Sunday, February 12, 2012

A botanical remedy for short days, intense studying, and general wintertime angst

The days are short. My patience for menial tasks has withered. The days are short...did the sun even rise today? No way of knowing.  I have been sequestered away, frantically trying to review every bit of academic material touched upon during my graduate tenure.  This seems an endless task.  Time for a break.

And so, here it goes, the transient organic nature of my plant inspired ADD.  The mind rapidly returns to one of my last meaningful field days in the forests of Gallia county last early November.  In keeping with my interest in all things Liliaceae (sensu lato, some authors place this in the Melanthiaceae),  Stenanthium gramineum var. robustum is the target, but unexpected surprises started the day.

There are at least 6 species of Gentiana native to Ohio.  Gentiana andrewsii is perhaps the most common.  Despite this I have only found it one time before and only a few plants were present (in Erie County, the opposite end of the state).  This population in Gallia county consisted of many plants, some of which were quite robust and vigorous.  And loaded with mature seeds...

The beauty of this autumn-flowering gentian was enhanced by the light frost of the morning.  No doubt, the extended floral flourishes a product of the exceedingly mild Ohio autumn in 2011.  I have tried to grow this, and many other gentians from seed, with only limited success.  Often, success with Gentians is an "all or nothing affair", dependent upon obtaining fresh seed and choosing the proper germination protocol.  I was able to collect enough seeds that I was able to try a couple of different methods.  Time will tell if success is to be had.

Is this a sedge?  No, but it sure looks like it.  This is Stenanthium gramineum var. robustum the target of a expedition, and one of the most garden worthy and ornamental components of our native flora.  I had never actually seen the living plant, only herbarium specimens, and because of the plethora of sedges growing in association, I stopped to look at everyone until it became obvious that Stenanthium is like a sedge on steroids.  The inflorescence is a dead give away....

Isn't it purdy? It is always important to keep in mind the plastic nature of many plants.  By that I mean their intrinsic ability to respond to and produce fantastic displays of growth and flowering in garden settings that is rarely rivaled in natural settings.  What I mean to say is, just as you should never judge a book by it's cover, you should also never hastily judge a plant in accordance with its performance in the wild.

Coddled delicately between dwhr's fingers are the objects of desire, the trilocular capsules of Stenanthium gramineum var. robustum containing ripe and viable seeds.  We were fortunate to find these as the majority of the capsules had opened and the seeds had dehisced.  I was able to collect about 100 seeds of this, for some mysterious reason, rarely grown plant.  Seeds were sown immediately and progress will be updated.  

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