San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department

San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department Adventures with the native and naturalized plants of southern California and the Baja California peninsula!
(6)

Common Catchfly (Silene gallica)Pink Family (Caryophyllaceae)Species info: The specific epithet gallica means of or from...
12/03/2020

Common Catchfly (Silene gallica)
Pink Family (Caryophyllaceae)

Species info: The specific epithet gallica means of or from or referring to France. This species is native to Europe, but has naturalized in the western and southeastern USA and in northwestern Baja California, Mexico. It is most commonly found in our region in disturbed substrates along roads, trails, ditches, or in vacant lots. This non-native species is an annual, has opposite leaves, and white to pink flowers.
Genus info: The genus Silene is the most diverse genus in the Caryophyllaceae in San Diego County and is represented with eight species including the very attractive and rather common Southern Pink (Silene laciniata ssp. laciniata), which has bright red flowers. Many of the members in this genus have sticky, glandular hairs on their upper stems and sepals or glandular patches on the stem internodes, and because small insects frequently get stuck in these glandular areas they are sometimes called catchflies. According to M. Charters (http://www.calflora.net/botanicalnames/pageSI-SY.html), the genus name is derived from the Greek sialon, meaning "saliva" and refers to the sticky material on the stems, but it might be also named for Silenus, who was the drunken father of the god of wine and he was covered with foam, which resembles the glandular exudate found in many species of this genus.
Family info: Caryophyllaceae: The Pink family has a worldwide distribution and includes 87 genera and 2300 species. In San Diego County, this family is represented with 19 genera and 42 species, but 22 of these species are non-native to our region. Members of this family are mostly annuals and herbaceous perennials with simple, opposite leaves, often swollen nodes, and flowers with 5 petals (sometimes deeply lobed or fringed) and a superior ovary that develops into a dehiscent (splitting) capsule. Ornamental pinks and carnations (of the genus Dianthus) are in this plant family; hence the common name for the entire family.

Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)Spurge Family (Euphorbiaceae)Species info: Castor Bean is a non-native shrub or small tree...
11/19/2020

Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
Spurge Family (Euphorbiaceae)
Species info: Castor Bean is a non-native shrub or small tree that has large, peltate leaves that can be colorful and attractive, and can cause contact dermatitis on some people. The name Castor Bean refers to the seed, (not a true bean as in the Fabaceae) and is the source of castor oil, which has a wide variety of uses. The seeds contain between 40% and 60% oil that is rich in triglycerides, mainly ricinolein. However, the seed also contains ricin, a water soluble toxin that is present in lower concentrations throughout the plant, and should be avoided at all times because this poison is one of the most toxic compounds known. The specific epithet communis is Latin and refers to "common or general" and also means growing in communities. Native to northeastern Africa, introduced and widespread in the southern USA and Mexico; a pan-tropical weed. This weedy species has naturalized in our region and occurs sporadically in disturbed or wetland areas such as ditches, roadsides, vacant lots, and many riparian areas of our county.
Genus info: The genus name Ricinus is Latin and comes from the fact that the seed of this plant closely resembles that of a Mediterranean sheep tick of the same name. Ricinus a monotypic genus meaning there is only one species in the genus. The species is monoecious with separate male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers occurring on the same individual, usually with the male flowers arranged below the female flowers. The fruit is spiny and produces rather large, smooth, shiny seeds that are mottled and resemble an engorged tick.
Family info: Euphorbiaceae: The Spurge family is quite diversified with over 200 genera and 5700 species distributed almost worldwide. Some of the species, especially in Africa, look very similar to the Cactaceae of the New World and are good examples of convergent evolution (similar in look and form, but unrelated as plant groups). Some species are economically important and include the Rubber Tree (Hevea brasiliensis), Castor Bean (Ricinus communis), and Cassava (Manihot esculenta). Many members of the family have toxic, milky white sap that can cause strong reactions, i.e., dermatitis, in people with latex sensitivities.

Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon)Grass Family (Poaceae)Species info: Bermuda Grass is a common sod-forming, non-native pe...
11/06/2020

Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
Species info: Bermuda Grass is a common sod-forming, non-native perennial used for lawns and forage that is native to Africa, but has become naturalized throughout our region. The inflorescence usually has 3–6 digitately arranged branches to 6 cm long that have very small (less than 3 mm) spikelets along the entire length of the branch. This species has both rhizomes (underground stems) and stolons (aboveground stems bearing terminal plantlets) that allow it to spread easily once established. Bermuda Grass is a common weed throughout the region that is frequently found in lawns, ditches, roadsides, disturbed areas, and natural areas such as canyon bottoms, meadows, and edges of salt marshes. The specific epithet dactylon is from the Greek daktylos meaning "a finger or toe," and likely refers to the umbel-like inflorescence which looks a bit like fingers of a hand. This species is native to Africa, but has naturalized and is widespread in the USA, Mexico, and western Canada. It is considered to be a worldwide weed.
Genus info: The genus name Cynodon is Greek and means “dog tooth," likely derived from the hardened and tooth-like scales that are found on the vegetative rhizomes or stolons.
Family info: Poaceae: The Grass family is one of the largest and most widely distributed plant families in the world with approximately 10,000 species. In respect to global diversity, the family Poaceae ranks in the top four near the Asteraceae, Fabaceae, and Orchidaceae. Not only is the family Poaceae diverse, but it is one of the most economically important plant groups, providing nutritional grains and livestock forage. It includes members like corn, barley, rice, wheat, and bamboos. Although the Grass family is quite diverse and widespread in San Diego County, the genera and species of the area can be difficult to identify because of small, specialized flower parts. The rather inconspicuous individual flowers found in grasses are wind-pollinated and grouped together into structures called spikelets. The native species in Poaceae of our region include both annuals and perennial bunch grasses that are well adapted to arid environments. However, many of the nonnative grasses (e.g., Red Brome and African Fountain Grass) that have naturalized in our county are invasive and not only compete with and exclude native plants, but can alter the entire vegetation of an area by changing ecological factors such as fire frequency.

Species info: Creeping Spurge (Euphorbia serpens) is in the Spurge Family (Euphorbiaceae). This species is native to Sou...
10/26/2020

Species info: Creeping Spurge (Euphorbia serpens) is in the Spurge Family (Euphorbiaceae). This species is native to South America, but has naturalized as a weed in disturbed habitats like gardens, roadsides, and sidewalks throughout much of the world.
Genus info: The genus name Euphorbia honors Euphorbus who was a Greek physician to Juba II, King of Mauretania. However, his name is derived from eu meaning "good" and phorbe for "pasture" and literally means "well fed." Thus, it is a very appropriate name for a genus that has a lot of succulent members with fattened stems. Euphorbia species have a specialized, flower-like inflorescence called a cyathium (pl. cyathia) that consists of a single pistillate (female) flower surrounded by several reduced staminate (male) flowers that are all in a cup-like involucre that may have glands and petal-like appendages.
Family info: Euphorbiaceae: The Spurge family is quite diversified with over 200 genera and 5700 species distributed almost worldwide. Some of the species, especially in Africa, look very similar to the Cactaceae of the New World and are good examples of convergent evolution (similar in look and form, but unrelated as plant groups). Some species are economically important and include the Rubber Tree (Hevea brasiliensis), Castor Bean (Ricinus communis), and Cassava (Manihot esculenta). Many members of the family have toxic, milky white sap that can cause strong reactions, i.e., dermatitis, in people with latex sensitivities.

Today, we are starting a new plant series on our website called "Urban Plants of San Diego" that will focus on plants th...
10/26/2020

Today, we are starting a new plant series on our website called "Urban Plants of San Diego" that will focus on plants that are commonly found in the urban areas of San Diego County. Of course, many of these species can be found in other urban and disturbed areas worldwide. This series will address both native and non-native species commonly called "weeds" that surround us where we live, but often go unnoticed. We will be using various photos of each plant's parts, map distributions in the County, and also general text on the plant family, genus, and species in which they are recognized. We hope that you enjoy this new series.

Address

1788 El Prado
San Diego, CA
92101

Alerts

Be the first to know and let us send you an email when San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Contact The Museum

Send a message to San Diego Natural History Museum Botany Department:

Videos

Category


Other Museums in San Diego

Show All

Comments

Of course you want to know what wildflowers you found in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and surrounding area. We have a great website with high-resolution photos. https://borregowildflowers.com Use our iOS or Android app as off-line field guide. https://borregowildflowers.com This app is intended for the casual flower user and experienced botanist alike. Find plants by color, common name, scientific name or family name. The app includes keys, descriptions and many photo's of plant details.
Good work, Jon, John, and Jose! And thank you National Geographic, for your support of basic field work!