Sunday, December 24, 2023

Merry Red & Green to All!

Red Baneberry, Actaea rubra, Wyoming.
How did red and green become our Christmas colors? Maybe you're thinking, as I did, "From holly, of course!" But recently I learned otherwise. Though holly has long played a role in winter celebrations, dating back to solstice gatherings of our pagan ancestors, it wasn't until 1931 that red and green became THE colors of Christmas. No longer could Santa wear blue, purple or whatever. He had to dress in red, specifically Coca-Cola red.
Haddon Sundblom's 1931 Santa in Coca-Cola red (Miel Van Opstal, Flickr)
This wasn't the first time Coca-Cola hired an artist to create a Santa Claus. But this particular one "solidified in our collective imagination the red of Santa's robes [which matched the Coke logo] with the green of fir trees and holly and poinsettia that we already had in our minds." (More here.)

I'm fully part of that collective imagination—red and green are my Christmas colors.

Big Leaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum, California.

Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum, Sica Hollow, South Dakota.
Paintbrush parasitic on Sagebrush, Wyoming.
Cobra Lily, Chasmanthe, from Ronn in California.
Planta Claus brings lots of sugars and oxygen ... to those who've been good of course.
See you next year! Hollis & Emmie

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Junipers in December & Views from Above

Trail 1 dusted with snow.
Once again we ventured northeast of Laramie to visit the two three Rocky Mountain Junipers we're following (I added the Fallen One several months ago). It was cold and windy and snowing lightly off and on. But it felt good to get out of the house! And it's time to acclimatize—they say this will continue for awhile.
We made it. "Northern" tree on left. Field assistant on limestone for scale.
Of the two standing trees, the northern one has a good crop of berries on the east (leeward) side. I saw none on the west side. The southern tree has no berries. Perhaps it's male (Rocky Mountain Junipers are usually dioecious, trees are male or female).

East side of juniper, protected from the wind and laden with berries (dark spots, click image to view).
Next I checked the third tree, the Fallen One. It's clearly female, with a very healthy crop of berries.

Fallen one in distance.
Mature juniper berries often have a glaucous bloom, making them frosty blue.

Then we turned to face the wind, and made our way back to town.

Headed home. What appears to be mountains on the horizon is a cloud bank.

Recently a reader asked where these junipers are in relation to Laramie. So I captured and sent her a photo from Google Earth. And wow, was I surprised! The limestone is much more impressive from the air. It's the gently sloping start of the foothills of the Laramie Mountains to the east.

Arrow marks approximate location of the junipers. Paler areas east of town are exposed slabby limestone.

A better view; black spots are scattered junipers.
This is my contribution to the December gathering of Tree-followers, kindly hosted by The Squirrelbasket. Best wishes to all!