Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Japanese barberry - Berberis thunbergii

My wife, daughter, and I went for a nice walk the Friday after Thanks Giving at Fahnestock State Park. Along the way I noticed a fairly large infestation of Japanese barberry. This is a plant that I'm fairly confident in my ability to identify in the field, but I wanted to use this opportunity to learn more about its characteristics.

I usually ID this based on the red fruits, straight spines/ thorns, and the surrounding environment and plant community. However, in the past, I've not bothered thinking about the difference between Common barberry (Berberis vulgaris), which is native to Europe, and Japanese barberry (B. thunbergii). One of the key differences is that Common barberry has sharply toothed leaf margins, while Japanese barberry has 'entire leaf margins' (no teeth). It's late Autumn in NY. Looking at this picture, it's clear that leaf characteristics are not going to help me.

Another trait difference is that Common barberry as 3-pronged spines. I didn't recall seeing this in the field. When I zoom into this picture, it becomes pretty blurry, but I'm pretty sure that each of the spines is by itself. So I'm going with Japanese barberry as my ID.

Both Japanese and Common barberry are in the Berberidaceae family (i.e., the barberry family). There's some nice information on this family both in the above referenced Wikipeadia page and in eFlora. Seems to be a fairly species rich family (ca. 650 species), but relatively few here in northeast North America (based on Flora Novea Angliae).

Sources used:
previous knowledge
Flora Novea Angliae
USFS Weed of the Week information sheet (Common barberry)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

American crab apple - Malus coronaria

There are a lot of plants in my own backyard that I'd like to work on IDing here. This is the first. American crab apple or wild crab apple or sweet crab apple ... let's just go with Malus coronaria. This tree caught my eye because the fruit have turned a beautiful yellow / gold color this fall (and presumably every fall). I'm not fully convinced it's M. coronaria though. From what I saw, it lacks the thorn-like structures at the end of the twigs. That might be just based on the branch I pulled off the tree, or it might be some sort of cultivar. Or perhaps I just got it wrong.

Sources used:
Trees of New York State Native and Naturalized
Trees of Eastern North America (Princeton Guides)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Changing the focus of this blog

I started this long neglected blog to write down ideas I had as worked my way through getting my PhD in Ecology and Evolution. I've since gotten said degree, finished my postdoc, and started as an assistant professor at Pace University in New York. I've also started a different blog (of sorts) using Github pages. 

So where does that leave this site? I had thought of continuing to neglect it for a while, until I finally just closed it all together. But today, I had another idea. You see, while I fancy myself a plant ecologist, I'm not especially good at knowing the names of many plants. I've wanted to get better at this for a long time, and perhaps some day I will. So I'm going to use this space to post pictures of plants I try to ID.