Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Here's all the anthers.

Midsummer is an interesting time for our gardens.  Lots of lilies of all sorts for color, but then several white flowered species.  But the queen of the shade gardens is this black snake root (lots of common names, but it is not a well-known plant here in the upper Midwest) (formerly Cimicifuga racemosa, now Actea racemosa just as good old Linnaeus proposed).  The tall (5'+) branched racemes of white flowers show up very nicely in the light shade it prefers.  The flowers have no sepals or petals, just a cluster of a hundred or so stamens surrounding a single pistil.  The odor is described as a sweet and fetid, to which TPP adds musky, and it attracts an array of pollen foraging insects: flies, gnats, beetles.  Although a bit hard to get established, the plants are tough and long-lived. This is a member of the buttercup family which has a number of species whose flowers only have anthers.  


The weather of late has been close to hot; and humid.  Not everything likes that kind of weather.  The lily pond has stayed pretty full because of all the rain (3.6" in the last event).  And for some reason the waterlilies (Nymphaea) are doing very well.  These flowers are totally gorgeous what with all the flower parts, and while not favorites with everyone these white waterlilies are very white and with the contrasting leaves and water, they are wonderful.  Actually this image is very similar to a water color painting of waterlilies that we bought on line quite a few years ago,  TPP actually found the painting while searching for images of waterlilies.  Enjoy!

Friday Fabulous Flower - pond flora

Wow the long weekend sent by very fast, so Friday comes early this week or late last week.  Who cares?  So you may never have looked closely at this particular native plant because you likely would get wet and muddy getting close.  This is not such a problem for a lily pond if the damned four-legged mammals would stay away and quit stomping plants and tipping over pots.  Even the neighbor's young lab got in on the fun.
At any rate the pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) is still doing OK (the part that didn't get mashed and is looking good).  It is a handsome plant and worth having for some pond edge vegetation and flowers.

Friday Fabulous Flower - Neither grass nor a pink

First of all, TPP has to thank the F1 for buying this plant for a Father's Day present.  Sadly it got savaged by a nocturnal visitor for no particular reason, but raccoons are like that.  The common name grass pink refers to two other plant families and it is neither, so much for common names.  This is an orchid native to this area, Calopogon tuberosa, the generic name refers to the yellow beard. Curiously most orchids are resupinate meaning that their flower stalk twists 180 degrees to turn the flower upside down, however this orchid flower is right side up. The slender leaf is slightly grassy, and the flower is pink, so there you go.

Garden come through - primavera

Some broccoli, a cup or so of snap peas, some asparagus, and for good measure a handful of golden chantarelles, not enough of any one thing but altogether they make for quite a good pasta primavera. And you never ever see chantarelles in a store in the USA, so quite a treat.   

Friday Fabulous Flower - Last Magnolia of the Season

It has been a pretty good year for Magnolias; no late frosts and plenty of rain, almost too much.  When the gardens finally get to June, the Magnolias are just about done flowering, except for the sweet bay, Magnolia virginiana.  In our area this species never grows into a full-fledged tree and generally grows as a largish shrub. Some genotypes have trouble with the winter cold so choose your nursery well, preferably to your north.  Ours does not produce a big floral display, but rather a few flowers at a time, and you are more likely to notice their stunning fragrance than their visual display.  The floral odor is a sort of musky fruity fermenty mix that little beetles just love.

Friday Fabulous Flowers - Calycanthus

These are presently in flower in the Phactors' garden, and according to some they are all in the same genus - Calycanthus.  The maroon  colored flower in the upper left is the Carolina spicebush, C. floridus, which TPP has taken apart for you. The upper right was originally Sinocalycanthus (featured here before) but is now considered part of the same genus (it was hard to imagine an eastern Asian eastern North American disjunction).  And the bottom flower, trying hard to look like a star magnolia, is their hybrid offspring called "Venus".  It's a largish, scrambling type of shrub that flowers like crazy for several weeks.  Another selection has a maroon flower, but the ivory one shows up better.  All three survived a very tough winter.  Enjoy.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - rare? orchid edition

While taking a small group of friends on a wild flower walk, this little beauty was found just a couple of feet from the foot path along with a dozen or more plants.  This is often called the purple twayblade orchid, Liparis liliifolia.  And then a friend asked, "Is it rare?  I've never seen one before." that is a fairly interesting question.  This is a small plant usually just a few inches across the pair of leaves and maybe standing 5-6 inches tall in a much taller meadow-type habitat, and the flowers certainly are not gaudy or bright enough to attract much attention.  The fact is that TPP doesn't know how common or uncommon this orchid may be, but one suspects it is more common than you might guess because it is insignificant and easy to miss.  In an old field meadow, a vegetational analysis found one of 3 species of small orchid (Flora of Comlara Park has pictures) at the rate of at least one for every 5 square meters examined.  But even then just walking through the meadow would not result in seeing anything without being very careful.  These little plants were in plain site but TPP had walked by earlier and missed them.  And if deer are plentiful (they are) and bunnies are common (even with foxes around they are), these orchid are subject to being browsed making them less common, but TPP has seen several others this spring, so maybe a good year?  

Appreciation of art - Sistine Chapel version

A lot of good art can be seen in Rome, and TPP thinks perhaps Michelangelo's  famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is some of the best.  The problem is that the chapel is not a huge space, and it is tall and narrow and there are a lot of panels up there.  Now ordinarily when you encounter a really nice piece of art, you take your time to observe it and let it make an impression upon you.  Not here you're not because you are crowded in with 300 other people in a way that makes it seem like the influx is being used to put pressure upon earlier arrivals to exit.  Like a lot of similar situations a low murmur from a lot of people talking quietly fills the chapel with a white noise, until someone blares over the PA system, "Silence!"  This was followed by "No photos" and "No videos".  An explanation was offered, loudly, that this was a sacred place and silent respect was expected, so "Let us pray".  But my simple prayer went unanswered, the crowd did not disappear and the PA system did not go silent.  The ceiling was a wonderful thing to see, but the experience was not excellent.  And then you get to exit through a gift shop where you could buy all those sacred images on the outside of coffee mugs.  This put a rather different spin on the photo prohibition, it was all about money.  Actually for TPP the first part of the Vatican museums was mostly Egyptian art and it was a excellent display. BTW buying a skip the line ticket is probably a good idea.  

Friday Fabulous Flower- squash blossom

OK TPP is in Rome; and we’ve been splitting a pizza for lunch. This one is the best one yet: cherry tomatoes, squash flowers, and cheese.  TPP hasn’t talked much about culinary uses of flowers but they can be great.  Sorry this is brief but hard to post using my phone.