Clades and Cladograms: Helpful Concepts to Understanding Phylogeny and the Hereditary Links Between Plant Groups
Cladistics is a system of classification…of course it is…that relates species to one another based on heredity and lines of inheritance. Before you dismiss this as a totally boring topic, consider that these are tools, that with a little study, can go a long way in clearing up the murky waters of taxonomy and systematic botany. Cladograms are a diagrammatic, graphic devices to visually display the relationships of closely related organisms, like the one below, and can be helpful to us in our efforts to understand the phylogeny and evolution of plants. The ‘branches’ of a Cladogram represent clades, all of the descendants are of a chosen ‘root’ species. Each clade must be monophyletic, complete, including all of the descendants of the root or ‘stem’ ancestor. The APG demands precision.
“Cladogram (family tree) of a biological group, showing the last common ancestor of the composite tree, which is the vertical line ‘trunk’ (stem) at the bottom, with all descendant branches shown above. The blue and red subgroups (at left and right) are clades, or monophyletic (complete) groups; each shows its common ancestor ‘stem’ at the bottom of the subgroup ‘branch’. The green subgroup is not a clade; it is a paraphyletic group, which is incomplete here because it excludes the blue branch even though it is also descended from the common ancestor stem at the bottom of the green branch. The green subgroup together with the blue one forms a clade again.” (emphasis mine) This is from Wikipedia, generally a good source for an overview.
Many of us forget that our ‘shade’ trees are flowering plants as well. Pictured is Platanus racemosa, a native Californian at Bishop’s Peak one of the Nine Sisters. Platanaceae, Proteales, Eudicots
Quercus agrifolia growing with Poison Oak amongst the rocks and thin soils on Bishop’s Peak in late fall after an extended drought period. Fagaceae, Fagales within the Rosids.
The spring flush of growth on an Acer macrophyllum growing out of the tumbled basalt of the Columbia River Gorge in Memaloose State Park. Sapindaceae, Sapindales within the Rosids. Yes, the Aceraceae is gone and Maples are ‘Roses’…not really, but they are cousins. “The maples have long been known to be closely related to the family Sapindaceae. Several taxonomists (including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group) now include both the Aceraceae and the Hippocastanaceae in the Sapindaceae. Recent research (Harrington et al. 2005) has shown that while both Aceraceae and Hippocastanaceae are monophyletic in themselves, their removal from Sapindaceae sensu lato would leave Sapindaceae sensu stricto as a paraphyletic group, particularly with reference to the genus Xanthoceras. Sapindaceae, Sapindales, Rosids
While working on a blog posting over the spring of ’17, Palms, Bananas, All Monocots…Oh My! Their Similarities and the Differences that Distinguish Them From Dicots…and why this should matter to you! discussing Monocots, I necessarily said much about Dicots, those vascular, seed producing, Angiosperms (flowering plants) with two cotyledons or ‘seed leaves’. These were the two major groups of Angiosperms that I grew up with in the gardening world…but, while I was working in my career, this began to change, beginning some 25 years ago. I’d been aware of the term Eudicots, or ‘true’ dicots, and knew that all Eudicots also fit within the older category of Dicots, while a small portion of the latter, are left outside. I was unsure how these differentiated and so, ignorantly (not a bad word), blurred the two together as many have been doing since the concept of Eudicots was first put forward. The differences between these two for me seemed very ‘arcane’ and fussy, focusing on the tiny pores or furrows, colpi, on pollen grains. But it is more than just that. To really understand what is going on in the esoteric world of taxonomy, the naming and organizing of plants and their relationships to one another, you need to look at the genetics, the DNA ‘fingerprints’ of a plant which allows us to follow evolutionary paths back from the plants of today through their ancestors to the earliest forms of life on Earth. It is about the phylogeny, the ‘history’ and relationships that tie plants together. Continue reading →
The Basic Code of the Universe: The Science of the Invisible in Physics, Medicine and Spirituality, is not an ‘easy’ read…such should be expected when a book challenges not just our understanding of the world, but even the accuracy of our perceptions of itI This is leading edge thought in the sciences today coming at a time when the basic precepts of science are being called into question by the political and religious right. The last several decades have seen an accelerating rate of scientific advancement at the same time that the general public’s understanding of it is dropping ever further behind. Today while advocates press to re-emphasize STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in public education, another segment has been working in opposition demanding a return of public education to the ‘3 R’s’, in keeping with the ‘fundamentals’ of Christian conservatism. This vocal minority rails against our acceptance of a science that questions their ‘world view’ arguing that science’s ‘valueless’ methods poison our ways of thinking raising doubt, putting people in conflict with their basic beliefs and the dogma they espouse. These people question science’s relevance and wish to look no further than the fundamentalist thought of their religion. Such doubt and rejection should be raising red flags around the world as people, drawn to their own ‘righteous’ paths, find themselves increasingly in conflict with others on their own separate path.
I, myself, have always been drawn in many directions, fascinated by one topic then another, but over time forming a rather comprehensive overall interest in the world…more wholistic. I will never become ‘expert’ in one thing, finding life and our place in the universe endlessly a wonder! So, I find myself drawn into such topics as evolution, quantum biology and the physics of life, fleshing it out with studies into the particularity of place, places like South Africa, Chile, the Canary Islands and our own Pacific Coast region of North America, with their particular geologies and living communities. I find the ‘big questions’ the most interesting and will sometimes put considerable energy into trying to understand their possible ‘answers’. I ‘intuit’ and combine, finding that our world has been so committed to the narrow and fractured views of our countless experts that our understanding of the world and our place in it has become ever more ‘confused’…so again, I am drawn to this and books like this. Continue reading →
In Pinnacles National Park on the High Peaks Trail
Brundage Mountain up out of McCall, Idaho.
Gardeners find inspiration and support from all over, from nature’s expansive landscapes to the very personal and intricate jewels of fellow gardeners, to botanic gardens and the nurseries that often fuel our ardor. We visit gardens locally, and travel when we can, seeing and experiencing what other regions and countries offer. Sometimes it is the human culture and its exuberance which seems to drive a place’s horticulture and gardens in directions and extremes different from ours, while our growing conditions are very close…in other gardens site conditions can be very different than our own pushing the palette far from that possible in our own. By traveling we are ‘opened’, taken out of the familiar and our senses ‘sensitized’, as we take in the new and see the familiar in new ways. Travel can make us more receptive. After a Fall trip to New York, followed by one to McCall, Idaho, this Spring we visited parts of central and coastal California, later taking a couple weeks driving up across the Olympic Peninsula to Vancouver Island, peppering it with gardens new and familiar, adding another island, Salt Spring, on our return.
Like our gardens, we gardeners ‘grow’ over time, learning and changing our practice, our experiences ever evolving.Important to this process are those others we meet along the way who take the time to share their knowledge and experience with us, perhaps including plants or seeds, but more often simply their enthusiasm for what they do, and the sharing of their gardens. This is important to us because the practice of gardening can be a ‘lonely’ art and the world of plants is far bigger and more complex than any one of us….If we are to do it well we must seek out the aid and friendship of others.The emotional connection to what we do, creates a ‘tension’, that can be a source for the energy that drives us…and the addition of a little supplemental ‘fuel’ along the way can go a long way.Continue reading →
In Pinnacles National Park on the High Peaks Trail
Unlike the Irish, who embrace and celebrate their poets, or the Japanese with their several centuries long history of haiku, we Americans embrace the rational, the utilitarian and too often jot our observations down in reductionist, artless lines….I know that is not always true, but face it, we scoff at poetry, unless it is dressed in the postures of hip-hop or pop culture, ambient lyrics vying for our attention in the ‘battle’ to attract customers.Poets take as a given the mystery and beauty of life.They do not shy away from the sharp edges and risks.Like visual artists, whose eyes cause them to see the world in a multiplicity of ways, poets describe a mutable, ineffable world, that is different from moment to moment, whose ‘boundaries’ shift and transform that which they appear to contain…as if the world were an experiment in the shifting perspective of quantum physics….Poets ‘paint’ with swaths and scrawls of letters across the page, measured and rhythmic, a code, an illumination, a pathway they’ve scribed across a page, from heart to heart across the beating Earth.We Americans crave solidity, a stable world where being and life are fixed and knowable…we leave the rest for God and the egg-heads as if these things don’t really matter to us…as they are beyond our ken and responsibility.The world of the poet raises too many questions for us and questions can undermine the investment we’ve put into our fixed world image upon which we’ve staked our lives.Americans are blindered gamblers and most of us have placed our bets on the same outcome.
I do read poetry…even attempt to write it sometimes.I read science and history, politics and about the social ways of my fellows.I garden and often agonize over what is ‘wrong’ in this world…what we can do to heal it.Poetry teaches us that connection is often not found in a straight line.Solution is not found in the old ways of thinking, ways that can only lead us down this path we seem to be fatally connected to.Poetry is opening and inclusive, it speaks to what we share, what we stand to lose.To read it requires something different of us, that we exercise and strengthen long neglected muscles, muscles that once moved us through our childhood worlds of wonder and awe.The adult world has largely banished this, stripped life of wonder, and with it, the value integral to the heart of all things.We scoff at those who speak of this, call them childish and dismiss them….This is what we’ve lost and the world so desperately needs today. Continue reading →
Giant Hummingbird, Patagona gigas on Cactus in Peru, by Devon Pike
Hummingbirds are clearly fascinating and engaging creatures. They are biological wonders of ‘invention’, little gems that sparkle in their airborne dances through sunlight, with the seductive power to capture the attention of even the most incognizant of us lumbering earthbound humans, including many of those pretty much blind to the natural world. I did not set out to write this piece, I was researching several Puya species of the South American Andes, curious about their survival and pollination and became intrigued by these miraculous little fliers. Part of our fascination with them I think is attributable to their size. There are 338 known species today, 104 genera, which as a group comprise the entire Hummingbird family, the Trochilidae, the second largest bird family found in the Americas, numbers that speak to their success that many ornithologists say ‘could’ continue to increase over the next several million years! The species range in size from the tiny Bee Hummingbird, of Cuba, about 2″ long and less than 2 grams in weight to the 9″ long, 24 grams, that’s around 3/4 of an ounce, of the behemoth, Giant Hummingbird found in much of the more arid western Andes from Ecuador south into central Chile. The Giant, Patagona gigas, is the sole species of its genus, though there is a subgenus that is found into Ecuador, and it is thought to be about as large as any Hummingbird can be. Any bigger and it is thought that those characteristics that differentiate Hummers from other birds become more difficult to sustain. Continue reading →
[I wrote this originally about 2 years ago as part of what turned out to be a too long look into the Bromeliad Family. Here I present only the genus Puya spp. in an edited form with the addition of the species Puya berteroniana. Go to the original article to read about the shared evolution of the several genera and families that comprise the family, why these are not considered succulents and a look at the armed defenses of many plants. My plan is to breakout at least some of the other genera as well as I think the length of the original post may have put some readers off.]
Puya: one of the Xeric Genera of Terrestrial Bromeliaceae
The inflorescence is very ‘spiky’ in its structure its many ‘arms’ covered with buds.
Each bud will open over time giving a long season of bloom.
The name “Puya” comes from the Mapuche Indian word meaning “point” (The Mapuche people are indigenous to Chile and Argentina. They constitute approximately 10% (more than 1.000.000 people) of the Chilean population. Half of them live in the south of Chile from the river Bío Bío to Chiloé Island. The other half is found in and around the capital, Santiago and were mostly forced to the city after Pinochet privatized their lands giving them to the wealthy.)…the assignation is clear and the pointed, spiky, nature of this genus is immediately obvious to anyone. But there is something easy and comfortable about the sound of the word in your mouth when you speak it…poo-‘yah. Puya are native to the arid portions of the Andes and South American western coastal mountains. (Oddly, two species are found in dry areas of Costa Rica.)
Puya spp., populate arid western regions of the Andes Mountains up into southern Central America. These are terrestrial plants, relying on their roots to find the moisture that they need. They possess the same basic rosette structure common to all members of the Bromeliad family to which they belong, including their petiole-less leaves, which clasp directly to a compact stem structure, funnelling the infrequent, and seasonal, precipitation they get into their crowns and root structures where they can take it up, a strategy very similar to Agave and Aloe which grow under similar conditions. Continue reading →