Archive for the ‘Categorization and Labeling’ Category

Eat your weeds

August 31, 2015

Laboring on WWI (Weeds, Wildflowers, and Invasives), I was reunited with the work of Euell Gibbons, who (50 years ago) served as a cheerleader for eating foods from nature, rather than agriculture. Eat your weeds!


Cow parsnip

August 30, 2015

My continuing investigations into invasive plants take me further and further afield (so to speak), today to Bay Area wildflowers, of which there are a great many — some shy woodland flowers, some small plants that (in their season) blanket hillsides and meadows, and some weedy and imposing plants. Now a web list of area wildflowers turns up many familiar plants from my days of wildflower tracking, including a giant, the cow parsnip:


(Note the big white umbels and the huge celery-like leaves.)


Vining invasives

August 26, 2015

Continuing from “Seedy invasives”, I turn to a pretty but ominous plant seen at Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden yesterday morning: Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, or porcelainberry, in the Araliaceae:


From this to Hedera helix and other vining invasives.


Seedy invasives

August 22, 2015

In my “More plant families” posting yesterday, I turned to two big families I’d missed in an earlier posting and then to my recollections of plants in my Columbus OH garden that were self-seeding and/or self-hybridizing: cleomes, California poppies, opium poppies, foxgloves, borage, columbines, tradescantia, nasturtiums, and then I looked at the plant families they belonged to — a project that added 8 more families to the 9 I’d looked at in the earlier posting and the two I’d looked at in my “Penstemon” posting. (If you’re counting families, the score is now 19.)

Now I want to switch my focus from the intricacies of botanical taxonomy (without abandoning the topic entirely) to the significance of self-seeding (or self-sowing), one form of invasiveness in the gardening world, one way in which plants can spread so as to take over parts of a garden. The other is vegetative spread, by division or, especially, by creeping (via underground roots or surface runners). You’ve got your seedy invasives and you’ve got your creepy invasives.

Of course, the topic goes well beyond these homey horticultural matters, to invasive plants — and animals — on a much larger scale, where invasiveness has taken on political significance of several kinds. Eventually I intend to post about a piece by Andrew Cockburn in the September 2015 Harper’s, “Weed Whackers: Monsanto, glyphosphate, and the war on invasive species”.


More plant families

August 21, 2015

After I posted on “Plant families” I realized I’d missed one gigantic, and enormously important, one: the grasses. Collecting material for that, I found one more big one.

Meanwhile, inspired by some late-season cleome flowers at the Gamble Garden yesterday, I began to assemble material on plants I had grown in my Columbus garden that self-seeded (as the cleomes did) or self-hybridized (like the columbines), and that took me mostly to smaller plant families, ones I hadn’t already posted about. In the end, 8 new families, plus a replay of two from an earliier posting.



August 20, 2015

Yesterday (while working on my “Plant families” posting, on the rose family) I came across the Wikipedia page for the agreeable plant Cotoneaster, which sent me on a complex journey through pronunciation and etymology, botanical taxonomy, English morphology, lexical semantics, and the pragmatics of expressions of resemblance.



August 19, 2015

Today’s flower, a mountain penstemon,  Penstemon heterophyllus × laetus ‘Margarita BOP’ (according to the source, Altman Plants in Vista CA, BOP signifies that it was discovered at the Bottom of the Porch). Beautiful, and drought tolerant too. A somewhat different P. heterophyllus:


A linguistic bonus: the family to which the genus Penstemon belongs.


Crab feast

August 15, 2015

Some time ago a tv commercial went past me in the middle of the night: a commercial for a fast-food or casual-dining restaurant advertising specials on crab, a feast of snow crab and king crab. So I wondered about the crab in these two names, suspecting that we might be in a world where the referent of one or both of these names is unclear — where there are several distinct creatures called snow crab, say — and maybe also in a world where biologists claim that some things called crabs (or X crabs, for some specific X) are not in fact crabs at all, or aren’t “true crabs”. My suspicious are justified.


Ice cream, roadside fiberglass, Caillebotte, and more

August 13, 2015

Today’s Zippy takes us lots of places:


It shows our Pinhead talking French Impressionism with a roadside ice cream stand that happens to be a fiberglass replica of an ice cream cone. (In Zippy, roadside fiberglass artifacts are almost always chatty.)  Degas (gauzy ballerinas), Monet (soft-focus water lilies), but especially Gustave Caillebotte: men scraping floors and flying, drying, laundry.


Food names, and plant names too

August 10, 2015

Some background for a posting on Italian names for pizza. It’s about the names for food, with some parallels to common names for plants.



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