Beautiful Buttercups

Buttercups. The word brings to mind a field of yellow flowers, or perhaps a young girl sniffing the flower and dusting her nose with pollen. And indeed, some of the flowers in this family, the Ranunculaceae, do make you think of a little cup filled with bright yellow butter. And some don’t.

Continue reading “Beautiful Buttercups”

pH for Gardeners

To a gardener choosing which plants to grow, pH is an important consideration. While the pH of most soils falls somewhere between 3 and 9, the majority of common landscape plants prefer a pH slightly on the acidic side, say 6.2 to 6.8. However, some plants, such as blueberries and rhododendrons, prefer an even more acidic soil (with a pH in the 5 to 6 range) and other plants, green ash trees and clematis, for example, do best under more alkaline conditions, with a pH above 7.

Continue reading “pH for Gardeners”

Campanulaceae: Beautiful Bellflowers, Lovely Lobelia

Campanulaceae is a family of plants with members ranging from the towering palm-lobelias of Africa to cottage garden flowers with names from a child’s book of fairytales: Canterbury bells, Cup and Saucer Vine, Harebells, and Fairy’s Thimbles. Two familiar genera, Campanula and Lobelia, are members of this family.

Continue reading “Campanulaceae: Beautiful Bellflowers, Lovely Lobelia”

Meet the Mustards

Broccoli and cabbage, mustard and turnips. Radishes, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Kale and kohlrabi. Asian vegetables such as daikon radishes, bok choy, and gai lan (Chinese broccoli). Never has a plant family had so many tasty members.

Continue reading “Meet the Mustards”

Cool Beans

When we think of legumes, we think of peas and beans, but those common foods are just the beginning. The pea family (Fabaceae or Leguminosae) is the third largest family of plants, with somewhere between 13,000 and 19,000 species (botanists disagree) that range from large trees to sprawling vines to shrubs and small forbs. They may look quite different from one another, but a careful examination will reveal a number of similarities, making the members of this fascinating family fairly easy to identify.

Continue reading “Cool Beans”