Sunday, May 26, 2024

Our Natives are Weeds

 "We have a marketing failure with natives," Doug Tallamy wrote in Nature's Best Hope. While I think the "grow natives" movement is helping correct that, the fact that many natives are called weeds does discourage loving them. 

fireweed, Chamerion
fireweed, Chamerion

Lots of our native plants are weeds. That is, they have weed in their common name. Fireweed (Chamerion), milkweed (Asclepias), jewelweed (Impatiens), Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium), and ironweed (Vernonia) to name a few. 

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Up the Snake River into Hell's Canyon

We took a motorized boat --jet boat--tour up the Snake River from Clarkston Washington to Hell's Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America (7.993 ft). The river was wonderfully reflective as we left Clarkston. 

Clarkston, Washington

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Plant Story - Flixweed, Tansy Mustard, Herb Sophia, Descurainia sophia, Weedy Spring Mustard

 As a group, the plants in the mustard or cabbage family, Brassicaceae, are cool weather plants, growing well early in the spring, flowering as the temperatures warm, going to seed in the heat of summer. Familiar mustards are cabbage (Brassica oleracea), broccoli (Brassica oleracea), and mustard itself (mustards are species of Brassica, Rhamphospermum and Sinapsis). These edible mustard family plants were domesticated in Eurasia and they are a small selection of the more than 3,700 species worldwide. North America has 634 native species in the mustard family. It also has more than 100 exotic mustards. 

Flixweed, Descuriania sophia
the plant this blog is about 

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Plants of Lewis and Clark

 My recent cruise down the Snake and Columbia Rivers retraced some of the steps of the 1804 Lewis and Clark Expedition. Also called the Corps of Discovery Expedition, they were sent to explore the area of the new Louisiana Purchase (link) and the region west of it to the Pacific Ocean. The Expedition has grabbed the imagination of people for two centuries now, as they imagine being in a small corps of men (and one woman) going into unknown regions. The Expedition walked, rode, and boated for over 8,000 miles in under three years, roundtrip.

Crow Butte, Washington
Crow Butte, Washington

Looking in detail at the discoveries of the Expedition is a reminder of how much the United States didn't know in 1800. 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Polyploidy 4. Distribution of Autopolyploidy

Polyploidy is whole genome duplication, a genetic phenomenon which is widespread in plants and uncommon in animals. The ancestry of most if not all plants includes a doubling of all the chromosomes. In addition, many plant species were formed by crossing between two existing species, with subsequent doubling of the genome which made the hybrid fertile. (See previous blogs Intro to Polyploidy, Crop Plant Polyploidy, Speciation via Polyploidy).


Long known and still poorly understood is variation in polyploidy within a species. 

fireweed, Chamerion
fireweed (Chamerion) has within-species polyploidy

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Travel Story - Landscapes of a Cruise Down the Columbia River

I took a river cruise (with Lindblad/National Geographic) down the Snake River from Lewiston Idaho to the Columbia River to its mouth on the Pacific Ocean west of Portland, Oregon. Many interesting places went by while in the bus or on the ship. Here is a tour: the trip through the window. 

My husband and I flew to Spokane, Washington, so the trip actually started with a bus ride 100 miles south to Lewiston, Idaho. It was April 7, a cloudy early spring day in Spokane.  There is a spectacular city center I hope to walk through one day.
Spokane, Washington
Spokane Washington

Spokane, Washington
The Spokane River, Spokane, Washington

Monday, April 15, 2024

Growing Natives in Colorado

 There is a national push for homeowners in the U.S. to grow plants native to their area (see previous posts  part1part 2; part 3; HNPwebsite). The number of birds and insects have been dropping over the last 50 years. Lack of food is blamed because we replaced native habitat with lawns and parking lots. Rewilding our neighborhoods is not a realistic solution; what is suggested is that we each grow regional natives on our properties, making our yards contribute to local habitat. 

native alpine wildflower
Alpine clover Trifolium dasyphyllum, an alpine tundranative that won't survive
in Denver, though the distance is only 50-60 miles.

What to grow in Colorado is a challenge. First, Colorado has unique native wildflowers, so advice from the coasts is often misleading. Second, Colorado is complex, with natives changing as you go up in elevation, over the Continental Divide, or from north to south; getting really local information is difficult.