A grateful thanks to Mbc of Germany for contributing today’s image via the UBC BG BPotD Submissions forum in this thread. Mbc made this photograph while on a mountainside hike near Kyoto, Japan.
When you become familiar with the scientific names of plants, you can sometimes glean some additional information about a plant new to you at a glance. In this case, the epithet sieboldiana tells me that the plant is named after Philipp Franz von Siebold, which in turns suggests the plant is native to Japan (and indeed it is). A similar trick works for recognizing the name of the person (or people) who scientifically described a species and published a name (i.e., the author). For example, Acer carpinifolium was published by Sieb. & Zucc. — and again, one can be reasonably certain it is native to at least Japan. The reason this works, of course, is because botanists (prior to air travel) tended to work in a specific geographical area or on a particular regional flora.
Von Siebold was a German-born physician and botanist. While working as a Dutch army medical officer, von Siebold was stationed in Japan as a scientist and doctor during the 1820s. It was during this time that he amassed botanically and horticulturally valuable collections of thousands of both living and preserved specimens of plants. The preserved specimens later resulted in von Siebold and Zuccarini (Sieb. & Zucc.) coauthoring Flora Japonica. Von Siebold’s first tenure in Japan ended when he was discovered to possess detailed maps of Japan and Korea, an act for which he was expelled in 1830 (another act which likely would have sent him home sooner, had it been discovered, was aiding the smuggling of young tea plants to the Dutch colony in Java).
While the fruiting structure illustrated in today’s photograph resembles a conifer cone, I notice the term is avoided in the summary of Alnus in the Flora of North America. Instead, the structure is described as an infructescence, consisting of persistent, 5-lobed, woody scales. It is the result of the bracts of the fruiting catkin becoming woody as the seeds mature.