Archive for ‘Plants & Flowers’

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Today’s must-read: the social life of plants

by Caroline Brown

Did you see this article in the NYT yesterday? (Warning-registration may be required.) Canadian researchers are examining the ability of plants to distinguish members of its own species from “outsiders.” Last summer scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario published a study on the sea rocket (Cakile edentula), a native member of the mustard (Brassicacaea) family that grows above the high tide line on sandy beaches.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Skunk cabbage

by Caroline Brown

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is staring to leafing out in wetland areas so I know that spring is really here. Pretty soon, the ground in swampy areas will go from brown to green almost overnight as the skunk cabbage leaves unfurl.

Skunk cabbage leaves are pretty cool–big & wide, deeply veinated–but it’s the blooms that get most of the attention. It’s the first plant to flower in many areas. Skunk cabbage blooms before it leafs, as early as February even in cold areas. Its dark red spathe covers its spadix like a hood, similar to a jack-in-the-pulpit.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Variegated leaf porn

by Caroline Brown

Whenever I put the word “porn” on my blog I get lots of hits. I need all the help I can get, so as a sort of follow-up to my post on the science behind variegated leaves, here’s some variegated leaf porn from Roger Williams Park Botanical Conservancy in Providence.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Science lesson: variegation

by Caroline Brown

Variegation is when plant foliage, stems, or flowers have more than one color. It’s most often found in leaves. The most common leaf variegation colors are white, cream and yellow, but there are many others, including pinks and purples.

Cats can also be variegated, but I’ll leave that phenomena for the pet bloggers to explain.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Caterpillar food plants

by Caroline Brown

I’ve been reading a bit lately about butterflies and how to attract them to your yard and garden. It’s important to plant flowers whose nectar attract butterflies, but don’t forget the larvae (caterpillars). Many butterfly (and moth) caterpillars only eat specific plants. The best known example is the monarch butterfly caterpillar, which eats only the sap from Asclepias species, or milkweeds, including butterfly weed (A. tuberosa) and swamp milkweed (A. incarnata).

(Author’s note: At this point let me acknowledge that it is a cheap ploy on my part to publish butterfly photos with this post. I should be posting caterpillar photos, but really….who wants to see those.)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Second incarnation

by Caroline Brown

Remember how I was making fun of the amaryllis’s puny leaves? Look at them now that the blooms are gone….which, by the way, was kind of depressing to watch. As Curt put it, the flowers were really beautiful but they died a horrible death.

Now, however, I feel like the amaryllis is in its second incarnation. A little more boring, perhaps, than when it was in all its finery, but still inspiring as winter ever so s-l-o-o-o-o-w-l-y creeps to a close.