Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Aster?

Another weekend that was too busy for words, other than maybe yikes!  Sorry FFF gets so easily put off.  While TPP is sort of on a composite kick, it is that time of year.  But at least this isn't another SYC.  Technically this isn't an Aster, which is now about 200 species strong but entirely restricted to Eurasia.  So if the plant is native to the Americas, and was formerly as Aster, it is now placed in a new genus; there are several.  This plant always flowers in the fall, and it does well in some semi-shady locations.  The flower heads (remember they are inflorescences) are small at about 1 cm in diameter, but they are numerous.  The ray flowers are white while the disk flowers start out yellow and then change to red as they transition from dispersing pollen to accepting pollen (TPP isn't sure why).  But it makes for a rather nice display, especially from close range.  Generally this particular species, Eurybia divaricata, is called the white woodland aster (formerly Aster divaricatum) (note the change in gender of the specific epithet).  

SYCs review

OK a couple of readers don't quite get the disk/ray flower thing that TPP mentioned in last week's FFF on goldenrod.  So here is a better example, the ordinary sunflower, Helianthus annuus.  This is not a flower, it is an inflorescence that mimics a flower's image.  When you have little flowers, best to group them together because the bigger the display, the more visitors you get, the more pollination, and so on and so forth (my major professor always used to say that when he thought the explanation was obvious).  At any rate what appear to be petals are a ring of ray flowers with one long corolla lobe making the ray flowers highly bilaterally symmetrical.  They surround a spiral array of radially symmetrical disk flowers.  The inner most ones are still unopened buds, so start taking a close look at those composite "flowers".  Dandelions have all ray flowers, and others have nothing by disk flowers.  Enjoy.  

No equitable rainfall

TPP hates to hear about the Carolinas drowning in hurricane rain water, and truly TPP feels bad for my many inlaws that live there.  Too bad they can't share a couple of inches.  Our area is bone dry (again) and no good opportunities for rain are in the offing.  Systems have passed to our west, our north or our south, sort of missing  us all the way around.  Farmers are getting a good dry jump on maize and soybean harvesting (the clouds of dust arise in all directions).  But winter is more about drought and dry conditions than it is about cold, so this gardeners advise is keep watering all those new plantings or they will die by dehydration over the winter.

Friday Fabuous Flower - SYC

This has been a hectic couple of days.  The F1 bought a house (pretty exciting), the neighbor girl got married (also pretty exciting), the Phactors attended a memorial service for TPPs graduate mentor (kind of sad, but he lived a good, long life of continual learning), did too much driving in nasty traffic around Indianapolis (the hated loop), popped in to Jungle Jim's for a quick shopping trip (quite an adventure as always).  That's rather way too much, oh, and several other invitations for this and that had to be declined for lack of time.  
At any rate at this time of year, the pickings get a bit thin, and only SYCs are common (stinking yellow composites).  This is a nice species for your wild flower garden, the showing goldenrod, Solidago speciosa.   Like all composites (aster/sunflower family) goldenrods have little flowers in heads that include either both, or just disk flowers.  The ray flowers are often mistaken for petals when they are arranged around the outside of flat-topped spiral array of disk flowers (think daisy).  Most goldenrods have just ray flowers in rather small heads, but a few species have ray flowers too and these often help produce a quite showy display in this case 5 or 6 ray flowers surrounding a few disk flowers.  The entire terminal cluster is being visited by a beetle, a bee, and a butterfly. 

Friday Fabulous Foliage

This was a very busy weekend, it being the day selected to celebrate the annual making of the fish soup.  The ingredients for the entire feast are a bit wide spread so it took some time to locate and purchase everything.  Somehow in the middle of this TPP had not time for blogging, but as a special treat, TPP will use some images sent along from his old friend Dr. Chips.  The images show a large species (no idea which one, it could be one of several or even a hybrid) of the tropical pitcher plant in the genus Nepenthes (neh-pin-theez).  It is a carnivorous plant that uses a pitfall type of trap and then digests drowned prey for the nutrients thus released, primarily nitrogen.  The trap may emit an odor or use a colorful attractant, in this case a nice glossy red rim that might promise a reward within, but the slick footing within and downward pointing hairs prevent escape, and the trap is partially filled with water, so eventually the prey falls in.  Dr. Chips thought that this red rim should qualify these modified leaves for mention in FFF and as is usually the case, he is correct.  Interestingly in the middle image you can observe the tendril like tips of young leaves; the very tip will grow into a new trap.  The curly cue helps orient the trap to hang in an upright orientation.  Quite fascinating bit of tubular development.  So thanks, Dr. C!