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Ask a botanist...

 
Bob Dobbs
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Hi, I a botanist in a botanical family; between me, my wife, and my father in law, we have about 75 years of hands on professional botany/ecology/horticulture experience. I specialize in edibles, and my wife specializes in wetland ecology. I grow plants for a living basically, and also act as a kinder-to-the-earth alternative to the county extension agent. If you have an I.D question or any technical questions, feel free to ask, I love answering such questions. I also have a great deal of experience specifically dealing with the southeast US, specifically the deep south and our rain leached red clay soils. I have been successful at growing things at least 1/2 a USDA zone and often a full zone outside their listed hardiness.
Example: thomasville citrangequats grow very well without protection other than good siting north of the atlanta area, zone 7b, and is very tasty and productive, regardless of what that guy from texas says on the gardenweb forums. I grow certain varieties of nerium oleander up there as well, and I have hardy cycads growing in gainesville ga at the foothills of the appalachians.
And, be forewarned, I have aspergers syndrome, which in this context means I can be overly technical and overly blunt to the point of insulting people.
So, ask away!
 
                    
Posts: 238
Location: AR ~ozark mountain range~zone7a
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hey bob, how come the wildcrafted price of roots is so ridiculously low? Just for fun I thought I would try to wildcraft some native roots in an area that needed cleaning up anyway. It just seems odd to me that a pound of dried mayapple root or sassafrass leaves is only worth $2, at best. I can't justify the work of drying the stuff properly, much less finding it, digging, replanting...etc., not to mention the fact that personally 'for 2 bucks, I would rather keep it where it is'. How does anyone make out on wildcrafting other than ginseng?

james beam
 
Bob Dobbs
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Hmm, all of the direct-to-consumer links I found listed prices between $12 and $20 a pound for specifically wildcrafted mayapple roots. My best guess as to why the wholesale price would be so cheap is there are folks who are willing to work for cheaper. I know that where my mom's family comes from in kentucky there are precisely three options for employment: coal mines, growing pot, and digging roots. And these folks are poorer than poor.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Bob, It sounds like you have experience growing plants outside their zones. There has been some posts here about trying citrus in northern climates. I have property in Colorado and Wyoming and would love to bring in different fruit trees that may be a zone or two lower than where I live. Could you please talk a little more about your techniques for creating microclimates and what do you think about growing citrus in zone 4 or 5 ?
 
Bob Dobbs
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Zone 4 or 5 would probably be limited to poncirus trifolata, which although seedy, is known in asian cultures as "dragon's eggs" and with a few weeks ripening off the tree do yield a tasty sour juice that makes good lemonade and is good mixed with vodka. Yield of juice is quite low though, most of the time the fruit is mostly all seeds and just a bit of juice. Sour citrus generally makes more true-to-type fruit outside of their zone due to the heat/sun required to ripen sweet fruit. Dwarf satsuma, meyer lemon, and key lime can make very nice potted plants. And don't forget kaffir lime, you don't even need to get fruit for that one to be useful, makes tasty thai food.

Zone pushing is easy in my area because the prevailing cold wind in the winter always comes from the northeast, so planting something on the southwest side of the house up against the foundation has the dual purpose of collecting heat on the foundation during the day and protecting the tree from cold wind at night. One way I protect smaller trees (generally less hardy than larger) is to place a large tomato cage around the tree and fill it with fallen leaves. Generally I can get just about a zone by siting and maybe half an extra zone by the leaves. Also, it is much easier to keep things that are hardy to say 10 degrees F around freezing than keeping anything above freezing.

If I were in your zone, I would try a small attached greenhouse with some sort of removable insulating cover for zone pushing valuable edibles. Also, it is very important to note that rootstock and variety have a lot to do with hardiness, an example for me is that my oleanders were selected over 10 or so years by trial, most of em would either completely die or die back to the roots, whereas 5 varieties are completely undamaged by the cold here. Just remember to be persistent, sometimes you have to get lucky and have a mild winter to get a little perennial to establish well enough to be hardy in a typical winter. And note that it is possible to have something that survives but isn't worth having; I have bird of paradise and night blooming jasmine growing here in 7b, but it doesn't come up til mid july and barely does anything.
 
Marc Troyka
pollinator
Pie
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Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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Hmm.. you're right in my area, do you happen to know of any good sources for native vitis aestivalis?
 
wayne stephen
steward
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Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
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Hello Bob - I have a question about Camellia Sinensis in Western Kentucky. I have a need for caffeine and would like to grow tea here. Is it possible?
 
Bob Dobbs
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M- don't know any good seed source off the top of my head, if I'm correct I have some growing at my mother's house, though most wild grape vines are male. There are named varieties such as norton. I'll be going by there in a few days, if the leaves haven't fallen yet I'll take some cuttings.

Wayne- You're half a zone away, some tea varieties are listed zone 7a, and to hedge your bets you could always plant a yaupon holly. Don't let the name ilex vomitoria scare you, I like the stuff just fine, and they evidently drink the stuff still in coastal south carolina.
 
Steve Flanagan
gardener
Posts: 324
Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
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Hey Bob, I don't know if you're still taking questions or giving feedback, but here it goes...

I live in California, in the sierra nevada foothills at 2600 feet in elevation. I'm at 37 degrees north. I live on 5.65 acres, the property is mostly sloped facing west and south west. My soil is mostly clay, and some spots quite bare, but mostly oak/poison oak/foothill pine community. I live in a low usda zone 9a, according to the newest data. While last years winter was a little warmer than normal the low was only 27 F. My Heat Zone is 8. I have only lived on this property for about a year, but have lived in the area for even. We get the occasional snow, but it usually melts the next day, even more so on my property than other parts of the town I live in. We do not get hard frosts.

One of my long term goals is to grow a wide variety of edibles. I want to grow sub tropical plants, some of which are controversial to grow here, like citrus, passifloras, edible bananas, caricas, etc. And on the other end of the spectrum I want to grow plants that don't take the heat as well, like pawpaws or seaberries. What do you recommend I do? Any advice or feedback is appreciated.

Thank you,
Steve
 
James Flour
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Location: PNW
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Bob, I have a question.

I have what I think are apple root-stock coming up besides an old stump, and they could be apple or they could be seedling plums from the feral seedling plums since they look so similar. Is there any way to determine the difference between the seedlings of the two trees besides the glands at the base of the Plum leaves? Is there a plum that doesn't have glands at the base of the leaf?

Also, I have a question about camas lilly (Camassia Quamash) propagation from seed. I can't get them to sprout, and that is irritating since they do it on their own all the time. There is a local grower, but they claim that you have to sprout the seeds in neutral ph sand for around 100 days....and that seems insane since camas grows on clay. Do you have any suggestions? I believe the seeds are spread by birds.
 
Bob Dobbs
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Steve:
I wrote a reply but it got lost in the sands of time/raising a two year old... Due to my bohemian lifestyle I didn't have any net access til now. The issue with pawpaws in your area will be the heat/lack of heat to ripen sweet fruit. Actually, that would be the issue with most citrus. That being said, I think sour citrus are almost a more important part of a homestead than sweet. I would try satsumas, eustis limequat, thomasville citrangequat, bloomsweet grapefruit, ichang/taichang lemon, the "ten degree tangerine", there are other citrus. All would be plenty hardy for your area even accounting for climate change either way, and don't let that asshole from texas tell you they are inedible. I am about to drive 20 miles out of the way for some thomasvilles and budwood. Low chill apples/pears/etc would be cool if you can find decent tasting varieties, yates is my favorite apple. Sour pomegranate would be tasty, maybe the "hardy kiwi" which imho are tastier than the non-edible-skinned ones. Native black currant, if your soil would handle it, good variety is "Crandall". Banana, try the "veinte cohol" variety, that one will fruit here in georgia so it should be good there, an alternative would be "orinoco". Try loquats, try the hardier avocado like brazos belle etc. Don't look for sugar sweet fruit in your heat zone though.


James,

Get detailed pictures, preferably with leaf detail and habit, and I can identify it for you. And, I would either stratify the camass seed, or I would plant it in place now, and accept partial failure if it happens.
 
Steve Flanagan
gardener
Posts: 324
Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
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Thanks for your reply, Bob. I really appreciate it. I love your recommendations.
 
Calvin Eyre
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Hey Bob,

This site is awesome, and thanks in advance. I live in Northern Kentucky. Florence, KY to be exact. Can Camellia sinensis be grown there? or is there another kind of tea that I could grow in this area?

Thank you!
 
Bob Dobbs
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Cortland Satsuma
Posts: 319
Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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hello Bob! So glad to read your offer! Be as blunt as you like! We are located in Powhatan, Va (Central VA, slightly more moderate than Richmond area, zone 7). I am from Hawaii; and, was last living LT in Southern Cal (and previously lived a few years in Turkey). There are a lot of plants from these areas I would love to grow and do not yet have a greenhouse. Our emphasis is on fruit bearing trees, shrubs, and vines. As for their companion plants (herbs, flowers, veggies) we are sticking with the bountiful options that generally thrive here. I would love to explore some of the tropical, citrus, and Mediterranean varieties...Any advise? Thanks!
 
Bob Dobbs
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mckenzie-farms.com: I would at least try a thomasville citrangequat up against the south side of your house, protected with plastic in the winter.

Also try "hardy" kiwi. Ask your local extension agent whether apricots grow well in your area, it matters more if there are late frosts rather than very low temperatures. And don't be afraid to go half a zone either way as far as hardiness goes, placement in the landscape means a lot.
 
shawn dunseith
Posts: 57
Location: mo
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Need id help
Weed.jpg
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shawn dunseith
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Location: mo
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?
Weed2.jpg
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Cortland Satsuma
Posts: 319
Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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Thank You, Bob!

Stan got back to me with some info tonight. We will plan out a raised bed next to the brick fireplace on our south side of our house. It sounds like we will need to stick with potted and frame wrap for winter. We will start slow to see how it goes!
 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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poison hemlock ?

Fits all the descriptions, and a fern type growth structure. No real umbrells, but freeform globes. square stems, not much red on them.
cut out dendritic leaves, with fractal edges.
Stingy straight root, but not much flesh or depth. easy to hand pull.

TINY flowers, and prolific seeding, (tho i have never actually seen a seed)



I can't find anything else that fits, but this is high desert, pretty dry, and this is growing in N. side shade. gets snow for about 2 weeks a year.

I have checked wild carrot, and other stuff, but they all have umbrell flower form.

Any place to look? tried wiki and and have lots of edible books, but nothing has popped up, and can't find an enlarged pic of leaf edges of the hemlock.
 
Kirk Wil
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I am writing a book on gravesides, and found this flowering shrub (see attachment) growing over a tombstone in a cemetery in Paris, France. My local gardeners think that it might be a Ligustrum (privet) or Viburnum. What do you think?
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Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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Got a cheesy fone pic of the suspected poison hemlock, watcha think ?

img\

attach05-06-13_13.00.jpg
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poisonous
 
Cortland Satsuma
Posts: 319
Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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@morgan,

i pulled a lot of hemlock out of an over grown flower bed last season. It looked a lot like your picture. As some got bigger, the purple showed up more on the stem. I have an illustration (some where!) that is very helpful at IDing the close look a likes. I will try to locate it and scan it in for you.
 
Bob Dobbs
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Kirk, looks like a big viburnum tinus off the top of my head, may be a hybrid.

Morgan, it does look like poison hemlock, the way to tell is hemlock has a mottled smooth hollow purple-y stem and queen anne's lace has a green hairy stem. If it's queen anne's lace and it is first year, you can eat the whole plant afaik. But hemlock one isn't really supposed to even handle it much, so I'd be careful if that is what it is. Use gloves..
 
Bob Dobbs
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BTW sorry for the lack of reply, moved to a new area and this new area brings a new scourge upon my plant collection: fusarium oxysporum.....
 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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thanks.

Am still surprised, this is a true desert area, just around an old house.

The root never gets much thicker, but the flower heads are never flattened umbrells, which i think is the lace style.

the flower pods are pretty distinctive too....
 
Mauricio Giron
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Hello all,

Any of you ever deal with a fruit tree that wont grow naturally from a seed? I have come across one such tree by the name of Spanish plum, red mombin

(Spondias purpurea)

and have read

"Of great interest is the absence of seed formation in this species, an aspect that was first studied in the Philippines. In the "nut", which occupies the central part of the fruit, only remnants of aborted seeds are found. This is due to both poor pollen formation and the oosphere. Natural distribution is thus completely limited, but the ease with which stems and branches sprout, together with their fragility, allows a very limited natural propagation. Recognition and conservation of the numerous variants which this species displays is possibly due to the action of humans."

What I want to know is: How can I plant this tree from the seed? There has to be a way, right?

Thank you in advance.
 
Cortland Satsuma
Posts: 319
Location: (Zone 7-8/Elv. 350) Powhatan, VA (Sloped Forests & Meadow)
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@Mauricio Giron


If the botanists can not find viable seeds; I think it is not likely you will either. You could collect masses of wild fruit and check every seed, but I do not see that as very time efficient. If this does not grow wild or cultivated near you, you could post an online ad in the region it is found requesting fresh twigs for propagation.
 
Bob Dobbs
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http://proseanet.org/prosea/e-prosea_detail.php?frt=&id=1546

Evidently the wild populations produce seed, possibly being dioecious, whereas the cultivated populations are parthenocarpic. I bet if you got a few thousand seeds and made a trial garden luther burbank style (minus the racism haha) you could develop new, more permie-friendly varieties. Most tropical fruits could benefit from such treatment as long as a permie is ruthless in culling for permie plant-values.

Apologies for lack of reply, building new greenhouse biz and my only 'puter is a crappy, crappy smart phone.
 
Jim Fagan
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Hello, I write for a trivia show on AMC networks called Story Notes, where we put up pop up trivia notes over the nightly movie, and I'm wondering if you could help me with a quick question I have about the film "Meet the Parents."

In it, they mention a rare flower, the Jerusalem Tulip. I'm wondering if this is a real plant, or made up? Is there such thing as the rare Jerusalem Tulip? Any other bits of info that might be interesting?

Thanks for your time!
Jim
 
Bob Dobbs
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AFAIK, it is a completely made up plant. Asked a few other professors and tried to find references to cultivar with no avail. It is plausible a cultivar has been named "jerusalem" in the past, as there are thousands, but no references could be found.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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Location: Western Washington
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Bob Dobbs! I'd like to commend you taking on this tread. Hopefully no-one will make it your full time job I just spent the last 15 minutes cruising trying to get an ID on this one to no avail myself. A nettle look alike with a tall pink flowered flower stalk. Growing in an alder forest in polyculture with stinging nettles and others. I get the impression that this one likes wet (possibly bacterial?) soils because it seems to grow in areas where there is standing water during the winter. Growth pattern similer to nettles (I had to double take) except that these don't seem to want to bend like a nettle does when it reaches maturity.

Positive Identification or triple my money back? Thanks
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Bob Dobbs
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First guess is a scutellaria, can't say that for certain. Any way you could dissect the flower? Pull it apart and see if you can count the stamens(pollen producing organs).
Scutellaria have 4 stamens.
Would be easy if I were right there to see the botanical minutia.

What part of the world are you in? A bit removed from my area.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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I could go back out and do so tomorrow!

I am in western washington and fairly close to sea level. I will look up scutellaria and keep the questions coming.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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How about dead nettle (f. Lamium)?
 
Bob Dobbs
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It looks close, but the way the flowers are presenting themselves makes it different from any lamium species I'm familiar with.

Lamium, scutellaria, and salvia are quite closely related. Lamium was actually my first though. And, it may indeed turn out to be a lamium, hence the request for a stamen count. I'm used to being able to dissect mint family flowers, a 'cheat' way to determine genus.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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So I googled both flowers which Bob and Leila suggested. Bob the flowers very closely resemble some of the scutellaria I turned up in an image search (and not at all some other... darn tricky plants) and do not (to my eye) resemble the dead nettle at all. I would say the flowers look similar to Scutalaria Hastifolia.

Would it make sense to say that upon pulling the flower apart I encountered 4 stamen and one pistil? They where vary similar in size and the flowers where past their prime by the time I got back out to them but the 4 'stamen' where slightly thinner (and more degraded) than the one 'pistil' which was slightly beefier ( it was a slight delicate thing) that or the flower had 5 pistils. But that sounds wrong. Gah. I think I've failed you Bob. Perhaps it will have to wait until next year. I'll do some research here on my end too.

Edit: Flowers and leaves where alternating in pairs 90 degrees from each other. So two flowers (/leaves) next layer up 2 flowers (or leaves) at 90 degrees from the previous set and so on

Thanks!

Image of Sutellaria Hastifolia flower from wikipedia commons quite looks similar. Leaves do not

Also a few more photos (they're of poorer quality so they may do more harm that good - they are growing in amongst nettle and its hard for me to focus with my pos camera)

Image 2 nettle on left unknown on right above sword fern

Image 3 - picked a nettle and a unknown. Nettle on Right (or bottom if the image hasn't saved correctly and is not rotated)
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from wikipedia commons
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Bob Dobbs
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It's a scut, I'm pretty durn sure. Could be salvia judging from pictures but salvia would only have two stamens.. you are correct, four "thin" parts and one "thick" in this case means four stamen and one pistil.

No problem on picture quality, in the same boat myself.. botanists aren't rich unless they work for monsanto!

Now to track down the species... Scuts are quite numerous with widely varying habits and leaf shapes. Can't rule out it being an introduced species.

Nice little forest garden in any case! Nettles are delicious and scuts are quite medicinal!

 
George Meljon
Posts: 278
Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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Hi Bob, I am grateful for your willingness you have shown in answering these questions. I have several plants to ask about from our 8 acre field. I am interested in improving soil quality and potential for livestock. But that doesn't need to derail the straight id purpose of this thread. Ok first one: please forgive the mish mash of plants in this one. I think the white flower plant does stand out the most and that's what I'm wondering about.
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Bob Dobbs
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Either erigeron/conyza bonariensis or conyza/erigeron canadensis. If the leaves are slightly hairy, canadensis, if the leaves are smooth, bonariensis. I guess bonariensis, though I can't quite tell 100% from the photo.

Winter/summer annual, tough to get rid of, host for a true bug that attacks legumes, and presumably has a taproot.

Thank my wife/girlfriend for this.


 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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