Sunday, March 27, 2016

Plant Story--Deathcamas

Deathcamas. It is a name to put you off from the start.

Yet it has a beautiful flower!

Zigadenus venenosus meadow deathcamas
Zigadenus venenosus meadow deathcamas
Pretty isn't it?
The deathcamases are found all over North America (USDA page) but especially in the west. The species in my photos, Zigadenus venenosus, meadow deathcamas, grows all over western North America (link).

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Visiting Portland, Oregon--Gardens in the Rain

gray Oregon sky; flowering trees
Portland: Flowering trees, but note the gray sky.
We went to Portland, Oregon for just a weekend in the middle of March, 2016. Oh! the contrast with northern Colorado. Northern Colorado has had mild early spring weather, but the dominant color is the brown of the plains and the bluegray sky.

Colorado in March
Colorado, with a snowstorm coming. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Nasty Plants 2: Some Pretty Plants Will Poison You

oleander: very beautiful, very poisonous
Some plants repel the animals that would eat them with spines (previous post). But other plants are poisonous. If you can keep animals off with spines, why wait until they bite to marshal a defense?
The answers to that will depend on the plant, of course, but one explanation is that not all the animals that would eat a plant are put off by spines. Spines or thorns long enough to hurt a deer may be totally ignored by a small moth that lands between them and lays eggs that develop into voracious plant-eating caterpillars.

The Society for Economic Botany, focused on the study of useful plants, recently estimated that half of the world's 400,000 plants could be eaten  (link). Which lets me suggest that the other half are not edible, many of them protected by toxins that make nibbling them a really bad idea. The link I just cited above goes on to say many of the plants we eat are actually toxic as well. Cassava, for example, requires treatment to be safe to eat, and potatoes and rhubarb have toxic leaves, so we don't eat their leaves.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nasty Plants: Some are Spiny, Thorny and Prickly

Wow! Spines!

A spine-covered cactus!
I agreed to speak about "nasty plants" at Farr Regional Library in Greeley on March 22, so this week I began looking for photos to use. And quickly came up with 100. Literally.

Lots of plants are nasty.

Usually when plants are nasty, they are saying to animals "BACK OFF!"

Take the plant's eye view. You are growing happily in the sunshine and then some animal walks over and bites your top off.