Phytophilia

Official blog of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

Phytophilia = Love of Plants. BRIT's mission is to conserve our natural heritage by deepening our knowledge of the plant world and achieving public understanding of the value plants bring to life.

Recent Articles

Encounters with Plants that BITE!

In late 2018, the BRIT Philecology Herbarium received funds from the National Science Foundation Grant: “Endless Forms most beautiful and most wonderful” to digitize collections of species across 15 plant families that have unique adaptations and morphologies. These plants may live in extreme and highly specific environments that face elevated risks of extinction in the rapidly changing climate that we’re seeing today. Dozens of herbaria across the United States are digitizing their collections representing these peculiar families in an effort to aid in research about their evolutionary history, ecology, conservation tactics, and more. Some of the groups of plants that fall under this grant include epiphytes (such as orchids), succulents (cacti and some euphorbs), and carnivores! The carni...
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Will the real four-leaf clover please stand up?!

There are many plant species bearing the iconic clover look in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The true lucky clover is believed to be the white clover of the legume family - Trifolium repens . Although Trifolium is derived from the Latin words tres (three) and folium (leaf), a unique genetic mutation causes some plants to grow an additional leaflet! A simple Google search will tell you the likelihood of a four-leaf clover is 1 in 10,000. However, it was not until 2017 that a study was conducted by enthusiasts to see if this number was accurate. They found the frequency to really be 1 in 5,076 ! This is not the only surprise this species brings to the table. Some of these plants across the world not only grow one extra leaflet, but sometimes up to 8 leaflets. There is even a Guinness Worl...
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A Natural Nature Networker

The annual Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Convention was held at the Fort Worth Convention Center at the end of March. The associated trade show was open to the public, and there were more than 200 exhibitors/vendors offering giveaways and information at various booths. Our own Dan Caudle, Resident Research Associate, worked several booths on behalf of the Youth Range Workshop , Texas Grazing Land Coalition (TXGLC) , and the Grazing Animal Nutrition (GAN) Lab at the Blackland Research and Extension Center , this last of whom (according to Dan) "test livestock fecal samples with Near Infrared Spectroscopy to determine nutritional value of the forages that have actually been consumed, digested, and passed through the animals." You know...as one does (!!!!). Though officially "retired"...
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Two Dozen Reasons

Resident Research Associate and retired USDA-NRCS rangeland specialist Dan Caudle shares his thoughts on the value of his continued involvement with the annual Texas Youth Range Workshop, the flagship educational opportunity of TSSRM (Texas Section of Society of Range Management).
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Two Botanists and An Artist Walk Into the Desert...

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art (ACMAA) sponsored Barney Lipscomb and Tiana Rehman to serve as botanical guides to West Texas for artist Mark Dion. Commissioned by the ACMAA, Mark—a contemporary artist who is part explorer, part historian, part naturalist, and part collector—is making a series of exploratory journeys through Texas that are inspired by four early naturalists/artists in Texas: Sarah Ann Lillie Hardinge (1824–1913), John James Audubon (1785–1851), Frank Law Olmsted (1822–1903), and Charles Wright (1811–1885). In 2020, the ACMAA Special Exhibition Galleries will tell the story of these early Texas Artists and natural history travelers in Texas. Map of Wright's journey through West Texas (from Flowering Plants of Trans-Pecos Texas and Adjacent Areas ) BRIT’s West Texas t...
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What Is This Thing? Bur oak acorn cap

"What is this thing???" We often hear this question from friends and family in relation to natural "treasures" found in the landscape. Sticks, leaves, flowers, fruit, fungi, lichens, moss. You name it, somebody has likely brought it to BRIT for identification at some point (or emailed us a photo). This time we feature the crazy, gargantuan, monster acorn caps from the bur oak tree ( Quercus macrocarpa ). RAWR! Monster caps! Bur oak distribution in Texas. Adapted from digital version of "Atlas of United States Trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr. U.S. Geological Survey. Bur oak is native to the central and eastern US, including most of the middle swath of Texas, top to bottom. This fast-grower typically likes an open, limestone or chalky clay habitat and is adapted not only to fire and drought b...
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A Ferntastic Day with NLU

On Sunday, February 25th, BRIT staff had the pleasure of hosting members of the Southwestern Fern Society, our local chapter of the American Fern Society, for a volunteer day. Six volunteers worked hard to organize and sort ferns and lycophytes from the recently acquired University of Louisiana at Monroe’s (NLU) herbarium collection. Ferns and lycophytes (once referred to as “fern allies”) are two special groups of plants that do not have flowers or seeds but rather reproduce by spores. Happy volunteers and BRIT staff hold "golden tickets" found among the collections. Tickets were exchanged for fun prizes! NLU Collections Assistants Miranda Madrid and Ashley Bordelon and BRIT Research Botanist Dr. Alejandra Vasco led the group on a tour of BRIT’s plant preservation studio, digitization stu...
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What Is This Thing? Oenothera triloba fruit

"What is this thing???" We often hear this question from friends and family in relation to natural "treasures" found in the landscape. Sticks, leaves, flowers, fruit, fungi, lichens, moss. You name it, somebody has likely brought it to BRIT for identification at some point (or emailed us a photo). The object below was brought in recently by a Fort Worth resident. Roughly the size and shape of a pine cone, this is actually an aggregation of many fruits (capsules) from a plant called stemless evening-primrose ( Oenothera triloba ). A winter annual, this native wildflower comes up in disturbed places (and often lawns) at the end of the year, overwinters as a rosette, then produces yellow flowers in the spring. Flowers arise from the base of the plant, meaning fruit eventually develop at the b...
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