Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tropical Flowers

orchids
orchids,  Singapore
Here is are a group of bright flowers, in case you are deep in snow as I am, are heading for a tropical holiday, or just enjoy the dramatic colors -- a collection of common tropical flowers. The tropics are defined as between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, the area around the Equator between 23 degrees north and south. Except at high elevations, this region never freezes and is generally quite warm and rainy.

All over the tropics you'll see:

Orchids! Members of the Orchidaceae, the plant family with more species than any of the other 400+ plant families, orchids have great diversity, from small pale flowers to large purple or red ones. People love them, so there are thousands of cultivated varieties. The vast majority of orchids require warm temperatures and high humidity so are easily grown in the warm tropics and less visible elsewhere.

orchids
another orchid seen in Singapore

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Plant Story -- the Mysterious Marquis Frangipani

The Marquis Frangipani eludes me.

plumeria

Frangipani, Plumeria, (link: previous post) is one of the plants where the common name is no easier than the scientific name: both are multi-syllable words unfamiliar to most people. The scientific name is Plumeria. That name was chosen by Linneaus in the middle 1700s in honor of the Franciscan monk and French botanist Charles Plumier (1646-1704, biography), who collected and described many plants in the Caribbean in the late 1600s, one of which was plumeria. The plant was of course well-known to native Americans across the Caribbean and central America. The Badianus Manuscript, 1552, describes it and its use by the Aztecs, but The Badianus Manuscript was not widely known or available for many years after it was written (link).

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Plant Story--Fragrant Plumeria, Frangipani, Temple Tree

I first saw it in Costa Rica in 1972. A beautiful plant with spiral white flowers and an enticing scent. Plumeria the biologists told me.

wild frangipani, Costa Rica 1973
wild frangipani, Costa Rica 1973
Several days later someone called it frangipani and I connected the little bottle from the New Age store with the beautiful flower.

But it is true. One common name for species of Plumeria is frangipani and it is the source of what I thought of as a rather cloying essential oil. I like the scent of the flowers much better. If you've never smelled a frangipani flower, you've missed a treat!


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Plant Puns

topiary, Japan
topiary, Japan
Why plant jokes? 

My goals writing about plants, travel, and history are to entertain with plant stories, making the point that plants are intriguing parts of our environment. Having a background in academia, I do factual easily, humor less easily. So I have been collecting plant jokes for the last couple of years and periodically inflicting them on people. Plant jokes are almost an oxymoron...how can passive little green things be funny? Here, wishing you a merry New Year, are three I liked:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Plant Story--Fragrant Rosemary

Rosemary is for remembrance.

rosemary flowers
rosemary in flower
That's one of the few commonly-remembered plant meanings.

The "Language of Flowers" was a Victorian creation, putting meanings onto plants, so a bud or bouquet could convey a very specific message. There seem to have been several systems, which meant you could misunderstand the message. But, using Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers, one of the still-available lists (link), a white rose would say "I'm worthy of you, " while receiving white and red roses together meant "unity." In Greenaway's system, rosemary meant "remembrance".

But rosemary's role in remembrance goes back way before the Victorian era (1837-1901). In both ancient Greece and Rome, rosemary was worn by couples at weddings and placed in the hands of the dead. Both of these evoke enduring affection and remembering. Furthermore Greek students reportedly wore rosemary in their hair for examinations, to better remember the information.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Botanist Visiting London--in December

Two years ago I was in London in the first half of December. Looking back at the photos, I'm struck by the contrast to Colorado at the same time of year.
London, December
northern Colorado, December
London is well north of Denver, any map will show you that. Yet, the ocean effects prevail: it was much warmer than the Colorado we'd left behind. Not only was it warmer, I saw many plants that we cannot grow in Colorado.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Visiting Norway--So Scenic! and more

video

Norway isn't just fjords. It has many miles of scenic coastline and islands, as in the video.

But also beautiful fjords (below). A fjord is a long deep canyon filled with seawater. Most were carved by glaciers. Fjords are rare around the world, the famous ones are in found in Norway, New Zealand, Chile, Canada, Alaska and Greenland.

 Hardranger Fjord, Norway Fjord, Norway