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Date palm is a tender evergreen tree that probably orginated in the Fertile Crescent and has been cultivated since 7,000 BC.   It is a member of the palm family, Arecaceae, that also includes cocunut and palmettos.  The trees grow up to 75′ tall and has one to several stems carrying pinnately compound leaves are 13-20′ long and have spines on the petiole and up to 150 leaflets that are up to 12″ long. The leaves are produced at the stop of the stems and form a crown that is 20-33′ across.   Spikes of small white  male and female flowers are produced in the axils of the leaves on different plants and fertilized female flowers give way to yellow to red, oval  fruits that are 1-3″ long and very sweet.  Date palms are grown as street trees as well as for shade and fruit, and may be grown in a container as apatio or house plant.  The genus name, Phoenix, was the classical Greek name for the plant.  The specific epithet, dactylifera, comes from the Greek word dactylos meaning finger, and the Latin word ferre meaning to carry, and refers to the finger-like appearance of the leaves. Photo Credit Wiktionary [click to continue…]

Cantharellus_cibariusThe chanterelle is common throughout the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere where it grows in troops from mid summer to fall in association with spruce and pine, sometimes with deciduous trees such as oak. They especially thrive in damp sites such as ditches and hollows, and often hide under moss or leaf litter. The mushrooms stand 2-4 ½ inches tall and the cap is 1 ¼ to 4 inches across. The egg-yellow cap is funnel-shaped, thick and fleshy at first but quickly flattens out and develops a depressed center as it matures. At the same time the inrolled margin becomes wavy and irregular. The gills like structures on the underside of the cap are widely spaced, forked near the margin, and decurrent down the stem. The cap flesh bruises orange to red and has a fruity fragrance that has been likened to apricots. The stem is smooth, thick, the same color as the cap, and tapers towards the base. The spores are cream colored. [click to continue…]

 Native to prairies, open woods, rocky slopes and roadsides of the western plains states, this perennial grass is a member of the grass family, Poaceae, that also includes bamboo, rice, and corn.  The erect to arching leaves are mostly basal, hairless, and 6-36″ long.  The flowers and seedheads are carried in airy panicles on 4′ long stems and are narrow a first but spread to 12″ wide.  The flowers are bright green tinted with red from midsummer to early autumn when they turn buff-brown.  Plants are drought tolerant and a good choice for beds, borders, cottage, native plant, prairie, and wildflower gardens. The genus name, Eragrostis, comes from the Greek words eros meaning love, and agrostis meaning grass, but how that applies to the genus is unknown.  The specific epithet, trichodes, comes from the Greek thricho- meaning hair-like. [click to continue…]

One of the best and most well-known sources of information on medieval gardening is Petrus Crescentius,  jurist from Bologna Italy, who worte an agricultural treatise based on classical and medieval sources as well as his own experience as a land owner.  His work was published in several languages over a long period of time and the frontspiece of the 1495 Venice edition gives us an idea of the nature of a traditional farm-complex of the late 15th century. [click to continue…]

Ponderosa pine is a large confierous evergreen tree native to rocky cliffs and dry slopes in mountainous regions of western US from southwestern North Dakota, south the Texas and west to Washington, Oregon, and southern California.   It is known by a variety of names including western yellow, bull, blackjack,  big heavy, western red, western pitch, Sierra brownbark, ponderosa white, and western longleaf pine.  Ponderosa pine belongs to the Pinaceae plant family that also includes spruce, hemlock and larch, and is divided into 5 different subspieces/varieities. The trees  grow from a spreading root system with deep a tap root and can reach 230′ in their native habitat but are normally 60-100′ tall in cultivation.  They have a straight main stem that is blackish-brown when the trees are young but develops  yellow to orange-red bark in broad plates with deep irregular fissures when mature and is fire resistant.  The bright-green needles are usually in bundles of 2-5, and vary in lenght from 2.7-10″ long  depending on the subspecies.  Pollen and seed cones are produced in the spring.  The yellow to red pollen cones are cyllindrical and .6-1.4″ long.  The seed cones are solitary (rarely in pairs) and mature in 2 years . They are reddish brown and conic to ovoid before opening to broadly ovoid and becoming 2-6″ long, and prickly.  Ponderosa pine is tolerant of  high elevation, a wide range of soils including alkaline, low humidity, wind,  and drought when established. It is useful for windbreaks and bufferstrips.  The genus name, Pinus, is the ancient Latin name for the plant.  the specific epithet, ponderosa, is the Latin word meaning heavy or weighty, and refers to the wood, which is valued as lumber. [click to continue…]

Also called St. John’s-bread and locust bean, this evergreen tree is a  member of the pea family (Fabaceae) and native to Southern Europe, Northern Africa, the Levant, Middle East and Macaronesia.  It is low-branching, dense, and compact and has contorted branches, rough dark-brown branches and a rounded crown. The pinnately compound leaves are six to nine inches long and have six to ten oval leaflets one to three inches long. They are leathery, glossy, and dark green above with paler undersides. Red buds open to small yellowish male and female flowers carried in lateral racemes on separate trees in spring. Female flowers produce brown, glossy, flat, narrow, leathery pods four to twelve inches long and containing up to 15 seeds. Both male and female flowers must be present for pod production. Photo Credit Wikipedia [click to continue…]

This herbaceous perennial is native to grasslands, meadows, and open woods of Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa and is also known as common hedgenettle and bishopwort.  It is a member of the mint family, Labatiae, that also includes basil, sage, and beebalm.  Plants grow up 9″ to 3′ tall depending on the variety, and have a hairy stem that is square in cross section and sometimes branched. The dark green oval leaves are up to 5″ long, hairy, coarsely toothed, and have a wrinkled appearance.  The tubular red-violet  flowers appear in interupted spikes in mid to late summer and are 2-lipped and 3/4″ long.  The flowers attract pollinators and are good cut flowers.  Although betony has an illustrious past as a medicinial herb it is more popular now as an ornamental for borders  and cottage gardens.   The genus name, Stachys, comes from the Greek word stachys meaning ear of corn and refers to the inflorescence of a related plant.  The specific epithet, officinalis, is the Latin word meaning sold in shops and refers the medicinal value of the plant. [click to continue…]

Bachelors buttonThe plant known as bachelor’s button today is Centaurea cyanus, an annual native to Europe. It is in the aster family, Asteraceae that also includes daisies, sunflowers, and lettuce. Intense blue flowerheads are carried in spring and early summer on branched stems with gray-green leaves. It is unlikely that Shakespeare had this plant or any particular plant in mind when he wrote and more probably meant any flower in bud.

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Also called one-seeded juniper, this evergreen coniferous shrub or small tree is native to the mountains of southwestern US  including Arizona, New Mexico, southern Colordo, panhandle of Oklahoma, and western Texas where they grow on dry sandy or rocky slopes.  It is a member of the Cypress family, Cupressaceae, that also includes redwoods.  Plants grow up to 50′ tall from a deep root system and are multistemmed, densely branched, and may be knarled.  Stems have reddish brown to gray-brown bark that exfoliates in thin longitudinal strips to expose bright orange brown beneath.  Young foliage is needle-like while mature leaves are scale-like.  In spring male and female berry-like cones are produced on different plants.   Female plants produce berry-like fruits that are black to copper-colored with waxy bloom, contain one seed and are eaten by birds and small mammals.  Cherrystone juniper is extremly drought tolerant once esptablished and is an excellent choice for erosion control or a screen especially in a xeriscape.   The genus name, Juniperus,  is the ancient Latin name for the plant.  The specific epithet, monosperma, comes from the Greek words, monos meaning single and the sperma, meaning seed and refers to the fruit. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Wild Plum (Prunus americana)

This suckering deciduous tree is also known as American plum and yellow plum and is native to North America from Saskatchewan and Idaho south to New Mexico and East to Quebec, Maine, and Florida where it grows in woodlands, pastures, stream-sides, and abandoned fields.  It is a member of the rose family, Rosaceae, that also includes cherry, almond, and lady’s mantle.  Plants grow 10-20′ tall and have a shallow spreading root system and main stems with smooth reddish/gray bark that becomes rough, furrowed, and exfoliating as it ages.  The branches and twigs are dark reddish-brown and may have thorns.  The ovate to oblong leaves are 2-4″ long and have toothed margins.  They are dark green on the upperside, paler beneath and turn yellow to orange or red in the fall.  In mid-spring before the flowers appear umbels of 2-5 white flowers appear in the leaf axils.  Each flower is about 1″ across, has 5 petals, and are unpleasantly aromatic.  The round fruits are 1″ across and are red with bright yellow pulp.  Although the fruits are edible they are tart and usually used for jellies and preserves.  Plants provide food and/or cover for songbirds, gamebirds, small mammals, white-tailed deer and butterflies.  Drought and heat tolerant, wild plum tends to form thickets and is a good choice a screen or barrier.  The genus name, Prunus, is the ancient name for plum or cherry.  The specific epithet, americana, is the Latinized form of America and refers to the native range of the plant. [click to continue…]