Archive for the ‘Taxonomic vs. common’ Category

Caterpillars spinning platters

August 5, 2020

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, with songs you just can’t get out of your head:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

A wonderful collision of worlds, set off by the idiomatic (and colorfully metaphorical) N + N compound earworm: the world of DJs — the ear world (disc jockeys providing sonic pleasures for the ear) — and the world of caterpillars — the worm world (caterpillars being one type of worm in colloquial English).


It’s a tree! It’s a song!

January 4, 2020

(Flowers and music for diversion in difficult times.)

Ann Burlingham, towards the end of her recent visit to family in Australia, posted photos of a poinciana tree in gorgeous bloom. Among them:

(#1) Royal poinciana or flame tree, Delonix regia, in the pea / bean family (the legumes, or Fabaceae)

(Note: it’s been extraordinarily hot in Oz, and significant parts of the southeast are consumed in flames, but Ann  — and Jason and Henry — were far from the fire zone when she photographed the poinciana.)

An American friend of Ann’s commented, “I had never seen or heard of it before!” I responded, “Maybe you’d never heard about the flowering tree, but surely you’ve heard the jazz ballad.” But no. It seems that unless you’re into jazz or are really old — the heyday of “Poinciana” was apparently the 1940s through the 60s — you don’t know the song. (I’ve been asking around, and mostly just get blank stares.)


Revisiting 40: Bird X

December 25, 2019

Yesterday’s posting “Hung with care” was about, among many other things, animal alphabets, including in #8 one from Sally King McBride (going from alligator A to zebra Z), about which Robert Coren asked in a comment:


Do you happen to know who the “X” bird in #8 is? It’s the only one I can’t identify.

How many X birds could there be? you ask. Well, a fair number, but my guess on this one is the ovenbird xenops, but I could be wrong. (McBride is alive and working in NYC, so if someone wants to figure out how to get in touch with her and is willing to write to her, they might be able to find out her intentions and report on them here.)


perennial, evergreen, hardy

June 4, 2019

From an exchange on Facebook a few days ago, in which (at least) two of the participants use the term perennial to refer to plants that are green all year round, that don’t lose their leaves for a dormant season. The discussion was set off by DA (not knowing the privacy wishes of the participants, I refer to them by their initials), posting about a practice that puzzles him:

DA: I never understood why [people] bother to plant [fruit] trees that don’t bear fruit.

To which DS replied with a number of reasons for the practice, but along the way introducing perennial in the sense ‘green all year long’ (relevant materal boldfaced):

DS: They provide many other benefits, for birds, shade, soil augmentation … they hold together hills so they don’t wash away .. and much more. Besides, they can be lovely. As far as I know, there are no perennial fruit trees so they can’t be used for privacy.


Parade of Fangs, Eye of the Pumpkin

May 12, 2019

I’ll get to the fangs and the pumpkin eventually, but first a taxonomic puzzle in botany and two botanical puzzles in (Mexican) Spanish, triggered by this Pinterest photo from a while back:

(#1) [as captioned by its (Mexican) poster] Lirio plantasonya


The white and the red

April 19, 2019

The (Christian) liturgical colors for the season: white for Easter Sunday, red for today, Good Friday, the day of crucifixion (and for some churches, red for all of Holy Week). White the color of purity and perfection, and so of Jesus as Christ. Red the color of blood and sacrifice, and so of the crucifixion.

As it happens, yesterday’s events included a visit to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, where I encountered two especially notable flowers, one white, one deep red. First, the flowers, not (at first) identified:

(#1) Blanchier

(#2) Rougier


Two moments of iridaceous naming

April 7, 2019

Moment one, the name game: this photograph of a plant in bloom, presented as an identification quiz by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on Facebook yesterday:

(#1) EDZ’s hint: “neither roses nor daffodils”. Guesses from readers: jonquils, tulips, crocuses, and, finally bingo!

Moment two, today’s morning name: montbretia, which turns out to be a name for Crocosmia hybrids, like this one:

(#2) Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’


Aquatic carpentry

February 5, 2019

A Wayno & Piraro Bizarro from the 4th, presenting an exercise in cartoon understanding and jogging some reflections on comics conventions:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

To understand the cartoon, you need to appreciate that it shows a situation from everyday life (the office of a carpentry business)  juxtaposed with, or translated into, another, more remarkable, world (an undersea, aquatic, world, populated by specific fish, which you need to recognize).


Suspended Christmas

January 31, 2019

(Thanks to a cascade of medical conditions that began at the beginning of this month and has consumed much of my time, I’m still working my way through Christmas-oriented postings. Better late, as they say. [And yes, the back-truncation better late is in my files.])

The classic vehicle for carrying Christmas ornaments is the Christmas tree, an up-standing object. But suspended vehicles are also possible: hanging baskets, for instance, or this festive arrangement in Virginia Transue’s dining room that takes advantage of a chandelier:

(#1) Virginia’s 2018 smilax chandelier, with ornaments


Needles and scales

December 20, 2018

It began with a plant at the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, a plant that reminded me of a cedar shrub, with scale-like leaves. This turned out to be Fabiana imbricata violacea (or Chilean heather — it was in the central Chile section of the garden, in fact), in the Solanaceae, the nightshade family (also including tomatos, potatoes, tobacco, petunias, and much more). Then in the South Africa section, a rather similar shrub, with scale-like leaves; this turned out to be a variety of Coleonema pulchellum (or confetti bush), in the Rutaceae, the rue or citrus family (which generally have broad leaves).

The coleonema was growing together with some (broad-leaved) plants with interestingly contrasting foliage: some scented geraniums and some Martin’s spurges. Bringing in two more plant families — respectively, the Gerianaceae (or geranium family) and the Euphorbiaceae (or spurge family).

All this led me to Calluna vulgaris, or heather (given that I already had “Chilean heather”), in still another plant family (the Ericaceae, the heath or heather family), with needle-like or scale-like leaves. And of course to cedars, with their scale-like leaves. Well, the cedars I first thought of were “Japanese cedars” — Cryptomeria japonica, in the Cupressaceae (or cypress family). But wait! The well-known cedar trees, the cedars of Lebanon, are Cedrus libani — with needle-like leaves, in the Pinaceae (or pine family).

Ah, needle-like leaves — not just in (some) conifers, like the fir tree (in the Pinaceae), but also in other families: for example, in rosemary, in the Lamiaceae (the labiate or mint family, otherwise mostly broad-leaved).

Two themes here: leaf types (broad, needle-like, scale-like) and plant families (including a number not already in my inventory, even though the plants in them are very familiar). Plus, of course, the familiar agony about common names (think about those heathers, and those cedars). Details follow.