Showing posts from August, 2009

Vitaceae Seedlings; A Mystery No More

Sampling plants in quadrats is a challenging endeavor. It requires a taste for botany in its most raw and primitive state. Plants encountered in quadrats are almost always sterile and range from newborn seedlings to the withered remains of plants that may have senesced earlier in the year; and everything green in between. The field botanist spends countless hours in a growing season on his knees, head buried in vegetation, straining to use a hand lens at ground level in order to examine such subtleties as the red calluses on the teeth of Ceanothus americanus seedlings or the length of the ligule that separates Andropogon virginicus from Andropogon scoparius (Schizachyrium lacks taxonomic credibility when applied to Little Bluestem).
All this with the discomfort and sometimes fear that ticks, chiggers, horseflies, deerflies, yellow jackets, mosquitoes, gnats, spiders, snakes, falling limbs, storms, poison-ivy, heat and meth-heads illicit all around you. You know you have reached th…


Lactuca hirsuta is one of the most under detected species of vascular plants in the Midwest. There I said it. It is completely off the radar for most folks, yet I see it with considerable frequency, at least here in the Ozarks. The USDA Plants website shows that it occurs in most every state northeast of Texas (north to MN and east to Maine and GA) yet it is listed from shockingly few counties in these states. I don’t know how this creature has escaped detection. Perhaps its anomalous distribution stems for the common precept that Lactuca canadensis can be distinguished from other Lactuca by the salmon/orange sap color. While this it true, one must then distinguish Lactuca hirsuta which also possesses this quality. This is easily done since L. hirsuta, as the name implies, is hirsute and L. canadensis is glabrous (disclaimer: some specimens of L. canadensis can be very slightly pubescent and some L. hirsuta can be sparsely pubescent but the vast majority are clear-cut).

Here is …