Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rants about Plants

For the next two weeks, I'm focusing on plants. "Why? Oh, why?" you ask. Two reasons: 1) Plants are vastly under appreciated; (despite the fact that plants are always visible) and 2) I like plants.
There are lots of visitors in the canyon this time of year, and you can more easily impress them with plants than you can cue animals for them to see (Walt Tornow's abilities notwithstanding).

Let's start with something we all know, namely, fruit and expand our knowledge. What is a fruit? A fruit holds the seed(s). That's it in a nutshell (which is itself a fruit. The nut is the seed). Some fruits are berries, some are capsules, some are pods, some fluffy stuff, and so on. Let's look at some fruits in Sabino Canyon.

Photo by Matt Ball 10/23/2012
The fruits of the Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida) and Netleaf Hackberry (Celtis reticulata) are what we usually think of as fruit - fleshy, sweet, with seed(s) inside. A whole fruit is at the bottom of the photo; a squashed one is in three parts - with seed in the middle. Yes, these are edible; the seed is a bit bitter, IMO, but the flesh is lightly sweet. (And you can wow the kids of a certain age by revealing that these plants are in the Hemp family. Yes, that hemp. Cannabaceae.)

AS WITH ANY PLANT, be sure to positively identify it before eating. And instruct kids (of all ages) not to even touch anything without your permission or guidance. 

When you are out in the canyon with kids (of all ages), it's good to give them a task - especially one involving plants. More on this tomorrow.

For the eager learner, here's a general intro to plant biology. Click on the links on the left to move through the explanation.

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