Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - an unusual newby

TPP is a plant collector, and oft times pushing the envelope on cold hardiness.  This winter the low temperature was -15 F (-26 C), and several plants surprised TPP with their cold hardiness.  This one is included in the list of uncertain cold tolerance, but the smallish shrub emerged in damaged and is now flowering for the first time.  TPP has seen it in flower before at the Missouri Botanical Garden, but never north of that.  So this is really a special flowering event here in northern Lincolnland.  There are a number of genera that are disjunct between eastern North America and eastern China.  Calycanthus floridus, Carolina sweet shrub, and Sinocalycanthus chinensis, Chinese sweet shrub both are now placed in the same genus by some taxonomists; they are in their own family.  The hybrid between these two species if becoming more familiar in horticultural circles, and TPP has all three.  The flowers have many parts, spirally arranged, and sometimes grading into one another (see link above).  At any rate here's the somewhat rare Sinocalycanthus flower showing both pinkish and yellow waxy tepals surrounding stamens and pistils.  Count us as a happy camper.

Impressions of Paris

TPP is not a city guy.  Generally speaking he avoids them, but people seem to put train stations, airports, and restaurants about cities making it almost certain you have to go there.  At any rate among cities that TPP has visited, Paris is pretty good.  Their Metro system is great, but crowded  and you can still walk your ass off for culture; 5 to 7 miles a day was about average.  TPP has never seen more trees planted in straight lines and poodled into flat-sided crowns. So all the talk about all the green in Paris, is just that talk, the reality is pretty boring.  You will run out of time and energy before Paris runs out of museums; the Paris museum passbook is advisable.  TPP like the Museum D'Orsay best, and it was open when others weren't.  Young Parisians were helpful and reasonably friendly, although maybe not quite patient enough of senior citizens on the Metro steps (& there are lots of them).  They are however heavy smokers, and it can ruin the sidewalk café scene because they cannot smoke inside mostly.  No question the no smoking movement in the USA has left us less tolerant of cigarette smoke.  Lots of people wear scarves and TPP doesn't even own one you could wear when it isn't snowing outside.   Of course you look like a tourist no matter what.  The food was great and especially some of the smaller younger establishments.  The young people running (literally in one case) some of these places have a love of food and drink, and they actually act like they enjoy having you as a customer.  Best asparagus dish at Pasdeloup (108 rue Amelot, Marais Nord), grilled spears served over a wedge of burrata cheese, with sliced strawberries, and drizzled with browned butter.  So TPP gives Paris his endorsement, but they don't need it.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Bonus: Monet's lily pond

Sorry to lax blogging but TPP has been visiting Paris!   General impression is this is a great city.  Lots of sights, lots of good food and drink, and it is generally friendly.  The Metro system is easy to learn and easy to use, but Mrs. Phactor has always been good at this; we cannot say we like the train system as much.  They caused use much grief on our return from Givency and Monet's house and gardens.  The precious day we had seen over 300 linear feet of Monet's water lily paintings housed in L'Orangerie; quite impressive.  The real things are also quite impressive.  And one view of Monet's waterlily pond will have to suffice until our return in a day or so.  TPP did not suppose that the gardens would look as good as the paintings, but they were wonderful and did not disappoint.  TPP would like to report that the Mona Lisa and the Tour Eiffel also reside in Paris and still do, but they can be so crowded as to be rendered less appealing.  

Favorite flowers

One of TPP's favorite times of year is just after the early magnolias, the big leaf magnolias flower, and so do the tree peonies, Paeonia suffruticosa. In our climate the woody stems will get to around 3-4 feet tall and the shrubs are rounded.  And they bear the biggest, gaudiest flowers.  They are just so damned adorable.  Here' one of our favorite colors, the cultivar's name is long gone, sorry.  They come in a wide array of colors on the white to fuchsia scale, and then yellow!  How can you not just love these?  

Friday fabulous flower - yellow green


Our dry, warm weather has really begun to push along the spring flowering shrubs, such that we are almost caught up to the calendar.  Woodland plants in the deeper shade are still behind schedule.  Two of TPP's last Trilliums are just now in flower, the big white T. grandiflora and the much less grand T. luteum.  However, the subtlety of the latter is kind of nice, all those nice shades of green growing there in the rather deep shade.  Even the yellow petals are partly green, and you can see the green mottling on the leaves.  Rather a slow grower it seems.  TPP is rather uncertain about whether this species is a native here in Lincolnland, it's in Canada to our north and in states to our south and east.  So it seems strange for it not to be in IL, but TPP is no purist anyways.  Some much flashier flowers are open right now, and one might get posted if TPP has time before taking off on a trip tomorrow.  Paris in the springtime.   

Friday Fabulous Flower - For whom does the bellwort toll?

One of our favorite spring wild flowers is the bellwort, Uvularia grandiflora.  They tend to grow into clumps in our gardens where they are not fussy at all about location.  And while certainly a spring wildflower, the handsome foliage persists until fall.  The fun thing is that the yellow petals are twisted  when in bloom and of course they are pendant like bells, generally then just the kind of flower bumblebees like.



Magnolia bonanza

One consequence of our late spring is that plants held back by the cool weather are all rushing to flower.  As a result our gardens had quite a few magnolias in flower all at once.  Right now Magnolia soulangiana, saucer magnolia, M. liliflora 'Ann', tulip flowered magnolia, and M. x butterflies are all in flower at once.  So that would be pink/porcelain, purple/pink, and yellow flowers terrific.  TPP couldn't be happier.



ID quiz of unknown specimen

OK not exactly a quiz, but more of a plea for some help.  About a century ago Mrs. Joseph Clemens collected this specimen in Sonoma Mexico in 1911, and that is all that is certain.  The specimen is in pretty good shape, but it is hard to ID.  The first thought that came to mind was that this was some kind of bladder pod because the fruits look ovoid and were clearly inflated before being pressed.  Note that the specimen has small coiled tendrils, and some smallish flowers.  TPP has not yet taken the more drastic action of removing a flower and rehydrating it for examination.  Thought it might be worth while to try the readers for some recognition first.  Thanks for your help. Leave your suggestions, observations, species names in the comments.


 

Friday Fabulous Flower - spring beauty

One of the many handsome "weeds" that have invaded our lawns.  Forgetting the blue lawn for a bit, it wouldn't take you long to find spring beauty, Claytonia virginica.  Here the flowers are almost white, but the veins are a pale pink, a trait that is variable and often more pronounced.  The anthers are pink and opposite the petals (alternate with the petals is way more common), and a three parted pink stigma/style.  The aerial shoots have a pair of long, thin leaves on each stem, but they are much fleshier than a grass.  This plant used to be in the purslane family, but now is in the less well known Montiaceae.  

"We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Those are the words from Pogo (Walt Kelly) from the 1st Earth Day poster, an event that TPP doesn't really remember well because the campus was in the throes of anti-war demonstrations and he was finishing a tough schedule of courses for a hoped for graduation.  Wasn't sure what to do blog-wise for Earth Day 2018, but attended a great lecture last night by Doug Tallamy, and his thesis (see the link) is that biodiversity is only going to be saved if everyone gets involved.  He advocates a small scale, grass roots (sorry, he earns TPP's admiration for hating grassy lawns.) approach using native plants, especially trees.  At his website you can get his book (of course) and get a list of plants that promote biodiversity.  The huge attendance at his lecture was most impressive.  He argues that most land is privately owned, so public "wild" areas are not enough to reverse the loss of biodiversity.  Get rid of grass; plant an oak.  The biggest problem is that finding a good source of native plants isn't easy.  That's why us native plant people are working to set up a nursery.