By Director Lew Feldman The UC Botanical Garden has a small but remarkable collection of Banksia species (12 of an estimated 183 different species), many of which are now flowering in the Garden’s Australasian Area. These plants are native to Australia and New Guinea where they range in size from prostrate shrubs to trees, up…

A photo of green bark on the Australian Bottle Tree

Bark and its Response to Environmental Fluctuations Director Lew Feldman Bark is the outer layer of most woody eudicot and gymnosperm trees that show an increase in stem (trunk) diameter. Because bark is directly exposed to the external environment, it often functions to mitigate the numerous environmental “insults” encountered by the plant. Indeed, the type…

A bush with orange and yellow flowers against a background of blue sky

Multicolor flowers–a pollinator training strategy Director Lew Feldman On a recent walk through the Garden I observed the multicolored flowers of marmalade bush (Streptosolen jamesonii), shown above in the South American area. This plant is fascinating in that the flowers change color after they have been pollinated. We now know that plants evolved multicolored flowers…

a photo of bright pink flowers in sunlight

Don’t mistake this autumn crocus for saffron! By Dr. Lew Feldman One of the first signs of the arrival of autumn is the appearance of autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), growing in the medicinal plants section of the Herb Garden at the UC Botanical Garden. This beautiful flower originates from the corm of a European endemic…

A photo of a metallic blue flower with nectar dripping down a petal

Garden Director Lew Feldman Unlike pollen, which is released by the flower only once, nectar is a renewable resource, often replaced daily, especially in long-lived flowers such as puyas. It is unusually sweet, a fact not lost on the Garden’s resident squirrels! Nectar is the main floral reward for bees and birds, and while sweet…

Many tall tree trunks planted close together

Garden Director Lew Feldman The Garden’s Mather Redwood Grove is part of the California collection and contains over 450 coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). Given that the trees in the Grove are planted so densely, I am often asked how the understory plants, such as Oxalis oregana (wood sorrel), are able to capture enough sunlight for…

A photo of a tall, green plant called Horsetail

Dr. Lew Feldman, Garden Director Horsetail (Equisetum telmateia) An invasive weed, but also useful in many ways! Horsetail (Equisetum telmateia) is found throughout the Garden, generally as an invasive, aggressive weed. But what truly distinguishes horsetail is that it is rich in the mineral silicon (silica), which contributes to cell wall rigidity and to the…

Dr. Lew Feldman, Garden Director The onset of fall brings cooler weather, shorter days, and brilliant color seen across a range of plants. We are presented with stunning displays of orange, yellow, red and purple leaves. What causes the foliage to change color? The environmental cues that make a plant ready for winter are typically…

Dr. Lew Feldman, Garden Director In this edition of IGYA we will consider bark, which is the outermost layer of trees, woody shrubs and vines, and which can be thought of as the “skin” of a woody plant. Bark is essential for a tree’s survival. Bark has an important role in protecting the plant from…

Dr. Lew Feldman, Garden Director One of the questions that students frequently ask me is what is the difference between “hard” and “soft” woods. The answer, however, is not straightforward because the terms hardwood and softwood do not necessarily relate to the density or hardness of the wood itself. Rather, the wood type depends on…

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