The Suitcase Lady

Families

October 21, 2014, 8:52 pm

If you’ve enjoyed a juicy, fall apple lately, thank a rose. Animals aren’t the only ones that have families, plants do, too. Apples, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, strawberries and almonds are all members of Roseceae, the rose family.

The three largest flowering plant families are the sunflower family, Asteraceae, the orchid family, Orchidaceae, and the pea family, Fabaceae. These three groups make up 25 per cent of all the flowering plants on earth.

The family members within a group are sometimes surprising. For example, look at the lily family, Lilaceae. Daylilies, tulips, narcissus, hyacinths and hostas are bedfellows with my favorite vegetable, asparagus. Onions and garlic, the stinking lily, are also found in the lily clan.

Fabaceae, the pea family, is recognized by its fruit called pods. We gobble up the seeds (peas and beans) and devour all sorts of pods. The family excels in the flower department as well. One of the most spectacular plants in our meadow is false indigo or baptisia which grows into an immense “bush” with masses of purple flowers and pods.

Our cats and I are big fans of the mint family, Lamiaceae . I eat and drink it, the felines get high on it. They don’t care that mint family plants have square stems; I think that is a fascinating feature. Our cupboards are filled with other mint family plants; basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, lemon balm and lavender.

The innocent sounding buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, has more poisonous members than most families. So don’t eat the monkshood, delphinium or larkspur.

And on the topic of poison, the nightshade family, Solanaceae, includes potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and petunias. But it also harbors belladonna or nightshade and other deadly poisonous plants. This family is bipolar.

If you are feeling hungry, consult the 10,000 member strong grass family, Poaceae. These plants are the main food source for our planet’s 7 billion people. Take away wheat, corn, rice, oats, rye and barley and mass starvation would follow. To say that people are powered by grass is not hyperbole. Bring on the bread!

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