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U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Beautiful NOT-Thorns

Can thorns be beautiful? You bet! And, I'll show you some. Can we call things by their wrong name? You bet! And, I'll tell you what I mean.
We have all seen thorny, prickly, sharp thingies in our gardens and the gardens we visited. Those thingies, if we accidentally touch them, make us say 'Ouch' or 'Shoot' or something worse.
I, for example, have a thorny gooseberry:
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Don't praise me for growing such a producing plant. If not for this picture from 2006, I could forget how abundant it could be!
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Even some cucumbers have prickly little thingies. Those who don't like them may grow a Japanese cucumber with a smooth skin. But, the spikes will fall off upon plant maturity or can be rubbed off. By the way, a cucumber is a fruit, not a vegetable...
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Good thing is cucumber' sharpies are not as sharp as those on cacti!
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Do you think cacti has them to protect its beautiful flowers?
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This cream flower, above, I found in Arizona. The white one, below, is from Hawaii:
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The scary thing with small cute leaves is also from Hawaii:
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Its heart-shaped leaves are well protected!
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Some plants don't need additional protection. Their leaves and needles are sharp enough, like on this Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana, native to Chile and Argentina) which grows in a pot in my garden:
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It's more painful to touch them than let's say these fir needles:
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Everything that was shown above was just an appetizer. Those were not the things which caused me to publish this post. The actual reason was the plant we often think of first when we hear the word 'thorns'. What are those plants? ... Correct! Roses!
Roses' thorns are not actually thorns. They are prickles!
There are three types of sharp structures on plants: thorns, spines and prickles. As our friend Wikipedia says, they have similar appearance and function, but arrived from different plant organs. All three are hard structures with sharp, pointy ends, which are generally used by plants for protection against herbivores. Let's add - for conserving the water in spines.
Thorns are modified branches or stems, spines are modified leaves, and prickles are needle-like extensions of the cortex and epidermis. (Cortex - outer layer of the stem or root of a plant. Epidermis is a single-layered group of cells that covers plants leaves, flowers, roots and stems).
The roses I want to show are not those from my garden, with 'normal' thorns... pardon me, prickles and big flowers:
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They are from the beautiful garden of Katie which we visited this summer. See the tall thick canes? They certainly add a vertical effect to a flower bed:
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A closer look reveals another attraction, bright red prickles:
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This is a Wingthorn rose - Rosa sericea pteracantha (introduced from W. China in 1890):
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I like its fine, disease-free foliage too. With the striking combination of huge blood-red prickles and gracious leaves, this plant attracts everyone's attention.
The flowers are single, white with only four petals (the image is from Wikipedia):
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The author, Val Bourne, recommends planting it where 'winter sun can slant through and backlight the stems'. She also names 'Heather Muir' as a hybrid which produces a long crop of single white flowers bossed with golden stems.
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So, roses have prickles, cucumbers have them too, cacti have spines... Who has thorns? Lemon, pomegranate, wood-apple... You can name more if you know...


Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

22 comments:

  1. What great pictures. I definately mentally went ouch!

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  2. Wingthorn I reckon. Talk about your thorns. They look wicked but the red color makes it look pretty.
    I hate the feel of cucumber vines and they do tend to stick those fingers not counting the ones on the cucumber. The evil of beauty I guess. LOL!

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  3. The Wingthorn rose is gorgeous, but oh-so-spiky!
    Great post - Good thing no one poked an eye out!

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  4. For a minute, I envisioned that Wingthorn rose in my yard and then I imagined accidentially bumping into it as a cut the grass or something. I think I'll pass - very interesting though.

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  5. Dear Tatyana, You have presented such an unusual subject matter here in a beautifully illustrated and informative way. I met with Val Bourne many years ago - she is always knowledgeable of what she writes.

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  6. Thorns; another reason I don't garden without gloves!

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  7. I imagine seeing that rose backlit by the late afternoon sun; you would not care what the flowers looked like.

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  8. I love your approach to your subject. Nice photography too.

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  9. You were creative to post about thorns and I think yours is the first blog post I've read about them.
    The white rose is a beauty.

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  10. I enjoyed you pictures and the thorn story. Sometimes, thorns remind me of Briar Rose and The Sleeping Beauty. Have a great weekend, Tatyana!

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  11. Thorns, prickles, spines... you've got me all messed up now.
    So, are those sharp thingies, (yes, you've made me insecure) on the Wingthorn, thorns because the sharp stuff is modified stems, and not prickles like on other roses? Oh, man... don't think this was a good one for me to read.
    Like the pics though, can't believe you have a gooseberry that I want so much but can't find.

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  12. Wow, I didn't realize that there were so many prickly plants. Carla

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  13. Wonderful thorns!!! and post, very creative!

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  14. Hi Tatyana, this is Saif Malik.....hope you are fine there.....the way you have presnted the beauty of thorns is just awsome....i'm really impressed...please keep it up.......also take some time to visit my horticultural junction ''www.hortist.com''....have a nice day :)

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  15. Tatyana this is a most original, enjoyable and informative post, with some superb pics to illustrate the points (or should that be prickles!)

    Laurax

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  16. Great post and I see why it's called Wingthorn...I'd love to have one of those!

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  17. Tatyana,

    You have added a word to my vocabulary... thank you so much. To think all these years I have been saying rose thorns... when I should have said prickles... they do prick that is certain. What gorgeous ones you share here. How striking. I am so intrigued with the consciousness of a plant in going from leaf to thorn or prickle or spines. Such intelligence (without a brain) to protect and sustain. Great post! ;>)

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  18. What a great post! Too often people are put off by anything with thorns (with the exception of Roses, perhaps). But you have shown how beautiful so many "prickly plants" can be! I particularly like the Wingthorn Rose. How lovely!

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  19. Tatyana, I can't belive all of the things you found with prickles. I just picked my cucumbers today and they really do have prickles!

    Eileen

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  20. No Pain, No Gain ! And the Borage ..tiny prickes are the worst !

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  21. Katie's red prickles are amazing! The red prickles and the simple white flowers make a terrific combination on her interesting rose. Thanks for an informative and entertaining post. I'll never call them thorns again!

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  22. OK, you got me. I love these photos of the thorns and will start respecting things with thorns a little better. Never have seen them looking so good. I love roses, but I hate those darn thorns. And I love Cactus, believe it or not. It only hurts for awhile :) Another great post...

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Thank you for stopping by and for your comment! I appreciate your time! See you soon on your blog!

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