Sunday, May 22, 2016

Plant Story--the Dramatic Larkspurs

You hike the trail casually glancing into the brush and then, ooh! a bright blue spike of flowers catches the eye!  Larkspur!

larkspur, seen in Colorado
For me, larkspurs are one of the wildflower treats of spring.  Common enough that you see them, not common enough that you go "oh, just a larkspur."

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Visiting Northern Colorado--Horsetooth Mountain Park in Sunshine

Horsetooth Mountain Park, Fort Collins, Colorado

Five days later (see last week's blog) I revisited Horsetooth Waterfall Trail, this time on a sunny morning after three days of warm weather.

Flowers that close in cold weather were open!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Visiting Northern Colorado--Horsetooth Mountain Park in Spring Snow

Horsetooth Mountain Park
Horsetooth Mountain Park trail, in falling snow
April 28. I needed to check out the trailside plants of Horsetooth Mountain Park, on the west side of Fort Collins Colorado, for a plant hike I was going to lead the next weekend.

When I got there it was snowing. Lightly, mixed with sleet, but persistently.

One of the things I learned as a prairie ecologist: "do it now, the weather later may be worse."

Hiking out in the sleet/snow was cool but not unpleasant and I knew the weather forecast was for snow for the next three days. Out I went!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Visiting Australia—Glorious Kakadu National Park

Kakadu forest

Being in the Southern Hemisphere, the northern end of Australia is the warmest. In the lands east of Darwin on the northern coast, there is monsoon forest. A distinctly Australian tropical forest, very dry part of the year, alternating with periods so wet the low spots all become lakes and the roads disappear.

Kakadu National Park preserves a big part of that region for visitors to marvel at. It is the world's second largest national park and a World Heritage site (for both culture and nature), protecting a complex and diverse place.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Plant Story--Flowering Shrub of Spring, Amelanchier, Serviceberry, Saskatoon

A shimmer of white in my front yard: the serviceberry is flowering!

serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia

You might call it shadbush like my parents did, or saskatoon, as they do in Canada, or juneberry--the name you might see in the supermarket--or more regionally shadblow, sarvis or sarvisberry, sugarplum, wild-plum or chuckley pear.

All of these are names for native Amelanchier species, mainly A. alnifolia, though there are approximately 10 species native to North America (link: USDA plants)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Visiting Baja California—Amazing Plants

hillside, Gulf of California
island: Gulf of California
We set off for the Whales and Wildness cruise in the Gulf of California with Lindblad/National Geographic (link.)
From the moment I stepped out of the airport at San José del Cabo at the tip of the Baja California peninsula, the landscape was exotic:
scenery near San Jose del Cabo
From the van, north of San José del Cabo
The peninsula has a variety of climates, dry to extremely dry, hot to warm, some areas receiving summer rain, some with winter rain, all depending on exactly where you are. I saw only a sampling of it.

If you’ve been to the desert around Phoenix, Arizona, you’ve seen something like it. Deserts in this part of North America are very old. Baja California is in the core of this zone, with the most extreme, oldest desert and consequently with some of the strangest plants.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Visiting Portland--Japanese Garden

a red camellia
One of the highlights of Portland, Oregon for the plant enthusiasts is the Portland Japanese Garden (link).