– extensive etiolation –

I love when I know the exact word to describe something, whether that “something” is an emotion, a color, taste, or plant part. To help you feel more confident in the words of the botanical world, I’m starting this Botanical Alphabet series. It may or may not be published in exact alphabetical order.

etiolation: the result of plants being grown in insufficient light; characterized by pale green/yellow color, long week stems.

Sometimes even a bright, sunny, south facing window isn’t enough for your seedlings. In whatever stage they are in, your plants will tell you whether or not they’re getting enough light. And for many plants, the first sign is etiolation: those long, leggy stems.

Incidentally, this is also a good time to talk about phototropism: the ability of the plant to grow towards the light, as it were. If you notice your plants are leaning towards the source of light, just rotate their pot and they’ll straighten back up. Until they start leaning again.

Suburban Weeds: the Jump-Off

For my first “suburban weeds” post, I thought it only appropriate that I focus on the place we fondly call “the jump-off”. A couple of blocks away from our house exists a vacant lot where some industrious youths have built all manner of dirt hills, wooden jumps, and other forms of biking entertainment. We visit the jump-off quite frequently, my three year old and I; not necessarily to ride our bikes (though she sometimes does that on the low hills), but to explore. It’s a great place for exploring. In addition to the bike track and jumps, there’s a ditch running through it, that depending on the water level in the canal just to the east, can either be dry as a bone or have enough water in it to get your feet wet.

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Suburban Weeds: Heber City

Weeds are funny things. By definition, they are “plants out of place”. But it is you – the gardener, the farmer, the recreationist, the observer – who decides whether it is “out of place” or not. One man’s weed is another’s wildflower. 

Sometimes enough people (land managers, weed scientists, etc.)  have decided that a certain plant poses enough of a problem that it gets extra designations such as “invasive” or “noxious”. If you want to learn more about the nitty-gritty of that, go check out my post on that by clicking here.

When I taught the weed identification and management lab at Utah State University I often told the students that they would be changed forever by taking the class. Only half-jokingly would I tell them that they wouldn’t be able to go anywhere again without seeing the weeds. I don’t know if that has actually happened with any of the students I taught, but I can say that it is 100% true of myself. Whether I’m hiking in the mountains or taking a walk around the neighborhood I notice the weeds. (I notice the other plants, too, but we’re just talking about weeds today.)

I’m not the only one who likes identifying plants though. There was a recent article in The Guardian about “rebel botanists” identifying the urban plants with chalk graffiti. Seeing the chalked names connects others with the plants that they might otherwise overlook.

And, really, that’s what this new “Suburban Weeds” project of mine is all about: connecting with this place I currently call home. As I’m out on walks around town I’ll take note of the weeds, sometimes photos, and then share those with you here. As I notice more weeds in the future, I’ll update those posts, but you can always refer back to this page for the links to the places I’ve been and the weeds I’ve seen.

Thanks to Daniel Murphy of AwkwardBotany.com for the inspiration for this project.

My 2020 Garden

When we moved to Heber City last fall there were two things I was happy to see at the house we found to rent: a fenced back yard and a little vegetable garden spot. Now that we’ve been here for seven months and we’re getting into garden planting time, I’ve found some other things I like about it. And some other things that maybe I don’t like so much. The following is a list of the assets and liabilities, according to my gardening views and preferences, of this property.

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– great galls –

I love when I know the exact word to describe something, whether that “something” is an emotion, a color, taste, or plant part. To help you feel more confident in the words of the botanical world, I’m starting this Botanical Alphabet series. It may or may not be published in exact alphabetical order.

gall: abnormal growth or mass of plant tissue; develops in response to wounds from insects, mites, bacterium, fungus, etc.

Goodness, gracious, great galls of fire. Or of pupating insects. Or bacterium. Whatever.

I think galls are so fascinating. They can be on stems, leaves, twigs, trunks, even on roots. Insect galls form as a defense response to an insect laying eggs inside the leaf or stem tissue. Generally, these galls themselves are harmless to the plants unless they occur in very large numbers on young plants. Galls caused by bacteria, fungus, or nematodes, however, are symptomatic of diseases that can severely reduce plant growth or even cause death.

I think that one of the more interesting galls I’ve come across is the pinecone willow gall (or willow pinecone gall) in the picture above. Like you might guess from the name, it’s a gall that occurs on willows and looks like a pinecone. These galls are caused by a midge named Rhabdophaga strobiloides. The female midge lays an egg in a terminal (tip) bud and the plant reacts to the chemicals secreted by the midge, and from the egg itself, by elongating, broadening and hardening the leaf bud tissue into the pinecone-like gall.

Have you seen any interesting galls lately?

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