The rosaceae family have many important qualities. It is one of the six most economically important crop plant families and is used in medicine as well. Apples (Malus) are the most important being the second most consumed fruit and with about 2, 500 varieties in the US. Rose hips are actually a pretty important source of Vitamin C in supplements. I recently read in an article in Research Journal of Pharmacognosy that the Rosaceae family may actually help with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies showed that the extract from the species Agrimonia eupatoria is shown to inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase which destroys acetylcholine in the process of Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed the flavonoids within the plant are responsible for the inhibition. One of many more reasons to come that make the rosaceae family unique!
Today is the first day of spring! Soon many plants in the rosaceae family will be blooming. Then later on come much of our anticipated favorite fruits. One of the reasons this family of plants is very popular. Four subfamilies are broken up primarily on their fruit. Spiraeoideae (ex. Spirea) with follicles in which their dry fruits open to the side. Rosoideae (ex. Roses) with achenes in which their dry fruits that don’t open. Amygdaloideae (ex. Plums) with drupes or fruits which have fleshy stone fruits, and lastly, Maloideae (ex. Apples) with pomes or fruits in which the hypanthium becomes fleshy. This time of year, though, it is all about the blooms. From Japan to Washington D.C. cherry trees are prized for their fragrant and beautiful pink and white blooms. In fact on March 27, 1912 the first two (of 3,020) cherry trees in Washington D.C. were planted by the First Lady Helen Herron Taft and the Japanese ambassador’s wife Viscountess Chinda. In 1934 the first “Cherry Blossom Festival” was held, and has since has been held around this time of year. According to cherryblossomwatch.com the blooming is expected to happen between March 19-22 so if you are in the area check it out!
Growing a seed seems easy, right? Give it moisture and put it in a pot of dirt. Then when its big enough plant it outside. Or so I thought. I had been given a small sapling apple tree of some sort, which I already planted in the fall and am just realizing now there is more too it then that. For one thing, you have to plant them by twos because they can’t self-pollinate. Opps! Also you need to give them 30 feet of space. Double oops! Another wise tip is to plant a species appropriate for your zone. Hmm…I guess I need to figure out what I have. So I have some work to do this spring! If you want to start an apple tree keep in mind the species. Maybe use seeds from a local orchard apple you’ve been storing all winter in your fridge. That way it will be just like nature for them and they will be synchronized with the actual seasons. The sapling will need full sun and good soil drainage. One surprise is that you may not get the same apples as the one you grew the seeds from. It may be another species from the same lineage. Hold off on pruning the first few years. Another interesting tip is that the branches should not be less than 35 degrees from the trunk. If one is it will have to be “trained” by tying it down almost vertically to stakes in the ground for a couple weeks. Good luck growing your apple trees!
The rosaceae family has about 100 genera and 3,000 species found all over the world. About half the genera are found here in North America. Although the species vary drastically, from the hard pit of the peach to the outer seeds on a strawberry, they have characteristics that make them in the same family. Their leaf pattern can vary from simple to pinnate, but all their leaves are oval with serrated edges. Their flowers typically contain five separate sepals with around the same number of petals. In the center is a minimum of five stamen or multiples of five stamen. The various sets of stamen or pistils that can be found in the center, contribute to the characteristic fuzzy center. This family is also known for the fleshy fruits produced. Think of apples, pears, peaches which we snack on each day. What we might forget is that some species in this family also produces false fruits, dry seeds, capsules and follicles.
There are around 120 species of roses although the exact number is unknown due to similarities between species. Roses are by far the most beautiful of all flowers and the most popular when it comes to love. Surprisingly red roses are not found in the wild. Typically a deep pink was the closest to red due to lack of the pigment in the genes pelargonidin. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that a bright true red was bred due to a natural gene mutation. Those were then rapidly bred giving us the red roses we know today. Red China roses are also thought to contribute to the true red, unfading color in our roses today.
Blue roses have successfully been produced by the Japanese company Suntory Flowers. For hundreds of years scientists tried but failed due to pH and cell shape of the flower effecting the transport of the pigment delphinidin from petunias. Although the flower is more of a light violet it is the closest we have come to a blue rose.
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