10 July, 2023

Another typical backlog for the dedicated iNaturalist user...

I have so many photos in the backlog that I had to create a whole new photo album to keep track of them! These include photos from the field expedition to Panhandle Texas as part of my REU internship with the Morton Arboretum (note: that was an absolute blast). Our three-person team covered a lot of ground, from Monahans Sandhills State Park in West Texas to Quartz Mountain State Park in Oklahoma.

Of course, I will cull some of the not-so-good photos, since I tend to take more photos rather than fewer, but this is going to take hours for me to upload.

I'll get to them eventually, in the near or far future...

Also, I may have recorded a county record for Eryngium hookeri, at Matador Wildlife Management Area. I may upload that one sooner rather than later, with some encouragement. While I planned to collect a voucher for the population, research priorities and a surprise rainstorm distracted me from doing so. It is probably one of the furthest east records for that species, if confirmed. Thanks to Hunter Hopkins with TXPWD for showing us around!

Posted on 10 July, 2023 04:03 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 2 comments | Leave a comment

23 June, 2023

Scout no more?

I may no longer be a scout, or at least officially under Scouts BSA, for long. My scout troop may not recharter next year.

In the wake of the pandemic, a lot of the local scout troops and cub scout packs have suffered. The scandal and legal situation with the then-Boy Scouts of America organization (which they have rightfully owned up to) probably did not help. I've heard that several troops and packs have dissolved altogether. Overall, the past few years has been a rough decade for scouting.

My own troop was by no means large, but it was close and tight-knit, like a family. When I joined, there was just a little more than 10 members. We grew to nearly 30, before the pandemic hit. Now, they have become top-heavy with older scouts, and have been unable to recruit new members. Of the remaining active members, most if not all will either age out at 18 or reach Eagle (several completed their projects earlier this year). They've planned a final summer outing as their last big "hurray," to go out with a bang. I will be unable to join them as I am currently doing a full-time internship at the Morton Arboretum, but I joined in on several of my fellow scouts' Eagle Projects.

Scouting was a large part of my identity. I learned basic skills—camping, tying knots, how to start a fire. I took the Leave No Trace principles to heart, and continue my obligation to help other people at all times. Scouting helped me find my interest in plants (see "The Forester"). It was the same year I did my Eagle Project that my interest in the local flora really kicked off. I wanted to reinvigorate some of the skills I learned. I practiced my Basketry merit badge by weaving baskets from the twigs of a local willow. I discovered the joy of wild dewberries and foraging. I made cordage from the leaves of an agave plant in my backyard. Realizing that the plants were not just background, that put things into a new perspective. And of course, iNaturalist played a large part in helping identify the basic components of my local flora and connecting me with other naturalists.

As an Eagle Scout, I can honestly say that Scouting made me the person I am today. Part of that past is vanishing. And I am changing, my identity growing, beyond the labels I used to call myself. But I will continue to consider "Arnan the scout" a part of my identity, and the username will not change. Here's to memories of day's past, and to hopes of a bright future.

We all change, when you think about it, we're all different people; all through our lives, and that's okay, that's good, you've gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.

Arnan, Botanistrum

Posted on 23 June, 2023 04:25 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

12 June, 2023

23 May, 2023

Notes on Linum rigidum & Linum berlandieri with a focus on Central Texas

"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey stuff."

The situation with Linum rigidum and Linum berlandieri is a little wibbly wobbly with regards to differentiation and timey-wimey in regards to species circumscription. These species are closely related; L. berlandieri has been grouped under L. rigidum at certain points in time by certain authors (as L. rigidum var. berlandieri). Currently the two are treated as separate species but the process of distinguishing them is somewhat complicated as most of the distinguishing characters are not clear-cut between the two. Nonetheless I will try my best to cut down both the wibbly-wobbly and the timey-wimey using information from FNA (last edited in 2020), FNCT (1999), and other publications.

FNA = Flora of North America, page on Linum last updated 2020 (website: http://floranorthamerica.org/)
FNCT = Shinners and Mahlers Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas, 1999 (online PDF: https://fwbg.org/research/brit-press/illustrated-flora-of-north-central-texas-online/) - pages 788-792
MVPT = Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas, 1970 - pages 897-899

Current Species Circumscription

(According to FNA)
Linum rigidum Pursh
With 2 varieties:
Linum rigidum Pursh var. rigidum
Linum rigidum var. simulans C. M. Rogers
Only var. rigidum occurs in Texas.

Linum berlandieri Hooker
Synonym: Linum rigidum var. berlandieri (Hooker) Torrey & A. Gray
With 2 varieties:
Linum berlandieri Hooker var. berlandieri - widespread in Texas except W. Texas, spreading north to Nebraska, east to Louisiana and Arkansas, and west to New Mexico.
Linum berlandieri var. filifolium (Shinners) C.M. Rogers (same as Linum rigidum var. filifolium Shinners) - Central? and W. Texas, and Mexico (Coahuila)
(Distribution of varieties from USDA Plants Database, FNA, and MVPT)

In Central Texas, L. rigidum var rigidum and L. berlandieri var. berlandieri are most relevant. L. berlandieri var. filifolium may also be present, though this is only mentioned in FNA.


Here are the BONAP distributions for both species from 2014:

L. rigidum
L. berlandieri

Based on this, it would seem that in most of Texas, L. berlandieri is significantly more widespread than L. rigidum. The USDA Plants Database maps are similar (zoom in to show county-level distribution):

L. rigidum
L. berlandieri

Based on both maps, L. rigidum as currently defined is nonexistent in Central Texas. A quick check on SEInet, however, does show L. rigidum in Central Texas. Based on this, it seems better to assume that L. berlandieri is more common than L. rigidum in Central Texas—how much more common, I do not know.


Fruiting Capsules

This appears to be the only straightforward method to distinguish these two species (supported in MVPT, FNCT, and FNA).

L. rigidum has capsules which are elliptic (oval) in shape. The base of the capsule is rounded.
L. berlandieri has capsules which lean closer towards a triangular shape - ovoid (egg-shaped) to triangular-ovoid. The base of the capsule tapers abruptly to form a flattened base.

A closeup illustration of Linum rigidum capsule shape can be found on page 791 of FNCT (as Linum rigidum var. rigidum)

Another useful (though slightly less-straightforward) character is the thickness of the capsule walls.

L. rigidum has translucent capsule walls, "so thin that the dark seeds can be seen through them," per FNA.
L. berlandieri has thick, opaque capsule walls—or at least for Linum berlandieri var. berlandieri.
Linum berlandieri var. filifolium (which may or may not occur in Central Texas) apparently has thin-walled, transluscent capsules, per FNA. It is not said whether the capsule walls are thinner than Linum rigidum. However, this variety is very unique in that it contains greyish or purplish-colored sepals and a black stigma, which neither of the other species contain.

To be continued?

Posted on 23 May, 2023 04:32 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 7 comments | Leave a comment

16 May, 2023

Unusual Spigelias in Central Texas

Note: Most Spigelia plants in Central Texas are pretty clearly Spigelia hedyotidea. As far as I can tell the borderline plants are not as common, and occur in different habitat than typical S. hedyotidea. See bolded note on borderline plants.

My interest in these plants was sparked by this observation:

Spigelia is one of a few genera in the family Loganaceae which occur in Texas. There are three species of Spigelia in Texas:

  • Spigelia marilandica A.DC, restricted to East Texas
  • Spigelia texana (Torr. & Gray) A.DC., apparently endemic to Texas in the Gulf Coastal Plain
  • Spigelia hedyotidea A.DC. , occuring in the Edwards Plateau south to South Texas and Mexico

(Species distributions roughly determined through descriptions in Correll and Johnston's Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (1970) (MVPT), maps from the Biota of North America Program maps (BONAP), and data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). For Spigelia texana, I referenced personal comm. with Bill Carr.)

The last two are of interest as they are both morphologically similar and closely related to each other according to a dissertation by Gould (1997), along with Spigelia loganioides (Torr. & Gray) A.DC. All three taxa used to be placed in the genus Coelostylis and have been shown to form a monophyletic group (Gould 1997). The taxonomic boundaries within this group have been debated. Some authors, such as Hendrickson (1996) and Hurley (1968), propose that S. texana and S. loganioides are conspecific i.e. the same species. However, while S. texana and S. loganioides are most morphologically alike (and in fact nearly identical in appearance), Gould determined using cpDNA and ITS sequence analyses that "S. texana is more closely related S. hedyotidea than to S. loganioides." Based on information from online databases such as GBIF, Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), and Plants of the World Online (POWO), it appears that the three species are currently considered separate taxonomic entities as of May 2023, which Gould concluded in her paper, and which I will follow with.

Interestingly, Gould (1997) notes that there are populations of S. hedyotidea in Central Texas which appear to share vegetative characteristics closer to S. texana, although this is not elaborated on. Gould does not mention whether those populations were sampled in her analyses, but for each population, morphological characters were measured and recorded, although the data was not shown in the paper. Voucher specimens were deposited at TEX/LL, so I may look at some the S. hedyotidea vouchers from population sampled in the study fall of this year.

A good explanation of the morphological differences between the two can be found Gould's (1997) discussion under both Spigelia texana and Spigelia hedyotidea:

  • S. hedyotidea has a shorter "bushy" growth habit (5-15(-19) cm) compared to S. texana ((10-)20-45(-50 cm) [numbers with dashes indicate uncommon extremes]
  • S. hedyotidea has leaves which are much smaller than those of S. texana;
    Mid-stem leaves for S. hedyotidea are (1.2-)1.5-3.0(3.5) cm long and 0.3-1.0(-1.3) cm wide & shorter than the internodes;
    Mid-stem leaves for S. texana are 3.0-5.5 cm long & sometimes longer than the internodes.

  • S. hedyotidea has leaves that are generally thicker and slightly coriaceous (leathery), often with the presence of minute papillae (think dots on a tongue) on the upper surface to create a scabrous look, although sometimes glabrous as well. S. texana will have thin, membraneous leaves without any papillae/roughness, except occasionally along the margins.
    Note 1: In the shade, S. hedyotidea can exhibit membraneous leaves as well.
    Note 2: In herbarium specimens, S. hedyotidea leaves tend to get wrinkled when dry; those of S. texana dry flat

  • S. hedyotidea is "profusely scabrous" on the stems and leaves; S. texana is glabrous except for papillae at the nodes.
  • S. texana usually produces a "pseudowhorl" of 4 leaves (4 leaves attached to one node) under the inflorescence. S. hedyotidea can do so, but rarely does.
  • The corolla tubes of S. hedyotidea (ca. 4 mm wide at throat) are apparently slightly wider than those of S. texana (1-3 mm wide at throat).

Henderson's paper provides excellent illustrations which detail some of these differences on page 97 of the online version at the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). Note that Henderson considers S. texana under S. loganoides, but the two are so morphologically similar (differing only by corolla length and allopatric distribution) that the illustrations remain useful.

S. hedyotidea is the most variable species and thus is the cause of most confusion between the two.

The Spigelia observation which I first mentioned above was located in Travis County along the River Place Trail, within the Balcones Canyonlands region of the Edwards Plateau. The plant exhibits characteristics similar to that of Spigelia texana. Most notably, it contains a whorl (or "pseudowhorl" as called in the literature) of 4 leaves on one stem, underneath an inflorescence. It also contains leaves which are less thick and more membraneous in texture.

"Pseudowhorl" of 4 leaves underneath an inflorescence

The location of this plant seems to fit better with S. texana than with S. hedyotidea. The plant's location is very close to a creek and in a shaded woodland area.
MVPT describes the habitat for S. texana as "wooded slopes and floodplain woods along rivers," and in both Gould and Hendrickson in wooded creeks and riparian forests.
S. hedyotidea occurs "in open gravelly soil and among boulders... about breaks or in prairies" according to MVPT. Gould and Hendrickson describe its habitat similarly: "open, gravelly, sandy clay loams, dark-soiled prairies... limestone bluffs on generally dry soils." However, they also add that it occurs on "shaded woodlands, river banks, and rocky creekbeds," which is completely different from the first set of habitats.

I took a quick hike down to locate the plant or others with similar characteristics at River Place, and made a few findings.

I noticed that the plants were all growing on shaded sloping ground around the creek. This is the same habitat which S. texana is described to grow in, although if accounting for Gould and Hendrickson, S. hedyotidea can also occur in similar environments. The leaves seemed notably large; midstem leaves of the two specimens I observed both surpassed 4 cm in length, which is significantly beyond the normal range noted for Gould, Hendrickson, and the MVPT. I admit that I was biased towards more closely observing plants that were larger in aboveground growth, so this may be skewed towards the upper extreme. A better method would have been to measure the mid-stem leaf length on all plants for a better picture, which I did not get to due to both limited daylight and time that day. Other notable features of leaves were that they were indeed noticeably thin and membraneous rather than coriaceous. The plants overall appeared glabrous on the leaves and stems, though this seemed to vary and I didn't check with my loupe on all of them. Not everything was similar S. texana, though; I did not detect the presence of a pseudowhorl of 4 leaves on any plants I found.

It is clear that these plants occupy a different niche than what I will call the "typical" S. hedyotidea, which tends to occur in areas with more sunlight (ranging from out in the open areas to partial shade) and tolerate drier soils. The question, for me at least, seems to be whether or not this variation falls under S. hedyotidea.

There are a few hypotheses here:

  • It could be attributed to variation under Spigelia hedyotidea. S. hedyotidea is quite variable in appearance. Henderson notes that plants have "longer internodes, less coriaceous... and often larger leaves" in shady areas, as well as appearing "smooth and membraneous" like S. texana. Gould also cites this variation as well. According to both authors, these plants would probably fall under S. hedyotidea.
  • It could possibly represent S. texana. If keyed out through MVPT, these plants would likely be considered S. texana, although that information is from 1970 and is thus more outdated than the more recent literature.
  • It could be something else, maybe an intermediate between the two.

I think studying morphology under S. hedyotidea specimens analyzed Gould's paper would likely clear this up best, as those specimens are tied to genetic analyses which supported the recognition of the three former Coelostylis species as they are. Considering Gould's paper, which appears to be the most recent treatment, these plants would fall under variation of S. hedyotidea, so unless there is a newer update in the taxonomy, S. hedyotidea would be a safe bet. For more cautious individuals, it may suffice to leave the plants at genus.

I have created a set of observations using the observation field "Similar observation set" under the value "81436857_ct_spigelia" so that Spigelia plants exhibiting similar leanings toward S. texana can be easily found and studied.

Borderline Spigelia plants will likely occur in Central Texas, and will likely (1) occur in shaded areas with ample moisture, along creeks and waterways and in bottomland areas (2) exhibit leaves that tend to exceed 3 cm in length and 1 cm in width (3) have thinner leaves that appear smooth and membraneous rather than rough and coriaceous and (4) contain a pseudowhorl of 4 leaves under the inflorescence.

To be frank, the identification of these plants is not so important, whether they are ID'd as S. hedyotidea or remain at genus level; rather it is important to recognize this variation exists so that it can be further studied. I may dive some more into these specimens, but I would encourage anyone interested to provide useful observations or do further study on these plants, for example:

  • Morphological measurements of leaves, surfaces, other characteristics from these plants
  • Tracking and adding borderline individuals to the observation set

REFERENCES (to be updated)
Gould 1997 https://www.proquest.com/docview/304373809?fromopenview=true&pq-origsite=gscholar
Hendrickson 1996 https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/9303086#page/98/mode/1up
Correll and Johnston 1970 MVPT

Posted on 16 May, 2023 06:11 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 1 comment | Leave a comment

14 May, 2023

Bill Carr's Travis County Flora

After the update with the NPSOT websites, the page (https://npsot.org/Austin/TravisCountyFlora/Travis%20County%20Flora.html) I usually use to access this has vanished, so I found a web archive version to use for now:

It might just be hidden in some other spot of the website but I cannot find it as of now.

Posted on 14 May, 2023 16:28 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment

16 April, 2023

BRIT - Native American Ethnobotany Database

Happened to stumble across this gem of a resource created by BRIT:

Gives you the tribe, uses of the plant, and literature citations as well! I have always found it somewhat difficult to trace ethnobotanical claims, so this is a neat resource for exploring ethnobotanical uses of our plants.

Posted on 16 April, 2023 02:04 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment

26 March, 2023

Zanthoxylum hybridization in Brushy Creek?

While revisiting some of my old Zanthoxylum observations, I noticed how many of the plants in my greenbelt seemed to share intermediate characteristics between Z. hirsutum and Z. clava-herculis.

Intermediate characteristics include the number of leaflets, leaf apex shape, and size and shape of the teeth on the leaf margins.

For example:
This individual has leaflet counts of 9 for most of the leaves, which fits with either species. The length-to-width ratio seems to be a bit high for Z. hirsutum, bearing on an oblong leaf shape. At the same time, the teeth are large and rounded, compared to the smaller, less distinct teeth on Z. clava-herculis; those teeth are more of a Z. hirsutum trait. Leaf apices are not quite acute or pointed as Z. clava-herculis, but also rather pointed for Z. hirsutum.

Both species appear quite distinct where they are separate. But the area where I lie is right where the two species ranges overlap, and individuals appear more ambiguous. Both species of Zanthoxylum have been identified in the area. FNCT makes a reference to Porter (1976) on apparent hybridization between these species.


Posted on 26 March, 2023 18:07 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment

23 March, 2023

Misadventures at Hornsby Bend

Want to know what wacky stuff happened Saturday 3/11/2023, my first week of spring break? Why did I decide to walk 2 hours to Hornsby Bend? What did I eat for breakfast that day?

Scene of Metro Bus 271 barreling past me and the stop I was supposed to be at.

The answer to that last question is a quick grab-and-go wrap I snagged from Littlefield Patio Cafe, but you can get that and more in this new blog post I wrote:
3/11/2023: An Atypical Day for a Typical Eccentric Botanistrum


Posted on 23 March, 2023 04:47 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 5 comments | Leave a comment

01 January, 2023

George L. Fisher and the Contributions of the Amateur Botanist

George L. Fisher (1868-1953)
by Lloyd H. Shinners

"George L. Fisher represented a type of vanishing American:
the amateur naturalist who makes contributions of
lasting value to the science of his avocation. Wholly without
technical training in the subject to which he devoted so much
of his time, his unselfish interest led to the enrichment of
scores of herbaria, large and small, and especially to the
increase of our still too meagre knowledge of the immense
and complex flora of Mexico. In a more sophisticated but
surely not more civilized age, there is no one to fill the niche
he occupied so usefully. "

In Ginsburg's Lloyd Herbert Shinners: By Himself:

"...he had already written an outline for a freshman course, which would include the history of botany, conservation, ecology, succession, evolution, genetics, and industrial microbiology... Shinners thought that this kind of survey text, relating modern botany to current life and affairs was especially needed in order to encourage amateur scientists. He regretted that the present emphasis on science careers, particularly pre-med, had resulted in a significant loss of students who might enjoy botany as an avocation. Wadmond, Schallert, and Fisher were notable examples of amateurs who had made fundamental contributions to botany."

Plant Systematics: Beginnings and Endings
Billie L. Turner on the future of plant systematics and the growth/role of the amateur botanist:

"Modern society, in America, Europe and parts of Asia, at
least, has seen the development of highly intelligent
amateur botanists with time on their hands and interest
in plants, this occasioned by increased wealth, early
retirement, or both. Such workers exist in large numbers,
not only in California, but Texas and elsewhere.
They are really a silent majority. But probably not for long!

With the development of the Web, e-mail, home
pages, etc., the "amateur" is likely to flood the world
networks with new observations, new records, new
species, etc., this all documented with localized maps,
ecological observations, colored photographs, flowers
dissected down to detail, even as to stereodepiction,
this all to be downloaded within moments by anyone
anywhere. The International Organization of Plant
Systematics must become aware of this prospect and
make plans accordingly. What will constitute legiti-
mate publication in the future, etc.? That international
body faces a daunting challenge, and I wish it well."

Posted on 01 January, 2023 21:27 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment