Dawn is one of our long-standing contributors and has contributed: poinsettias, cranberries, red-osier dogwood, amaryllis, white cedar, balsam fir, paperwhites, ivy, candy cane chrysanthemums, and less traditional plant species associated with the British festive season, such as arctic cotton grass and willow, and gourds. This year, to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of #AdventBotany, she has branched out into the tecnology of the VLOG! I’m impressed to see the qualtity of local produce she has access to in local stores.
Dawn mentions Pine cones in her Vlog and we have an advent blog coming later that features the various types of pine cones. For tree species used as Christmas trees see The Christmas Tree.
Today’s blog is the second by a Botanist in the Kitchen, this time Katherine. It is a revisit of the sweet chestnut, last featured in 2015 when we heard about the devastating chestnut blight. In today’s blog we hear tell of the rather grown up flavour of the chestnut and a need for lowered expectations.
The sweet chestnut of Europe is a true chestnut (Castanea sativa), not the beautiful but toxic horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), which so famously covers Paris with its pink-eyed blossoms in April. They are not very close relatives, as the last common ancestor of sweet Castanea (Fagaceae) and showy Aesculus (Sapindaceae) is estimated to have lived about 100 million years ago. I have happily returned to Paris many times in the summer and fallen in love with its horse chestnut trees. In that frozen moment in December, however, the spell of Christmastime in the City of Lights was broken for me when I realized that I could live happily without any more true Castanea chestnuts. Continue reading
Dreaming of a white Christmas? Well, the plant for today’s blog is Symphoricarpos albus, the Snowberry. It’s a member of the Caprifoliaceae or Honeysuckle family, native to North America. It was originally described in Linnaeus’ Species Plantarum in 1753 as Vaccinium album L. (Ericaceae). Since 1914 it has been referred to as Symphoricarpos albus (L.) S.F. Blake. The generic name refers to the compact cluster of fruits. It derives from the Ancient Greek συμφορεῖν (sumphoreîn), meaning ‘to bear together’, and καρπός (karpós) meaning fruit. Continue reading
That tendency for a deliciously aromatic and edible plant species to be closely related to an insanely toxic thing is a recursive tendency for the entire charismatic plant family to which angelica owes its existence: the Apiaceae. With 3780 species in 434 genera (according to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Angiosperm Phylogeny Website), the Apiaceae is the 16th largest plant family and is one of the most important from a culinary perspective. Continue reading
1Curator of Cultivated Plants, University & Jepson Herbaria, University of California, Berkeley
2Primary Botanist, California Department of Agriculture, Sacramento
Native distribution of Heteromeles arbutifolia
Can you grow holly in the balmy state of California? Yes, you can. Although common holly, Ilex aquifolium, comes from areas with higher rainfall than most of California, holly makes a good garden plant in northern California. It is even slightly invasive along the fog-shrouded coast. Nevertheless, holly is not a particularly common nursery plant. This may be partly due to the presence of toyon: a large, native shrub with handsome, dark evergreen leaves and showy red “berries” borne in the depth of winter. Toyon, a Spanish adaptation of an Ohlone Indian word for this plant, is also known by several English local names as Christmas berry and California Holly. In fact, Hollywood in Los Angeles is named after this plant. Continue reading
Ask a panel of British people what they consider to be traditional Christmas drinks, and you will probably hear “gin”, “brandy”, “rum” or “Baileys”. Repeat the experience in Belgium, and you might get very different responses…
Every year around mid-November, shop aisles in Belgium start filling with a special range of beers, the so-called “Christmas beers”, dressed with seasonal labels featuring snowmen, elves or reindeers. Continue reading
By Eirini Antonaki
Today’s advent botany blog will focus on a popular seasonal ornamental, Amaryllis, with its vibrant colouration ranging from pink, to purple and occasionally red.
Etymologically, the name Amaryllis (Αμαρυλλίς) is derived from ancient Greek verb ἀμαρύσσω which broadly translates as “I sparkle”. As we have seen in several past blogs, there are many connections between botany and mythology as it seems the ancient Greeks had a fondness for plants. We re-direct our interested reader to our past entries for the almond tree, and olives for examples. Continue reading
The almond (Prunus dulcis) has been grown in Britain since the 16th century, and almond paste quickly became a popular medium for making moulded desserts or sweetmeats. In the 17th century there seems to have been a bit of a trend for turning it into bacon! Continue reading
The bright red fruit of Adonidia merrillii
For me, stuck in the cold damp of a British winter, the idea of a Christmas palm gives me a bit of a wish I was there feeling. There is hardy Fan plam (Trachycarpus fortunei) and slightly less hardy Canary date palm (Phoenix canariensis) in gardens around me but nothing as exotic as the Christmas palm (Adonidia merrillii) that might decorate your garden in southern Florida or on Caribbean islands. Continue reading
Angraecum sesquipedale (Photo: snotch [CC BY 2.0])
The wonderfully named Angraecum sesquipedale
is also known as the Chritsmas orchid or Darwin’s orchid. It seems an appropriate plant to write about as it brings together a reminder of Christmas with the father of evolution, Charles Darwin, himself a Unitarian christian.
It’s an orchid species native to Madagascar discovered by a French botanist, Louis-Marie Aubert du Petit-Thouars, in 1798 but not described as a new species until 1822. One of it’s most notable features is an extremely long nectar spur some 30-45cm long. Continue reading