Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Calla Lillies are in bloom again

Calla Lilly
65. Calla Lily
Already knew: Calla Lillies have big tubular blooms with a fat white stamen on a long slender stalk. They are very popular for making tall architectural floral arrangements because of this. It's also popular with brides because it's all white and clean and stuff. The leaves grow from the base of the stems and are shiny, green, wide and a little bit ruffly.
Recently learned: This actually comes in a lot of colors, but the variety that is popular here is white. It's native to Southern Africa, all the way north to Malawi. It is not a true Lily or a true Calla. All parts of this plant are toxic, capable of killing children and small livestock. This variety of Calla Lily (Zantedeschia Aethiopica) is extremely hardy and has become a weed in many parts of the world. It especially like marshy places.
Maple Tree
66. Maple
Already knew: The Maple leaf is national symbol of Canada. It's leaves have three points, and turn beautiful colors in the fall. It flowers in early spring, and the flowers grow in long yellow catkins. The seeds look like little gliders, with a big wing attached to each seed (they grow in clusters of two usually). The tree itself grows really tall (like over 20 feet). It's also really happy here, to the point where it is an invasive species. I cannot count the number of Maple saplings I've pulled out of the garden over the last few weeks. Fortunately they are easy to pull out when they are under 10" tall, since the root grows straight down at first to try and get well established before you notice it.
Recently learned: The seeds are called Keys. Some people eat the seeds by first boiling them in water to get rid of the bitter taste, dumping the water and boiling them again. Maple is good at carrying tonal waves, which is why it is a popular wood to make instruments out of. It think this variety is the Bigleaf (also known as the Oregon) Maple, but I'm not sure.
67. Hosta
Already knew: I don't actually know much about Hostas, other then that they look like this. Well, they look like this with variations, different colored leaves and flowers. I think this one is non flowering, but I could be wrong and the big dead stem sticking out of it (not seen in this picture) could be an old flower. I have no idea what the flowers would look like.
Recently learned: These used to be classified as lilies. The flowers grow on a long stalk with a big cluste of lily like flowers at the tip and are scentless. They love to be planted in shade and are a favorite food of deer, slugs and snails. Hostas originated in Japan.
68. Buttercups
Already knew: Buttercups are a member of the Ranunculus family and are usually found growing in fields. They are poisonous to deer and other ruminant animals. You can hold a Buttercup up under your chin and if your chin looks yellow, you like butter. Or it could be that the yellow petals are shiny and reflect light onto your chin from the sun.
Recently learned: I think this is Creeping Buttercup, since it is low to the ground and the plant was more viney then stand upy. This likes to grow in wet ground, and it likes fields and pastures. When dried with hay it is no longer toxic to cows, but it still tastes bad to them.
69. Fennel
Already knew: I found this hiding in a bunch of weeds by a fence, hence the bad picture, and thought it was Dill. Alas, no. Fennel is an edible plant that tastes like Anise. People use the seeds and leaves as an herb and the root as a vegetable. The leaves are feathery and dark green, and the bulb is white and somewhat resembles an onion. It is one of the ingredients in the Throat Coat tea I drink when sick, and I always hate that, but it works.
Recently learned: The flowers are yellow and grow in spiky clusters. It is what gives Absinthe it's flavor. Then Fennel that used used as a vegetable is called Florence Fennel, most varieties do not have swollen roots, so cannot be used like that. Fennel has a lot of medicinal uses including easing digestive discomfort and reducing soreness of eyes.
Pink Flowering Dogwood
70. Pink Flowering Dogwood
Already knew: This Dogwood is a small tree that blooms in the late spring. As is obvious by the name, it has pink flowers. The flowers have four petals and each have a notch at the tip. It is normally a small deciduous tree, although this one is overgrown, and before we had it pruned last winter, the branches were touching the ground, which is why the lower branches on this one are bare right now. They are probably shocked to have sunlight again.
Recently learned: The actual common species name is Flowering Dogwood, and it is native to the US. The big showy petals that I identified earlier are actually bracts and surround a cluster of smaller greenish yellow flowers that each have four petals. The wild version is always white. They do best in moist, acidic soil, with good morning sun and afternoon shade.
Red Flowering Chsetnut
71. Red Flowering Chestnut
Already knew: This is a deciduous tree that drops nuts in the late summer/early fall. The nuts are round, glossy brown and protected by a prickly shell, and are a traditional snack in England in the winter. You have to roast chestnuts before they are tasty, and they are best eat warm, I guess. I've never actually had one. The flowers grown in big tall clusters in later spring. Squirrels love them and will pick drop the spiky casings all over the place, making it hard to walk without shoes during that time.
Recently learned: The flowers are really cool, the look kind of like Snapdragons. I'll have to ask my neighbors if I can go into their yard to get a closer picture. American Chestnuts were almost completely wiped out by a fungal blight. This is a cultivar of the Horse Chestnut, closely related to the Buckeye, which blooms later in the summer. These are not edible chestnuts, alas, but Native Americans used to pulverizing the nuts and leaching the toxin out by repeatedly boiling them, which makes a starchy porridge. Deer and Squirrels are immune to the toxin and can eat the nuts directly.
Lacecap Hydrangea
72. Lacecap Hydrangea
Already knew: These Hydrangeas bloom earlier in the year then the Mopheads. They are also lower to the ground I do not think they are affected by the acidity of the soil the way Mopheads are.
Recently learned: I'm wrong, but that's just certain varieties. Some are just white. The latin name for this is Hydrangea Macrophylla Normalis. Most of what I'm finding about these is whining about how they are underused (which is true), and beautiful (which is true).
Evergreen Dogwood
73. Evergreen Dogwood
Already knew: This is a kind of Dogwood that does not loose it's leaves in the winter. You can identify this by the fact that it has flowers and leaves at the same time. Also, it has six Bracts instead of four.
Recently learned: This is actually called the Pacific Dogwood, and is native to this area. It is the emblem of British Columbia, and is protected by law there from being dug up or cut down. It likes well drained soil. The wood is used to make piano keys, but I'm not sure how if you can't cut it down. The fruit is oval and dark red. It is not available commercially so you have to grow it from cuttings.
74. Salmonberry
Already knew: When things are food, I try to wait until the edible part is actually recognizable, but I've never seen a Salmonberry in bloom before, and the flower was so pretty that I had to take a picture. Salmonberries grow on a viney shrub in the woods. The flowers a magenta and have four pointy petals. The berries are frequently salmon colored (hence the name) but range from yellow to red, and look like raspberries, and are tasty. The fruit is ripe in early summer.
Recently learned: Salmonberries thrive in coastal areas, and along stream beds. They were used to make pemmican by local tribes. In Kodiak, Alsaka, Salmonberries are called Russian berries. They are frequently confused with Cloudberries, which look the same, but grow close to the ground. The golden yellow ones are tastier then the red ones, which can be kind of bland. They have more vitamin C then other berries, which is what makes them slightly tart and dry.

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