Sunday, April 12, 2015

Visiting Taiwan--Taroko Gorge

Taiwan is an island off the coast of Asia, shaped, they say, like a sweet potato. (map). The Tropic of Capricorn runs through it about 2/3 of the way south, so the northern part of Taiwan is subtropical and the south in the tropics. A chain of mountains fills the center of Taiwan, high enough and rugged enough that they are quite wild. 

On the east (Pacific) side of the island, just north of the middle of Taiwan, Taroko Gorge brings water from the mountains down to the ocean. It is spectacular.

I was back in Taiwan in March 2015 on a tour with China Span led by photographer Keren Su. We drove across Taiwan at Toroko Gorge. 

Taroko Gorge, Taiwan

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Plant Story--Eastern Pasqueflower, Anemone patens, Heralding Spring

The pasqueflowers are open! The native plants agree that it is spring.

Anemone patens, eastern pasqueflower

When I tell people pasqueflower is the first wildflower of spring, they look at me doubtfully because crocuses and daffoldils are in full bloom. But across most of its range, there are no native herbs that flower earlier in the spring than pasqueflower.

Pasqueflower is an anemone, Anemone patens. The name refers to its blooming time, from the Old French for Easter. In some places it is called May Day flower--same idea!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Plant Photo Album--Flowers of Early Spring

Spring flowers! All over the northern hemisphere, the weather is warming and we look forward to enjoying the first flowers.

What flower means spring to you?

In central North America where I live, the first native to flower is pasqueflower, Anemone patens.

pasqueflower, Anemone patens
Of course, native plants are mostly confined to reserves these days.

Often the first flower of spring that I see is the snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis). This is an early spring flower in Europe.


Crocuses (Crocus spp.) are perhaps the classical herald of spring. Native to Europe and the Middle East, they have been planted all over the world. 

crocuses, Crocus spp.
Also a first spring wildflower of Europe is the common primrose, Primula vulgaris. The prim- in the scientific name is based on primus, first in Latin. (my posts about primroses: folklore, botany, words )

common primrose, cowslip, Primula vulgaris
In much of North America, the first native shrub to flower is serviceberry, also called saskatoon and shadbush, Amelanchier alnifolia.

Amerlanchier alnifolia, service berry, saskatoon, shadbush
And soon after, plums and cherries are flowering. My flowering plum photos are from Taiwan, where, as in the rest of Asia, they are beloved signs of spring.

plums Taiwan
Flowering plums and photographers n Taiwan
plums Taiwan
in the mountains of Taiwan
And by the time the daffodils have opened, it is truly spring!


One more pasqueflower photo


Happy Spring!

Comments and corrections welcome.

Kathy Keeler

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Plant Story -- Pomegranates, Punica granatum, in History

pomegranates, Punica granatum
pomegranates, Punica granatum 
Pomegranates are a backyard shrub if you live where there are virtually no frosts, but an exotic fruit to people in climates with cold winters. The fruit ships well enough that northern grocery stores for decades have had pomegranate fruits now and then as novelties.

It is an easy fruit to recognize:  a dull orangy red hard outer coating and inside something like 300 seeds, each in a BRIGHT red sphere of translucence. I remember my first reaction as VERY wary--they looked like red fish eyes or frog's eggs. But one taste made me a fan! Pomegranate seeds are delicious!

pomegranates with seeds
pomegranates with seeds

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Plant Story -- Pomegranates, Punica granatum, in Story and Symbolism

A myth started me looking up pomegranates.

In Granada, Spain, last fall, the guides explained that Granada was named for pomegranates, granada in Spanish, and that the Moors had brought pomegranates to Spain. Which I heard as "the Moors brought pomegranates to Europe" since they introduced many Middle Eastern and Asian plants to Europe by planting them in Spain.

But I knew that pomegranates played an important role in Greek the Moors couldn't have brought pomegranates to Europe.

Pomegranates appear in mythology all over the Old World. Bright red flowers, big fruit full of seeds--everyone noticed them.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Plant Story--redstem stork's bill, Erodium cicutarium--early to flower!

On January 29, I found a plant flowering in northern Colorado at 5000' elevation--when it should be winter but there had been a warm spell. That plant was Erodium cicutarium, redstem stork's bill. It is a geranium relative from around the Mediterranean in Europe (family Geraniaceae).

Erodium cicutarium, redstem filaree
Erodium cicutarium, redstem stork's bill, flowering in January in Colorado

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Visiting Singapore--Sky scrapers and rainforest

Another place that energetically celebrates Chinese New Year is Singapore. (The traditional celebration went for many days, so you could still be celebrating new year for a couple of days into March 2013.)

Singapore is a complex, bustling mix of English, Chinese and Malay cultures, plus many smaller ones. When I was there in 2010, much of the rest of the world was in a recession but the economy of Singapore was strong.

port, Singapore