Quiz answers – more or less

I just got back from a 9 hour overseas flight, just in time to post the answer to last week’s quiz.  So now you know…I wasn’t in the states.  More on that later.

As many of you guessed, this is a fig tree (Ficus spp.) of some sort.  I have horrendous taxonomic abilities anyway, but will cover my ignorance with the excuses that the tree wasn’t in flower, nor were there any signs in any of the little parks identifying the tree.  So we can continue to speculate on what species this is.  I do know it’s quite an old specimen, and that there are some Ficus native to the region, but past that I’m clueless as to whether this really is a native species or not.

And where was this huge tree?  In Alicante, Spain, where I spent a few days visiting my daughter who’s studying there this semester.  (Non-scientific aside:  I would go back there in a heartbeat.  If you are looking for a Mediterranean tourist destination that isn’t overrun with Americans, this is the place to go.)

Finally, these cool wavy woody structures are buttress roots, as Jospeh, Shawn, Rotem and Deb all pointed out.  They have both a structural and storage function: like all woody roots they store carbohydrates, but the over-developed flare helps support the tree in thin soils (like here) or in wet, low-oxygen soils (like those where mangroves grow).  In both cases roots can’t reach far enough below ground to stabilize the trunk, so the buttressing serves that function.

@Rotem also noted that branches can root and support the tree.   While the buttress roots in the original photo arose from root tissue, you can see examples of the rooted branches in the photo above.

And I do love the less-than-serious answers some of you kindly provided for our amusement.  Fred’s "rumble strips for drunks" was particularly apropos, since my last night there was one big street party after Barcelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League soccer match.  My daughter and I ended up in our hotel elevator at 8 am the next morning with a fan with no pants.  We did not ask.

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Linda Chalker-Scott

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and a Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets. Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest effort is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019). In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s contribution to gardeners was recognized in 2017 by the Association for Garden Communicators as the first recipient of their Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award. "The Garden Professors" Facebook page - www.facebook.com/TheGardenProfessors "The Garden Professors" Facebook group - www.facebook.com/groups/GardenProfessors Books: http://www.sustainablelandscapesandgardens.com

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