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

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Visiting Taiwan-a Very Beautiful Island

Chinese New Year--start of the year on the Asian lunar calendar--in which February 19, 2015 is the first day of the first month of 4713, reminds me of places other than the People's Republic of China where the holidays of the lunar calendar are celebrated.

One is Taiwan.

Taiwan is a subtropical island off the coast of Asia. It has belonged to both China and Japan in the last 300 years and has an indigenous population that is neither Chinese or Japanese, so Taiwan is a very interesting blend of cultures. Currently they are a self-governed democracy. They industrialized early and are prosperous and high-tech.

beach, Taiwan

As an island, Taiwan is surrounded by beaches and beautiful ocean views. The temperatures are mild and the air warm and humid. But down the center is a range of high mountains, so you can retreat up into the mountains for a change in temperature.

mountains of Taiwan

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Visiting China--Garden of the Master of Nets, Suzhou

Garden of the Master of Nets, Suzhou, China
Garden of the Master of Nets, Suzhou, China
A walk in the rain.

In China, I toured the classical gardens of Suzhou.  For generations, great respect was given to pensioners, especially former government officials, who build exquisite gardens where they wrote poetry and studied arts such as calligraphy. In Suzhou, you can visit several of the finest surviving traditional Chinese gardens.

The Garden of the Master of Nets is probably my favorite, and it is regarded as among the very best. It is not very large. Land has been at a premium in China for hundreds of years. Part of the art of the traditional garden was to make a small area seem large and interesting. Corners and walls were arranged so that, seen from a different angle, the same spot looked quite different.