Sunday, July 26, 2015
Weather: Rain Monday afternoon; high afternoon temperatures late week. Lowest recorded relative humidity in Santa Fé was 15%, so it was possible to water plants without seeing it all disappear into the air.
What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid tea roses, bird of paradise, fernbush, buddleia, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, datura, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, annual four o’clock, hollyhock, bouncing Bess, purple garden phlox, red amaranth, squash, farmer’s single sunflowers, coreopsis, blanket flower, yellow yarrow, Shasta daisy, zinnias, brome grass. Hay cut; can see yellow apples on trees that were late blooming.
Beyond the walls and fences: Trees of heaven, buffalo gourd, yellow mullein, goat’s head, white sweet clover, bindweed, green-leaf five-eyes, Queen Anne’s lace, Hopi tea, plains paper flower, horseweed, wild lettuce, flea bane, gumweed, strap leaf, golden hairy and purple asters.
In my yard: Rugosa roses, yellow potentilla, Saint John’s wort, California poppy, snow-in-summer, coral beard tongue, lady bells, Goodness Grows veronica, catmints, blue flax, larkspur, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, Mexican hat, black-eyed Susan, chocolate flower, bachelor button, white yarrow, purple coneflower, Mönch aster, reseeded Sensation cosmos.
Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, snapdragon, pansy, moss roses, marigold, gazania.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.
Animal sightings: Small birds, geckos, small bees on sweet white clover, bumble bees on catmint, hornets, ants.
Weekly update: If there were a Mohs scale for the desirability of grass, black grama would be a one end, and June grass at the other. Three awn would be next to it.
At one time red awn had its own Latin name, Aristida fendleriana. Then botanists looked closer and determined a number of similar grasses were actually subspecies of Aristida purpurea. This became the longiseta variety.
Next writers who couldn’t be bothered with such trivia wrote generalized profiles for purple awn grass. They said it was a perennial whose roots could reach 4', and whose flowering heads made it "popular among horticulturalists for use in low water landscaping, especially in the Southwestern United States. Its reddish purple coloring and compact bunchgrass habit make it desirable."
Dennis Tilley and Loren Saint John even went so far as to say "in Arizona and New Mexico its abundance and fair palatability" make it "a highly important source of forage." Well, they’re stationed in Aberdeen, Idaho.
That’s not what the Forest Service said about red three awn in 1937 when it warned the seeds "often become a menace by getting into the eyes and nostrils of grazing animals, as well as penetrating the wool of sheep and lowering fleece values." Janet Howard added, it was "rated poor to fair in energy content and poor in protein value."
I’ve been picking pieces of its awns out of my clothes all week and I can tell you who was correct. Sometimes subtle distinctions are more important than overriding generalities.
It is true it’s attractive when you drive by it on the shoulder in April.
What isn’t obvious from a distance is that the panicles are made of smaller units nesting within each other, rather like stacked shuttlecocks.
By late May those silky red strands are turning tan and expanding.
When the seeds are ripe, the head falls off. If you try to pick it up, the ends you so innocently clutched scratch you hand. It falls apart.
You learn to treat it like a Russian thistle carcass, and only touch it from the base.
The long awns turn brittle, and break when brushed against. They are thin enough to pierce a heavy sweatshirt and weave into the fleece where they abrade your skin. They are nearly impossible to remove.
The seeds themselves have sharp ends like needle grass, and are no harder to remove. But when nothing is left of the culm stalk but the attachment, even that breaks off. It’s purely gratuitous aggression for it to attach itself. It serves no reproductive function.
The one good thing is that, contrary to the generalized statements, it does not behave like a bunch grass. Maybe because I pull it whenever I recognize a seed head, it doesn’t create the deep mats typical of bunch grasses that have to be dug out with a shovel. The roots remain fibrous like an onion and can be jerked out. They don’t even steal much dirt.
Howard, Janet L. "Aristida purpurea," 1997, in United States Forest Service, Fire Effects Information System, available on-line.
Tilley, D. and L. St. John, L. "Purple Threeawn" (Aristida purpurea), USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Center Plant Guide, 2013, quote on desirability.
United States Department of Agriculture. Forest Service, Range Plant Handbook, 1937, quote on seeds.
1. Red three awn grass in bloom with rice grass, 28 May 2007.
2. Red three awn grass in seed with June grass, 31 May 2009.
3. Close up of red three awn flower heads, 19 May 2007.
4. Close up of red three awn seed head, 22 July 2015.
5. Red three awn sections; the bottom left is one section, the one to the right is two, and the seed is above left; 22 July 2015.
6. Red three awn pieces in the inside fleece of my sweatshirt, 23 July 2015.
7. Red three awn seed holder piercing the outside fabric of my sweatshirt, 22 July 2015.
8. Red three awn grass roots, 22 July 2015.
9. Red three awn seed head when entire, 2 July 2012.
10. Red three awn flowers emerging from their sheathes, 18 April 2010.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Weather: Reached the days when afternoon rumbles of thunder don’t signify rain, but mark the time when temperature are falling from their noon peaks. Some rain early this morning.
What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid tea roses, bird of paradise, fernbush, buddleia, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, datura, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, annual four o’clock from seed, hollyhock, bouncing Bess, purple garden phlox, red amaranth, squash, farmer’s single sunflowers, coreopsis, blanket flower, yellow yarrow, Shasta daisy, zinnias, brome grass, early corn tasseling.
Beyond the walls and fences: Trees of heaven, buffalo gourd, yellow mullein, goat’s head, white sweet clover, bindweed, green-leaf five-eyes, Queen Anne’s lace, Hopi tea, plains paper flower, horseweed, flea bane, gumweed, strap leaf, golden hairy and purple asters.
In my yard: Rugosa roses, yellow potentilla, Saint John’s wort, California poppy, snow-in-summer, coral beard tongue, lady bells, Goodness Grows veronica, catmints, blue flax, larkspur, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, Mexican hat, black-eyed Susan, chocolate flower, bachelor button, white yarrow, purple coneflower, reseeded Sensation cosmos.
Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, snapdragon, moss roses, marigold, gazania.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.
Animal sightings: Hummingbird and other small birds, geckos, bumble bees, hornets, ants.
Weekly update: The French may be gourmets, but they don’t understand sandcherries.
In 1620, Pedro de Villasur led an expedition from Santa Fé along the Platte river into Nebraska that ended in an ambush. A single sheet from his log later was taken to the French fort north of modern Saint Louis then commanded by Pierre Dugué, sieur de Boisbriand. It apparently was translated into French and forwarded to Paris. Marc de Villiers published the version he found in the French archives of the war ministry in 1921. Sheldon Anderson published an English translation two years later.
The fragment begins when they are setting up camp. Villasur tells his men, "a savage had reported to him that he had found some leaves of fresh sand cherries which seemed to be the remains of a meal of some troop which had passed there lately."
Villiers published "des feuilles d'Oloues (?) fraiches," which literally means "leaves of Oloues fresh." I could find no on-line translation for the word Villiers couldn’t interpret.
Anderson noted, "any one familiar with the Platte Valley in the month of August knows that sand cherries are the most abundant fruit to be found and most likely to be the one eaten by this band of Indians."
Prunus pumila has several subspecies. Besseyi and pumila grow in Nebraska; susquehanae and depressa are found in Ontario and Québec. Joseph Rohrer calls it cerisier des sables.
It’s all about translation and experience. The western variety is advertised in nursery catalogs as attractive to birds, without specifying which varieties to expect. Bart Prose says the sharp-tailed grouse feed on the western besseyi in Nebraska. In Illinois, the Appalachian susquehanae is eaten by prairie chickens, wild turkeys, eastern bluebirds, northern cardinals, robins, and cedar waxwings, according to John Hilty.
Not all those are birds one wants to invite into one’s yard. Only robins migrate through this area. Waxwings summer in the north and winter in the southeast.
Local fruit-eating birds don’t always recognize alien berries. It’s about translation and experience.
Pyracantha coccinea is another vine marketed as a bird lure, again without details. But drive around in late winter and you will still see untouched orange berries. They are devoured by cedar waxwings in South Carolina and Florida. Trois says, "thousands of Robins show up at ours and eat every berry in an hour" on Christmas day in Santa Fe, Texas.
Waxwings also eat privet berries in northern California. In England, David Snow says Ligustrum vulgare are patronized by blackbirds, robins, blackcap and bullfinches. He adds waxwings have eaten them in Germany, starlings in Hungary, and robins, nuthatches and great tits near Dresden, also in Germany.
Local birds seem to prefer local species. As mentioned in the post for 14 March 2010, Townsend’s solitaire lives on one-seeded juniper berries. Since the thrush isn’t found around here, and Juniperus monosperma berries usually disappear by early winter, other birds must be eating them.
The exception is Virginia creeper. It isn’t native, but has naturalized everywhere, no doubt with the aid of birds. Mark Brand says eastern bluebirds, northern cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers and turkeys eat the fruit from Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Of those, mountain chickadees are the most common in my yard.
At this time of the year, the berries are disguised by their green colors, which blend into their leaves. They don’t announce themselves until they are ripe. Even the black sandcherries are hard to see at a distance. But, after their leaves fall, all the fruit wares are highly visible.
The translation will be complete, but not all things will be intelligible.
Brand, Mark. "Virginia Creeper" Fairfax County, Virginia, Public Schools website.
Dunn, Jon L. and Jonathan Alderfer. Complete Birds of North America, 2006, on cedar waxwing distribution.
Eleisia. "Cedar Waxwings Came and Went!," Chickadees, Juncos, and Jays Oh My! website, 2 February 2013
Hilton, Bill Jr. "This Week at Hilton Pond 1-7 January 2001," Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History website.
Hilty, John. "Susquehana Sand Cherry," Illinois Wildflowers website.
Prose, Bart L. Habitat Suitability Index Models: Plains Sharp-tailed Grouse, 1987.
Rohrer, Joseph R. "Prunus pumila Linnaeus," Flora of North America, available on-line.
Scheper, Jack. "Pyracantha coccinea," Floridata website, 13 October 2005 revision.
Snow, Barbara and David Snow. Birds and Berries, 2010.
Trois. Comments on "Scarlet Firethorn," 4 October 2004, Dave’s Garden website.
Villiers, Marc de. "Le Massacre de l'Expedition Espagnole du Missouri (11 Aoüt 1720)," Journal de la Société des Americanistes de Paris, 1921. Translated and annotated by Addison E. Sheldon for Nebraska History, January-March, 1923.
1. Western sandcherry, in my yard, 17 July 2015.
2. Western sandcherry, in my yard, 16 July 2015.
3. Pyracantha, in town, 16 July 2015.
4. Privet, in my yard, 17 July 2015.
5. One-seeded juniper, in my yard, 16 July 2015.
6. Virginia creeper, down the road, 17 July 2015.
7. Western sandcherry, in my yard, 17 July 2015.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Weather: We’ve been getting rain with nothing in the Caribbean or Pacific to kick up water; apparently, the conditions in the Great Basin that gave us days of temperatures in the 90s also created a vacuum that pulled water up from the southeast; last rain 7/7.
What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid tea roses, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, tall yuccas, lilies, daylily, datura, Spanish broom, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, hollyhock, bouncing Bess, purple garden phlox, squash, farmer’s single sunflowers, coreopsis, blanket flower, yellow yarrow, Shasta daisy, zinnias from seed, brome grass.
Beyond the walls and fences: Buffalo gourd, yellow mullein, goat’s head, white sweet clover, bindweed, green-leaf five-eyes, Queen Anne’s lace, Hopi tea, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, flea bane, strap leaf, golden hairy and purple asters.
In my yard: Rugosa roses, potentilla, buddleia, Saint John’s wort, California poppy, snow-in-summer, coral beard tongue, lady bells, Goodness Grows veronica, catmints, blue flax, larkspur, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, Mexican hat, black-eyed Susan, chocolate flower, bachelor button, white yarrow.
Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, snapdragon, moss roses, marigold, gazania.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.
Animal sightings: Small birds, geckos, swallowtail and cabbage butterflies, dragonfly, bumble bees, hornets, ants.
Weekly update: I covet chicory, and fear it.
I love the color. I still remember when I first saw it growing in the ballast along the rail tracks in northern Ohio. Slate blue daisies were stuck on grooved stems as straight as ramrods, and as barren, almost like ornamental keys on a clarinet.
But, much as I’ve considered buying seeds, I remember the basal rosettes resemble those of dandelions. Cichorium intybus might not spread the same way, but I wouldn’t be able to recognize the yellow-flowered monsters until they were in bloom, which is too late. Otherwise, I might pull the desired composite instead. Both have taproots that would leave a milky residue on my hands.
I’ve only seen chicory here along the road that connects Santa Fé with Taos. For a couple years, it was near the Dreamcatcher light, some other time it down by the Knights of Columbus turn. The last few years it sprouted in the gravel mulch in Walgreens’ roadside bed.
This year I found the double rows of squared off petals on the south side of the ridge that separates the Pojoaque valley from Arroyo Seco. It happened to be right at the boundary between white sweet clover uphill and yellow sweet clover below.
Naturally, the flowers were turned from the road and me. They open in mornings, when they follow the sun. They’re usually gone by afternoon.
The plants I’ve seen were almost always solitary, the results of physics shifting loads when vehicles changed speeds, either to climb hills or to stop or start at traffic lights. The dark blue, double coiled stamens and anthers can’t fertilize their own ovaries, so there must be at least two plants for the perennials to reproduce.
Chicory is probably a Mediterranean plant. The Egyptians used it as a food. One of their words for it, tybi, spread east into Persia as hindaba where the white roots were used medicinally. It must have followed the trade routes east. It now grows wild in parts of India as Kásni. In western China it was used by the Uyghurs. Almost all the Asian herbals say it is a cooling plant.
The Egyptians apparently developed a subspecies today called endive. When Pliny was discussing the plant soon after the birth of Christ, he distinguished the cultivated from the wild forms. Edward Sturtevant didn’t believe chicory was much cultivated until the middle ages. He noted Albertus Magnus was the first to mention growing, as distinct from gathering it. He was active in the mid-1200s.
Chicory spread as far north as England, but was primarily cultivated in France and Belgium. Maude Grieve said there was an attempt in 1778 to introduce it as a forage plant - it’s considered more nutritious than alfalfa. However, it wasn’t accepted. It remained a plant of gravel and chalk, especially on the downs of the southeast coast.
Neither the French nor the English were responsible for introducing it into this country, at least into Michigan. Edward Voss says it didn’t appear there until the 1840s, some fifteen years after farm lands in the lower peninsula were opened to settlement. Then, at least where I grew up, farmers were coming from places like Belgium.
During the civil war, it was introduced to New Orleans as an extender for coffee. However, it didn’t settled there either.
Instead, chicory colonized the lands north of the Ohio and east of the Missouri rivers. It also grows in the Pacific coast states. In between, it seems to have put down roots between the ranges of the Rockies. In 1915, it was only reported in Albuquerque, perhaps as a consequence of the railroad. Now it’s found in disconnected parts of the Río Grande valley and in the Four Corners.
Individual wild plants can interbred with cultivated forms, so that many of the naturalized plants show some genetic combination of both. Tomas Zavada’s team found plants gathered along the road side in New Mexico and Nevada showed the greatest genetic diversity.
I always see it blooming in summer. The brown seeds ripen in fall. Françoise Corbineau and Daniel Côme found they had no dormancy period, which means, if conditions were right, they could germinate immediately. Here, that’s after the rains. In Greece, Pliny said it appeared after the Pleiades, which would be the first of May.
Corbineau, F. and D. Côme. "Germinability and Quality of Cichorium Intybus L. Seeds," Acta Horticulturae 267, 1989.
Dymock, William. The Vegetable Materia Medica of Western India, 1885; on Kásni.
Grieve, Maude. A Modern Herbal, 1931, edited by Hilda Leyel.
Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus). Naturalis Historia, books 20 and 21, translated by W. H. S. Jones, 1951.
Sturtevant, Edward Lewis. Sturtevant’s Edible Plants of the World, edited by U. P. Hedrick, 1919.
Voss, Edward G. Michigan Flora, volume 3, 1966.
Wang, Quanzhen1 and Jian Cui. "Perspectives and Utilization Technologies of Chicory (Cichorium Intybus L.): a Review," African Journal of Biotechnology 10:1966-1977:2011; on Uyghurs.
Wooton, Elmer Otis and Paul Carpenter Standley. Flora of New Mexico, 1915.
Zavada, Tomas, Rondy Malik, Rondy and Kesseli. "Fifty Shapes of Leaf - Origins, Plasticity and Population Structure in Chicory (Cichorium Intybus), a Domesticate Gone Wild," Botanical Society of America, annual meeting, 2013.
Photographs: All taken along route 84 north of Pojoaque, 21 June 2015 around 11:30 am.
Sunday, July 05, 2015
Weather: Some rain Tuesday and Wednesday, but high noon temperatures are taking their toll on plants that prefer the low 80s to the low 90s.
What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid tea roses, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, lilies, daylily, datura, Spanish broom, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, hollyhock, bouncing Bess, squash, coreopsis, blanket flower, yellow yarrow, brome grass; seed pods forming on sweet peas and catalpas.
Beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, cholla, tumble mustard, buffalo gourd, yellow mullein, silver leaf nightshade, goat’s head, white sweet clover, bindweed, green-leaf five-eyes, Queen Anne’s lace, Hopi tea, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, flea bane, strap leaf aster.
In my yard facing north: Potentilla, Saint John’s wort, golden spur columbine, coral beard tongue, Mexican hat, black-eyed Susan, chocolate flower, anthemis.
Facing east: Snow-in-summer, coral bells, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, Jupiter’s beard.
Facing south: Betty Prior rose.
Facing west: Lady bells, Goodness Grows veronica, catmints, blue flax, Shasta daisy.
In the open: Rugosa and Dorothy Perkins roses, buddleia, California poppy, larkspur, bachelor button, white yarrow.
Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, snapdragon, moss roses, marigold, gazania.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.
Animal sightings: House and gold finches, humming bird, geckos, cabbage and sulphur butterflies, bumble bees on catmints, hornets, ants; seems like more cabbage butterflies this year, at least in my yard.
Weekly update: Dorothy Perkins rose has gone out of fashion. Some say it’s because it’s prone to powdery mildew. I suspect it’s more because it doesn’t have large flowers, doesn’t bloom all summer, and doesn’t stay in its assigned space like the more popular hybrid teas.
Dorothy’s canes heap into a mound covered with clusters of light pink roses in mid-June. Given a chance, they can escape any barrier. Their mother was a wanton species introduced from Japan in the late nineteenth century by Max Ernst Wichura.
In 1898, Theodosia Shepherd advised, Rosa wichuraiana "will creep closely over the ground, forming a dense mat of very dark green, lustrous foliage, or it can be trained on pillars or arches, where it is very effective and graceful." She added, "the branches will grow 20 or 30 feet in a season and are so pliable that they can be trained in any way desired. It is very fine for cemetery decoration, useful for covering fences or walls, fine for verandas and especially adapted for covering rocky slopes or embankments."
We have air conditioning now. We no longer need cool, shaded verandas, but we still like summer kitchens. Only now, we use propane-fueled ranges on open decks.
As for cemeteries, have you seen any old lilacs in the modern ones with their rows of uniformly flat markers? Even older graveyards have been tidied enough to fit contemporary expectations. Along Lake Ontario in New York, John Zornow says, "thanks to a device called the "weedwacker, or string trimmer, these old roses are disappearing from cemeteries and other locations."
As soon as the wichuraiana was available, breeders began crossing it with other varieties. Michael Horvarth added cold hardiness to the ones he bred in South Orange New Jersey. Mrs. Shepherd was offering them in 1898.
In 1902, Alvin Miller added the deeper color of the bourbon hybrid Gabriel Luizet to produce Dorothy. At the time, he was foreman for Jackson and Perkins in Newark, New Jersey. It became the most popular rose in the country. The rambler even made its way to the walls of Windsor Castle.
I bought two small own-root plants in 2013, and they immediately took hold. In China, its mother grows in thickets on limestone cliffs and along the coast of Fujian, Guangdong, and Guangxi.
This year, with the spring rains, it came into its own. The ever changing patterns of color were visible from sixty feet away through my kitchen window. The flowers open a mid-pink, then fade to something so pale it looks like a blush.
It’s small, dark green leaves may develop white splotches this summer, but they rarely kill anything, especially something able to survive this climate.
Notes: Botanists have reclassified it as Rosa luciae, but if you want to know anything about it, you use it’s older name. However, be warned, there have been several ways to turn Wichura’s last name into Latin.
Eflora. "Rosa luciae," Flora of China, available on-line.
Shepherd, Theodosia B. Descriptive Catalog of California Flowers, 1898.
Zornow, John M. "The Dorothy Perkins Rose," 2012, on Wayne County Life website (New York).
Photographs: Dorothy Perkins taken in my yard.
1. The flower cluster, 22 June 2014.
2. The full plant this week, 2 July 2015.
3. Canes sneaking out of their bed, 27 June 2015.
4. Clusters of clusters, 27 June 2015.
5. The plants in spring after their first winter, 21 May 2014.
6. Thorns and leaves, 2 July 2015.