Monday, January 27, 2014

Botany Rules: How Can Some Plants Have Two Scientific Names?!

buffalo grass, Buchloë dactyloides  or Bouteloua dactyloides
Buchloë dactyloides or Bouteloua dactyloides ???
Botanists routinely assert that each plant has only one scientific name. When you look up a plant and find two authoritative sources giving different scientific names, botanists seem like liars.

I recently encountered that with buffalo grass, listed as both Buchloë dactyloides and Bouteloua dactyloides. (posts on buffalo grass: and bisondrought-tolerance)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Visiting Northern California--Secret Garden Cottage, Inverness

View of Tomales Bay out the window
View of Tomales Bay out the window
The word garden lured us to stay at a bed and breakfast in Inverness, California. The Inverness Secret Garden Cottage is on a hill above Tamales Bay, just inland of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Remembering it most of a year later, I am jealous. The climate of the Northern California coast is moist and mild. The garden includes wonderful plants I cannot grow.

What would those be? Oh, coast redwood, jasmine, big rhododendrons, camellias, to name a few.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dye Plants - Old Fustic aka Dyer's Mulberry

old fustic, dyer's mulberry, Maclura tinctoria
old fustic, dyer's mulberry, Maclura tinctoria
Old fustic, also called dyer's mulberry, was one of the most important yellow dyes in Europe from the 16th century to the early 20th century. 

It has a curious history. 

First, old fustic is a plant from the Americas, discovered after 1492 in the forests of tropical America.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Visiting Costa Rica—A Rainforest Walk

looking back at the beach, Costa Rica
looking back at the beach, Costa Rica
My Betchart/Lindblad expedition last month took me to Costa Rica (see earlier post). We sailed north along the Pacific Coast, stopping at Corcovado and Manuel Antonio National Parks, before disembarking to fly home from San Jose.

I first visited to Costa Rica in 1972, with the Tropical Ecology course of the Organization for Tropical Studies, did Ph.D. research there, and have been back several times since. 

Costa Rica is about the size of West Virginia. Within that small space it is very diverse. The mountains down the center create a whole series of different ecosystems, varying in temperature and rainfall and more. There is tropical rainforest on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but, cut off from each other by the mountains, they have different plants and animals. On the Pacific side in the northern half of the country, severe drought from December to June combined with heavy rain the rest of the year has created a distinctive tropical dry forest. 

In Costa Rica's southwest corner, I had a terrific time hiking in the lowland rainforest at Corcovado National Park.  
Pacific lowland rainforest, Costa Rica
Pacific lowland rainforest, Costa Rica