Field of Science

Return to winter requires something very tropical

Our return to the upper Midwest took us from shirt sleeve weather to severely cold weather rather suddenly; the car's temperature gauge just kept going down.  On a few occasions TPP has returned from the full-fledged tropics to mid winter and it is a very unnice transition.  At any rate here is a very tropical thing a Ylang Ylang tree (there is also a vine with the same common name)(Caranga odorata) in the custard apple family. This is a very tropical scent, sort of a heavy, strongly floral odor, and indeed the flowers are used in perfumery.  This is a family that TPP rather likes, and it just smells tropical. The flowers have rather thick curled tepals probably 3 whorls of 3 if remembered correctly, and in full bloom their odor is almost intoxicating and their odor is strongest at night, which you notice immediately if you walk under one.  It was very green in the Florida keys and very tropical; the contrast with local conditions is stark.  

Friday Fabulous Frond - Wax Palm

One of the better nature areas in Key West is the KW Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden.  Now based on a considerable experience, TPP recognizes that the most impressive specimen at this particular garden are 4 wax palm.  They are large stout palm (Copernicus fallaensis).  This is a native to Cuba where it is considered an endangered species with less than a 100 remain.  They are slow growing and become huge with time, presumably a couple of centuries.  The fronds are large as well and well armed with spines along the petiole.  The waxy coating on the leaves makes the fronds look sort of bluish white.

The Phactors have gone south to avoid some winter.  Cuba can almost be seen from a tall bar stool; it's only 90 miles away.  This crazy looking pylon is the southern most place in the continental USA.  A place on the big Island of Hawaii is actually further south.  A lot of the people here seem to be Cuban and not sure why that should be the case.  The drive out from the mainland reminds you how much of this land is only a little above sea level, a lot of the keys will be submerged before anything else gets flooded.  Saw a Pine Key deer today; probably only 30" tall at the shoulder.  Although they have increased in numbers there still are not very many of these small deer around.

Alternate Reality

TPP thinks that maybe just maybe he and his travelling companions have slipped into an alternate reality.  Three-wheeled bicycles, most of them electric assisted, suddenly out number cars, and the bike riders either have on white bonnets or broad-rimmed hats and beards.  Palm trees abound, and everything is quite green.  Silly as this sounds it is apparently the local reality.  This alternate reality seems to be normal for Sarasota Florida and it is all the result of celery.  Hey, TPP does not make this stuff up. One thing TPP knows for certain, you will not catch him moving to this area, no way, no how.  Although the "we survived the 60s twice" Phactors actually fit the local demographic (gray hairs abound) this is not our idea of a life.  The break from winter is a nice thing, although the F1 thinks, a mink or wolverine is making tracks in the snow on our patio back in Lincolnland winter, this is not our thing.  And raccoon or fox is a lot more likely on the patio. Water the bonsai trees, kid.  Thanks.

photographic field guide to roadside prairie plants

BrianO, a long time and valued correspondent, asked TPP to review this field guide, but no time to do it right now (getting ready for a road trip)(but wrong season and wrong place to try this out).  But I know that a lot of impressive plant people lurk in the back ground of this blog.  So here's the link BrianO provided, have a look see and report back.  TPP will let you know about his initial reaction in a bit, when time permits.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Cactus

OK in an effort to get a day/date disconnect resolved, TPP thought why not do something unusual like do a FFF on an actual Friday.  People won't expect that.  One of our favorite house plants is in full bloom and it is so very cheerful,  Hatiora salicornioides.  This is a epiphytic or orchid cactus that used to be in the genus Rhipsalis.   The specific epithet is sort of interesting because it means it looks like a well-known halophyte Salicornia.  This particular plant has gotten big, probably 50 lbs big and the largest and oldest stems are quite woody.  At any rate there are hundreds of drooping stems and each one bears a golden yellow flower at its terminus.  Each segment has a slender portion and then a thick succulent portion.  

Now here's an image of some Salicornia growing in a salt marsh at low-tide.  It doesn't look like this very much except for the many segments and the succulence.  


A slightly belated Happy New Year

It was finally obvious that the solstice holidays were over a few days back when the last cookie was eaten, a sugared nutball.  They have excellent longevity and TPP had made a double batch.  Now there are still cookies around because people had purchased several varieties and gifted them to this writer.  Hmm, that might say something about the image he projects.  One variety was Newman's own, a mimic of oreos, but Newman's own should have stuck with salad dressing.  The mimics just don't have the deep dark chocolate flavor that the cookies should have.  And then the unevenly applied white filling is denser and not as creamy as the stuff in oreos.  NOs are not bad cookies but they are not nearly as good as the originals unless you are committed to organic flour and organic sugar, and want to spend more so that some of the profits go to a charity, TPP says don't bother.  
The January weather has been mild so far and only slightly wintry. Hellebore buds are beginning to poke up as are the shoots. It was windy the other day as this latest front arrived, so it will take some time to walk the gardens and pick up twigs and limbs.  It is a bit hard this time of year to be productive.  Don't much care what the British royals do.  And TPP doesn't like basketball.  The political posturing of both the inept POTUS and those that wish to replace him are not interesting beyond the worry they create.  This latest sword rattling episode with Iran clearly shows that trust and integrity is a WH problem, and the danger of such rash action is not understood.  2020 is not starting out well.  

First Friday Fabulous flower of 2020 - Queen's tears

OK, it's only Thursday, but it's the 31st, and I'd probably not get a chance tomorrow.  Those of you with good memories may recall that TPP has showed you this flower before (here) and  maybe else where too.  And for good reason.  It's a real fabulous flower, and it just makes you feel good when this semi-scraggy bromeliad flowers.  Now this year TPP repotted the plant because there was no soil, or orchidy growing mixture at all, just rhizomes.  Gave away a rather large cluster of shoots, or two, and replanted the rest.  New basket and replanted plant (Billbergia nutans) probably weighs 30-40 pounds without being soaked with water.  And of course TPP wanted to play with his new iPhone macro lens some more.  And so here it is.  Isn't that a great combination of colors.  The blue eye-liner  petals are the niftiest thing.  

Christmas present toy - macro/wide angle lens for iphone

Want to guess?  Well, it's the corona at the center of a paper white narcissus.  It's about 4 mm in diameter.  The image was taken using an auxiliary macro lens and illuminator.  Five of the six anthers are visible (covered in pollen), and the pistil with a tri-lobed terminal stigma.  The only trick is to hold the phone/camera still enough to get a sharp image.  But the lens work quite well.  The wide-angle lens increases the field of view by about 45%.  The whole kit is quite small and can be clipped to you belt or pouch or put in a pocket or on a lanyard.  Oh, and TPP should mention that the F1 provided this gift.  Thanks, kiddo!  Sorry the brand name has not been mentioned, but TPP doesn't do product endorsements (if you have to know, email your request). Remember this blog is free, non-monetized.  You are welcome.