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Also called prairie baby’s breath, flowering spurge is a herbaceous perennial and member of the euphorbia family, Euphorbiaceae, that also includes poinsettia, caster oil plant, and cassava. It is native to North America from Texas north to South Dakota and east to the Atlantic coast. Plants prefer full sun and mesic to dry, well-drained soil and are found in open woodlands, prairies, pastures, glades, abandon fields, mined lands, and in waste areas as well as along roadsides and railroad train tracks. [click to continue…]

Also known as broom twinberry, this subshrub is native to the northern Mexico and southwestern US from  Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California to Colorado where it grows in deserts and scrubland, and dry mesas, slopes, and meadows. It is a member of the olive family, Oleaceae, that also includes jasmine, forsythia, and lilac.  Plants grow up to 2″ tall and have several many branched stems that are angled in cross section and covered with rough hairs and short, woolly fibers when young.  The oblong or oval leaves are alternate, about 1/2″ long, and have smooth margins. Reddish orange buds open to  tubular yellow flowers  3/4″ wide with a 4-6 lobed corolla surrounding exerted 2 anthers and 1 stigma.  The flowers appear in small loose terminal clusters from late spring into summer and are followed by translucent roundish 1/4″ wide fruits that are green to reddish before maturing to tan.  Rough menedora is a popular desert garden plant.  The genus name, Menodora, comes from the Greeks word mene meaning moon and doron meaning gift.  the specific epithet, scabra, is the Latin word meaning rough and refers to the hairiness of the young plants. [click to continue…]

Native to North America, slimy-spike cap can be found singly or scattered from summer Gomphidius_glutinosus Tommi Nummelinthrough fall in conifers woods, especially under spruce, pine, and fir trees. It belongs to the group of mushrooms known as Boletes but unlike the most of the typical members of the group it has gills rather than tubes. The mushroom is 2/5 to 5 inches tall with a cap two to four inches across. The fleshy cap is hemispherical at first but flattens out with maturity, and may become flat. It has an inrolled margin and is gray or brown with a hint of violet when young but may blacken in old age. Young mushrooms are covered with a mucous veil which breaks leaving a ring on the stem. The thick grills are widely spaced and run down the stem. The firm stem is up to four inches high and is white tinged with gray at the top, often yellow at the base. The spore are blackish brown. [click to continue…]

Long bracted wild indigo is a long lived herbaceous perennial and a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, that also  includes mimosa, lupine and black locust.  It is native to central and eastern US from Michigan to Minnesota south to Kentucky and Texas where it grows in sandy prairies, savannas, roadsides, and dry open woods.  Plants have a stout tap root and produce one or more light green to light purple stems 1.5 to 3′ tall.  The alternate grayish green compound leaves are sessile or nearly so and have 3 oblong leaflets each 1-3″ long and with smooth margins. A pair of leafy stipules 1/4-1.5″ long grows at the base of the leaves but may be absent or early deciduous.   In early spring, drooping  racemes 3-9″ long appear at the end of upper and outer stems bearing cream-colored to light yellow pea-like flowers.  Each flower is up to 1″ long and has five petals:  a upright banner, 2 wings, and a keel comprised of 2 petals.  The plump cylindrical seed pods are 1-2″ long contain 5-20 seeds,  and have an ornamental pale green color before turning black in the fall. Although the flowers are attractive the sprawling nature of the flower clusters makes the plant most suitable for an informal setting.  The deep taproot makes transplanting difficult.   Queen bumble bees depend on the flowers for food when they emerge in early spring. Good as fresh cut flower  or  as dried pods.  The genus name, Baptisia,  comes from the Greek word bapto meaning to dye and refers to its use as a substitute for true indigo.  The specific epithet, bracteata, is a Latinized form of bracts meaning having bracts and calls attention to the relatively long bracts of the plant. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Umami Bomb

Believing that making veggies taste extra great would encourage more people to eat them, author Raquel Pelzel present 75 vegetarian recipes that use foods high in umami to boost flavor. The best way to describe umami is “the yum” factor and it can enhance any food.  Pelzel divides the recipes into chapters that devoted to one umami ingredient: aged cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, soy sauce, miso, carmelized onions, smoke, and nutritional yeast.   In addition, she includes one chapter devoted to fish and shellfish because they are loaded with umami, and besides, she is a pescatarian.  The recipes offer vegetarian or vegan dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner and  include snacks, salads, soups, main courses, and desserts. [click to continue…]

Aurinia saxatilisA native of central and southeastern Europe, basket-of-gold is an evergreen perennial and a member of the cabbage family, Brassicaceae , that also includes broccoli, stock and candytuft. The bright yellow color and fluffy texture of the flower clusters contrasts nicely with the simple gray-blue spatulate leaves. Bees, hoverflies, minute pirate bugs, and ladybeetles visit the flowers during the bloom time from late spring to early summer. The seeds are attractive to birds. The botanical name refers to the color of the flowers (Aurinia, gold) and the plants association with rocks (saxatilis) and it can often be found sprawling over rocks and walls, forming a low dense round mass. It thrives in dry, average soil and full sun and is fairly drought tolerant once established. Unfortunately it languishes in high heat and humidity and tends to be short lived in such climates. It is best treated as an annual in the South. Good in rock gardens, as edging, or as filler in a border. [click to continue…]

Yellow wild indigo is a herbaceous perennial native to south-central US from Missouri south to Alabama, and west to Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas where it grows in prairies, meadows and pastures.  It is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, that also includes mimosa, lupine, and black locust.  Plants have a tap root and 2-3′ tall yellowish green stems bearing trifoliate blue-green leaves with leaflets up to 2″ long.  From late spring to early summer, terminal racemes 12-15″ long carry pea-like yellow flowers well above the foliage.  Each flower is about 1/2″ long and gives way to an inflated light green one-seeded  spherical pod that matures to dark brown by fall. The flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies, and flowers and pods are favorites of flower arrangers. Yellow wild indigo is an attractive plant for the border as well as a good choice for cottage, meadow, wildflower, butterfly and native plant gardens. The genus name, Baptisa, comes from the Greek word bapto meaning to dye and refers to the use of the plant as a substitute for true indigo.  The specific epithet spharocarpus, comes from the Latin word spheara meaning sphere, and the Greek suffix karpos meaning bearing fruit, and refers to the shape of the seed pod.  [click to continue…]

Eryngium x zabelii Sea hollies are unique looking annuals, biennials, or perennial plants. The leaves are generally hairless, stiff, and spiny. The small green, white or blue flowers are usually carried in dense domed umbels, subtended by spiny ornamental bracts. All thrive in full sun and well-drained soil, and tolerate lean soil and high salt concentrations but do not tolerate root disturbance. Propagating by seed can be difficult because the seed must be fresh and takes a long time to germinate. Division is the most promising propagation method for most species. Sea hollies are excellent cut or dried flowers. [click to continue…]

Also known as false heather and elfin herb, this small evergreen sub-shrub is native to Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.  It is a member of the loosestrife family, Lythraceae, that also includes crepe myrtle, pomgranate, and henna, and is not a true heather or even in the same family.  Growing 1-3′ tall plants are well branched and have  densely packed, linear to lance-shaped, dark green leaves that are up to 1″ long and may have slightly wavy margins.  The 6-petaled, trumpet-shaped flowers appear in the axils of the leaves from early summer to frost and are usually pale lilac with lavender veins but white and pink cultivars are available.  The flowers are attractive to both hummingbirds and butterflies.  Mexican heather is attractive in the border as well as in a container looks well with fountain grass, hibiscus, mandeveilla, and phormium.   The genus name, Cuphea, comes from the Greek word kyphos meaning curved and refers to the curved seed capsule. The specific epithet, hyssopifolia, comes from the name of the hyssop plant and the Latin word folium, meaning leaf, and refers to the resemblance of the leaf to that of the hyssop plant.  [click to continue…]

Book Review: Crepe Paper Flowers

Crepe paper flower are making a comeback and Lia Griffith’s book, Crepe Paper Flowers, and an excellent guide to making your own. Griffith introduces readers to the different kinds of crepe paper available,  the tools and materials needed for making crepe paper flowers, and the basic skills of cutting, adding color, and shaping petals and leaves before presenting instructions for 30 projects  are presented alphabetically beginning with anemone and ending with wild rose with favorites such as peonies, iris, and daffodils in between.  Another section of the book shows how to use the flowers in various ways including a centerpiece, garland, wedding bouquet and more. [click to continue…]