Keeping with the theme of subtle flowers, here’s a photo of a catkin from a male willow in the garden. Thanks to Andy Hill, one of UBC Botanical Garden’s horticulturists, for pointing out that I needed to take a photo of these catkins.
Willows are often difficult to identify, for a number of reasons: individual plants can be either male or female, the morphological features of the plants can vary with the environment it is growing in (phenotypic variation), the genetics of the plant or the growing stage, and species readily hybridize. In the case of this plant, the label was lost and we had to reidentify the plant. If we could have been certain that this species was from British Columbia, a reidentification would have been difficult, but not impossible. The diversity of willow species in British Columbia is high – 55 to 60 species in British Columbia, or 15% of the world’s different species (source: Classification of Salix in the New World).
However, at a botanical garden, our pool of potential suspects starts at the very beginning – with all of the species in the world. We can often narrow the field considerably by cross-referencing the plant’s location in the garden against our database, but if this doesn’t work for whatever reason, we’ve a challenge on our hands. During the course of our annual inventory week, we were able to determine the name of this plant.
You can view my black and white version of this photo on the garden’s discussion forums.