Sunday, November 28, 2010

Things Not What They Seem

Berries from a vegetable plot at Floyd Bennett? Nope. They're the seeds of my neighbor Eddy's Belamcanda chinensis, also known as the Leopard Lily or Blackberry Lily. Not only are the seeds not blackberries, the plant is not a lily. It's an Iris with a pretty orange and yellow flower that blooms in the summer. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the plant's name has been changed recently to Iris domestica. Confused yet? Get used to it. As Dr. Susan Pell explained to BBG's hort interns last week, the name change game happens a lot in the horticulture world, where current advances in science and the study of DNA are changing the way families are grouped and named, and species too. Whatever you choose to call this plant, correctly or incorrectly, I think I may find it in my strawberry bed next summer if it creeps under the fence or sets viable seeds, which is fine by me. The flowers are pretty and the seed capsule extends interest well into fall. How far it will spread remains to be seen and maybe I will be sorry I let it into my world. It spreads both by rhizome and seed.

And above, what I might have thought was the fruit of the American Bittersweet vine (Celastrus scandens) until the horticulture interns' Herbarium tour and brief talk with scientist Dr. Gerry Moore this summer. Then I learned that most likely what I see growing along the bike path down by Plumb Beach is an Asian species (Celastrus orbiculata) that outcompetes with our similar-looking American native, perhaps even to the point of eradicating it. The New York Metropolitan Flora Project, which BBG's scientists have worked on for 20 years, maps species found within the New York metropolitan area, native and otherwise, and only the Celastrus orbiculata is listed for Kings County.

No comments: