Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lilies in the Fields

The plant world is divided into many parts, but the first main divisions between Gymnosperms (pines and the like) and Angiosperms, plants with fruits enclosing their seeds.  Of the Angiosperms we have monocots and dicots.  The monocots are mostly grasses but also include things like onions and lilies.  These are the plants I'll talk about today.  

The term monocot refers to the way the plant starts growing.  When you picture the beans or morning glories coming up in your garden, the first leaves (or cotyledons) that grow from the stem are in pairs.  That's a dicot--two cotyledons.  The monocots have only one leaf that comes out of the seed--like a grass.  Lilies, onions and grass all grow that way.  In addition, when their leaves are larger they are long and have veins that are parallel to the length of the stem.  Dicots can have really complicated leaf structures--picture an oak or maple leaf.

I've talked about Sand Lilies (Leucocrinum montanum), one of the harbingers of Spring (See April 13 entry).  Last week I saw a less common, but really cool little lily blooming--Meadow Death Camas (Toxicoscordion venous).  I've never seen these near a trail, always in the untrammeled meadows on the mountain.  As the name implies, they are poisonous, but pretty little flowers.
Death Camas (Toxicoscordion venous)
I haven't seen any onions yet this year, but they should be coming out soon.  They're a small, chive sized plant that grows all over the mountain, but you'll have to keep your eyes peeled for it.  This one is Allium textile, aka Wild Onion.  Later in the year you might see a Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum).  These have flower umbels that fall over, or nod, and the flowers are a light pink or lavender color.  
Wild Onion (Allium textile)
I haven't ventured out into the muddy Open Space since the storms of last Saturday night.  Hopefully they didn't beat up the wildflowers too much--we were off to a great start!

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