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Plants in the Parks

Click one of the following to learn more!

*Any references to edible or medicinal uses of plants are meant solely for the purpose of education and not as a reference for using the plants. Please do NOT collect or eat any plants in the parks! Collecting plants could disturb the ecosystem as well as potentially cause a danger to yourself if ingested. Even safe to eat plants may have been sprayed with pesticides, and many safe plants have deadly look-a-likes.  

Tree: A long-lived woody plant that has a single, usually tall, main stem with few or no branches on its lower half.
Shrub: A woody plant that has several stems and is smaller than most trees.
Herbaceous Plants: Plants without a woody stem. 
Annual: Completing the life cycle in one growing season or single year.
Perennial: Living for several years or for many years: having a life cycle that is more than two years long.
Biennial: Growing vegetatively (leaf growth) during the first year and fruiting and dying during the second year.
Gymnosperm: Plants that produce naked seeds not enclosed in an ovary (no fruit).
Angiosperm: Flowering plant that produces fruit.
Lichen: A plant-like organism made up of an algae and a fungus growing together.

Heterotrophs: Organisms that rely on eating other plants or animals for nutrition. 
Autotrophs: Organisms that produce their own food via sunlight (photosynthesis) like most plants, or via chemicals (chemosynthesis) like some bacteria.

*Definitions from: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Definitions:

Need help identifying

a plant in the park?

Try out our dichotomous key HERE to figure it out! Not finding what you are looking for?

Email us a photo and we will try

to add the specimen to our dichotomous key. 

Native vs Non-Native vs Invasive!

Native: A plant that originates from this place.

Ex: Desert Mallow, Bristlecone Pine

Non-Native: A plant that originates from somewhere else, but was introduced to this place.

Ex: Mullein, Kentucky Coffee Tree  

Invasive: A non-native plant that outcompetes native plants and has a negative ecological effect on the environment. 

Ex: Cheatgrass, Tree of Heaven 

Some of the Wonders of Plants!

  • Provide oxygen. 

  • Remove carbon dioxide from the air and store as carbon in tissues. This is called Carbon Sequestration which can help remove harmful greenhouse gases out of the air! 

  • Provide sugars and food for other animals, including humans.

  • Prevent soil erosion and reduce flooding.

  • Provide humans with food, medicine, fibers for clothes, paper, and shelter.

  • Provide beauty and restoration. 

Types of Plant Relationships:

  • Mutualism: Both partners in the relationship benefit. Ex: Mycorrhizal fungi and plant roots.

  • Commensalism: Only one partner of the relationship benefits while the other is unaffected. Ex: Epiphytes, or air plants that use woody plants as a base while they get nutrients from air. They do not harm or help the woody plants upon which they live.

  • Parasitism: Only one partner benefits while the other suffers. Parasites benefit while the host suffers. Ex: Western Dwarf Mistletoe is a parasite to Ponderosa and Jeffrey Pines.

  • Information derived from: "Animal Partnerships" by Arden Dore

What is Biodiversity and Why is it Important?

Biodiversity is the occurrence of many different types of plants and animals in an environment. 

Environments that have greater biodiversity are more stable and healthy. Since they have many different types of species, checks and balances are kept and diseases aren't as likely to wipe out a whole ecosystem. Having biodiversity means having a healthy environment that will be around for years to come and adapt to environmental changes. 

Some Signs of Unhealthy Plants:

Parasitic Plants: Parasitic plants, like Western Dwarf Mistletoe (top picture), are plants that take nutrients from another plant without giving any benefits in return. Most parasitic plants are harmful to the host plant it grows on, can spread disease, and even cause the death of the plant. 

Slime Flux: Slime flux (wet wood) is a bacterial disease that occurs in some trees (elms, cottonwoods, aspens, etc.) that enters from a wound in the tree. The best way to avoid this is proper trimming and avoiding damaging the tree. It’s hard to treat once the tree is infected and there is no cure (see second picture).

Fire Blight: Fire Blight (third picture) affects members of the rose family. It is a bacterial infection that leaves a scorched appearance. 

Galls: Galls are abnormal tissue growth on plants (like warts) that are caused by either an insect, fungi, or bacteria (see fourth picture). 

Powdery Mildew: Fungal infection of the plant that creates a powdery film covering the leaves. Powdery Mildew reduces the plants ability to preform photosynthesis as effectively, and slows down the respiration of leaves. (see bottom picture).  

Insect Pests: Aphids are one such culprit for spreading diseases and making plants unhealthy. You can notice plants that are infected by insects from leaf damage and, in the case of aphids, small insects visible down the stems and on the backs of leaves.  

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© 2014 by Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation