Sunday, August 30, 2015

Plant Story--Gaura coccinea, Oenothera suffructescens, Pretty Native Wildflowers

Oenothera suffrutescens scarlet gauraWhat is that little plant?
Across most of the United States you can find it growing on sandy, disturbed sites. 

It is Oenothera suffrutescens, formerly Gaura coccinea, scarlet gaura, also known as scarlet bee blossom, butterfly weed, scarlet butterfly weed, gray scarlet gaura, wild honeysuckle, waving butterfly and linda tarde. 

Scarlet gaura is native to central North America, from Manitoba south to central Mexico. In addition it has been introduced and has escaped from California to Maine (at least) that so it is pretty much continent-wide in North America. In California it is a noxious weed.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Visiting the Peruvian Amazon--Flooded Forests

flooded forest, Amazonian Peru
The Amazon Rainforest! The very name was romantic. And when I was in graduate school in the 1970s, the rainforest was rapidly being cut down. People predicted it would soon be gone.

I resolved to see it by 1984. Before it was gone.

I actually got to the Amazon Basin in 2011.

A little late.

But, fortunately for me, countries in the Amazon Basin have created great natural reserves to protect the plants and animals. Conservationists point out that some of those reserves are not well-managed and that fine-sounding national laws are not necessarily enforced, but compared to the 1970s, the situation is much improved.

The Amazon Basin is huge. 2.67 million square miles, 40% of South America. The contiguous United States (omitting Alaska and Hawaii) is 3.12 million square miles. The Amazon Basin is the size of 85% of the contiguous United States. Therefore, "seeing it" isn't done in one trip. What I saw was a section of the Amazon Basin in Peru, upriver from the city of Iquitos. (Map of Peru with Iquitos: link. Map of Iquitos showing its position in the Amazon Basin: link The Amazon drains east from Iquitos through the dark green area of the map to the Atlantic in northern Brazil.)

There were two wonders of the world that I knew I wanted to see: 1) forests that flooded 10 or 20 feet during the rainy season, and 2) black and white rivers.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Note the grasses.
Grasses. They're everywhere, but often unnoticed.

hay field
Haying a native grassland in Nebraska
But if a grass were to tell about the world it would point out:

1) There are a LOT of grasses. 11,337 species, making them, the Poaceae also called the Graimeae, the 4th largest plant family.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Plant Story--Bachelor Buttons and Cornflowers, Centaurea cyanus

Centaurea cyanus

Cornflower? Why would they call it a cornflower?

That is a typical American reaction to the English name for a bachelor button, Centaurea cyanus.

The story is this:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Visiting Wyoming near Driggs, Idaho - Gorgeous Hiking

mountain and forest

On the trip to the Botanical Society of America meetings in Boise, Idaho in 2014, we looped back to Colorado via Driggs, Idaho. Staying over night in Driggs, we took the nearest easy hike available and it was gorgeous. Just east of Driggs we drove Ski Hill Road to the Teton Canyon Trailhead, just across border in Wyoming.