July 02, 2022

Counting Convolvulaceae - July/August EcoQuest

The theme for our July-August EcoQuest is Convolvulaceae, otherwise known as the morning glory family! This family of plants has over 1,600 species spread across 59 genera that include trees, shrubs, and herbs as well as the vines that most of us are familiar with. A surprising member of this plant family is the sweet potato, which isn’t very closely related to potatoes, which are in the nightshade family Solanaceae!

A characteristic trait of the Convolvulaceae family is the flower shape; more specifically the corolla. Corolla is the collective name for the petals on a flower. The flowers of this family are funnel-shaped, and most of the individual parts are in multiples of five. Ipomoea is the largest genus in this family and hosts the morning glory species that are a common sight in many gardens and natural areas.

Morning glories can have a massive variety in flower size and color but all have the distinct pentagonal shape. From the five angled dodder vine Cuscuta pentagona on the left, to the beautiful goat's foot morning glory Ipomoea pes carprae in the center, and even the delicate and endangered calcareous morning glory Ipomoea microdactyla all morning glories carry their distinct flower shape.

In Florida alone, there are 43 native species, along with 27 non-native species, in the Convolvulaceae family. These include morning glories, bindweeds, dawnflower, and dodders. Twenty-six of these species have been recorded in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Only four of them are non-native:
Water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica)
Mile-a-minute vine (Ipomoea cairica)
Bush morning glory (Ipomoea carnea spp. fistulosa)
Cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit)

Some of our more common native varieties that you may be familiar with include:
Railroad Vine (Ipomoea pes-caprae)
Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)
Ocean Blue Morning Glory (Ipomoea indica)
Tievine (Ipomoea-cordatotriloba)

A vibrant ocean blue morning glory, Ipomoea indica exhibiting a variety of leaf structures.

Water spinach is a commonly grown green originating in Asia, and bush morning glory has only been documented in five counties in the state of Florida, one of which is Manatee County. Of our native species, only one is endangered: scrub morning glory (Bonamia grandiflora). This species is endemic to the state and is only found in central Florida. It prefers sandy scrub habitat and can resprout after fires, which it also needs to maintain a suitable habitat. Threats to Bonamia grandiflora are the same ones that threaten many scrub species, including urban development, citrus growing, and reduction of fire ecology and fire regimes in native areas.

Generally speaking, members of this family can be found in many different habitats ranging from inland scrub to coastal sand dunes and wetlands alike. These plants bloom throughout the warmer seasons in Florida, so it’s safe to say you’ll know them when you see them! Some exceptions, like moonflower or scrub morning glory, only bloom at certain times of day, so be sure to check back if they aren’t flowering when you see them.

Beach morning glory, Ipomea imperati in flower after a morning storm.

Upcoming Bioblitzes
If you want to know more about the complexities of Convolvulaceae, please join us on the following dates:

Pinecraft Park (7/21/22):

Duette Preserve (7/27/22):

Crowley Museum (8/16/22):

Beker Wingate Preserve (8/25/22):

If you want to see how glorious your observations have been this month check out the Going for Morning Glory Ecoquest here!

Posted on July 02, 2022 03:36 PM by kaylynnlow kaylynnlow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 14, 2022

Talking Mustards with Dr. Tatiana Arias

Happy June, EcoFlora participants!

We are now in the second half of our May-June Ecoquest, “Mustard Madness!” To learn more about mustards and why we should be mad for them, I looked to one of the expert botanists here at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Dr. Tatiana Arias.

Dr. Arias has over 15 years of experience conducting plant research and is currently focused on orchid evolution and conservation. Long before her work with orchids began, Dr. Arias studied mustard species as part of her graduate research in Colombia. We asked her to share a little bit about her thesis and what got her interested in mustards. Here’s an overview of the discussion:

“For my research, I worked on the tribe Brassiceae, which includes all of the major economically important species in the Brassicaceae family,” she said. There are over 4,000 species in the family, and 250 species in the tribe she was working on, but her research focused on six species that are collectively referred to as the “Triangle of U”. Three of these species are diploids and three are polyploids. A diploid is an organism that contains two sets of chromosomes, one from each parent organism. In contrast, a polyploid is an organism that contains more than two total sets of chromosomes. In the case of these Brassica species, they contain two sets from each parent organism.

Plants in the Brassiceae tribe have a variety of beneficial qualities apart from their genetic diversity; some are salt tolerant, are able to accumulate heavy metals, and, according to Dr. Arias’ findings, are able to hybridize with other brassicas that genetically diverged millions of years apart from one another. Specifically, Brassica nigra (black mustard) is less closely related than B. oleracea (wild cabbage) and B. rapa (field mustard).

Dr. Arias traveled abroad during her research on Brassicaceae to the Mediterranean, which is where the family originated. From there, it spread to Europe and beyond, becoming a foundational agricultural crop that is still crucial today.

She was inspired to research the family because of its impact on plant domestication and agricultural and economic importance. The three species that Dr. Arias highlighted in her research encompass nearly all cruciferous vegetables we eat today. Brassica rapa consists of cultivars such as turnips, bok choy, napa cabbage, and oilseed. Brassica oleracea includes cultivars such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and kale. Lastly, B. nigra is responsible for the mustard seeds that are commonly used as spices or in spreads. Can you imagine a world without a single one of these on your kitchen table?

Dr. Arias' Brassiceae publication, “Diversification times among Brassica (Brassicaceae) crops suggest hybrid formation after 20 million years of divergence,” can be found online in the American Journal of Botany.

Posted on June 14, 2022 05:39 PM by kaylynnlow kaylynnlow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 26, 2022

Mustard Madness EcoQuest

Hello all!

Most of us are familiar with the sight and taste of cabbage, broccoli, kale, radishes, turnips, and mustards on our dinner plates, but did you know that these vegetables–collectively known as cruciferous vegetables–are all related? These plants are members of the Brassicaceae family, which is comprised of approximately 4,060 different species. Many of them have been cultivated for agricultural purposes and are staple foods in diets across the world. All members of the Brassicaceae family are characterized by cruciform (“cross shaped”) flowers that are usually yellow or white. Hence the name cruciferous!

This EcoQuest focuses on members of the mustard family that grow in our own backyards, some of which are also edible! There are six native mustard species that have been documented via preserved specimen collections in Sarasota and Manatee counties:

  • Coastal searocket (Cakile lanceolata)
  • Pennsylvania bittercress (Cardamine pensylvanica)
  • Western tansymustard (Descurainia pinnata)
  • Virginia pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum)
  • Florida watercress (Nasturtium floridanum)
  • Southern marsh yellowcress (Rorippa teres)

These species inhabit a variety of habitats. Coastal searocket can be found in coastal dunes while Florida watercress grows in springs and swamps. Florida watercress is our only endemic mustard species, meaning that it is both native and only found in Florida!

Our native mustards inhabit a variety of habitats. Coastal searocket, for example, grows in coastal dune ecosystems, while Florida watercress grows in spring and swamp ecosystems. Florida watercress is also our only endemic mustard species, meaning that it is not only native to Florida but is only found in Florida.
The Coastal Searocket is a beautiful albeit uncommon native to many of our barrier islands in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

One of the most common Florida native Brassicaceae species, Virginia pepperweed, is likely growing in your neighborhood or a disturbed site nearby. Not only is Lepidium virginicum edible to humans, it is also a host plant for both the checkered white butterfly (Pontia protodice) and the great southern white butterfly (Ascia monuste).

There are five non-native species that have been documented in the two counties as well:

  • India mustard (Brassica juncea)
  • Lesser swinecress (Lepidium didymum)
  • European watercress (Nasturtium officinale)
  • Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum)
  • Charlock mustard (Sinapsis arvensis)

All non-native species that have been introduced to Florida ecosystems are edible! Most have been grown as agricultural crops, so it is likely that they originally spread by escaping from cultivation. European watercress is specifically grown as a crop in Florida to supplement the supply for other states who cannot grow it during the winter months.

We have one more Bioblitz coming up for this EcoQuest and we hope you will join us! You can register at https://selby.org/dsc/youth-family-programs/sarasota-manatee-ecoflora-project/ or sending an RSVP to ecoflora@selby.org.

Upcoming Bioblitzes:
June 15th - 9am - 12pm Anna Maria Island 316 N Bay Blvd, Anna Maria, FL 34216

Have your weeds and eat them too!

Posted on May 26, 2022 09:35 PM by kaylynnlow kaylynnlow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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