Sunday, July 30, 2023

Plant Story--Orange Mountain Dandelion, Agoseris aurantiaca

Orange mountain dandelion is a an easily-recognized native wildflower of cool areas in western North America.

orange mountain dandelion Agoseris aurantiaca
orange mountain dandelion Agoseris aurantiaca

It looks a lot like a dandelion but it is the wrong color. Closer inspection picks up more differences, such as leaves that don't have the characteristic jagged pattern of dandelions, bracts under the flower are upright rather than pointing down the stem as in dandelions, and more. So you can identify it as resembling a dandelion, not a daisy or sunflower, and the flower color is an immediate tip-off it is not the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Looking at Flowers Like A Bee

Not all the bright flowers are equally attractive to a bee. Flower shapes are functional. They encourage pollination, but pollinators come in various shapes and sizes, so flowers fit some pollinators and not others. Which, if you take the insect's point-of-view, means some flowers are food sources and others are not. Bees like flowers they can land on and then climb into the flower, or walk across tiny flowers.

diverse flowers

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Plant Story--Pretty, Aggressive Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia

 Some places in the U.S., creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia, primrose family Primulaceae) is a weed, some places a ground cover. 

creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia

This is a low spreading plant with pretty round bright green leaves and yellow flowers. It is perennial and evergreen. In my yard it makes a nice ground cover in the shade without being particularly aggessive. In much of the U.S., though, it grows much better, making it a weed.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Wet Year So Far, Colorado Front Range

 It has been a wet spring and early summer in northern Colorado. Many days have had rain. I measured a single day's rain at 1.1", the wettest single day in the 5 years I've had a backyard rain gauge. Denver had its 4th wettest May and wettest June ever recorded. Denver has exceeded its average annual rainfall with half the year to go. I'm 50 miles to the north and we don't get quite the same storms, but we're very, very wet too.

In consequence, the countryside is green and plants everywhere are thicker, taller, and flowering more.

Devil's Backbone Open Space, Loveland, CO
  Devil's Backbone

Here is a look at some of them, along Devil's Backbone Open Space in west Loveland. 

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Discovering American Foods

In the novel I published this winter, I imagined an elderly Spanish woman visiting central South America in 1630. Although fascinated by tales of the Americas, she had never traveled beyond Spain. In the early 17th century, the Americas were old news but European daily life was still largely untouched. For example, most American foods were not immediately attractive to Europeans. The few that were instant hits, chocolate and vanilla for example, were in such short supply initially that even the kings of Spain had to ration their consumption lest it run out before the next ship. 

freshly roasted cacao beans (chocolate)
freshly roasted cacao beans (chocolate) Theobroma cacao