Monday, March 26, 2007

More Plants Springing forth...

Well, there are so many plants flowering forth that I thought I'd put on some more photos. I am in the process of learning what some of these plants are, so bear with me. The shrub with the red berries are shown to the right is yet to be identified. I thought for a moment that it was the hips of the small wild rose that blooms here, but the stem and leaves are totally different. It is growing in the brushy area between my driveway and the street that runs by my house. Another red berried bush that grows here is the red huckleberry, but this isn't it. Further research on my part needs to be done...

Below right is a view of my street in front of my house. As you can see it is strewn with the male Red Alder catkins that I mentioned in the earlier post. I believe this to be the culprit responsible for my annual bout with hayfever. Actually thus far it has been a minor problem with only mild attacks, and I haven't had any problem with it in over a week now.

Also just in front of my house by the front street are clumps of Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis). They are stickery bushes that are extremely common in damp areas of the NorthWest. There are places down the street where these plants cover large areas. As you can see, the blossoms are small but have a pleasing dark pink color. The berries range from a light orange to a deep red color. The taste is rather bland I am afraid, but I make sure that I don't eat them until they are good and ripe, because they can be quite bitter otherwise. Once I was eagerly gobbling some of these very ripe berries by the Green River in Flaming Geyser park. These Salmonberries were very ripe and had begun to separate from their base. Unbeknownst to me large numbers of Earwigs (Dermaptera) had collected between the berries and their cuplike base, and I discovered too late that I had been happily munching on them!

Lichen is extremely common here (Not a plant, I know). It grows especially well on branches and the bark of trees such as the Red Alder and the Big Leaf Maple. Here is a photo I took of a dead branch covered with lichens that had blown down during a recent windstorm. You can see there are four or five different forms. Since I have no taxonomic knowledge of lichens, I can't begin to identify them. I hope to remedy this ignorance since it irritates me not to know what I am looking at. I just know that they are roughly classified by shape--crustose, foliose, fruticose, etc). Lichens are comprised of an algae (aquatic, plant-like organism, usually green algae or cynanobacteria) and a fungus (usually an Ascomycete) in a mutualistic relationship where both partners help out the other. The fungus, unable to make its own food protects the "photobiont" and supplies water and minerals, and the algae in turn produces food for the fungus through photosynthesis. Some claim that the relationship is parasitic since the algae can do very well without the fungus, but this seems to ignore the fact that the fungus can protect the algae from dessication, allowing both to live in extreme conditions where the algae couldn't possibly live. Apparently this habit of "lichenism" has evolved many times and often the partners have a variety of ancestors. In addition to being an example of an interesting case of cooperation between two very different organisms, lichen are important nitrogen fixers, taking free nitrogen from the air and making it available to other plants. Thus the web of interelationships gets quite complex.

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