Big Words

When speaking of such things as mycorrhizae , Philadelphus lewisii or even evapo-transpiration, it seems to mean little to those not familiar with the world of soils, plants and water. As a result, using big non-descriptive words can fail to relate to the essence of good plant growth that those same gardeners may instinctively know . Nonetheless, an inquisitive mind might want to have a better understanding!

Let’s take the word mycorrhizae for example. Over the years, a friend collected a small mountain comprised of soil, manure, bark, clean weeds and other organic materials. It was teaming with great nutrients with the combination of making excellent soil filled with mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae is nothing more than a system of fungi knit throughout the healthy soil. That fungi provides the ability for the root system of a plant to attach itself to the threads of mycorrhizae and, like a baby with a bottle, pull the moisture and nutrients found in the soil as a baby would from the nutrients found in the bottle. The more mycorrhizae, the better development of root growth and the healthier the plant.

Philadelphus lewisii

Plants. That brings me to Philadelphus lewisii – otherwise known as Mock Orange. But wait, you say! Mock orange is Choiysa ternata -or is it Pittosporum tobira? All three plants are known as mock orange, yet all three plants are from entirely different plant families; they all look different from one another, yet they all carry the fragrance of orange blossoms.

Years ago while working in the nursery, I was reprimanded by a customer for not knowing his reference to a common name of a plant he used that, like mock orange, could have taken me to several areas of the nursery. Had he asked for Baccharis pilularis instead of a nickname he used that meant nothing to me. Botanical names are used to identify specific plants for that very reason. It identifies the plant family by its taxonomic rank -yet another big word that only specifies the exactness of specific plants and as well as other groups of organisms including humans!

Evapo-transpiration (ET) is heard more lately due to smart controllers using the data collected from evapo-transpiration. Simply, evaporation from the soils is measured by the loss of water due to wind, temperature, solar radiation which increase the amount of evaporation. Humidity also comes into that calculation by decreasing ET calculated number as humidity increases.

Transpiration is an easy one. People perspire or sweat, and plants transpire. – their form of sweating. Have you ever noticed the tips of leaves burning back a bit? The plant is either lacking water or it can’t take up the water fast enough to the tips of the leaves if it is too hot. That gets us into xylem and phloem – the xylem is the straw delivering water and nutrients captured from the mycorrhizae to the tip of the plants, and phloem grabs the nutrients formed by the plant drawing it down to complete the photosynthesis of the plant…Oh my, yet another big word and this blogger better stop here because it only gets worse as the plant proceeds!

Enjoy learning. Explore words, their meaning and how they relate to how those big words apply to our garden!

Have a great weekend.

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