Sunday, June 29, 2014

Plant story - the handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrata, the Chinese dove tree

Davidia involucrata, Gothenburg, Sweden
handkerchief tree
It is always a treat to actually see some plant I have only read about!

In May 1888, Irish plant-hunter Augustine Henry “was riding his pony through a river valley [in Hubei, China] when he spotted a single, spectacular tree flowering near the base of a large cliff. As he was later to relate, the scene was one of the strangest sights he ever witnessed in China. It seemed as though the branches had been draped in thousands of ghostly-white handkerchiefs.”  (O'Brien p. 79)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Visiting Kauai -- Native Flowers!

Last post I showed spectacular tropical flowers you can easily see in Kauai. (LINK) Those are from elsewhere in the tropics, brought to Hawaii because someone liked them.

Also in Kauai are native plants. It is believed that since the volcanic emergence of the Hawaiian Islands from the Pacific, 271 different plants have arrived without help from humans--as seeds, as pieces, traveling by bird, floating or on the wind--and established populations. From those 271 colonists, about 1200 species have evolved, spread over the Hawaiian Islands.  Here are some examples:

Metrosideros polymorpha, ohia lehua

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Visiting Kauai

eroded hills of Kauai
eroded hills of Kauai

This spring, we spent most of a week on Kauai, Hawaii.

The north- and east-most of the major Hawaiian islands, it is the oldest. The 10,000 foot mountains it once boasted now reach only to 5243 feet. But that doesn’t make them inconsequential. In fact, erosion reduced the mountains without considering humans. Kauai has canyons and valleys that are not--just simply are not--accessible. The only way in or out is by helicopter. In good weather. Wow, an island of 552 square miles (one third the size of Long Island, New York, 1,401 sq. miles) with  places you cannot hike or climb to.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Dye Plant -- Colors of Red Cabbage

Many household products, such as coffee, tea and turmeric, are effective dyes. I have gotten good colors from spinach (link), but don't find much dye in iceberg lettuce or yellow cabbage. However, red cabbage, Brassica oleracea, turns the water a lovely shade and can be fun to dye with.

Unlike spinach, which gives colors from olive to yellow depending on the mordant, red cabbage is pH sensitive. That is the key to the dye project described below.

I started with one red cabbage.

Dyestuff: 1 red cabbage, Brassica oleracea
Dyestuff: 1 red cabbage, Brassica oleracea