Maryland temperatures are predicted to increase 5⁰ F to 11⁰ F by 2100. Higher temperatures will cause native plants to experience more heat-related stress, a situation that will be made worse by longer droughts. Warmer temperatures will cause earlier leaf out and bloom times, de-synchronizing relationships between plants and their pollinators. Invasive plants will become […]
The modern wheat crop is the staple food of millions of people across planet Earth and its origins can be traced back approximately 10,000 years. During this time, the Earth’s population has doubled ten times, from less than 10 million people to greater than six billion with projected estimates as high as 9.7 billion. Most of the calories that made that increase possible have come from three agricultural plants: corn, rice, and wheat. The oldest, most widespread and until recently biggest of the three crops is wheat. Generally speaking, wheat is the staple food of mankind, and its evolution and domestication reflect that of humanity.
So where did wheat come from? It began with the cultivation and repeated harvesting and sowing of grains of wild grasses. With preferential selection by man for desirable traits, this led to the creation of domestic strains of wheat like Emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum) and Einkorn (T. monococcum). Over the centuries farmers continued to make selections from their fields of wheat that showed favorable traits such as non-shattering spikes, ease of harvest and yield. Eventually, newly improved wheat’s started to dominate.
The cultivation of wheat reached Southern Europe and India by 6500 BCE. One thousand years later it was farmed in Germany and Spain. By 3000 BCE, wheat had reached the British Isles and Scandinavia. A millennium later it reached China.
Today, through intense plant breeding and biotechnology, two genetically different types of wheat have developed over the years. Common Wheat (Triticum aestivum) is the most widely grown. It is also known as bread wheat. This type generally has a high protein and gluten content. The second, Durum Wheat (Triticum turgidum) or pasta wheat is known for its hardness, high protein, and intense yellow color.
Winter wheat is planted in the Fall and overwinters while Spring wheat, as its name implies, is planted in Spring. During the summer, the plants begin to fade from dark green to tan and eventually to a golden brown. The crop is ripe and ready for harvest. This type of crop is best harvested with large combine harvesters. Combines remove the spikes from the plant stems and separate the kernels from the rest of the unusable plant material.
So remember, the next time you break a piece of bread or butter a scone, stop and think about the historical journey of this crop. From a grass collected by people in the Middle East that eventually was cultivated and domesticated into Emmer and Einkorn. Where selection for traits such as larger grains, non-shattering spikes, and crop yields made harvesting easier which further helped its global dissemination. A gift from our ancestors kept finely tuned by modern genetics and biotechnology. In short, wheat continues to be the staff of life.
Buttercups are familiar wildflowers of open fields, roadsides, and river banks. They belong to the genus Ranunculus containing about 500 species of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae. These plants flower from April to May, but flowers may be present throughout the summer. Some species are popular ornamental flowers in horticulture, with many cultivars selected for large and brightly colored flowers.
The yellow petals are often bright and glossy, owing to a special coloration mechanism. The petal’s upper surface is flat causing a mirror-like reflection with sunlight that is comparable to glass. The reflected color is yellow due to the absorption of colors in the blue-green region of the spectrum by carotenoid pigment located inside the petals. The flashy color aids in attracting pollinating insects and helps in temperature regulation of the flower’s reproductive organs.
Buttercups have leaves attached as a whorl around the stem. In many perennial species, runners are sent out that will develop new plants as a form of asexual reproduction. The leaves lack stipules at the petiole base.
The flowers have both male and female reproductive structures. Each flower has sepals or bud leaves with five yellow, green or white petals. At the base of each petal is usually one nectary gland that is naked or may be covered by a scale. Male anthers are often arranged in a spiral with yellow pollen which will become the male gametophyte. The female portion of the flower has green or yellow individual carpels. These structures contain the female gametophyte.
Some Facts about buttercup plants:
- Can grow from 14 to 16 inches in height
- Have cup-shaped flowers composed of 5 petals
- Flowers are usually bright yellow-colored
- Have lustrous flowers thanks to a special layer of reflective cells
- Buttercups are poisonous to humans and livestock. Contact may cause dermatitis.
- Can be propagated via parts of the root and bulb or via seed