Sunday, October 15, 2017

Plant Story--Rhubarb, A Curious Food

Rhubarb is an odd food plant: we only eat the leaf stems.

Rhubarb. Only the leaf stems are harvested and eaten!
I guess the same is true for celery, but celery leaves and roots are edible. Rhubarb leaves could kill you. Rhubarb roots were a significant traditional herbal medicine all across Eurasia, often as a purgative. So this food plant is raised only for its leaf stems (technically, petioles).

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Plant Story--Ragweed, Ambrosia, an American Wildflower

Ragweed. Makes you think of allergies, right?

ragweed, Ambrosia
ragweed, Ambrosia
But my title says "an American wildflower."

And it is.

The ragweeds, the genus Ambrosia, in the sunflower family, Asteraceae, are all endemic to the Americas. Of the 22 species native to North America, only five are widespread (see USDA maps). But two species are in every one of the lower 48 states, annual ragweed Artemisia artemisifolia, and western ragweed, Artemisia psilostachya. They look very similar. The annual ragweed has always been a plant of disturbed areas, spending the winter as seeds, needing relatively open conditions to prosper during its one year of life. Human disturbances have given it many more places to grow. The other widespread ragweed, western ragweed, is a perennial, and is found in native ecosystems all across the United States.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ideas from Japanese Gardens

I took a garden tour in northern Japan this past June (blog). Not only did it make me see my plants as poorly trimmed (see earlier blog), there were lots of useful ideas.

Japanese garden scene

Friday, September 22, 2017

Migrating Butterflies Love Rabbitbrush

"Kathy, I was at your plant walk Saturday at Devil's Backbone and today, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of butterflies there!"

painted lady butterflies, Devil's Backbone, Loveland, CO

I'd just picked up the phone in mid morning, Sept. 22. To be alerted by Sandy to the butterfly migration.

I'd read something about a butterfly migration in the Denver Post : more than the usual number of painted lady butterflies moving south along the Colorado Front Range.

I went to see for myself.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hawaiian Tea

Tea from Hawaii?

tea plants, Hawaii Tea, Volcano, Hawaii
Tea, Camelia sinensis, is a major tropical crop. Hawaii is the only state in the United States with a tropical climate, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Hawaiians are growing tea. But it did!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Plant Story--Rubber Rabbitbrush, Painting the Landscape Gold


Every fall, the Rocky Mountain foothills turn golden as the very-abundant rubber rabbitbrush, 
Ericameria nauseosa, flowers. It is a spectacular display, coming at the end of summer when most plants are through folowering.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Late Season Flowers

rabbit brush, not quite in flower
Rabbitbrush in August
I planned to write about rabbitbrush, Ericameria nauseosa, but on August 23, the plants weren't flowering at all. I went back August 31. On Aug. 31, I could have gathered a bouquet from a hillside of covered in rabbitbrush but fewer than one in 20 inflorescences had open flowers. It will be a good flowering year, but the flowering season has hardly started.

Who would have thought that late August would be too early for flowers?