Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Queen's Tears


The Queen's tears (Billbergia nutans) is without question TPP's favorite winter flowering house plant.  It's been feature on FFF before, so it's just something to look forward to each year.  This year more than a dozen of the pink inflorescences emerged from within whorls of leaves, and tonight the Phactors are hosting and open house, so a few plant fanciers will get a treat.  The flowers are just so attractive with their blue eye-liner petals and pink sepals.  So hoping you enjoy this as much as TPP.

Ouch! Spiny Chayote


TPP always pokes through markets and produce sections just to see what there is to see, and you know you keep finding new things.  And indeed, this spiny chayote is something new.  Chayote is quite common in Central America and in North American markets it's fairly common.  But they've always had smooth skin.  But these were covered in rather stiff spines.  Otherwise they look quite the same.  Some poking around on the interweb confirms that these are spiny chayotes (Sechium edule) filling a bin in the produce section of the largest Latino grocery in our area.  Spines are not unusual on fruits of the Cucurbit family: cucumbers have spines that are easily rubbed off, and the kiwano is sort of all spines on the outside, but this was a real surprise.  Anyone else seeing these in their markets?  Do they have a different season from smooth chayote? 



Field guide for your fone

This is quite a good recommendation for the iNaturalist smart phone app, and it also earns the TPP seal of approval.  It does a great deal for you. TPP supervises a master naturalist project to document the flora of a conservation area.  Each observation is not only recorded digitally it is GPS located and pinned on a map.  Some things don't work as well as others in terms of suggested identifications, but it will put you in the ball park.  For example, SYCs, which stands for stinking yellow composites (sunflowers).  You need more than a picture of a flower/inflorescence to sort them out. The app also works well on animals too. And it's free.  If you like nature and like knowing the names of things (a human trait), then you must get iNaturalist.

Friday Fabulous Flower -Clivia


TPP finally settled on a new camera for his travels and field work.  His left shoulder is still sore, stiff, and a little lower for all those years that he carried a modest sized gadget bag around the world.  The laziness of age plus the improved technology allows cameras to be very modest in size, and still go from close focus for flowers and such to quite an impressive telephoto, and all in a quite smallish point and shoot size.  This camera still has a reasonable ability to be adjusted, certainly as much as a photographer with modest skills requires.  Sorry about no name, TPP doesn't get paid for endorsements and the blog remains totally free.  But if you are a longtime reader, and drop TPP and email, he might give you a make & model.
A couple of years ago a dear friend gifted TPP with a Clivia.  An easier and more handsome house plant does not exist.  It flowers now and again, so the camera gets some exercise.  The plants like to dry out and seem generally unfazed by the cooler, drier household climate of winter.  The foliage is quite handsome, dark green, almost cat proof.  Clivia  is a honorific, but without his plant name book, TPP has forgotten the person, but Wikipedia to the memory rescue: Charlotte Florentia Percy, Duchess of Northumberland (née Lady Charlotte Florentia Clive).

Blue, blue Christmas, Tain't natural


Elvis' blue Christmas is one of TPP's favorite songs this time of year.  But that's not what he thought of when he saw these terribly disfigured poinsettias at the store.  Only a Blue Meanie would like these poinsettias.  If TPP's aesthetic compass is way off, do say so.  They actually made the blue moth orchids look nice.

Kindness to squirrels and falling gourds

In an act of kindness, Mrs. Phactor was upcycling decorative gourds, but cracking them and then leaving them under the big sugar maple just beyond the patio, long a feeding station for local wild life.  Now you must watch out because every now and again a gourd drops down out of the sugar maple, generally, botanically, an unexpected event.  Spent a couple of hours yesterday relocating fencing to keep rabbits away from young trees and shrubs.  They get shifted to more tender shoots in the spring and summer.  Weather is predicted to turn drastically colder soon, so finishing up garden work was necessary. Everything is pretty well put to bed for the winter now.

Bad pruning

One of the easiest gardening no-nos to observe (just walk anywhere) is bad pruning.  This is a so-so bad example here.  The lowest whorl of branches was too low, and by the way, not pruning off the lowest branches of lawn trees is another easily observed no-no.  Here the branches 2-3" in diameter were just wacked off, sloppily cut off leaving a stub.  The tree may grow out and around such stubs, but this injury will remain internalized to the end of this tree's life.  The normal decay of such stubs may also lead to a hollow tree because this becomes an avenue to the heartwood of the tree.  This hurts so much to see.  If you look up tree pruning on the web & just try a little it will come out better than this.  However, this tree is in the lawn of a rental and this fairly demonstrates the attention, or more usually the lack there of, to landscaping around these buildings.

Nifty plant gift ideas - Moss of the month


TPP has to admit that this one caught him quite by surprise; Harry and David it is not.  This is a gift to buy for that really dedicated gardener to help get them through those winter months.  And nothing say "green" quite like a gift of a non-vascular plant.  So here's the link for the curious about moss of the month.  Just so you know a 3-month gift subscription starts at $57.  Wait until the guys at the local garden shoppe see this one! 

Garden roundup - Flowering & diversity

TPP finally got caught up on his first day of flowering data & got his database up to date except for a few unresolved issues involving a faulty memory. Firstly, for certain plant species only groups of varieties are recorded and kept track of, e.g., hostas.  Our gardens being shady have lots of varieties b but when it comes to flowering there are early varieties, mid-season varieties (most of them), fragrant ones (a different species), late small-leafed varieties, and really late flowering varieties (like Red October).  But there are dozens of varieties altogether, but only those flowering entries.  Species are all treated individually, if known.
In total, for the 2017 season, which started for us on the 12th of February (the recently mentioned witch-hazel).  And which ended on the 4th of October (wolfbane or Monk's hood), our gardens had 337 flowering events, actually more but only herbaceous and woody perennials are counted, no annuals unless they are native & take care of themselves, to get the total diversity the 'did not flower' species and the 'new' (dnf) plants also have to be counted, bringing the total of  363 flowering plants, plus another 28 gymnosperms and 19 ferns for a total diversity of a bit over 400 species.  It keeps us busy, but wandering our gardens to see what's new is a favorite activity for the cocktail hour. Native species weigh in at around 121 species and growing as our woodland garden expands, but it won't when the leaf guys take away all the chopped leaves.  Hey, you owe us a couple of tons of leaves!
Finding new plants that will grow here is becoming more difficult.


Last flowers addendum


Or would that be spelled addendumb?  TPP knew he'd missed the witch hazel, but an alert reader who was not worried about hurting feelings, but wanted to see the gold corydalis, let me know the ball had been dropped.  Well, while checking the estate to see how well the leaf guys had done (very well), TPP noticed that these were still in flower and likely to continue for awhile.  So here are the missing blooms, the Corydalis lutea (probably better named Pseudofumaria lutea), but this hardly helps because the old Fumiariaceae (bleeding heart family) is a defunct family now submerged into the Papaveraceae, the poppy family, and it's a false fumaria anyways.  And the 4-parted witch hazel with those long narrow petals.  This same shrub can also bloom in the spring, but then the flowers are reddish in color.  Pretty cheerful, huh?  Happy?  Hope so. Because this is it for the season.