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Friday, November 9, 2012

Leatherwood

 
Are you paying attention? Did you notice the difference between yesterday's and today's titles. This one is LeatherWOOD, Dirca Palustris.

These pictures are from last April, when it was in bloom, but pairing it with the LeatherLEAF from yesterday is a good set. It can help serve as a reminder that they are very different plants. About the only thing they really have in common is that they are both wetland shrubs.

Here's a view of the whole plant.

leatherwood

Not much to look at, is it? But I really like this plant. It's not very common at all. Most of its relatives live in Africa and Australia. It's a wetland plant, and it has some really interesting features if you look closely. I was pretty happy when I found a place where it grows.

First of all, the flowers of the family Thymelaeaceae, in which it belongs, are very strange. They are oddly tubular with various configurations of sepals and stamens. Don't worry much about this; the flowers are very short-lived. I managed to get one picture by going back to the site three times.

leatherwood

As you might guess, the wood is very difficult to break. It bends easily, and if it eventually breaks, it will just tear in strips.

Here are the seed pods.

leatherwood

But, the really interesting feature, which allows you to identify this shrub at any time of the year, is the odd way the twigs fork. Instead of the new branch growing from the flat surface of the older one, a sort of Y-shaped extension of the old wood forms, and then the new twig grows from that. You can see it in this picture. Even in winter, if you see these Ys, you'll know you are looking at Dirca.

leatherwood

There are few other species in North America, but they are supposed to be extremely rare.

See Leatherleaf
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4 comments:

rainfield61 said...

Something ordinary never fails to be a focus.

Secondary Roads said...

The two plants do look quite different. Not much chance of mistaking one for the other. Glad to hear that you are well again.

Sharkbytes said...

rainfield- I try! You succeed

Chuck- No, they don't look alike, it's just the names that are confusing.

Ann said...

I guess I'm not with it today because when I first read the title I thought I somehow got back to your previous post. I see now though what the difference is

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