monoecious: having male and female flowers/flower parts on the same plant
This might be a good time to talk about flowers. Some flowers have both male (stamen) and female (pistil) parts in the same flower. These are considered “perfect” flowers. An “imperfect” flower is either only male (staminate) or only female (pistillate). A monoecious plant can have either perfect or imperfect flowers, but if they are imperfect both the staminate and pistillate flowers will be present.
The opposite of monoecious is dioecious, where the plant has either staminate or pistillate flowers, but not both. If you find yourself getting the two mixed up, it can be helpful to know that both terms are derived from the Greek “oikos” which means “house”; when combined with “mono” (one) or “di” (two), you get:
monoecious = one house
dioecious = two houses
In other words, in a monoecious
plant the male and female flowers live together in one house (or plant) while
in a dioecious plant you will only find one or the other.
The catkins in the photo are from an alder (my guess is Alnus tenuifolia) I saw on a hike. The male catkins are the pendulous ones while the female ones are more cone-like. Earlier in the spring they would have appeared fuzzy (the males) or small and green (the females), but as they pollinate/get pollinated they turn brown and harder.
I love when I know the exact word to describe something, whether that “something” is an emotion, a color, taste, or plant part. To help you feel more confident in the words of the botanical world, I’m starting this Botanical Alphabet series. It may or may not be published in exact alphabetical order.
etiolation: the result of plants being grown in insufficient light; characterized by pale green/yellow color, long week stems.
Sometimes even a bright, sunny, south facing window isn’t enough for your seedlings. In whatever stage they are in, your plants will tell you whether or not they’re getting enough light. And for many plants, the first sign is etiolation: those long, leggy stems.
Incidentally, this is also a good time to talk about phototropism: the ability of the plant to grow towards the light, as it were. If you notice your plants are leaning towards the source of light, just rotate their pot and they’ll straighten back up. Until they start leaning again.
For my first “suburban weeds” post, I thought it only appropriate that I focus on the place we fondly call “the jump-off”. A couple of blocks away from our house exists a vacant lot where some industrious youths have built all manner of dirt hills, wooden jumps, and other forms of biking entertainment. We visit the jump-off quite frequently, my three year old and I; not necessarily to ride our bikes (though she sometimes does that on the low hills), but to explore. It’s a great place for exploring. In addition to the bike track and jumps, there’s a ditch running through it, that depending on the water level in the canal just to the east, can either be dry as a bone or have enough water in it to get your feet wet.
Weeds are funny things. By definition, they are “plants out of place”. But it is you – the gardener, the farmer, the recreationist, the observer – who decides whether it is “out of place” or not. One man’s weed is another’s wildflower.
Sometimes enough people (land managers, weed scientists, etc.) have decided that a certain plant poses enough of a problem that it gets extra designations such as “invasive” or “noxious”. If you want to learn more about the nitty-gritty of that, go check out my post on that by clicking here.
When I taught the weed identification and management lab at Utah State University I often told the students that they would be changed forever by taking the class. Only half-jokingly would I tell them that they wouldn’t be able to go anywhere again without seeing the weeds. I don’t know if that has actually happened with any of the students I taught, but I can say that it is 100% true of myself. Whether I’m hiking in the mountains or taking a walk around the neighborhood I notice the weeds. (I notice the other plants, too, but we’re just talking about weeds today.)
I’m not the only one who likes identifying plants though. There was a recent article in The Guardian about “rebel botanists” identifying the urban plants with chalk graffiti. Seeing the chalked names connects others with the plants that they might otherwise overlook.
And, really, that’s what this new “Suburban Weeds” project of mine is all about: connecting with this place I currently call home. As I’m out on walks around town I’ll take note of the weeds, sometimes photos, and then share those with you here. As I notice more weeds in the future, I’ll update those posts, but you can always refer back to this page for the links to the places I’ve been and the weeds I’ve seen.
Suburban Weeds: the Jump-Off
Thanks to Daniel Murphy of AwkwardBotany.com for the inspiration for this project.