Old Biophilia

Wildflowers still going strong
June 7, 2010, 4:59 pm
Filed under: Diversity in the plant world, Wild Places in Orange County

You’ll never hear me complain about the rain here in Southern California — the wetter the better. We were spoiled this past winter and the evidence is hard to miss. For months now, the hillsides have been dotted with an explosion of color. The peak of flowering has passed, but it was a great spring to traipse around Orange County parks and observe the bounty –lupines, shooting stars, CA buttercup, and popcorn flowers to name just a few.

If you haven’t had a chance to explore, don’t worry! Many wildflowers are still going strong and you have a bit more time before the summer heat kicks in. Here are just a few lovelies I saw yesterday on a hike through El Moro Canyon in Crystal Cove State Park:

Coast Prickly Pear (Opuntia littoralis)

Wild Rose (Rosa californica)

California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)

Paintbrush (Castilleja affinis)

Pollination in action

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
March 17, 2010, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Diversity in the plant world

The Shamrock (Trifolium repens)

What is the first think we think of when we think of St. Patrick’s Day? Okay, I mean the second thing we think of….the shamrock! The shamrock is a clover of the variety Trifolium repens. Shamrock’s typically have 3 leaflets and is what St. Patrick used to represent the Holy Trinity. You are all probably familiar with the lucky four-leaf variant which is often confused with the Shamrock. While the four-leaf clover is a symbol of good luck, the three-leafed shamrock is mainly an Irish-Christian symbol.

It has been estimated that there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover, however this probability has not deterred collectors who have reached records as high as 160,000 four-leaf clovers. Clovers can have more than four leaflets: the most ever recorded is twenty-one, a record set in June 2008 by the same man who held the prior record and the current Guinness World Record of eighteen. Unofficial claims of discovery have ranged as high as twenty-seven.

I have come to know this plant very well. As an undergraduate, I studied how differences in leaf traits among clovers is related to their susceptibility to pathogens. Put another way, I once spent 24 hour in a greenhouse watching water evaporate off of clover leaves. Yes, I did. All in the name of Science!

**UPDATE: Don’t be surprised if you see a lot more ” lucky clovers” around:

Plant nurseries in clover after finding four-leaf gene