Field of Science

Firday Fabulous Flower - It's a beauty "bush"!


A very large, very old shrub blooms every year about this time no matter what the winter weather has been like. It's covered by pinkish flowers and is quite striking!  However the bush is rather course when not in flower.  As you can see it has flowers rather like honeysuckles and it is in the Carifoliaceae.  TPP thinks it's more of a specimen plant that is pretty in flower, easy to grow, and reliable.  Kolkwitzia amabilis, the beauty bush, introduced around 1900 from central China belongs in most largish gardens, but is a rather old-fashioned plant.  Our gardens came with this plant and it is clearly decades old, decades  ago.  

Friday Fabulous Flower- woodland peony


Here is a woodland spring ephemeral that you probably have not seen before.  It is not a native, but since our gardens are so shady this quiet addition seemed logical.  It is about the size of and grows rather like a Trillium.  Several ivory-colored perianth parts surround numerous stamens and a small number of pistils.  This is Peonia japonica.  In general it does not like being moved or crowded. Several plants are scattered around our wilder gardens.  The seeds take two years to germinate, and several years to flower, so it is not at all common. Except among us (rare) peony enthusiasts.

Friday Fabulous Flower - Yellow Ginger

 OK but first a shout out to Earth Day.  TTP remembers the first Earth Day, but mostly because of all the other struff that was going on, mostly anti war things and the Kent State shootings, deciding to try out grad school to study botany, and other things.  Sorry, Earth.

This is called yellow ginger and it is not real ginger but a member of the Aristolochia or birthwort family. Our wild Ginger is almost a weed in our shade lawns and TPP first saw this plant at Brooklyn botanical garden back when it was still a botanical garden.  It is a smallish herbaceous perennial witth upright stems.  Our native wild ginger is Asarum canadense, a creeping plant with purple flowers along the prostrate stem often hidden from view by the heart shaped leaves.  This plant has 3-parted flowers although a dicot, and is quite fuzzy.  And it is the genus Saruma, and if you are quick with word games, you'll notice that Saruma is Asarum spelled backwards with the a moved to the end.  A botanical joke?   Enjoy.  

peak blue

 Sometime every spring right around the first of April, our garden's "lawn" turns blue.  This is caused by several thousand Scilla siberica bulbs.  It's a pretty remarkable sight.  It just takes a few decades to multiple. You can't walk with out stepping on them.  New neighbors are quite surprised at how blue the "lawn" becomes.

early flowering -Snow Trillium

 It's the first week of March and a few things do flower this early, but not very many native plants.  One of the cutest is the snow Trillium, T. nivale.  Flowering early is  quite usual, and so it pokes up through the leaf litter.  This is also the smallest Trillium at about 3 inches tall and each whorl about as wide. it is easy to overlook, which TTP did for years until an early scouting trip surprised this botanist.  Now it grows in our native plant gardens so its easy to watch for.  This is one plant with 3 aerial shoots, a whorl of three leaves and a flower on each, and it took several years to get this big.  OK this should have been a Friday Fabulous Flower, but I'm a couple of days early.

What happened to winter?

 It's the third week of February, the high temperature will be in the 40s and the weather is presently a thunder storm.  Very much unlike usual winter weather, so no surprise that snowdrops and winter aconite are in flower, along with early crocus and witch hazel. Never even touched our little snow thrower and that's good because Mrs. Phactor has her new electric vehicle plugged in there now.  Snowdrops usually  flower near the end Feb or the first week of March. The whole yard turns Scillla blue by the second week of March. But except for a couple of artic blasts, the winter of 2022-23 has been quite mild. But the Artic blasts may have killed a couple of TPP's plants.  A dwarf Tsuga is clearly dead (TPP has had great trouble trying to grow this plant over the years).  Too hot, too dry, and maybe too cold in the wrong time of year.  So even though the winter has almost been a no-show, lingering drought and brief sudden cold can be a bad combination. 

New Year GReetings

 Wow! 2023!  Who would have thunk it?  TTP's family is not known for their longevity, so it is quite a surprise to find myself still around and still fairly healthy.  Wealthy and wise were out for quite a while now.  Very cold weather came early (-11F) and it will be interesting to see what plants found that too cold, maybe the Ashe magnolia or the plum yews.  But we will always hope for the best.  Indoor plants are doing well, an azalea, a mistletoe cactus (Hatoria), and the queen's tears (Billbergia nutans), have been the subject of blogs before.  

TPP is a hopeless liberal, and he was very glad to see that our bastion of blueness (Illinois) remained so. I do not think TPP can stand another round MAGAness, so much stupidity in just one grifter.  Somehow things just don't seem to be falling into place the way they did last time.  But I don't like the guy running FL very much either. People do not seem to mind that the phoney covid cures and failure to encourage masks and vaccination have killed a lot of people.

Lots of new neighbors in our little'hood.  Covid has prevented many possible social events, so have to wait for better weather to get to know them. 

Hopefully the blogging will come along and TPP gets back in the swing of things.

Friday Fabulous Fruits - a native holly

 Sorry  for TTP's absence; stuff happens and my attention has been elsewhere.   Now that the considerable leaf fall is done a couple of patchess of small shrubs catch your eye. Fruits are flowers at the stage of seed dispersal.  The bright red berries are not only pretty, but they are adored by fruit eating birds.  Often the berries end up heading south with flock of cedar waxwings.  These are called winter berry, a native holly, Ilex decidua, deciduous holly, which means they shed their leaves.  The species is also dioecious meaning you have to have a few naked male bushes to pollinate the female bushes or no berries.  If you have room these are nice plants for winter color and wildlife. 

Friday Fabulous Flower - a fall lily of sorts

 October is not a great month for flowering, but a few plants flower in the fall.  This little perennial is generally hard to raise, at least for us (it keeps dying) but the right combination of shade and water seem to be keeping it happy.  It's commonly called a toad lily (a species of Tricyrtis).  The perianth is decorated with pinky-purplly spots as is the three branched style. It stands about 12" tall with about 1" diam flowers.  It is not a native, but also is not invasive.  It started flowering on the 5th of October.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - a "rare" orchid?

 Orchids are funny, and a number of even botanists are obsessed by them.  It is one of the largest families of flowering plants.  Among the species of orchids found in here in Lincolnland they are described as "rare", "very rare", "uncommon", and one such plant has shown up in our gardens.  

The upper image shows the whole plant, all seven inches or it from a small whorl of slender basal leaves its terminal spike of white flowers.  The lower image show the flowers a bit bigger, all of 2-3 mm long.  This a Ladie' tresses orchid, the genus Spiranthes probably S. ovalis.  This orchid is "not common" and it found our gardens' on its own.  However such plants flowering here in september are easily over-looked, so quite inconspicuous, if not actually rare.  It woes make TPP happy just to know it's there; 4 or 5 plants in a patch some foot in diameter.  Oh did TPP mention that most orchids have quite small flowers of rather small plants.  Enjoy.