MU Campus facilities carpenter, Ryan, on scaffolding and about to place a piece of plywood on the glass roof of the Tucker greenhouse tropical room. The broken pane is near the peak of the roof which is only 10 meters high.
If you look closely, you can see the broken pane of glass to the left of the workman.
This greenhouse was built in the 1970’s and largely has its original glass. Every time there’s a hail storm, I worry.
Commelina communis or Dayflower, is found in the Commeliniaceae family.
Each of these sky-blue flowers emerges from a boat-shaped bract. Each flower blooms for one day, hence the common name. This species was introduced to North America, and is now pervasive throughout the U.S. There are several blooming in the Tucker mini-prairie today. The blue color of these flowers is simply stunning.
This is Carraluma greenbergiana found in the Apocynaceae family, subfamily Asclepiadideae, and Tribe Stapeliae.
Stapeliads are succulent plants found in very dry, warm climates and are known as the ‘Orchids of the Succulent World’ as their pollination systems are similar to orchids. Many species of stapeliads have leaves that resemble cacti, but are very distantly related to members of the Cactus family. Most stapeliads are native to parts of Africa and the Middle East. Many stapeliad flowers smell like rotting dead animals (roadkill) and are pollinated by blow flies & carrion flies. I knew that these Carraluma flowers were blooming this morning because of their smell. The smell filled the succulent greenhouse. Not a pleasant smell in the least. You should come in and check it out for yourself!
Cephalanthus occidentalis or Button bush is a small tree found in the Rubiaceae family
On the south side of the Tucker Hall greenhouse, you can see the state champion Button bush tree in full bloom…This particular specimen is the largest tree of its kind in the state of Missouri. If you enjoy canoeing on Missouri streams, you’ll often see this tree hanging over the water, as it likes to grow in medium to wet soils along streams and ponds. It has spectacular head inflorescences of fragrant, creamy white flowers. This plant is found in the same family as coffee too. Butterflies and bees love these flowers. When you look closely at the head inflorescences of the Button bush, you’ll see that they resemble a pincushion. The female parts of the flower, the styles are what is projecting out from the top of the petals of the individual flowers.
The genus name is derived from the Greek words ‘cephalo’ (head) and ‘anthos’ (flower).
Ratibida pinnata or Grey-head coneflower (Asteraceae family)
This happens to be a great butterfly plant. It is native to MO and prefers growing in full sun. It’s very drought tolerant too. These plants reach heights of 1-2 meters. In the fall, birds eat the grayish brown seed heads. The Tucker mini-prairie has many of these plants, but don’t confuse them with the other yellow blooming member of the Asteraceae family, the Ashy sunflower or Helianthus mollis.
Saponaria officinalis or soapwort is found in the Caryophyllaceae family.
Verbascum nigrum or dark mullein is found in the Scrophulariaceae family
Drimia maritime, commonly known as Sea Squill is found in the Asparagaceae family, and the subfamily Scilloideae. Sea Squill grows from a very large bulb, and is native to southwestern Eurasia, and north African coastal regions (mainly along the Mediterranean Sea). This large bulb sends up 8 to 10 leaves in the spring, and by fall these large, leathery, linear leaves die back. At that point, the bulb then produces a tall spike-like racemose inflorescence (blooming first from the bottom upwards).
The Tucker greenhouse Sea Squill is located in the succulent room to the left of the entrance doors. Come in and check out this one meter tall inflorescence!
Drimia marítima inflorescence spike
Close-up of flowers on spike
The large bulb minus leaves. Note the inflorescence spike emerging from the center of the bulb
Numerous flowers on spike
Silphium perfoliatum ‘cups’
Silphium perfoliatum, commonly known as Cup Plant is found in the Asteraceae family. We have a nice large plant growing in the Tucker mini-prairie. It is native to the central and eastern U.S., and will reach 3-4 meters in height. It’s not blooming yet, but when it does bloom it will have a daisy-like yellow inflorescence in midsummer. It also has large, opposite (perfoliate) leaves that share the same node and join together on the plant stem. Where the leaf meets the stem, a sort of cup is formed. This ‘cup’ actually holds rainwater. See photo above. Goldfinches actually eat the Cup Plant seeds, and drink water from the ‘cups’ on the stems. Because these plants form dense colonies, they provide great cover for many species of birds. I will post more photos when the Cup Plant blooms.
Typha sp. young inflorescence spike. Male flowers at the top of the spike and female flowers at the bottom.
Typha sp., commonly known as cattails, are water-loving plants found in the Typhaceae family. They grow very well in shallow water at the edges of ponds. The Tucker mini-prairie has a small stand of cattails in the rain garden on the northwest side. These cattails are getting ready to bloom, and already have a developing spike inflorescence.
Cattails grow from underground rhizomes, which are edible (rice & corn have a similar protein content). Actually many parts of a cattail plant are edible, including the flowering stalk. Cattails have tall, stiff, linear leaves, often used as nesting sights for certain birds like the Redwing Blackbird. Cattails have incredibly unusual brown-colored spike inflorescences of unisexual flowers. These are monoecious (meaning the male and female flowers occur on the same plant, but in different places on the plant, like corn), with the male flowers located at the top of a narrow spike and the female flowers occurring below the male spike on a much wider spike. Once pollination occurs, the seed heads ripen and disintegrate into cotton-like fluff (this fluff is highly water resistant and has been used in life vests, building insulation, and by birds to line their nests). The cottony seed is then dispersed by the wind.
There are pros and cons associated with growing cattails as well. Cattails filter runoff, they help prevent shoreline erosion, and they provide habitat for nesting birds. The biggest con being their aggressive growth habit. Cattails can choke out the growth of other native wetland plants like sedges.
Cattails in the Tucker mini-prairie rain garden