Before starting today’s entry, some of you will have perhaps noticed that most BPotD’s are being published late at night recently. We’re pushing hard here at UBC Botanical Garden to complete a redesigned web site for next week, so perhaps things will settle down soon. Also, thanks to the kind donations of BPotD readers and UBC Botanical Garden Forums participants, it looks like I’ll be able to advertise for a summer work-study position to help with BPotD. Claire Fadul, hired under the winter-spring work-study program (thanks to donations), is helping for a few more weeks. She wrote today’s entry:
Coprosma brunnea, the aptly-named opal berry, (many Coprosma species also have the nicknames “mirror bush” or “looking-glass bush”) is a native of New Zealand. This species is an open, mat-forming, evergreen shrub. The attractive berry is edible, though not considered sweet-tasting. The wood of this species can be used to make yellow dye.
Coprosma shares an intriguing characteristic with a few other New Zealand genera: some Coprosma have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the palisade cell layer of leaves, stipules, and domatia. C. Van Hove and A. S. Craig investigated this phenomenon and observed that the symbiosis is not an obligate one (it doesn’t have to occur for plant survival).
Coprosma belongs to the Rubiaceae (or madder family. Rubiaceae has a world-wide distribution (though mostly tropical), and with over 600 genera and 13 000 species, it is the 4th-largest family of flowering plant ranked by species diversity. Many Rubiaceae have properties that prevent self-fertilization. In the case of Coprosma brunnea, the species is dioecious (separate male and female plants, so cross-pollination is required). To ensure development of the beautiful fruit in a cultivated environment, it is therefore necessary to have both male and female plants of this wind-pollinated species.