Documenting Diverstiy at the Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area
A flower in the Carrot Family (Apiaceae)
Common names: Harbinger of Spring, Pepper and Salt for Erigenia
bulbosa. The Family I know my sample is a member of is commonly
referred to as the Umbellifers, Carrot or Parsley family.
The Apiacae family is composed of 300 genera and
3,000 species (Carr 2006), 35 of which have been found in Minnesota (MN
DNR, 2002). My sample shares the strong smell, compound umbel pattern
of small flowers clustered together, hollow steam, tuberous root, and
subtly toothed leaves common in this family (Carr, 2006). The hollow
stems of plants in this family contains oil tubes carrying scented
oils. The flat topped flower clusters are referred to as umbels and in
my sample are found in two clusters. The flowers in this family are
usually white or yellow (Kramer, 2007). The flowers on my sample are
white. These plants usually have a corolla composed of 5 petals
arranged in a radially symmetrical manner. Additionally, the flowers
usually also contain 5 stamen (Carr, 2006). I dried my sample before I
tried to identify it, thus I forgot to count the number of petals and
stamen to confirm that they share this morphology. Additionally,
because I tried to identify using a dried sample, I was not able to see
the bracts along the base of the inflorescence which are often used for
identification. The leaves on flowers of the Apiacae family are usually
alternately distributed or pinnately or palmately compound. Generally,
these plants do not contain stipples. My leaves are divided into three
leaflets at the tip of the steam and otherwise placed alternately,
matching up with the common morphology. The leaves and plants of this
family are generally much larger than my sample. However, there are a
few species that bloom in the spring that are a smaller size.
Because of the small size of my flower and bloom
date in early spring, I am lead to believe that it might be Ergenia
bulbosa. This plant and my plant share the characteristic of a slightly
reddish stem and white flowers. These flowers are usually 5-6 inches
tall, about the size of the majority of the flowers I found. However,
Ergenia bulbosa has long, dark stamen, which my sample lacks. In
contrast my stamen were green, short, and blended into my petals.
Ergenia bulbosa also has not been found in Minnesota, so it is not
likely that it is the exact species I found (MN DNR, 2002).
The Apiacae family is found mostly in temperate
habitats, however there are a number of species that are found in the
tropics. These plants can be found in wetland, forest, and field
habitats, as well as open areas in an urban setting. My sample was
found in the Oak Forest about 1/4 of a mile uphill from River Lake. The
soil was moist, but the water was not standing. The canopy was a little
sparse with about 1/4 coverage.
Flowers in this family have a number of methods of
protecting themselves from predators. Many plants in the Apiaceae
family have large stylopodium, the base of the style, the secrets
nectar that attract certain insects. Moreover, the umbel is shaped in a
way that allows larger insects to rest upon it to access the nectar.
These insects will eat the herbivorous insects living on the plant.
More over the fragrance of the plants overshadows insect pheromones,
and other plant sent, deterring herbivorous insects from eating the
plants. The benefits of these functions spread to other plants nearby.
These plants are less likely to be fed upon because of the decrease in
herbivorous insects in the area. Umbellifers are a type of companion
pant for this reason (Chambers, 2009).
The life cycle of Apiaceae can be perennial,
biennial, or annual, and very in growth pattern even within plant
species depending of the soil moisture and the other habitat
characteristics they are growing under (Downie, 2009). Biannual plants
do not flower until the second spring. These plants develop their tap
root and grow leaves during the first year. During the second year they
flower, set seeds and die. Reproductive maturity occurs during this
second year. Seeds germinate during the spring, summer, or fall
depending on the species. They tend to grow quickly after they
germinate in order to form the tap root. This tap root is used for
nutrient storage and for secreting odorous substances (Lux et al.,
1995). The Apiaceae family produces seeds that are either ribbed or
winged for distribution by animals and wind, respectively. This fruit
is formed as a achizocarp that is divided into two mericarps that
contains oil tubes (Downie, 2009)
Plants in this family are usually reproductively
hermaphroditic, but are sometimes andromonoecious, polyamomonoecious,
or dioecious. They are pollination entomophilous and thus depend on
insects for pollination. The umbel of these flowers tend to contain
both male a famale flowers. Additionally the umbel shape makes it easy
for a pollinator to land on the flowers to drink the nectar in the
Apiaceae is found world wide, but mostly in northern
temperate regions. Member of the family found in the tropics are mostly
shrubs and trees, whereas in temperate regions they are found as
wildflowers (Downie, 2009). The Umbelliferae family is most closely
related to the Arelieae family, however the latter is much more common
in tropical regions. Apiaceae species that grow in the tropics are
found mostly in mountainous areas. In the United States the
Unberriferae that grow along the pacific coast are found mostly in
wetland habitats such as wet meadows and both fresh and salt water
marshes. Species found in the interior of the United States are also
found in wooded areas and more adapted to drier habitats (Mathias,
Figure 1: A picture of my dried sample. The leaves and flowers are
found on two completely different stems. The flowers are greenish white
and the steams are slightly red. Closest to Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa) because of size and
time found, but has a slightly smaller umbel and may well be something
Carr, Gerald D. 2006. Apiaceae. http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/carr/api.htm
Chambers, Marilynn. 2009. Apiaceae (Parsley). From the Ground Up: A
Gardening and Native Plants Quarterly from Colardo
State University Volume 1, Issue 5.
Downie, Stephen R. 2009. Apiaceae. http://www.life.illinois.edu/plantbio/digitalflowers/
Lux, Alexander, Elena Masarovicova, and Roman Olah. 1995. “Structural
and Physiological Characteristics of the Tap Root of
Smyrnium perfoliatum.” Structure and Function of Roots. (F. Balsuka
Ed.) Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Pub. 99-105.
Karmer, David W. Apiaceae (=Umbelliferae): The Carrot and Parsley
Mathias, Mildred. 1965. “Distrobution of Certain Umbelliferae.” Annals
of The Missouri Botanical Garden Vol. 52, No. 3.
Minnesota DNR. 2002. List of Minnesota Vascular Plants.
Compiled by Mary Catherine Muņiz.
Biodiversity & Evolution (BIOL 270) Professr Sarah Boyer. Spring 2010.
Specimen collected at Macalester College’s Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area on April 15, 2010.