off-topic botanical question: Curious about shrubs as agardening term

Jim McKenney
Mon, 07 Jan 2008 05:04:50 PST
John Grimshaw wrote: " There is of course a continuum between shrubs and
trees in terms of 
growth form and the distinction is very artificial."

Another example of just how artificial this distinction is became apparent
to me from some recent reading. It seems that the cottonwood trees which
cloak so many western North American mountainsides are, technically, not
really trees. Or at least not all of them. 

Why? Because these cottonwood trees are said to spread by underground
growths to form connected colonies. In effect, the tree we see is actually
part of what is really a shrub, the diagnostic connecting parts being
underground and not immediately apparent. 

This also reminded me of the structure of the flowering stems of Erythronium
multiscapoideum: what appear to be multiple flowering stems are actually one
stem which typically branches below ground to give the impression that there
are several stems.

John also mentioned the botanical term frutex. Derived from this is
frutescens (becoming shrubby), which is sometimes used to translate
subshrub. And this reminds me: I still have plants of Bulbine frutescens
(the "subshrubby" Bulbine)if anyone would like a piece.  

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where we are experiencing
unseasonably mild weather - temperatures might reach 70 degrees F in this
area this week. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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