Friday, May 11, 2012

Pink: a flower, a colour, AND a verb!

Species name: Dianthus plumarius

Common name: Garden pinks, Wild pink

Location: Ontario

The Dianthus genus is part of the Pink or Carnation family, and are a group of species native to Asia and Europe (with the exception of one species that is native to arctic North America). I haven't read any documentation about their invasive potential, so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt. This specific species of plant can only tolerate well-drained soil, but especially in the late fall and early spring as the roots near the surface of the soil freeze easily. It prefers mostly alkaline soil.

The carnation family is a great example of human-induced "artificial selection" that would actually cause the plant more harm than good in the wild. The specific variety of Garden Pink that we have growing in our garden is called a "double" variety, meaning that the breeders have selected for double the number of petals in each flower. Because the petals also have feather-like edges, it makes the flowers look much more full than they actually are. This flower really only has 10 petals! This in itself isn't necessarily a detriment; having more petals won't harm the plant unless it has to have a trade-off with another flower characteristic. In the case of this specific variety, the trade-off has also been exploited: the stamens (the pollen-producing structures) have been completely replaced with non-functioning petal-like ornamentations. Bees and butterflies are still attracted to them for their nectar, but they cannot transfer pollen from flower to flower so very little seed is produced. This plant would never survive on its own in the wild if it wasn't able to reproduce asexually.

Fun fact for Dr. Grumpy (who's blog I'm an avid reader of): there was a boat in WWI in the US Navy Patrol that was called the USS Dianthus. It was named by the owner, John P. Crozer, and retained the name by the Navy while they were using the vessel. I have no idea why the boat was named what it was, but I like to think Mr. Crozer chose Dianthus because the "SS Carnation" sounds a little...girly.