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Monday, November 7, 2011

A Berry Obsession--Help Requested From Botanists!

First, here's just how beautiful it is this morning in Northport! We may have snow sometime this week, but today is sunny, warm, colorful, gorgeous--it just feels so good I "can't help singing," as the old song goes, but that's a song about April and love, so maybe I can be content to smile.

[11/11 Addendum: This post is still getting so many hits that I'm inserting a link to the following post, which contains the solution to the mystery.]

But now, for the morning's obsession. That's what David is calling it. I told him I thought it was a good obsession to have, and he said everyone thinks that about their obsessions, and I said no, I'm sure some people feel imprisoned by their obsessions and would love to shake them off, but this is not that kind at all. It's berries. Specifically, a mystery berry I'm trying to identify. So first, here's the small tree (or large shrub), with Sarah standing near it for scale:

There are thorns, and the berries have that rosehip look that makes it perfectly reasonable to think of calling them thornapples, apples being in the rose family and thornapple being another name for hawthorn.

Here's the problem: the leaf. The leaf does not have the sharp teeth that is characteristic of hawthorn. No, it has rounded lopes that look more like gooseberry leaves. But the fruit looks nothing like a gooseberry! So I go back and forth, from berries to leaves, from one page of my field guide to the other. Here are the mischievous leaves:

Deepening the mystery is the well-known fact that hawthorns hybridize wildly, and even the experts find it hard to identify varieties. My question today for those experts--and for anyone else who has knowledge to share--is this: can hawthorns and gooseberries hybridize? Could this possibly be a cross between a hawthorn and a gooseberry? Or am I grasping at straws here? (Probably!) I'll be consulting other botany books and later in the afternoon will visit a friend who is my resident botany guru to see what he makes of my samples. I haven't tasted the fruit yet. Here are some more shots of berries and leaves taken indoors under light (but not edited for quality). Would you throw caution to the winds and chew up a handful?


dmarks said...

Don't be surprised if it is something from way out of the supposed range of the plant.

There's cactus this far north in Minnesota, for example. You don't expect that.

P. J. Grath said...

There's cactus here in northern Michigan, too. It's in the Arnfields' book!

dmarks said...

It's wild in the state too

click here

P. J. Grath said...

I guess we're talking about prickly pear cactus, Opuntia humifusa, "native to the coastal dunes of the Great Lakes, especially those of Lake Michigan," according to Dr. Edwin A. Arnfield. His book, illustrated with his own drawings and photographs by his wife, Connie Arnfield, is called ROADSIDE GUIDE TO MICHIGAN PLANTS, TREES, AND FLOWERS: AN ECOLOGICAL APPROACH.