Monday, November 30, 2020

Bamboo--A Grass of Mystery

Bamboos are a subgroup of the grasses (grass family, Poaceae). There are 1,441 species in 116 genera in the grass subfamily Bambusoideae, more than whole  families of plants such as violets (Violaceae), oaks (Fagaceae) or geraniums (Geraniaceae). They are distinguished from other grasses because of the strong wood-like, jointed hollow stems, and the sizes they reach (10' and more).


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Bamboo - Amazingly Versatile

 In the United States, when I mention bamboo, the most common reaction is that it is horribly invasive. That's true, but bamboo in the U.S. is not balanced by its usefulness, as it is in Asia. This post showcases some of the uses I've seen, the next post will be about bamboo botany.

bamboo shoots and leaves
A clump of bamboo

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Plant Story: The Colorful Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja

They're a splash of orange on the mountainside or of red in the meadow: Indian paintbrushes. Also called flame flower, prairie-fire, squaw feather, and painted cups, the Castilleja species, now classified in the owl clover family, Orobanchaceae, but long considered figworts, Scrophulariaceae, are handsome wildflowers. 

Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja species
Indian paintbrush, Castilleja, in western Wyoming

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Plant Story--Dill, The Strong-Smelling Herb

Dill (Anethum graveolens, celery family Apiaceae) is one of the spices that is always in my kitchen. It is my go-to spice when the salad seems repetitious or the potatoes dull. (Generally, an herb is used fresh, while a spice is dried. Dill is both an herb and a spice.) This is a plant from southern Europe that has been cultivated since at least 400 BCE, the date of the archaeological site in Switzerland where it was found. 

Dill, Anethum graveolens
Dill in seed

Dill is usually described as an annual, but, in my garden, it often grows for two years before flowering and distributing seeds. I planted it years ago in the vegetable garden and, now and then, find plants showing up in other flower beds. The plants are pretty but not dramatic, with fine feathery leaves. The flowers are yellow but tiny, developing into umbels of round flat fruits, each of which contains two seeds.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Travel Ideas: Mountain Ranges of the World

Mountains in Alaska (above)

In the last six months, I haven't traveled more than 30 miles. My husband reads menus from restaurants from Honolulu and New York online. I tried a daydream about where would I go if I could leave tomorrow, but that wasn't encouraging; I'm not going anywhere dramatic for probably 100 tomorrows. Travel was such fun. There are spectacular vistas in our world and things I don't know I don't know. After experiencing a few "must sees," though, one has to decide among thousands of destinations. What goals lead a serious traveler? Bird watchers classically have "life lists" which motivate them to go to distant places to see a particular bird. Botanists don't generally do life lists, but what might those be, if you were a botanist or ecologist, or just a fan of the natural world?

The first one I thought of was: mountains. And, starting simple, mountain ranges. Here's the idea: a life list of mountain ranges. See them all!