Friday, October 15, 2010

I Found My Fruits!

Computers are still a great mystery to me. I've learned the basic maneuvers to publish my blog and send emails, but sometimes my iMac does very mysterious things like cause an entire folder to disappear. That happened a few weeks ago to a folder of photos I'd compiled of fall fruits and seeds, and today it just as mysteriously reappeared on my desktop. Before the gremlins return, I'm posting the photos here, even if they are a month late. They're all part of my effort to try to identify plants in every season -- plus to prove that there's still lots of cool stuff out there in the woods, even after the flowers are gone.

Wild Senna seed pods

Virginia Creeper berries

A comment from a botanist informs me that these berries are more
likely those of Woodbine, a close relative of Virginia Creeper.

Maple-leaf Viburnum berries

Umbrellawort seeds

Black Nightshade fruits

Carrionflower berries

Common Barberry berries


Jens Zorn said...

It's great when files somehow find their way back-- congratulations on the return of these!

From what do names like "umbrella wort" and "Carrionflower" arise?

And can I plausibly use Black Nightshade fruits as the critical element in my next try at writing a mystery novel?

suep said...

Jens, I found out about Carrionflower the hard way,
one day a few years ago, I saw an unfamiliar vine, and picked some of the green flowers to take home to identify, & left it in the car overnight ... big mistake ! The next morning it smelled like something died in there ! The odor is apparently to attract certain flies as pollinators ...

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Jens, hi Sue, thanks for your comments. Yes indeed, it's very evident how Carrionflower got its name if you pass near to one in bloom. You'd swear some corpse was about. Very tiny blooms, but boy, do they reek! When not in bloom, the plant has no bad odor. I don't know who eats the berries, but no doubt some critter does. Otherwise, why would the plant go to the trouble of surrounding its seeds with juicy flesh, if it did not need to be eaten for propagation's sake?

Umbrellawort (actual names: Heart-leaved Umbrellawort or Wild Four-O'clock; Latin name Mirabilis nyctaginea) probably got its name from the ribbed star-shaped cup that holds up to five magenta five-parted flowers. This cup opens wide like an umbrella after the flowers have completed blooming. The seeds are quite poisonous, I've heard.

You may have heard that the berries of Black Nightshade are as poisonous as their name implies, but I'm alive to tell you that they are not that poisonous. I've tasted them and they are quite sweet, with a flavor that's most intensely tomatoey. I suppose if you ate whole heaps of them, they might be a little toxic, but I don't know. Their cousins, the tomatoes, were once considered toxic, too. For your mystery novel, Jens, you'd be better off using those Umbrellawort seeds. The Wild Senna seeds may be poisonous, too, come to think of it.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

I checked out Wild Senna and found that the plant, instead of being poisonous, has a number of medicinal uses, most notably as a purgative. Of course! Why didn't I think of that? The main ingredient of the OTC laxative Senecot is senna.

Steve Young said...

I think the Virginia creeper fruits are actually from the closely related woodbine, Parthnocissus vitacea. They split evenly when they branch instead of a more raceme-like inflorescence.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Steve, for the note about Woodbine. I sure wish I had both kinds of fruit cluster so that I could examine the differences. I've always wondered how to tell the two apart.

catharus said...

Interesting info on the Woodbine. I'll have to check this out as well; I always thought that was Virginia Creeper.