Rhymes With Fuchsia

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Saturday Sky: (Horti)culturally Clueless

We found out yesterday that I'd been calling red maples by the wrong name all these years. I beg their pardon: being chronically misaddressed myself, I ought to know better. (My blog name is something of a three-word rant: Lucia rhymes with fuchsia, not with idea, in my case at least.) I've also always thought that there were two species with charming little red flowers. There's the one with the yellow stamens, as seen yesterday and above.

A tree in full bloom looks almost like it has orange fur.

But there's another type of flower, which has red stamens (I think those are stamens) with no obvious anthers.

I don't know how well you can see these, but they're markedly different from the yellow-stamened kind.

Lisa? Alwen? Do you have any anthers, er, answers?


  • The surprising thing is that the cuppy red bit that we think of as the flower actually isn't.

    (I've always wondered why it is red: usually that means "attracts hummingbirds", but maples are wind-pollinated, plus they bloom so early. Weird!)

    It's actually the, uh, calyx? corolla? Or it might be a fused mixture of both. (I'm looking back through 20 years since classes.)

    The important bits of the maple flowers are hanging at the ends of the colored threads: staminate flowers that release pollen and then fall all over the road, and pistillate flowers that hang on and turn into the winged maple seeds. (Samaras! I love that word.)

    It took a lot of searching, but the Ontario Botany website has a great article with pictures of different maple flowers:

    So you might be looking at two maple species.

    I've heard red maple called scarlet maple and swamp maple around here. When they turn red in the fall, they can be REALLY red, swoon-inducing red. I've observed that the ones by the swamps seem to get the best red color.

    Unfortunately the one closest to my house, with its roots in dry sand, always turns yellow!

    By Blogger Alwen, at 10:40 PM  

  • There are girl holly trees and boy holly trees. Maybe maples come in sexes, too. The wonderful thing about blogging is that someone WILL know the answer!

    By Blogger Roxie, at 10:58 AM  

  • So Alwen, what do you do when you're not making art? The commoner maple trees in towns in the northeast are red, sugar, silver, and that nasty invasive Norway. Oh, plus the horticultural stuff like Japanese. Oh and boxelder, which is really a maple but looks a little like an ash (at least the leaves). And in the woods you can find 'moosewood' aka striped maple and mountain maple. At my thesis defense, my prof gave me an envelope full of leaves and asked what I had to say about them. I parroted back to him what he had us tell the dendro students, 'the leaves are the worst characteristic by which to id a woody plant'. So what, he said... do it. Gadzooks batman, it was awful! All sorts of mapley looking leaves (including grape and sycamore and viburnum, which I think I got right but totally screwed up the mtn maple). I redeemed myself when I could name off all the mosses in a dish that was presented to me for some other reason...

    By Blogger knitnzu, at 4:56 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home