Interesting and Odd Wildflowers of British Columbia

There are very many different types of wildflowers along the west coast of British Columbia (also including farther north and south). Some are just interesting to look at because they are unique and beautiful. Others have medicinal properties and/or are edible. They have long-standing uses by the native aboriginal peoples, and it is estimated that literally thousands of traditional medicines are derived from plants present along the west coast region. This is why the pristine beauty and hidden treasures of this area are definitely worth conserving, and should be left as undisturbed as possible.

Below is a sampling of some of my favourite kinds, just because they are beautiful, intriguing, interesting and/or unique.

Star-flowered False Solomon’s Seal

Smilacina racemosa

False Solomon's Seal

http://www.prairiemoon.com/images/D/Smilacina-racemosa-Solomons-Plume-flower.jpg

Perennial with star-like flowers. The fruit is a round, greenish-yellow berry with 3 or 6 blue-purple stripes, changing to dark blue or reddish-black at maturity. Berries are edible but not especially tasty.

 

 

 

 

Clasping Twistedstalk

http://www.turtlepuddle.org/pix/Flowers/watermellon-berry-flowers.jpg

Clasping Twistedstalk

Streptopus amplexifolius

Perennial with greenish-white, bell-shaped flowers that have flaring tips. The fruit is an oval-oblong berry (yellow to red, sometimes turning dark purple). According to Pojar and MacKinnon, most aboriginal people regard the plants and berries as poisonous. Continue reading

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Welcome to MASIT Communications (Medical and Science Information Technology), the science blog for Jacqueline – a Vancouver technical writer and web content specialist. Please read my blog postings below, or check out my services and skills listed here. For further information, please contact me by email: admin @ masit.ca or find me on Twitter:  @masitblog and @jacbird. Enjoy!

Arctic Animals – Surviving a Changing Climate and Habitat

Photo by Keith M. Williams/flickr

Photo by Keith M. Williams/flickr

It’s no secret that the habitat of our more Northern creatures is declining due to increases in overall temperature. It is also true that in the history of the earth, there have been closings and openings of waterways and formation and then subsequent retreat of glacial ice sheets; however, it is the rate at which Arctic ecosystems are now changing that is of concern (Root et al. 2003, Overpeck et al. 2005, Walsh 2008). Research is now being done to explore what the effects of melting ice and loss of habitat are on Arctic species populations.

One such paper was written by the Ecological Society of America (Moore and Huntington in 2008, Ecological Applications pp. S157-S165). In this paper, the authors explore how recent changes in Arctic climate may challenge the adaptive capability of more northern adapted species, such as some species of whales, walrus seals and polar bears. Continue reading

Evolution of Virulence in Nematode Parasites of Fig Wasps

Fig Wasp and Nematode Interaction:

Fig pic - from HowstuffworksThis 1993 David Herre paper discusses how increased opportunities for parasite transmission will promote the evolution of increased virulence. This is in contrast to the usual assumption that parasites and other disease-producing organisms tend to evolve benign relationships with their hosts.

The model system used to demonstrate this point is the natural history of fig-pollinating wasps and the nematodes that parasitize these wasps. This system is useful because the foundress wasps that remain within the fig fruit may be counted and their lifetime reproductive success can be measured.

In Herre’s experiments, 11 species of Panamanian fig wasps were studied. The nematode virulence of different population structures (i.e. vertical vs. horizontal transmission) were determined by comparing the relative reproductive success of infected versus uninfected single foundress wasps.  It was found that the nematode species with the greatest estimated virulence were associated with host wasp species that are characterized by population structures providing the most frequent opportunities for horizontal transmission of their parasites. This is evidence that counters the theory that parasites and other disease-producing organisms tend to evolve benign relationships with their hosts over time.

The links provided below explore the fig-wasp life cycle in more detail.

Fig Wasp Life Cycle:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/zoology/insects-arachnids/fig-wasp.htm

  • fig wasps play an essential role in the fig’s life cycle, as the plant’s only pollinator
  • fig plant provides wasp with source of food and shelter
  • the fig fruit is a syconium, and is like an inverted flower
  • fig wasp climbs to center of syconium through ostiole
  • enzyme in fig is ficin, which breaks down wasp carcass into protein
  • some vegetarians and vegans refuse to eat figs and fig products

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfkiYfrStrU

  • David Attenborough video

http://www.esa.org/esablog/field/the-story-of-the-fig-and-its-wasp/

  • a fig is not actually a fruit, it is an inflorescence
  • the seeds are the ovaries of the fig
  • this tree-wasp relationship is a well-known example of coevolution
  • parthenocarpic – seedless

http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/food-and-drink/news-fig-nursery-and-mausoleum-fig-wasp

  • there are several varieties of fig and fig wasps

References:

1. Herre, E.A., Population Structure and the Evolution of Virulence in Nematode Parasites of Fig Wasps. Science, 259, 1442-1444 (1993)

2. Image reference: http://science.howstuffworks.com/zoology/insects-arachnids/fig-wasp1.htm