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Edible Mushrooms: Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus)

Suillus_luteus_Native to Euraisa, slippery jack has been introduced to North America as well as other elsewhere in the world and is found growing in clumps under conifers, especially pines, where it forms symbiotic ectomychorrhizal associations with trees that fosters the growth of both. It is a bolete fungus with characteristic tubes and pores rather than gills. The mushroom grows 2.5 to 5 inches tall with a cap that is 2 to 4.5 inches across. The cap is thick, fleshy, slimy, usually dark brown, occasionally yellow, and is sometimes streaked. It is rounded or conical at first but flattens out with maturity. The tubes are golden to tan, the pores bright yellow, and the spores ochre brown, The stem is thick and firm and has red dots at the top that fade to yellow, and a distinctive membranous ring that develops a brown to violet color hat fades to pale yellow.

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Also called goatweed or Klamath weed this herbaceous perennial native to Europe, western Asian and North Africa  where it occur in a wide variety of habitats including pastures, meadows, rangelands, woodlands, open forests, natural clearing,  moist ravines, abandoned fields, roadsides,  and ditches.  It belongs to the Hypericaceae plant family that includes no other well known genera.  The root system consists of one or many aerial crowns attached to a system of vertical and lateral roots.  The vertical roots reach a depth of  two to five feet white the lateral roots are 1.2″ to 3″ deep and produce new crowns. Plants generally grow one to three feet tall but can reach five feet, and have one to many erect often reddish stems that are woody at the base, branched in the upper half ,and have pale green to yellow-green  oblong or linear round tipped leaves.  The leaves  are  attached directly to the stem and have  scattered translucent dots created by the presence of  glands.  The  flowers  are 3/4 inch across and appear in terminal compound cymes of 25-100 all summer.  They  have five yellow petals with black dots on the edges and give way to round seed pods that have a pointed tip. Common St. John’s wort has been grown since ancient times as a medicinal herb but causes many health problem  including allergic reactions and interference with prescribed medications. It also causes problem for livestock and is considered an invasive weed in many places.  The genus name, Hypericum, is from the Greek word hypereikon and derived from hyper, meaning above, plus eikon meaning picture.  The plant was believed to keep evil spirits away and the flowers of some species were placed above pictures, windows or doorways for this purpose at the ancient summer solstice festival which later became the feast of St. John, June 24.  The specific epithet, perforatum, is the Latin word meaning having or appearing to have small holes and refers to the holes that the Devil pierced in the leaves with a needle in revenge for people using the flowers to repel evil spirits.  The holes are actually translucent glands. [click to continue…]

Cumin is a herbaceous annual native to the eastern Mediterranean  east to India and has been known from ancient Egyptian times.  Although there have been many claims about the medicinal value of cumin in modern times there does not appear to be significant evidence for health benefits and it is grown primarily for culinary use especially for Mexican and Indian cuizine.    It is one of 16 herbs recommented  in the 9th century plan for the physics garden of the St. Gall Benedictine abbey in Switzerland, and one of the many plants recommended for the gardens of Charlemagne, but is not in Walahfrid  Strabo’s list of herbs for his garden that may have been a physics garden.   [click to continue…]

Native to tropical southeast Asia, this tender perennial grass is a member of the Poaceae/Gramineae family that also includes corn, wheat, rice, and bamboo.  The plants from a network of rhizomes that produce arching clumps up to 15′ tall.  The smooth glossy canes are unbranched, jointed, and have internodes filled with pith that is immersed in a sugary sap.  The linear strap-shaped leaves are up to 5′ long and have a prominent midrib and toothed margins.  In the fall flowers appear in fluffy pinkish pannicles up to 24″ long. The single seeded fruits are dry.  Sugar cane has been grown for about 8000 years and has given rise to many cultivars that vary most significantly in height, cane color, leaf color and hardiness.  It is a good choice for a screen or windbreak in warm climates and grows well in a container.  Both flowers and leaves are attractive in fresh and dried arrangements.  The genus name, Saccharum, is from the Greed word sakcharon meaning the sweet juice of the sugar cane.  The specific epithet, officinarum, is the Latin word meaning  of shops and usually refers to apothecaries. [click to continue…]

Also called love-apple, mandrake  ( דודאים dudaim  in Hebrew) is a very variable herbaceous perennial that is native to the Mediterranean area including Israel and the Levant and some soucses would classsify mandrakes in the eastern Mediterranean as M. autumnalis.    It is a member of the nightshade family, Solonaceae, that also includes potato, tomato, and eggplant.  The plants have a short stem  bearing a rosette of ovate leaves and a thick forked root that is highly toxic and resembles the lower half of a human body.  The leaves are up to 18″ long and vary in hairiness.  In spring, bell shaped flowers with 5 speals and 5 greenish white to pale blue or violet petals appear in the leaf axils on stalks up to 18″ long. Yellow to orange egg-shaped berries  up to 1.6″ wide appear from late autumn to early summer and contain numerous light brown seeds. Photo Credit Wikipedia [click to continue…]

Also called English thyme, this well branched aromatic evergreen shrub is native to the western Mediterranean region to southern Italy. It is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, that also includes basil, rosemary, and beebalm. Plants grow 6-12” tall and have a woody base and ¼” –1/2” long lanceolate gray-green leaves with margins rolled under. The ¼” tubular lilac to pink flowers are carried in whorls in small terminal clusters from late spring to early summer. Plants like average, dry to medium, well drained soil and full sun in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9. The genus name, Thymus, is the Latin name for the plant and may be related to a Greek word meaning smoke, referring to the use of the plant in sacrifices during ancient times. The specific epithet, vulgaris, is the Latin word meaning common. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Tiger Flower (Tigrida pavonia)

This tender perennial bulb is native to semitropical to semialpine climates of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Hondurus and is a member of the iris family, Iridaceae, that also includes crocus, gladiola, and and crocosmia.   Other names include jockey’s cap lily, Mexican shellflower, peacock flower, tiger iris and Christ’s knee.  Plants grow 1-2′ tall and have fan-like tufts of lance-shaped leaves.  In mid to late summer brightly colored flowers 3-6″ across appear and consist of  a spotted cup surrounded by 3 relatively small spotted petals and 3 larger petals in a single color.  The colors range from  scarlet,  to orange, pink, yellow, mauve and white.  Each flower  lasts only one day, opening in the early morning and closing by dusk.  Tiger flower is an excellent choice for beds, borders and containers.  The Aztecs and indigenous people of North America  roasted and ate the chestnut flavored edible bulb.  The genus name, Tigrida, is from the Latin word tigris meaning tiger, referring to the spots on the petals and center cup.  The specific epithet, pavonia, honors Spanish botanist and traveler in South America, Jose Antonio Pavon (1754-1840) [click to continue…]

Also called purple vetch, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, that also includes lupines, mimosa, and black locust.  It is native to Europe, southwest Asia, and northern Africa but was introduced to North America in the 1950s and was used as a green manure and to control soil erosion along roadsides and waterways and on embankments.  Since then it has spread and naturalized in the northeastern US where it can  be found in a variety of sites such as fields, grasslands, prairies, roadsides, waste areas and natural areas. Creeping stems of the plants quickly form large clumps that can cover and shade out native vegetation, and crown vetch is considered invasive in Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Crown vetch prefers full sun, dry to moist soil in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-7 and is intolerant of flooded soil or shade . [click to continue…]

Also known as bunch-flowered narcissus, this herbaceous perennial is native to the Mediterranean from Portugal to Turkey but naturalized in many areas including the Middle East, Asia, Australia, South America and North America.  It is a member of the amaryllis family,  Amaryllidaceae, that also includes snowpdrop, leek and garlic.  The plants grow from a bulb and have long thin  flat basal leaves that are blue-green, strap-shaped and 5-16″ tall.  Loose umbels of  3-20 fragrant flowers appear on leafless stems from early to mid spring and consist of spreading white perianth segments 1.5″ wide surrounding a  yellow cup-shaped corolla less than 1″wide and tall.  Paperwhite narcissus spread easily and are heat and drought tolerant so are a good choice for naturalizing. The are particularly attractive when planted in large groups.   Unlike other narcissi, N. tazzeta does not need a chilling period so is a good bulb for frowing in pots indoors and forcing.  Cut flowers are excellent in the vase.  The genus name, Narcissus, honors the beautiful Greek youth who fell in love with his own image.  The specific epithet, tazzeta, is the Italian word meaning little cup, and refers to the corolla. [click to continue…]

Plants of the Bible: Garlic (Allium sativum)

Native to central Asia and northeastern Iran, garlic is a herbaceous perennial and a member of the amaryllis family, Amaryllidaceae, that also includes onion, leek, and shallot.  Growing from a bulb consisting of up to 20 cloves, the plant has 6-12  linear, flat, grass-like leaves up to 2′ long with a pointed tip.  From July to September the bulb may produce a flowering stem up to 3′ tall carrying an umbel with pink to purple flowers  surrounded by a brown sheath.  Photo Credit Wikipedia [click to continue…]