Summer Botany: My “Crayola” Potato

Oh I do love purple …… not sure why? Anything purple and any shade of purple ….. even a hint of purple will do! As a kid (then and now) my most treasured possession was a new box of crayons. Breaking the seal and inhaling that delicious aroma of color (admit it …. you know the smell) was only the first step in my love affair. Removing each crayon, one-by-one, and taking them for a test drive soon followed, with special care and attention paid to the purples, with names like ……….

Vivid violet, wisteria, twilight lavender, pearly purple, purple pizzazz and purple mountain’s majesty. Who wouldn’t love cyber grape and lilac; or plump purple and sugar plum. How could here be so many purples!

So when I literally stumbled into a mound of the exquisitely purple-hued Silverleaf Nightshade, my surprise and delight was audible. While carefully removing countless nettle-like prickles from my hands, Roy heard me explain, “My “Crayola” Potato!”

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Summer Botany: Meet the Milkweeds

Strolling the neighborhood on a cool July morning, in search of any newly-blooming botanical delights (thanks to our all-too-brief bout of monsoonal rains), from a distance I recognized something different. From a distance it looked like a common pepper plant, or maybe a spectacle pod? Coming closer I thought, “shepherd’s purse” with those tiny satchel-like seeds!  Or could it be bedstraw, with such an intoxicating fragrance?  Finally facing this spindly, narrow-leafed plant, I reached down to a stem and prepared to take a sniff when I was surprised twice!

An ant that had been busy gathering nectar (?) had leaped into my hand and bit me, hard! Obviously he was extremely upset at being disturbed and wanted me to know about it. I instantly dropped the stem and when I flicked the ant from my now throbbing finger, noticed an army of busy ants climbing up and down this tasty plant.

It was then that my surprise was complete. The flowers were unmistakable and recognizable.  This plant was a member of the Dogbane family ….. a beautiful Milkweed! Now I had to learn which species of Asclepias this one was that had such tiny flowers?

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Summer Botany: Banana Yucca Seed Pod Dissection

After trying for 4 years to collect one of the giant seed pods from our small population of banana yuccas, I was sure this would be the year. One of the plants was in full bloom about a month ago, and after noticing the fleshy fruits were enlarging, I kept watch almost daily.

I should’ve suspected the local population of mule deer were also keeping close watch, because a week ago they snuck in and harvested every single seed pod! Disappointed? Yes. But still determined …….

Then a few days ago I discovered another plant loaded with a dozen of the huge fleshy green pods! Without further ado, I liberated 2 of them and dissection began …..

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