Sunday, January 16, 2022

Plant Story--Eucalyptus in Northern California, Eucalyptus globulus

 

Operator: "911. What is your emergency?"
Man: "I need an ambulance; a guy here is hurt."
Operator: "What is your location?"
Man: "I'm on Eucalyptus Street."
Operator: "Please spell that for me?"
Man: (long pause)
Operator: "Sir? Sir? Are you there?"
Man: "I'm just gonna drag him over to Maple Street. Call you right back."

eucalyptus, Eucalyptus globulus
eucalyptus, Eucalyptus globulus

Sunday, January 9, 2022

A Glimpse of Phoenix, Arizona

My husband and I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, in early December; the goal to get away for a few days. Mostly we went to museums and ate out. But we were in Arizona because it is mild in the winter, and even in a musuem trip, I couldn't miss the distinctive plants. 

hillside with saguaro cacti, Arizona
Hill of saguaro cacti

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Plant Story: Poinsettia Update

This December, it was easy to encounter posts pointing out that Poinsett, from whom poinsettias take their name, was a racist. Consequently, say these posts, we should use the Aztec (Nahuatl) name, cuetlaxochitl (ket la sho she) instead. I do not think it is that simple.  

poinsettia/ cuetlaxochitl/flor de la noche buena, Euphorbia pulcherrima,
poinsettia/ cuetlaxochitl/ flor de la noche buenaEuphorbia pulcherrima,

Most people have no idea of the history of the plants around them. Plant species go back thousands of years, so they will have interacted with dozens of human cultures over time and space. Individual humans learn the name of familiar plants from a relative or friend and are rarely taught about its history. 
I learned poinsettia as a name, struggled a bit to remember and spell it, but never, before writing a blog post six years ago (link), wondered what a poinset was. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Plant Story--Linaria vulgaris, Butter-and-eggs, Yellow Toadflax

I grew up calling it butter-and-eggs, a pretty little plant in the meadows of New York and Ohio. 

butter-and-eggs, Linaria vulgaris
butter-and-eggs, Linaria vulgaris, yellow toadflax

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Our Built Environment

We see the world around us, but we can't see what it was. Visiting San Francisco in November, the National Park Presidio was full of informational signs about the history of the site, pointing to multiple transformations since Spain established a fort there in 1776. (Native Americans left their mark too, as mounds of discarded sea shells, which have been dated back to 740 CE).

Some changes were dramatic. This is the creek as I saw it, the drainage full of shrubs (Thompson Reach).

View crossing bridge
Stream zone that was covered, then restored

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Plant Story--Shrubby Cinquefoil, Dasiphora fruticosa

The cinquefoils are easily recognized and found all around the world. There are about 400 species of cinquefoil, genus Potentilla (rose family, Rosaceae). They have five petals, like a basic rose flower, but never have thorns. The most common one in Europe had five-lobed leaves as well as five-petaled flowers, so was called cinque-foil, meaning 5-(lobed)-leaf. American species--about 98 native species!, tend to have more lobes than five, so the name carried over but doesn't fit very well.

Shrubby cinquefoil, Potentilla fruticosa

In North America, almost all the cinquefoils/ Potentilla species are herbs, nonwoody plants. 

So I easily learned shrubby cinquefoil, Potentilla fruticosa, because it shares the flower and leaf shape, but is a shrub, the only shrubby cinquefoil in Colorado (and the U.S.) Since it was (is) so distinctive, I shouldn't have been surprised that taxonomists, revising the very big genus Potentilla, gave the shrubby cinquefoils a genus of their own; Potentilla fruticosa became Dasiphora fruticosa. The shrubby cinquefoil group, Dasiphora, is a genus of about 12 species. Only one is found wild in North America, the others are Eurasian. Since Potentilla is a very confusing group, separating out the shrubby cinquefoils made Potentilla a little more uniform (no shrubs!). 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Flowers in San Francisco

It was November and San Franisco's flowers were blooming!

California poppies, Eschscholzia californica, flowering in San Francisco lawn
California poppies, Eschscholzia californica, in a San Francisco lawn