Field of Science

Is rhubarb a fruit? Let's check a seed catalog.

A reader sent along a picture from seed catalog and to no one's surprise, rhubarb was placed in the "fruit" section. For those who like such things, fruits are flowers at the stage of seed dispersal. Rhubarb is a vegetable that is used as a fruit, but that does not make rhubarb a fruit. Specifically rhubarb is a petiole or leaf stalk; this is fairly obvious because of its U-shape in cross section. Some people think it's a stem but what we pluck is the whole leaf, but then the green blade is cut off, which is good because it's toxic. The fleshy sour-sweet leaf stalks are most commonly used to make pies, and one old nickname for rhubarb is "pie-plant", and divisions of mature clumps would be given to newlyweds to help them establish their garden. Boy, those were the days, when getting a barn built and planting your garden were top priorities.  And speaking of seed catalogs, Johnny's Seeds catalog (Winslow, Maine) showed up in the mail today, and if you can't find what you want in it's 240 pages then it really isn't for sale. This is a great catalog for browsing, but it's ridiculous for us micro-gardeners. This is really a catalog for small farmers, so to make up for them sending me this monster, I've provided the link for some online shopping. In particular, baby bok choi (or pak choi) is hard to find in most garden seed displays at shops, so TPP has to order seeds on line, and this is probably how the mailing list was constructed. This catalog features around 50 different kinds of microgreens, over 40 different "baby" greens for salad mixes, but be careful, some are sold in quantities up to 25 lbs. and that's a lot of greens my friends. Some aren't even sold in individual packets; they start at a price per ounce, and that's still a lot of seeds.They provide more information about germination and disease resistance than any catalog, TPP has ever seen. At any rate if any of you have a favorite seed catalog, let us all know in the comments. Mrs. Phactor has said the TPP will get an Italian seed catalog that she requested, so something to look forward to. And it's getting to be that time of year to place your seed orders. 

Baobabs on the bucket list

Baobabs are remarkable trees, and TPP wants to see these badly, so they are on his plant bucket list. Note that the dopey photographer has the lizard in focus not the trees, rather a typical sort of plant near sightedness. But these trees are in Madagascar, not an easy place to visit.  The Phactors have seen some different baobabs in South Africa and the baobab like bottle trees of Queensland. But these bottle tree baobabs are just the coolest trees.  It's hard to believe these aren't a made up scifi alien tree.  These and the ones in S. Africa are species of Adansonia and while a species does occur in Australia the bottle tree there is a species of Brachychiton. The general term for trees that grow like this is pachycauly, thick stems.  For many years TPP had a fig that grew as a pachycaul and it was pruned to look like one of these baobabs. It was a pretty cool bonsai tree, just like this one from Dave's Garden. But still not quite the same.

Breaking long time resolutions and not your back

Quite a few years ago, quite a few apartments ago, and quite a few roommates ago, TPP swore he was not going to move any more hide-a-bed couches up or down stairs for the F1. This was just a common sense, survival sort of resolution so TPP had be good at keeping it. So it generated a certain degree of dread and foreboding when Mrs. Phactor announced that a loveseat hide-a-bed had outlived any limited usefulness it ever had and would not survive the transformation of a small bedroom/library into her retirement office. With the exception of a long-haired kitty-girl, no one ever found this particular piece of furniture very comfortable for sitting let alone sleeping, again with the exception of afore-mentioned feline who wisely eschewed the seat and mattress for the pillow top back.  So this seat is not as impossibly heavy and awkward as a full-sized hide-a-bed, but balanced against its smaller size is the fact that TPP is a lot older since his last hide-a-bed move. Part of the problem is the particularly odd door to this room, narrow and set at an angle to purposely make all ingress and egress difficult. Getting it in the room took a certain amount of brute force combined with an ignorance of physics and geometry, getting it out was no different, but fortunately the stairs are quite wide so standing the seat on its end and sliding it down one stair at a time did not require hefting its bulk. This proved quite successful, but then at the bottom you end up having the whole thing just hulking there, much to the pleasure of said cat who decided she could happily live with this new arrangement and perched herself upon the upmost end for  gazing out the window. Hopefully later today a couple of hulking brutes, or at least younger backs, will come to haul the object away for a new gig with someone needing just such a seat, probably one of 3 people in the known universe. Most happily TPP's back will survive this glad parting. And Mrs. Phactor is pleased with the outcome.

Botany within your reach. 3. Potato tubers are stems.

It's always nice when other people help the cause.  So here's a link to a nice discussion about potato tubers. When things grow underground there arises considerable confusion about whether they are roots or stems. There are three kinds of subterranean storage stems: horizontal ones often near the surface are called rhizomes (ginger)(labeled "ginger root" but it's a rhizome), short erect ones called corms (taro), and elongate to globular ones are called tubers. Tubers can also grow aerially.  So like all good stems potatoes have leaves, highly modified, and buds ("eyes")that give rise to branches. This is well illustrated at the link above.  And then these branches can give rise to roots, and ultimately to new plants. This was an idea TPP was going to do for his BWYR series, but this blog was just too good to pass up.  HT and many thanks to the Botanist in the kitchen blog. TPP provides a regular feed so you can just look for them in the blog roll side column.
For the record sweet potatoes are roots but have a stemish quality at their proximal end. True yams are tubers, but in North America, yams are a variety of sweet potato. 

Fat Bushy-tailed Tree Rats

These are not our favorite animals as their functions in life seem to be 1. eat everything, 2. chew on everything, 3. dig up everything, and mostly in that order. This is the largest squirrel native to N. America, the so-called fox squirrel, and everyone but gardeners think them cute and handsome. Our estate is home to a dozen or so individuals at any given point in time. Often anywhere from 8 to 18 can be seen here and there around the gardens. If you have any that are fatter than these you'll have to prove it because it may not be possible. These are midwestern corn and squash seed, along with sunflower seed fattened squirrels. This particular fellow is disposing of stale, ancient raisins, so they do have some trivial uses as food disposals. If times ever get too tough squirrel stew will be on the menu. One of our residents this year has 3 or 4 prominent whitish scars that look as though they were caused by talons, a close call with a red-tailed hawk perhaps. The worst thing they do is chew the bark from tree limbs to get at the inner bark, and many of the limbs that fall show evidence of such limb-damaging or limb-killing girdling activity. Even worse than the bun-buns, the bark gnawing takes place way up in the canopy, so no caging will help. And they are not fast learners; they'll eat a magnolia flower bud, find it distasteful and move to the next as if the outcome might be different, and one year they chewed all but one flower bud on a big-leaf magnolia, and about then you begin thinking about squirrel stew again. They do provide diversion, a sort of cat TV entertainment for the kitty-girls. We had a big, big cat who seemed to delight in treeing squirrels and then hanging around to listen to their shrill scolding. Does your wildlife need to be diversified?  Let us know.

Friday Fabulous Flower - not so large, not what you think

Here's a tropical plant from Thailand and TPP knows what you are thinking.  What a cute little snapdragon!
Cute and little (about 5 mm long), yes, but not a snapdragon, although it was long so classified. Of course molecular data has resulted in the complete disintegration of the snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae) to the point where TPP had to engage students in the massive effort to refile a dozens of genera in our herbarium, and now some things will prove hard to find without consulting a guide post or an alphabetized list of genera that will point you to the "correct" family.  At any rate, TPP found this plant growing in brick walls of old temples, basically weathered laterite clay. And both morphological and molecular data places this plant as the basal genus of the Orobanchaceae (broom-rape family), a family of parasitic and hemiparasitic plants.  All of the former Rhinanthoideae subfamily of hemiparasitic snapdragons got shifted to  the Orobanchs.  However, this genus is the only fully autotrophic plant in the family and it has the smallest seeds TPP has ever seen in this group, absolutely dust seed, smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. It grows in our glasshouse quite well.

Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!

Maybe you haven't seen the movie, but TPP was amused to see a new green gardening product being advertised under the trade marked product name Beetlejus.  This must be pretty new because TPP hadn't notice it before, but supposedly this is a Bt insecticide for beetles!  Bt stands for Bacillus thuringiensis and when consumed the beetles soon stop eating (don't you like the sound of that) and then die.  Since humans are not susceptible to this particular bacterium, it is pretty harmless and can be used up to the day of harvest.  It works on Japanese beetles, adults and larvae, and hopefully on cucumber and bean beetles too.  And if it works on flea beetles, what joy!  This is not an endorsement because TPP doesn't do those, but an informative message, so no links to retail outlets.  It's an integrity thing. And so far this is untried by yours truly, but other Bt products have performed well. Not sure if this will work on butterfly larvae or not, the product label does not so indicate although the ads say "caterpillars", which beetles don't have. So doubtful it will work like on them.  Different strains of Bt for different insects. But you have to say the name three times.

Student consults syllabus; campus in shock.

TPP must say that he can only remember one time that a student consulted his syllabus, and then it was to practice for a career in contract law litigation, clearly not understanding that some syllabi are aspirational documents.  At any rate this is pretty funny.

Interactive climate map for 2100

This is a sort of fun interactive climate map for cities in the USA.  You plug in your city's name and it'll show you what current city your city will be most like if climate projections continue to 2100.  So for example out city will have half as many days  where the temperature goes below freezing (now about 4 months, 120 days), and a summer about 10 degrees warmer than our summers now something like in southern California!  Just in case you need some incentives to consider life changes that can affect climate, this may help.  Maybe you need to forward this to some legislators. 

Whale of a good hologram?

This is a pretty spectacular little video of what purports to be a hologram.  The effect is quite amazing, but is this a 3D image really being projected into the gymnasium or is this a bit of video trickery, where one bit of video is superimposed upon an other?  The spectators certainly react as though they are seeing the image, but the area is pretty bright and there is no obvious projection equipment visible.  What do you think?  Is this a really amazing hologram or a bit of video trickery?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Accumulated political thoughts

Let's lighten the load a bit. A number of thoughts came to mind relating to politicking this week, so let's unload some of this mind compost.
British Parliament - TPP is full of admiration of the British Parliament, who while debating whether to ban T-rump for his hateful comments, referred to the Donald as a buffoon.
Sarah Palindrone TM - As noted before someone who sounds just as dumb whether her remarks are read forward or backward (Try it!). The Sarah has thrown her inconsiderable weight behind The Donald, but he is way too smart to even begin to think of her as a running mate.
More T-rump. Whose standard for pandering fell so low that he evoked laughter from the panderees. When you quote the Bible to a Bible literate audience, you should know that 2 Corinthians, is 2nd Corinthians, something even a lapsed Congregationist knows. Don't ask him if the book is in the New or Old Testament.
Marco got hisself  a gun to protect his family from Muslim terrorists in Florida. Is he beginning to believe the GnOPe Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid rhetoric? Maybe he should move to Chi-town where in some neighborhoods he can learn what it means to be Scared.
And when Ted talks tried to ding The Donald about NY values, it made TPP wonder what is it about these politicians in Texas?  They really don't get any thing north of Maryland or anything east of Erie. Wonder if Ted has ever had a real bagel? Nothing NY except Wall St. money.
The state of Lincolnland still lacks a budget now 7 months into the fiscal year. Wow, is TPP happy he's not in the state university retirement plan!  Chicago State won't be able to pay salaries in March so, students can expect an extra long spring break.  In the meantime the Dim Legislature and the GnOPe governor continue to play fiscal chicken. Maybe using blackmail isn't the best way to persuade the Dims to cooperate?  Ya think?
TPP can't make up his mind about Hillary. She carries a lot of baggage, and to me her shots at Bernie had a sort of shrillness to them that speaks of some desperation. Who said getting elected president was going to be easy. And she'll need more than not-Bernie shots to beat the GnOPe.
Oh, TPP needs a cocktail.

Baby, it's cold outside, and so is you garden.

In fact our weather of late has been quite cold hovering just above zero F, so 30 degrees below freezing. With a bit of wind, the apparent temperature is quite a bit lower. And you gardens and trees are being subjected to those temperatures too.  While a few plants in our gardens get a blanket of straw or shredded leaves, nothing gets a real royal treatment. Maybe you don't care enough to do much of anything, a fair weather gardener.  A regular commenter has supplied us with a link showing how gardeners in Korea  protect their plants from cold weather. So if you have a lot of nice, rice straw and a lot of time you can do this too. This is an amazing amount of work to cover trees, and beds, and pots with straw blankets.  How do they make such mats? Do they have a big straw sewing machine? TPP has also seen gardeners in Japan erect a tent of ropes around trees to support the horizontal branches of conifers from breaking under the weight of snow. Many thanks to WC for calling this to our attention.

Friday Fabulous Flower - Hatoria salicornoides

Here's a nice tough house plant, although ours resides outside for almost half of the year.  It's name if Hatoria salicornoides, a specific epithet that means "like Salicornia", a halophyte (salt-loving) marsh or tidal plain plant (glasswort, pickleweed) with lots of sort of knobby branches that are narrow at their base and widening abruptly toward the apex. TPP sort of sees the resemblance, but not really. At any rate the plant is a much branched cactus whose stems become woody with age. Here in January a golden bell of a flower forms at the end of each branch so the flowering display is considerable, hundreds of flowers.
This tropical cactus is an epiphyte with drooping branches and it grows well in a mixture of fine orchid mix and cactus soil in a hanging basket, which gets hung on a big shepard's hook in some light shade beyond our patio. Once or twice squirrels have chewed on it and inflicted some considerable damage, but the plant has always recovered.  The plant deals with the household dryness of winter and needs watering only about once a week when outside, often taken care of by rain. While not spectacular, it's a very nice reliable plant and showier than the more common Rhipsalis species people often have. 

Honeydew list

One of the down sides of retirement is the perception of some that TPP has plenty of time to keep entropy from increasing, although in the long term that's a losing proposition. So known affectionately as the "honeydew list", it's really the honey, DO list. A fairly significant list has appeared of little things that need my attention has been drafted, so rather than "wasting" time writing a blog TPP is attending to these many chores. It's mostly little things that are sort of falling apart, old houses are like that, and some garden chores that were forgotten.
The winterberry were quite handsome this year for a couple of weeks, then all the fruit disappeared. Since the bushes are low, it could have been a possum or perhaps a flock of cedar waxwings who have stripped fruited bushes before.  But if we want them to continue to look good an anti-bunny fence is needed (overlooked in the fall) or the bushes will be subjected to unwanted pruning. At least after the first below zero temperatures of the winter (and for all you metric people out there, zero is 32 degrees F below freezing and in these parts it means really cold), today will have a high in the mid-40s F melting all of the meager snow cover. 
The rest of the chores are technically more difficult. To tighten a loose newel post requires a hex bolt socket, and the one TPP owns is too large in outer diameter to fit into the countersunk hole where the bolt resides. This is what makes such repairs so annoying.  Now since the newel post was built this way, we must assume that sockets exist that fit into a hole of that diameter, so a-shopping we will go after double checking the parameters.  This should take no more than two or three trips to the hardware store.  Oh well, it will be a nice day for a walk.  But first TPP needs another cup of coffee, no need to rush into such things thoughtlessly.  After all honeydews are a fruit that needs to be ripe to be any good.

Junior militiaman play set

Once again Tom Tomorrow nails it in his latest cartoon about The Modern World. OK here's the part that isn't funny, TPP is willing to bet that someone out there has already proposed selling such a junior militiaman play set, maybe without a real gun, but still it may not need to be real to put you in danger. Why? Because there may be some money to make. Who knew a highly-biased reading of the constitution and US history could be profitable in the toy business? Oh, and here's an idea for the taking, get sister Susie the Little Liberal-biased Media Reporter play set so she can play along with Jimmy. Or the Phlox network news pundit play set for intellectual ages of 4-10 years, who knows it could lead to a career.   

Did you feel that?

TPP was pretty sure he felt something, just the slightest of tugs, some tiny disturbance in the space-time continuum, so he knows what these physicists are talking about, gravity waves are mighty hard to detect. Einstein predicted gravity waves as part of general relativity, but they have not been confirmed to exist, except via scientific rumors, and if you believe those then maybe you want to buy a pet bigfoot or a cold fusion reactor. However TPP suspects that maybe this time there's a bit more data involved. This could lead to all sorts of new technologies for example an antigravity bathroom scale (It's so easy to lose weight; mass on the other hand is a bitch.).  At any rate we try to do our best to keep you up to date with the ever moving frontiers in science. It's not our job, but our calling.

Spooky place or over-hyped? Duh!

Officially TPP has never ever watched any of the ghost-hunter shows that appear here and there. It's so obvious that they are made up spookiness, and having lived in a old houses most of his life, TPP knows that they have a voices they make noises, but it isn't ghosts. TPP woke up last night to some weird noises and it was 3:30 AM on a cold night, and no cats were on the bed (a clue). An investigation found the mouseketeers, both kitty-girls, playing catch the mouse (the 4th in 2 weeks suggests an open "door" somewhere).  After removing the primary game piece, peace returned. But never did the thought occur that this was spooky (although the cats are black). Here a link to one of those Atlas Obscura entries that TPP happens to be familiar with, the Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Home, a long abandoned orphanage. Sailors here in the upper Midwest?  Never understood that part. What they say about the one remaining empty building is only partly true. Friends live in one rehabbed building and Mrs. Phactor has her business office in another as does a neighbor. Anything spooky?  Anything other than normal, i.e., paranormal? Nah! So definitely over-hyped as a spooky place. As if you had any doubts. These types of things as entertainment should be approached with you skepticism in full on mode. TPP was chided once for being so negative. Skeptical is negative, sorry no, the opposite of skeptical is gullible, not positive. It's always funny that none of this ooooo spooky type stuff ever happens to those of us who might be credible observers.

Snow? Snow! Jon Snow.

Snow is coming everyone says. But it's 40 degrees outside and spring bulbs are poking up everywhere and a bearpaw hellebore is almost in flower. Jon Snow is just a cheap click bait trick that momentarily seemed funny. Although TPP keeps waiting for a GnOPe candidate to propose a great wall to keep whatever Canada has that's dangerous in the Great White North. This might include winter weather, but the approaching front is coming on a diagonal from the southwest, which is where our heavy snows come, but only in a narrow band. Presently some snow would be welcome but not because soil moisture is low but to protect some not well acclimated plants from a sudden cold snap. December was like November, now January is like December and if February turns out to be like March then winter is really getting short.  Maybe that zone 6 plant isn't such a waste of money?  Heck, the grass is still green as well as the Corydalis lutea, a plant that will be one of the 1st to flower in the spring and one of the last to stop in the fall (if we have one). For a plant that seeds itself in everywhere, it's still worth planting in tough places. It's easy to get rid of where unwanted. Notice that no matter what the topic it quickly turns to spring. Last TPP has read the books, so in a manner of speaking he knows about Jon Snow, a favorite character, but the idea that the series has moved beyond the author is a really strange adaptation of rather epic books. Unless (my theory) the author has actually been unable to figure out the ending of his own story so that the subsequent volumes will be books adapted from the TV show. Strangely TPP has to run an errand before a winter storm starts to get a mango, and the nearest ones are probably in southern Florida.  See you around, winter.

Friday Fabulous Flower - Queen's tears

The Queen's tears is a commonly and easily grown bromelliad.  TPP's sits happily in a hanging basket outside for the summer until things get frosty. Then it comes inside, and almost without fail it flowers in January.  The flowers don't last long but it is still such a winter time joy.  TPP has featured this plant before (Billbergia nutans) because it has such an odd combination of colors, pink bracts, flowering stalk, and calyx, green ovary and green petals edged in blue, and the yellow anthers.  Several such inflorescences  ring the basket and the whold thing is quite lovely, so do forgive the redundancy; it's just nice to see every year.

Fig root foot bridges

Several years ago TPP saw some images of these bridges, and just recently they were brought to my attention again by a fellow who is studying the engineering principles of natural materials.  First of all, note that figs are amazing.  Figs are among the biggest and most impressive trees TPP has ever seen and he's sought out quite a few notable trees. Fig produce what are called adventitious roots, roots from limbs or the tree trunk.  They grow down and when they contact the ground they can become woody and essentially form new trunks.  Such roots can support very horizontal limbs and such trees can cover huge areas essentially a grove of one tree. Here such roots have been trained and connected across a stream to provide footbridges during times of high water. Roots and trunks of figs will readily fuse into a single axis, and they will continue to get bigger and they can live a long time. There are a lot more pictures at this link.  Here's another link to a publication on the use of living plant materials in such engineering.  There are some good images in this paper too. These are marvelous things, and make no mistake about it such nice little tropical streams can become raging torrents very quickly.

Coveted Garden Decoration - Add to wish list

Oh, man, does TPP want one of these finials badly!  How cool is this, and hopefully TPP doesn't have to tell you what it is. Finials are often conelike in appearance looking like artichokes or pineapples, and every now and again, a spruce cone, but a southern Magnolia fruit. This is a first. This finial and a not quite identical mate sit atop columns at the entrance of Tattnall Square Park in Macon, Georgia. A correspondent sent this image along, and it was thrilling to see. No question that this would find a place in our garden, even though they are 3-4 feet tall.  If anyone ever sees such a thing for sale you must contact TPP immediately. The side column of this blog has been graced by an image of a magnolia fruit, a colorful one, for some time now (probably need to make a change for 2016). Each fruitlet is from a separate pistil that develops into a follicle that opens along one seam to release one or two  aril-covered seeds dangling enticingly for a passing bird to disperse.  

A blog retrospective- top 10

The Phytophactor (TPP) blog has been in business now for 8 years, and during that time he’s cranked out over 2600 blogs, which a new blog every 1.1 days!  And in the beginning the blogging rate was lower, but TPP’s early blogs were maybe on average longer. The first couple of years, TPP didn’t keep track of his page reads, but the total passed 1 million some time ago. A natural history blog network kept track of blogs in different categories, and the Phytophactor was one of the top 10 blogs in terms of traffic in the plant/flora category when the network closed down. It funny how these things go.  A couple of years  ago while visiting an art fair a woman walks up behind TPP and whispers in his ear, “I know who you are.” This is funny because what she was really saying was the she thought I was the Phytophactor, but of course, she was wrong.

At any rate what blogs have been successful.  It’s an amusing list from the perspective of the author.
So here's the list of the most successful blogs based on traffic.
1. Artichoke - fruit or vegetable? Published Feb. 21, 2008. So this is one of my earliest blogs. Clearly the older the blog the more opportunity it has had to be read, but this one has over ten times the hits of the next most read blog. Who knew this was such a burning question for so many people?  But there you have it. Actually hate looking at the old blogs because the font and the images were so small.

2. Can you eat flowering kale? Published Oct. 22, 2012. This entry isn't so old, and it happened after walking past a neighbor who was planting flowering kale in his intensely cultivated garden, and he asked, can you eat this? Apparently a lot of people wonder about the same thing.

3. Rainforest Field Trip - The Understory. Published Nov. 24, 2010. So this blog was written the day before Thanksgiving, and that means TPP was on a rainforest ecology field trip in Costa Rica.  It's a very attractive image of something that is very hard to get, but it is a bit of a falsehood. It's a stream corridor, so you get the relentless green right down to the ground because the stream lets in light, a sort of linear canopy gap that doesn't get filled in because of the stream. It's been published in 2 or 3 places, so I am guilty of spreading a false impression. A real understory of a rain forest is pretty dark and not so green, and not nearly so handsome.
4. How do you explain a lotus? Published Nov.15, 2011. Can't remember what got this idea going. The idea that a scientist can't or doesn't appreciate the asthetics of their organisms just bothered me. Some people just think that a scientific understanding somehow diminishes the thing, a flower, if you know how it all works.  How silly! And it is a nice image.
5. Age of Equisetum. Published May 11, 2011. This sort of surprises TPP because not many people actually use the name Equisetum unless they are a good naturalist or a botanist. If it were to be written again it would have been Age of Horsetails.  The idea is simple this a really, really old genus, not the oldest living genus, but impressively old. Shows you people are curious. This is the only genus surviving from a once major and diverse lineage.
6. Longing for the tropics - Mangoes. Published July 21,2010.  There are some things that are just tropical, and for the longest time, you could only get really good mangoes when you were in the tropics. The Ataulfo variety has changed that somewhat because they are uncommonly good even when in our markets.
7. Pluot? Published July 19, 2012. This blog started out when TPP, a fruit expert of sorts, wondered what exactly a pluot was, so why not tell everyone once you find out?
8. Oldest species on Earth is a fern. Published July 19, 2012. At the point in time this was written the oldest known species was a Cinnamon fern, formerly Osmunda cinnamomea. Now it is the genus Osmundastrum. It had fossils identical to the living fern that were something like 70 million years old. Then a newer fossil find rendered this obsolete, however, the new oldest species was another species of Osmunda, O. claytoniana, a fossil history of some 180 million years.  Some people didn't understand that this refers to an unchanged organism, a single species, that has survived for a very long time, not the idea that bacteria are older. Who knows how old species of bacteria are, or even if they have species in the same sense as higher organisms?
9. Never plant this plant #1 - plume poppy.  Published October 29, 2011. Learn from our experience. This is a horrible plant, and while striking in appearance it spreads like a demon.
10. Relief from winter doldrums: 1. Tropical beaches. Published Jan. 10, 2010. In the middle of winter who doesn't want to look at a tropical beach. Think perhaps some more of these should be forthcoming.  Of course half the traffic was probably looking for scantily clad women rather than plants, so surprise.
Any take home messages? First single topic answers to fairly simple questions, so basic accurate content is good for the long haul. And once Google or any other search engine finds you it doesn't forget.  This means the labels are important in making an oasis of factual information findable in the internet's vast sea.  2010, 2011, and 2012 have been TPP's most productive years for traffic and it will take time to see if any blogs from '13, '14, or '15 will catch up. Some topical items can have some short brief periods of high traffic but they don't last.  It may be that TPP will have to cull the archives at some point. Hard to know what different people think are good blogs from their perspective. TPP will work harder for new additions to some of his series: Friday Fabulous Flower, Never plant this plant, and BWYR (botany within your reach), which just got started.

Seed catalogs - Saviours of winter

Each year the seed catalogs start arriving, usually just after New Year's Day, but this year the Phactors got 4 between Christmas and New Year's Day. More will come.   A serious plant habit needs feeding. Why one local nursery used to invite us to a customer appreciation cocktail party every year! Nothing is better than looking at all the promissory pictures to get us through the winter months. You make lists suggesting where things will be planted and you hope for the best in terms of the weather so that you get the most out of your seed and plant investment. New introductions are always interesting and sometimes new varieties solve former problems, but not always. A dwarf, heat/bolt resistant romaine lettuce looks real interesting. As well as a new baby bok choi ready in 30-40 days from sowing! Just add water!  Our perennial beds have a couple of trouble spots where things just don't grow well for reasons not understood, so you keep trying to find a plant to fill in the area. Sometimes the temptation to cheat is just a bit too strong and a zone 6 plant is given a try.  And you may be OK for several years until a Saskatchewan clipper comes into town and you learn that plant distributions are based on the extremes not the means. Already the list is growing since part of the back back lawn is being converted into a woodland/shade garden, and it's a pretty big area that will take a lot of filling. It could be a new species of Epimedium (how many are in the trade now?), or a new big Hosta (still waiting for 'Jurassic Park' to live up to its name).  That's thing, these catalogs are the stuff dreams are made of, but no matter what you have something to look forward to get you through the bleakness of winter.  And then there are all the online places too.