Sunday, March 26, 2017

Visiting Colorado--The Foothills in March

I've been out in Larimer County Parks, checking out sites for spring wildflower walks. I took lots of pictures to get a head start identifying the common plants on those trails. I thought my walks to be "early spring drab" ... then I reviewed my slides.


Carter Lake, Larimer County, Colorado
The trail beckons
south end of Sundance Trail, Carter Lake

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Plant Story--Stavesacre and Larkspurs in Europe

Delphinium, larkspur
Stavesacre. Would you think "larkspur"?

The larkspurs (Delphinium species) of North America are tall plants with curiously-shaped flowers in purple, blue or white. (Earlier blog, featuring American larkspurs link)

It was clear when researching American larkspurs that there were similar European plants because, well, the name larkspur is based on the flower looking like a lark's foot, but North America doesn't have a common bird we call a lark. The lark of England, more formally the Eurasian skylark Alauda arvensis, was a well-known and conspicuous bird of farmlands. Its numbers are drastically down recently and farmlands have retreated so perhaps it is not as well known as in the past link

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Common Names -- Different Names in Different Places

I've been drawing attention to problems in looking up plants online by their common names. Here is one final issue with common names: they are often regional. That means you can find the same name on a different plant if you are in a different part of the United States. Or not find useful websites because on those websites they use a different common name.

goat's beard, Tragopogon
goatsbeard, Tragopogon
For example, looking at plant books from different regions, I find two goatsbeards, Aruncus dioicus (see photos I don't have one of my own) and Tragopogon spp. (above and photos). Aruncus grows across the eastern US., Canada and along the West Coast (USDA maps, description at Missouri Botanic Garden). Tragopogon grows there too, but eastern U.S. books it is called salsify or oyster plant. Aruncus is not found in the central U.S., and in some plant identification books from here, it is Tragopogon that is called goatsbeard. I believe the name goatsbeard for Tragopogon came with it from Europe (see Culpeper, Grieve). Aruncus is an American species, more recently named goatsbeard, for the way it looks. Currently, the USDA plants website has Tragopogon as goatsbeard and Aruncus as bride's feathers while the Flora of North America calls Aruncus goatsbeard and Tragopogon salsify. No knowing what you'll get if you ask for goatsbeard. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Plant Story--Red Osier Dogwood, Winter Color

Bright stems in the snow! 
red osier dogwood
red osier dogwood in winter
Color when the plants are dormant, awaiting spring.

red osier dogwood
red osier dogwood in foreground

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bali Dye Garden -- Yellows and Reds

reds in Threads of Life shop, Ubud, Bali
Red-dyed yarn and cloth
 in Threads of Life shop, Ubud, Bali
Why did the tropical Asian dye garden lack plants for yellow dyes and have so many marked as red dyes?

I thought I knew a lot about dyeing. I’ve grown most of the dye plants available commercially, for example madder, weld, and dyer's safflower, I've dyed with spinach, onion skins, red cabbage (link) and other fruits, vegetables and spices that have a reputations for producing dyes. I've thrown practically everything that grew in my garden, from marigolds to English ivy, into a dye pot and I've gathered wild plants from aspen and bindweed (link) to yarrow to make dyes.

recently-dyed silks
 Silk scarves I dyed in 2016
And yet, in Ubud, Bali, the dye garden of Threads of Life had plants I had only read about and ingredients for processes I'd never thought of trying. An afternoon was not enough to really understand what I saw.

Doubtless you are thinking: of course there would be new plants, the native plants of the central U.S. are very different from Bali, in tropical Asia. And that's is part of it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Visiting Scotland--Beautiful Orkney

Orkney, Scotland

Sometimes the places I go are imbued with romance from my childhood. Ah, Orkney! In the King Arthur tales of my childhood, Sir Gareth of Orkney was my favorite. (Cliffnotes) Many places associated with King Arthur are in southern England, for example Cornwall, so I never grasped how far Gareth traveled to serve with King Arthur.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Carnivorous Plants, from Legos

Southeast Asia is famous for diverse and bizarre insectivorous plants.

For example these Nepenthes pitchers, seen in Seattle's Volunteer's Park Conservatory. About five inches long, the pitchers capture and digest insects to provide essential nutrients for the plant. Carnivorous plants are most diverse in low-nutrient ecosystems such as tropical bogs.


So I was pleased to see Nepenthes pitchers at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.


But wait! those aren't plants, those are built from legos!