Friday, 23 March 2012

Books that botanists read!

My favourite gardening book!

"The Lazy Gardener" by Don Burke is still one of the better publications for the home gardener (Yes, I use it) and the latest one is a very entertaining read! Funny, stories, recipes, tips & the environment rolled into a chapter by chapter informative story. The original "The Lazy Gardener" is almost a collectors item - if you haven't read this - then try and get a copy!

R'Cycling and the 'Nvironment contains some of the most practical advice out of all the different gardening magazines. His environmental advice is based on common sense - not as Don puts it "feel good one day experiences".

Here's a photo of the front cover - you can also click the photo to go to Don's site - Burke's Backyard.

Click the photo!
Also his recipe for Finger Lime canapes is terrific. But I perfer the pulp on fresh oysters! YUM!

The name he has for slow release (or controlled) fertilisers is funny! But you'll have to read it to find out.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

GRASS is not a Grass!

Grass is not a grass!

Cannabis species (Grass) is not technically a grass at all. It is a member of the flowering plants called dicotyledons while true grasses are members of the moncotyledons.

Cannabis is a dicotyledon - It is not a grass!
Where the name "Grass" came from is unknown by this author - maybe check more informed sites on cannabis! But grasses in the true sense, normally have narrow leaves with smooth edges. Their flowers are arranged also in threes or multiplies of three.

First - the difference between monocotyledons and dicotyledons is in the seed development. Cotyledon refers to the first seed leaf that appears and in monocots only one leaf (cotyledon) appears while in dicotyledons there are two seed cotyledons (leaves) that appear first. Beans are dicotyledons as are the majority of flowering plants. Here is a drawing of the basic difference between a monocotyledon and a dicotyledon.

Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons compliements of Wikipedia
In this example they have used a bean seedling and a corn seedling. The major difference is the emergence of the two leaves in the bean (dicotyledon) and only the one leaf in the corn (monocotyledon). Cannabis is a dicotyledon and should not be refered to as a grass.

Monocotyledons include all the grasses, orchids, lillies, palms and bananas. There are many more species and number of dicotyledons than monocotyledons. But of the two - it is the grasses (monocotyledons) that man relies on so heavily. Corn, rice, wheat, oats, barley, sugar cane, millet, sorgham and bamboo are all members of the moncot group and basically classified as grasses. Some of the grasses (including wheat, corn etc) are annual, and these grow one season and produce seeds, then die. The average lawn grass is not annual and has the majority of the plant underground and will spread by runners in the soil. The leaves of these grasses can be grazed by cattle, sheep or lawnmowers and continually regrow!

Wheat is descended  from wild grasses some 7,000 years ago - when man selectively cultivated the plants with the most grain - and then chose these seeds for the next crop. Over the years techniques have been deleveloped that currently wheat is now dependant on man to survive and spread.

Cultivated wheat is a grass! (somewhat modified)
Grasses in general cover nearly one third of the land area on earth, as they don't rely on as much moisture as many other plants. Their survival ability sees them exist in deserts, the artic, mountains and salt pans - the role they play in the environment is probably the greatest of all plant groups.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Pumpkin is not a vegetable!

Eat your vegies please!

If you are served pumpkin as your vegies - don't eat it! It is a fruit under proper classification. Just so you quite sure we're talking of the same item - here is a photo.

Pumpkin is a Fruit!
Yes! There are many different species of the pumpkin from the giant Queensland Blue to the smaller Butternut pumpkins. All of these have seeds inside - and is the seed bearing mature ovary of the flowering plant (vine in this case). Also tomatos, avocados, egg plants, cucumbers etc are all fruits. Many of the fruits are further broken down into berries (grapes & tomatoes), drupes (peaches,plums), pomes (pears, apples), aggregates (raspberries) and many others that are classified on their structure. For example a pea is a fruit also - but actually called a Legume - along with peanuts.

Then there are the nuts - another group of edible fruit that are often wrongly classified. The hazelnut and acorn are true nuts, while the almond is actully the seed of a stone fruit. Brazil nuts, cashews and pistachios are also not true nuts.

Confused? Well it gets even more complicated - watermelons and cucumbers are still fruit - but grouped as pepos.

Vegetables are mainly classified as Not Fruits - that is they have no seeds at all and can be any part of the plant. For example brocolli is just a bunch of tightly clustered immature flower heads, while carrots are just the swollen tap root of the plant and spinach is just the leaves and stalks.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Evolution of Plants

Plants - did they all start together?

No! The earliest fossils of plants were just traces of algae that lived approximately 3,000 million years ago and are thought to be the first primitive relatives of all plant life on earth.

To give an idea of the time scale - here is a picture that explains the evolution of the different types of plants and when they first appeared on earth.

The Plant Time Line
These algae who started life in the Pre Cambrian period didn't arrive on land until about 400 million years ago, so this first stage took some 2,600 million years. Many land plants were still basic algae which didn't survive - but others which are the ancient relatives of the mosses and liverworts did survive. The basic plant kingdom time line of evolution is shown here:

Basic Plant Kingdom
As you can see at the start was algae (which itself developed further) until the liverworts and mosses arrived. So 400 million years ago there were no trees, ferns, flowers at all. Just some mosses and liverworts - very tiny along with algae. The liverworts and mosses then were just multicellular tissue grouping that photosynthesised. (Another story). Then 55 million years later there was a change to these multicellular plants - they developed specialised water conducting cells with the plant body. The ancestors of these first specialised developed tissue plants are called the clubmosses, horsetails and ferns. These were the first true image of what we recognise today as plants. They had roots, stems and leaves, and the relatives of these are common today and remarkably unchanged. This all happened 345 million years ago. It was another 120 million years until the next big change occurred - the arrival of the first true seed bearing plants.

This was 225 million years ago, and they are the relatives of our conifers (pine trees etc) and cycads -  sometimes called cone bearing plants. This period lasted some 90 million years until the glorious flowering plants arrived for the first time and now is the largest plant group on earth. They cover trees, shrubs, grasses, vines, weeds and nearly every plant we normally see from day to day.

The development of each of the above groups will be discussed separately. Overall they are nearly 400,000 different plant species on earth the have been discovered so far and growing rapidly each year.