Botany Blueprint

Botany Blueprint: Burdock

Specimen #23: Burdock (Arctum minus) What do NASA astronauts, new parents, and cardiac surgeons have in common? They all owe a debt of gratitude to the common weed burdock, whose hook-tipped burrs inspired the invention of Velcro. Hailed as the revolutionary “zipperless zipper,” the hook-and-loop fastener has been used to adhere disposable diapers, artificial...

Botany Blueprint: The Lotus

Specimen #22: Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) When I began collecting seed pods, the lotus was something of a holy grail. I knew it through photographs—exotic and beautiful, it’s fair to say I coveted it. I wasn’t going to find one floating in any Hollywood pools, and I wasn’t planning a specimen collecting trip to Eastern...

Botany Blueprint: The Hawaiian Cotton Tree

Specimen #21: Hawaiian Cotton Tree (Kokia drynarioides) Although it is an ancestor of the well-traveled modern cotton, Kokia drynarioides, a Hawaiian endemic, has most likely not left the island on which it evolved. You might say there are worse places to be bound, than a sunny spot on leeward Hawai’i, but botanists consider it...

Botany Blueprint: Wood Rose

Specimen #20: Wood Rose (Merremia tuberosa) Elegant and aged, the wood rose capsule is the dowager of the garden. In her youth, she was pretty enough—a tubular yellow flower that was lovely, but hardly memorable—but now, in her senescence, she has acquired a certain noble grace. The sunny callow blossom has been replaced by...