Nothoscordum bivalve aka Crow Poison

Blooms early spring, sometimes in fall along road sides and other open areas. Leaves are long, thin all at the base of the plant.

Perennial bulb in Liliaceae family

Native to Texas, Mid Atlantic, Mid West and Gulf Coast

Toxic to humans, possibly crows, but loved by butterflies

aka Yellow False Garlic

Candle Bush ( Cassia alata )

Candle Bush

Candle Bush

This plant showed up of its own accord and grew to about 3′ in a month.

A bit of digging revealed it to be a Candle Bush. Since it was in the butterfly garden next to the driveway I thought I’d leave it a bit and see what happened.

It will grow 3′-4′ tall around here, I met someone who claims to have one 6′ tall in her garden. Flowers are yellow, spiky and attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. They do not winter over in cold years.

Like most butterfly attractor plants it does best with lots of sun.

Unfortunately they also attract fire ants, I had been warned of this and inspecting the plant last week I found several fire ants crawling around the base and a nest built right next to the trunk of the plant, so out it went.

It is supposed to be a good fungicide for ringworm and other skin fungal infections. It also well known as a laxative among other medicinal uses.

Like most plants here it is toxic, do not use it medicinally with out more research.

Native to east Africa.

More information:
Candle Bush at Dave’s Garden

Plants release scents to warn other plants of insect attacks

Plants release hundreds of volatile chemicals ( scents ) to both attract and repel insects.

Cabbage butterflies lay their eggs in cabbage. In response the cabbage plants release a scent that attracts two species of moths that feed on cabbage butterflies.

When insects lay eggs in the plant they damage the plant, this damage triggers the plant to release chemicals to protect it from the insects about to hatch and feed on the plant. Some chemicals kill the plant tissue around the egg causing the egg to fall off the plant. Other chemicals attract predators of the insect eggs.

Cabbage family plants make glucosinolate from sugar giving them their well known bitter flavor. This is what acts to fight cancer in people who eat these plants.

Plants containing glucosinolate can be used keep pests away from other crops.Some insects have adapted to be able to deflect the toxins and use these plants for feeding and egg laying.

Plants cry for help when attack expected
PLOS One, Plant volatiles induced by herbivore egg deposition affect insects of different trophic levels

Fungus and bees help orchids diversify


Scientists have discovered why orchids are one of the most successful groups of flowering plants – it is all down to their relationships with the bees that pollinate them and the fungi that nourish them.

The orchid family is one of the largest groups of flowering plants, with over 22,000 species worldwide. Today’s research suggests that there is such a huge range of species because orchids are highly adaptable and individual species can interact with bees, and other pollinators, in different ways.

For example, when orchids Pterygodium pentherianum and Pterygodium schelpei live side by side, Pterygodium pentherianum puts its pollen on the bee’s front legs, whereas Pterygodium schelpei puts it on the bee’s abdomen. This means that one bee can carry pollen from two distinct species without mixing it.

The study also shows how orchids are able to live harmoniously together, with different species working in partnership with different microscopic fungi in the soil, ensuring they do not compete with each other.

Prior to today’s study, it was known that orchids have strong interactions with bees, which pollinate the flowers in return for food such as nectar or oils, and also with fungi, which supply minerals to the roots in return for sugars. These relationships are amongst the best examples of nature’s system of ‘mutual benefit’ and are believed to have been important for enabling orchids to evolve into so many different species. However, the mechanisms by which these relationships affect the number of plant species, and these species’ ability to coexist, had remained obscure.

The group studied 52 orchid species in a small region of South Africa, which all secrete oil inside their flowers that female bees collect to feed to their larvae. In order to investigate which pollinating bees were visiting the different species, they collected orchid pollen from the bees for DNA sequencing and analysis. They found strong evidence that when an orchid moved to a new geographical area it adapted to a different pollinating bee species, and interestingly, some competing orchid species were able to adapt by placing pollen on different body parts of the same bee.

“What is remarkable in these orchids is that diversity is generated not only through switches between bees, but also by switches between different body parts of the same bee, so two closely related orchids might place pollen on different segments of one bee’s front leg,” added Professor Barraclough. “It’s given us a fundamental insight into how so many new species can originate, and once they originate how they are able to coexist without exchanging genes.”

The researchers also studied the microscopic fungi living on the roots of the orchid, to see how this relationship was affecting plant diversity. Most flowering plants host microscopic fungi in their roots that help the plant take up nutrients from the soil. Until now it has been difficult to investigate this interaction, as most of the fungi belong to species that are difficult to culture. The researchers overcame this challenge by combining a molecular technique known as DNA barcoding with field experiments. In contrast to the bees, where co-occurring orchid species normally share the same insect pollinator, the plants needed to use different fungal partners in order to coexist in the same region.

“By tapping into different kinds of fungi, different plant species access different pools of nutrients and so the problem of living together without competing for the same resources is solved,” said Professor Barraclough. However, the same fungal partners are found in different geographical areas and so orchid species that originate in different areas, by adapting to different pollinators, tend still to use the same fungi.

The team’s fieldwork shows that shifts in pollination traits were important for bringing about new species and allowing coexistence in a diverse group of orchids, whereas shifts in fungal partner were important for coexistence but not for speciation. Many other groups of flowering plants enter into similar relationships with pollinators and fungi, and both the origins and the future survival of that diversity could depend critically on understanding these relationships.

source

The Effects of Above- and Belowground Mutualism on Orchid Speciation and Coexistence

Phlox changes color to help butterflies tell species apart

Where Phlox drummondii lives by itself, it has a periwinkle blue blossom. But where its range overlaps with Phlox cuspidata, which is also light blue, drummondii flowers appear darker and more red. Some individual butterflies prefer light blue blossoms and will go from blue to blue, avoiding the dark reds. Other individual butterflies prefer the reds and will stick with those. This “constancy” prevents hybrid crosses.

Hybrid offspring between drummondii and cuspidata turn out to be nearly sterile, making the next generation a genetic dead-end. The persistent force of natural selection tends to push the plants toward avoiding those less fruitful crosses, and encourages breeding true to type. In this case, selection apparently worked upon floral color. source

Identification of two genes causing reinforcement in the Texas wildflower Phlox drummondii