Exploring the science of plants, from the field to the lab

Archive: August 2014

Queen of the Amazon

Posted in Interesting Plant Stories on August 13, 2014 by Scott Mori

Scott A. Mori, Ph.D., is the Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Francisca Coelho is the Vivian and Edward Merrin Vice President for Glasshouses and Exhibitions.

Victoria Amazonica
Victoria amazonica in its native habitat along the Amazon River.

In a post on Plant Talk, Scott described the fascinating life cycle of the Amazon water lily. But how did this iconic Amazonian species receive its scientific name, and how did this popular late-summer attraction come to be cultivated so far from its native habitat at major botanical gardens such as The New York Botanical Garden?

The Amazon water lily was discovered by Eduard Friedrich Poeppig in Peru and, because he thought it was related to an eastern Asian water lily belonging to the genus Euryale, he named it Euryale amazonica in 1836. The species was rediscovered by the German botanist Robert Hermann Schomburgk on a botanical expedition supported by Great Britain to what was then known as British Guiana. Schomburgk shipped his detailed notes, drawings, and collections to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where John Lindley described the species as Victoria regia in 1837 in honor of Queen Victoria.

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What Is A Fruit?

Posted in Interesting Plant Stories, Uncategorized on August 6, 2014 by Lawrence Kelly

Lawrence M. Kelly, Ph.D., is Director of Graduate Studies at The New York Botanical Garden. His research focuses on the evolution and classification of flowering plants.

Developing fruit (ovary) at the center of a Yucca flower

Despite the year-round availability of most produce, few things say summer like a juicy, vine-ripened tomato from the garden or a produce stand. You can slice them, dice them, and use them in stews, sauces, and salads. They’re one of the most versatile of vegetables. Or are they?

Is a tomato a vegetable, as most people think it is, or is it really a fruit? In general terms, fruits are usually sweet and vegetables are savory. Fruits are usually eaten as dessert, and vegetables as a main course. Fruits are often succulent and edible when raw. More technical dictionary definitions recognize a fruit as an edible reproductive body of a plant. In contrast, vegetables are usually defined much more broadly, for example as an edible part of a plant, or they are defined by example, such as in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, which cites cabbages, beans, and potatoes.

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