Litchi sinensis - Lychee - Sapindaceae
Morphology: A medium-sized, spreading evergreen tree, up to 28m. Dark green lanceolate leaves, up to 15cm. Long panicles of greenish-white to yellow insignificant flowers, up to 3cm. Hard-skinned, fleshy fruits, up to 5cm.
The Lychee is the sole member of the Litchi genus. It is native to southern China, where it has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years. Today the main regions of cultivation are China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, South Africa, Australia and Madagascar.
Solanum lycopersicum - Tomato - Solanaceae
Morphology: Perennial vine, up to 3m. Odd-pinnate compound leaves, up to 25cm, with 5 to 9 pubescent leaflets with serrated margins, up to 8cm. Cymes of 3 to 12 yellow flowers with fused anthers, up to 2cm. Red berry fruits, up to 10cm.
The tomato is thought to have evolved from the cherry tomato (Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme) which occurs in the wild in Peru, Ecuador, and other parts of tropical America. The tomato is one of the world’s most important vegetable or salad crops. It can both be consumed raw or cooked. The plant shows a wide climatic tolerance, and is cultivated in both temperate and tropical regions. There are a large number of tomato cultivars, with beef, cherry, pear and plum fruit types, and yellow, green, purple and striped fruit colours.
Vitis vinifera - Grape - Vitaceae
Morphology: Deciduous liana, up to 30m. Alternately lobed, palmate leaves, up to 20cm. Domesticated cultivars are often hermaphrodite, but wild plants are dioecious. Berry fruits, up to 3cm.
The Caucasus region is thought to be the oldest centre of grape cultivation. Grapes can be eaten fresh, dried to form raisins, or made into wine. There are approximately 10,000 grape cultivars. Some of the most important for wine making include Chardonnay, which is a small, round, yellow-green grape used to produce white Burgundy, Chablis, and sparkling wine such as Champagne; Pinot Noir, which is a purplish black grape used for making red Burgundy, and also partly for Champagne; Cabernet, which is a blue-black grape used in the production of Bordeaux red wines, sometimes known as claret; and Riesling, which is a collective term for a group of white grapes used to produce Rhine wines. Seedless grapes are parthenocarpic, as they do not require pollination for the fruit to set. However, seeds produce the hormone gibberellin, which stimulates fruit development. Sometimes, parthenocarpic fruit are sprayed with gibberellin to encourage fruit growth.
Laurus nobilis - Bay - Lauraceae
Morphology: Large dioecious evergreen shrub or small tree, variable, up to 18m.
The Bay’s aromatic leaves are used for flavouring dishes. The leaves are normally removed before serving, as they do not digest well. The laurel tree features in Chinese folklore, in the story of Wu Gang, who aspires to immortality but neglects his work. The deities sentenced Wu Gang to fell the laurel tree, whereupon he could join the deities. As laurel trees regenerate after being cut, the tree could never be felled. The story is analogous to the myth of Sisyphus in Greek mythology.
Choisya 'Aztec Pearl' (C. arizonica x C. ternata) - Rutaceae
The Choisya at work is in full bloom. Choisya is a small genus which is closely related to Citrus. The similar appearance of its flowers have given it the common name of Mock Orange.
Juniperus communis - Juniper - Cupressaceae
Morphology: Evergreen coniferous shrub to small tree, up to 8m. Very variable. Spiky leaves with a white strip on the inside, in 3s. Black berries take 3 years to ripen, up to 7mm.
Juniper has the largest range of any woody plant in the cool temperate northern hemisphere, appearing from the mountains of the southern arctic to around 30ºN latitude in North America, Europe and Asia. The berry-like female cones have a very strong flavour, which can be used in gin, stuffings, and sauces. The wood has little commercial value, but has traditionally been used to make decorative items and wooden cutlery. The wood has a long-lasting and pleasant aroma, and is very strong due to the plants slow growth.
Punica granatum - Pomegranate - Lythraceae
Morphology: Large deciduous shrub, up to 4m. Opposite, oblong-lanceolate leaves, up to 8cm. Orange-red flowers, 5-7 petals and 5-7 sepals, up to 3cm. Berry fruit, up to 12cm.
It is commonly believed that the pomegranate is native to Iran, and was grown in the hanging gardens of Babylon. Archaeological remains have been found in the Mediterranean from around 3,000 BC. Due to the pomegranate being relatively frost hardy (down to around 12 degrees celsius), it is often grown as an ornamental in colder climates, but it rarely sets fruit.
Juglans regia - Walnut - Juglandaceae
Morphology: Wide and gaunt deciduous tree, with heavy, twisting, oak-like branches, up to 30m. Compound leaves with 5-13 leaflets, the end one being largest at up to 20cm, the basal pair significantly smaller. Oval leaflets, shiny and leathery. The outer fruit splits in cultivated forms.
All Walnuts bear the name of the Roman sky god Jupiter, from the latin iovis glans, or ‘Jupiter’s nut.’ Walnuts may have originally come from Persia. Roman armies took it to France and Britain. ‘Gaul nut’ or wealh (the Anglo-Saxon word for foreign or alien) may be why the are called walnut in English. Walnut trees are traditionally ‘distressed’ by thrashing the foliage to stimulate fruiting.
Pinus longaeva - Bristlecone Pine - Pinaceae
Morphology: Medium evergreen tree, up to 15m. The trees have a gnarled and stunted appearance, especially those at high altitudes. In older specimens, much of the vascular cambium dies, and only a small section of the plant remains alive. Because the plants grow so slowly and live at an altitude where no decomposing fungi exist, their hard wood can take centuries to disappear after they die.
A species of long-living tree found in the higher mountains of the southwest United States. The species contains one individual, known as ‘Methuselah’, which is the longest living, non-clonal organism on earth, at 4789 years old. The exact location and identity of ‘Methuselah’ is not disclosed, in order to prevent vandalism.
Pisum sativum - Pea - Fabaceae
Morphology: Glaucous, green, climbing annual, up to 3.5m. Large, leaf-like stipules. Leaves consist of three leaflets. Thread-like tendrils are modified leaflets. White, purple or pink flowers. Seeds are globule, and vary from wrinkled to smooth, and colour, with green, brown, white and blue cultivars.
The pea was domesticated very early, around 8,000BC, in the fertile crescent. It was originally grown for its dried seed, but is now commonly grown for green immature seeds in the UK and the USA. Green pea production still only represents 10 per cent of global production, and it is the second most popular pulse. Peas were probably introduced to the UK by the Romans. Today it is cultivated in temperate climates, and as a cool-season crop in subtropical and high altitude tropical climates.
Ceratonia siliqua - Carob - Fabaceae
Morphology: Medium sized tree, up to 15m. Gnarled bark in older trees. Green pods, turning brown/black when ripe, up to 18cm.
Carob is grown in the Mediterranean and subtropical regions for the pod. The pod is lined with a soft brownish pulp, which is high in sugar, at around 50 per cent. This pulp is converted into a flour and used for bread, cakes and a chocolate substitute. Carob trees across the Mediterranean are increasingly neglected, due to the high cost of labour in the region.
Magnolia x soulangeana - Saucer Magnolia - Magnoliaceae
Morphology: A large deciduous shrub to small tree. Alternate leaves are simple, shiny, dark green and oval-shaped. Large flowers, in various shades of white, pink and maroon, varying from 10-20 centimeters in diameter.
Originally hybridized in France by Etienne Soulange-Bodin. It is a cross of M. denudata and M. liliiflora. It is widely used in horticulture for its flowers, which emerge before the leaves.
The Solanum crispum 'Glasnevin' at work has just started flowering.
This flowering climber is closely related to the potato, and has very small poisonous berries.
Citrus x limon - Lemon - Rutaceae
Morphology: Small evergreen tree, up to 6m. White flowers with 5 petals, up to 4cm. Yellow globose to elongated fruit, up to 15cm.
The lemon first arrived in the Middle East from India and China in the twelfth century, and has been cultivated ever since in Israel and Iran. It is best suited to dry, subtropical climates. The lemon is unquestionably one of the most versatile fruits, with practically all major cuisines including it as an essential flavouring. Most taxonomists believe that the lemon originated as a hybrid cross of the sour orange (C. aurantium) and the Citron (C. medica).
Prunus ‘Kanzan’ - Flowering Cherry - Rosaceae
Morphology: Generally low deciduous tree, up to 14m. Large, sparse leaves, turning rich amber and crimson-pink in the autumn. Hard pink flowers, with 23-28 petals. Rarely bearing fruit.
‘Kanzan’ is often included in the species P. Serrulata, and is one of the most popular flowering cherries. It is central to the Japanese custom of Hanami. It has been overused in the UK, and is responsible for giving its clan a bad reputation. P. avium is often used as a rootstock.