Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tulips and the Tulip Bubble Part 2

This is part two of a pair of posts about the Tulip Bubble, aka tulipomania, when in the 1630s in Holland the price of a tulip bulb inflated incredibly, and then suddenly dropped. My last post described Holland at that time. The merchant class had lots of money but because of sumptuary laws and Calvinist beliefs, spent it on houses and gardens not jewels and furs.Tulips had been introduced from Turkey after 1550. They were still uncommon and some highly desirable varieties were very rare indeed. The result was a bubble...

tulips

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tulips and the Tulip Bubble Part 1

Tulips are blooming.

red and white tulips

They're a riot of color that make people smile.

Yet economists make a Bad Example of tulips. Tulips created the earliest well-recorded bubble, defined by dictionary.com as "A period of wild speculation in which the price of a commodity or stock or an entire market is inflated far beyond its real value." Bubbles “burst” when a general awareness of the folly emerges and the price drops. 
 
The story gets a lot of attention because it seems so bizarre. How could someone spend thousands of dollars on a single tulip bulb? People did. At the peak of the tulip bubble, a bulb was traded for a house on the canal in Amsterdam, one of the most expensive locations in the world at the time. That's millions of dollars at today's prices. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Plant Story--the Merry Periwinkle, Vinca

Periwinkle is an early spring flower that doesn't get much notice. But it has long colorful history.

periwinkle, Vinca

The name periwinkle is an old English name for a group of plants native to Europe and the Middle East in the genus Vinca. The name periwinkle has been applied to a number of other plants, particularly related plants from the tropics with similarly-shaped flowers (Catharanthus). Periwinkle is also the name of a common seashell (Littorina littorea) and its relatives photos. I'll talk about the two species of perennial, creeping blue-flowered plants, Vinca major and Vinca minor, commonly planted all across the United States and much of Canada. You can find ornamental forms of periwinkle with variegated leaves and with flowers shading from deep blue-purple to white. Vinca minor, the common periwinkle is a little smaller but more winter-hardy than the greater periwinkle, V. major. They are members of the dogbane family Apocynaceae.

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.

Look!

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.