Thursday, June 25, 2015

Extended Hiatus

Due to a busy schedule, there will be no posts for the next four weeks (or more). I'll do my best to get things going again towards the end of July so please stay tune and check back later!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

American Beautyberry

American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana
American Beautyberry is a native shrub that grows in the southeastern United States. It averages 1.5 m (5 ft) in height, but in favorable conditions of part shade and moist soil it may grow up to 2.75 m (9 ft) in height. The shrub is most recognizable in autumn and winter with yellow-green foliage and clusters of iridescent purple fruits along the branches, a favorite and long-last fruit for songbirds, foxes, opossums, raccoons, armadillos, deer, and squirrels. American Beautyberry has an extensive ethnobotanic history by many Native American tribes for dizziness, stomachaches, dysentery, urine retention, and more. It, as well as others in the genus Callicarpa, have been extensively researched for antibacterial, antifungal, anti-insect growth, cytotoxic, and phytotoxic biological activities. Two terpenoid compounds of are particular interest as an insect repellent against mosquitoes, ticks, and fire ants.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Living Stones

Living Stones, Lithops spp.
Native to the dry, southern regions of Africa, Lithops is a genus of succulent that has taken a lesser known defense against herbivores: fading into the background. These plants are also known as Living Stones for their ability to blend in to their environment. Their appeal is heightened for herbivores during the long, dry season as the leaves of Lithops and others in the family Aizoaceae are adapted to hold water. With only two very succulent leaves, it is of greater important to prevent predation.

The particular genus Lithops was first discovered in 1811 by Thomas Burchell. Its ability to blend in almost fooled Burchell who originally thought the plant a curiously shaped pebble. No other part of the plant is exposed to the surface.

The peculiarity of the leaves goes beyond appearance. The actual photosynthetic tissue is located on the inner surface of the leaf. In order to reach the tissue, sunlight travels through what is known as windows. These transparent sections allow light striking it to be diffused by crystals of calcium oxalate to allow maximum exposure to the photosynthetic tissue. The gas exchange of the plant occurs underground so the stomates are not exposed to wind or sun allowing minimal water loss.

Unfortunately, the bizarre appearance and unique characteristics of Living Stones has made them popular with collectors. Many species have been driven to the verge of extinction by collectors. They are now protect by law, but ones grown from seed or other lawful means are available in nursery and gardening centers.

This is a direct copy of my earlier post on Google+ found here. The photo is one from a local nursery - I've not had an opportunity to find these in the wild yet! There will be no posts next week, but will resume (likely briefly) the week after. It's a busy time of year for me, but I'm doing my best :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


A long, busy day. There will be a post on Thursday which will be a rehash of my Sunday post on Google+. The next week will be played by ear, but regular posting will likely not resume until the week after, but it will resume :)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Indian Blanket

Indian Blanket, Gaillardia pulchella
Indian Blanket, also known as Firewheel, is a native annual found in the throughout most of the United States, especially the southwest, with introduction to parts of Canada and Alaska. It is drought and heat tolerant and adaptable to well-drained soil, sun, and part shade. While it blooms between May and August, it is short-lived, but it may flower longer with plentiful rains.

Field of Indian Blanket and highly invasive Queen Anne's lace
Indian Blanket is sought for sand dune reclamation sites and for roadside and meadow planting. It is also a competent native competitor to the invasive annual bastard cabbage. Not only has over-sowing Indian Blanket been shown to reduce productivity of the invasive species, but it is also a way to help eliminate environmental damage from standard control techniques.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Panorama of water within and heading to the floodplains.
"The plants in a floodplain slow the floodwaters and prevent much damage downstream. The deep clay soils here store water, reducing flooding. Without intact floodplains, rivers, streams, and the land around them suffer increased erosion and more damaging floods."

Simply put, a floodplain is an area of land prone to flooding. It is often flat with higher elevation on both sides and may be either very small or very large. While it can be a problem for houses build on floodplains, they play an extremely important role. The floods that occur carry sediment rich in nutrients past banks and into surrounding areas. This in turn makes for fertile land ripe for agriculture and is where some of the world's earliest civilizations arose.

Rather than be labeled as an aquatic or terrestrial ecosystem, some ecologist label floodplains as "pulsed" ecosystems - an intermediate habitat. With exception to extreme events, the "pulse" and reach of a floodplain can be predicted. The flat, fertile, predictable land is therefore considered ideal for building, but often at the cost of the health of the floodplain.

There are six criteria used to determine floodplain health:
1. The ecosystem supports habitats and viable native animal and plant populations similar to those present prior to any disturbances.
2. The ecosystem is able to return to its pre-existing condition after a disturbance, whether natural or human-induced.
3. The ecosystem is able to sustain itself.
4. The river can function as part of a healthy basin.
5. The annual flood pulse "connects" the main channel to its floodplain.
6. Infrequent natural events - floods and droughts - are able to maintain ecological structure and processes within the reach.

A healthy floodplain results in a healthy river. It is also important to understand when developing on a floodplain. Otherwise the result benefits no one.

This is a straight copy-and-paste from my post a few weeks back on Google+ which can be found here along with many, many more photos of the actual floodplain and damage at that time. The photos are from a week before even more, worse flooding. Those photos might come later as the area is currently underwater and unavailable for photographing.