Monday, April 1, 2013

March Berry Go Round is Here

First wildflowers of spring in the Laramie Basin ... see them? (clicking on the photo might help).
Starting with the big news ... I saw my first wildflowers of the season last week! (always an exciting thing).  Biscuitroot is in full bloom but of course it gets very little attention being so small and drab.  It’s “no real beauty” and has “sordid whitish flowers”.  But if you look close, you might see a colorful green anther hanging out of a tiny flower, sending pollen to some waiting stigma somewhere.
Biscuitroot, aka spring parsley, in morning sunshine; the cluster of tiny flowers is a little more than one cm across.  We have to wait for fruit to figure out which species this is. 
 Click on the photo to see filaments and anthers.

And now ... what everyone has been waiting for ... this month’s Berry Go Round, featuring contributions guaranteed to both entertain and edify.

For an abundance of bright spring color, see Geotripper’s photos of wildflowers in California’s Great Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills -- herehere and here.  In 1868, John Muir was walking east from the Bay Area to “any place that is wild” when he reached Pacheco Pass and discovered ...
“a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld.  At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long ...”
Now of course it's all agriculture, towns and cities.  These photos hint at how spectacular it must have been in Muir’s time.
John Muir as a young man; courtesy National Park Service.
Seeds Aside and I both recommend The Range of Lotus at Catalogue of Organisms.  I had to chuckle when I too fell into the trap of common names.

Seeds Aside submitted several posts as well, including one on the white asphodel, which is pyrophytic (now you’ll have to read it!), and an explanation of the Not Possible yam -- which is a true yam, not one of the impostors of the USA.  Also of interest -- Seeds Aside gathers a batch of interesting posts together each week, most recently here where you will find a link to a post about the other lotus.

Tim of Notes of Nature has done several posts inspired by Danny Chamovitz’s book, What a Plant Knows, including one about Plants and Sight.  Yesterday he provided a nice review of the book -- definitely sounds worth reading.

This month's BGR includes two posts about mountain mahogany (see the plants-and-rocks section below for the second).  In Something with Leaves, Sally at Foothills Fancies explains how nice it is to see something green in a landscape otherwise “bleak and brown” ... alas, the wildflower season is a ways off yet for some of us.

Climate change also cropped up twice.  Susannah of The Modern Forest gives a good example of how difficult it can be to predict vegetation response to climate change.  A forest of long-lived trees may be able to tough it out longer ... but might that actually be a problem for forested landscapes?

Don't miss Cujo359’s careful analysis of spring flowers (specifically those of the CCCT!), Mt. Rainier, the Moon and climate change, over at Slobber And Spittle.  Ah ... the power of science! :-j

Here’s something to ponder ... Jessica of Moss Plants and More has a post about the Jekyll and Hyde nature of plants with their alternation of generations, linking to a recent article in Science about what's behind it all in the genome.  Think about it -- some plants (ferns come to mind) take on very different forms in their sporophyte and gametophyte stages, yet the genome differs only in the number of copies of chromosomes (one vs. two).  In other words, one genome can yield two very different phenotypes (maybe like caterpillars and butterflies?).  What's going on?

My phyto-knowledge was expanded considerably by two posts by The PhytophactorWater ferns were only a vague memory from my taxonomy class, not sure why ... they're fascinating plants.  I had never heard of screwpines, which aren’t pines nor do they look like pines -- much more photogenic actually.
This is a fern?  Source.
I wrote about one of the more important 19th-century botanists of the American West, John C. Frémont (what??!!).  Though much better known as a topographer, explorer and dysfunctional military leader, Frémont collected plants on all five of his expeditions for the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers (USA), including 163 novelties, 40 of which were named in his honor.  But was he really a botanist?
Fremont cottonwood against the desert sky in Utah.
Here are a few more gems I found while wandering about the phytoblogosphere:

Bees like caffeine too ... and some flowers take advantage this, explained here at SciLogs.

Botanical illustrations can be so beautiful in a simple elegant black-and-white way ... like this one.  View in full resolution by clicking on the illustration.

Now on to plants and rocks ...

Lockwood of Outside the Interzone found a neat example of a puzzling distribution of plants on the landscape.  It’s all the same stuff on the surface so why do we have ponderosa pine here and here but not here?   Any ideas?  Is it history? was there a localized burn -- did a batch of cones end up in one place but the another?  It just might be differences below surface ... something about plants and rocks ...

Silver Fox at Looking for Detachment submitted a post about one of my favorite nature puzzles, the association of plant species or vegetation types with specific kinds of rock, in this case Mountain Mahogany and Rhyolite.  And you can join her on a Hike near Jarbridge (Nevada) for beautiful views of plants and rocks.

David Bressan at History of Geology posted about a really cool example of plant/rock interaction -- Tiny Plants Creating Big Rocks -- and from an interesting historical perspective.

I found an intriguing post about Bornmuellera baldaccii, a nickel hyperaccumulator.  Might bornmuellera be used to clean up toxic sites, or even serve as a source of nickel?

expression is the need of my soul (archy)
My final recommendation is about blogging in general -- Ask TON:  Why blog? at The Open Notebook.  I often ask myself this very question ...  “Why blog?  It takes a lot of time and energy that you might otherwise spend on higher paid work.  What do you get out of blogging?”  Some excellent bloggers responded with morale-building encouragement, for example from Jennifer of The Artful Amoeba:
“Blogging is an especially good format if you have a distinctive voice or like to use humor.  ... I am bursting with enthusiasm for my subjects, and on my blog, I can convey that in my own voice.”
I especially liked Steve Silberman's reason #7:
“I blog because Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were my literary heroes when I was young, and they launched a world-wide progressive cultural movement called the Beat Generation by printing their inspired poems and stories in “little magazines.” We can only imagine what they would have done with a low-cost global multimedia platform that enables the audience to find YOU.”

PS  Today is April 1 ... Happy Birthday to Sparky, my intrepid nature-geek companion.


  1. Great post. Thanks for including some from my blog :)

  2. Thanks for adding me in! The flowers here have been gorgeous in the places where we can find them. I'm hoping the storms this week will kickstart the wildflower season. I'll be checking the Red Hills soon, a unique endemic wildflower area in the Sierra foothills near Sonora.

    1. cool ... looking forward to a post about it.

  3. Thanks for including my article. That gave me a reason to come by and read all those other links. ;) I'd never heard of hyperaccumulators before. Looks like something we're going to need a lot of in the coming years, as we dump more stuff where we shouldn't.

    And Happy Birthday, Sparky. Try to keep your humans out of trouble, bro.

    1. thanks mucho cujo359 ... yeah its a real challenge but i trying. spark

  4. Replies
    1. thanks, SF ... and thanks again for joining the phytocarnival :)

  5. Your link to the Bees like caffeine too post doesn't work for me. Not sure what blog it's at, either.

    1. fixed! ... thanks for letting me know, not sure what happened.

  6. awesome anthology, thank you, and happy belated birthday Sparky!