• September 18, 2019

GARDENING: The genealogy of plants - Odessa American: Gardening

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GARDENING: The genealogy of plants

Floyd is a horticulturist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service. He can be reached at 498-4071 in Ector County or 686-4700 in Midland County or by email at Jeff.Floyd@ag.tamu.edu

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Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2019 12:45 am

Have you ever slowed down long enough to look at some of your family and ask how in the world are we related? I ask this question a lot! In the plant world, there are many related plants you could take a gander at and wonder aloud “hmmm, I don’t see the resemblance.” However, when taking considering the grand genetic scheme, you’ll discover the petal didn’t fall far from the flower.

Study the beautiful, tropical-weather loving hibiscus. Hibiscus likes more than its fair share of water and sunlight. This easy to kill plant is the cousin of the cotton plant. Once up and growing, the drought tolerant, heat-loving cotton plant doesn’t require nearly as much water as hibiscus making it a little more difficult to kill. You read that correctly, cotton and hibiscus are cousins.

Although they do have their differences, the resemblance is uncanny. How are they related? Both hibiscus and cotton are in the mallow family. There are more than two-hundred mallows consisting of about four-hundred-twenty species.

Hibiscus and cotton have showy five-petaled flowers. Surprise, surprise they are both grown as food crops and ornamental flowers. Just for a little extra fun, okra is in this family as well! Take an internet image tour of these three plants and search for their similarities and differences. You’ll soon begin to easily recognize their kinship. Look at the petals, pistils and stamens. Check out their overall growth habit. Now you see it don’t you?

We’re all living and working on the outer edge of the cotton belt, but I wonder how many of us knew these very different plants were in fact relatives of one another. The more you know, the more you see.

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