Field of Science

First Friday Fabulous flower of 2020 - Queen's tears

OK, it's only Thursday, but it's the 31st, and I'd probably not get a chance tomorrow.  Those of you with good memories may recall that TPP has showed you this flower before (here) and  maybe else where too.  And for good reason.  It's a real fabulous flower, and it just makes you feel good when this semi-scraggy bromeliad flowers.  Now this year TPP repotted the plant because there was no soil, or orchidy growing mixture at all, just rhizomes.  Gave away a rather large cluster of shoots, or two, and replanted the rest.  New basket and replanted plant (Billbergia nutans) probably weighs 30-40 pounds without being soaked with water.  And of course TPP wanted to play with his new iPhone macro lens some more.  And so here it is.  Isn't that a great combination of colors.  The blue eye-liner  petals are the niftiest thing.  

Christmas present toy - macro/wide angle lens for iphone

Want to guess?  Well, it's the corona at the center of a paper white narcissus.  It's about 4 mm in diameter.  The image was taken using an auxiliary macro lens and illuminator.  Five of the six anthers are visible (covered in pollen), and the pistil with a tri-lobed terminal stigma.  The only trick is to hold the phone/camera still enough to get a sharp image.  But the lens work quite well.  The wide-angle lens increases the field of view by about 45%.  The whole kit is quite small and can be clipped to you belt or pouch or put in a pocket or on a lanyard.  Oh, and TPP should mention that the F1 provided this gift.  Thanks, kiddo!  Sorry the brand name has not been mentioned, but TPP doesn't do product endorsements (if you have to know, email your request). Remember this blog is free, non-monetized.  You are welcome.     

Very sad tidings

Among the many season's greetings the Phactors learned that our favorite orchard near Niles Michigan was going to cease their family farming.  TPP is sad because this has been our source of Northern Spy apples ever since the retirement hobby orchard near Monticello IL really retired.  They had about 40 varieties of apples; the orchard in MI had about 200 apple varieties, and TPP hopes that someone will want to look after all that genetic diversity.  In case you did not know orchards take a lot of work to stay productive and they deteriorate very quickly if neglected.  So sad.

Happy Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice occurs at 8:19 to night, and of course today is the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere.  Too bad it doesn't correspond to New Year's Day or Christmas.  Of course lots of good pagan symbolism abounds including evergreen trees, wreaths, garlands, and red berries.  Our gardens have two patches of winterberry bushes and the females are loaded with bright red berries, and they look great this year.  Later today TPP must get some firewood, some yule logs, to brighten the house, whether he listens to yuletide carols or not.  Yule is a 12 day celebration/season that begins with Christmas and ends with the 12th night after, and a lot of partridges in pear trees.  This reminds TPP that the Phactors made a pear dessert for a French dinner a week ago.  The ripe pears were marinated in red wine with apple brandy and spices until that got all nicely burgundy in color and then they were served on a bed of homemade  caramel (tricky stuff) but really, really good.
On the whole it is a good season and a good enough reason to celebrate without all the religious over tones.  So be happy, be glad, have drinks and dinners with friends and relatives.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - or not, Poinsettia

Sorry TPP has been ridiculously busy and ignoring his blog.  At any rate a friend stopped by with a very nice, a very traditional holiday decorative plant, a poinsettia.  She remarked about how many great big flowers the plant had, which is nice, but they aren't what many people think.  Poinsettia is a cultivar of Euphorbia pulcherrima, a member of the spurge family.  Most members of this very diverse family have small, unattactive, unisexual flowers, and poinsettia is no different.

Remember how flowering plant advertise their flowers, usually via a conspicuous display.  If your flowers are small and unattractive, cluster them together or put something very attactive right next to them.  Or do both.  Here is a typical poinsettia flower, and what you actually notive are large, red bracts, leaves associated with flowers.  In the center are several clusters of unisexual flowers sometimes, usually with several pollen producing "male" flowers and one or more pistillate "female" flowers with a big yellow nectary on the side.  So there are lots of flowers there, but unless you focused on the "stuff" in the center, you got the flower quiz wrong.  BTW TPP really doesn't like the odd colored or sparkly tarted up poinsettias.