This is a post from my old PhD blog. It was originally published 7/4/15
Here in the US of A, it is Independence Day, the birthday of the country. Everyone is familiar with the flag, the Eagle, the Uncle, the music of America.. but where are the plants in all of this?! So today, in honor of America's birthday, I present her autotrophs (self feeder, aka plants)!
While the Bald Eagle was chosen to represent America in 1782, the first autotroph to represent her was the national flower which was not chosen until 1986. It took more than 200 years for America to pick a plant. The national flower, signed into existence by President Ronald Regan, is the Rose.
The national tree was designated in 2004 via popular vote. The mighty Oak was declared the winner by a landslide. Oaks have several things in their favor for being the national tree of the USA. First, their genus name Quercus is incredibly fun to say! Next, there are over 90 native oaks in the US, almost every state has some type of native oak tree! The wood from oak trees were used to make log cabins as settlers moved west, create ships for commerce and war, and make very good wine barrels. And lastly, Oak gives me one of my favorite lines to spout from M*A*S*H.
Oak leaves can be lobate, as seen in the white oak above, serrated, or smooth. These leaves will turn beautiful colors in the fall and then, often, remain on the tree, dead, until spring. Oak bark is very rough, and often furrowed (grooves). If you ever want to try and key out a particular oak species use this very detailed Flora of North America oak key.
So, there we have America's Autotrophs. As you go out tonight, you can tell all your friends as you watch the fireworks what tree and flower represent the nation. So far, none of my friends have been able to correctly guess (though they all got the eagle!), let me know if you have better luck with yours!