Posts Tagged 'plants'

Botanisk Have

A selection from Copenhagen’s botanical garden. Their native plant section was mostly gone to seed, but a few flowers were still bravely waving.

Yes, a little awkward cataloging this post under “Sweden” but the Danes held the part of Sweden we visited for centuries, so I’m sure, in the spirit of Scandinavian cooperation, everybody’s going to be chill about it all now.

Speaking of identity: a fascinating look at Northern Ireland’s tripartite either/or/and, with lessons for all of us citizens of Earth.

In Sweden

I particularly wanted to see some sloes, the marble-sized drupes of the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). My walking stick, which saw me around Dartmoor, is made from the storied wood of this shrubby, hedgy, sometimes-tree. There’s much legend associated with this species; and (black) magic, like, for instance, how they find a long straight piece for a walking stick… Meanwhile, Slån is the Swedish name for this source of sloe gin. The drupes are not very palatable until they’ve been soaked in gin and sugar… but we did see some young Wood Pigeons gobbling them up.I hadn’t realized that hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) or Igelkott was on the menu, so to speak, of sights. But our nighttime safari-leader Evan turned one up not two blocks from our lodgings in Skanör. The animal was bigger than expected, about the size of an American football. They bulk up for winter hibernation. After we determined it was not a rock on the lawn, the critter took shelter in a mess of rose and ivy and some kind of diptera aroused by our light. We searched again the next two nights but found no others; this source says they can forage for up to 2 km during the night.

I haven’t yet downloaded my camera camera, as opposed to my phone camera, so pictures of the Kingfisher will have to wait. One was definitely on my list of things to see (we saw two)… But here is a fine consolation prize, worth two in the camera:A Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) after being ringed (or banded, as we would say) by members of the Falsterbo Fågelstation bird observatory. This little songbird is on its way to central/southern Africa, presuming it survives the gauntlet, including the Sahara, along the way.
And then, all things being just, it will return north in the spring.

Great numbers of migrating birds fly over the Falsterbo peninsula, which sticks out like a T from the southwest corner of Sweden, during the fall. It’s the shortest distance over water to Denmark and non-pelagic birds don’t like being over the water too long. The observatory keeps a daily count of passing birds and rings a few in the lighthouse garden and the nearby Flommen reedbeds, where the warbler above was netted, ringed, sexed/aged, weighed/checked for body fat, recorded, and released.

On the Button

The deciduous shrub known as Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) for its round flower heads is a fantastic pollinator-magnet. The plant loves its feet (roots) wet, and, as we discovered recently at the edge of Beaverdam Reservoir in Virginia, it also attracts hummingbirds. Who knew? Well, everybody in the pollination biz, but it was a lovely discovery for us. This Ruby-throated (Archilochus colubris) was supping at the last remaining flower head.

Swamp Loosestrife

Decodon verticillatus is also called water-willow and whorled loosestrife. The flowers are spectacular, but you sure have to get close to them.These leaves certainly look rather “willowy,” but the species isn’t related to Salix. It is related to Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), the dreadful invasive, but D. verticillatus is a native from Maine to Louisiana. Talk about liking to get its feet wet! It grows in fresh water. One source says muskrats like to munch on these bulbous underwater bits.

Milkweed Madness

A field of Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, home to just above everybody.Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus).Fourteen-spotted Ladybeetle larva, Propylea quatuordecimpunctata.Large Milkweed Bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus.Above and below are two variations on larval stage Harmonia axyridis, the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle.Don’t forget all the flies and bees. Also, Yellow-collared Scape Moths.Anthrenus genus carpet beetle, I think. Tiny.And Oleander aphids (Aphis nerii).

A Week on the Thoreauvian Rivers

“The Indian pipe is still pushing up,” noted Henry David Thoreau in his journal on August 23, 1858. The ghost plant, indian pipe, Emily Dickinson’s favorite flower: Monotropa uniflora emerging. Often mistaken for fungi, this is actually a heterotrophic flowering plant. There are several thousand species of such non-photosynthesizing plants in the world. Most of these, like M. uniflora, are mycoparasitic, meaning they get their food from the mycorrhiza interwoven with the roots of photosynthetic plants.

This year’s commemorative stamp. That’s sumac. Compare with the 150th (1967) commemorative. Maybe they’ll get it right for the 250th?

By the way, the CO2 level in the atmosphere is higher than it has ever been in the 200,000 years of human history. (Not written history, obviously, but our history as Homo sapiens.) By the 2050s, your children or grandchildren will be living in a climate unseen by any hominid in 50 million years.

The Buzz

For a number of plants, including such delicious Solanaceae (nightshades) as tomatoes, potatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, and peppers, the frequency of a bumblebee’s buzzing is what releases pollen. The bumble grabs ahold of the anthers and vibrates the pollen loose. Honeybees, who get more credit they they deserve, don’t do this; they pick up exposed pollen, but they can’t unlock the anthers of plants that require the buzz. Here’s a short video on buzz pollination.A closer look at the flower of what I think is Horse-nettle (Solanum carolinense), a delightfully weedy nightshade, shows the horn-like anthers that the native bees’ buzz  shakes open.

As you can see from the linked video, a tuning fork can also do it. The internet — oh, you crazy internet! —  says that a vibrator and an electric toothbrush will also do the trick, I mean, if you wanted to do it personally….


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