Tuesday, January 20, 2009

African wood-sorrel

Native to South Africa, this highly invasive perennial plant has become a naturalized weed in many agricultural regions of the world. African wood-sorrel grows from a small bulb and the leaves that form a broad rosette of leaves at the base of the plant are divided into heart-shaped leaflets. Showy clusters of 5-petaled flowers develop on slender stalks. In Sicilian olive and citrus groves African wood-sorrel often grows in dense colonies that spread a glowing blanket of bright yellow blooms beneath the trees throughout winter and spring.

Scientific name: Oxalis pes-caprae
Italian common name: Acetosella degli
English common name: African wood-sorrel

Field marigold

During the first two weeks of January, generous rains coming in from Africa have encouraged heavy flowering of this attractive native. Don't be misled by the common name in English. This plant is not closely related to the well-known garden marigold of the genus Tagetes. The Sicilian Field marigold is a much-branched, herbaceous annual with lance-shaped leaves and single, daisy-like flower heads. The edible petals can be added to salads to make a more colorful presentation.

Scientific name: Calendula arvensis
Italian common name: Fiorrancio selvatico
English common name: Field marigold

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Italian cypress

Known almost universally in English as Italian cypress, this evergreen is actually not native to Italy. Instead, its range is thought to extend from the eastern Mediterranean, into north Africa and western Asia. The tree on the left in the attached photo shows the broad, pyramidal shape and horizontal branching habit of the parent species, C. sempervirens. To the right in the same photo, the narrow, columnar form and upright branching pattern of the cultivar 'stricta' can be seen. Both types have been cultivated throughout Italy for many centuries. The leaves are tiny, scale-like and dark green. Female (seed) cones are rounded or oblong, golf ball-sized and covered with 5 to 8 pairs of woody scales.

Scientific name: Cupressus sempervirens, C. sempervirens 'stricta'
Italian common name: Cipresso
English common name: Italian or Mediterranean cypress, Columnar Italian cypress