Sunday, September 16, 2018

Gardens of Near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In 2016 I took a late summer garden tour of Philiadelphia and nearby areas with Road Scholar tours. I was born in New Jersey and spent my early years in Pennsylvania and central New York, but I've lived 49 years since in drier places, so I reveled in the greenness and the masses of bright flowers. This post celebrates the beauty of that region.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Plant Story--Beautiful, Invasive Lantana, Lantana camara

lantana, Lantana camara

Lantana, Lantana camara (in the verbena family, Verbenaceae) is a common ornamental and an easy plant to recognize. It is a tropical American shrub, native to Central and South America. In wild plants, the open flowers in the center of the group are yellow while the older flowers around them are orange. But there were enough natural color variants and related species with flowers of other colors that to grow in your garden you can find lantana with flowers ranging from white and lavender to  pink, yellow orange and deep red. (link)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Edible Plants--Conflicting Stories

elderberry, Sambucus, in flower
elderberry, Sambucus, with unripe berries
Finding out whether a plant you want to gather and eat is safe to eat can be confusing. For some plants, you can quickly find sources that say both "yes it is poisonous" and others that say the exact opposite, "no, it isn't poisonous." Two examples are black nightshade (Solanum nigrum, tomato family Solanaceae) and elderberries (Sambucus spp., elderberry family, Adoxaceae). Both are described on the internet as both edible and poisonous. (Solanum examples: link link link) (Elderberry examples link link link)

a nghtshade, Solanum
a nightshade, Solanum species
Three issues underlie these contradictions: 1) cautious publications, 2) geographical variation with sloppy identification and 3) quantity.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

What Happened to Rosemary?

Rosemary is a sun-loving plant of the rocky areas along the Mediterranean Sea, from the south of Spain into the Middle East. Her leaves are long and fragrant, her flowers a beautiful purple. Long ago humans found her scent calming and the oils in her leaves a fine flavoring. She had two close relatives, sisters you might say, but they grew only in local areas near her, while rosemary herself was carried around the world by humans. (See previous blog about rosemary link).

rosemary with former name on tag

But one day, in 2015, botanists sent rosemary's DNA off to the botanical equivalent AncestryDNA and when the results came back, they were shocking.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Visiting Minnesota--Lovely Forestville State Park

Minnesota forest

I took a field trip to Forestville/ Mystery Cave State Park during the Botanical Society of America meetings (meeting post). It is a reserve in the driftless region, places the glaciers somehow missed. The glaciers nevertheless rearranged the area, as rivers of meltwater cut deep channels and, slowing, dropped everything from sand to boulders.

Today the area is at the western edge of the great Eastern Deciduous Forest that covered the eastern United States. The forest in Forestville is secondary growth, having been farmland in the 1890s, but progressively abandoned thereafter, officially designated a state park in the 1960s. Minnesota Parks has making a concerted effort to remove weeds and favor native plants. Experts can show you the imperfections, but to a casual visitor, it is a lovely forest.

botanists on field trip

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Visiting Colorado--Old Fall River Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

alpine tundra, Rocky Mountain National Park
Almost to the top of Old Fall River Road
Old Fall River Road was the first automobile road to the alpine tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park; it opened in 1920.  It is unpaved and runs steeply up. It hasn't been continuously open: for almost a decade in the 1950-1960's it was closed by a landslide. Today it is open when (mostly) snow -free, about Memorial Day to Labor Day--until Oct. 1 in 2018. It is one-way, uphill only.

Long vehicles are discouraged. We were a bit concerned about taking a Prius but in fact having a compact car made the turns, some truly hair-pin, easier for us than for bigger vehicles. Had it been after a heavy rain, we might have regretted the Prius: there were muddy ruts in the road, some quite deep, but when we were there, dry and easily avoided.

So on a sunny morning we headed up Old Fall River Road.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Botanists at Work--Botany2018 Meeting

This year I again attended the Botanical Society of America annual meeting this year in Rochester, Minnesota. I go to keep up--since I write this blog from retirement, attending professional meetings helps me check that I am providing accurate information.

Rochester Minnesota

So I attended general lectures and technical papers, read posters, looked at the books the publishers brought and, of course, talked to people.