Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ 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!

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African daisies

August 31, 2015

An exercise in names, common and taxonomic.

It starts with the genus Gerbera, which I looked at in “Gerbera and other daisy-oid flowers”, here: the Transvaal daisy, Barberton daisy, or African daisy. That posting runs through six other genera with daisy in (one or more of) their common names: Bellis, Leucanthemum, Symphyotrichum (formerly Aster), Anthemis, Argyranthemum, Erigeron. None labeled as African, however.

But there are at least three other genera with African daisy as one of their common names: Gazania, Osteospermum (formerly Dimorphotheca), and Arctotis. All (like Gerbera) gorgeous, showy flowers with Africa in their histories.

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Two useful terms

August 30, 2015

Laboring on the WWI (Weeds, Wildflowers, and Invasives) detail yesterday, I came across two useful technical terms in this domain. The concepts were long familiar to me, but the terminology was new: the adjective and noun ruderal; the adjective allelopathic and noun allelopathy.

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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:

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

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Gerbera and other daisy-oid flowers

August 29, 2015

A gift from a friend a few days ago: a gorgeous, showy Gerbera plant, in bloom. An assortment of hybrid Gerbera flowers:

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(Mine is orange-red, with a yellow center.)

Gerberas are often referred to as Transvaal daisies, with a bow to their land of origin and their daisy-like composite flowers — but then an extraordinary variety of composite or compositoid flowers have common names with daisy in them. In fact, daisy has no fixed reference as a botanical term, though common practice seems to fix on two species as the standards: the ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and the common daisy (Bellis perennis) — a “field daisy” and a “lawn daisy”, respectively, both having modest-sized flowers with white rays and yellow centers (or capitula).

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Two medicinal plants

August 27, 2015

Two more plants from breakfast at Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden on Tuesday (the 25th): yarrow (Achillea) and scabious (Scabiosa), both plants with a history in folk medicine, though apparently in different traditions.

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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:

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From this to Hedera helix and other vining invasives.

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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”.

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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.

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Cotoneaster

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.

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