Sunday, December 27, 2020

Plant Story--The Stately Colorado Blue Spruce

Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens, pine family Pinaceae) is native to the central and southern Rocky Mountains, in Idaho and Wyoming south to New Mexico and Arizona, from high elevations (USDA Zone 2) down to Zone 7 (lowest winter temperature, freezing). It is endemic to the United States. and more specifically, the Rocky Mountains. A beautiful tree with bluish foliage, it has been widely planted as an ornamental around the world.

Colorado blue spruce, Picea pungens
Colorado blue spruce, Picea pungens

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Plant Story-- A Little Bit about Cranberries, Vaccinium species

Cranberries (usually Vaccinum macrocarpon, heath family, Ericaceae) are a major crop. The tart red berries are usually made into cranberry sauce, served on or with meat, not used as a fresh fruit or even a jam. They are a common and handsome red fruit drink, which is usually sweetened or mixed with juices like apple and grape because a juice that is pure squeezed cranberries is so tart only a few people will drink it. Cranberries are the fruits of small, sometimes viney shrubs that grow in cool boggy places. 

ohelo, Vaccinium dentatum
ohelo, Hawaiian cranberry, Vaccinium dentatum

Monday, December 14, 2020

Cattails, Typha, Wetlands Icon

Cattails, genus Typha (cattail family, Typhaceae) are found all across the world in wet areas. Wet areas have specialist plants, because most plants cannot grow in water or saturated soil, but people who cannot recognize a reed or an ash, recognize cattails. Partly that is because they are distinctive. The flower and seed head looking like the stem was pushed up through it--or like a hotdog--is unusual and memorable. But also, they are common and numerous. Cattails often dominate large areas of wetlands. And, compared to many herbaceous plants, they are tall and broad. 

broad-leafed cattail, Typha latifolia
broad-leafed cattail, Typha latifolia

Monday, December 7, 2020

Time and the Botanist

Time is funny stuff. I live one day at a time. and somehow I've lived more than 26,645 of them. No doubt my memories of the past are filtered, but it doesn't seem that way to me. I easily remember things before other people were born. Weird. As I wrote about bamboos last week (link), I imagined a bamboo telling me about things that happened before I was born. More seriously, if more than 20 years elapses between the times when bamboos flower (true for many bamboos), a botanist can get only one replication of flowering into a career, that is, only see them flower twice. For species that flower less often, none of us get to see them flower more than once. 

clump of bamboo
Bamboo grove. When will it flower?