Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nothing to do with this thing

Primrose
37. Primrose
Already knew: Perennials that are sold everywhere (grocery store, Home Depot, etc) in the spring. They come in many colors but usually have a yellow center. The leaves grow in a bushy cluster low to the ground and then the flowers sit right on top of that cluster.
Recently learned: Latin name; Primula vulgaris. How awesome is that? Picking of Primroses is illegal in many countries in Europe because over harvesting is leading to the dying out of the wild plant. The wild version is white, with the colored ones we get at garden centers resulting from cross breeding. So I guess I shouldn't be snarky about the fact that all the primroses in my garden are white. (Except one that hasn't bloomed yet, but looks red)
Skunk Cabbage
38. Skunk Cabbage
Already knew: This is an extremely, shall we say, fragrant plant, especially in summer when it is in full bloom. It smells exactly like skunk spray, hence the common name. I had never seen it in bud before I took this picture, since all my previous experience with it was at summer camp. I believe it's edible. It is a native plant that likes marshy forest.
Recently learned: There is a plant called false hellebore that closely resembles skunk cabbage and is deadly. Apparently what causes the stink is when the plant gets injured, it's not the pollen which is stinky which is what I had assumed. It blooms so early that sometimes it's still icy out when it blooms, but the plant puts off incredible amounts of heat, and can melt it's way through the ice.
Stinging Nettle
39. Stinging Nettle
Already knew: Stinging Nettle has small barbs on the under sides of the leaves and stems with a compound that causes a stinging sensation. If you must pick some, and you don't have gloves, pick the top side of the leaf and carefully fold it down so that all the stinging bit is on the inside. If you do get stung, horsetail juice or fern fuzz rubbed on the sting will make it feel better. By summer this plant will be waist high and all along the trails where it grows, which is why your Mom always told you to take long pants with you to summer camp. They are edible, when cooked the stinging compound goes away, and it is commonly used as a medicinal tea.
Recently learned: How the stinging works: the needles have tips which come off when touched, transforming the hair into a needle that will inject several chemicals: acetylcholine, histamine, 5-HT or serotonin, and possibly formic acid. Nettles are the exclusive food of several butterflies and moths, including the Gothic moth. Nettle is put in shampoo to make hair glossy, and sometimes fed to cattle for the purpose of making their coats glossy too. Crushing and chopping will also disable the stinging hairs.
Weeping Willow
40. Weeping Willow
Already Knew: Willows are a deciduous tree, that have long skinny leaves. The Weeping Willow has long floppy branches that look like a maiden's hair falling over her face while crying, which is how the name got popularized in the Middle Ages. Willow bark is good for headaches. Aspirin is based on that. Willows love water, and you shouldn't plant them anywhere near your house, or they will burst your water pipes. Because they love water, they frequently root along streams.
Recently learned: Weeping Willow can grow up to 10 feet a year. Willows easily cross breed leading to lots of hybrids in the wild and cultivation. Weeping Willow itself is the crossbreeding of the Peking Willow and the White Willow (from China and Europe respectively). Roots will grow from cuttings of Willow really easily, and in fact, in the case of this plant, if the branches touche the ground while still attached to the parent tree, they can take root and become a big tangly mess.
Flowering Cherry
41. Flowering Cherry
Already knew: This is an ornamental cherry, which produces beautiful flowers, but no fruit to muddy up the sidewalks, or make tasty pies. Most cherry trees planted in North America are ornamental for that reason. Cherries are easily recognizable by their pretty pink flowers. This one has a simple double row of petals on the flower, not the fancier flowers from the Sakura Cherry. Cherry is a hardwood and makes beautiful furniture and floors. I should really look at the cut pieces from our trees that got cut down and see if there is anything salvageable.
Recently learned: Many flowering Cherries have the stamen and pistol replaced with an extra row of petals. The most common flowering Cherry variety is called Kazan.

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