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Juniperus virginiana; Open for Business

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I was preparing for a lecture on gymnosperms for my MST botany class and decided to collect specimens of male strobili from theJuniperus virginiananext to my house. You know, something to pass around, to smell, to feel. Male strobili are easily found. In fact, when in abundance on certain trees they give a tan hue that can be zeroed in on from quite a distance. The little cones, just a few millimeters long, were opened just enough to let the microspores slip through and onto the gusty superhighway that is the air on these warm days of late winter.
I admire these reproductive gems every year and anticipate their awakening as one of the first stirrings of Spring. With spring Peepers chanting in the background, I shook a branch and delighted at the millions of encapsulated microgametophytes lofting on their journeys of hope, each wanting only to contribute its self-determined half to future eastern red cedars everywhere.The assumption of hope being my wish for them and an obvious stray fro…

The Table Key to Carex sections

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Most botanists know that Carex is a difficult group to master. Not because the taxa within it are necessarily obscure, but because there are just so many that it is difficult to wrap your mind around them all. Most sedge-heads get in the habit of thinking of Carex in terms of the taxonomic sections within the genus. This breaks the species into more concrete groups and allows one to digest them by shared morphological traits. That being said, it is also difficult to keep the sections straight in one's head. In order to save my brain some strain I put together the following table key to the Carex sections. In order to use it, just start with the top row and work your way down the dichotomous choices to a group of 2-4 sections. Under each section is a list of characters that should distinguish each from the other.
While the table key was devised for those Carex sections found in Missouri, it undoubtedly covers most sections in the Midwest (minus some obscure, rare or monotyp…