Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

Rubber trees, rubber plants

May 29, 2015

In the NYT on the 27th, a piece “China’s High Hopes for Growing Those Rubber Tree Plants” by Becky Davis:

[in the face of a huge drop in the price of rubber,] environmental officials just outside Jinghong, [southwest Yunnan Province’s] major city, have been testing a plantation model that they hope will become the blueprint for a more sustainable and economically stable rubber industry.

On approximately 165 acres of land, workers have interspersed the rubber trees with cacao, coffee and macadamia trees, as well as high-value timber species. The mix, promoted as “environmentally friendly rubber,” is intended to decrease soil erosion, improve water quality and increase biodiversity, among other benefits.

So here we have rubber trees. But what about the houseplants commonly called rubber plants? Those, believe it or not, are a species of fig.


California’s iconic food

May 23, 2015

In the NYT yesterday, a feature story on agriculture’s contribution to the California drought. The teaser on the front page:

How We Drain California
Each week, the average American consumes more than 300 gallons of California water by eating food that was produced there. To fundamentally alter how much water the drought-ravaged state uses, everyone may have to give something up. A guide to thirsty foods, like the avocado.

Illustration: a slim sliver of avocado, with the caption:

The average American eats a sliver of California avocado each week. It takes 4.1 gallons of water to produce.

Alas, the avocado is California’s iconic food. Avocados would be a considerable sacrifice for Californians, and everybody, Californian or otherwise, would have to give up guacamole, even on Super Bowl Sunday.


Fig time

May 20, 2015

A couple days ago I caught a snippet of a discussion on KQED-FM about overwintering fig plants. Why people were discussing the topic as we near the beginning of summer I don’t know, but there it was. I’m not caring for any fig plants here in Palo Alto, but back when I lived in Columbus OH most of the year I had two: a Ficus benjamina, a very common house plant in temperate climates; and a Ficus carica, the plant the people on the radio were talking about (an ornamental and the source of the figs we eat), which I grew in Columbus as a potted plant, to serve as a reminder of California.

Now some figgy reflections, starting with some Ficus plants and then wandering on to other fig-related matters: the fig leaf of modesty, figgy pudding, Fig Newtons, and the negative polarity item care/give a fig.


Good and evil: Star Jasmine

May 4, 2015

We’re moving into summer vegetation here, including the blossoming of star jasmine everywhere: lovely flowers, intoxicatingly sweet fragrance:



April 7, 2015

Posting about Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music recently brought me to “Edelweiss” (the song) and Edelweiss (the plant).


Morning names: Confrey, comfrey

March 23, 2015

From my subconscious this morning: Zez Confrey (definitely a memorable name), and then comfrey.



March 20, 2015

On the NPR blog on the 11th, “From Ancient Sumeria To Chipotle Tacos, Cumin Has Spiced Up The World” by Adam Maskevich, with this striking claim:

In English, … cumin has a singular distinction – it is the only word that can be traced directly back to Sumerian, the first written language. So when we talk about cumin, we are harkening back to the Sumerian word gamun, first written in the cuneiform script more than 4,000 years ago. [hearken back is a variant of hark back, recognized by NOAD2]

This is extravagantly phrased. There’s a connection to Sumerian, but it’s far from direct.


Two more mornings

March 14, 2015

Two more morning names: yesterday, Robin Wright; today, the plant photinia.


Morning name: salsify (with Swiss chard as a bonus)

March 9, 2015

This morning’s name: salsify (the plant and its edible taproot), with Swiss chard (the leafy green) as a bonus.

To start: from Wikipedia:

Tragopogon, also known as salsify or goatsbeard, is a genus of flowering plants in the sunflower [Asteraceae or Compositae] family. It includes the vegetable known as salsify, as well as a number of common wild flowers, some of which are usually regarded as weeds.

The vegetable called salsify is usually the root of the purple salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius; the root is described as having the taste of oysters (hence the alternative common name “oyster plant” for some species in this genus), but more insipid with a touch of sweetness. [Many describe the taste as “nutty” rather than like oysters.] The young shoots of purple salsify can also be eaten, as well as young leaves. Other species are also used in the same way, including the black or Spanish salsify, Scorzonera hispanica, which is closely related though not a member of the genus Tragopogon.



St. David’s Day

March 2, 2015

Yesterday (March 1st) was the first of this year’s Saint’s Days of the Lands of the British Isles: Saint David, patron saint of Wales. Land of the leek and the daffodil and the Red Dragon national flag (see my 3/1/12 posting “Take a leek” for some discussion of these symbols).



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