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Ask the Botanist
Our ace botanists are here to help you identify wild New England plants and to answer questions about their ecology and conservation. When posting a question, please provide the location, habitat (e.g. river, mountain, woodland), and photographs of the plant.
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Recently Answered Questions
- Hi. I was on Seal Island (outer Penobscot Bay, Me) this summer and found what I believe is the 1st record of a willow out there. The stems were about 3 feet tall, but the tops seemed dead. It's not an easy place to be a willow. The willow had no catkins, and I'd be surprised if it ever does in this harsh environment. I realize definite ID is unlikely from the attached photos, but wondered if you had any guesses. You can see the underside of the leaves in the background of the first photo. Thx
- Dear sjbaird, good morning. I can't see enough details to be confident, but the dentition certainly suggests Salix discolor or a similar willow. If you have additional images, feel free to email to ahaines[at]nativeplanttrust.org and I can try to provide a more confident determination for your willow. (Wednesday, 11 December 2019)
- Hello, Arthur. Can you explain why Japanese Knotweed is known by so many scientific names, and why botanists can't seem to come to agreement over naming such a well-known plant? Also, can you lend credence to reports that it may be effective both as a prophylactic and treatment for Lyme Disease? It is one of my favorite foraging foods- easy to gather and freeze, and as I hear, quite nutritious.
- chaffeemonell, good morning. The important thing to understand is that there isn't that much disagreement. The reality is that most people who use a different name are either (1) not informed on the present taxonomy but still feel their opinion matters (to put it rather bluntly) or (2) are resisting change because it requires effort on their part to learn a new name. Those who study a particular group in great detail (i.e., are considered taxonomic authorities in the group) are often in substantial agreement over names and ranks. Of course, complete agreement is not always present, but much of the disagreement you experience does not come from folks who study the particular group--they are just presenting an opinion that is not based on biosystematic data. Japanese knotweed is currently known at Reynoutria japonica, and that name is very well supported by multiple lines of evidence. Best wishes. (Monday, 9 December 2019)
- Hi, This plant or sapling has finely serrated, alternating ovoid, flat leaves, with brilliant red fall color on both the stems and leaves. After the first freeze, the leaves and stem turned brown. This plant was found in Scarborough location where several pine trees had been removed In recent years. Thank you so much for your assistance.
- PaintedTrillium, I'm sorry, I can't identify the plant based on the images provided. I have several educated guesses, but none of them are confident. Images of the winter buds (for future reference) would have helped with this small seedling--I can't make them out clearly in the series of images. Beautiful colors, as you mentioned. (Monday, 9 December 2019)