These are very interesting illusions. Most of them work on me especially the one shown here, as long as my eyes keep scanning. You can stop them by concentrating on one point. Some of them don't work or don't work as well on me. Pretty hard to trust your eyes when they fool you like this. Anyone out there red-green color blind? Do these illusions work on you? What ones did you like or dislike? Could you paint your car with one of these patterns? He was moving really fast, officer. Would that be dangerous? Wonder if natural selection has ever produced such a pattern in the biological world?
Yeah! That just makes my morning! What do us lazy professors do with our 3 month long summer vacation? Well, let TPP offer a couple of answers. First, we don't get paid. Maybe you think we aren't working, but not to worry because we're not getting paid either. That's an equation you can perhaps understand. Certainly TV right now doesn't have much to offer. Let's see both hockey and basketball are still playing and dominating the TV, and it's June, so how could anyone care? Of course the locally favorite baseball team had already sunk to the basement of the league so we can't even be amused by their usual summer collapse. So you know, you just sort of sit around doin' nuthin'. Summer is when field biologists get to actually visit the field. That's were this picture came from, and soon it will be time to revisit these plots, re-photograph them and collect some more data. Hmm, actually haven't collected any data yet; still analyzing the images from the last time collection period. Finished revising a journal manuscript because the author wanted us to cite a paper of his that is going to appear in the same volume so we had no way to knowing about it yet. Bloody thanks for that bother. Finished revising and re-formatting about 150 figures for a book manuscript, then checking all the chapters, figure captions, indexes, contents, keyword lists, and size/magnification spread sheets to make certain all the references to these figures were still all correct. Even just assembling the entire thing (you'd think this would all be digital wouldn't you?) in hard copy (2) for submission took three days because you notice that not all of those things above were quite correct, so you fix everything on the fly. A steady stream of recommendation requests, internship notifications, and other student-centered requests need to be done ASAP, and did TPP mention we don't get paid in the summer even though we continue to deliver the services students count on? In his ample spare time TPP tries to keep entropy at bay with respect to his old house and his gardens. Did a biological presentation, actually just a question and answer session, to explain to Unitarians how the biological world works (topics covered: biological magnification of heavy metal pollutants, phytoplankton productivity, bees and biodiversity, soy food products, antibiotics in food, coral reefs and global warming, nutrient cycling, and so on); received many thanks, many complements, no honorarium. But rather than rant at him, told my dentist I was so bored with nothing to do that I was thinking of taking up golf (his game).
The biggest problem with shade gardens are the tree seedlings, woody weeds. Red bud are the worst because their roots go so deep so soon. A six inch seedling can be impossible to pull by hand with roots somewhere down in the Carboniferous. Sugar maple seeds like only a truly mammoth tree can produce are a somewhat different type of problem; they're easy enough to pull but at a density of a couple of dozen per square foot it's a major chore. Same goes for have a couple of dozen red bud trees; pretty and pretty prolific. Hackberry and cherry are concentrated under roost trees where their bird dispersers leave the seeds. When very young hackberry are easy enough, but give them enough of a start and they have a deep root too. The weed wrench only helps when the seedlings are big enough and you don't want them to grow that long. Even the kitchen garden is not immune and the maple seedling weeds are so thick you have to look close to find smaller garden plants. And the squirrels just couldn't get much fatter, and no, more squirrels is not any sort of solution. Between us we've clear cut a forests of trees, just at a seedling stage. Whew!
The Phactors are busy assessing the condition of their garden prior to opening our garden grounds to a few hundred visitors. The drought of 2012, which continued right through the winter, did a lot of damage to a lot of plants. On the grand scale, on the sit back and just take in your surroundings scale, our garden looks just fine. It's big, spacious, park-like, lovely. It's in the fine detail where you notice the severe damage to the lawn, yes, even our diverse lawn ecosystem took a beating from a brutally dry summer and a too wet spring. If you examine gardens up close, the blank spaces here and there tell the story. All the watering last year was highly beneficial because watered areas had very little if any damage, and without the TLC things would have been worse. Local nurseries report there was a lot of damage to Japanese maples and other somewhat finicky plants, particularly new plantings of all types and they are being inundated by replacement demands based on their sales agreement, but they know, and TPP knows, that most of those plant deaths were avoidable with adequate watering. Just a pointer here; if you water with a nozzle on the end of the hose you almost certainly do not water things well. So nurseries are doing a brisk business in replacements for plants not under warranty. One of the problems of liking less common plants is that they are not easy to replace. If your plum yew dies, no body here abouts is going to sell you a replacement. Say what? A plum, yew want a plum? Thank you anyways. Another interesting phenomenon that someone may wish to comment on is chlorosis, the yellowing of leaves where the veins tend to remain green, a sign of nitrogen deficiency. For some reason a broad cross section of plants, some of which never looked chlorotic before, are showing need of some nutrients. Rhododendrons and their heathy relatives always look that way, but the magnolias, crabapples, silver bells, and others are showing the symptoms. Somehow this must be related to the 2012 drought for this to be so widespread. Everybody got a dose of foliar fertilizer but it will take some time for the symptoms to subside. Some long planned hardscaping is under way: a new flag stone path through the back garden looks very nice and will make planning the rest of the area easier (knowing where people will walk always helps). However the new patio area by the garage and garden shed is just way too pretty for messing up with lawnmowers and wheelbarrows and the like, but that's its destiny. Someone asked if we had furniture for the area! Sure. Furniture. Prediction: the newness is going to be worn off pretty fast.
Ragwort - not a very impressive name, and not at all certain why it's called ragwort; maybe the sort of torn/worn margins of the upper leaves. Senecio has 1000-1500 species ranging from herbs like this to vines, shrubs, and even trees. The ragwort shown is Senecio plattensis and the reason the Phactors have this species in their gardens is that it grew in a sand prairie-oak savanna that surrounded our Mississippi River cabin. When we sold the place a piece of the ragwort was among a few plant souvenirs. This ragwort grows near the outer edge of the shady area under the crown of a huge burr oak, on the south side, so it's a area of dry light shade, a tough place for any plant. But the ragwort does pretty well there even though our soil is far, far from sandy. It does spread, but not rapidly, maybe due to the much heavier soil, it's very hardy, and it's a quite cheerful late spring, early summer flowerer. Lastly, it's a native plant. What's not to like?
I've found this !!! I've found this !!! It's Alangium platanifolium, isn't it ? Very strange flowers and leaves...
Yes, correct, and TPP knows how Marek feels. My first guess was something in the Styraceae (see here for Styrax americana): yellow exerted stamens, reflexed white corolla, pendent flowers - dead wrong leaves, but that was my best guess. If you use Chinese traditional herbal medicines, Alangium is commonly used for something under its Chinese name. While it has long been placed in its own family, molecular studies now place this genus closer to the dogwoods which is not a relationship that just jumps out at you. But don't feel bad, this was a real tough one. Too bad my students didn't get to see TPP floundering. They can be tough on me. On our last field trip to a botanical garden, one of them asked about a strange looking tree while we were still several meters away, and TPP suggested it looked like a Cyndonia. One of them checked the label and crowed, "He's wrong; it's Pseudocyndonia"!
Gardening and field biology have some common ground; both make you get outside and interact with nature. So TPP was replacing a rather sad juniper with a more shade tolerant shrub, and like most of our gardening, one thing has to be removed to make room for planting. Now this was not a large or well-off juniper so you don't expect much resistance, but from the very first shovel thrust a great protest erupts. This particular colony of ants was quite irate about the removal of their shrub or at the very least the overall disturbance generated in the process. What fun when they rush right up the shovel handle. Fortunately while this ant swarms aggressively, it doesn't sting very much, and in case you didn't know, one of the worst insect stings in the world belongs to the bullet ant of Central America. Phase one complete, TPP went to harvest some compost for phase 2 the planting of a new shrub. Digging into the bottom of one of our composers and filling a bucket with nice rich organic material, TPP began to notice a series of stinging sensations. It was an extremely irate colony of ants registering their annoyance with my disturbance of their nest in the compost bin. This was a much smaller species of ant but with a rather nasty little sting, and worse they were everywhere, yes everywhere! As a tropical biologist TPP has dealt with ants, red ones, black ones, green ones, army ones, all kinds and in all sizes, so even little bitty ones can get your attention when they attack in large numbers. To add to the fun, several hundred were transported to the planting site so that they could continue to harass the gardener. Fortunately our climate is too cold for any really nasty ants, but these were quite annoying, and you know, there are times when you just don't want that much interaction with nature. Anyone want to trade an anteater for some bunnies?
Well, it has been a long time since the plant hotshots who read this blog didn't score the right answer on a plant ID quiz in about 10 nanoseconds, but apparently this one has you stumped. It's not even remotely related to nightshades or cucurbits, the two maybe guesses so far. Here's a taxonomic clue - it's closest relatives may be the dogwoods, but it's often classified in its own family.
There's crazy, and then there's stupid crazy, and the latter can result in your death. Now you can be crazy and put a gun to your head, or you can be like this lady and kill yourself ever so slowly. A crazy lady named Navenna Shine, or Moonbean Butterfly, or Feelgood Featherweight, or something similar has this idea that she can live on just water, light, and air. Wow! Nuclear grade stupidity on display right there! Guess what city she's from? If you don't get Seattle in three guesses then you don't know much about where goofy new age thinking is concentrated. Read a basic biology book, lady, concentrate on the differences between autotrophs and heterotrophs, producers and consumers. Lady, autotrophy requires some metabolic machinery you ain't got, not to mention the pigmentation. So here's the results of your "experiment" accurately predicted: you'll starve to death; you aren't living on air, water, and light, you're just dying very slowly. With enough will power and stubbornness you will die, and probably get a listing in the Darwin awards except you look to be beyond your reproductive prime so you may have passed the genes for your particular intellectual gifts on to offspring already. OK this "news" was in the HuffPo, but the news article fails to deliver this message as if there were some small chance she might just pull it off. In all probabilty the communications major that wrote the article didn't understand that part of Bio 101. Why is this much crazy stupidity news at all? Is it mildly amusing that this lady has decided to ignore everything known about biology and thus endangers herself? Sometime a very long time ago, a cyanobacterium destined to become food for what was probably a amoeboid organism survived, entered into a symbiotic relationship with its consumer converting a heterotroph into an autotroph. Humans last had a common ancestry with this lineage a couple to 3 billion years ago. Here's the only truth there is. Us heterotrophs need premade organic molecules for raw materials and energy, and their only source is from other organisms. Get real, lady, or get help. You crazy!
Dear garden denizens, please allow me to explain. For gardeners and farmers, planting is a hopeful, optimistic activity. The outcome of those small beginnings captures our imagination so the effort seems well justified. It would seem this effort is anticipated by yourselves as well. But this has been one of those years, when because of the weather, seeds and plants have not jumped off to a great start, instead little plants have stayed just the right snack size to be you meals. Now that brings us to May, and the necessity of re-planting. Re-planting is not optimistic, it's pragmatic. Re-plant or you get nothing. Re-plant because a short season is better than no season. So we do it with a certain fatalistic resignation that there just isn't anything else to do. This brings us to June and the realization that some things are going to need re-re-planting because our wildlife friendly yard is just too damned friendly. TPP's attitude about re-re-planting is pretty ugly; it generates a deep deep resentment where you think about declaring war on your friendly wildlife. One woodchuck has been relocated. Four possums caught up in the sweep by accident were encouraged to move along anyways. Four possums at once, a one trap record that some claim should be nullified because it wasn't that you caught 4, but that you caught a mother with 3 pups aboard. Whatever. It's still a record. Another woodchuck is being far more difficult, a wary, careful, well-fed beast with the audacity to dig beneath the garden shed! Please understand this is a woodchuck relocation program, not a death sentence. So dear bunny, the one that ate that row of impatiens this morning for their breakfast, things may get considerably less friendly. The next pepper plant to disappear will not be taken with a resigned shrug. Just remember, re-re-planting generates an ugly mood, and we're only human. Yours, TPP.