Sunday, October 2, 2022

Plant Story -- Orange Hawkweed, Hieracium aurantiacum

I grew up calling it Indian paintbrush, so when I went west and was shown Indian paintbrush, I was puzzled. Currently, the websites say hawkweed is Hieracium, and Indian paintbrush is Castilleja. No relation between them. So I've learned to call the plant hawkweed. Actually, orange hawkweed, Hieracium aurantiacum or Pilosella aurantiaca.

orange hawkweed, Hieracium aurantiacum
orange hawkweed, Hieracium aurantiacum

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Boulder Open Space, September after the Marshall Fire

The city of Boulder Colorado preserved a lot of open space within its city limits. Boulder is at the edge of Great Plains, the foothills rising quite abruptly on the west side of the city. The grasslands of the city open space are a mix of plains plants and mountain meadow plants. 

mountains to the west of Boulder, Colorado
looking west and a little north in southern Boulder, Colorado

September is near the end of the growing season in Boulder. Frosts and snowstorms are uncommon but not unknown. Most likely, though, it will be nice through November, so the plants can open a few more flowers and produce additional seeds. 

I walked a short distance from the Marshall Mesa Trailhead. This area burned in the Marshall Fire of December 30, 2021 and I looked for the effects. 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Travel Story - Glimpses of Edinburgh, Scotland

We planned a return to pre-pandemic travel, a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. We would spend week in a nice hotel with day trips into the countryside. The plan was good, but didn't allow for catching a cold. I haven't had a cold in easily five years...I felt lousy and lacked interest in being a tourist. However, I have argued that you can enjoy new places without the need to rush around to see everything. Looking back, the very reduced vacation was still neat.

Edinburgh street
Edinburgh, Scotland

Monday, September 12, 2022

Snarky Septuaginarian-- Dangerous Plants

wisteria, genus Wisteria
wisteria, not very toxic

I've been a biologist 53 years, counting from the date of my bachelor's degree. As a University of Nebraska professor, I did ecology research and taught for 31 years, since then I've written extensively about plants, carefully checking my facts. Biological errors get to me. Today I am allowing my inner curmudgeon out.

Plants can be poisonous. A very few are so deadly that a bite will kill a healthy adult. Other plants will upset your stomach. More plants just don't taste very good. Sloppy reporting of plant dangers offends me. 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Plant Confusions: the Bugleweeds, Ajuga and Lycopus

Growing in my back yard since I bought the house in 2006 is a plant I only just learned a name for. Its Ajuga reptans, a little mint native to Europe that is used as a ground cover. My friend called it ajuga, and ajuga is used as its common name. Reading about it, I discovered the common name in USDA plant list (link) is bugle. Googling it sends you to bugleweed. 

bugleweed, Ajuga repens
bugleweed, Ajuga repens

Knowing it as ground cover, I was surprised to find it mentioned as a medicinal plant. 

But searching for more information on its medicinal qualities, I found I was often reading about Lycopus. For example, when I followed "bugleweed for thyroidism" I arrived at an article for Lycopus virginicus.

Lycopus is another mint genus, taller than Ajuga, with some plants native to North America. 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Late Summer in the Garden

Late August is surely the height--or just past the height=--of summer. The temperatures are as hot as they'll get. Many plants are in full bloom. I rarely appreciate "high summer." By this time I'm tired of being too hot and weeding has gotten old. And yet, my plants are reveling in being warm and large. So I took my camera to document the peak of the growing season.

The little French marigolds (Tagetes patula) that I planted this spring are about at their best. Their flowers are open and few are beyond flowering, maturing seeds. 

French marigolds, Tagetes patula
French marigolds, Tagetes patula

Monday, August 22, 2022

The Impossible Origins of Purslane, Portulaca oleracea

Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, is a worldwide crop and weed (see last week's post link). It has been cultivated for thousands of years in both the Old World and the New. That doesn't make much sense: how did it cross the oceans before Columbus?

purslane, Portulaca oleracea
purslane, Portulaca oleracea