Thursday, January 31, 2013

Names That Make Kids Laugh - Bladdernut

As I said in the post about the Chicken Mushroom, there are certain names of organism that are guaranteed to make kids (and even some adults) break out into laughter.  One the all time champions for this is the American Bladdernut tree.

In my elementary school program about Michigan trees, one of the activities is to look at leaf samples and categorize them as needle-leafs or broad-leafs.  I can tell almost instantly when a group of students has discovered the Bladdernut.

Either one member of the group will yell out the word "Bladdernut!" and they all start giggling, or the students will begin whispering and pointing and just have to show the word to members of another group. 

So what did the poor Bladdernut do to deserve this reaction?

The American Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) is a small broadleaf tree (or shrub) that grows throughout eastern North America.  It grows up to 15 feet tall and is found in the understory of wet deciduous forests, especially floodplain forests.  As the trifolia in its scientific name suggests, it has compound leaves consisting of three leaflets.

The tree gets the common name Bladdernut from it's fruit. 

Bladdernut "bladders" and leaves
 When the average Third Grade student hears the word bladder they immediately think of their own bladder and associate the tree somehow with bodily functions. The "bladder" of the bladdernut is like a urinary bladder in that it is a bag-like container, but instead of containing liquid it contains air.

The fruit of the American Bladdernut forms a hollow three chambered "bladder" that is about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5-4.0 centimeters) long.  Each hollow chamber of the fruit contains a small seed or nut that is about 3/16 inch (1/2cm) in diamater.  As the fruit dries, the seed becomes loose inside the chamber and can rattle around.  On a windy day you can actually stand beneath an American Bladdernut and hear the seeds as they rattle within the fruit.

Two Bladdernut fruits
Please forgive the Bladdernut its funny name.  It does not mean to offend you or make you laugh, afterall it didn't name itself.

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