Sunday, December 27, 2009

Halo Sunrise Ancestors 3

What’s still green: Arborvitae, juniper and other evergreens, Apache plume, a few roses, cholla, prickly pear, yuccas, Japanese honeysuckle, grape hyacinth, St. John’s wort, vinca, beardtongues, coral bells, rock rose, sea pink, pink and yellow evening primroses, purple aster, cheat grass, bases of needle and June grasses.

What’s grey, blue-grey or grey-green: Piñon, pinks, snow-in-summer, saltbush, winterfat.

What’s yellow: Weeping willow branches.

What’s blooming inside: Christmas cactus, aptenia, asparagus fern; rochea and Christmas cactus leaves tinged with red.

Animal sightings: Rabbit still taking the same path; tracks Friday from the road through the yucca bed, then along the house to the drive, and out to my neighbors.

Weather: Snow from Wednesday still covers the north and west facing beds; 8:26 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: The most important ancestor of Ralph Moore’s Halo Sunrise is a hypothetical species called Rosa chinensis that was the original parent of the first roses imported from China. The first to arrive in England in 1759 and the first to appear in the genealogy is Parson’s Pink

Nothing that can be directly identified as Rosa chinensis has been found in the wild. In 1983, Mininoro Ogisu found stands of wild roses in southwestern Sichuan which many consider the closest we’ve come. However, when the seeds he collected were planted, they displayed variations one would expect from a hybrid, rather than a species. No one knows if Rosa chinensis spontanea is a feral hybrid or a natural one.

We do know the Chinese were cultivating roses from at least the Han dynasty (206 bc-220 ad), and that growers in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) found a way to save the recessive gene that allows roses to bloom more than once a season. A painting from that dynasty looks very much like Parson’s Pink.

The roses we know as China roses had already been crossbred with others species for fragrance and flower size. One, Rosa odorata, is only found in Yunnan. Another, Rosa odorata gigantea, varies in habit and flower where it grows in Yunnan, Myanmar, and adjacent parts of India, Thailand and Vietnam.

Guo Liang Wang believes roses began to move from the court to the general population during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). When Ogisu returned to Sichuan with Martyn Rix, they saw roses very like Parson’s Pink and Slater’s Crimson growing in a village near Ping-wu where feral chinensis spontanea roses flourished in the scrub covered hills.

By the time, the East India Company was sending back seeds back to England, often through the Calcutta botanical gardens run by William Roxburgh, roses had spread throughout the Chinese sphere of influence. The rose sent to France from La Réunion in 1823 by Edouard Perichon, that became the parent of the Bourbons, turned out to be a cross between the same Parson’s Pink and a damask

Chamberlain Hurst looked at chromosomes of “674 species, sub-species, varieties and hybrids” to discover most of the species had two sets of seven chromosomes, but that the old varieties cultivated in Europe had doubled that number to 28, while the newer varieties imported from China had 21.

When geneticists moved back beyond genealogies and history, they found evidence of even greater selection by man within the choices made by nature: six of the seven species that contributed to domesticated roses are closed related. When they looked wider still, at all roses, they realized almost all the species can be defined as one general group by their DNA. The exceptions are the hulthemia that interested Moore when he died and the roxburghii that began my quest.

Generations 9 to 13 of Halo Sunrise follow. Three of the roses Hurst’s defined as the progenitors of modern roses appear, Parson’s Pink, Clayton’s Crimson and Park’s Yellow.

Gen 9
Antoine Ducher - 1866 - Jean-Claude Ducher - hybrid perpetual
Seedling of Madame Domage
Château de Clos Vougeot - gen 7 - hybrid tea
Devoniensis - 1838 - Foster - tea
Smith’s Yellow China x Park’s Yellow Tea-Scented China
Fellenberg - 1835 - Philipp Emanuel von Fellenberg /
Fellemberg - noisette
François Michelon - 1871 - Antoine Levet (père)
hybrid perpetual
Seedling of La Reine
Gloire des Rosomanes - gen 7 (2x) - tea
Joseph Lowe - 1907 - Walter Bentley - hybrid tea
Sport of Mrs. W. J. Grant
Jules Margottin -1853 - Jacques-Julien, Jules Margottin Père &
Fils - hybrid perpetual
Seedling of La Reine
Kitchener of Khartoum - gen 7 - hybrid tea
La France - 1867 - Jean-Baptiste André (fils) Guillot
hybrid tea
Seedling of Madame Falcot
Lady Mary Fitzwilliam - gen 8 - hybrid tea
Liberty - gen 7 - hybrid tea
Madame Abel Chatenay - 1895 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher
hybrid tea
Victor Verdier x Docteur Grill
Madame Desprez - 1831 - Jean Desprez - Bourbon
Rose Édouard
Madame Hoste - 1887 - Jean-Baptiste André (fils) Guillot (or)
Pierre Guillot - tea
Seedling of Victor Pulliat
Madame Méha Sabatier - gen 7 - hybrid tea
Madame Norbert Levavasseur - gen 7 - polyantha
Mignonette - 1880 - Jean-Baptiste André (fils) Guillot
Seedling from
Seedlings of unspecified polyantha x unspecified tea rose
Mrs. Charles E. Russell - 1914 - Alexander Montgomery -
hybrid tea
Madame Caroline Testout
x (Madame Abel Chatenay x Marquise Litta)
Ophelia - gen 6 - hybrid tea
Ophirie - 1841 - Maurice Goubault - noisette
Orléans Rose - gen 8 - polyantha
Papa Gontier - 1883 - Gilbert Nabonnand - tea
Seedling of Duchess of Edinburgh
Park’s Yellow Tea-Scented China - 1824 - China
Possibly Rosa chinensis and Rosa odorata gigantea
Unknown Chinese breeders
John Damper Parks send from China, 1824
Richmond - gen 7 - hybrid tea
Rosa chinensis - gen 5 - species
Rosa foetida persiana - species
Middle east
Henry Willock introduce to England from Persia, late 1830's
Rosa multiflora - species
Eastern China, Japan, Korea
Carl Thunberg describe in Japan in 1784
Coignet send from Japan to Jean Sisley in Lyon, 1861
Sir Joseph Paxton - 1852 - Jean Laffay - Bourbon
Souvenir de la Reine d’Angleterre - 1855 - Scipion Cochet -
hybrid perpetual
La Reine x Seedling
Souvenir de Victor Hugo - 1884 - Bonnaire - tea
Comtesse de Labarthe x Regulus
Triomphe de l'Exposition - 1855 - hybrid perpetual
Jacques-Julien, Jules Margottin Père & Fils
Victor Verdier - 1859 - François Lacharme - hybrid perpetual
Jules Margottin x Safrano
Gen 10
Comtesse de Labarthe - 1857 - H.B. (or possibly H. Pierre)
Bernède - tea
Unknown, possibly Caroline
Docteur Grill - gen 8 - tea
Duchess of Edinburgh - before 1874 - Monsieur A. Dunant
hybrid perpetual
Marguerite de St.-Amand x Baronne Adolphe de Rothschild
Jules Margottin - gen 9 - hybrid perpetual
La Reine - 1842 - Jean Laffay (3x) - hybrid perpetual
Seedling of William Jesse
Madame Abel Chatenay - gen 9 - hybrid tea
Madame Caroline Testout - gen 7 - hybrid tea
Madame Falcot - 1858 - Jean-Baptiste André (fils) Guillot - tea
Seedling of Safrano
Madame Domage - 1853 - Jacques-Julien, Jules Margottin Père
& Fils - hybrid perpetual
Marquise Litta - 1893 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher - hybrid tea
Mrs. W. J. Grant - gen 8 - hybrid tea
Regulus - by 1811 - Gallica
Claude-Thomas Guerrapain describe, 1811
Park’s Yellow Tea-Scented China - gen 9 - tea
Rose Édouard - 1823 - Bourbon
Parson’s Pink x Quatre Saisons
Edouard Perichon discover in La Réunion
Probably came through India
Released in France, 1823
Rosa Foetida - gen 7 - species
Rosa odorata gigantea - gen 5 - species
Safrano - gen 8 - tea
Smith’s Yellow China - 1829 - W. Smith - tea
Blush Noisette x Parks' Yellow Tea-scented China
Victor Pulliat - 1870 - Jean-Claude Ducher - tea
Seedling of Madame Mélanie Willermoz
Victor Verdier - gen 9 - hybrid perpetual
Gen 11
Baronne Adolphe de Rothschild - gen 8 - hybrid perpetual
Blush Noisette - 1814 - Philippe Noisette - noisette
Seedling of Champneys' Pink Cluster
Caroline - 1833 - Modeste Guérin (Angers) - tea
Madame Mélanie Willermoz - 1845 - François Lacharme - tea
Marguerite de St.-Amand -1864 - Arthur De Sansal -
hybrid perpetual
Parson’s Pink - 1752 - China
Genes of Rosa odorata gigantea and Slater’s Crimson
Unknown Chinese breeders
Sent to John Parsons in England, 1759
Quatre Saisons - first reported in Europe, 1622 - damask
(Rosa moschata x Rosa gallica) x Rosa fedtschenkoana
Safrano - gen 8 - tea
William Jesse - 1838 - Jean Laffay - hybrid perpetual
Gen 12
Champneys' Pink Cluster - c.1811 - John Champneys - noisette
Parson’s Pink x Rosa moschata
Slater’s Crimson - gen 8 - species
Rosa fedtschenkoana - species
Xinjiang, Kazakhstan
Introduced to Russia from Turkistan by Alexei and Olga
Fedtschenko c. 1871
Rosa gallica - species
Central, southern Europe, Turkey and Caucasus
Count Thibault IV of Champagne bring from Jerusalem,
Rosa moschata - species
Logical name for parents of Mediterranean musk rose
Nothing found in nature
Suspected to come from Himalayas
Mediterranean Europe
Crispijn van de Passe describe, 1614
Rosa odorata gigantea - gen 5 - species
Gen 13
Parson’s Pink - gen 11 - tea
Rosa moschata - gen 12 - species

Notes: Ancestries mostly drawn from the website and Botanica’s Roses, 2000.

Hurst, C. C. “Genetics of the Rose,” The Rose Annual 1929.

Matsumoto, S., M. Kouchi, J. Yabuki, M. Kusunoki, Y. Ueda and H. Fukui “Phylogenetic Analyses of the Genus Rosa Using the Matk Sequence: Molecular Evidence for the Narrow Genetic Background of Modern Roses,” Scientia Horticulturae 77:73-82:1998.

Rix, Martyn. 'China Roses,' Historic Rose Journal, Spring 1999.

Wang, Guoliang. “A Study on the History of Chinese Roses from Ancient Works and Images,” Acta Horticulturae 751:347-356:2007.

Photograph: Rosa rugosa, the only Eurasian species to grow in my yard, has hips and thorns; 26 December 2009.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Halo Sunrise Ancestors 2

What’s still green: Arborvitae, juniper and other evergreens, Apache plume, a few roses, cholla, prickly pear, yuccas, red hot poker, grape hyacinth, hollyhock, winecup, large-leaved globemallow, oriental poppy, St. John’s wort, vinca, white sweet clover, alfalfa, sweet pea, flax, beardtongue, snapdragon, coral bells, rock rose, sea pink, large-leaved soapwort, columbine, pink and yellow evening primroses, perky Sue, Shasta daisy, tansy, anthemis, protected Mexican hat, coreopsis, purple aster, cheat grass, bases of needle and June grasses. Someone had good enough gloves to put glass balls on the tips of a yucca in town.

What’s grey, blue-grey or grey-green: Piñon, pinks, snow-in-summer, yellow alyssum, winterfat.

What’s blooming inside: Christmas cactus, aptenia, asparagus fern; rochea and Christmas cactus leaves tinged with red.

Animal sightings: Only dogs come out early in the morning.

Weather: Early morning temperatures fall below 20; afternoons above freezing; ice persist in northwestward facing areas; last rain 12/08/09; 8:45 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: In the ancestry of Ralph Moore’s Halo Sunrise miniature rose, hybrid teas were the dominant group of roses in the generations before floribundas.

The release of the first hybrid tea in 1867 by Jean-Baptiste André Guillot fils is used by rosarians to mark the boundary between old and modern roses. La France was a seedling of Madame Falcot, which in turn was a seedling of Safrano.

If one instead used the adoption of methodical breeding over selecting chance acts of nature that produced La France, then its grandparent Safrano would be the milestone between the old and the new. The tea rose released in 1839 by Beauregard in Angiers.combined a yellow China with a Bourbon.

Beauregard was following the interests of his fellow Frenchmen in introducing the desirable traits of the China roses into the existing rose population. The techniques used by Jean Laffay at Auteuil in 1837 were less precise than those of Beuregard, but were as complex as those used by Jan de Vink to introduce miniaturization from a China rose into the existing stock. Laffay combined unknown Chinas, Portlands and Bourbons to create the first hybrid perpetual, Princesse Hélène.

Complexity of precise breeding techniques might be a better way to define modern roses. The demarcation between old and new would then be the introduction of Soleil d'Or by Joseph Pernet-Ducher in 1900. The Frenchman combined a Rosa foetida persiana with a hybrid perpetual that not only reintroduced the possibly of using species roses for injecting specific traits, but created a hybrid with an inheritable pure yellow.

Soleil d'Or expanded the range of colors to all the coral, peach and orange shades between yellow and red. It was a yellow rose suffused with pink that created the mass market for roses after World War II when it added resistence to disease to its virtues. Francis Meilland used five different hybrid teas to create the Peace my mother cherished.

Generations 6 to 8 of Halo Sunrise, back to Soleil d'Or, follow.

Gen 6
Alain - gen 4 - floribunda
Ami Quinard - 1927 - Charles Mallerin (2x) - hybrid tea
Madame Méha Sabatier
x (Mrs. Edward Powell x Rosa foetida bicolor)
Ampère - 1937 - Meilland International -hybrid tea
Charles P. Kilham x Condesa de Sástago
Aroma - 1931 - Benjamin R. Cant & Sons - hybrid tea
Baby Château - gen 5 - floribunda
Capucine Chambard - species hybrid
Unissued seedling of Rosa foetida bicolor
Charles P. Kilham - gen 5 - hybrid tea
Congo - 1943 - Meilland International - hybrid tea
Admiral Ward x Lemania
Constance - 1915 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher - hybrid tea
Seedling of Rayon d’Or
Crimson Glory - 1935 - W. Kordes Sohne (4x) - hybrid tea
Catherine Kordes seedling x W. E. Chaplin
Crimson Queen - 1912 - Alexander Montgomery - hybrid tea
(Liberty x Richmond) x General MacArthur
Élégante - 1918 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher - hybrid tea
Ethel Somerset - 1921 - Alexander Dickson II - hybrid tea
Etoile Luisante - 1918 - Turbat - polyantha
Eva - gen 5 (2x) - shrub
F. J. Grootendorst - 1918 - De Goey - species hybrid
Rosa rugosa Rubra x possibly Madame Norbert Levavasseur
Frau Karl Druschki - 1901 - Peter Lambert - hybrid perpetual
Merveille de Lyon x Madame Caroline Testout
George Dickson - gen 5 - hybrid tea
Gloria Mundi - 1929 - De Ruiter Innovations BV - polyantha
Sport of Superb
J. C. Thornton - 1926 - BEES (2x) - hybrid tea
Kitchener of Khartoum x Red-Letter Day
Julien Potin - 1927 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher - hybrid tea
Souvenir de Claudius Pernet x seedling
Madame Butterfly - 1918 - Hill and Company - hybrid tea
Sport of Ophelia
McGredy's Pillar - 1935 - Samuel Davidson McGredy III -
hybrid tea
Miss Amelia Gude - 1921 - Lemon - hybrid tea
Columbia x Sunburst
Ophelia - 1912 - William, Paul and Son - hybrid tea
Possibly chance seedling of Antony Rivoire
Orange Triumph - gen 5 - polyantha
Pinocchio - gen 4 (2x) - floribunda
Queen Alexandra Rose - 1918 - Samuel McGredy II - hybrid tea
Rapture - 1926 - Traendly & Schenck - hybrid tea
Sport of Madame Butterfly
Robin Hood - 1927 - Pemberton (2x) - shrub
Seedling x Miss Edith Cavell
Rome Glory - 1937 - Dominico Aicardi - hybrid tea
Dame Edith Helen x Sensation
Rosa foetida bicolor - species
Sport of Rosa foetida
Asia Minor
Nikolaus von Jacquin describe plant in Schönbrunn gardens,
Rosa setigera - species
Eastern United States
André Michaux describe from “Carolina inferior,” 1803
Roulettii - 1922 - Henri Correvon - miniature
Discovered by Roulet in Mauborjet, Switzerland, c.1917
Considered to be Rosa chinensis Minima
Sierra Snowstorm - 1936 - Ralph Moore - shrub
Gloire des Rosomanes x Dorothy Perkins
Solarium - 1925 - Eugène Turbat & Compagnie - species hybrid
Unknown Rosa wichurana hybrid
Soeur Thérèse - 1931 - Francis Gillot - hybrid tea
(Général Jacqueminot x Juliet)
x Souvenir de Claudius Pernet
Souvenir de Claudius Denoyle - 1920 – Chambard - climber
Château de Clos Vougeot x Commandeur Jules Gravereaux
Souvenir de George Beckwith - 1919 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher -
hybrid tea
Seedling x Lyon Rose
Tassin - 1942 - Meilland International - hybrid tea
National Flower Guild x Lemania
Gen 7
Admiral Ward - 1915 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher - hybrid tea
Seedling x Château de Clos Vougeot
Antony Rivoire - 1895 - Pernet-Ducher - hybrid tea
Docteur Grill x Lady Mary Fitzwilliam
Catherine Kordes - 1930 - hybrid tea
No information
Charles P. Kilham - gen 5 - hybrid tea
Château de Clos Vougeot -1908 - Pernet-Ducher - hybrid tea
Columbia - 1917 - E. Gurney Hill Co. - hybrid tea
Ophelia x Mrs. George Shawyer
Commandeur Jules Gravereaux - 1908 - Jean-B. Croibier & Fils
hybrid perpetual
Frau Karl Druschki x Liberty
Condesa de Sástago - 1930 - Pedro Dot - hybrid tea
(Souvenir de Claudius Pernet x Maréchal Foch)
x Margaret McGredy
Dame Edith Helen - 1916 - Alexander Dickson II - hybrid tea
Mrs. John Laing x unknown
Dorothy Perkins - 1901 - E. Alvin Miller - rambler
Madame Gabriel Luizet x Rosa wichurana
Général Jacqueminot - 1853 - Roussel/Rousselet -
hybrid perpetual
Seedling of Gloire des Rosomanes x Géant des Batailles
General MacArthur - before 1904 - E. Gurney Hill Co. -
hybrid tea
Gruss an Teplitz
Gloire des Rosomanes - 1825 - Plantier - tea
Unknown, used as rootstock as Ragged Robin
Possibly, Slater’s Crimson and Portland rose
Juliet - 1910 - Walter Easlea (or) William Paul and Son -
hybrid perpetual
Captain Hayward x Soleil d'Or
Kitchener of Khartoum - 1917 - Alexander Dickson II -
hybrid tea
Lemania - 1937 - Emil Heizmann (2x) - hybrid tea
Liberty - 1900 - Alexander Dickson II - hybrid tea
Mrs. W. J. Grant x Charles J. Grahame
Lyon Rose - 1907 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher - hybrid tea
Madame Mélanie Soupert x seedling of Soleil d'Or
Madame Butterfly - gen 6 - hybrid tea
Madame Caroline Testout - 1890 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher -
hybrid tea
Madame de Tartas x Lady Mary Fitzwilliam
Madame Méha Sabatier - 1916 - Pernet-Ducher - hybrid tea
Seedling x Château de Clos Vougeot
Madame Norbert Levavasseur - 1903 - Levavasseur - polyantha
Crimson Rambler x Gloire des Polyantha
Merveille de Lyon - 1882 - Jean Pernet (père) - hybrid perpetual
Baronne Adolphe de Rothschild x Safrano
Miss Edith Clavell - 1917 - De Ruiter - polyantha
Sport of Orléans Rose
Mrs. Edward Powell - 1911 - Pierre Bernaux (fils) - hybrid tea
National Flower Guild - 1927 - Charles Mallerin - hybrid tea
(Capt. F. Bald x Kitchener of Khartoum)
x Madame Van de Voorde
Ophelia - gen 6 - hybrid tea
Rayon d’Or - 1910 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher - hybrid tea
Madame Mélanie Soupert x Soleil d’Or
Red-Letter Day - 1914 - Alexander Dickson II - hybrid tea
Richmond - 1904 - E. Gurney Hill Co. - hybrid tea
Lady Battersea x Liberty
Rosa chinensis - gen 5 - species
Rosa chinensis Minima - miniature
Rosa chinensis with miniaturizing trait preserved
China, spread to Mauritius
Described in England by Robert Sweet, 1810
Rosa foetida - species
Nikolaus von Jacquin’s name for hypothetical species
Rosa foetida bicolor - gen 6 - species
Rosa rugosa Rubra - species
Selection of Rosa rugosa
Sold by Jacques-Martin Cels, 1802
Rosa wichurana - gen 4 - species
Sensation - 1922 - Joseph H. Hill, Co. - hybrid tea
Hoosier Beauty x Premier
Superb - 1927 - De Ruiter Innovations BV
Sport of Orléans Rose
Souvenir de Claudius Pernet - gen 5 (2x)- hybrid tea
Sunburst - 1901 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher - hybrid tea
W. E. Chaplin - 1929 - Chaplin Bros., Ltd - hybrid tea
Gen 8
Baronne Adolphe de Rothschild -1868 - Pernet -
hybrid perpetual
Sport of Souvenir de la Reine d’Angleterre
Capt. F. Bald - 1919 - Alexander Dickson II - hybrid tea
Captain Hayward - 1893 - Henry Bennett - hybrid perpetual
Seedling of Triomphe de l'Exposition
Charles J. Grahame - before 1905 - Alexander Dickson II -
hybrid tea
Château de Clos Vougeot - gen 7 (2x) - hybrid tea
Crimson Rambler - 1893 - Charles Turner - species hybrid
Rosa multiflora
Developed by Japanese breeders
Docteur Grill - 1884 - Joseph Bonnaire - tea
Ophirie x Souvenir de Victor Hugo
Frau Karl Druschki - gen 6 - hybrid perpetual
Géant des Batailles - 1845 - Nérard - hybrid perpetual
Seedling of Gloire des Rosomanes
Gloire des Polyantha - 1886 - polyantha
Jean-Baptiste André (fils) Guillot and Pierre Guillot
Seedling of Mignonette
Gloire des Rosomanes - gen 7 - tea
Gruss an Teplitz - before 1897 - Rudolf Geschwind - Bourbon
((Sir Joseph Paxton x Fellenberg) x Papa Gontier)
x Gloire des Rosomanes
Hoosier Beauty - 1915 - Frederick Dorner & Sons - hybrid tea
Richmond x Château de Clos Vougeot
Kitchener of Khartoum - gen 7 - hybrid tea
Lady Battersea - 1901 - George Paul, Jr. - hybrid tea
Madame Abel Chatenay x Liberty
Lady Mary Fitzwilliam - 1882 - Bennett (2x) - hybrid tea
Devoniensis x Victor Verdier
Liberty - 1900 - gen 7 - hybrid tea
Madame de Tartas - 1859 - H.B. (or possibly H. Pierre) Bernède
Madame Gabriel Luizet - 1877 - Liabaud - hybrid perpetual
Seedling of Jules Margotten
Madame Mélanie Soupert - 1905 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher (2x) -
hybrid tea
Madame Van de Voorde - 1928 - Charles Mallerin- hybrid tea
Madame Méha Sabatier x Kitchener of Khartoum
Maréchal Foch - 1918 - Levavasseur - polyantha
Sport of Orléans Rose
Margaret McGredy - gen 5 - hybrid tea
Mrs. George Shawyer - 1911 - Lowe & Shawyer - hybrid tea
Madame Hoste x Joseph Lowe
Mrs. John Laing - c. 1885 - Henry Bennett - hybrid perpetual
François Michelon x seedling
Mrs. W.J. Grant - before 1894 - Alexander Dickson II -
hybrid tea
La France x Lady Mary Fitzwilliam
Ophelia - gen 6 - hybrid tea
Orléans Rose - 1909 - Levavasseur (2x) - polyantha
Seedling of Madame Norbert Levavasseur
Premier - 1918 - E. Gurney Hill Co. - hybrid tea
Seedling of Ophelia x Mrs. Charles E. Russell
Rosa chinensis - gen 5 - species
Rosa rugosa - species
Japan, Korea
Lee and Kennedy introduce to England, 1796
Rosa wichurana - gen 4 - species
Safrano - 1839 - Beauregard - tea
Parks’ Yellow Tea-Scented Rose x Madame Desprez
Slater’s Crimson - 1789 - China
Possibly pure Rosa chinensis
Sometimes called Rosa chinensis semperflorens
Unknown Chinese breeders
East India man send from China to Gilbert Slater in England,
Soleil d'Or - 1900 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher (3x) - hybrid tea
Seedling of Antoine Ducher x Rosa foetida persiana
Souvenir de Claudius Pernet - gen 5 - hybrid tea

Notes: Ancestries mostly drawn from the website and Botanica’s Roses, 2000.

Photograph: Olymipiad, the only hybrid tea to survive the dry cold of February in my yard, has no hips and most of the thorns are on the lower stems. The red rose was released in 1982 by Sam McGredy IV, the man who bred Anytime, the seed parent of Halo Sunrise; 12/19/09.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Halo Sunrise Ancestors 1

What’s still green: Arborvitae, juniper and other evergreens, Apache plume, a few roses, cholla, prickly pear, yuccas, red hot poker, grape hyacinth, hollyhock, winecup, large-leaved globemallow, oriental poppy, St. John’s wort, vinca, white sweet clover, alfalfa, sweet pea, flax, beardtongue, snapdragon, coral bells, rock rose, sea pink, large-leaved soapwort, columbine, pink and yellow evening primroses, perky Sue, Shasta daisy, tansy, anthemis, protected Mexican hat, coreopsis, purple aster, cheat grass, bases of needle and June grasses.

What’s grey, blue-grey or grey-green: Piñon, pinks, snow-in-summer, yellow alyssum, winterfat.

What’s blooming inside: Christmas cactus, aptenia, asparagus fern; .rochea and Christmas cactus leaves tinged with red.

Animal sightings: Coyote out Wednesday morning when I was leaving for work.

Weather: Snow Monday afternoon, followed by rain early Tuesday that left ice in shady places; 8:27 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: Whenever I flip through books about roses and see ancestry notes like ‘Anytime’ x ‘Angel Face,’ I wonder what would happen if I followed every line back until it faded into an unknown. Last week I did it for Ralph Moore’s Halo Sunrise, and now know I’d find the names of 184 hybrids, 14 species, and many dead ends.

The most recent generations are dominated by floribundas, the polyantha-tea crosses first introduced by Dorus Theus Poulsen in Denmark in 1912 with Rödhätte. As soon as Henri Louis Correvon released Roulettii in 1922, men began trying to introduce the miniaturizing gene from Rosa chinensis into other roses. Poulsen’s compact bushes with their many stems of small rose clusters were the most likely ones to provide aesthetically pleasing small plants.

Polyanthas themselves resulted from an attempt to combine the virtues of tea roses with the rambling habit and multiple flower head of Rosa multiflora. Jean-Baptiste André fils introduced the first, Pâquerett, from unknown parents in France in 1873.

However, the path to creating a successful floribunda-miniature cross was not simple, and apparently included the use of more species. In the fourth generation back, Jan de Vink crossed a polyantha in some intermediate generations with a rugosa hybrid, an unknown climber and an unknown hybrid tea to make the pollen for the first commercially successful miniature, Tom Thumb.

Moore combined Tom Thumb with one of his own polyantha-floribunda crosses to produce the parents of Zee, his miniature stock. He next combined Zee with a wichurana to create the plant that Sam McGreedy combined with a floribunda to produce the parent of the Halo roses.

The first five generations of Halo Sunrise, back to Tom Thumb, follow.

Gen 1
Halo Sunrise - 1997 - Ralph Moore - miniature
(Anytime x Gold Badge) x Angel Face
Gen 2
Angel Face - 1968 - Swim - floribunda
(Circus x Lavender Pinocchio) x Sterling Silver
Anytime - 1973 - Sam McGredy IV - miniature
New Penny x Elizabeth of Glamis
Gold Badge - 1978 – Paolino - floribunda
Poppy Flash x (Charleston x Allgold)
Gen 3
Allgold - 1956 – Le Grice - floribunda
Goldilocks x Ellinor Le Grice
Charleston - 1963 - Meilland International - floribunda
Masquerade x (Radar x Caprice)
Circus - 1956 - Swim - floribunda
Fandango x Pinocchio
Elizabeth of Glamis - 1963 - floribunda
Spartan x Highlight
Lavender Pinocchio - 1948 - Gene Boerner - floribunda
Pinocchio x Grey Pearl
New Penny - 1962 - Ralph Moore - miniature
(Rosa wichuraiana x Floradora) x seedling of Zee
Poppy Flash - 1973 - Meilland - floribunda
(Dany Robin x Fire King) x (Alain x Mutabilis)
Sterling Silver - 1957 - Fisher - hybrid tea
Seedling x Peace
Gen 4
Alain - 1948 - Meilland - floribunda
(Guinée x Skyrocket) x Orange Triumph
Caprice - 1948 - Meilland International - hybrid tea
Peace x Fantastique
Dany Robin - 1958 - Meilland International - floribunda
Goldilocks x Fashion
Ellinor Le Grice - 1949 - E. B. Le Grice - hybrid tea
Mrs. Beatty x Yellowcrest (or)
Lilian x Golden Dawn
Fandango - 1950 - Swim - hybrid tea
Charlotte Armstrong x seedling
Fire King - 1959 - Meilland International - floribunda
Moulin Rouge x Fashion
Floradora - 1944 - Mathias Tantou - floribunda
Baby Château x Rosa roxburghii
Goldilocks - 1945 - Gene Boerner - floribunda
Seedling x Doubloons
Grey Pearl - 1945 - Samuel Davidson McGredy III - hybrid tea
(Mrs. Charles Lamplough x seedling)
x (Sir David Davis x Southport)
Highlight - 1957 - Herbert Robinson - floribunda
Seedling x Independence
Masquerade - 1949 - Gene Boerner - floribunda
Goldilocks x Holiday
Mutabilis - 1934 - Henri Correvon - tea
Rosa chinensis x Rosa odorata gigantea
Found on La Réunion for Vitaliano Borremeo, 1870's
Gilberto Borromeo display in Geneva, 1894
Peace - 1942 - Meilland - hybrid tea
(George Dickson x Souvenir de Claudius Pernet)
x (Joanna Hill x Charles P. Kilham)
x Margaret McGredy
Pinocchio - 1940 - Kordes (2x) - floribunda
Golden Rapture x Eva
Radar - 1953 - Meilland International - hybrid tea
Charles Mallerin x Independence
Rosa wichurana - species
China, Japan
M. E. Wichur send to botanical gardens in Munich and
Brussels, 1861
Spartan - 1955 - Gene Boerner - floribunda
Geranium Red x Fashion
Zee - 1940 - Ralph Moore - miniature
Carolyn Dean x Tom Thumb
Gen 5
Baby Château - 1936 - Wilhelm J. H. Kordes II - floribunda
Aroma x (Eva x Ami Quinard)
Carolyn Dean - 1941 - Ralph Moore - climber
Seedling, Etoile Luisante x Sierra Snowstorm
Charles Mallerin - 1951 - Meilland International - hybrid tea
(Rome Glory x Congo) x Tassin
Charles P. Kilham - 1926 - Samuel Davidson McGredy III -
hybrid tea
Charlotte Armstrong -1940 - Lammerts - hybrid tea
Soeur Thérèse x Crimson Glory
Doubloons - 1934 - Michael Henry Horvath - species hybrid
Rosa setigera x hybrid of Rosa foetida bicolor
Eva - 1933 - Kordes - shrub
Robin Hood x J. C. Thornton
Kordes say Ophelia strain
Fantastique - 1943 - Francis Meilland - hybrid tea
Ampère x (Charles P. Kilham x ( x Capucine Chambard))
Fashion - 1949 - Gene Boerner (3x) - floribunda
Pinocchio x Crimson Glory
George Dickson - 1912 - Dickson - hybrid tea
Geranium Red - 1947 - Gene Boerner - floribunda
Crimson Glory x seedling
Golden Dawn - 1929 - Patrick Grant - hybrid tea
Élégante x Ethel Somerset
Golden Rapture - 1933 - Kordes - hybrid tea
Rapture x Julien Potin
Goldilocks - gen 4 (2x) - floribunda
Guinée - 1938 - Mallexrin - climber
Souvenir de Claudius Denoyle x Ami Quinard
Holiday - 1948 - Gene Boerner - floribunda
McGredy's Pillar x Pinocchio
Independence - 1951 - Wilhelm J. H. Kordes II (2x) - floribunda
Baby Château x Crimson Glory
Joanna Hill - 1928 - H. H. Hill Co - hybrid tea
Madame Butterfly x Miss Amelia Gude
Lilian - 1931 - Benjamin R. Cant & Sons - hybrid tea
Margaret McGredy - 1927 - Samuel Davidson McGredy III -
hybrid tea
Queen Alexandra Rose
Mrs. Beatty - 1926 - Benjamin R. Cant & Sons - hybrid tea
Mrs. Charles Lamplough - 1920 - Samuel McGredy II -
hybrid tea
Frau Karl Druschki x seedling
Moulin Rouge - 1952 - Francis Meilland - floribunda
Alain x Orange Triumph
Orange Triumph - 1937 – Kordes - polyantha
Eva x Solarium
Peace - gen 4 - hybrid tea
Rosa chinensis - species
Nikolaus von Jacquin’s name for hypothetical species
Closest plant in nature is subspecies spontanea
Guizhou, Hubei, and Sichuan
Found in Yichang by Augustine Henry, 1885
Rosa odorata - species
Hypothetical species
Possibly Rosa chinensis x Rosa odorata gigantea
Found in Yunnan
Rosa odorata gigantea
NE India, N Myanmar, Yunnan, N Thailand, N Vietnam
Collett send to Europe from upper Myanmar, 1888
Rosa roxburghii - species
China, Japan
Introduced to England through Calcutta by East India Co.
Sold by Colville’s Nursery, 1825
Sir David Davis - before 1926 - Samuel McGredy II - hybrid tea
Skyrocket - 1934 - Wilhelm J. H. Kordes II - hybrid musk
Robin Hood x J.C. Thornton
Southport - 1930 - Samuel Davidson McGredy III - hybrid tea
(George Dickson x Crimson Queen)
x Souvenir de George Beckwith
Souvenir de Claudius Pernet - 1920 - Joseph Pernet-Ducher -
hybrid tea
Constance x seedling
Tom Thumb -1935 - Jan de Vink - miniature
Roulettii x Gloria Mundi
Roulettii x (Gloria Mundi, unnamed seedling climber,
F. J. Grootendorst and/or yellow hybrid tea) (patent)
Yellowcrest - 1935 - Le Grice - hybrid tea

Notes: Ancestries mostly drawn from the website and Botanica’s Roses, 2000.

Photograph: Dead flowers of Angel Face, father of Halo Sunrise. It’s a hipless and conventionally thorny floribunda hardy enough to survive this past week’s cold; 12 December 2009.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Halo Sunrise

What’s still green: Arborvitae, juniper and other evergreens, Apache plume, a few roses, cholla, prickly pear, yuccas, red hot poker, grape hyacinth, hollyhock, winecup, large-leaved globemallow, oriental poppy, St. John’s wort, vinca, white sweet clover, alfalfa, sweet pea, flax, beardtongue, snapdragon, coral bells, rock rose, sea pink, large-leaved soapwort, columbine, pink and yellow evening primroses, perky Sue, Shasta daisy, tansy, anthemis, protected Mexican hat, coreopsis, purple aster, cheat grass, bases of needle and June grasses.

What’s grey, blue-grey or grey-green: Piñon, pinks, snow-in-summer, yellow alyssum, winterfat.

What’s blooming inside: Christmas cactus, aptenia, asparagus fern; .rochea and Christmas cactus leaves tinged with red.

Animal sightings: Birds flit in distant trees.

Weather: The storm that hovered last weekend only brought early morning temperatures below 10, as cold as I remember in New Mexico; last rain 11/29/09; 8:33 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: Genealogies are elegant simplifications we use to describe our ancestry. It’s satisfying to look at a family tree and see that Mary Ellen Lawler married George Henry Nason in 1875 and that she gave birth to my maternal grandmother in 1889.

When I look at a photograph taken of the woman I think of as Tessie when she was 30, I see an individual with the slender body my mother will inherit in 1912. She has none of the fullness of the women surrounding her, who may have been her sisters and Mary Ellen.

However, when I look at a picture taken when Tessie was in her 70's, I see none of the features of my mother when she died in her late 50's. I wonder if my grandmother inherited her body type from her father and her perceptions of female form from her mother, or if life experiences like multiple pregnancies and diet overrode DNA and family aesthetics.

I see the same complex interplay of genetics and expectations when I look out the study window at the fading orange hips on the Halo Sunrise rose. It’s creator, Ralph Moore, was trying to breed a miniature rose with a red blotch at the base of its petals, a characteristic only found in Iran and Afghanistan in the hulthemia species. Instead of his refinements, I see the most ethnographically pure rose in my garden, the one with more thorns and more hips than even the rugosa.

Modern roses are the product of men working to make recessive traits and random mutations permanent without losing the vigor we demand in our gardens. The ability to bloom more than once is found only in Rosa chinensis, introduced from China around 1759. Any modern rose has some chinensis among its ancestors. For Halo Sunrise, it appears nine generations back.

Miniaturization comes from a dominant gene, but one that coincides with sterility, so that it’s carriers don’t survive. The Chinese apparently found a way to capture it in their chinensis roses. Specimens found their way to Europe in the early nineteenth century from Mauritius, then lost popularity to large flowers during Victorian times. Individual plants survived in obscure gardens where one was discovered in Switzerland by Major Roulet in 1919, and introduced to gardeners in 1922 by Henri Louis Correvon.

Moore began developing his miniature roses when he pollinated one his seedlings, later called Carolyn Dean, with a rose produced by Jan de Vink in 1936 that had brought together a Roulettii and some rugosa hybrids. He became interested in enhancing the blotch after Sam McGredy IV combined one of his roses with a floribunda, Elizabeth of Glamis. McGredy’s Anytime had a lavender center.

The genealogy of Halo Sunrise simply says he crossed Anytime with Angel Face, and introduced the progeny in 1997. Moore makes clear that he crossed Anytime with itself, selected the seedling with the best blotch, and grew more seedlings from crossing them with themselves until he had an Anytime he could use.

Before he released Sunrise, he had sold five other Halo roses. The first, Halo Dolly marketed in 1992, has Anytime for the female seed parent, and a cross of Anytime and Angel Face on the male pollen side. Halo Star, also released in 1992, list Anytime and Angel Face crosses on both sides.

The first is a medium to light pink, the second more watermelon. The other early Halos are bright orange red (Today, Fire) or pink (Rainbow). Moore then crossed his Anytime selection with Golden Badge and produced a peach rose, which became the Anytime parent of Sunrise.

After Jack Harkness introduced hulthemia hybrids, Moore began combining his Halo stock with hulthemias to get even redder blotches. Persian Sunset was released in 2006, two years before he retired and three years before he died in 2009 at age 102.

Moore never mentioned where the thorns came from. In fact his Sequoia Nursery catalog for 1997 only says it’s a "vigorous, healthy bush." The most likely source is the mother of Anytime, Moore’s own New Penny which has a winchuriana - Floradora mix for the seed, and the miniaturizing Zee for pollen. Floradora was introduced in 1944 by Mathias Tantou as the result of a cross between a floribunda, Baby Château, and Rosa roxburghii.

Roxburghii, sometimes called the Burr Rose, is described by Bontanica as "angular and stiff in habit." The leaves are "distinctly hairy" and the fruit resembles "small chestnuts in their husks." The fruits are high in vitamin C and antioxidants. The efficacy of the traditional Chinese use of Ce Li to treat high cholesterol has been confirmed by several scientific teams.

Halo Sunrise got its physical form from its maternal great-great-grandfather, while mine came from my great-grandmother. It’s a bit anthropomorphic to compare human generations to rose ones, but it is clear that in both the introduction of a genetic trait will persist and manifest itself in its descendants, whether it’s desired or not.

Notes: Doug Chase recently sent me the information on Mary Ellen Lawler; he’s working on the genealogy for the immigrant Richard Nason and his four sons.

Botanica. Botanica’s Roses, 2000.

Lawrence, G. H. M. "History and Nomenclature of the Fairy Roses," American Rose Annual, 1953.

Lidwien, A. M. Dubois and D. P. de Vries. "On the Inheritance of the Dwarf Character in Polyantha x Rosa chinensis Minima (Sims) Voss F1-populations ," Euphytica 36:535-539:1987.

Moore, Ralph. "A Study of Moss and Miniature Roses," republished on Paul Barden’s Old Garden Roses and Beyond website.

_____. "Ralph Moore-60 Years of Innovative Breeding," Minirama, Fall, 1996.

Photograph: Halo Sunrise miniature rose hips, 29 November 2009.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


What’s still green: Arborvitae, juniper and other evergreens, roses, cholla, prickly pear, yuccas, red hot poker, grape hyacinth, hollyhock, winecup, oriental poppy, St. John’s wort, vinca, white sweet clover, alfalfa, catmint, beardtongue, snapdragon, Jupiter’s beard, coral bells, rock rose, sea pink, columbine, yellow evening primrose, perky Sue, Shasta daisy, tansy, coreopsis, cheat grass, bases of needle and June grasses; most trees have shed their leaves.

What’s red or turning red: Young apricot stems, pink evening primrose.

What’s grey, blue-grey or grey-green: Piñon, pinks, snow-in-summer, yellow alyssum, winterfat, Silver King artemisia.

What’s yellow or turning yellow: Bouncing Bess, flax.

What’s blooming inside: Aptenia and asparagus fern; Christmas cactus has buds; .rochea and Christmas cactus leaves tinged with red.

Animal sightings: No sane animal is out these days.

Weather: Temperatures in low teens Tuesday morning; this is as cold as it usually gets when there’s snow on the ground in December; the only insulation now is fallen leaves; rain before midnight last night; 9:02 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: Tomatillos were grown in the valley of Tehuacán where Richard MacNeish found the first evidence of domesticated corn long before Columbus. They still grow wild in cultivated fields in the highlands of México and Guatemala, especially in areas where ash from burned stubble promotes germination. When I saw seeds for sale, I thought they might be fun to try.

I didn’t realize they were Physalis until they began to take over the garden. None of the seed packages provided a Latin name.

I planted some five-for-a-dollar seeds in the north facing garden in 1996, and they persisted until 2001. I planted more along the eastern retaining wall in 1999, which became so thick, I began pulling them out in 2004. Unfortunately, when they break ground in spring, they look like bouncing Bess and I decimated that colony, without affecting the tomatillos.

I’d grown Physalis alkekengi in Michigan for the orange-colored Chinese lanterns that enclose the fruit, and put it on my never again list. What Hortus discretely described as "long creeping, underground stems" were their most distinctive feature. The seed cases don’t turn color until the fruit is ripe, and these relatives of the tomato have a long maturation period. I rarely saw the seed cases until late in the year, but I saw the leaves and stems everywhere.

My tomatillos have whitish roots that spread underground, while the yellow flowers look like those of tomatoes. The sepals at the top of the down facing flowers extend over the ovaries to produce the lanterns. When they began to turn papery, I wondered when they were ripe enough to pick. Since members of the nightshade family, including some non-hybrid tomatoes, are allergenic, I was cautious about popping one in my mouth.

I asked women who had migrated from México if they knew anything about tomatillos, but they looked as me blankly. I certainly had enough to give away, but could find no takers.

I finally went to the local grocer that caters to people who speak Spanish to see if it carried them, and discovered the ones it imports from México don’t look anything like what I have. Their fruits are the color of unripe tomatoes and resemble golf balls that completely fill their green cases. My fruits are golden olive grapes that hang suspended inside their tan shells.

The real Mexican tomatillos are Physalis ixocarpo. The only seed package I saved that shows the annual is one Burpee marketed to Spanish-speakers in 2000 "para salsa."

The plants I have are probably husk tomatoes. The picture on the Ferry Morse seeds that colonized shows golden yellow fruits and an ecru lantern. The photograph of Lake Valley ones that didn’t germinate is more deceptive. It shows green cases and fruits, but the fruits are small like mine. The first was promoted as "excellent for Mexican salsa" and the other described as "essential for salsas."

There’s nothing actually wrong with Physalis pubescens, except their tendency to colonize. The plants are found throughout north and south America, while tomatillos are believed to have originated in central México. The fruits, which have a sweeter taste than the acidic tomatillos, have been made into pies and jams by Americans from German and British areas. When tomatillos were adopted by Spanish colonists, they made sauces.

Fortunately, husk tomatoes are more easily tamed than the Chinese lanterns. Now I wait until the bouncing Bess is clearly identifiable before pulling most of the volunteers from the irrigated garden, and let them grow where they will in the drip line with the hairy golden asters and hybrid roses. They can hardly overwhelm either, and one of these days I may dare test their edibility.

Bailey, Liberty Hyde and Ethel Zoe Bailey. Hortus, 1934.

MacNeish, Richard Stockton. Tehuacan Archaeological-Botanical Project, Annual Report, 1961.

United Nations. Food and Agriculture Organization. Neglected Crops: 1492 from a Different Perspective. Edited by J.E. Hernández Bermejo and J. León, 1994.

Photograph: Tomatillo (top), as sold locally, and husk tomato with manually broken shell, 28 November 2009.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


What’s still green: Arborvitae, juniper and other evergreens, roses, cholla, prickly pear, yuccas, red hot poker, grape hyacinth, west-facing iris, hollyhock, winecup, oriental poppy, St. John’s wort, vinca, baptista, white sweet clover, catmint, beardtongue, snapdragon, Jupiter’s beard, coral bells, rock rose, sea pink, columbine, yellow evening primrose, perky Sue, Shasta daisy, tansy, coreopsis, Mexican hat, cheat grass, bases of needle and June grasses; number of large trees still have canopies of dead leaves.

What’s red or turning red: Young apricot stem, raspberry, pink evening primrose.

What’s grey, blue-grey or grey-green: Piñon, pinks, snow-in-summer, yellow alyssum, winterfat, Silver King artemisia.

What’s yellow or turning yellow: Globe willows, apples, bouncing Bess, flax, purple ice plant.

What’s blooming inside: Aptenia and asparagus fern blooming; rochea and Christmas cactus leaves tinged with red.

Animal sightings: Rabbit hiding under car Wednesday morning; thin gray-green birds on utility line.

Weather: Cold mornings, clear starry nights, reddish new moon Thursday; last rain/attempted snow 11/15/2009; 9:05 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: Nature never reaches an equilibrium. Something is always disrupting the balance with its demands.

Tree roots grow beyond the ability of leaves to feed them, and send messages up for more leaves. Leaves multiply beyond the ability of roots to supply them, and send help messages down. Someone cuts off parts of a tree, and new suckers emerge from hidden buds in the bark to sustain the roots.

In more temperate climates, topped trees survive on carbohydrates stored in their roots, which allow them to send out emergency branches within four to six weeks. The finer roots are sacrificed, but once some leaves are recreated, the roots return to accumulating starch in about twelve weeks. Depending on its original size, a tree can regain its original mass within a few years, although the new growth may be less securely attached to the trunk and more prone to storm damage.

Here, where dry air sucks water from the soil, trees reverse the normal process: fewer leaves mean roots’ reserves can’t be replenished. When the number of roots decreases, the branches disappear until the tree itself becomes a shadow of itself, a barely functioning trunk.

This year’s unexpected early summer rains disrupted the stasis of topped trees: roots could expand, and suddenly seemingly dead trees shot out new growth.

Down the road, someone lived under the threat of two dying cottonwoods, one directly under a utility line, one a few feet away. At some time, the tops had been removed, and the trunks had shed their bark. If there were any leaves, I never saw them from my car window.

This June they cut them to the ground, and converted the nearby garage into living space. Before they could fill the yard with a heap of foot-long slices from the trunks, new growth sprouted. By fall, the two trunks looked like shrubs.

In the village, a trailer sits behind a row of cottonwoods. Sometime in the past, one of the trees apparently died and was cut to the ground. It had sent up a new trunk that was twisted, with suckers coming from the joints in gnarled boles. When the leaves started dropping this fall, it became obvious new branches had grown from the stump this summer.

Such new growth is common for many trees, but mature cottonwoods are not known for suckering. Fires and grazing buffalo controlled their population on the prairies, and in many areas they only increased after the herds were gone.

In New Mexico, Rio Grande cottonwoods have been disappearing with artificial changes in the rivers that have reduced the amount of available water. Sprouts only survive in places where the water table is high. This summer’s rain probably made no permanent changes to the below ground water levels, but they did leave enough near-surface water to stimulate the cottonwoods to return to more active lives.

Kim Coder says, with trees, there’s "no true balance except at death’s door." This summer’s early rains were a reprieve that took the form of a great disruption of normal patterns of nature that upended expectations by homeowners who thought it finally was safe to build near the dying cottonwoods.

Chesney Patrick and Nelly Vasquez. "Dynamics of Non-structural Carbohydrate Reserves in Pruned Erythrina poeppigiana and Gliricidia sepium Trees," Agroforestry Systems 69:89-105:2007.

Coder, Kim D. "Crown Pruning Effects on Roots," European Congress of Arboriculture, 1997.

Taylor, Jennifer L. "Populus deltoides," 2001, in United States Forest Service, Fire Effects Information System, available on-line.

Wier, Stuart K. "The Plains Cottonwood of the Southern Rocky Mountains," 1998, available on-line.

Photograph: Cottonwood stump in th village, with regrown trunk in back and new growth waving in the wind at right, 15 November 2009.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


What’s green: Trees have resumed the color changes preparatory to dropping their leaves; grape hyacinth leaves have broken through.

What’s turned/turning yellow: Cottonwoods, weeping and globe willows, sour cherries, apples, peach, Apache plume, tea roses, iris, Rumanian sage, bouncing Bess, phlox, flax, yellow alyssum, purple ice plant, Mexican hat, June grass.

What’s turned/turning red: Bradford pear, choke cherry, pasture rose, spirea, raspberry, winterfat, tansy.

What’s blooming inside: Aptenia and asparagus fern blooming; rochea and Christmas cactus leaves tinged with red.

Animal sightings: Flock of black chickens down the road, dead racoon by the village road.

Weather: Rain Friday and early this morning; 9:19 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: This summer with its oddly timed rainfall was a boon to the early blooming members of the Mallow family, but less kind to the late summer ones.

The many stalks of hollyhocks bloomed together, and the most favored continued growing with spaced out flowers until they towered overhead. Underfoot, the deeply incised leaves on winecup runners spread everywhere in early summer, but had few flowers in August.

The roses of Sharon and sidalceas were slower to grow or bloom. While I could never say they were a disappointment, I also never had one of those moments when I was suddenly struck by their great beauty.

The roses of Sharon were the first to drop their leaves with the first frost of early October. The leaves of the sidalcea have just turned brown, while some winecup and hollyhock leaves are yellowing. The last will persist through the winter while the poppy mallow will slowly disappear.

While the roses of Sharon are threatened by late frosts every spring, the winecups are impervious to all but the coldest weather. Each spring, usually in late March, new growth begins rising from taproots, and by the monsoons the hairy stems cover the barren, dry area where I planted three seedlings in 1997.

The wine-colored poppy mallows begin blooming sometime between May 14 and May 20, then continue until frost. The five petals open from their white bases each morning and close for the night, and stay shut once pollenation is complete. The petals fall away, leaving the supporting calyx that dries brown. A beaked seedcase remains.

When a stem happened to drop into the ditch that borders the winecup bed and carries water away from the house, it spread rapidly. While the perennial reproduces by seed, the only new plants in my yard have been in that ditch as water carried the seeds towards the main garden, which they promptly invaded. The past two years the runners have been putting down roots in the pinks and snows-in-summer where they are almost impossible to remove without destroying their more desirable neighbors.

Callirhoe involucrate is less vigorous in its native tall grass prairie habitat, where it’s kept to the dry margins, either by fungus, grazing, fire or competition, and tends to brown out in late summer. When the Nature Conservancy let an old pasture go fallow with little grazing in southern Nebraska in the 1970's, the winecups increased but remained insignificant except on the silty lowland where they expanded to 2% of the vegetation in 17 years.

Researchers in Farmington tested some ninety xeric plants to determine their actual water requirements. Winecups started to fail when the moisture fell below half the usual irrigation scheme. The only places the plant grows naturally in the state are the far northeast and the San Juan valley home of that New Mexico State branch.

When freed of its natural limits, especially in a monsoon climate, winecups expand. The Flora of the Great Plains said is "adventive in waste places" and the Flora of New Mexico described it as a "common weed in gardens and cultivated ground." Even the people who sold me my plants suggest it "will slowly spread if you let it."

Next year could be especially difficult, since it’s probably spreading underground right now under all the plants that had a tougher time this year during the drier late summer. The flowers may have been killed by the late October snow, but the plants are still very much alive. Winecups are adapted to challenging weather.

Nagel, Harold G. "Vegetative Changes During 17 Years of Succession on Willa Cather Prairie in Nebraska," North American Prairie Conference, Proceedings 14:25-30:1995.

Santa Fe Greenhouse and High Country Gardens, catalog, available on-line.

Smeal, Daniel, M. M. West, M. K. O’Neill, and R. N. Arnold. "A Differentially-Irrigated, Xeric Plant Demonstration Garden in Northwestern New Mexico," International Irrigation Show and Technical Conference, 2007.

Wooton, Elmer O. and Paul C. Standley. Flora of New Mexico, 1915, reprinted by J. Cramer, 1972.

Thompson, Jean Colette and William T. Barker. "Malvaceae Juss, the Mallow Family," including "Callirhoe involucrate" in Great Plains Flora Association, Flora of the Great Plains, 1986.

Photograph: Winecup arrested by cold with shriveled flower, dried calyxes and yellowing leaves; unaffected green leaves in back, 8 November 2009.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Bermuda Grass

What’s still blooming: Nothing.

What’s turned/turning red: Bradford pear, choke cherry, pasture rose, spirea, raspberry.

What’s turned/turning yellow: Sour cherries, apples, peach, rugosa rose, Apache plume, iris, Rumanian sage, yellow alyssum.

What’s happening inside: African aptenia and asparagus fern blooming; red tinges rochea and Christmas cactus leaves.

Animal sightings: Mice and birds testing the house’s defenses.

Weather: End of the week morning temperatures below freezing; last rain 10/28/09; 9:35 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: When I was a child in Michigan, our winter yard was either green or white. When snow was pushed into great piles in parking lots, it turned black. Green, white and soot were the colors of winter.

When I moved to west Texas in 1982, it was late summer and the lawn was green. When temperatures fell in fall, everything turned brown, and stayed brown. Bermuda grass was grown around Abilene because it was as close as people could come to the lawns of the north in summer. However, it begins to discolor when average temperatures fall below 50 degrees and the above ground growth dies when they fall below 30. The color of winter there was papery brown.

Here bunch grasses dominate the prairie. The tops turned brown long ago, but there’s a ring of green at the bases of the clumps. The color of winter is a velvety brown.

Recently, people who live along ditches that once served hay fields have been using flood irrigation for lawns. Most have planted some grass species that’s still green, but some yards have turned tan and will remain so until late spring.

I live up hill from the old ditch that watered livestock. Most of my land is either bunch grass or scrub. However, on the east side of the house there’s some Bermuda grass that may have come in the siding when the house was moved from Texas.

It doesn’t do particularly well here. Bermuda grass likes at least 25" of water a year. In Texas, the surviving deep roots and shallow rhizomes first sent up new shoots in spring, then sent out horizontal stems to colonize new areas. Since the grass was already thickly spaced and mowed often, the vertical growth dominates and the stolons had little opportunity to survive.

Here, the plant allocates more energy to sending out stolons to find moisture than in sending up dense, long blades. There’s only one clump, between a hose and the retaining wall, that’s ever put out radiating seed spikes.

Usually when the exploring growth, with its curling tufts, ever gets near water, it also gets near other plants, which prevent it from thriving in their shade. The horizontal stems are most visible trying to cross the block walk to escape the fence and sunflowers or going over the retaining walls to get beyond the planted buffalo and blue grama grasses.

A nomad’s ability to adapt has been built into the plant’s DNA. The Cynodon genus apparently evolved in east or southeastern Africa where two species are found in the eastern tropics, one in the rift valley, one from Madagascar east, one from Transvaal to the Cape, and two elsewhere in South Africa.

The common Bermuda grass species, dactylon, is a genetic mutation with twice the number of chromosomes that spread out of Africa where it evolved into subspecies. The variety that spread through the Seleucid Empire from modern Pakistan to Turkey, and into Europe is dactylon dactylon and probably resulted from a cross between African and an Afghan subspecies.

No one knows how it got to the New World, only that it was in the colonial south before the Revolution. It may have moved first to the Carribean on some Portuguese or Dutch ship that also plied the east, then migrated from there to the south on any number of vessels that sailed between Caribbean and southern ports.

In warmer climates it stays green all year, and is used to feed cattle everywhere. Ethnologists have reported parts have been used for traditional medical cures in India, Turkey, and northwestern Iran. In this country it’s most commonly used for golf courses.

In the colder latitudes, it can still form sods. It may brown in winter, but it keeps the summers green by preventing barren soils stripped of their native bunch grasses from blowing away.

Assefa, S., C. M. Taliaferro, M. P. Anderson, D. G. de los Reyes, R. M. Edwards. "Diversity among Cyondon Accessions and Taxa Based on DNA Amplification Finerprinting," Genome 42:465-474:1999; origin chart based on J. M. J. de Wet and J. R. Harlan, "Biosystemics of Cyondon L. C. Rich (Gramminae)," Taxon 19:565-569:1970 and J. R. Harlan., J. M. J. de Wet, K. M. Rawal, M. R. Felder, and W. L. Richardson,"Cytogenetic Studies in Cynodon L. C. Rich. (Gramineae)," Crop Science 10:288-291:1970.

Harlan, J. R., J. M. J. de Wet and K. M. Rawal "Origin and Distribution of the Seleucidus Race of Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. var.dactylon (Gramineae)," Euphytica 19:465-469:1970.

Newman, Dara. "Cynodon dactylon," Nature Conservatory Stewardship abstract, 1 March 1992.

Photograph: Bermuda grass stolons growing over the timber retaining wall, 1 November 2009.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


What’s still blooming: Chrysanthemums still have color from a distance, but up close many of the petals are stained brown.

Inside: African aptenia and asparagus fern.

What’s turned/turning red: Bradford pear, pasture rose, spirea, raspberry.

What’s turned/turning yellow: Most of the area yellow tree leaves turned brown; sour cherries, peach, rugosa rose, Apache plume, some iris leaves, Rumanian sage, catmint, yellow alyssum, Silver King artemisia.

Animal sightings: Mice have been trying to move into the house.

Weather: First snow landed on frozen rain on low leaves and stems in Monday morning dark; rain early Wednesday, then snow late; Tuesday morning in the high 20's, Thursday down to low 20's, and mid 20's with raw wind; yesterday weather back to normal sunny 30 degree temperature swing; 10:01 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: There are things I know, objectively, to be true, but have never experienced.

I know horseweed has tiny white flowers, although I’ve never seen one. I see buds and I see seed heads, but I never see the petals opened. The closest I’ve come was a dull day with clouds hiding a bright sun. In the special half light that extended into afternoon, I saw some flowers partly opened, almost daisies.

It’s often at such special times, like All Hallows’ eve, when conditions aren’t quite normal, that the usually invisible is revealed.

I know goldenrod is a member of the composite family, but all I’ve ever seen were yellow knobs on curving stems, usually from a distance. In Michigan in the 1970's, the rhizomes grew in large stands with white yarrow on land abandoned when I-94 was built in the early 1960's. This summer one large and at least three small patches rose from sides of irrigation ditches along the village periphery.

This year’s rain patterns were unusual. Showers continued into July, when it’s usually dry. Then, there was no rain in the usual monsoon season. There was more water than usual part of the summer, and little the other part. Few sunflowers or purple asters bloomed. We had no fall. It wasn’t their world.

My goldenrod, however, had larger flowers than usual and I could actually see the golden rays ringing flattened domes. Now the heads look like thistles. The white awns anchored to seeds are visible within the prongs of receptacle bracts that remain when the fluff has flown, like cotton bolls before the gin removes the debris.

Two weeks ago, the white balls reflected light. A week ago, after two days of rain and two days of cold, the pappus hairs that had once surrounded the florets were more dispirited, the browns more prominent. Yesterday, after more rain, more cold, and even some snow, the receptacles still clutched their remaining winged achenes.

One reason I could see my flowers so clearly this summer is they are stiff goldenrod plants I bought from Wisconsin’s Prairie Nursery in 2005. The major difference between Solidago rigida and the more common canadensis is that, while they have similar numbers of ray petals (6-13 versus 8-14), my species has 14 to 35 disc florets rather than the 3 to 6 found on the common perennial.

The sheer need for space for the disc flowers pushes the petals apart, making the center more visible. The fact the rigida disc corollas are also two to three times the size of canadensis only emphasizes the difference.

Some taxonomists have argued large flowers like mine aren’t really goldenrods and should be moved to another genus, tentatively called Oligoneuron. However, geneticists found rigida not only shares the same DNA with canadensis, but its subtribe appears to be an older, more basal member of the group.

Apparently, goldenrod began like any other composite, a daisy in a large cluster, somewhere east of the Mississippi. As conditions changed, the flowers shrank, but nature compensated by creating more to produce the same reproductive effort. However, rather than create great clusters like yarrow or horseweed to accommodate the increased number of florets, nature created the classic goldenrod form by extending the stem into a gooseneck and spreading the flowers along one edge.

Today, the USDA website has distribution maps for 75 Solidago species. Many are limited to the areas where they evolved. Of those that did spread, most live either east of the great plains, like stiff goldenrod, or in the west. Common goldenrod is the only one that has adapted almost everywhere. It can’t handle the humid southeast and, early in the twentieth century, Elmer Wooton and Paul Standley suggested in New Mexico, it only grew in Chama and on "moist ground in the upper Sonoran" that includes the Rio Grande valley.

This summer even the local goldenrod expanded with the unexpected early moisture. The peduncle stems, that hold individual flowers, grew longer, so the wands became airy plumes. Last weekend those canadensis heads, by then turned white, still maintained their form. But one, growing along a curve where its pappus of white fluff caught the morning light proudly proclaimed to any passing driver, "See I am a composite, see my glorious crown."

Nesom, G. L. "Taxonomic Infrastructure of Solidago and Oligoneuron (Asteraceae: Astereae) and Observations on Their Phylogenetic Position," Phytologia 75:1-44:1993.

Semple, John C. and Rachel E. Cook Entries on Solidago, S. canadensis, and S. rigida at efloras Flora of North America website.

US Department of Agriculture plant profile for Solidago, available on-line.

Wooton, Elmer O. and Paul C. Standley. Flora of New Mexico, 1915, reprinted by J. Cramer, 1972.

Photograph: Stiff goldenrod seed head, 25 October 2009, winterfat in back.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pampas Grass

What’s still blooming somewhere: Tea roses, red hot poker, winecup, scarlet flax, drab chamisa, chocolate flower, chrysanthemum, Mexican hat, áñil del muerto, tahokia daisy, blanket flower, hairy golden and Mönch asters; yellow leaves and fallen apples litter the ground, grapes shriveling into raisins.

Inside: African aptenia and asparagus fern.

What’s turned/turning red: Lapins cherry, Bradford pear, pasture rose, spirea, raspberry, sand cherry, Virginia creeper, leadwort.

What’s turned/turning yellow: Cottonwood, globe and weeping willows, Siberian elm, tamarix, beauty bush, sour cherries, peach, rugosa rose, Apache plume, lilacs, hosta, Rumanian sage, catmint, yellow alyssum, Silver King artemisia, purple coneflower.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, large black harvester and small dark ants.

Weather: Rain Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by mornings so cold frost lay on lawn grasses and water froze in the village arroyo; 10:18 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: There are times when I drive by someone’s yard and see something so beautiful, I wonder "how’d they do that."

Near the village someone has two magnificent clumps of pampas grass at the end of her driveway that have thrown up white plumes that wave 6' high against a backdrop of yellowed trees.

It may sound quite ordinary, except Cortaderia selloana is a zone 8 plant that can survive in zone 7 Albuquerque in favorable situations. There are some shorter cultivars like Pumila which tolerate zone 6 Santa Fe. But, Española is zone 5. The average low temperature for zone 8 is twenty degrees and, even in our mildest winters, there are mornings in the high teens.

Many western gardeners have learned the USDA system of zones is more reliable in the east than on the plains and in the Rockies. The idea of using a single variable, mean low temperature, to predict that ability of plants to survive was introduced in 1927 by Alfred Rehder, who was interested in describing the vegetation belts he saw across the country and the Appalachians.

According to Peter Del Tredici, Donald Wyman redefined Rehder’s concept to use the average minimum temperature in 1938 when he was at the Arnold Arboretum. He and other specialists continued to issue competing modifications until the USDA published the standard developed by Henry Skinner in 1960 at the National Arboretum. The agriculture department has since issued several revisions, and other groups, like Sunset magazine, continue to publish alternative guides for this part of the country.

But no matter how sensitive the tool, nothing will explain how those thriving South American plants have survived at least one winter.

The owner has done everything she could to create a favorable environment. The land around her house is surrounded by high, stone walls, that also line both sides of the sealed drive. In the winter the dark walls and paving absorb daylight, then radiate heat as they cool in the night. The surrounding microclimate is warmer than the prairie.

The owner has also been helped by her location. She lives about three-quarters of a mile from the river and about five hundred feet from a wide arroyo. A concrete-lined irrigation ditch passes near the outer wall carrying water in summer. Trees across the road help deflect the drying
winds of February.

Her natural and manmade location helps, but still can’t explain what makes her rhizomes so successful. My friend from Uruguay tells me what he calls horses’ tails grows on the sandy beaches of the eastern shore where the coldest it gets in winter is a few degrees below freezing. Tour groups advise it can be seen in its native habitat in the Costanera Sur nature reserve in Buenos Aires on the Rio de la Plata.

It also grows to the southwest at the Ernesto Tornquist Provincial Park with the 3,700' Cerro de la Ventana about 75 miles inland from the Atlantic. There, Natalia Cozzani and Sergio Zalba have found birds nesting in the tussocks of dried grass that accumulate beneath the fountains of sharp-edged foliage.

Pampas grass prefers moist winters and dry summers, but is not restricted to the coast. The perennial is also found in Brazil, Paraguay and Chile. Texas A&M has published a photograph of white heads growing like dense scrub in western Mendoza province in what looks like a tree-lined mountain meadow backed by snow-streaked peaks.

The wild species, which can reach 20', is probably not the one available in trade: nursery catalogs advertize 10' heights. Many are probably sterile cultivars that don’t shed the pollen, flowers and seeds my friend says fill the Uruguayan air. My neighbor probably has a hardier cultivar, but it’s still unique in this area for its height, width and vitality, a wonder to behold.

Cozzani, Natalia and Sergio M. Zalba. "Estructura de la Vegetación y Selección de Hábitats Reproductivos en Aves del Pastizal Pampeano," Ecologáía Austral 19:35-44:2009.

Del Tredici, Peter. "The New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map," Arnoldia 50:16-20:1990.
Rehder, Alfred. Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs, 1927.

Texas A&M University Herbarium. Vascular Plant Image Library photograph of Cortaderia selloana taken by Hugh Wilson.

Photograph: Pampas grass in the wind, 17 October 2009.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blackberry Lily

What’s still blooming somewhere: Tea roses, California poppy, red hot poker, winecup, chamisa, chocolate flower, chrysanthemum, Mexican hat, áñil del muerto, broom senecio,
tahokia daisies, Maximilian sunflowers, purple and hairy golden asters, untouched blanket flower buds, low growing Mönch asters.

Bedding plants: Moss rose.

Inside: African aptenia and asparagus fern.

What’s turned/turning red: Pasture rose, spirea, raspberry, sand cherry, skunk bush, leadwort, pink evening primrose, Virginia creeper.

What’s turned/turning yellow: Cottonwood, globe and weeping willows, black locust, Siberian pea, Siberian elm, tamarix, beauty bush, cherries, peach, rugosa rose, lilacs, lilies, hosta, ladybells.

Animal sightings: Large black harvester and small dark ants

Weather: Tuesday’s morning’s rain followed by great squawking of birds towards the river when I was leaving for work; 10:38 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: When Americans and the Chinese look at the same thing, say a blackberry lily, they don’t see the same thing.

When Thomas Jefferson planted what he knew as Ixia chinensis in 1807, he was probably interested in the loose clusters of six, spotted, orange petals that open late morning. Soon other flowers from other parts of the world surpassed their beauty, and the iris-shaped leaves persisted on their own in ditches, along roads, and in fields east of the Rockies.

Today, gardeners are told to grow the shorter, less garish Freckle Face cultivar for its fall and winter interest. Around September 26, the pear-shaped pods on my plants split open to reveal rows of shiny black seeds. The reflexed outer wraps have since dried a papery white.

When the Chinese look at shegan they see medicine.

Steven Foster and Yue Chongxi interpret Shi Zhen Li as having recommended it for throat cancer in 1578. When George Stuart translated Li’s work in 1911, he simply said it had "some special popularity in diseases of the throat" and reported it was used for breast cancer.

Chinese and scientists from other countries that still have some respect for traditional plant medicine have been combing reports of traditional practices looking for potentially useful plants. In the 1970's, doctors at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences were testing the folk methods for treating bronchitis.

By the 1990's, chemists were isolating more than a dozen compounds from the rhizomes of Belamcanda chinensis, and identifying some as flavonoids. In 2000, Li Xin Zhou and Mao Lin had been able to create a synthetic form of one, and demonstrate its effectiveness against inflamation. Lin and others later showed the compound was a powerful antioxidant, and it has since attracted a great deal of interest.

Most recently, Asian scientists have been doing the necessary work to make possible the mass production of the blackberry lily compounds. They have been creating tests for the cost-efficient evaluation of extracts, verifying that cultivated plants don’t differ in efficacy from the ones used in laboratory tests, and trying to develop synthetic forms.

Meantime, European scientists associated with a German herbal medicine company, Bionorica, have identified two of the flavonoids, irigenin and tectorigenin, as phytoestrogens that could be used to counter problems caused by sex hormones, especially prostrate cancer. They took out their first patent on a blackberry lily extract in 2002.

Most Americans never look at the roots that so interest the Chinese. Gardeners can buy plants grown from seed supplied by Jelitto, and are told to let the short-lived perennials perpetuate themselves by going to seed. They wouldn’t know the dried roots are chrome yellow inside and have an acid taste when fresh.

The Chinese aren’t particularly interested in the inedible seeds. In the nineties, some Japanese chemists identified four enediones in the seeds, but none have stimulated any further research.

American’s don’t just not see the blackberry lily’s roots. They’ve been told it’s a member of the iris family and therefore should be avoided as potentially toxic. Chinese don’t just ignore the seeds. They’ve been warned that only the roots are useful and not to substitute aerial parts in their formulas. We both see what we’ve been told to see.

Bionorica AG, Wolfgang Wuttke, Hubertus Jarry, Michael A. Popp, Volker Christoffel, and Barbara Spengler. "Use of Extracts and Preparations from Iris Plants and Tectorigenin as Medicaments," patent 2002/092111, 21 November 2002.

Chang, Tzu-Ching, Chih-Liang Wang, and Hsiu-Lan Wang. "Pathogenetic and Clinical Study of Bronchiolitis," Chung-Hua I-Hsueh Tsa-Chih 12:731-73:1976.

Foster, Steven and Yue Chongxi. Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West: A Guide to Gardening, Herbal Wisdom, and Well-being, 1992.

Li, Shi Zhen. Ben Cao or Pen Ts'ao, 1578.

Morrissey, Colm, Jasmin Bektic, Barbara Spengler, David Galvin, Volker Christoffel, Helmut Klocker, John M. Fitzpatrick, R. William and G. Watson. "Phytoestrogens Derived from Belamcanda chinensis Have an Antiproliferative Effect on Prostate Cancer Cells in Vitro," The Journal of Urology 172:2426-2433:2004.

Seki, Katsura, Kazuo Haga and Ryohei Kaneko "Belamcandones A-D, dioxotetrahydrodibenzofurans from Belamcanda chinensis," Phytochemistry 38:703-709:1995.

Stuart, George Arthur. Chinese Materia Medica, 1911, reprinted by Gordon Press, 1977.

Wang, Qing Li, Mao Lin and Geng Tao Liu. "Antioxidative Activity of Natural Isorhapontigenin," The Japanese Journal of Pharmacology 87:61-66:2001.

Zhou, Lin Xin and Mao Lin. "Studies on the Preparation of Bioactive Oligomerstilbene by Oxidative Coupling Reaction (1)-Preparation of Shegansu B using Silver Oxide as Oxidant," Chinese Chemical Letters 11:515-516:2000.

Photograph: Blackberry lily seeds, 11 October 2009.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Broom Senecio

What’s blooming in the area: Tea roses, chamisa, áñil del muerto, broom senecio, tahokia daisies, Maximilian and native sunflowers, purple, and hairy golden asters; cottonwoods beginning to yellow.

What’s blooming in my yard: California poppy, red hot poker, snapdragon, winecup, chocolate flower, chrysanthemum, Mexican hat; leaves turning yellow on globe willow, black locust, Siberian pea, lilacs, lilies, hosta, ladybells; turning red on pasture rose, spirea; blown off roses of Sharon.

Bedding plants: Moss rose.

Inside: African aptenia and asparagus fern.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, wasp, grasshopper, large black harvester and small dark ants; large black fowl in odd places along the main road when I was leaving for work.

Weather: Rain Wednesday, frost on my car window Friday morning, fog on the river; 11:06 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: The first hard frost, and what red or blue flowers remain lay hidden amongst cushions of seeds. It’s time for nature’s medley of yellows.

When I drive out of Santa Fe, bands of aspens loom from the distant Sangre de Cristo. When I drop down into Pojoaque, cottonwoods pick out the watercourse. Here, mossy yellow chamisa rise above the mustard snakeweeds and golden hairy asters. Clearest of all are the broom senecios.

Last weekend they peered from under chamisa shrubs in the arroyo and swayed by themselves in the sand. A few skim great mounds along the road, while the ones that have moved about my garage have clusters of six to eight skinny petaled daisies atop sparsely leaved stalks. A seed, attached to a white, dandelion-life tuft, has come up to the south by the fence that stopped its flight and a single, bright green stalk has risen from its taproot.

Broom senecios were seen by John Frémont when he was exploring the Sweet Water in Wyoming during the first part of August in 1842. One likes to imagine, when one is told someone was the first easterner to see a plant, that his report implies something about the primeval vegetation of the area.

With this groundsel, I’m not sure what past Frémont represented. Theodore Barkley suggests the plant is encountered infrequently in western South Dakota and Nebraska, and only found occasionally westward in the Great Plains, although its known in all the plains states.

The Sweet Water is the link between the South Pass through the Rocky Mountains and the river Platte that travelers followed from Missouri. A group of Astor Fur Company men had discovered the route from the west in 1812. Jedediah Smith and Thomas Fitzpatrick rediscovered what became the Oregon Trail from the east in 1823.

Soon, fur traders were using the route to bring pelts back to Saint Louis from their annual rendezvous with trappers. In 1830 the more enterprising William Sublette built a wagon road to haul his goods, a path Benjamin Bonneville used two years later to scout the area for the federal government.

By the time Frémont arrived, the trail was well established, but not yet heavily used. The valley of the Sweet Water varies from a few yards to five miles in width. He saw absinthes when he was near the mouth, and asters near the pass. Occasionally the river was bordered by "groves of willow" and nearer the pass, by aspen, beach and willow.

During his third day in the 120-mile-long valley he noted "numerous bright-colored flowers had made the river bottom look gay as a garden." Later he contrasted the occasional side valley of "deep verdure and profusion of beautiful flowers" with the "great evaporation on the sandy soil of this elevated plain, and the saline efflorescences which whiten the ground."

About the same time, he remembered seeing "many traces of beaver on the stream; remnants of dams, near which were lying trees, which they and cut down." Probably the first environmental change that favored the composites over the more valuable grasses was the death of the beavers who may have kept all those salt plains irrigated. In the mountains beyond the pass, Frémont noted both the presence of both beavers and saturated grasses.

Soon the valley would be filled with wagons in summer. The Whitmans had followed the Sweet Water in 1836, as did the wagon train of 1841 led by John Bartleson and John Bidwell and the one led by Elijah White in 1842. Fremont himself had so many men with him they needed to kill two buffalo a day to feed themselves.

Broom senecios do well in slightly disturbed soils. The only scientists I’ve read who’ve described an area dominated by the bright green subshrubs were surveying a part of the National Guard’s Camp Navajo, outside Flagstaff, that had been burned, then used for detonation exercises. The land was desolate and, no doubt, windblown, but the soil surface was not damaged the way it would have been by wagons or flocks of sheep.

In the Chihuahuan desert, others have noticed that when the soil is seriously disturbed, the thin veneer of microorganisms that sustains the grasses is destroyed and shrubs invade. The chamisas and other Chrysothamnus species protect soil nutrients while the ground between the shrubs continues to erode.

In the arroyo, the senecios growing with chamisa are taller, near 30", and have a number of stems with more clusters with more flowers crowded into the heads. The solitary plants, like those in my yard, at most have gotten 24" tall and the starry shapes of the flowers are more distinct as they overlap one another in open lattices.

In addition to its ability to survive sand and drought, Senecio spartioides was chemically prepared to protect itself from wagon train draught animals. All its parts contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids that stop most from eating them; when animals or humans do overindulge they die from liver damage.

Nature protects itself as soon as it’s disturbed. I suspect Frémont didn’t just see climax vegetation of the Great Plains, but the first response to its destruction.

Barkley, T. M. "Asteraceae Dunn., the Sunflower Family" in Great Plains Flora Association, Flora of the Great Plains, 1986.

Evans, R. D. and J. R. Ehleringer. "Water and Nitrogen Dynamics in an Arid Woodland," Oecologia 99:233-242:1994.

Frémont, John Charles. The Daring Adventures of Kit Carson and Frémont, 1885.

Young, Erin, Abe Springer and Ty Ferré. "Frost Penetration Depth and Frost Heave at Camp Navajo: Year 1," 29 October 2004.

Photograph: Broom senecio leaning out from under chamisa in the arroyo, 4 October 2009.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

White Prairie Clover

What’s blooming in the area: Tea roses, leather leaved globemallow, white prairie clover, Crimson Rambler morning glory, goats’ head, chamisa, winterfat, ragweed, snakeweed, áñil del muerto, broom senecio, tahokia daisies, purple, heath, and hairy golden asters, pampas grass; bittersweet berries; sand burs ripening; tamarix leaves turning yellow, Russian thistle and prostrate knotweed turning red; grape and Virginia creeper leaves dead; red pepper plants dead.

What’s blooming in my yard, looking north: Mexican hat, chocolate flower, chrysanthemum; Lapins cherry leaves turning orange.

Looking east: Snapdragon, large-leaved soapwort, Maximilian sunflowers.

Looking south: Sweet pea; zinnias and cosmos dead

Looking west: Russian sage, catmint, calamintha, David phlox, Mönch aster; leadwort leaves turning burgundy; skunk bush orange red.

Bedding plants: Moss rose, sweet alyssum; tomatoes dead.

Inside: African aptenia and asparagus fern; rochea leaves turned red.

Animal sightings: Brown speckled woodpecker landed on front porch post poised to attack; rabbit, geckos, large black harvester and small dark ants, cows brought in to graze in village.

Weather: Below freezing temperatures Friday and Saturday mornings; last rain 9/24; 11:36 hours of daylight today.

Weekly update: When plants die that have been around for some years, I mourn a little, as I would for someone I knew years ago. When the plants are relatively new, I shrug and remind myself it’s hard to find perennials that can survive this environment.

When the wild prairie clover disappeared last year, I wondered if it was simply short-lived. It had only been growing under the protection of a clump of June grass at the end of my drive since 2006. I knew a gopher could have gone after the deep taproot. The rabbit as easily could have eaten the sparse, light green foliage.

When a five-year-old stand of the white flowers died at the Bridger Plant Materials Center in Montana, people were less philosophical. After all, these were the scions of the Antelope seed they had collected in Stark County in 1947 and released in 2000 to growers for prairie restoration projects. Entomologists discovered the larvae of long-horned beetles had burrowed into the root crowns.

Those who were already using the kidney-shaped seeds in their restoration projects wanted to know why they failed to germinate. The most obvious answer was that the clover is a legume that needs a specific bacteria in the soil to help its roots convert soil nitrogen to feed the plant.

Some also pointed to the seed-stealing habits of rodents, while others noted the need for cold moisture or abrasion to break the seed’s dormancy, and that irrigation increases the existence of particular rust parasites.

Timothy Dickson and William Busby found a more complicated answer: a prairie is not a uniform mix of plants. Dalea candida grows better when there is less competition from warm season grasses. I’ve noticed some time ago that in this area, the only plants that live with the bunch grasses are things like snakeweed and winterfat and then only when seeds drop where the wind has loosened the soil enough and water happens to pass.

Most of the forbs are either in the arroyo, or have sprung up where off-road vehicles have killed the grass. Of course, Russian thistle is the most likely volunteer, but other annuals and perennials do emerge. Last weekend white prairie clover was growing on the north side of the arroyo plain, near the path of the water flow, and in one of the feeders.

The herbaceous perennial can grow anywhere from the prairie provinces of Canada to Chihuahua, Durango, and Sonora below 7000'. In this country, it avoids the far west and New England, but can grow in the glades and savannahs of the southwestern south. Early in the last century, Elmer Wooton and Paul Standley found it grew on open slopes throughout New Mexico.

Dan Moerman noticed the distribution of native people utilizing two subspecies is much more limited. Outside the Pawnee and Kiowa, every group lives in or near New Mexico. Going down the Rio Grande are the Santa Clara, the San Ildefonso, and San Felipe. Moving west, he read about the Laguna, Acoma, Navajo, and Hopi. No one reported a use that suggested it was common enough to be built into the material, medicinal or nutritional culture.

If a plant is this difficult to grow, I wonder why so many try. Although some give the usual answer about forage quality, I suspect for many it’s nostalgia for lost prairies. It may indeed attract a number of bees and contain chemicals that make it easier to digest, but plants like Illinois Bundle Flower are better.

The white flowers are simply something you remember in the grass, and hate to see disappear. The small flowers open at the bases of tall, narrow columns, and the rings rise through the blooming season. The modified pea flowers have a single wide banner, but the other petals are reduced to flaps amongst the stamens. When the cone is short and flowers fill the entire head, the usual tutu of lightness turns into a fairy’s wand.

Dickson, Timothy L. and William H. Busby. "Forb Species Establishment Increases with Decreased Grass Seeding Density and with Increased Forb Seeding Density in a Northeast Kansas, U.S.A., Experimental Prairie Restoration," Restoration Ecology 17:597-605:2009.

Moerman, Dan. Native American Ethnobotany, 1998.

Wooton, Elmer O. and Paul C. Standley. Flora of New Mexico, 1915, reprinted by J. Cramer, 1972.

Wynia, Richard. "White Prairie Clover," USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Guide, 2008.

Photograph: White prairie clover with grass on the bank of the arroyo, 27 September 2009.