Field of Science

Do not hug this Teddy Bear

Lots of plants in the desert have some spiny protections, but as far as TPP is concerned some of the bushy prickly pears are the worse.  The image is Opuntia biglovii, a much branched, very prickly species that goes by the common name of teddybear cholla (chuh-oiy-ah).  The mere though of falling into one of these bushes scares TPP.  The spines have tiny recurved edges and they are hard to pull out, the branch segments have a tendency to fragment easily, so easily that some are called "jumping cholla".  Should some animal carry one off, it could be pulled off at a distance where the segment can grow into a new shrub.  These are just mean, nasty plants, although the flowers can be quite attractive.

Natural landscape vs unnatural landscape

The botanical meetings are in Tucson Aridzona.  The natural landscape is quite lovely high desert; saguaro cacti abound.  The resort is nice but surrounded by unnatural landscape too, a golf course.  See if you can tell the difference in the image above.  What a remarkable waste of water, even if it is reclaimed waste water.  Such a simple landscape as a monoculture of grass takes a huge water and energy input to maintain.  The botanists have all taken walks through xero-scaped areas and they report them as lovely.  No one has said a thing about the golf course.  What is there to say?

Friday Fabulous Flower - a Lily

Quite a patch of the 5-6' tall lilies grows on either side of our garden gate and they are a great rescue.  When the Phactors acquired this property many parts of it were severely over grown and that includes the border garden next to our neighbors driveway.  TPP doesn't actually remember what was growing there (we were really remiss taking "before" pictures, sadly).  But among the shrub thicket were these non-blooming stalks of what looked like a lily, which prompted Ms. Phactor to dig and replant them near our garden gate, where they have thrived.  Currently they are providing quite a flowering show and the patch continues to grow.  They have several common names, Turk's cap lily, tiger lily, and Michigan lily (Lilium michiganense).  We like the size and color.  Some years the bunnies eat the young plants, but some well-placed fencing prevented that this year, and the wet spring was to their liking.  

Garden tip - Control of Japanese beetles

Although a bit late this year, and a fairly modest crop, the Japanese beetles have arrived.  Here's relatively easy & inexpensive nontoxic means of control.  Depending upon what you wish to protect.  Buy several yards of bridal veil netting.  You can attach it to branches or fences or support cages or poles using clothes pins (pegs).  This works for all types of beetles and even things like cabbage looper butterflies. However remember with squash and cucumber you have to give bees access or do your own hand pollination.  Since we only have one hill of cucumbers, and a handful of zucchini plants, hand pollination each morning is not a big deal.  The ladies in fabric stores are always amused by my veil purchase.  If you are fairly gentle you can use the beetle netting two years. And of course this means you don't need any nasty chemicals.  Although some critter tore up a bed of beans having become tangled in the netting. Most of the beans will survive but the netting not so much.  

Friday Fabulous Flower at the fruit stage

Found this fruit in our woodland garden the other day, and it is a bit unusual.  Everyone's first thought is raspberry, and this is the same type of fruit derived from many pistils in the same flower, an aggregate fruit. 
So technically each unit is a fruitlet partially fused to its neighbors.  But this type of fleshy fruit is not common in this family (buttercup).  The leaf may not even help you identify this plant as it is not common here abouts, and it gets collected destructively for use as a medicinal and in many areas it is over collected.  This is Hydrastis canadensis, goldenseal.  How did you do?  Ever see this before?  The flower is constructed along the lines of last week's FFF, no showy perianth but lots of showy anthers around a number of pistils. 

The weirdness of birthdays as you get older

Mrs. Phactor just "celebrated" her 70th birthday.  TPP did this some months back, so we can claim a cumulative 140 years, and it's hard to know exactly  what to feel.  Neither of us looks or feels ancient, and yet TPP thinks he's the first male in his lineage to live this long.  Neither of us has any threatening health conditions that prevent us from pursuing the  things we like.  Gardening is both our hobby and our exercise program, although we are committed to more travel.  A big old garden like ours always provides plenty to do.  This may not be your idea of retirement, but our gardens are quite important to us, and they can always be improved upon.  Hard to know exactly how to feel, and actually most of our friends in our Friday Seminar group are older, but not necessarily wiser; we're the kids so to speak. Actually many set a good example.  70 seemed old when it was the older generation. Now it doesn't seem so old, although Mrs. Phactor says I shouldn't buy any more little trees because they take so long to grow. Got a stick for a 50th birthday present, and now this Magnolia salicifolia is quite large for a 20 year old tree.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Here's all the anthers.

Midsummer is an interesting time for our gardens.  Lots of lilies of all sorts for color, but then several white flowered species.  But the queen of the shade gardens is this black snake root (lots of common names, but it is not a well-known plant here in the upper Midwest) (formerly Cimicifuga racemosa, now Actea racemosa just as good old Linnaeus proposed).  The tall (5'+) branched racemes of white flowers show up very nicely in the light shade it prefers.  The flowers have no sepals or petals, just a cluster of a hundred or so stamens surrounding a single pistil.  The odor is described as a sweet and fetid, to which TPP adds musky, and it attracts an array of pollen foraging insects: flies, gnats, beetles.  Although a bit hard to get established, the plants are tough and long-lived. This is a member of the buttercup family which has a number of species whose flowers only have anthers.  


The weather of late has been close to hot; and humid.  Not everything likes that kind of weather.  The lily pond has stayed pretty full because of all the rain (3.6" in the last event).  And for some reason the waterlilies (Nymphaea) are doing very well.  These flowers are totally gorgeous what with all the flower parts, and while not favorites with everyone these white waterlilies are very white and with the contrasting leaves and water, they are wonderful.  Actually this image is very similar to a water color painting of waterlilies that we bought on line quite a few years ago,  TPP actually found the painting while searching for images of waterlilies.  Enjoy!

Friday Fabulous Flower - pond flora

Wow the long weekend sent by very fast, so Friday comes early this week or late last week.  Who cares?  So you may never have looked closely at this particular native plant because you likely would get wet and muddy getting close.  This is not such a problem for a lily pond if the damned four-legged mammals would stay away and quit stomping plants and tipping over pots.  Even the neighbor's young lab got in on the fun.
At any rate the pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) is still doing OK (the part that didn't get mashed and is looking good).  It is a handsome plant and worth having for some pond edge vegetation and flowers.