Field of Science

Little non-showy flowers abound in the spring - look closely.

Most people fail to notice flowers that are associated with wind pollination because generally they lack showy flower parts.  Sometimes people notice the pollen-producing flowers if they are aggregated together to form long dangly catkins or aments.  At one time botanists thought that the rather cone-like aments were primitive because they were more like the cones of conifers.  But this idea was falsified in the early part of the 1900s.  So people notice the long dangly catkins on my filbert, Corylus americana, but fail to see the small but rather showy pistillate flowers.  Actually the only part you can see are the bright red, somewhat feathery, stigmas that stick out of the buds to pick up pollen.  So here you are both types of flowers, dozens of pollen flowers and 2-3 pistillate flowers.  TPP does not like calling them male and female although that is common enough usage, but wrong.  Lots of temperate deciduous trees use wind pollination; they flower in the spring before leaves expand an get in the way of pollination.  Welcome to the early allergy season.  

Friday fabulous flower - Harbinger of spring

The weather is not exactly warm, but all things being relative, it's a cool, sunny day.  Just the right sort of weather for early spring bulbs.  Little patches of spring flowering bulbs pop up all over our gardens in a very delightful way and most were sort of volunteers anyways in that we didn't plant them, but there they are.  Since our little patches are all asexually propagated from an original progenitor, they all have the same flower color within the patches.  These are very early Crocus, a name derived from and old middle eastern name for saffron which comes from the three branched orange stigma of a fall blooming crocus.  Such bright clusters of color are terribly cheerful as spring slowly arrives.

University admissions

Things have really changed. There was no stigma to attending a state college.  And certainly no one was in the business of bribing admissions people, although some wealthy legacies existed, but they were the exception not the rule, and mostly they went to a particular college it was because it was where a parent or older sibling attended.  It didn't seem likely that this connection was going to be influential later in life.  It does explain perhaps why some of the people you meet professionally who graduated from a prestige school don't seem all that exceptional. The people who do the admissions bribery are the type of people who are impressed by the perceived prestige of certain institutions.  Out here in the great Midwest, our huge state universities sort of blunt the prestige of smallish private school, so big damn deal.  TPP has a talented niece whose writing was impressive enough to get admission to Oxford, clearly meritorious.  TPP's undergraduate record was so unimpressive that a department chair actually began to question, what such a record told you about potential success in graduate school.  It only meant that TPP had changed, grew up, transitioned, whatever, to academic life.  Of course TPP was not in Business school, but in botany, and you only decide on something like botany because you love it.  Do MBAs love their subject, or is it just a ticket to make more money?  

Friday Fabulous Flowers - Snow drops

Here and there around our gardens are little clumps of early spring flowers, the ones that pop up and bloom anytime the temperature gets above freezing. The weather has be unsettled of late, rain and wind, so generally nasty.  How TPP managed to get a non-blurry image with the wind blowing except maybe taking the shot in between gusts.  So these little bulbs and flower stalks are only a few inches tall, but after a longish winter, they are very cheerful.  Freezing and even some late snow don't seem to bother them at all.

Monday morning musings

It's a pretty springy morning, but it doesn't leave TPP in a very upbeat mood.  An article in the Chicago Tribune was about the disappearance of check out lines, and their replacement with self-serve scanning lines.  The whole article made it sound inevitable, but the article never mentioned the loss of cashiers whose jobs are just disappearing. And so who does the scanning, well you do, working for free as a cashier.  People are apparently shopping online for their weekly groceries, and having them all ready for a drive by pick up, or even a delivery.  And the excuse is too busy, no time.
TPP is one of those people who never uses a drive-up lane or window.  Going into the store always seems to take less time.  Maybe if you have a backseat full of kids to herd around, this makes sense.  
And in the same vein. The Phactors live about 20 mins walk from a small urban center and a grocery store is a similar distance in the opposite direction.  A CVS or Walgreens is at either location.  No one ever thinks to walk to either one, although TPP does recognize the lugging a gallon of milk is a load, even with a good shopping bag.  Now that the weather is warmer, walking becomes once again a feasible, and enjoyable what with all the plants coming out of dormancy.  TPP knows that he sees way more things than most people in terms of trees and gardens.  
In fact TPP is going to relocate his kitchen garden to a lawn area that receives more sunlight.  So springy in this case is a reminder of the work that needs to be done part of our gardening exercise program.

Friday Fabulous Flower - 1st of spring (almost)

Officially our spring is late.  The earliest spring flowering events will be later than any of the last 9 years, and TPP knows this because he has the data.  The earliest flowering in our entire neighborhood is a very old patch of winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, in the buttercup family.  As this image shows the plants are ready, but the weather has just been too cold, which will change in just a few days according to our weather guessers. Plants like this actually with sprout and grow under snow as this little plant has done, and when it all melts, the buds turn upwards and open.  No leaves are in this image, a whorl of green bracts sits just under each flower.  Ours will flower a week or so later because they are in a shadier location.