Mystery Plant! #775

Mystery Plant! #775 John Nelson Posted 5/15/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comIt’s not a grass, and it’s not a sage. It’s a “sedge”.This week’s column is devoted to a certain plant family, and especially a certain genus within the family. This would be the family named “Cyperaceae”, an enormous group, in terms of...

Mystery Plant! #774

Mystery Plant! #774 John Nelson Posted 5/8/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comHow could anyone not love this lovely little plant?Its graceful stems are adorned with beautifully scalloped, bright green leaves. Rub the foliage and sniff: you’ll detect a charmingly spicy “earth odor”. Its little stems are perfectly square in cross section…so fun to...

Mystery Plant! #773

Mystery Plant! #773 John Nelson Posted 5/1/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comI remember a costume party once several years ago, it was Halloween, of course. There was a crazy guy there, very tall, with wild hair and a frizzy beard, both dyed bright yellow (how did he do that?), and then he was...

Mystery Plant! #772

Mystery Plant! #772 John Nelson Posted 4/24/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comWhatever humor this little plant might have must be truly tasteless. Well, its fruits are tasteless, anyway.The fruits are gorgeous, brilliant red, and are dead ringers for the cultivated strawberry. Bite into it, though, and you'll get a watery flavor, and not...

Mystery Plant! #771

Mystery Plant! #771 John Nelson Posted 4/17/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comBehold this lovely flower! Now it’s spring--glorious spring!...and you can’t hardly go anywhere without seeing flowers. Lots of flowers.This flower is commonly seen on the ground, after it has been blown out of the tree from which it comes. It is an...

Mystery Plant! #770

Mystery Plant! #770 John Nelson Posted 4/17/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comAre plants wimps?There they are, growing with their little leaves, their roots in the ground, the little delicate flowers smiling up at the sun…and being eaten, trampled on, mowed down, dug up, burned, sprayed with herbicides, hardly ever putting up a fight....

Mystery Plant! #769

Mystery Plant! #769 John Nelson Posted 4/3/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comWhen you look closely at our Mystery Plant, you can rather easily tell that it belongs to the bean family. Each flower is what we call “papilionaceous,” and in a fanciful way, butterfly-shaped. Five petals are present, all a beautiful pink or...

Mystery Plant! #768

Mystery Plant! #768 John Nelson Posted 3/27/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.com"Now 'tis the spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted; Suffer them now, and they'll o'ergrow the garden And choke the herbs for want of husbandry."                        [Shakespeare, Henry VI (part 2)]Watch out for the weeds, both the annuals and the perennials! Even in Shakespeare's...

Mystery Plant! #767

Mystery Plant! #767 John Nelson Posted 3/20/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comAlthough spring has sprung, it is still a bit cool on these Southern mornings. As a botanist, I understand that many of my colleagues, botanists, that is, have been suffering through bouts of cabin-fever during the dark winter months, and now that...

Mystery Plant! #766

Mystery Plant! #766 John Nelson Posted 3/18/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.com            I hereby decree that spring has arrived, along with its fragrant wisterias, brilliant jessamine, and charming crimson clover. Finally! And to celebrate, let me offer one of the most attractive of the spring-blooming Southeastern species...and a...

Mystery Plant! #765

Mystery Plant! #765 John Nelson Posted 3/18/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comPicture yourself in Bavaria in the spring, in a friend’s back-yard, admiring the view of the Alps in the distance. Your host, showing you around, spots this little weed, and exclaims, “Schau mal, Erdrauch!” (translation below…)            Our little plant is common...

Mystery Plant! #764

Mystery Plant! #764 John Nelson Posted 3/18/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.com“Life’s a beach.” That’s what they say.This is a species of an oceanic, or “marine”, algae. It is indeed, one of the many species of "seaweeds", a very non-technical term, but a term that is useful. Botanists consider the true seaweeds to...

Mystery Plant! #763

Mystery Plant! #763 John Nelson Posted 2/21/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.com¡Guacamo-le! Guacamo-le! Me gusta el guacamo-le!                                                                                       --a kids’ songThere are two basic reasons why you should make, and eat, guacamole.First, it tastes great. Guacamole, of course, comes from the avocado plant, which is native to warm semitropical forests of the New...

Mystery Plant! #762

Mystery Plant! #762 John Nelson Posted 2/14/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.com"In an early spring we see the appearing buds;Which to prove fruit, hope gives not so much warrant as despairThat frosts will bite them."                                King Henry IV, Part 2: I: 3.I'm just like Lord Bardolph, who was afraid that just as soon...

Mystery Plant 761

Mystery Plant! #761 John Nelson Posted 2/7/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comIt's so Fly-Day, Fly-Day Chinatown…                                                                Yasuha, 1981This song came out 40 years ago, or so, and of course I wasn’t “hip” enough then to quite understand what it was all about. It was a rather popular song, though, in a good many...

Mystery Plant 760

Mystery Plant! #760 John Nelson Posted 1/31/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comOne of my favorite trees here at the University grows right behind the herbarium. It’s been there for years (the building was constructed about 1974), and is now about 25’ tall. (I’m terrible at estimating heights of trees…but let’s just say that...

Mystery Plant 759

Mystery Plant! #759 John Nelson Posted 1/24/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comNot many flowers to see about this time of year, and certainly not those of woody plants. There are a few: you may know of Cornelian cherry with its very early yellow flowers, and then there a few varieties of “winter cherry”...

Mystery Plant 758

Mystery Plant! #758 John Nelson Posted 1/19/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comIf you are a cocker-spaniel, you may not want to look at this picture!            Here’s a plant with a kind of midwinter brutal beauty, the drying leaf stalks topped with a constellation of brown, spiny burs. You might have a feeling...

Mystery Plant! #757

Mystery Plant! #757 John Nelson Posted 1/19/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.com            The Father of plant taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus, probably had had a run-in with his editor, while working on his monumental Species Plantarum, in which he attempted to describe all the known plant species of his day....

Mystery Plant! #756

Mystery Plant! #756 John Nelson Posted 1/3/24By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comWhen clouds appear, wise men put on their cloaks;                When great leaves fall, the winter is at hand.                                                Shakespeare, Richard III: II, 3. Can we talk about leaves?Your botany professor probably waxed on and on about leaves, and how important they are for...

Mystery Plant! #755

Mystery Plant! #755 John Nelson Posted 12/28/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comI remember several years ago listening on the radio in my car…YES, the RADIO… to a public interest story about the benefits of eating compost: fresh, warm  compost, straight from the garden, so full of healthful benefits, including a variety of useful...

Mystery Plant! #754

Mystery Plant! #754 John Nelson Posted 12/20/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comAs of the writing of this essay it is not quite winter, at least on the calendar, but it’s cold, for me anyway. No more flowers to enjoy…well, not that many. Nevertheless, there are plenty of reasons for taking a walk in...

Mystery Plant! #753

Mystery Plant! #753 John Nelson Posted 12/13/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comWhen I was a kid, our family would make an annual summer trip to visit relatives in Hanover, Virginia. This was before interstate highways, and well before air-conditioning in the car, so we'd always leave early in the morning, well before dawn....

Mystery Plant! #752

Mystery Plant! #752 John Nelson Posted 12/6/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comOne of the nice things about moving to a new neighborhood, like we did recently, is taking new walking adventures. There’s always something to see: maybe a hidden garden behind someone’s house, or maybe a winter-time water feature, complete with late season...

Mystery Plant! #751

Mystery Plant! #751 John Nelson Posted 11/29/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comIt's a member of the tomato family, and it doesn't matter which way you pronounce it. The tomato family is also quite properly referred to as the potato family, as well, and again, don't worry about pronunciation. The take-home here is that...

Mystery Plant! #750

Mystery Plant! #750 John Nelson Posted 11/22/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comAn oak tree is just an acorn’s way of making more acorns.                                                            --an old sayingAll of the 400 or so species of oaks in the world belong to the genus Quercus, and North Americans are blessed with about 100 of them. You...

Mystery Plant! #749

Mystery Plant! #749 John Nelson Posted 11/20/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comThe other day I was getting a bit philosophical…or at least introspective, I suppose, thinking about how things change, especially people. Can it be that during our lifetimes, each of us goes through a number of identities as we age? Well, sure....

Mystery Plant! #748

Mystery Plant! #748 John Nelson Posted 11/8/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comDuring my first semester in college, a few years back, I had a class every Saturday (true!) at 8 AM. It was a real ordeal getting there on time, and fortunately, I think, we don't have things scheduled that way now. But...

Mystery Plant! #747

Mystery Plant! #747 John Nelson Posted 11/1/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comI knew it would happen: it’s gotten cold here in central South Carolina, definitely sweater-weather, at least on these brilliant, clear mornings. I managed to get in one more botany field trip last week just before it got chilly. You might say...

Mystery Plant! #746

Mystery Plant! #746 John Nelson Posted 10/25/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comIt would not be exaggerating to say that grasses are the most important plants, economically, in the world. For one thing, it turns out that every major civilization has depended upon one (or more) grass species as a major food source. (Consider...

Mystery Plant! #745

Mystery Plant! #745 John Nelson Posted 10/18/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comThey are Brussels sprouts, obviously…but what the heck are they actually? Today, you learn.You also learn that Brussels sprouts and cooked carrots were my most hated foods, as a kid. I believe that I can speak for many thousands of former children...

Mystery Plant! #744

Mystery Plant! #744 John Nelson Posted 10/11/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.com Most of us have been thinking that this past summer was really long, hot one. Then they say that this has been the hottest year on record, temperature-wise. This climate change business has very important effects on our local plant life,...

Mystery Plant! #743

Mystery Plant! #743 John Nelson Posted 9/27/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comFrequently the leaves and stems of a plant will prove to be just as fascinating as its flowers. This is a plant like that, and it is a native, aquatic species.Except for its leaves, the entire plant grows below the surface of...

Mystery Plant! #742

Mystery Plant! #742 John Nelson Posted 9/27/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comI am sad to say that one of my best friends and botany buddies died last year. Steve W. Leonard was a Tarheel from Davidson County NC, graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with his bachelor’s and later master’s degree (in 1973) in botany....

Mystery Plant! #741

Mystery Plant! #741 John Nelson Posted 9/20/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.com"The average American's simplest and commonest form of breakfast consists of coffee and beefsteak."                                                         ...

Mystery Plant! #740

Mystery Plant! #740 John Nelson Posted 9/13/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comMy plan yesterday was to get up early and prepare for a field trip with one of my former students. It was to be something of a “busman’s holiday”, as we wanted to botanize somewhere, and it didn’t really matter where, as...

Mystery Plant! #739

Mystery Plant! #739 John Nelson Posted 9/6/23By John Nelsonjohnbnelson@sc.rr.comWhen it rains it pours, and I don’t mean that recent hurricane.Among the plant identification requests we got last week here in the Herbarium, there were three separate questions about this very odd plant. I can’t quite figure out if it is...

Mystery Plant! #722

Mystery Plant! #722 John Nelson Posted 5/10/23 By John Nelson johnbnelson@sc.rr.com All of the maple trees of the world belong to a genus which has been named “Acer”. There are well over 100 different species, and practically all of them are native to the northern hemisphere. Maples play an important...