Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

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).


Morning name: calabash

February 15, 2015

My “morning name” a few days ago: calabash. Probably primed by this soup entry on the menu at the Palo Alto restaurant Reposado:

SOPA DE CALABAZA DE TEMPORADA: Roasted butternut squash, chipotle, hoja santa crema, toasted pumpkin seeds

Following Spanish calabaza will lead us to two quite different sets of calabash plants and their products. Yes, I will eventually get to Calabasas CA and to “Good night, Mrs. Calabash”.


Signs of spring

February 5, 2015

While more snow is afflicting the northeastern U.S., out here on the left coast there are signs of spring. In my neighborhood, the spears of tulip shoots have now broken ground: spring flowers on the way! And the songbirds are now vocalizing like crazy.

In ten days or so (mid-February) the first trees will start to leaf out: the California buckeyes.



January 19, 2015

A notice on “magnificent magnolias” from the San Francisco Botanical Garden in 2013, but equally relevant this week:

In a cool and misty corner of San Francisco, the New Year begins with one of the city’s most breathtaking annual natural marvels. San Francisco Botanical Garden is home to the most significant magnolia collection for conservation purposes outside China, where the majority of species grow. Long considered the signature flower of the Garden, nearly 100 magnolias, many rare and historic, erupt in a fragrant riot of pink and white from mid-January through March. Paleobotanists consider the magnolia family to be among the earliest flowering plants, with magnolia fossils dating back nearly 100 million years. Ice age survivors, they bloom for us now.

People in the East and South of the U.S. think of magnolias as intense summer flowers, but here they’re one of the signature winter flowers.


Perilla and company

January 12, 2015

Came across the herb perilla in my reading this morning, and began playing associatively with the name, thinking of composing a comic story or verse on phonologically similar names. Here, some raw materials; anyone is welcome to play with them.



December 25, 2014

Today’s Zippy, with poignant seasonal nostalgia (Christmas Day snow on nearly deserted streets) along with the usual budget of Zippy oddness (imagined aliens from Neptune, Macadamia nuts, and Perry Mason):


The title — Snowtopia — is a wintry portmanteau, of snow and Utopia.



December 22, 2014

Just posted a piece on, among other things, Claytonias (miner’s lettuce and spring beauties), in which their relatives the Portulacas put in a brief appearance. Now to focus on them: Portulaca oleracea (common purslane) and Portulaca grandiflora (moss-rose).


Winter greenery

December 22, 2014

The rains came and the Bay Area greened up, in that astonishing bright yellow-green of sudden growth. All sorts of plants are sprouting: just up the street from me, the calla lilies (planted in front of houses) and the miner’s lettuce (wild volunteers), both still in very early stages; they’ll bloom in February or March.


California peppertree

December 14, 2014

More or less out of my back door, there’s a California peppertree that I noticed yesterday because the heavy rains had knocked so many of the peppercorns down on to the sidewalk. A photo:

A pretty (and evergreen) tree, with aromatic berries; I delight visitors to California by picking some berries and crushing them between my fingers to release the scent.



November 11, 2014

As I sit at my computer, I can see, out the front window, over the patio wall, the trees in the back of the Palo Alto downtown library, currently featuring an American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) in its bright red fall coloring. A very cheering sight. A stock photo from the net:




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