Sunday, March 11, 2012

Binomen Art - Pieris japonica

Pieris japonica - binomen art
The genus Pieris is named for the Greek Muses, the Pierides, a cult introduced into Pieria near Mount Olympus. Pieris was a daughter of Pierus a Muse. [Quattrocchi] Etymologically, this sounds fascinating, but, after a little investigation it seems that there was no information we could find as to why this particular daughter was chosen. Did she have some attributes that this plant represents? Back in the world of mortals, we do know that Pieris is a shrub in the Ericaceae family (the heath/heather family). They have the characteristic bell-shaped flowers and leathery texture that is common for many plants in this family.

In Seattle, Pieris is relatively common. The specimen pictured here (P. japonica D.Don ex G.Don we believe) is less showy than you typically see in that it never develops very deep red-colored young leaves. P. japonica is native to Eastern China, Japan (hence japonica), and Taiwan and grows easily in Seattle. We estimate the age of this specimen at least 30-40 years old. It grows on the north side of our house and is a welcome sign to see blooming in February and March. The blossoms don’t have a scent that we can detect but are relatively long lasting. 

The generic name is spelled with dried seed capsules. The specific name is spelled with little twigs from the shrub.

We noticed when taking the photos that the woody seed capsules seem to turn upward whereas the flowers are pointed downward. Also, on the subject of seeds: in all the years we’ve lived with this shrub (17 or so years) we’ve never once seen a spontaneous start of P. japonica. That is something to muse about.

Binomial Fun Looking Out Our Entry Hall Window at the Pieris Shrub
Pieris - binomen artPieris japonica - binomen art

Pieris japonica Seed Capsule and Flower Under Loupe
Pieris japonica - dried seed capsulePieris japonica - flower

Pieris japonica Racemes
Pieris japonica - racemePieris japonica - raceme

Pieris japonica Dried Capsules and Flowers

The Specimen

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