Category Archives: Botany

Friday Fellow: Yerba Mate

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Christmas is in a few days and a plant that is always associated to this time of the year in Europe is the holly Ilex aquifolium. I was about to make it today’s Friday Fellow, but then I thought: why not a less popular but much cooler relative?

So let’s welcome Ilex paraguariensis, the yerba mate!

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Detail of a branch of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis). Photo by Leandro Kibisz.*

The yerba mate is a shrub or tree that can grow up to 15 meters in height and is found in several forest fosrmations of South America, especially along the Paraguay and Paraná rivers. The leaves are oval and have a dark green color and a slightly serrated margin. The flowers are mall and lack petals and the fruits are red as in its European cousin.

The leaves of yerba mate are used for the preparation of a traditional beverage called mate in both Spanish and Portuguese, and also as chimarrão in Portuguese. It is traditionally consumed in Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Southern Brazil, as well as in some areas of Bolivia and Chile. The consumption of mate started with the guarani people and later  spread to the Tupi and to the European colonizers and is currently associated with the gaucho culture in South America.

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A man drinking mate. Photo by Aslam Singh.**

The leaves of yerba mate are rich in caffeine and polyphenols, thus having stimulant, diuretic and antioxidant properties. The beverage seems to be able to help in weight loss by reducing the absorption of lipids and can also reduz the risk os several types of cancer. However, there are some evidence connecting the consumption of mate with increased risk of some cancers as well, such as oral and esophageal cancer. This risk, however, may be more related to the temperature of the beverage than the plant itself, so try not to drink it too hot!

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References:

Heck, C. I.; De Mejia, E. G. Yerba Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis): A Comprehensive Review on Chemistry, Health Implications, and Technological Considerations. Journal of Food Science, 72(9):R138–R151. DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00535.x

Wikipedia. Yerba mate. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerba_mate >. Access on December 17, 2017.

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The history of Systematics: Plants in Systema Naturae, 1758 (Part 7)

by Piter Kehoma Boll

We are approaching the end of the description of Linnaeus’ classification of Plants (see parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6). Today I’ll show two more classes, the last two of plants with mainly hermaphrodite flowers.

19. Syngenesia (“same generation”)

“Husbands composed of a generative compact”, i.e., the stamens are united, forming a cylinder.

19.1 Syngenesia Polygamia Aequalis (“same generation, many equal marriages”), compound flowers formed by several small compact flowers, all having stamens and pistils: Scolymus (golden thistles), Cichorium (chicories), Catananche (cupid’s darts), Hypochaeris (cat’s ears), Andryala (andryalas), Tragopogon (goatsbeards), Picris (oxtongues), Leontodon (hawkbits and dandelions), Sonchus (sow thistles), Scorzonera (salsifies), Crepis (hawksbeards), Chondrilla (skeletonweeds), Prenanthes (rattlesnake roots), Lactuca (lettuces), Hieracium (hawkweeds), Lapsana (nippleworts), Hyoseris (hyoserises), Elephantopus (elephant’s foot), Atractylis (spindle thistles), Carlina (carline thistles), Cnicus (thistles), Arctium (burdocks), Carthamus (distaff thistles), Cynara (alcachofras), Carduus (more thistles), Onopordum (cotton thistles), Serratula (plumeless saw-worts), Echinops (globe thistles), Ageratum (whiteweeds), Cacalia (false plantains), Chrysocoma (goldenhairs), Eupatorium (thoroughworts), Santolina (cotton lavenders), Bidens (beggarticks), Staehelina (staehelinas), Stoebe (stoebes), Tarchonanthus (camphor bush).

1758Linnaeus_syngenesia_polygamia_aequalis

The diverse order Syngenesia Polygamia Aequalis included (from left to right, top to bottom) the common goatsbeard (Tragopogon porrifolius), black salsify (Scorzonera hispanica), bristly oxtongue (Picris echioides, now Helminthotheca echioides), common sowthistle (Sonchus oleraceus), garden lettuce (Lactuca sativa), rush skeletonweed (Chondrilla juncea), common rattlesnake root (Prenanthes purpurea), common dandelion (Leontodon taraxacum, now Taraxacum officinale), rattlesnake hawkweed (Hieracium venosum), beaked hawksbeard (Crepis vesicaria), common andryala (Andryala integrifolia), smooth hyoseris (Hyoseris scabra), common cat’s ear (Hypochaeris radicata), common nipplewort (Lapsana communis), blue cupid’s dart (Catananche caerulea), common chicory (Cichorium intybus), Spanish golden thistle (Scolimus hispanicus), smooth elephant’s foot (Elephantopus scaber), great globe thistle (Echinops sphaerocephalus), great burdock (Arctium lappa), dyer’s plumeless saw-wort (Serratula tinctoria), musk thistle (Carduus nutans), holy thistle (Cnicus benedictus, now Centaurea benedicta), common cotton thistle (Onopordum acanthium), globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus), common carline thistle (Carlina vulgaris), common spindle thistle (Atractylus huilis), safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), common beggartick (Bidens pilosa), Alpine plantain (Cacalia alpina, now Adenostyles alpina), tall thoroughwort (Eupatorium altissimum), common whiteweed (Ageratum conyzoides), dubious staehelina (Staehelina dubia), common goldenhair (Chrysocoma coma-aurea), camphor bush (Tarchonanthus camphoratus), and common cotton lavender (Santolina chamaecyparissus). Credits to Stephen Lea (goatsbeard), H. Zell (salsify, lettuce, cotton thistle), Tony Wills (sow thistle), Radio Toreng (skeletonweed), Jane Shelby Richardson (hawkweed), Manfred Moitzi (hawksbeard), Pablo Alberto Salguero Quilles (andryala), smooth hyoseris (Hyoseris scabra), Javier Martin (hyoseris, spindle thistle), Phil Sellens (nipplewort), Isidre Blanc (cupid’s dart, staehelina), Joaquim Alves Gaspar (chicory, golden thistle, globe artichoke), Dinesh Valke (elephant’s foot), Enrico Blasutto (burdock), Kristian Peters (plumeless saw-wort), Bernd Haynold (musk thistle), Philipp Weigell (carline thistle), Vishesh Bajpai (beggartick),Benjammin Zwittnig (Alpine plantain), Frank Mayfield (thoroughwort), Peter A. Mansfeld (goldenhair), Paul Venter (camphor bush), Marie-Lan Nguyen (cotton lavender), and Wikimedia users AnemoneProjectors (oxtongue, cat’s ear), Calimo (rattlesnake root), Kropsoq (dandelion), Epp (globe thistle), 00temari (holy thistle), Pseudoanas (safflower) and Leoadec (whiteweed).*

19.2 Syngenesia Polygamia Superflua (“same generation, many remaining marriages”), compound flowers formed by several small compact flowers forming a central disk of hermaphrodite flowers surrounded by a ring of feminine flowers. Both hermaphrodite and feminine flowers are fertile and produce seeds: Tanacetum (tansies), Artemisia (artemisias), Gnaphalium (cudweeds), Xeranthemum (dry everlastings), Carpesium (carpesiums), Baccharis (baccharises), Conyza (horseweeds), Erigeron (fleabanes), Tussilago (coltsfoots), Senecio (ragworts and groundsels), Aster (asters), Solidago (goldenrods), Inula (inulas), Arnica (arnicas), Doronicum (leopard’s banes), Helenium (sneezeweeds), Bellis (daisies), Tagetes (marigolds), Zinnia (zinnias), Pectis (cinchweeds), Chrysanthemum (chrysanthemums and daisies), Matricaria (chamomiles), Cotula (water buttons), Anacyclus (anacycles), Anthemis (false chamomiles), Achillea (yarrows), Tridax (coatbuttons), Amellus (amelluses), Sigesbeckia (St. Paul’s worts), Verbesina (crownbeards), Tetragonotheca (neverays), Buphthalmum (ox-eyes).

1758Linnaeus_syngenesia_polygamia_superflua

Linnaeus put this species in the order Syngenesia Polygamia Superflua (from left to right, top to bottom): common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), heath cudweed (Gnaphalium sylvaticum), annual dry everlasting (Xeranthemum anuum), saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia), one-flower fleabane (Erigeron uniflorus), common coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), common groundsel (Senecio vulgaris), Italian aster (Aster amellus), seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), hairy inula (Inula hirta), mountain arnica (Arnica montana), common leopard’s bane (Doronicum pardalianches), common sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), common daisy (Bellis perennis), French marigold (Tagetes patula), Peruvian zinnia (Zinnia peruviana), Indian chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum indicum), common chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), buttonweed (Cotula coronopifolia), common anacycle (Anacyclus valentinus), sea false-chamomile (Anthemis maritima), common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), coatbuttons (Tridax procumbens), eastern St. Paul’s wort (Siegesbeckia orientalis), ox-eye (Buphthalmum salicifolium>). Credits to Muriel Bendel (tansy), Hermann Schachner (cudweed), Musa Geçit (dry everlasting), Bob Peterson (saltbush, coatbuttons), André Karwath (coltsfoot, daisy), C T Johansson (aster), Sam Fraser-Smith (goldenrod), Kurt Stüber (inula), Isidre Blanc (arnica), Agnieszka Kwiecien (sneezeweed), Lynda Poulter (chamomile), Walter Siegmund (buttonweed), Denis Barthel (false-chamomile), Petar Milošević (yarrow), and Wikimedia users N-Baudet (wormwood), Ghislain118 (fleabane), AnRo0002 (groundsel), Jamain (leopard’s bane, ox-eye), Rasbak (marigold), Vengolis (zinnia), Joydeep (chrysanthemum), Philmarin (anacycle) and Elouanne (St. Paul’s wort).

19.3 Syngenesia Polygamia Frustranea (“same generation, many marriages in vain”), compound flowers formed by several small compact flowers forming a central disk of hermaphrodite flowers surrounded by a ring of neutral flowers, without sexual organs, therefore only the flowers of the disk are fertile and produce seeds: Helianthus (sunflowers), Rudbeckia (black-eyed-susans), Coreopsis (coreopsises), Gorteria (gorterias), Centaurea (knapweeds), Gundelia (gundelia).

1758Linnaeus_syngenesia_polygamia_frustranea

The order Syngenesia Polygamia Frustranea included (from left to right) the common sunflower (Helianthus annuus), common black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta), lance-leaved coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), bachelor’s button (Centaurea montana), gundelia (Gundelia tournefortii). Credits to Frank Mayfield (black-eyed susan), Jean-Pol Grandmont (bachelor’s button), Gundelia (gundelia) and Wikimedia users i_am_jim (sunflower) and KENPEI (coreopsis).*

19.4 Syngenesia Polygamia Necessaria (“same generation, many unavoidable marriages”), compound flowers formed by several small compact flowers forming a central disk of hermaphrodite flowers, but whose feminine part is sterile, surrounded by a ring of fertile feminine flowers, therefore only the flowers of the ring produce seeds: Milleria (millerias), Silphium (rosinweeds), Chrysogonum (golden knees), Melampodium (blackfoots), Calendula (pot marigolds), Arctotis (bear’s ears), Osteospermum (daisybushes), Othonna (othonnas), Polymnia (leafcups), Eriocephalus (snow bushes), Filago (cudweeds), Micropus (cotton seeds), Sphaeranthus (ballflowers).

1758Linnaeus_syngenesia_polygamia_necessaria

These 7 species were included by Linnaeus in the order Syngenesia Polygamia Necessaria (from left to right, top to bottom): starry rosinweed (Silphium asteriscus), common golden knee (Chrysogonum virginianum), common pot-marigold (Calendula officinalis), whiteflower leafcup (Polymnia canadensis), Cape snow bush (Eriocephalus africanus), common cudweed (Filago germanica, now Filago vulgaris), Indian ballflower (Sphaeranthus indicus). Credits to James H. Miller (rosinweed), Fritz Flohr Reynolds (golden knee, leafcup), Wouter Hagens (pot marigold), Juanita Vilas Marchant (snow bush), Wim Rubers (cudweed), Dinnesh Valke (balflower).*

19.5 Syngenesia Monogamia (“same generation, one marriage”), stamens united forming a cylinder, but with single flowers, not forming inflorescences: Seriphium (seriphiums), Corymbium (plampers), Jasione (scabiouses), Lobelia (lobelias), Viola (violets and pansies), Impatiens (balsams).

1758Linnaeus_syngenesia_monogamia

The sheep’s scabious (Jasione montana, left), garden lobelia (Lobelia erinus, center left), common violet (Viola odorata, center right), and garden balsam (Impatiens balsamina, right) were part of the order Syngenesia Monogamia. Credits to André Karwath (lobelia), Bernard Dupont (violet) and Wikimedia users Darkone (scabious) and Joydeep (balsam).*

20. Gynandria (“female husband”)

“Husbands monstruously united to women”, i.e., flowers with stamens united to the pistils.

20.1 Gynandria Diandria (“female husband, two husbands”), two stamens united to the pistils: Orchis (orchids), Satyrium (satyre orchids), Ophrys (fly and bee orchids), Serapias (Serapis orchids), Limodorum (grass pinks), Arethusa (dragon’s mouth and snake’s mouths), Cypripedium (lady’s slippers orchids), Epidendrum (epiphytic orchids).

 

1758Linnaeus_gynandria_diandria

The order Gynandria Diandria included (from left to right, top to bottom) the military orchid (Orchis militaris), fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera), tuberous grass pink (Limodorum tuberosum, now Calopogon tuberosus), dragon’s mouth (Arethusa bulbosa), yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus), spathulate vanda (Epidendrum spathulatum, now Taprobanea spathulata). Credits to Holger Krisp (military orchid, fly orchid), Chris Meloche (dragon’s mouth), and Wikimedia users Algirdas (lady’s slipper) and CyberWikipedian (vanda).*

20.2 Gynandria Triandria (“female husband, three husbands”), three stamens united to the pistils: Sisyrinchium (blue-eyed grasses).

20.3 Gynandria Tetrandria (“female husband, four husbands”), four stamens united to the pistils: Nepenthes (pitcher plants).

20.4 Gynandria Pentandria (“female husband, five husbands”), five stamens united to the pistils: Ayenia (ayenias), Passiflora (passion flowers).

1758Linnaeus_gynandria_triandria_tetrandria_pentandria

The common blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bermudianum, left) was the only member of the order Gynandria Triandria. The distiller pitcher-plant (Nepenthes distillatoria, center) was the only member of the order Gynandria Tetrandria. The purple passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) was one of the members of the order Gynandria Pentandria. Credits to Wouter Hagens (blue-eyed grass), James & Jana Hans (pitcher-plant), Oliver P. Quillia (passion flower).*

20.5 Gynandria Hexandria (“female husband, six husbands”), six stamens united to the pistils: Aristolochia (pipevines), Pistia (water lettuce).

20.6 Gynandria Decandria (“female husband, ten husbands”), ten stamens united to the pistils: Helicteres (screw trees).

1758Linnaeus_gynandria_hexandria_decandria

The order Gynandria Hexandria included the smearwort (Aristolochia rotunda, left) and the water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes, center). The order Gynandria Decandria included the Indian screw tree (Helicteres isora, right). Credits to J. M. Garg (screw tree) and Wikimedia users Hectonichus (smearwort) and Keisotyo (water lettuce).*

20.7 Gynandria Polyandria (“female husband, many husbands”), many stamens united to the pistils: Xylopia (xylopias), Grewia (crossberries), Arum (arums), Dracontium (arum yams), Calla (callas), Pothos (pothos), Zostera (eelgrasses).

1758Linnaeus_gynandria_polyandria

The order Gynandria Polyandria included (from left to right) the crossberry (Grewia occidentalis), dragon arum (Arum dracunculus, now Dracunculus vulgaris), elephant-foot yam (Dracontium polyphyllum, now Amorphophallus paeoniifolius), wild calla (Calla palustris) and climbing pothos (Pothos scandens). Credits to P. Pickaert (arum), Kurt Stüber (calla), and Wikimedia users Consultaplantas (crossberry), Fotokannan (yam) and Vinayaraj (pothos).*

As you can see, the class Syngenesia is much more regular than the class Gynandria. Most species of Syngenesia are currently included in the family Asteraceae. Gynandria, on the other hand, includes a variety of unrelated plants, including orchids, arum plants and even passion flowers!

Here we finish all plants with hermaphroditic flowers. We only need to more posts and we will have seen the whole system of Linnaeus!

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References:

Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae per regna tria Naturae…

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Friday Fellow: Chinese Magnolia Vine

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Coming from the forests of Northern China, Korea and Eastern Russia, our newest fellow is a woody vine called Schisandra chinensis and populary known as Chinese magnolia vine.

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The beautiful red fruits of the Chinese magnolia vine. Photo by Vladimir Kosolapov.*

Used in Chinese traditional medicine, the plant is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs. The part of the plant most commonly used are the berries, which are known as magnolia berries or five-flavor-fruits. The second name is a translation of the Chinese name, 五味子 (wǔwèizi), because the berry is said to contain all five basic Chinese flavors: salty, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter. An infusion prepared with the dried fruits is called omija tea or omija-cha, from the Korean name of the fruits.

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A cup of omija tea. Photo by Raheel Shahid.**

The traditional uses of the Chinese magnolia vine included the treatment of disorders related mainly to the sexual organs. Several current studies by laboratory trials indicated that the plant has a large number of beneficial properties, including antioxidant properties and the ability to increase endurance, working ability, accuracy of movements and mental ability. It also seems to be useful in the treatment of several diseases and disorders, especially inflamatory ones, such as sinusitis, otitis, neuritis, dermatitis and gastritis, as well as on some infectious diseases such as influenza and pneumonia, among many other conditions.

I’m certainly interested in trying a cup of omija tea. What about you? Have you ever had the chance?

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References:

Panossian, A.; Wikman, G. (2008) Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: An overview of Russian research and uses in medicine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 118(2): 183-212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2008.04.020

Wikipedia. Schisandra chinensis. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schisandra_chinensis >. Access on October 31, 2017.

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Friday Fellow: Flat-Leaved Scalewort

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Time and again, if we want to understand all the nuances of life on Earth, we have to look to the small things that live close to the ground or on the bark of the trees. And one of this small creatures is the flat-leaved scalewort, Radula complanata.

Growing on rocks or trees, the flat-leaved scalewort is quite common in the northern hemisphere, especially in North America and Eurasia, and belongs to the diverse but hidden group of the liverworts.

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Radula complanata growing on the trunk of an ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) in England. Credits to BioImages – the Virtual Fieldguide (UK).*

In Europe, the flat-leaved scalewort occurs in dense forests, where it finds shelter to the direct exposure to the sun. In this forests, it shows a clear preference for growing on broad-leaved trees and shrubs, such as the goat willow Salix caprea and its hybrids. It usually grows friendly with other epiphytic liverworts on the same tree, although not much clustered.

Although usually harmless, the flat-leaved scalewort can cause skin irritation (more precisely, allergenic contact dermatitis) when handled, which seems to be related to the presence of certain alcaloids, such as bibenzyls, in its tissues.

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References:

Asakawa, Y.; Kusube, E.; Takemoto, T.; Suire, C. (1978) New Bibenzyls from Radula complanataPhytochemistry, 17: 2115–2117. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9422(00)89292-4

Heylen, O.; Hermy, M. (2008) Age structure and Ecological Characteristics of Some Epiphytic Liverworts (Frullania Dilatata, Metzgeria Furcata and Radula Complanata). The Bryologist, 111(1): 84-97. https://doi.org/10.1639/0007-2745(2008)111[84:ASAECO]2.0.CO;2

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The history of Systematics: Plants in Systema Naturae, 1758 (Part 6)

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Finally a new post in the History of Systematic series. This is the sixth part of Linnaeus’ classification of plants. See parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Here, I’ll present two more classes which are characterized by having the stamens arising from a common base in the flower.

16. Monadelphia (“single brothers”)

“Husbands, or brothers, arising from one base”, i.e., the filaments of the stamens are fused in a single body.

16.1 Monadelphia Pentandria (“single brothers, five males”), five stamens fused into a single structure: Waltheria (gray mallows), Hermannia (hermannias), Bombax (cotton trees), Melochia (melochias).

1758Linnaeus_monadelphia_pentandria

These 5 species belonged Linnaeus’ Monadelphia Pentandria (from left to right): sleepy morning (Waltheria indica), three-leaved hermannia (Hermannia trifoliata), chocolateweed (Melochia corchorifolia), red cotton tree (Bombax aculeatum, now Bombax ceiba). Credits to J. M. Garg (sleepy morning), C. E. Timothy Paine (hermannia), Jeevan Jose (chocolatewed), Dinesh Valke (cotton tree).

16.2 Monadelphia Decandria (“single brothers, ten males”), ten stamens fused into a single structure: Connarus (Indian zebrawood), Geranium (geraniums), Hugonia (a species of doubtful identity).

1758Linnaeus_monadelphia_decandria

The above species were put by Linnaeus in the order Monadelphia Decandria: Indian zebrawood (Connarus monocarpus, left) and bigroot geranium (Geranium macrorhizum, right). Credits to Dinesh Valke (zebrawood) and Wikipedia user Hardyplants (geranium).

16.3 Monadelphia Polyandria (“single brothers, many males”), many stamens fused into a single structure: Stewartia (silky camellia), Napaea (glade mallow), Sida (fanpetals), Adansonia (baobabs), Pentapetes (gojikas), Gossypium (cottons), Lavatera (tree mallows), Malva (mallows), Malope (mallow worts), Urena (caesarweeds), Alcea (hollyhocks), Hibiscus (hibiscuses), Althaea (marshmallows), Camellia (camélia).

1758Linnaeus_monadelphia_polyandria

Linnaeus classified the above species as Monadelphia Polyandria (from left to right, top to bottom): common baobab (Adansonia digitata), arrowleaf fanpetal (Sida rhombifolia), glade mallow (Napaea dioica), common marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), common hollyhock (Alcea rosea), common mallow (Malva sylvestris), garden tree mallow (Lavatera thuringiaca), common caesarweed (Urena lobata), Levant cotton (Gossypium herbaceum), Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), gojika (Pentapetes phoenicea), silky camellia (Stewartia malacodendron), common camellia (Camellia japonica). Credits to Jeevan Jose (fanpetal), Pablo Alberto Salguero Quiles (marshmallow), Stan Shebs (hollyhock), Joanna Voulgaraki (mallow), Bob Peterson (caesarweed), H. Zell (cotton), Andrew Fogg (hibiscus), Frank Vicentz (camellia), Wikimedia users Atamari (baobab), Botaurus stellaris (tree mallow), Melburnian (silky camellia), flickr users peganum (glade mallow), Lalithamba (gojika).

17. Diadelphia (“two brothers”)

“Husbands originating from a double base, as well as a double mother”, i.e., the filaments of the stamens are gathered in two bodies.

17.1 Diadelphia Pentandria (“two brothers, five males”), two structures formed of five fused stamens: Monnieria (monnieria).

17.2 Diadelphia Hexandria (“two brothers, six males”), two structures formed of six fused stamens: Fumaria (fumitories).

17.3 Diadelphia Octandria (“two brothers, eight males”), two structures formed of eight fused stamens: Polygala (milkworts), Securidaca (safeworts).

1758Linnaeus_diadelphia_hexandria_octandria

The plant to the left, the common fumitory (Fumaria officinalis) was in the order Diadelphia Hexandria, while the plant to the right, the common milkwort (Polygala vulgaris), was in the order Diadelphia Octandria. Credits to Isidre Blanc (fumitory) e Radio Tonreg (milkwort).

17.4 Diadelphia Decandria (“two brothers, ten males”), two structures formed of ten fused stamens: Amorpha (false indigo), Ebenus (ebonies), Erythrina (coral trees), Spartium (brooms), Genista (more brooms), Lupinus (lupins), Anthyllis (kidney vetches), Aeschynomene (jointvetches), Piscidia (), Borbonia (cape gorses), Aspalathus (more cape gorses), Ononis (restharrows), Crotalaria (rattlepods), Colutea (bladder sennas), Phaseolus (beans), Dolichos (longbeans, lablab bean), Orobus (vetchlings), Pisum (peas), Lathyrus (more vetchlings), Vicia (vetches), Astragalus (milkvetches), Biserrula (more milkvetches), Phaca (even more milkvetches), Psoralea (some trefoils), Trifolium (clovers or trefoils), Glycyrrhiza (licorices), Hedysarum (sweetvetches), Coronilla (more vetches), Ornithopus (bird’s-foot), Scorpiurus (scorpion’s-tails), Hippocrepis (horseshoe vetches), Medicago (alfalfas), Trigonella (fenugreek and allies), Glycine (soybeans), Clitoria (pigeonwings), Robinia (locusts, caraganes, riverhemps), Indigofera (indigos), Ulex (gorses), Cicer (chickpea), Ervum (lentils, vetches), Cytisus (laburnums and even more brooms), Galega (galegas), Lotus (bird’s-foot-trefoils), Arachis (peanut).

1758Linnaeus_diadelphia_decandria

These 36 plants were included in the order Diadelphia Decandria (from left to right, top to bottom): coral bean (Erythrina herbacea), fishfuddle (Piscidia erythrina, now Piscidia piscipula), heart-shaped capegorse (Borbonia cordata, now Aspalathus cordata), weaver’s broom (Spartium junceum), dyer’s broom (Genista tinctoria), desert false-indigo (Amorpha fruticosa), Indian jointvetch (Aeschynomeme indica), blue rattlepod (Crotalaria verrucosa), field restharrow (Ononis arvensis), common kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), white lupin (Lupinus albus), bladder senna (Colutea arborescens), common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), lablab bean (Dolichos lablab, now Lablab purpureus), common pea (Pisum sativum), hairy vetchling (Orobus hirsutus, now Lathyrus hirsutus), grass vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia), common vetch (Vicia sativa), Chickpea (Cicer arietinum), lentil (Ervum lens, now Lens culinaris), common laburnum (Cytisus laburnum, now Laburnum anagyroides), common gorse (Ulex europaeus), peanut (Arachis hypogaea), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), scorpion vetch (Coronilla glauca), little white bird’s-foot (Ornithopus perpusillus), horseshoe vetch (Hippocrepis comosa), prickly scorpion’s-tail (Scorpiurus muricatus), alpine sweetvetch (Hedysarum alpinum), indigo (Indigofera tinctoria), common galega (Galega officinalis), Asian pigeonwing (Clitoria ternatea), common soybean (Glycine max), alpine milkvetch (Astragalus alpinus), white clover (Trifolium repens), Cretan ebony (Ebenus cretica). Credits to Everglades NPS (coral bean), Jon Richfield (capegorse), Bernd Haynold (dyer’s broom), Dinesh Valke (jointvetch), J. M. Garg (rattlepod), Kristian Peters (restharrow, vetch, bird’s-foot), Massimiliano Marcelli (lupin), Mauricio Laurente (bean), Bogdan Giuşcă (hairy vetchling), Carl Davies-CSIRO (chickpea), Christian Kooyman (lentil), Jean François Gaffard (laburnum), H. Zell (peanut), Carsten Niehaus (scorpion vetch), Isidre Blanc (horseshoe vetch), Hans Hillewaert (scorpion’s-tail, clover), Nicola Cocchia (galega), Tusli Bhagat (pigeonwing), Jörg Hempel (milkvetch), Rüdiger Kratz (ebony), flickr users jayeshpatil912 (fishfuddle) and Eskimo Potato (sweetvetch), Wikimedia users Hectonichus (weaver’s broom), AnRo0002 (false indigo, kidney vetch, bladder senna), Dalgial (lablab), Rasbak (pea), Sannse (grass vetchling), Rosser1954 (gorse), Pharaoh han (liquorice), Pancrat (indigo), vegetalist (soybean).

18. Polyadelphia (“many brothers”)

Husbands originating from more than two mothers, i.e., stamens are gathered in three or many bodies.

18.1 Polyadelphia Pentandria (“many brothers, five males”), more than two structures of five fused stamens: Theobroma (cacao and bay cedar).

18.2 Polyadelphia Icosandria (“many brothers, twenty males”), more than two structures of twenty fused stamens: Citrus (citrus fruits trees).

18.3 Polyadelphia Polyandria (“many brothers, many males”), more than two structures of many fused stamens: Hypericum (St. Johnswort), Ascyrum (St. Andrew’s cross).

1758Linnaeus_polyadelphia

The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao, left) was one of the members of the order Polyadelphia Pentandria; the citron (Citrus medica, middle left) was a member of the order Polyadelphia Icosandria; and the Balearic St. Johnswort (Hypericum balearicum, middle right) and the St. Andrew’s cross (Ascyrum hypericoides, now Hypericum hypericoides) were members of the order Polyadelphia Polyandria. Credits to H. Zell (cacao tree), Christer T Johansson (citron), Wikimedia user Eric in SF (St. Johnswort), Bob Peterson (St. Andrew’s cross).

With a few exceptions, most of the plants in these classes currently belong to the families Malvaceae and Fabaceae (Leguminosae) of flowering plants. I guess we still need three more posts on the plants and then we are done! I hope the next part won’t take so long.

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References:

Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae…

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They only care if you are cute: how charisma harms biodiversity

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Which of the two species shown below is more charismatic?

Tangara_chilensis

Tangara chilensis (Paradise Tanager). Photo by flickr user ucumari.*

854px-apocrypta_guineensis2c_volw-wyfie_op_f_sur2c_manie_vd_schijff_bt2c_f

Apocrypta guineensis (a fig wasp). Photo by Wikimedia user JMK.**

You probably would pick the first one. And if I’d ask you which one deserves more attention and efforts to be preserved, you would likely choose the bird as well, or at least most people would. But what is the problem with that? That’s what I am going to show you now.

As we all know, the protection of biological diversity is an important subject in the current world. Fortunately, there is an increase in campaigns promoting the preservation of biodiversity, but unfortunately they are almost always directed to a small subset of species. You may find organizations seeking to protect sea turtles, tigers, eagles or giant pandas, but can you think of anyone wanting to protect beetles? Most preservation programs target large and charismatic creatures, such as mammals, birds and flowering plants, while smaller and not-so-cute organisms remain neglected. And this is not only true in environments that included non-biologist people, but in all fields of research. And more than only leading to a bias in the protection of ecosystems, this preference leads to thousands of understudied species that could bring biotechnological revolutions to humandkind.

In an interesting study published this week in Nature’s Scientific Reports (see reference below), Troudet et al. analyzed the taxonomic bias in biodiversity data by comparing the occurrence of data on several taxonomic groups to those groups’ diversity. The conclusions are astonishing, although not that much surprising. The most charismatic groups, such as birds, are, one could say, overstudied, with an excess of records, while other, such as insects, are highly understudied. While birds have about 200 million occurences above the ideal record, insects have about 200 million below the ideal number. And the situation does not seem to have improved very much along the years.

41598_2017_9084_fig1_html

The bias in interest is clear. The vertical line indicates the “ideal” number of occurrences of each group. A green bar indicates an excess of occurrences, while a red bar indicates a lack of occurrences. Birds and Insects are on the opposite extremes, but certainly the insect bias is much worse. Figure extracted from Troudet et al. (2017).***

Aditionally, the study concluded that the main reason for such disparity is simply societal preference, i.e., the most studied groups are the most loved ones by people in general. The issue is really a simple matter of charisma and has little to do with scientific or viability reasons.

The only way to change this scenario is if we find a way to raise awareness and interest of the general public on the less charismatic groups. We must make them interesting to the lay audience in order to receive their support and increase the number of future biologists that will choose to work with these neglected but very important creatures.

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See also:

Once found and then forgotten: the not so bright side of taxonomy

The lack of taxonomists and its consequences on ecology

Unknown whereabouts: the lack of biogeographic references of species

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Reference:

Troudet, J.; Grandcolas, P.; Blin, A,; Vignes-Lebbe, R.; Legendre, F. (2017) Taxonomic bias in biodiversity data and societal preferences. Scientific Report 7: 9132. https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-09084-6

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***Creative Commons License
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Friday Fellow: Operculate Acrochaete

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Last week I introduced a red alga, the Irish moss. Today I’m bringing another alga, this time a green one, but this is not an ordinary green alga, but a parasite of the Irish moss! So let’s talk about Acrochaete operculata, or the operculate acrochaete as I decided to call it in English, since obviously there would be no common name for an alga parasite of another alga.

Discovered and named in 1988, the operculate acrochaete is an exclusive parasite of Chondrus crispus. The infection occurs when flagellate zoospores of the parasite settle on the outer cell wall of the Irish Moss, where they start their development and digest the cell wall, penetrating the tissues of the host. In sporophytes of the Irish moss, the operculate acrochaete digests the intercellular matrix and spreads through the frond, while in gametophytes the infections remains localized, forming papules. The damages caused by the green alga lead to secondary infections by other organisms, especially bacteria, and the infected fronds end up falling apart, completely degradated.

ccrispus

A frond of the host (Chondrus crispus) to the left and the parasitic Acrochaete operculata that infects its tissues to the right. Photo extracted from chemgeo.uni-jena.de

As mentioned last week, the sporophytes and gametophytes of the Irish Moss have different forms of the polysaccharide carrageenan and this seems to be the reason why the parasite infects both forms differently. The sporophytes have lambda-carrageenan, which seems to increase the virulence of the parasite, while the kappa-carrageenan of the gametophyte seems to limit the green alga’s spread.

Since its discovery, the operculate acrochaete and its interaction with the Irish moss has been studied as a way to both reduce its damage on cultivated crops of the red alga and as a model to understand the relationship of plants and their pathogens.

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References:

Bouarab, K.; Potin, P.; Weinberger, F.; Correa, J.; Kloareg, B. (2001) The Chondrus crispus-Acrochaete operculata host-pathogen association, a novel model in glycobiology and applied phycopathology. Journal of Applied Phycology 13(2): 185-193.

Correa, J. A.; McLachlan, J. L. (1993) Endophytic algae of Chondrus crispus (Rhodophyta). V. Fine structure of the infection by Acrochaete operculata (Chlorophyta). European Journal of Phycology 29(1): 33–47. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09670269400650461

Correa, J. A.; Nielsen, R.; Grund, D. W. (1988) Endophytic algae of Chondrus crispus (Rhodophyta). II. Acrochaete heteroclada sp. nov., A. operculata sp. nov., and Phaeophila dendroides (Chlorophyta). Journal of Phycology 24: 528–539. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1529-8817.1988.tb04258.x

 

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