Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pansy Violets - The Origins

The pansy or pansy violets are a large group of hybrid plants cultivated as garden flowers. Pansies are derived from Viola species Viola tricolor hybridized with other viola species, these hybrids are referred to as Viola × wittrockiana or less commonly Viola tricolor hortensis. The name "pansy" also appears as part of the common name for other Viola species that are wildflowers in Europe. Some unrelated species, such as the Pansy Monkeyflower, also have "pansy" in their name.

Although early experimental crosses using the common un-colored "Johnny-jump-up" or "Pied Heart's-Ease" (Viola tricolor) a pretty weed of grain fields and hedgerows, were also being made by William Richard, gardener to Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennet (1785–1861), daughter of the Earl of Tankerville, at Walton-on-Thames. The modern garden pansy had its origin in the Iver, Buckinghamshire, estate of James, Lord Gambier, whose gardener William Thompson began about 1813 crossing various viola species with Viola tricolor. A yellow viola, V. lutea, and a wide-petalled pale yellow species of Russian origin, V. altaica were among the crosses that began the new hybrids, today classed as Viola x Wittrockiana. A round flower of overlapping petals was an early aim of Robinson's trials; in the late 1830s he found a chance sport that no longer had narrow nectar guides of dark color on the petals but a broad dark blotch on the petals, which came to be called the "face." Developed in Gambier's garden and released to the public in 1839 with the name "Medora," this pansy and its progeny, including "Victoria," rapidly became popular with gardeners and breeders throughout Europe.



Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pansy

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The Meaning of the Term "Herbaceous Plant"

A herbaceous plant (in botanical use simply herb) is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground. An herbaceous plant may be annual, biennial or perennial.

Annual herbaceous plants die completely at the end of the growing season or when they have flowered and fruited, and they then grow again from seed.

Herbaceous perennial and biennial plants have stems that die at the end of the growing season, but parts of the plant survive under or close to the ground from season to season (for biennials, until the next growing season, when they flower and die). New growth develops from living tissues remaining on or under the ground, including roots, a caudex (a thickened portion of the stem at ground level) or various types of underground stems, such as bulbs, corms, stolons, rhizomes and tubers. Examples of herbaceous biennials include carrot, parsnip and common ragwort; herbaceous perennials include peony, hosta, mint, most ferns and most grasses. By contrast, non-herbaceous perennial plants are woody plants which have stems above ground that remain alive during the dormant season and grow shoots the next year from the above-ground parts – these include trees, shrubs and vines.

Some relatively fast-growing herbaceous plants (especially annuals) are pioneers, or early-successional species. Others form the main vegetation of many stable habitats, occurring for example in the ground layer of forests, or in naturally open habitats such as meadow, salt marsh or desert.

Some herbaceous plants can grow rather large, such as the Musa genus, to which the banana belongs.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbaceous

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What are Flower Chafers?

Flower chafers are a group of scarab beetles, comprising the subfamily Cetoniinae. Many species are diurnal and visit flowers for pollen and nectar, or to browse on the petals. Some species also feed on fruit. The group is also called fruit and flower chafers, flower beetles and flower scarabs. There are around 4,000 species, many of them still undescribed.

By morphological characters, the adults can be separated from the other scarabs by the combination of the following characters: epipleuron easily recognizable, border lateral of elytra sinuate and antennal insertion visible from above. Six tribes are normally recognized: Stenotarsiini, Schizorhinini, Gymnetini, Goliathini, Cetoniini, and Cremastocheilini, the last four are also found in the New World. The tribe Gymnetini is the biggest of the American tribes, and Goliathini is mainly found in the rainforest regions of Africa.

In an episode of Mythbusters, the flower beetle, as well as cockroaches and fruit flies, were tested to determine their resistance to radiation in the event of a nuclear holocaust. In the end, the flower beetle was the only species tested to live 30 days past exposure to 100,000 rads (100 times the lethal dose to human beings).


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower_beetle

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The Jersey Battle of Flowers

The Jersey Battle of Flowers is an annual carnival held in the Channel Island of Jersey in the second week of August. The festival consists of music, funfairs, dancers, majorettes and a parade of flower floats alongside various street entertainers. It was inaugurated in 1902 to celebrate the Coronation of Edward VII. The largest attendance to date is thought to be that of 1969, when 60,000 people were present.

The major floats are usually produced by the parishes of Jersey. Miss Battle of Flowers, the overall winner of the Miss Parish contests, rides on her own specially made float. There was also formerly a Maid of Honour who rode with the Miss Battle but this has now been dropped. The tradition of having a Mr Battle to escort Miss Battle was in abeyance for a number of years, but Kyran Bracken revived the rôle in 2007, and 2008 saw Christopher Biggins occupying the role.

The 'Battle' itself originally consisted of dismantling the floats to provide floral ammunition for a literal battle of flowers between participants and spectators, but this aspect has long been abandoned. Since 1989, a nighttime Moonlight Parade with the floats festooned in lights has been introduced. The Moonlight parade ends with a large fireworks display.

The event has recently been the target of much criticism over fears that the transportation of foreign and exotic flowers to the island is unnecessarily increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jersey_Battle_of_Flowers

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The Period of Tulip Mania

Tulip mania or tulipomania (Dutch names include: tulpenmanie, tulpomanie, tulpenwoede, tulpengekte and bollengekte) was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed. At the peak of tulip mania in February 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. It is generally considered the first recorded speculative bubble (or economic bubble), although some researchers have noted that the Kipper- und Wipperzeit episode in 1619-22, a Europe-wide chain of debasement of the metal content of coins to fund warfare, featured mania-like similarities to a bubble. The term "tulip mania" is now often used metaphorically to refer to any large economic bubble (when asset prices deviate from intrinsic values).

The event was popularized in 1841 by the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, written by British journalist Charles Mackay. According to Mackay, at one point 12 acres (5 ha) of land were offered for a Semper Augustus bulb. Mackay claims that many such investors were ruined by the fall in prices, and Dutch commerce suffered a severe shock. Although Mackay's book is a classic that is widely reprinted today, his account is contested. Many modern scholars believe that the mania was not as extraordinary as Mackay described, with some arguing that the price changes may not have constituted a bubble.

Research on the tulip mania is difficult because of the limited data from the 1630s—much of which comes from biased and anti-speculative sources. Although these explanations are not generally accepted, some modern economists have proposed rational explanations, rather than a speculative mania, for the rise and fall in prices. For example, other flowers, such as the hyacinth, also had high prices on the flower's introduction, which then fell dramatically. The high prices may also have been driven by expectations of a parliamentary decree that contracts could be voided for a small cost—thus lowering the risk to buyers.



Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

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A Short Essay About Rhizome

In botany, a rhizome (from Greek: ῥίζωμα, rhizoma, "root-stalk") is a characteristically horizontal stem of a plant that is usually found underground, often sending out roots and shoots from its nodes. Rhizomes may also be referred to as creeping rootstalks, or rootstocks.

A stolon is similar to a rhizome, but, unlike a rhizome, which is the main stem of the plant, a stolon sprouts from an existing stem, has long internodes, and generates new shoots at the end, such as in the strawberry plant. In general, rhizomes have short internodes; they send out roots from the bottom of the nodes and new upward-growing shoots from the top of the nodes. It is a method of reproduction for plants. A stem tuber is a thickened part of a rhizome or stolon that has been enlarged for use as a storage organ. In general, a tuber is high in starch, for example, the common potato, which is a modified stolon. The term tuber is often used imprecisely, and is sometimes applied to plants with rhizomes.

Some plants have rhizomes that grow above ground or that lie at the soil surface, including some Iris species, and ferns, whose spreading stems are rhizomes. Plants with underground rhizomes include ginger, bamboo, the Venus Flytrap, Chinese lantern, Western poison-oak, hops, Alstroemeria, and turmeric, and the weeds Johnson grass, bermuda grass, and purple nut sedge. Rhizomes generally form a single layer, but in Giant Horsetails, can be multi-tiered.

If rhizomes are broken into pieces, each piece may be able to give rise to a new plant. This is a process known as vegetative reproduction and is used by farmers and gardeners to propagate certain plants. Examples of plants that are propagated this way include hops, asparagus, ginger, irises, Lily of the Valley, Cannas, and sympodial orchids.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhizome

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Types of Lotus Seeds

Two types of dried lotus seeds can be found commercially; brown peel and white. The former is harvested when the seed head of the lotus is ripe or nearly ripe and the latter is harvested when the seed head is still fully green, but with almost fully developed seeds. White lotus seeds are de-shelled and de-membraned. The bitter tasting germ of the seed is also removed at the time of harvest using a hollow needle, though some may still remain in the seed due to production oversight. Brown peel lotus seeds are brown because the ripened seed has adhered to its membrane. These seeds are usually cracked in half in order to remove the germ since the seeds are hard enough to make the germs' removal by needle difficult.

Dried lotus seeds past their prime oxidize to a yellow brown colour. However, this is not necessarily an indicator of freshness since sellers of dried lotus seeds may choose to bleach their products with hydrogen peroxide, sodium hydroxide, or other more toxic chemicals.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_seed

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The Symbolism of Peony Flower in Popular Cultures

The peony is among the longest-used flowers in ornamental culture and is one of the smallest living creature national emblems in China. Along with the plum blossom, it is a traditional floral symbol of Mongolia and China, where the Paeonia suffruticosa is called 牡丹 (mǔdān). It is also known as 富贵花 (fùguìhuā) "flower of riches and honour," and is used symbolically in Chinese art. In 1903, the Qing Dynasty declared the peony as the national flower. Currently, the Republic of China on Taiwan designates the plum blossom as the national flower, while the People's Republic of China has no legally designated national flower. In 1994, the peony was proposed as the national flower after a nationwide poll, but the National People's Congress failed to ratify the selection. In 2003, another selection process has begun, but to date, no choice has been made.

The famous ancient Chinese city Luoyang has a reputation as a cultivation centre for the peonies. Throughout Chinese history, peonies in Luoyang are often said to be the finest in the country. Dozens of peony exhibitions and shows are still held there annually.

In Japan, Paeonia lactiflora used to be called ebisugusuri ("foreign medicine"). In kampo (the Japanese adaptation of Chinese medicine), its root was used as a treatment for convulsions. It is also cultivated as a garden plant. In Japan Paeonia suffruticosa is called the "The King of flowers" and Paeonia lactiflora is called the "prime minister of flowers."

Pronunciation of 牡丹 (peony) in Japan is "botan." Before the Meiji period, meat taken from quadrupeds was seldom consumed in Japan due to Buddhism. Thus in cases where such meat was handled, it was paraphrased using the names of flowers. The term botan was used (and is still used) to paraphrase wild boar meat. This comes from the flowery resemblance of the sliced meat when spread over a dish. Another example is sakura (cherry blossoms) which stands for horsemeat.

In 1957, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law to make the peony the state flower of Indiana, a title which it holds to this day. It replaced the zinnia, which had been the state flower since 1931.

Mischievous nymphs were said to hide in the petals of the Peony thus causing this magnificent flower to be given the meaning of Shame or Bashfulness in the Language of Flowers. It was named after Paeon, a physician to the gods, who obtained the plant on Mount Olympus from the mother of Apollo. Once planted the Peony likes to be left alone and punishes those who try to move it by not flowering again for several years. Once established, however, it produces splendid blooms each year for decades (Taken from The Language of Flowers, edited by Sheila Pickles, 1990).

Peonies are also extensively grown as ornamental plants for their very large, often scented flowers.

Peonies tend to attract ants to the flower buds. This is due to the nectar that forms on the outside of the flower buds, and it not required for the plants' own pollination or other growth.

Peonies are a common subject in tattoos, often used along with koi-fish. The popular use of peonies in Japanese tattoo was inspired by the ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi's illustrations of the Suikoden, a serialized novel from China. His paintings of warrior-heroes covered in pictorial tattoos included lions, tigers, dragons, koi fish, and peonies, among other symbols. The peony became a masculine motif, associated with a devil-may-care attitude and disregard for consequence.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peony

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The Practical Uses of Lotus Flower Seeds

Lotus seeds or lotus nuts are the seeds of plants in the genus Nelumbo, particularly the species Nelumbo nucifera. The seeds are of great importance to East Asian cuisine and are used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine and in Chinese desserts. The seeds are most commonly sold in the shelled and dried form. Fresh lotus seeds are relatively uncommon in the market except in areas of lotus root and seed production, where they are sometimes sold as a raw snack.

Dried lotus seeds that are sold in packages or in bulk at many Asian markets must first be soaked in water overnight prior to use due to their hardness and toughness. They can then be added directly to soups and congee, or used in other dishes.

Fresh lotus seeds are sold in the seed heads of the plant and eaten by breaking the individual seeds out of cone shaped head. The soft rubbery shell that surrounds each seed should be removed before consuming.

Crystallized lotus seeds (蓮子糖), made by drying lotus seeds cooked in syrup, are a well-loved Chinese snack and are eaten especially near Chinese new year.

The most common use of the seed is in the form of lotus seed paste (蓮蓉), which is used extensively in Chinese pastries. The paste is also used in Japanese cuisine, as an ingredient in cakes and other dessert items.

When cooked in clear soups, lotus seeds are believed in Chinese medicine to "clear heat" (清熱) and be particularly nutritious and restorative to one's health, which may explain the prevalence of their use in Chinese cuisine.

Other ingredients that are considered "cooling" or restorative in Chinese medicines, which are often cooked in a sweetened soup with lotus seeds include:

• Azuki beans (紅豆)
• Job's Tears (薏仁)
• Dried jujubes (紅棗)
• Mung beans (绿豆)
• Asian pear (雪梨)
• Snow fungus (银耳 or 白木耳)

Lotus soups sometimes also include a whole chicken, other poultry, or fish for similar medicinal purposes.

The bitter dried germ of the lotus seed can also be found sold as a restorative tisane (蓮子心茶).


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_seed


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Poinsettia in Christmas Tradition

In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuitlaxochitl (from cuitlatl=residue, and xochitl=flower) meaning "flower that grows in residues or soil." The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication. Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as "Noche Buena", meaning Christmas Eve. In Spain it is known as "Flor de Pascua", meaning Easter Flower. In both Chile and Peru, the plant became known as "Crown of the Andes".

The plant's association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday. The tale goes that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson "blossoms" sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus.

Poinsettias are popular Christmas decorations in homes, churches, offices, and elsewhere across North America. They are available in large numbers from grocery, drug, and hardware stores. In the United States, December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.

Big Spring, Texas is well known for its poinsettias as the "lighted poinsettia capital". When the Comanche Trail Festival of Lights first began the dam at the big spring held four huge poinsettias made of rebar welded together in the shape of a poinsettia flower. Each flower was made up of 5 leaves. The leaves were decorated with red Christmas lights. The four poinsettia flowers were an awesome sight to see entering Big Spring from the south. Each year more flowers were added to the dam and inside the park until Comanche Trail Park has by 2006 added seven poinsettias, making a total of eleven lighted flowers on the dam and countless flowers inside the park, making Comanche Trail Park the Christmas Poinsettia capital.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poinsettia

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The Edible Lotus Flower

The distinctive dried seed heads, which resemble the spouts of watering cans, are widely sold throughout the world for decorative purposes and for dried flower arranging.

The flowers, seeds, young leaves, and "roots" (rhizomes) are all edible. In Asia, the petals are used sometimes for garnish, while the large leaves are used as a wrap for food. In Korea, the leaves and petals are used as a tisane. Yeonkkotcha (연꽃차) is made with dried petals of white lotus and yeonipcha (연잎차) is made with the leaves. The rhizome (called ǒu (藕) in pinyin Chinese, ngau in Cantonese, bhe in Hindi, renkon (レンコン, 蓮根 in Japanese), yeongeun (연근) in Korean) is used as a vegetable in soups, deep-fried, stir-fried, and braised dishes and the roots are also used in traditional Asian herbal medicine. Petals, leaves, and rhizome can also all be eaten raw, but there is a risk of parasite transmission (e.g., Fasciolopsis buski): it is therefore recommended that they be cooked before eating.

Lotus rootlets are often pickled with rice vinegar, sugar, chili and/or garlic. It has a crunchy texture with sweet-tangy flavours. In Asian cuisine, it is popular with salad, prawns, sesame oil and/or coriander leaves. Lotus roots have been found to be rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, copper, and manganese, while very low in saturated fat.

The stamens can be dried and made into a fragrant herbal tea called liánhuā cha (蓮花茶) in Chinese, or (particularly in Vietnam) used to impart a scent to tea leaves. The lotus seeds or nuts (called liánzĭ, 蓮子; or xian liánzĭ, 鲜莲子, in Chinese) are quite versatile, and can be eaten raw or dried and popped like popcorn, phool makhana. They can also be boiled until soft and made into a paste, or boiled with dried longans and rock sugar to make a tong sui (sweet soup). Combined with sugar, lotus seed paste becomes one of the most common ingredients used in pastries such as mooncakes, daifuku, and rice flour pudding.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Flower

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Blueberry as a Flowering Plant

Blueberries are flowering plants of the genus Vaccinium (a genus which also includes cranberries and bilberries) with dark-blue berries and is a perennial. Species in the section Cyanococcus are the most common fruits sold as "blueberries" and are mainly native to North America.[1] They are usually erect but sometimes prostrate shrubs varying in size from 10 centimetres (3.9 in) to 4 metres (160 in) tall. In commercial blueberry production, smaller species are known as "lowbush blueberries" (synonymous with "wild") and the larger species, are known as "highbush blueberries". The leaves can be either deciduous or evergreen, ovate to lanceolate, and 1–8 centimetres (0.39–3.1 in) long and 0.5–3.5 centimetres (0.20–1.4 in) broad. The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red, sometimes tinged greenish.

The fruit is a false berry 5–16 millimetres (0.20–0.63 in) diameter with a flared crown at the end; they are pale greenish at first, then reddish-purple, and finally blueish-purple when ripe. They have a sweet taste when mature, with variable acidity. Blueberry bushes typically bear fruit in the middle of the growing season: fruiting times are affected by local conditions such as altitude and latitude, so the height of the crop can vary from May to August depending upon these conditions.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blueberry

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Kalmia, the Popular Garden Shrubs

Kalmia is a genus of about 8 species of evergreen shrubs from 0.2–5 m tall, in the family Ericaceae. They are native to North America (mainly in the eastern half of the continent) and Cuba. They grow in acidic soils, with different species in wet acid bog habitats (K. angustifolia, K. polifolia) and dry, sandy soils (K. ericoides, K. latifolia).

Kalmia is named after the Finnish botanist Pehr Kalm, who collected it in eastern North America during the 18th Century.

The leaves are 2–12 cm long, simple lanceolate, and arranged spirally on the stems. The flowers are white, pink or purple, in corymbs of 10-50, reminiscent of Rhododendron flowers but flatter, with a star-like calyx of five conjoined petals; each flower is 1–3 cm diameter. The fruit is a five-lobed capsule, which splits to release the numerous small seeds.

The foliage is toxic if eaten, with sheep being particularly prone to poisoning, hence the name lambkill used for some of the species. Other names for Kalmia, particularly Kalmia angustifolia, are sheep-laurel, lamb-kill, calf-kill, kill-kid, and sheep-poison, which may be written with or without the hyphen. (See species list below.) "Kid" here refers to a young goat, not a human child, but the foliage and twigs are toxic to humans as well.

It has also been called spoonwood because Kalm was told by Dutch settlers of North America that Native Americans made spoons from the wood. Given its toxicity, this may be folklore rather than scientific fact.

Kalmias are popular garden shrubs, grown for their decorative flowers. They should not be planted where they are accessible to livestock due to the toxicity.

Kalmia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some lepidopteran species including Coleophora kalmiella which feeds exclusively on Kalmia.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalmia

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Red Sunflower

The red sunflower is an unusually colored sunflower created by breeding together different varieties of sunflowers. The sunflower, Helianthus annuus, is an annual plant in the family Asteraceae with a large flower head (also known as an inflorescence).

Like standard sunflowers, the florets inside the circular head are called disc florets, and they mature into what are traditionally called "sunflower seeds." These are actually the fruit (an achene) of the plant, and the inedible husk is the wall of the fruit, while the true seed lies within the kernel.

Red sunflowers in the bud stage exhibit heliotropism. At sunrise, the faces of most sunflowers turn toward the east. Over the course of the day, they move to track the sun from east to west, while at night they return to an eastward orientation. This motion is performed by motor cells in the pulvinus, a flexible segment of the stem just below the bud. As the bud stage ends, the stem stiffens and the blooming stage is reached. Heliotropism is not a trait of sunflowers once they reach the blooming stage.

The stem of the flower can grow up to 3 metres (9 ft 10 in) tall. Multiple cultivars of red sunflowers exist; varieties include "Prado Red" and "Red Sun."


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_sunflower

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The Health Benefits from Milk Thistles

Milk thistles are thistles of the genus Silybum Adans., flowering plants of the daisy family (Asteraceae). They are native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The name "milk thistle" derives from two features of the leaves: they are mottled with splashes of white and they contain a milky sap. However, it is the seeds of milk thistle that herbalists have used for 2000 years to treat chronic liver disease and protect the liver against toxins. Increasing research is being undertaken on the physiological effects, therapeutic properties and possible medical uses of milk thistle.

For many centuries extracts of milk thistle have been recognized as "liver tonics." Research into the biological activity of silymarin and its possible medical uses has been conducted in many countries since the 1970s, but the quality of the research has been uneven.Milk thistle has been reported to have protective effects on the liver and to greatly improve its function. It is typically used to treat liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), toxin-induced liver damage (including the prevention of severe liver damage from Amanita phalloides (death cap) mushroom poisoning), and gallbladder disorders. Reviews of the literature covering clinical studies of silymarin vary in their conclusions. A review using only studies with both double-blind and placebo protocols concluded that milk thistle and its derivatives "does not seem to significantly influence the course of patients with alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C liver diseases." A different review of the literature, performed for the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that, while there is strong evidence of legitimate medical benefits, the studies done to date are of such uneven design and quality that no firm conclusions about degrees of effectiveness for specific conditions or appropriate dosage can yet be made.

A review of studies of silymarin and liver disease which are available on the web shows an interesting pattern in that studies which tested low dosages of silymarin concluded that silymarin was ineffective, while studies which used significantly larger doses concluded that silymarin was biologically active and had therapeutic effects.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milk_thistle

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White Mustard

White mustard (Sinapis alba) is an annual plant of the family Cruciferae. It is sometimes also referred to as Brassica alba or B hirta . Grown for its seeds, mustard, as fodder crop or as a green manure, it is now wide spread worldwide although it probably originated in the Mediterranean region.

The yellow flowers of the plant produce hairy seed pods, with each pod containing roughly a half dozen seeds. These seeds are harvested just prior to the pods becoming ripe and bursting.

White mustard seeds are hard round seeds, usually around 1 to 1.5 millimeters in diameter, with a color ranging from beige or yellow to light brown. They can be used whole for pickling or toasted for use in dishes. When ground and mixed with other ingredients, a paste or more standard condiment can be produced.

The seeds contain sinalbin, which is a thioglycoside responsible for their pungent taste. White mustard has fewer volatile oils and the flavor is considered to be milder than that produced by black mustard seeds.

The blooming season of this plant (February-March) is celebrated with the Mustard Festival, a series of festivities in the Wine Country of California (Napa and Sonoma counties).


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_mustard

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What is Melliferous Flower?

A melliferous flower is a plant which produces substances that can be collected by insects and turned into honey. Many plants are melliferous, but only certain examples can be harvested by honey bees, because of their physiognomy (body size and shape, length of proboscis, etc.) Apiculture classifies a plant as melliferous if it can be harvested by domesticated honey bees.

The table below lists some of the known melliferous plants, and indicates the flowering period, as well as the resources harvested by bees (Nectar, pollen, propolis, and honeydew). It is worth noting that each plant does not produce the same quantity or quality of these resources, and even among species the production can vary due to region, plant health, climate, etc.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melliferous_flower

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Lambertia Formosa - The Mountain Devil

Lambertia formosa, commonly known as Mountain Devil, is a shrub of the family Proteaceae endemic to New South Wales, Australia. First described by English botanist James Edward Smith in 1798, its specific name formosa is the Latin adjective for 'handsome'. No subspecies are recognised. It is one of 11 species of the genus Lambertia within the family Proteaceae, and the only one found in eastern Australia as the others are all restricted to southwest Western Australia. Common names include mountain devil and honey flower, the former from the fruit's resemblance to a devil's head.

Lambertia formosa grows as a spreading shrub to 2 m (7 ft) tall, with one or more stems arising from a woody base known as a lignotuber. The new growth is covered with a fine brownish hair. The stiff leaves are arranged in whorls of 3, or sometimes up to 4 to 6, on the stems, and are linear to narrow-oblanceolate in shape. Measuring anywhere from 1 to 8 cm (0.4–3 in) in length and 0.2-0.7 cm wide, they have a pointed tip or apex. Flowers are seen at any time of year, but more often over spring and summer (September to January). The inflorescences are made up of seven smaller individual flowers, known as florets, and can be shades of red or pink in colour. The perianths are 4.5 cm (1.6 in) long, with the styles protruding another 1-1.5 cm (0.5 in) beyond. Flowering is followed by the development of (2 cm - 3 cm x 1 cm - 2 cm) fruit which have two (1 cm - 1.5 cm) sharp horny protuberances, and a 0.5 cm 'beak', initially pale green in colour before fading to a grey-brown.

Endemic to New South Wales, Lambertia formosa is found in on or east of the Great Dividing Range from the vicinity of Braidwood north to Port Stephens, as well as some parts of Northern New South Wales around Grafton and between Red Rock and Yamba. Predominantly found on sandy or rocky soils, it grows in heathland, mallee shrubland and dry sclerophyll forest.

Lambertia formosa regenerates after bushfire by resprouting from its woody lignotuber. Flowering peaks two or three years after a fire. The flowers are pollinated by honeyeaters, which perch as they consume the nectar.

Lambertia formosa is readily grown in a home garden given a sunny position and fair drainage. It is bird attracting.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambertia_formosa

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The Daffodil Festival

The Daffodil Festival is a regional festival and parade held in Pierce County, Washington every April. It consists of a parade and a year-long pageant to select a festival queen from one of the area high schools.

The Puyallup River valley, in which part of Tacoma, and all Puyallup, Sumner and Orting lie, has rich glacial soil. In 1925 the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended bulb growing to replace the decaying hops industry.

Soon, the trademark bulb fields sprung up, most notably Van Lierop's bulb farm in Puyallup, along Shaw Road. Daffodils and tulips became the best crops.

The Daffodil Festival was established in 1926 as an annual, formal garden party of Mr. And Mrs. Charles W. Orton in Orting. In 1934 the parade section of the festival was established, as a procession of automobiles decorated with daffodils.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Daffodil_Festival

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Narcissus

Narcissus (pronounced /nɑrˈsɪsəs/) is the botanic name for a genus of mainly hardy, mostly spring-flowering, bulbs in the Amaryllis family native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. There are also several Narcissus species that bloom in the autumn. Though Hortus Third cites 26 wild species, Daffodils for North American Gardens cites between 50 and 100 including species variants and wild hybrids. Through taxonomic and genetic research, it is speculated that over time this number will probably continue to be refined. Daffodil is a common English name, sometimes used now for all varieties, and is the chief common name of horticultural prevalence used by the American Daffodil Society. In some parts of the UK, the term 'flan' has been used to refer to daffodils in public places such as parks, greens, embankments and roadsides. The range of forms in cultivation has been heavily modified and extended, with new variations available from specialists almost every year.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissus_%28genus%29

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Uses and Benefits of Sunflower

To grow well, sunflowers need full sun. They grow best in fertile, moist, well-drained soil with a lot of mulch. In commercial planting, seeds are planted 45 cm (1.5 ft) apart and 2.5 cm (1 in) deep. Sunflower "whole seed" (fruit) are sold as a snack food, after roasting in ovens, with or without salt added. Sunflowers can be processed into a peanut butter alternative, sunbutter. In Germany, it is mixed together with rye flour to make Sonnenblumenkernbrot (literally: sunflower whole seed bread), which is quite popular in German-speaking Europe. It is also sold as food for birds and can be used directly in cooking and salads.

Sunflower oil, extracted from the seeds, is used for cooking, as a carrier oil and to produce margarine and biodiesel, as it is cheaper than olive oil. A range of sunflower varieties exist with differing fatty acid compositions; some 'high oleic' types contain a higher level of healthy monounsaturated fats in their oil than even olive oil.

The cake remaining after the seeds have been processed for oil is used as a livestock feed. Some recently developed cultivars have drooping heads. These cultivars are less attractive to gardeners growing the flowers as ornamental plants, but appeal to farmers, because they reduce bird damage and losses from some plant diseases. Sunflowers also produce latex and are the subject of experiments to improve their suitability as an alternative crop for producing hypoallergenic rubber.

Traditionally, several Native American groups planted sunflowers on the north edges of their gardens as a "fourth sister" to the better known three sisters combination of corn, beans, and squash.[9] Annual species are often planted for their allelopathic properties.

However, for commercial farmers growing commodity crops, the sunflower, like any other unwanted plant, is often considered a weed. Especially in the midwestern US, wild (perennial) species are often found in corn and soybean fields and can have a negative impact on yields.

Sunflowers may also be used to extract toxic ingredients from soil, such as lead, arsenic and uranium. They were used to remove uranium, cesium-137, and strontium-90 from soil after the Chernobyl disaster (see phytoremediation).


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower

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Sunflower - The History

The sunflower is native to the Central Americas. The evidence thus far is that it was first domesticated in Mexico, by at least 2600 BC. It may have been domesticated a second time in the middle Mississippi Valley, or been introduced there from Mexico at an early date, as maize was. The earliest known examples of a fully domesticated sunflower north of Mexico have been found in Tennessee and date to around 2300 BC.

Many indigenous American peoples used the sunflower as the symbol of their solar deity, including the Aztecs and the Otomi of Mexico and the Incas in South America. Francisco Pizarro was the first European to encounter the sunflower in Tahuantinsuyo, Peru. Gold images of the flower, as well as seeds, were taken back to Spain early in the 16th century. Some researchers argue that the Spaniards tried to suppress cultivation of the sunflower because of its association with solar religion and warfare.

During the 18th century, the use of sunflower oil became very popular in Europe, particularly with members of the Russian Orthodox Church because sunflower oil was one of the few oils that was not prohibited during Lent, according to some fasting traditions.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower

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The Unique Sunflower

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are annual plants native to the Americas, that possess a large inflorescence (flowering head).

What is usually called the flower is actually a head (formally composite flower) of numerous florets (small flowers) crowded together. The outer florets are the sterile ray florets and can be yellow, maroon, orange, or other colors. The florets inside the circular head are called disc florets, which mature into seeds

The florets within the sunflower's cluster are arranged in a spiral pattern. Typically each floret is oriented toward the next by approximately the golden angle, 137.5°, producing a pattern of interconnecting spirals where the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers. Typically, there are 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other; on a very large sunflower there could be 89 in one direction and 144 in the other. This pattern produces the most efficient packing of seeds within the flower head.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Mirabilis jalapa

Mirabilis jalapa (The four o'clock flower or marvel of Peru) is the most commonly grown ornamental species of Mirabilis, and is available in a range of colours. Mirabilis in Latin means wonderful and Jalapa is a town in Mexico. Mirabilis jalapa is said to have been exported from the Peruvian Andes in 1540.

A curious aspect of this plant is that flowers of different colors can be found simultaneously on the same plant. Additionally, an individual flower can be splashed with different colors. Another interesting point is a color-changing phenomenon. For example, in the yellow variety, as the plant matures, it can display flowers that gradually change to a dark pink color. Similarly white flowers can change to light violet.

The flowers usually open from late afternoon onwards, then producing a strong, sweet-smelling fragrance, hence the first of its common names. In China, it is called the "shower flower" (Chinese: 洗澡花; pinyin: xǐzǎo huā) or "rice boiling flower" (煮饭花; zhǔfàn huā) because it is in bloom at the time of these activities. In Hong Kong, it is known as "purple jasmine" (紫茉莉). Despite their appearance, the flowers are not formed from petals – rather they are a pigmented modification of the calyx.

The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued moths of the Sphingidae family, such as the sphinx moths or hawk moths and other nocturnal pollinators attracted by the fragrance.

M. jalapa hails from tropical South America, but has become naturalised throughout tropical and warm temperate regions. In cooler temperate regions, it will die back with the first frosts, regrowing in the following spring from the tuberous roots. The plant does best in full sun. It grows to approximately 0.9 m in height.

The single-seeded fruit are spherical, wrinkled and black upon maturity (see picture), having started out greenish-yellow. The plant will self-seed, often spreading rapidly if left unchecked in a garden. Some gardeners recommend that the seeds should be soaked before planting, but this is not totally necessary. In North America, the plant perennializes in warm, coastal environments, particularly in USDA Zones 9–10.


Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirabilis_jalapa


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Epigaea repens

Epigaea repens known as mayflower or trailing arbutus is a low, spreading shrub in the Ericaceae family. It is found from Newfoundland to Florida, west to Kentucky and the Northwest Territories. It can also be found in parts of Central Europe and Western Africa.

The species flowers are pink, fading to nearly white, very fragrant, about 1⁄2 inches (1.3 cm) across when expanded, few or many in clusters at ends of branches. Calyx of 5 dry overlapping sepals; corolla salver-shaped, the slender, hairy tube spreading into 5 equal lobes; 10 stamens; 1 pistil with a column-like style and a 5-lobed stigma.

Stem: Spreading over the ground (Epigaea = on the earth); woody, the leafy twigs covered with rusty hairs. Leaves: Alternate, oval, rounded at the base, smooth above, more or less hairy below, evergreen, weather-worn, on short, rusty, hairy petioles.

Slow growing, it prefers moist, acidic (hummus) soil, and shade.Epigaea repens is the floral emblem of both Nova Scotia and Massachusetts.Curiously, the lower part of the flower petal of Epigaea repens tastes remarkably similar to Lychee berries.



Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigaea_repens


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Portulaca grandiflora

Portulaca grandiflora (Moss-rose Purslane or Moss-rose), is a flowering plant in the family Portulacaceae, native to Argentina, southern Brazil, and Uruguay.

It is also seen in the South Asia and widely spread in most of the cities with old XVIII-XIX century architecture in the Balkans. In Bangladesh, it is called "Time Fuul", meaning "Time Flower", because the flower has a specific time to bloom.

It is a small, but fast-growing annual plant growing to 30 cm tall, though usually less. However if it is cultivated properly it can easily reach this height. The leaves are thick and fleshy, up to 2.5 cm long, arranged alternately or in small clusters. The flowers are 2.5–3 cm diameter with five petals, variably red, orange, pink, white, and yellow. Numerous cultivars have been selected for double flowers with additional petals, and for variation in flower color.

It is widely grown in temperate climates as an ornamental plant for annual bedding or as a container plant. It requires ample sunlight and well-drained soils. It requires almost no attention and spreads itself very easy. In places with old architecture it can grow between the stones of the road or sidewalk.


Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portulaca_grandiflora


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Tips Before Sowing Seeds

Before sowing, certain seeds first require a treatment prior to the sowing process. This treatment may be seed scarification, stratification, seed soaking or seed cleaning with cold (or medium hot) water. Seed soaking is generally done by placing seeds in medium hot water for at least 24 to up to 48 hours. Seed cleaning is done especially with fruit (as the flesh of the fruit around the seed can quickly become prone to attack from insects or plagues. To clean the seed, usually seed rubbings with cloth/paper is performed, sometimes assisted with a seed washing. Seed washing is generally done by submerging cleansed seeds 20 minutes in 50 degree Celsius water. This (rather hot than moderately hot) water kills any organisms that may have survived on the skin of a seed. Especially with easily infected tropical fruit such as lychees and rambutans, seed washing with high temperature water is vital.

In addition to the mentioned seed pretreatments, seed germination is also assisted when disease-free soil is used. Especially when trying to germinate difficult seed (e.g. certain tropical fruit), prior treatment of the soil (along with the usage of the most suitable soil; e.g. potting soil, prepared soil or other substrates) is vital. The two most used soil treatments are pasteurisation and sterilisation. Depending on the necessity, pasteurisation is to be preferred as this does not kill all organisms. Sterilisation can be done when trying to grow truly difficult crops. To pasteurise the soil, the soil is heated for 15 minutes in an oven of 120 °C.


Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sowing

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Fresh Flowers Sources for Florists' Shop

There are three major sources of fresh flowers for retail florists in North America: local growers, local wholesalers and flower auctions. Miami is considered to be the main distribution point for imported fresh flowers. Many local wholesalers are purchasing fresh flower stock from importers in Miami to resale to local florist in their areas. Wholesale flower districts present in many North American cities such as New York, Boston and San Francisco. Flower auctions are run using Dutch clock system and mainly located in Canada: Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Internationally there are hundreds of wholesale flower markets and auctions, the largest of which is located in Aalsmeer, Holland, the Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer. Other major markets include the fledgling Dubai Flower Centre and the Ota Flower Market in Tokyo, Japan.

Generally, a florist's shop will contain a large array of flowers, sometimes displayed on the street, or will have a large plate glass window to display the flowers. To keep them fresh, the flowers will be inside of a cooler and kept in water, generally in glass or plastic vases or other containers. Most shops have a cooler near the front of the store with large glass doors so that customers can easily view the contents. Some shops also have another cooler out of the customers' view where they keep extra stock and arrangements for customers' orders. Most stores have a back section in which the designers can work on orders with more privacy.

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florist

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Feel the Power of Flowers

Flower power was a slogan used by the American counterculture movement during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a symbol of passive resistance and non-violence ideology. It is rooted in the opposition movement to the Vietnam War. The expression was coined by the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in 1965 as a means to transform war protests into peaceful affirmative spectacles. Hippies embraced the symbolism by dressing in clothing with embroidered flowers and vibrant colors, wearing flowers in their hair, and distributing flowers to the public, becoming known as flower children. The term later became generalized as a modern reference to the hippie movement and a culture of drugs, psychedelic music, psychedelic art and social permissiveness.

Flower Power originated in Berkeley, California as a symbolic action of protest against the Vietnam War. In his November 1965 essay titled How to Make a March/Spectacle, Ginsberg advocated that protesters should be provided with "masses of flowers" to hand out to policemen, press, politicians and spectators. The use of props like flowers, toys, flags, candy and music were meant to turn anti-war rallies into a form of street theater thereby reducing the fear, anger and threat that is inherent within protests. In particular, Ginsberg wanted to counter the "specter" of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang who supported the war and had threatened to violently disrupt planned anti-war demonstrations at the University of California, Berkeley. Using Ginsberg's methods, the protest received positive attention and the use of "flower power" became an integral symbol in the counter-culture movement.

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower_power

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flowers and Heels

Love is in the air every time Valentine’s Day approaches or Mother’s Day arrives. How do we fill the gap in our hearts if we are all alone in this world, without a lifetime partner or having any sorts of relationship for us to call someone else, our love?

Is that why certain women become materialistic over time? Indulging in designer labels and parading them down the streets and in shopping malls to the envy of others, hoping it will provide some sort of self-gratification and self-satisfaction? Hoping that this self-created feeling will be a substitute for the love she long for? Yet we realise the more we spend, the deeper we immerse ourselves to the breaking point that we question ourselves on the true motivation behind it. Is it worth the while?

The higher the heels, the higher we fall. Similarly, the higher we attain and achieve in life, the more careful we have to be lest the fall will be too great.

What flowers from a florist, will complement a lady who has climbed the success ladder? Select from elegant lilies to romantic roses depicting class and style.

What about a homemaker who has become the head of the household, managing all issues at home? Bright cheery sunflowers to reflect her zest for life which has made her the perfect model for aspiring mothers and wives?

Before you send flowers from a florist, check your intentions and imagine the recipient’s response and with that, remember to carve out the right words from your heart.