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Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Antwerp Botanical Garden: Cacti and succulents

While I while briefly in Belgium in mid July 2014 I was able to visit the botanical gardens one of which was the Plantentuin Stad Antwerpen or  Antwerp Botanic Garden in Antwerp.





The garden is rather compact and has several sections including a greenhouse which appears to be only open certain days. Aside from the ponds and sculpture by () the garden has a diverse collection of cacti and succulents in a very central location. They also have a variety of other plants which seem to be arranged according to their families.

The ones I noticed in particular were the Plant Families Solanaceae and Asteraceae because among them were species (Belladonna and Tobacco) and that I have been trying to get photos of for some posts on these families. So you can expect some in the near future.

Unfortunately although I found two species of Brugmansia I was disappointed to discover that they did not have any Datura because I have been wanting to do a post that shows how to distinguish them from each other.

 Another thing that was great about this garden even though it is all put together in a small area is that the plants are all generally clearly labelled. Also when I asked one of the gardeners about the Datura he was very friendly and helpful. There are also a lot of benches around the garden and I saw quite a few people just sitting there or having lunch although there is also a restaurant in a corner of the garden if you want a proper meal.



Location:
Leopoldstraat 24, B-2000 Antwerpen

How to Get There:

Train:To Antwerp Central then walk along the main shopping street De Keyserlei which becomes Leysstraat after it intersects Frankrijklei and eventually becomes Meir after intersecting Otto Veniusstraat and Jezusstraat. It sounds confusing but basically Otto Veniusstraat should be on your left and Jezusstraat on your right as you enter Meir.
Then you just continue till the end of Meir where it connects with Huideverettersstraat. You turn left and go down Huideverettersstraat until it intersects Schuttersofsstraat. You should continue down the left hand fork which Komedieplaats and becomes Leopoldstraat after it intersects with Arenbergstraat. The Botanic Garden should be on your right hand side.

An alternative route is via the right hand fork after Huideverettersstraat which is Lange Gasthuisstraat. The Entrance to the Botanical Garden will be on your left but it is not very obvious. I only found it by accident and after going through discovered the Leopoldstraat entrance from which you can easily see the botanical garden as you walk past.

Additional information:


Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters Blog by Vincent Albert Vermeulen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at http://plantsandcritters.blogspot.be/.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://plantsandcritters.blogspot.be/.

My other blogs
· Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters (on plants, animals as well as gardening, conservation and environmental matters): http://plantsandcritters.blogspot.com/
· The Blood of Souls (language, translation and etymology) : http://thebloodofsouls.blogspot.com/
· Whiskers on Kittens (Life with Kittens and Cats in general) : http://whiskersonkittens-vincent.blogspot.com/

Friday, 25 July 2014

Nigella damascena and Nigella sativa

Nigella damascena is part of the plant family Ranunculaceae which is also referred to as the Buttercup family.There are a number of varieties or cultivars and a similar species Nigella sativa is the source of the spice Black cumin also known as Nigella and Kalonji.
Nigella damascena in herb garden at foot of Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill, Bristol
However, I am not a hundred percent sure that this is Nigella damascena and not Nigella sativa because although it resembles Nigella damascena, they were growing in the spice and herb garden along one side of the base of the Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill in Bristol. So given that all of the plants growing in that area were either herbs or spices I  suspect that it is most likely Nigella sativa.
I am trying to find other sources I can look at to see how I can differentiate them since they look quite similar. I have seen some varieties of both species ranging from white to deep blue along with the same lacey bracts.

Maybe some are misidentified? I suppose that I will need to hunt down some more reliable on-line sources and or find a book that covers the genus in a bit more detail.

Warning although Nigella sativa is used as a spice it is used in very sparse quantities because it is toxic in large amounts.

Nigella damascena in herb garden at foot of Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill, Bristol

While Nigella damascena is extremely popular in gardens and has been so since Elizabethan times for its striking flowers, lacey foliage and bulbous seed heads as well, it is also cultivated for its essential oils.

Seed pod of Nigella damascena in herb garden at foot of Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill, Bristol
The generic name is derived from the Latin niger which means black, no doubt for the colour of its seeds. The specific name damascena refers to the city of Damascus in Syria.

Close up of Nigella damascena in herb garden at foot of Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill, Bristol




Close up of Nigella damascena in herb garden at foot of Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill, Bristol



Binomial Name: Nigella damascena
Common names: Love-in-a-mist, Ragged lady,  Devil-in-the-bush (English); Nigelle de Damas (French); Jungfer im Grüne (German); Nigella damascena, arañuela o cabellos de Venus, amor en la niebla, demonio en los arbustos (Spanish); Juffertje-in-het-groen (Dutch)

Binomial Name: Nigella savita
Common names: fennel flower, nutmeg flower, black carraway, Roman Corriander, Black Cuin, Onion Seed and Black sesame (English); cumin noir (French); Echte Schwartzkümmel (German); _ (Spanish); Zwarte komijn, nootmuskaatbloem (Dutch); Semaro nreo(Italian)
Taxonomic hierarchy: 


Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Viridaeplantae – Green plants
Infrakingdom: Streptophyta – Land plants
Division: Tracheophyta – Vascular plants
Subdivision: Spermatophytina – Spermatophytes (seed plants)
Infradivision: Angiospermae – Angiosperms (flowering plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida
Superorder: Caryophyllanae
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Ranunculaceae – 
Genus: Nigella – 
Species: Nigella damascena

Notes: 
  • I am using the taxonomical classification system used by ITIS (Intergrated Taxonomic Information System). I have decided to use this system in order to avoid confusion as well as because it offers a comprehensive hierarchy from kingdom right through to subspecies whereas other sources only go as far as order or  provide the names of some of the higher taxonomical ranks but only indicate "unclassified" rather than providing the rank.
  • When and where possible I will endeavour to include alternatives classifications although  I may limit this to occasions where an opportunity arises to discuss the reason for the different classifications.
  • Taxonomical data used in this post was retrieved [June 15 2014], from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System on-line database, http://www.itis.gov.

References:

Books:
  • Lippert Wolfgang, and Podlech Dieter, Wild Flowers of Britain & Europe, translated and adapted by Martin Walters, Collins 2011, page 144
  • Branson Andrew, Wild Flowers of Britain & Europe, Octopus Publishing 2011, page 146
Articles:
  • Edward Hammond: Third World Network, Briefing Paper 5 "Food Giant Nestle,claims to have invented stomach soothing use of habbat al-barakah (Nigella Savita), Nagoya Protocol ICNP-2, 2-6 July 2012, New Delhi
On-line sources:

  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System on-line database Website
  • Edward Hammond: Third World Network, Briefing Paper 5 "Food Giant Nestle claims to have invented stomach soothing use of habbat al-barakah (Nigella Savita)
  • Royal Horticultural Society: Entry for
  • Mossouri Botanical garden: Entry for 
  • Wikipedia: Entry for Nigella damascena
  • Wikipedia: Entry for Nigella
  • Wikipedia: Entry for

Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters Blog by Vincent Albert Vermeulen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at http://plantsandcritters.blogspot.be/.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://plantsandcritters.blogspot.be/.

My other blogs
· Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters (on plants, animals as well as gardening, conservation and environmental matters): http://plantsandcritters.blogspot.com/
· The Blood of Souls (language, translation and etymology) : http://thebloodofsouls.blogspot.com/
· Whiskers on Kittens (Life with Kittens and Cats in general) : http://whiskersonkittens-vincent.blogspot.com/

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Jardain Massart


In mid July 2014 while briefly in Belgium I was able to visit the botanical gardens one of which was the Jardin botanique expérimental Jean Massart or  Plantentuin Jean Massart in Auderghem/Oudergem one of the nineteen townships which form the Brussels Capital Region.
It is on fifteen hectares of agricultural land and has a collection of around 200 species. It listed as one of the museums of l'Université libre de Bruxelles.



The grounds are expansive (it is fifteen hectares after all) so it really should be taken as a whole day visit or even multiple day visit, unless you just want to wander through. For the amateur botanist or photo enthusiast it would be at the very least a two day expedition. Unfortunately I only had half a day so I was unable to get photos of all the plants I would have liked to and did not get to see everything such as the Wetlands and the Beehive display.
Entry to one area of the Greenhouse, with the small pond and succulents
 The garden is made of of several distinctly separate gardens / areas so it should more correctly be referred to as gardens rather than the singular. These are separated by and accessed via a series of paths, broad gravel paths or smaller paths, although in some areas you can just wander around under the trees. There is a greenhouse which had a small pond, a selection of succulents and cacti as well as a whole bunch of tomatoes which I think were an experiment of some sort or maybe just different species/varieties. There is also an orchard with all sorts of varieties of fruit trees. These are heirloom species and include a variety of apples and pears. It was only later on when I did a bit of research that I realised that that small orchard represents a small if very important part in safeguarding European biodiversity since with the predominance of monoculture in farming and the dominance of the market by a very small handful of fruit (or other farm produce) many old species that were staples have been supplanted by the more cosmetically marketable varieties which means that many of the varieties that could be found in orchards or the wild have disappeared, cut down to be replaced by one or two varieties. (Sorry I should probably do a separate post on that issue given its importance).
Water lilies in the Greenhouse pond

There is also a central area with all sorts of herbs and plants with medicinal / pharmaceutical value planted in sections according to their properties or their families. There is also the wetlands area consisting of a large pond with marsh and bog plants and water lilies as well as some water fowl, fish, amphibians and assorted denizens of wetlands. There are also a number of beehives strategically spread out all over the place as well as a display hive in which you can examine and watch the inside of a working hive. I only found out about that after I got back and read the pamphlet I'd pick up on the way in.
a model of a beehive with sections cut out to show the interior, in one corner of the orchard, alongside a traditional woven basket beehive

I was so annoyed with myself not only for not reading the pamphlet earlier. Unfortunately I was too busy taking photos and admiring the plants and industrious bees of all varieties (they have quite a few species of bees ... well members of the various Families of Bees in the Super Family Apoidea. I really cannot say more because I did not find any information on that. No doubt they probably had some information at the display hive.

At least now I how I need to contact next time I am in Brussels to talk about bees for a few bee related posts/articles I have been wanting to do. Hopefully I will also be able to get an opportunity to take some good photos of bees and hives not to mention some help in identifying some of the bees I have photographed so far.

Another good thing about this botanical garden is that many plants are labelled which was helpful as that will speed things up when I get around to doing posts on them. Some I already knew but even with those in some cases knowing the exact species of a genus will cut down on the time spent trying to figure out which species I am looking at, especially since some are very similar and it is only by examination of other plant features that you can discern which species it is. That can be problematic if all you have is a photograph of the flower, although I have been trying to also take photos of other parts of the plants. But that usually is because it has an interesting leaf structure or colour or some other visually striking thing about the plant.
Also I do not think that the guardians would be too happy if I was to start dissecting flowers, fruit and seed pods to do macro photos showing the interior parts or pulling them up to take photos of the roots, bulbs and rhizomes. The photos like that that I have taken were all of my plants and usually those that I was in the process of planting, re-potting or transplanting.

Here is a concise list of the sections / distinct gardens and other areas that you can find at the Massart Botanical Gardens:

  • An arboretum of indigenous and exotic plants.
  • An orchard with a variety of heritage fruit trees.
  • A garden of medician, aromatic and toxic plants (many of which have medicinal / pharmaceutical value  and have been used since antiquity and continue to be used today either directly in traditional European herbal medicine or having their essential / active components extracted and used in modern medicine or are the basis of synthesized versions)
  • A gardenof cultivated plants according to their function and use
  • An evolutionary garden of native and introduced flowers and plants grouped according to their place in terms of evolutionary development (The University of Bristol Botanical Garden has a similar display).
  • A wetland zone which is a natural reserve containing swamp/marsh  species and are linked to the neighbouring lakes of Rouge-Cloître.
  • Then there is the educational site related to wild and domesticated pollinators as well as the Bee Centre which is maintained by the Apiary Group Apis Bruoc Sella.

Location:
Chaussée de Wavre 1850, Auderghem

How to Get There:

Metro: Hermmann-Debroux


Additional information:


Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters Blog by Vincent Albert Vermeulen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at http://plantsandcritters.blogspot.be/.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://plantsandcritters.blogspot.be/.

My other blogs
· Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters (on plants, animals as well as gardening, conservation and environmental matters): http://plantsandcritters.blogspot.com/
· The Blood of Souls (language, translation and etymology) : http://thebloodofsouls.blogspot.com/
· Whiskers on Kittens (Life with Kittens and Cats in general) : http://whiskersonkittens-vincent.blogspot.com/