Field of Science

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!).  

Friday Fabulous Fruit


Ripe fruit is of course a flower at the stage of seed dispersal.  And one of the nicest "flowering" shrubs in our gardens are the winterberries, which is a holly, (Ilex verticillata).  Now hollies do not have large attractive flowers, but the fruit display can be very vivid especially when contrasted against the green leaves.  Except winterberry is a deciduous native holly, so it drops its leaves leaving the brilliant red berries on display, where they will remain until discovered by migrating cedar waxwings or robins.  Like all hollies winterberry is also dioecious (2- houses), so you need "males" to pollinate the females.  TPP likes to plant a pollinator plant for every 3-4 fruiting plants.  Obviously the winterberries have not dropped their leaves yet, but you can see how bright the red berry display is anyways.  Unfortunately the berries are not edible for the basic human GI tract.  But they look great in a boarder planting.  The shrubs can grow to 3-4 meters tall in wet areas, but seldom get more than a meter or two in drier places.  They are not a finicky about soils as some hollies either.  

Mother nature is messing with us

The fall has been very late such that no frosts yet and very little night time cold, so leaf color changes have barely begun here in the last week of October.  And now it's snowing and trees still have most of their leaves!  Nothing looks sadder than a big leaf magnolia with all its leaves bending under the weight of snow; nothing is sadder than a tree breaking under the weight of snow.  Now this snow will not last long, but it's messing with the nicest part of the fall season, and that's just not nice.  
Only the truly dedicated trick-or-treaters will be out tonight, and we have very few kids of the appropriate age in our hood anyways.  However it was probably a good thing that the dead oak whose crown reached over our roof was taken down before this snow and wind thing.  And we hope nothing else gets damaged too badly.  A few years ago a big wet heavy snow fell around Thanksgiving and as we walked through the neighborhood, you could hear the snapping of Bradford pear trees. 

National Black Cat Day

The Phactors are servants for two black cats.  Unfortunately TPP is just a bit late with this post.  Both of our cats are indoor cats although the younger one does get to walk about a bit on a leash every now and then.  This is one of the reasons our yard and gardens are such a haven for squirrels, chipmunks,and birds.  The younger one is long-haired tuxedo patterned Norwegian Forest cat.  She is most definitely Mrs. Phactor's cat.  The older and somewhat larger cat is a rescue cat and maybe the biggest lap cat ever.  She tends to make naps a major pastime, and spends every evening on or next to TPP's lap.  Here she is shown on the cat bench between two kitchen windows, a favorite summer napping spot.  Life is definitely tough on these two.  


Happy Birthday cocktail

The local napkin that passes itself off as a newspaper had a fluff article declaring today as the birthday of the Negroni cocktail.  Equal parts Campari, sweet Vermouth, and gin.  This is not a kiddy cocktail and our 20-something nieces
decided after a taste that this was not a cocktail for them unless they were allowed to sugar it to death.  This image shows how the Phactors wait for relatives, in a totally appropriate manner in a sidewalk café in Florence.  If you substitute bourbon for the gin you have a cocktail called Boulevardier, and actually TPP likes it a bit better.  But when in Rome...(or Florence, or Genoa, or Levanto).

Friday Fabulous Flower - Fall flowers?

TPP has just been too busy.  Two programs involving the herbarium and its contents, so panel discussions and visiting speakers.  It's great but busy and TPP  is not used to so much activity.  And then there are house and garden things, repair and alter water damaged rooms, removal of dead (sadly) shingle oak that had been in decline all summer. It was a substantial tree at 33" dbh and probably around 85-90 feet tall.  Even the pros had to work hard to take it down mostly because it was a bit close to our house and its crown over topped part of our roof and awaiting for the next ice storm to take part of it down is not sound policy.  My feline office assistant just showed up, so it's getting harder to see the monitor and to type. Arrival announced by head butting of TPP's right elbow; a sign of affection.
Weather has been a bit absurd, too warm especially at night so no frosts yet and it's the 21th of October.  Without cold nights to stop the chlorophyll production, leaf color has not started to change yet with a few exceptions.
Stopped by the coffee Shoppe and TPP's latte came to $4.10.  Handed the young woman counter clerk a 5-dollar bill and a dime.  She did not know what to do and had to ask for help. Sad.  As a grade school kid TPP remembers making currency and setting up a pretend store in the classroom for the purpose of learning how to handle money and change.  Of course TPP has resisted setting up his phone to pay via blue tooth is it?  So he is probably looked upon sadly by young counter clerks.  Imaging this guy used cash rather than his phone to pay for coffee.
Back to the weather thing.  Quite a few things are in flower, some because it is their season, the wolfbane, the Asian anemones, and some summer hold overs.  But this one was a surprise, an "ever-blooming" Iris given to Mrs. Phactor by a friend.  It seems to like the late fall weather and has responded by having a 2nd flowering.

Fall color of a different sort


Well it's the last day of September, and summer like temperatures persist.  So our tropical houseplants can remain outside for awhile longer.  Because of this a tower of cucumber vines continue to produce and so do other summer garden plants: eggplant, tomato, zucchini.  And our gardens are quite green because of recent rains and the lack of cool temperatures, so chlorophyll continues to be synthesized so no fall coloration to leaves at all.  However one of our tropical plants (actually it belongs to the F1 but because she has a plant eating cat it continues to reside with us.) is quite colorful, a croton (Codiaeum variegatum), in the spurge or euphorb family.  Not only are the leaves variegated but that is combined with bright red coloration and the various combinations make the plant very attractive and colorful.  The flowers are rather small and insignificant.  It's the foliage that counts here.