves arise in pairs annually from rhizome branches. Petioles can be up to 20 cm long, elevating the 7—25 mm wide kidney-shaped leaf blades above the forest floor. Small flowers appear in the spring shortly after the leaves have expanded. Typically, one must push the leaves aside in order to glimpse the jug-like flowers. A single flower stalk appears between the paired leaf bases, but it is short and barely lifts the flower above the soil ...


Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover: The Curious Case Of Wild Ginger Pollination, W. John Hayden Jan 2010

Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover: The Curious Case Of Wild Ginger Pollination, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

What pollinates wild ginger? This seems like an easy question. The inconspicuous little flowers are held close to the forest floor, often completely hidden by a dense canopy of ginger leaves above. Flower color is rather drab, dominated by brown and maroon hues. Wind pollination seems completely unlikely and flowers pollinated by bees, butterflies, moths, or hummingbirds are always much more showy and accessible to these flying creatures. Flies, however, given their natural inclination to seek carrion as a food source for their babies (i.e. maggots), are often attracted to brown and maroon flowers. And because their actual quarry ...


2009 Wildflower Of The Year: Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus Foetidus, W. John Hayden Jan 2009

2009 Wildflower Of The Year: Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus Foetidus, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Skunk cabbage is a coarse herbaceous plant. The stem consists of a stout rhizome oriented vertically in the soil. Leaves and flowers arise from the tip of the rhizome which is often not visible, resulting in the appearance of leaves and flowers arising directly from the swampy mires where these plants grow. Flowers appear during the winter, long before the leaves. The flowers are minute, clustered into a ball-like group (spadix) almost entirely enclosed by a fleshy, hood-like, spathe. The spathe ranges from 8 to 15 cm in height, is more or less pear-shaped, widest near the bottom, and tapers ...


2008 Wildflower Of The Year: Virginia Spiderwort, Tradescantia Virginiana, W. John Hayden Jan 2008

2008 Wildflower Of The Year: Virginia Spiderwort, Tradescantia Virginiana, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Spiderwort is an herbaceous perennial that arises from a cluster of rather stout overwintering roots. Stems may be solitary or more commonly clumped, and usually grow unbranched, reaching heights up to 40 cm tall. Stems are smooth or bear scattered short hairs. Leaves are 2—5 per stem, attached by means of a leaf sheath that is 13 cm long. Leaf blades are dull green, elongate, ending in a gradually tapered tip, flat or keeled, smooth (without hairs), and 1—3.5 dm long by 0.5—2.5 cm wide. Flowers occur in tight clusters located at the stem ...


Spiderwort Is Vnps Wildflower Of The Year, W. John Hayden Jan 2008

Spiderwort Is Vnps Wildflower Of The Year, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

The VNPS 2008 Wildflower of the Year (WOY) is spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana). This herbaceous perennial plant occurs throughout much of the eastern portion of the U.S. and is widespread in Virginia. Spiderwort blooms from April to July. The small flowers occur in clusters at the ends of the stems, atop several elongate bracts. Flowers have three petals that range from purple to rose or, rarely, white. Densely hairy stamens provide, perhaps, the easiest way to recognize spiderworts. Also, stalks of spent flowers droop below the flower cluster yielding an aspect reminiscent of spindly spider legs.


2007 Wildflower Of The Year: Atamasco Lily, Zephyranthes Atamasca, W. John Hayden Jan 2007

2007 Wildflower Of The Year: Atamasco Lily, Zephyranthes Atamasca, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Atamasco lily is a perennial herb that grows from a subterranean bulb. The bulb is dark, with a short neck and papery tunic formed by remnants of old leaf bases. Leaves are glossy green, linear, flat to somewhat concave, up to one half inch wide, approximately one foot in length and, overall, rather grasslike. When not in flower the plants can be easily overlooked. Flowering stems are leafless scapes that are about as long as the leaves. In crosssection the scapes are hollow. Each scape terminates in a single flower. A few papery bracts subtend the flower stalk where it ...


2006 Wildflower Of The Year: Spicebush, Lindera Benzoin, W. John Hayden Jan 2006

2006 Wildflower Of The Year: Spicebush, Lindera Benzoin, W. John Hayden

Biology Faculty Publications

Spicebush is a multistemmed deciduous shrub that grows to a height of one to three meters. Young stems are delicate and may be smooth or finely hairy. Leaves are alternate and simple, with an elliptic to obovate blade that tapers at both the base and apex and is bounded by a smooth margin. Examined closely, the margin will reveal a series of fine hairs that project directly out from the leaf edge. In size, leaves are neither remarkably large nor small; they range from one to six inches in length and up to about two and a half inches wide ...