Field of Science

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.     

Very sad tidings

Among the many season's greetings the Phactors learned that our favorite orchard near Niles Michigan was going to cease their family farming.  TPP is sad because this has been our source of Northern Spy apples ever since the retirement hobby orchard near Monticello IL really retired.  They had about 40 varieties of apples; the orchard in MI had about 200 apple varieties, and TPP hopes that someone will want to look after all that genetic diversity.  In case you did not know orchards take a lot of work to stay productive and they deteriorate very quickly if neglected.  So sad.

Happy Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice occurs at 8:19 to night, and of course today is the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere.  Too bad it doesn't correspond to New Year's Day or Christmas.  Of course lots of good pagan symbolism abounds including evergreen trees, wreaths, garlands, and red berries.  Our gardens have two patches of winterberry bushes and the females are loaded with bright red berries, and they look great this year.  Later today TPP must get some firewood, some yule logs, to brighten the house, whether he listens to yuletide carols or not.  Yule is a 12 day celebration/season that begins with Christmas and ends with the 12th night after, and a lot of partridges in pear trees.  This reminds TPP that the Phactors made a pear dessert for a French dinner a week ago.  The ripe pears were marinated in red wine with apple brandy and spices until that got all nicely burgundy in color and then they were served on a bed of homemade  caramel (tricky stuff) but really, really good.
On the whole it is a good season and a good enough reason to celebrate without all the religious over tones.  So be happy, be glad, have drinks and dinners with friends and relatives.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - or not, Poinsettia

Sorry TPP has been ridiculously busy and ignoring his blog.  At any rate a friend stopped by with a very nice, a very traditional holiday decorative plant, a poinsettia.  She remarked about how many great big flowers the plant had, which is nice, but they aren't what many people think.  Poinsettia is a cultivar of Euphorbia pulcherrima, a member of the spurge family.  Most members of this very diverse family have small, unattactive, unisexual flowers, and poinsettia is no different.


Remember how flowering plant advertise their flowers, usually via a conspicuous display.  If your flowers are small and unattractive, cluster them together or put something very attactive right next to them.  Or do both.  Here is a typical poinsettia flower, and what you actually notive are large, red bracts, leaves associated with flowers.  In the center are several clusters of unisexual flowers sometimes, usually with several pollen producing "male" flowers and one or more pistillate "female" flowers with a big yellow nectary on the side.  So there are lots of flowers there, but unless you focused on the "stuff" in the center, you got the flower quiz wrong.  BTW TPP really doesn't like the odd colored or sparkly tarted up poinsettias.  

Bidens - What's all the fuss?


TPP finds it hard to understand why everyone is so interested in Bidens.  This genus of flowering plants is in the Aster family, and it's most generally known common name is beggerticks.  The fruits sport a pair of bristles at one end that are very good at hitching a ride upon animal pelts or their artificial equivalents worn by humans.  Hard to know how many times TPP has returned home from the field and had to pull dozens of these hitchhiking fruits from his clothing.  Although the flowers are largely yellow, breeders have selected for larger blooms and more colors including reds, oranges, and white.  And unless you are quite diligent about picking off the spent flowers you may find yourself lugging around fruits from your own flower garden.
Actually TPP was pretty sure the Bidens in question were of the human variety, and not nearly as interesting as the plants. At any rate this seemed like a good idea to get a volume of traffic to read this blog.  

Ohio's Student Religious Freedom bill - nothing good will come of this.

The Ohio House has approved by an overwhelming vote the Student Religious Freedom bill and now it awaits their Senate's action.  It allows students to provide answers consistent with their religious beliefs and they cannot lose any points or have their grade reduced for such answers.  So yes they can answer science questions with religious beliefs, i.e., saying that the Earth is only 6000 yrs old would suffice and be counted as equally correct with a geological answer.  TPP has long held the opinion that you may believe what you will religiously, but you are not constitutionally protected from discomforting ideas.  This Ohio Bill runs directly counter to this.  And of course no evidence is needed for the religious answer.  
This reminds TPP of an event around 400 years ago when the Inquisition force Galileo to recant his views on a heliocentric solar system, and it was claimed he muttered under his breath "And yet it moves."  There is no evidence Galileo did this, but the Ohio bill shows how little we've learned.  And apparently the idea that the Earth is a flat-disk rather than a globe is growing in popularity.  TPP blames social media, where people can find like-minded postings that refute those stuffy old experts who claim to actually know something.  This is a pathetic situation and a law designed to oppose evidence based scientific knowledge of all sorts.  Welcome to our new Dark Ages, legislated ignorance.  

Day-light savings time - Gardeners like it.

A Lincolnland politician has introduced a bill that would keep the state on daylight savings time, and as a gardener TPP is all for it.  A lot of good gardening gets done in the evening when the state is on daylight savings time.  Of course the switch to standard time just happened accompanied by the usual whining about what a waste this all is.  Frankly it matters not to TPP if it's dark in the early AM during the winter months. And this from a guy whose watch and car clock are almost impossible to reset, as is the alarm cat. Indiana the state next door stays on standard time (god's time?).  And you can just shift whatever you are doing to best optimize the available daylight.  Too complicated for some employers, but when you retire such strict time schedules can be ignored (yea!).