Sunday, December 27, 2015

Visiting Alberta--Cattail Marshes and Flyways

Big Lake, Alberta
Big Lake, Alberta
Winter is settling in in Colorado. Some of our Canada geese have gone south, but others still sweep by overhead.

On the edge of Edmonton, Alberta, 1000 miles north of us, sits Big Lake, in the Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park. (links: Prov.Park  Big Lake Support Soc. ) The lake is a critically important spot for birds migrating across North America.

Remembering visiting it in midsummer, I am reminded that neither plants nor wildfowl value the same things about places that people do.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Plant Story--Peas, Pisum sativum

peas


The three faces of peas--fresh peas, dried peas, and edible-pod peas--are different enough that it is hard remembering they are all the same thing, peas, Pisum sativum (pea family, Fabaceae).

Mostly, when we say "peas" today, we are thinking of shelling peas (garden peas, English peas) especially ones that have been frozen, since peas freeze really well and season for fresh peas is short.

fresh peas
Fresh shelled peas
But it was because they could be dried and stored that peas were one of the very first plants domesticated in the Middle East.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Plant Story--The Beautiful, Iconic Poinsettia

Happy Poinsettia Day!
poinsettia
poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima
December 12 is Poinsettia Day. It is the day Joel Roberts Poinsett, from whom the plant gets its English name, died. Poinsett brought poinsettias to the United States. I always prefer days honoring people's birthdays, but, alas, Poinsett was born in March.

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima, mallow family, Malvaceae) are probably the most visible Christmas/ holiday flower today.

Which seems puzzling, poinsettias are native to the Americas. They could not have, and did not, come to the New World from Europe with Christianity.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Plant Ecology--Tumbleweeds, the Lifestyle

young tumbleweed
young tumbleweed
In the dry fall of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, the tumbleweeds let go and roll around.  Drifts on fences from the region make dramatic pictures link

While there are plants called tumbleweeds, actually tumbleweeding is something diverse plants do.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Range of Prairie Plants--Natives of Edmonton, Alberta


blanket flower Gaillardia
blanket flower Gaillardia aristida
"I know that plant!" I was 1200 miles almost due north of home, in Edmonton, Alberta at a Botanical Society meeting. I had never been that far north in Canada. There, a native garden at the Shaw Conference Centre featured plants important to the local Cree tribe. And most were plants I knew from Colorado. See blanket flowers, asters, monarda in Edmonton, below and in my "grow local natives" Denver Post article.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Visiting the Southern Hemisphere--Searching for the Southern Cross

Don’t you hang upside down in the Southern Hemisphere? 

It sounds strange to ask that, but since ancient Greece, it has been a recurring question:  how can there be life south of the Equator, if the world is spherical, won't anyone there fall off? 

When experienced, the Southern Hemisphere feels like the Northern Hemisphere.
Uluru, Australia Nobody falling off
Tourists at Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia
Nobody falling off.
But because the Southern Hemisphere IS on the other half of the earth from the Northern Hemisphere, the stars are seen from a different angle. Familiar constellations such as Orion hang upside down. But also, the reversed seasons means that Orion is a constellation of summer, when the days are long and star gazing requires staying up late, while Leo, a constellation I rarely see because it is high in the sky early in the night only during the northern summer, is easily seen in the southern winter nights.

And of course, the Polaris, the Pole Star over the North Pole, is hard to see from the Southern Hemisphere, staying low on the horizon, as does the constellation in which it sits, the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor). Conversely, the constellation over the South Pole, the Southern Cross, rises higher and is easier to see the farther south you go.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Plant Wonders--10 Tropical Plants Not to Miss

Costa Rican rainforest
Looking into the Costa Rican rainforest
Ew! The tropics! Deadly snakes and poisonous plants! I tip-toed through the vegetation as if every leaf would bite!

I first encountered the tropics in 1973, when I took an Organization for Tropical Studies course, Tropical Ecology, which introduced U.S. graduate students to the tropics, in Costa Rica. At the beginning of the course, they gave us a safety orientation: these snakes are poisonous, these ants have a sting that will incapacitate you, these leaves cause welts...

Suitably intimidated--having experienced only the northern United States--I stayed in the middle of the path and tried not to get close to the leaves.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Visiting Taiwan--Wild is Close By

Taiwan is a small and densely populated island (link), but it has high mountains in the center and those mountains are so rugged that that they remain wild. Because it is a small island, access to wild Taiwan is surprisingly easy. You can, for example, take a city bus from downtown Taipei, Taiwan's capital, to Yangmingshan Park, hike for the afternoon and take the bus back to the city center, or start from there on a backpack adventure through the mountains of central Taiwan.

Taiwan

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Plant Story--Franklinia, the extinct American camellia

On a tour of gardens in Philadelphia, the local guide stopped and said proudly " this is our franklinia." It was the third different franklinia tree pointed out to us. 

Being from Colorado, my reaction was "so?" No franklinias in Colorado.
Franklinia alatamaha
Franklinia alatamaha franklinia or the Franklin tree

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Visiting Cinque Terre on the Coast of Italy

Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre, Italy 
Four years ago I took a hiking tour of Cinque Terre and Tuscany in Italy with Backroads. Hiking tours range from extremely strenuous to modest. Backroads had options for a variety of walkers. My husband and I had gotten into shape but mostly we were the laggards. Where I took the van the last mile, others in the group found an extra loop to walk. An important lesson I learned from that tour was that being in good enough shape to hike the distance is not sufficient: I needed to be better than that, fit enough to enjoy the walking. 

Despite the discomfort of being behind almost everyone, I had a terrific experience.

I had not been to Italy, so the landscapes with olive trees or Lombardy poplars were enchanting. Wow! it looks like pictures I've seen!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Just a Glimpse of Milkweed Diversity

swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata
swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata
Milkweeds, genus Asclepias, the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, are wonderful plants. They are such a distinctive group that they are easy for botanical beginners to recognize. Consequently, I have been taking photographs of milkweeds since I was a graduate student who could identify only one or two wildflowers.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Milkweeds, Monarch Butterflies and Colorado

"Plant milkweeds!" they say. But which ones?
common milkweed, A. syriaca
common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca
The number of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexipus) seen in the eastern United States has declined dramatically over the last couple decades. Monarch experts, e.g. Drs. Lincoln Brower and Orley Taylor, make a strong case that the decline has been caused by several factors: First, 1), changes in agriculture in the U.S. midwest that have reduced the number of milkweeds for monarch butterflies to feed upon. In particular, use of herbicide-resistant crops eliminated the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca (dogbane family, Apocynaceae) which had been growing as a weed in the corn and soybeans. Simultaneously, high prices for corn and soybeans, now used for biofuels (ethanol) as well as human and animal food, favored expansion of weed-free cropland into areas that previously supported wild plants including milkweeds. Another cause of monarch butterfly decline is, 2), loss of forests in their overwintering grounds in Mexico, due to illegal logging and poor management. In addition, 3), periods of unfavorable weather reduced growth of monarchs and allowed their natural enemies, from birds and ants to fungal diseases, to find and kill them. (See the Taylor lecture with all the data; link). To counter the decline in monarch butterflies, many changes may be required, but much can be done by having more milkweeds available for the butterflies. Monarch butterfly caterpillars eat milkweeds and accept no substitutes. Consequently, concerned experts and citizens urge planting milkweeds so that there is ample food for monarch caterpillars. Adult butterflies get norishment for the nectar from flowers of many plant species so adult food is rarely an issue.

milkweeds in Colorado
wild milkweeds in Colorado, showy milkweed
If a major part of the problem is reduction in milkweed numbers, then planting milkweeds is a very effective response. To aid that, a variety of organizations are advising people all across North America to plant milkweeds, providing links and advice, and in some cases giving away milkweed seeds. (Monarch Watch, Save our Monarchs, Xerces Society )

However, not everyone should just write away for free seeds and toss them into their yard. My concerns are from the point of view of growing well-adapted native plants. If the plant dies, you've wasted your time and energy and any monarch caterpillars relying on it die too. Conversely, introducing troublesome new weeds would be an undesirable outcome of this campaign. Plant the right milkweed for your area.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Visiting Philadelphia--Mount Cuba Center


Gardening with natives, East Coast style.
cardinal flower and ferns, Mount Cuba Center
On a Road Scholar tour of gardens of the Philadelphia area, we visited Mount Cuba Center. Located in Hockessin, Delaware, the site was the home and gardens of Mr. and Mrs. Lamott du Pont Copeland. Purchased over 70 years ago, the Copelands gradually transformed their home on the top of Mt. Cuba into sweeping vistas, beautiful woods and meadows and luscious gardens. Not only devoted to beauty, the Mt. Cuba Center has become dedicated to promoting gardening and landscaping with native plants. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Garden Flowers, Gardening with Native Wildflowers

The garden flowers of the central U.S. are mostly not native.

The garden store was robbed:  it was a violet crime.
sweet violet, Viola odorata
sweet violet, Viola odorata
Many typical garden flowers are from Europe, grown by Europeans for hundreds of years. Examples of these are bachelor buttons (Centaurea cyanus also called cornflower), daffodils (Narcissus many species), and pinks and carnations (Dianthus many species). And violets. Violets are native all across the world, but the cultivated ones are almost all European. That includes pansies (Viola tricolor) johnny-jump-ups (Viola cornuta), the sweet violet (Viola odorata) and others.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Visiting Philadelphia--Ladew Topiary Garden

It's a vegetable dog! topiary, Ladew Garden

In early September I took a tour of Philadelphia featuring gardens (Road Scholar link). Here is a look at Ladew Topiary Garden

Henry Ladew (1887-1976) loved fox hunting and managed to fox hunt in the United States and England every year for decades. He purchased a home in Monkton, Maryland in 1929 and spent fifty years arranging things. He was very influenced by gardens he saw in England. My pictures feature the topiary, but the garden also has "rooms" where all the flowers are iris, or white or pink, really fun to see. (And, as with any garden, different seasons can be dramatically different.)

The signature topiary, a fox hunt. My photo only captures part of it: there is a second rider. (I don't have a closer picture: the fox, dogs, rider and fence are all shaped plants.)

topiary, Ladew Garden


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dye Plants--Colors of Red Cabbage Update

I don't see a way to upload a photograph into Comments, so I will respond here to a question on the red cabbage dyed cloth.

The original post: The Colors of Red Cabbage

Saffi commented on 9/11/15 "Lovely post with clear instructions and great pictures. Can I ask how the silk is one year on? Has the colour faded or changed at all? "

I located the silk pieces from that project. Below first, are the pieces photographed dry, from top to bottom they are alkaline, neutral and acid. The rug underneath is beige.
red cabbage-dyed silk rephotographed
red cabbage-dyed silk.
Top to bottom: alkaline, neutral and acid.
photographed dry on 9/17/15

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Plant Stories--The Rise of the Tomato

salad with tomatoTomatoes are everyday foods in the United States. In fact, we often count on them to complete a salad. Years ago, on a business flight, I sat next to a vegetable-broker who told me had made a tidy profit on tomatoes one year when the supplies were limited. He explained that "a salad has to have tomato." Since Americans feel a salad must have a slice of tomato, restaurants will pay whatever it costs for tomatoes. With most vegetables, when the price gets high, they substitute or do without. Knowing that, he was careful to buy tomatoes when a shortage was predicted and happily rode the bidding war that followed.

I do not think it is quite that simple today. Restaurants have created salad options that let them omit  tomatoes if they aren't affordable, but it emphasizes the stature of tomatoes in the American diet.

Thus, it seems puzzling that loving tomatoes hasn't been universal.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Bit About Tomato, the Vegetable

Tomatodirt.com asks: What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?


>Knowledge is knowing that tomatoes are fruits. Wisdom is not serving them in a fruit salad.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Finding Wildflower Seeds to Plant

Gaillardia, blanket flower
Gaillardia, probably the hybrid
I wrote about growing locally-native wildflowers in the Denver Post last week, but provided no sources for the plants mentioned. (link)


Several people have asked about seeds, which led me to spend the afternoon searching the web.

No one seed company has all 12 plants. I am sorry about that:  I checked many things for the article, but not the pattern of seed availability.


Here is what I found on Sept. 1, 2015:  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Plant Story--Gaura coccinea, Oenothera suffructescens, Pretty Native Wildflowers

Oenothera suffrutescens scarlet gauraWhat is that little plant?
Across most of the United States you can find it growing on sandy, disturbed sites. 

It is Oenothera suffrutescens, formerly Gaura coccinea, scarlet gaura, also known as scarlet bee blossom, butterfly weed, scarlet butterfly weed, gray scarlet gaura, wild honeysuckle, waving butterfly and linda tarde. 

Scarlet gaura is native to central North America, from Manitoba south to central Mexico. In addition it has been introduced and has escaped from California to Maine (at least) that so it is pretty much continent-wide in North America. In California it is a noxious weed.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Visiting the Peruvian Amazon--Flooded Forests

flooded forest, Amazonian Peru
The Amazon Rainforest! The very name was romantic. And when I was in graduate school in the 1970s, the rainforest was rapidly being cut down. People predicted it would soon be gone.

I resolved to see it by 1984. Before it was gone.

I actually got to the Amazon Basin in 2011.

A little late.

But, fortunately for me, countries in the Amazon Basin have created great natural reserves to protect the plants and animals. Conservationists point out that some of those reserves are not well-managed and that fine-sounding national laws are not necessarily enforced, but compared to the 1970s, the situation is much improved.

The Amazon Basin is huge. 2.67 million square miles, 40% of South America. The contiguous United States (omitting Alaska and Hawaii) is 3.12 million square miles. The Amazon Basin is the size of 85% of the contiguous United States. Therefore, "seeing it" isn't done in one trip. What I saw was a section of the Amazon Basin in Peru, upriver from the city of Iquitos. (Map of Peru with Iquitos: link. Map of Iquitos showing its position in the Amazon Basin: link The Amazon drains east from Iquitos through the dark green area of the map to the Atlantic in northern Brazil.)

There were two wonders of the world that I knew I wanted to see: 1) forests that flooded 10 or 20 feet during the rainy season, and 2) black and white rivers.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Grasses

lawns
Note the grasses.
Grasses. They're everywhere, but often unnoticed.

hay field
Haying a native grassland in Nebraska
But if a grass were to tell about the world it would point out:

1) There are a LOT of grasses. 11,337 species, making them, the Poaceae also called the Graimeae, the 4th largest plant family.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Plant Story--Bachelor Buttons and Cornflowers, Centaurea cyanus

Centaurea cyanus

Cornflower? Why would they call it a cornflower?

That is a typical American reaction to the English name for a bachelor button, Centaurea cyanus.

The story is this:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Visiting Wyoming near Driggs, Idaho - Gorgeous Hiking

Spectacular!
mountain and forest

On the trip to the Botanical Society of America meetings in Boise, Idaho in 2014, we looped back to Colorado via Driggs, Idaho. Staying over night in Driggs, we took the nearest easy hike available and it was gorgeous. Just east of Driggs we drove Ski Hill Road to the Teton Canyon Trailhead, just across border in Wyoming. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Plant Story--Helianthus pumilus, the Dwarf Sunflower

"Ordinary" is a point of view. One person's ordinary is another person's rare and exotic observation.

Helianthus pumilus
Helianthus pumilus, the bush sunflower
I frequently hike along the trails in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Larimer County, Colorado. An ordinary plant growing along the trails is a small sunflower, Helianthus pumilus (daisy family, Asteraceae), called the dwarf sunflower or bush sunflower. It is pretty common on the trails and one quickly ceases to notice it. But, it is endemic to this area and you won't see it more than 250 miles north (Casper WY) or 200 miles south (just southwest of Pueblo, CO). Looking at the specimens recorded by the Rocky Mountain Herbarium (link), it doesn't occur  lower than about 5800' or higher than about 8000.' The only place in the world it is an ordinary plant is right here.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Plant Story--the Exquisite Lotus

lotus Nelumbo nucifera

"As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, so I, born in the world, raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world,” wrote Siddhartha Gautama Buddha.  Thus, the lotus is an important symbol in Buddhism.

Buddha's imagery is an accurate description of the life of lotus plants.

lotus Nelumbo nucifera

Lotus, also called the sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera (lotus family, Nelumbonaceae) has been grown across Asia for millennia. Not just beautiful, it is an important food plant. The leaves, rhizomes ("roots') and seeds are edible (link).

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Visiting Frisia--The Edge of the North Sea

coast, Frisian Islands
the Frisian Coast
Frisians? Who are the Frisians?

I first remember asking that question in reaction to a Great Courses course (link) about the Vikings. The Vikings came out of Scandinavia as raiders about 700 AD. Better ships, more seaworthy on rougher seas, made that possible, but authors only speculate on the social and cultural forces that motivated Scandinavians to become Vikings. Before 700, the people of Scandinavia were thought to be a backwater of Europe. But not really so backward, the course suggested, because they traded with the Frisians who traded with the Romans, so that all manner of Roman Empire technology made its way into Scandinavian villages.

So who were the Frisians? When a tour (National Geographic Expeditions, see details) offered a stop on the Frisian Islands, I was in!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Visiting Northern Colorado--Fields of Wildflowers!

wildflowers, Rabbit Ears Pass Trail, Colorado early July 2015

We looped through the mountains of northern Colorado and southern Wyoming this last week (June 28-July 3 2015). In May the snowfall in this area was particularly heavy, resulting in a relatively late snowmelt and an abundance of water for wildflowers.

wildflowers, Intersection routes 40 and 14, Colorado, early July 2015

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Plant Story--Beautiful Blanket Flower, Gaillardia

Blanketflower, Gaillardia, is a native you probably know as a garden flower. Native garden flowers are not all that common.
blanket flower, Gaillardia

Recently, talking and writing about garden flowers, I looked at the origins of common garden flowers and noticed that only a few of them are native to central North America. The simplest explanation is time. Europeans first encountered these American plants in the early 1800s, so that's the earliest that they might have been considered for European-style flower gardens. In contrast, many European and Asian plants have been grown in gardens for 2,000 years. The consequences of long periods in cultivation include familiarity--how often do we favor the plants we grew up with? In addition, cultivation changes plants to make them more attractive in gardens, creating multiple colors, multiple sizes (for example, dwarf varieties), doubled flowers, high and predictable seed germination, good survival of transplanted cuttings. It reduces undesirable characteristics such as spines and aggressive spreading. Roses, lilies, most iris, crocuses, peonies, dahlias, daffodils and narcissus, tulips, and lilacs--to name a few--are all from Eurasia.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Visiting Taiwan--Flowers, Sheep and Lanterns

Taiwan

My wandering took me back to Taiwan in February 2015. 

The plums and cherries were in bloom, attracting people with cameras. 

cherries, Taiwan

The Lunar/Chinese New Year started relatively late compared to the western calendar's year 2015. Consequently February '15 fell within the first month of the New Year and people still had their decorations up while I was there. Traditionally Lunar New Year celebrations included holidays at both the beginning and the end of the month. Since it was the Year of the Sheep (or ram, or goat or lamb or kid...the Chinese term, yรกng, is ambiguous) there was ample opportunity for people to make creative displays.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Plant Story--Abronia fragrans, Prairie Snowball, Lovely and Elusive

Abronia fragrans is a plant I would like to grow. So far, no luck!

Abronia fragrans, prairie snowball

My common name for Abronia fragrans is prairie snowball, but the USDA website prefers snowball sand verbena and the Flora of North America calls it fragrant white sand-verbena. It is a small perennial plant in the family Nyctaginaceae (the family of four o'clocks and bouganvillea), native to the central U.S. plains (Distribution link).

I first encountered it at the University of Nebraska's Cedar Point Biological Station north of Ogallala, NE. We'd play volleyball after dinner beside the dining hall. About the time we were quitting one evening, I smelled a lovely scent. I circled our sandy playing field and found a scruffy little plant with long tubular white flowers. The scent reminded me of lilacs.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Plant Story -- Iris, All the Colors of the Rainbow

Iris is a common garden plant all around the world.

iris

The genus Iris, in the iris family, Iridaceae, has about 280 species, distributed all around the Northern Hemisphere, from Alaska eastward to Japan. People have been attracted to iris for a very long time--Pharoh Thutmose III had irises that he brought back from his conquest of Syria (1479 BC) painted on his tomb. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Visiting Northern Colorado--Devil's Backbone in Late Spring

Go out and notice the flowers!
Devil's Backbone hike

Devil's Backbone Natural Area is a popular recreation (hiking, bird-watching) area just west of Loveland, Colorado.

Like any natural area--and parks and gardens and agricultural fields as well--what you see depends on when you go. I hiked there on a late May morning, preparing to lead a plant walk. 

Here are a few of the plants I saw:

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Visiting Gibraltar part 2 -- A Fascinating Rock

I hadn’t grasped how small and densely populated Gibraltar is: 2.6 square miles with over 30,000 people.
Gibraltar

The bay teemed with commerce. 

The residents are packed in along the coast. Since the land rises steeply and Gibraltar has water on three sides driving is tricky. In the residential areas, cars weave through narrow streets. The essential tourist trip to the Top of the Rock is one-way, winding and sometimes motionless, with lines of vans carrying tourists.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Visiting Gibraltar--At the End of the Mediterranean

GibraltarGibraltar! A name of adventure. I had read of it in many novels; now I was eager to see it for myself.  Not only was there The Rock, but I also found monkeys, coastal plants and caves.

Gibraltar is, in the words of Wikipedia a "monolithic limestone promontory."  On the southern edge of Europe, it protrudes south into the Mediterranean, creating the spot where the passage from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic is the narrrowest. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Plant Story--Daphne, Attractive and Fragrant

Daphne odora

Winter daphne, also called fragrant daphne, Daphne odora, is a flowering shrub from Asia. It is in the plant family, Thymelaeaceae, which, because most of its members are Old World, is not well known to Americans. You could call the Thymelaeaceae the daphne family or the spurge laurel family. Daphnes are planted as garden shrubs.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Visiting Northern Colorado--June Flowers at Carter Lake

Lithospermum
fringed puccoon, Lithospermum incisum
Check out the flowers at Carter Lake this spring!

This blog post shows flowers from early June 2014--soon to be visible again!

 We drove to the south end of Carter Lake, southern Larimer County, Colorado, and took a casual walk in the campground. It was very quiet on a weekday morning.















Sunday, April 26, 2015

Plant Story-- Yellow Salsify, Tragopogon dubius, Weedy and Edible

Yellow salsify, a plant I always called goat's beard, Tragopogon dubius, is coming up as a weed all over my garden. Right now it looks like the picture below, a spidery little plant.

yellow salsify

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Visiting San Francisco -- Asian Influences




San Francisco

I recently wrote about Taiwan and Singapore as places to enjoy Chinese New Year celebrations. That made me think of places closer to home with rich Asian traditions--in particular, San Francisco. 

I lived in San Francisco for part of a year and across the Bay in Berkeley and Oakland for five. I have visited frequently since. I'm not particularly fond of cities, but I'm fond of San Francisco.

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

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