Field of Science

2015 - Another fine year shot to heck! Year end musings

What's a tree worth? This interesting thought came to me while watching the chainsaw pros quickly clean up the ice storm tree debris.  As TPP watched a nearly 20 foot limber pine zip through the chipper, you know you only paid $130 for the tree plus the cost of delivery and planting (too big), but even if someone were to give you $200 for a replacement, you can't get back the 8-10 years of growth. That begins to tell you how much a really big tree is worth, they're really priceless and they should not be taken down without damned good cause.
So instead of a tree limb mess there now exists a 15 foot wide 20 foot long empty space although TPP's Sinocalycanthus appears to have escaped tree fall damage.  Good thin it'd be pretty tough to replace.  So the Phactors get to rethink this border garden and maybe try something different; it was a bit too shady for the limber pine. 
This ends TPPs first full year of retirement and the most surprising thing has been how busy his life has been. So no daytime TV, no shortage of chores, no shortage of gardening jobs, no boredom at all. On the positive side, he cooks more Italian food and shops more for groceries. Further he resolves to clean up all of the kitchen messes he creates. 
This blog is also almost 8 years old. Although very few people noticed at first, readership has been pretty steady for the last few years. Hope you all appreciate the total and complete absence of annoying popup ads or pathetic bloggers begging for donations. Heck, TPP hasn't even tried to flog his real life counterparts book; hard to do when writing under a pseudonym. The assumption is that readers appreciate these efforts.  Hard to know what my readers think because - in general silence. TPP admits that the primary purpose of this blog is to get things off my mind, to blow off steam, and lower the blood pressure in a semi-constructive manner.
Politics is so very bad this year that TPP can hardly write anything at all because it all comes out sounding so very pessimistic that it doesn't help the old state of mind at all. Seriously thinking that candidates should be asked if they garden, and if not, then we should forget them completely. Hoe some weeds, mow some grass, grow some tomatoes and then we'll talk.  Maybe 2016 should be the year of Gardening for better government, then we sharpen our hoes and weed out all of the baddies.
Send your local politicians some seeds and see what they do with them. Maybe we can grow some better government, a real grassroots effort.  Tell the blogger what you thinks. Time to cleanup the kitchen.

Garden toll and cleanup is exercise

Monday was such nasty weather.  The ice storm cleanup took the Phactors about 2.5 hrs of hauling twigs and limbs to the street for pick up.  How many calories do you burn dragging big limbs 300 feet to the street?  This is definitely not just exercise, but work because it accomplishes something. A big piece of a white fir heavily laden with ice required some chain saw therapy to make moveable pieces and that was just the top 30 feet or so that fell into our garden; the rest remains in the neighbors' driveway, but limbs hung on power and cable wires prevented us from doing any more cleanup.  The large limb from a tulip tree crown shown in the earlier blog still awaits professional attention. It squashed our hedgerow garden along the neighbors' driveway like bug and then sprawled another 25 feet or so across lawn.  The toll is adding up, but what are you going to do? Two beautiful 9-foot-tall western arborvitae trees were snapped off, half the limbs were stripped from a 15 foot tall limber pine, an oakleaf hydrangea, three dwarf pink hydrangeas, and a little lime hydrangea were flattened into the ground. However a small 2-year old seedling of Sinocalycanthus was miraculously missed, but doubt it will survive the cleanup because it's not easy to notice.  This is not an easy plant to replace, so TPP hopes for the best. Elsewhere the fir attempted to squash some newly planted shrubs, an Itea and several winter berry hollies. Damaged they are, but they will probably fully recover; their anti-bunny cages not so much. Mature spirea bushes provided some cushioning, and they bend but don't break. On the whole it could have been much worse; fortunately there was little damage elsewhere. If the tulip tree had fallen just 4 feet further north it would have missed our garden but then the neighbors' garage would have been squashed like a bug instead of the arborvitae. Would that have been worth it?  Hmmm?

It's not nice to tempt Mother Nature when she's in a bad mood already


Just an hour ago, TPP tempted fate and the fickle finger of Mother Nature delivered.  The pixels on TPP's last blog were hardly dry when a largish limb split from the neighbor's big Liriodendron (tulip tree) and narrowly missed squashing their garage like a bug. As it is the damage is minimal but no one is going anywhere any time too soon. This is a job well beyond TPP's abilities with a chair saw although in younger and more foolish days he has handled an even bigger job, but then it was his own garage on the line, and it was only a weekender cabin. Of course a couple of nice Thuja plicata's are under that limb and the limber pine may have taken a beating. Not to mention his tiny Sinocalycanthus is where it can get trampled during the clean up.  Of course, this kind of weather will have every qualified arborist in the area working overtime for a week or two.

Ice! Not nice!

Nothing quite like an ice storm when you live in a neighborhood of big trees. With an accumulation of about 1/4" on twigs and limbs, every gust of wind, and it is windy, and it rains twigs and limbs, and it is raining, heavily.  On the whole a lovely day! A biggish limb had fallen from the rhododendron-hating oak, but a weeping mulberry caught it before it could smash a new azalea, but each gust of wind was smashing the limb into a sun porch window.  So no choice, TPP had to suit up and pull the limb loose.  A really big limb was blocking the street and the driveways of two neighbors, but the intrepid botanist was able to pull enough out of the way to open the street and one of the two driveways.  Sorry, across the street neighbor, but the limb in your driveway is way to big for this one old guy to pull.  To continue the good-deeding, accumulations of limbs were blocking the sidewalk and drives of two more neighbors, so since you can't get wetter, TPP pulled all of those limbs out of the way too. Should be charging by the pound, but that diminishes the goodness of the deed.
The Phactors back gardens are a  stream where the flooded upper half is running down into the flooded lower half, and, wow!, another limb just came crashing down, but out where it doesn't need to be moved just now. Birds are packing into the covered birdfeeder, but a red-bellied woodpecker keeps zipping in and rousting everyone else. Guess they like to eat alone
Ooo! Another limb just came down in the back garden, and the air temp 31 F at 7 AM is still stubbornly stuck on 32, so this isn't going to abate very soon.  So far so good in terms of no serious damage to ornamentals or structures. A more detailed inspection will happen when it stops raining ice cubes.  Have a nice day!

New toy - iphone adapter

TPP got himself a new toy! It's a photo adapter for his iphone, once you get the adapter adjusted for your particular iphone, the adapter easily attaches to any occular, a telescope, half of a pair of binoculars, or your favorite research microscope.  TPP has several excellent microscopes but they were all made for film photography, and so this adapter is a cheap, under $50, means of readapting so you can digitally record data again.  Of course, you don't drag you favorite microscope home for the holidays, they are big and heavy, so your telescope will have to do.  Although the initial adjustment is a bit tricky and TPP's model of iphone is right at the limits of what will fit in the adapter size-wise, it works pretty well.  This is an image of one of our feathered free-loaders taken by this new setup.  So far this seems like a pretty good  toy, one that you might enjoy having.  See for yourself, the results are pretty good even when taken through the kitchen window out to a bird feeder some 30-40 feet away.

First flower of winter


December 25th, Christmas Day, 2015.  After a morning of exchanging gifts and eating breakfast, the Phactors took a 6000+ stride walk, according to Mrs. Phactor's new fitness accessory, basically TPP's round trip to campus, a lovely walk during which a friend photographed a black squirrel.  TPP knows about melanistic squirrels but had never seen one around here. Checked out the surrounding neighborhood to see where things were going well and where things need some work. But upon our return home and while picking up all the downed limbs from a recent windy night, you have perhaps heard of our oak tree that hates rhododendrons (an anti-rabbit fence made a save), well that limb had many companions around the property. But there it was defiantly yellow in the middle of our ecologically diverse lawn, the first flower of winter, and here it was only the 4th official day of winter, i.e., since the solstice.  Technically it's an inflorescence, so dozens of flowers, but  you know what TPP means. 
What an unexpected splash of color totally emphasizing the unusual nature of our weather of late. US weather services report so many temperature records and other stuff that December 2015 will go down as one of the most anomalous months in weather history.  So no wonder plants are confused, and in the long haul, confused plants are not a good thing. Now our lawn flora is nothing to worry about, but when fruit trees flower too early, you lose your crop to the cold snap that follows.  Highly unpredictable weather will have an impact on our food supply.  So yes, you may look upon the 1st flower of winter as a harbinger of things to come that will not be good. Welcome to the weather of climate change. 

I'm dreaming of spring bulbs for Christmas

It's 61 degrees outside after a morning of thunderstorms that dumped a couple of inches of rain on us. Not only isn't this going to be a white Christmas, but spring bulbs: scilla, snow drops, daffodils, and spring beauty shoots are appearing all over the place.  Helleborus niger flower buds are showing and Helleborus foetidus is flowering. TPP is surprised witchhazel isn't in flower.  For two people who grew up in the snowbelt this is pretty unusual, but it's unusually warm across the whole eastern half of North America.
The Phactors got an alumni newletter the other day from Oswego State on the east end of Lake Ontario, and it listed the 10 biggest snow accumulation school years and Mrs. Phactor was there for two of the top 10 '69-'70 and '70-'71.  Around 230" of snow each year.  In '66-'67 TPP witnessed their largest single event snowfall, 102" in 32 hours!!!  Hard to imagine isn't it?  But both of us grew up in places that got 100-150" of snow a year, so it wasn't that big of a deal.
But the Phactors have gotten older and softer, so not sure how to handle that much snow any more. Glugwine and a fire place sounds about right.  Mostly the spring plants will be OK especially if some snow finally provides some protection.
Oh, now the weather says expect winds up to 50 mph! At least the snow won't be drifting.

Santa's helpers - elves not cats


Today not much was going on.  TPP was to obtain provisions for a dinner party, a Christmas breakfast, and a dinner for two. So why not take a little time to wrap presents? A whole bunch of little things needed to be organized and then wrapped so it took a little time, but TPP had so much help. One of the two kitty-girls decided to help.  Crinkly paper, ribbons, especially when wrapped around something soft and of just the right size, like a pair of mittens, are just so much fun; they can be pounced on, bitten, clawed, tossed, and just in general played with like the cat toy they are not. I'm sure everyone involved will understand if their gift package is a bit rumply and a litte perforated. Needless to say the whole thing took considerably longer than estimated. Wrapping paper is hard to cut to the right size when a cat is upon it, or under it, or grabbing at it or worse the scissors. And in the end you understand why Santa uses elves for helpers not cats. But she is cute and funny.

Cookie animation

Here's a link to a funny and pretty clever animation suitable for children of all ages.  This came via Treehugger, a holiday greeting of sorts from a website that is always worth visiting.  The patience and ingenuity and technology to do things like this have always been intriguing, but  not knowing or understanding how things are done is part of the magic.

Worcestershire sauce

One crazy thing can lead to another and often does. The last blog, Big Mango, led to thinking and mentioning a big tamarind pod in Thailand, so when visiting the basement fridge to get some cold drinks a jar of tarmarind concentrate caught TPP's attention, and that reminded him that it was time to make a new batch of worcestershire sauce, which is in part tamarind based, and since cooking is one way he passes time and Mrs. Phactor has commanded "no sugary temptations", this condiment would be a good diversion. This is a great recipe and makes a wonderful sauce (no offense to Lazano's Salsa from Costa Rica). As always best to check the cupboards to see if you have all the fixings before you begin, and our well-stocked spice hoard delivered all the necessary bits. Technically this is a bit sugary (melted caramelized sugar), but isn't the sort of temptation that was prohibited, besides it has to steep for a couple three weeks to develop some depth and authority. So too late to use as a homemade gift.

Big Mango

Somehow, somewhere, a story came to TPP's attention about the Big Mango, a roadside attraction outside of Bowen, Australia. Bowen is also the name of a popular variety of mango; it isn't a coincidence. Perhaps what registered was another roadside attraction some 50 km or so north of Townsville, the Frosty Mango.  You haven't lived until you've had their black sapote ice cream.TPP has also seen the biggest tamarind pod in Thailand. And the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD to complete all of the roadside, out-sized fruits he can think of. Funniest thing is that somebody once stole the big mango.  Really? Shy would you, and where do you hide such a thing? Not that stealing a few mangos is above this author (the flying foxes were rather disturbed), but the big mango, that doesn't make sense. Any other big fruit attractions TPP needs on his bucket list?

Mangroves - more important than ever



Most of you have probably never seen or visited a mangrove forest.  They are by and large inaccessible, a muddy tangle of roots and stems at low tide, and flooded at high tide. But mangrove forests are vitally important.  Mangroves are the primary producers and nursery locations for coastal fisheries. Not only that but mangroves buffer storm surges protecting villages and cities just inland. But in too many places mangroves have been destroyed looked upon as wasted space by developers ever lusting after still more coastal property. in one case in Thailand mangroves were being destroyed to create ponds for growing shrimp, but at the same time damaging coastal fisheries.  However some progress is being made when local people begin to see the relationship between mangroves and their food and storm survival. In a world of rising seas levels, mangroves will be more important than ever. So if you live in southern Florida or other low areas, plant mangroves, don't build condos. That's TPP's wise but certain to be ignored advice.

Lucky duck skeptic edition

Wow!  Is TPP a lucky duck or what?  I mean nearly 2.5 million dollars as a "random choice"?  Here's the confidential, high importance message.
Hi,
My name is Jeffrey Skoll, a philanthropist and the founder of one of the largest private foundations in the world. I believe strongly in ‘giving while living.’ I had one idea that never changed in my mind — that you should use your wealth to help people and I have decided to secretly give USD2.498 Million to a randomly selected individual. On receipt of this email, you should count yourself as the individual. Your email address was chosen online while searching at random. Kindly get back to me at your earliest convenience, so I know your email address is valid.
Visit the web page to know more about me:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/meet-the-canadian-billionaire-whos-giving-it-all-away/article4209888/ or you can read an article of me on Wikipedia.
Regards,
Jeffrey Skoll



You know if perhaps Jeff had mentioned giving TPP $$$ for botanical education or something like that it might have been a better gimmick.  And using a real person's identity was interesting, but not all that creative, even if TPP had never heard of him, but really, a famous guy using a university email address?  And searches are not random by definition.  Does someone need tuition or perhaps you are working on a creative writing degree and criminal record package.  Sorry kid, you're trying to scam a professional skeptic. Pretending to be someone real is creative, better than an Ethiopian prince, but it's not believable to have been singled out at random, although the scam was probably randomly targeted.  Hi, is a bit too informal, but better than Hey!  But no name?  Now just to help your career out and out of the holiday spirirt your email was forwarded to your university's security people, which was easy enough to find on line, so have a nice holiday break.  It'll give them time to track down the phony email account you created at Bergische Universit√§t Wuppertal. The jig (slang) is up, but unfortunately what your next move would have been remains unknown, and we so wanted to know as this just left us hanging in suspense.

Vicious circle cycle



You know those days when the hurried-er you go the behinder you get.  Or when you feel like you're going as fast as  you can just to keep up.  Well, here's the vehicle for you, or for any provost-initiated committee where you can work hard, and end up spinning your wheels and going no where. Just this would be more fun. As regular readers know TPP has long been fascinated with person-powered transportation, and without question this bike is high on innovation, very whimsical, sort of crazy, but pretty low on practicality. The really cool thing is that you don't need a kickstand or a cycle lock; it won't fall over and no one is going to hop on and ride it away.  Still one of these in the middle of the quad would keep 6-8 students out of trouble at a time and think of the exercise.  Very intellectually relaxing since there are no decisions to make. 

That was some spicy soup - a typo?

The Phactors have been part of a monthly dinner group for nearly 40 years. Out last meeting featured a Portuguese spicy kale soup (caldo verde), almost a national dish.  It's made with a spicy sausage, chicken broth, and a lot of kale.  The soup turned out extremely spicy even though the person who prepared the soup only used half of the 14 teaspoons of black pepper the recipe called for.  Now that is a crap load of black pepper by anyone's standards and even with just 7 tsp the soup was on the edge of what most of us could deal with.  This number, 14 tsp bothered TPP, because having made this soup years ago, he had no memory of extreme spiciness, and a quick google search could not find a recipe calling for so much pepper. The soup basically relies on the sausage for the spicy taste and most to the recipes called for 1/4 tsp of black pepper for a recipe using 12 to 16 ounces of sausage, a typical batch for 6-8 servings.  14 was such an odd number, but what if the recipe got copied or transcribed wrongly deleting the / between the 1 and 4 thus increasing the amount of black pepper by 56 times.  Now that is spicy, although we sometimes don't think of black pepper as that spicy.  At least the anti-bacterial qualities of that much black pepper certainly protected us from any contamination on the kale.

Compassionate mousers

Mrs. Phactor noted a very realistic cat toy at the bottom of the basement stairs; it looked real because it was real.  Every now and again a mouse finds its way into the house and if noticed it gets the kitty-girls very excited. This came to TPP's attention because of the number of decorative items that got knocked over during the excitement and some general house disarray. The extent of the excitement wasn't apparent at first because everybody was taking a nap (necessary after a good workout)  by the time TPP got home. Mrs. Phactor wanted the carcass removed and it was in quite good repair and as it turned out it wasn't actually dead, just exhausted. As mentioned before our thoroughly domesticated pets have no killer instinct although their stalking, chasing, and pouncing instincts are quite good.  So even after being pounced on by well-armed, terribly big predators some 200-250 times bigger than itself, the mouse was undamaged.  So it would appear that neither of our kitty-girls learned how to kill prey. And so this blog ends well for the mouse who is back outside probably living quite well on spilled bird seed.

What the flock?

As mentioned just a couple of blogs ago, the Phactors do live cut trees for Christmas decorating. Not everyone has the same tradition, so there are many other trees out there to satisfy all tastes.  So is this to your taste? Is this to anyone's taste?  Well, it is there and you can hardly miss it, so someone did purchase this tree. And guess what?  Under all that petrified cotton candy is a real tree. Sort of hard to identify the species of tree when they've been so throughly flocked. Always thought flocking was to make a tree look like it had snow on it's branches.  So what's this Barbie nightmare supposed to represent? Some controversy among the regulars (it's at our coffee shop) whether its red or pink?  And then wrapped with toilet paper another questionable decision.
Nothing quite says Merry Christmas like a flocked tree.

Climate change on Cruise control - annotated

Here's a link to a science blog that annotates the whole NPR interview.  Cruise control is very consistent in that virtually every statement made about climate change was wrong! A very presidential performance!!

Inflammatory rhetoric - It does work

The "Be afraid, Boo!" inflammatory rhetoric being spewed forth during this political campaign is aimed at the fearful base of our culture.  And no surprise at all, it works.  It makes people fearful and scared people can, and some will, do terrible things. The easy access to guns only makes this situation worse, so those that use such rhetoric have to accept responsibility for instigating the very ugly attitude and resulting actions in the USA at present.  This account from Minnesota Vikings game is an illustration of what has been wrought in an attempt to win votes. 

Skepticism justified

Yes, biologists are confirmed skeptics, meaning that we like to be really convinced, and the 800 year old squash seed story seemed just too good to be completely true.  Turns out to be somewhat more mundane of a story, but common enough for many varieties of food plants. 

Climate change on cruise control

TPP usually starts his day listening to NPR, but this AM the news was enough to put him off his toasted muffin. The interview was with Ted Cruise [sic]. TPP learned that Ted thinks all climate scientists are dishonest conspirators who ignore satellite data so that they can reach conclusions on climate change for liberal political purposes. Because you know they used to say the climate was cooling, don't you know, and now they've changed their tune.  Wow, they're all liberals in their political outlook? How do you explain such a skew? Since it can't be due to chance alone, does this  mean that  the conservative mind just cannot handle science?  And that's why all those fossil fuel industries whose by-products drive climate change support conservative candidates, to proclaim the truth about all those dishonest climate scientists. And so Ted isn't a denialist because he knows what the true data interpreted without bias actually says, "no change at all".  TPP felt like he needed another shower.

ancient Native American squash revived


This is one very good looking squash.  It's from a news report of viable 800-yr old squash seeds was sent to TPP. Could squash seeds actually be viable 800 years after burial?  Good question. That they are old is without question, but how old. The article says the clay pot was dated to 800 years of age, but were the seed also carbon-dated?  12 yr-old is not necessarily in a12-yr-old bottle, a 100 yr old bottle does not make the scotch any older. The point being that the age of the vessel doesn't necessarily date the contents. But even so these seeds were buried for a long time and it's pretty interesting to see such a fine-looking variety of squash revived. 800 year old viable seed of any plant is pretty extraordinary, so skepticism is warrented. The article also says the "species" was thought extinct. What? How did they know it existed? Clearly that is just wrong, this is not a different species of squash or an extinct species, it would be a unique old heritage variety lost from cultivation, which is still pretty neat, but this is just sloppy reporting TPP thinks. A lot of people throw taxonomic labels around willy-nilly without understanding their significance. There are over 400 varieties of squash, but only 4 species. Personally TPP would like to see what the molecular data says in the hands of a Cucurbita taxonomist. Hey Mac are you paying attention here?

Climate change - Ignore the man behind the curtain

TPP is a scientist, but a botanist not a climate scientist. Still it seems that some people want assurance from someone who speaks and reads science about scientific conclusions about climate change. What bothers this scientist the most about climate change is what is not being talked about, and that what is human population growth. In many places the rate of growth has slowed but in other places, mainly African & Middle East, the growth rate is unabated.  It's a simple equation, more people means more energy, more food, more water, more waste, more contributions to the things causing global warming. Even with our reduced rate of reproduction, the population of the USA will grow by 50% in the next 80 years. There are countries on Earth where that growth may be as high as 400%!!  This tends to make for a pessimistic attitude, where the potential movers and shakers act as if population growth were no matter at all.  A few people are daring to broach this topic, so whether this gets any traction or not will be seen. There have been so few people willing to act on population, willing to even acknowledge this if a problem, that should you bring it up legions of denialists will arise. It's as if all of human culture has been constructed as a huge population Ponzi scheme, such that without a constantly expanding base the whole pyramid would come tumbling down.  Sorry to bring this up what with so much cheerful news of late to buoy your spirits and optimism.  So to end with something positive alternative energy technologies are increasing in importance and getting more economically feasible and at a faster pace than anyone could have guessed. And it's a Monday.

Society calls. And we answer.

It's that season again, where the social invitations begin to pile up. Yesterday the Phactors & F1 went tree shopping and then some cooking. First was an ecological openhouse immediately followed by a student pot-luck Christmas party complete with ugly Christmas sweater competition.  There was a spirited contest but it was for 2nd place because who can beat a green sweater embroidered with a sasquatch wearing a red bikini? Today begins the Martha Stewart transformation of the abode, and also is a very nice dinner party for which we made some spicy marinated shrimp which are presently residing in two mason jars in the fridge. Later this week we have at least three social engagements in a tight sequence.  Oh to be so loved! And you get lots of nice snacks. When oh when will TPP get time to bake cookies?  And then he is reminded that he is retired and can bake cookies anytime, and yes, that's much more fun than final exams, whether taking them or giving and grading them.  So when do you blog? When Mrs. Phactor is running errands and TPP is supposed to be doing this or that.  So best keep this short. Grinches seem to get burned out  by socializing, but in general it's rather fun to chat with people not frequently seen and to meet a few new people and try to remember their names (not one of TPP's strong suits unless its Latin). People are a bit subdued because of recent event, crappy politics, and all but glad for some distraction.  

Christmas tree time

Issues:
Live or artificial?  Mrs. Phactor is no neutral on this score it must be a live tree, abeit one soon to die.
It's the sense of it, the presence of the foliage, the aroma.
Fir or pine: Again no neutrality; it will be fir, it's the aroma.  The preferred tree is a balsam, but as nice ones have proven so hard to find in recent years, Fraser it will be.
Sooner vs. later:  Sooner! Buy as soon as trees arrive in your area and put their trunks in a bucket of water in a cool place, they don't get any fresher. Our tree will be bought tomorrow & placed in water until the house is ready for it's installation. Ours stays in the unheated garage.  Sometimes the tree gets a spray of wiltproof, ask for it by name, but timing on this is tricky. This year it was too warm to spray rhododendrons & other evergreen dicots before this.  Often it then gets too cold. Tomorrow may be mild enough to do them all.  Wreaths do better with a dunking in water over night and then wilt -proofed.  Just wish the bloody stuff wasn't so expensive. 
Is this  a green crop?  Yes, the trees are a crop and its sustainable. Trees are not being cut in the wild unless your name is Arlan (a Texan) and you like field grown Junipers, red cedars. They do smell good too, but oh do prickly. 
How do you keep cats out of your tree?  How do you keep cats from doing anything? Our current kitty-girls find the trees interesting, but they don't try climbing them. Drinking from the tree stand's water is more interesting, but still as an old practice indestructible ornaments including some bells get hung on the lowest branches just in case, and any ornament that looks too much like a kitty toy must be hidden up high or it becomes a kitty toy.  The young of our two has broken a couple of small ornaments that attracted her attention (making it their fault).



Peculiar "forest" caption

Congratulations to everyone who recognized this was a kelp forest.


COVER ILLUSTRATION: Kelps use a basal growth strategy that positions younger tissue at the base of the blade. This younger tissue is more fl exible and extensible than older tissue at the blade’s distal end. In contrast, red algae have an apical meristem that produces new tissue at the distal end of the blade, positioning older tissue near the blade’s base. In “Divergent growth strategies between red algae and kelps infl uence biomechanical properties” on pp. 1938–1944, Krumhansl et al. hypothesize that the location of older tissues relative to the blade’s attachment point to the substratum infl uences the species’ performance in wave-swept habitats. The authors propose that the positioning of younger, more fl exible and extensible tissue at the blade base in kelps may contribute to their ability to obtain large blade sizes and dominate in hydrodynamically stressful environments (Laminaria setchellii). (Photo credit: Kyle W. Demes.)
************
What this means is that unlike apical growth brown seaweeds have an intercalary meristem at the base of their stipes (stem-like part) next to the holdfast (root-like anchoring organ). As juvenile tissue, the cell walls are thinner and more flexible, so the stipes bend without breakingor buckling, a useful trait when growing in a heavy wave zone what with a lot of water washing to and fro. As you can see in the image posted on the previous blog, this Laminaria has pretty broad blades, a lot of surface area for water to push against. However in filamentous green algae, anchored filaments in zones of moving water have apical growth while filamentous green algae growing in still water have intercalary growth. The first form is stronger at the base, but slower growing.  The second form has weak zones where ever the cells have divided, but it grows faster. This difference in comparison to the brown algae is probably due to limited structural strength to a filament to a multicellular stipe.

A very peculiar "forest"


Here's the cover image from the November issue of the American Journal of Boany, and it shows a rather peculiar forest. No one even tried to figure out the last cover image challenge on waterlilies which was rather difficult. But it hut TPP's feelings that no one so much as tried. So this one demands more active participation. As with most of the cover photos they relate to a research paper covered in that issue. So if you figure out what you are looking at TPP will tell you what the research was all about.  How's that for a deal?  In this case the color tells you a lot.  What a great canopy shot!

Tough transition - Tropics to temperate

The tropical to temperate shift is difficult during the winter especially. Going from green to brown, warm to cold, often wet to dry, is a difficult transition psychologically. No wonder everyone just wants to say to heck with it, I'm going tropo. TPP hadn't worn socks or shoes since the 18th so they feel pretty funny. And everything in the rainforest is so green and here the green is gone mostly until next spring. This transition has been harder, deeper into the winter.  And it was easier when the participants were younger, but there you go.  It would be much harder on any native of the tropics to come to this part of the world where they would wonder how people actually live here.  In the dead of winter, TPP sometimes wonders this as well. Then he had a friend from Duluth, which isn't the end of the Earth, but you can see it if you stand on a car's fender. Anyone from so far south as Lincolnland shouldn't complain. So in part it is all perspective. And for us there was no jet-lag to deal with either just a shift from earlier to bed & up with the sun to see 'early birds'.