Sunday, April 3, 2016

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Plants are often part of larger groups, known as families. It’s fun to see which plants are in the same family and this spring I am reminded that there are plenty of spring bloomers in the Rosaceae family (besides roses, that is).

Crabapple (Malus angustifolia)

How do you know which ones are in the same family? You can use the USDA Plants Database to see family relationships. In particular, these are the ones catching our attention at the moment.

Amelanchier – serviceberry
Aronia – chokeberry
Crataegus – hawthorn
Malus – crabapple
Neviusia – snow-wreath
Prunus – plum, cherry

Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia)

The Rose family consists of trees, shrubs and even herbaceous perennials.  Perennials like goats-beard (Aruncus), just putting up foliage now, plus strawberries (Fragaria), bowman’s root (Gillenia), Geum and others. Some of the later blooming family members include roses (Rosa), the native Spiraea, blackberries (Rubus) ninebark (Physocarpus) and mountain ash (Sorbus).

This is a rose too? Alabama snow-wreath (Neviusia alabamensis)

Across so many different plant types, it’s hard to believe that these plants have something in common. Not even the type of fruit is consistent as some have fleshy fruits while others don’t. I found several explanations for what ties them together, and it has to do with the flower structure. The following statement is from the Utah State Herbarium website: 
Flowers of the Rosaceae are marked by the presence of a hypanthium. This is easiest to see and understand in large flowers, such as those of Malus, but it occurs in all members of the family. The other distinguishing characteristics of the family are its radially symmetric flowers with 5 separate petals, many stamens (i.e., more than twice as many as the petals), and the presence of stipules.
Knowing family characteristics can make your plant identification skills a little sharper. Or it's just fun to be able to tie some plants together. You can read about a couple of other plant families that I have casually explored in earlier posts: Pass the Mustard (Brassicaceae), and More Peas, Please! (Fabaceae).

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