Field of Science

Harbingers of spring

TPP had the opportunity to have a walk around the gardens.  Signs of spring are everywhere.  The witch-hazel are flowering, as are the snowdrops.  Winter aconite is lifting its flowers and showing the bright yellow perianth, although it appears to be growing in a new location, so it seeded in or some new corms were planted and TPP doesn't remember.  Now let's check the date: Feb. 25th.  Yes, that's early, but witch-hazel has flowered earlier by a week or so on several occasions; this would set a new record for the winter aconite which has never flowered before March 5 before.  This is only about 3 days earlier for snowdrops.  No idea which of these harbingers is most reliable.  The buds are swelling on the silver maple trees, and the filbert pollen catkins have elongated.  Got a bit of snowy rain but nothing to really discourage these real early flowers.  Picked a couple of forsythia branches to see it we can force some early flowers.

Return to winter requires something very tropical

Our return to the upper Midwest took us from shirt sleeve weather to severely cold weather rather suddenly; the car's temperature gauge just kept going down.  On a few occasions TPP has returned from the full-fledged tropics to mid winter and it is a very unnice transition.  At any rate here is a very tropical thing a Ylang Ylang tree (there is also a vine with the same common name)(Caranga odorata) in the custard apple family. This is a very tropical scent, sort of a heavy, strongly floral odor, and indeed the flowers are used in perfumery.  This is a family that TPP rather likes, and it just smells tropical. The flowers have rather thick curled tepals probably 3 whorls of 3 if remembered correctly, and in full bloom their odor is almost intoxicating and their odor is strongest at night, which you notice immediately if you walk under one.  It was very green in the Florida keys and very tropical; the contrast with local conditions is stark.  

Friday Fabulous Frond - Wax Palm

One of the better nature areas in Key West is the KW Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden.  Now based on a considerable experience, TPP recognizes that the most impressive specimen at this particular garden are 4 wax palm.  They are large stout palm (Copernicus fallaensis).  This is a native to Cuba where it is considered an endangered species with less than a 100 remain.  They are slow growing and become huge with time, presumably a couple of centuries.  The fronds are large as well and well armed with spines along the petiole.  The waxy coating on the leaves makes the fronds look sort of bluish white.

The Phactors have gone south to avoid some winter.  Cuba can almost be seen from a tall bar stool; it's only 90 miles away.  This crazy looking pylon is the southern most place in the continental USA.  A place on the big Island of Hawaii is actually further south.  A lot of the people here seem to be Cuban and not sure why that should be the case.  The drive out from the mainland reminds you how much of this land is only a little above sea level, a lot of the keys will be submerged before anything else gets flooded.  Saw a Pine Key deer today; probably only 30" tall at the shoulder.  Although they have increased in numbers there still are not very many of these small deer around.