Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Elegant Orchidaceae

moth orchid

The new orchid sat on the table, long sprays of flowers with big white petals with purple spots bending in a graceful arc above large green leaves.

"The natives in this house indicate that you write about plants, but that you have written very little about orchids" it said to me.

"That's right,"I admitted.

"What a grevious lapse!" it exclaimed. "Orchids should be first and foremost.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Travel Story--Northern Honshu Japan in Spring part 2

cherry blossoms, northern Japan

We traveled the northern part of the main island of Japan, Honshu, in April 2017. These photos are from the second half of the trip. (first part: link)

In Tokyo, the cherries were done flowering but in places in the north they were in full bloom (above). Elsewhere it was early spring.

early spring, northern Honshu

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Travel Story-- Northern Japan in the Spring, part 1

garden, April, Tokyo Japan

In April two years ago, I traveled in northern Japan with the Pacific Horticulture Society. Somehow I never described about that wonderful trip. Come with me to Japan...
Tokyo Japan

We began in Tokyo of course. Tokyo is a great modern city, but it has hidden gardens that soothe the soul.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Plant Story--Wild Geraniums, A Treat to See

geranium, genus Pelargonium
geranium, genus Pelargonium
Geraniums were introduced to American gardens by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and were a hit. I certainly grew up knowing geraniums and thinking them dull.

That made wild geraniums relatively easy to identify. There are native species all over North America, fun to spot on a hike.
geraniums, also called cranesbills, genus Geranium
geraniums, genus Geranium

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Travel Story--Costa Rica, 2019

Heliconia flower
Native to the rainforest of Costa Rica, heliconia or lobster claw
(genus Heliconia, heliconia family, Heliconiaceae)
I first went to Costa Rica in February 1972; this year I had the opportunity to go back with a Cal Discoveries trip (Preserving Paradise: Parks and Reserves of Costa Rica (link), run within Costa Rica by Holbrook Travel (link)).
I’d been back to some places (1970s, 1986, 2013) but this tour hit many of the places I went in 1972 and had a focus of Costa Rican conservation. 
It was quite an eye-opener.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Now We Are Six! Blog Anniversary.

water hyacinth, Eichornia crassipes
water hyacinth (Eichronia crassipes)
"Now We Are Six!" The title is from the Winnie the Pooh series, a phrase that has been with me since early childhood. Today it applies to this blog. Six years! Three hundred twenty two published posts. I had no idea what I was starting, back in February 2013.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Considering the Joys of Air Travel

I have not enjoyed flying on commercial airlines lately but that wasn't always the case.
rainbow, San Francisco International Airport
Rainbow, San Francisco International Airport
The first airline flight I took was in 1961, from Cleveland, Ohio to Albany, New York. (On Mohawk Airlines: any of you remember them?) I was thrilled. Not just getting off the ground, but seeing the land from the sky. My science class had taught about river meanders, and there they were, spread out below me! I thought, "if only geography could be taught with airplane trips."

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Travel Story: The Canadian Rockies

Canadian Rockies landscape

It has been some years, but we flew to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, rented a car and drove the Ice Fields Parkway through the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is 277 miles from Banff (a hour west and a bit north of Calgary) to Jasper, Alberta, where the road divides and most vacationers turn around and head back to Calgary. It makes a spectacular vacation.

I live on the foothills of that same mountain chain, about 1000 miles south. So wouldn't it be the same?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Plant Story: Angel's Trumpet, Brugmansia suaveolens

A striking tropical ornamental, in warm climates you can't miss angel's trumpet, Brugmansia (nightshade family, Solanaceae). (Datura species are closely related and also go by the common name angel's trumpet but are also called jimson weed and thorn apples. They are smaller, grow in colder climates and are nonwoody plants).

angel's trumpet, Brugmansia

This is an American tropical plant now found all around the world. The flowers come in shades from yellows to pinks to white.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Botanical Travel: Where the Weeds Are Strange

lantana, Lantana camara
lantana (Lantana camara)
Growing on the roadsides and vacant lots in Costa Rica, we saw lantana (Lantana camara, vervain family, Verbenaceae). In Hawaii it was Kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum, ginger family Zingiberaceae)
Kahili ginger
Kahili ginger
Here is Kahili ginger, the dark green leaves, filling the forest understory in Hawaii
Kahili ginger in forest
All the dark green leaves are Kahili ginger
Wow! Aren't those pretty! But weird weeds to a Coloradan.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Plant Story--Rue, Ruta graveolens, Bitter

Rue. "You'll rue the day..."
garden rue, Ruta graveolens
rue, Ruta graveolens
Rue, Ruta graveolens (citrus family, Rutaceae) is a traditional medicinal and culinary herb, one we don't use much anymore. The plant is also known as garden rue (to separate it from other species of Ruta) and, especially historically, herb of Grace and herbygrass. It is not the same as, or closely related to, meadow rue (Thalichrium species, buttercup family Ranunculaceae) or goat's rue (Galega officinalis, pea family, Fabaceae).