Mysteries of the Universe Explained
Achievement in plant breeding. Symbol of success. Fodder for comedians. Cause of controversy. Seedless watermelons.
Wanted Dead, Not Alive: The Green Menace
It’s been an interesting summer.  Lots of heat and not so much rain, for starters.  The combination of heat, drought, and subsequently stressed-out plants has made for banner years for many pests.  Some that are usually not even common enough to be a nuisance here at the Botanic Gardens have eliminated certain plants from gardens this year.  One pest in particular has been on my mind a lot in recent weeks:...
Pollinator Power
Last week a colleague and I attended a conference and workshop about protecting native pollinators, hosted by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.  While most of us might think of the European Honeybee, Apis mellifera, as the primary pollinator of crops, native bees are important pollinators of both wildflowers and commercial crops. Native pollinators, and particularly native bees, are important. Some are highly specialized, like the squash bee. Squash bees rely...
More Backyard Nature: Milkweeds!
In a previous post I described some interactions between plants and insects that can make for interesting observation.  This week I’ll add another plant group that makes for some fun—the milkweeds (genus Asclepias). Many species of Asclepias can be found in North America and can make good garden plants provided you can provide the space that they’re roving growth form requires.  Milkweeds have highly specialized floral structures, and they also bear...
Suburban Serengeti
Safaris are expensive.  So why not trade the very large for the very small?  Stay away from tourist traps and take a trip into your back yard for action worthy of television special—you won’t even need to pack a lunch. Even if at first glance the average home’s yard and garden might seem virtually free of animal life, a closer look shows how wrong first glances can be.  Arthropods—members of the...
So Your Garden is Rusting
As we swing into high summer and garden plants kick into overdrive, the fungi, bacteria, and viruses that rely on them start making appearances too.  These plant pathogens manifest themselves in many ways, from the elegant to the grotesque. Rust fungi are one common pathogen that show up with warmer temperatures.  These fungi—along with a related group known as "smuts"—are some of the most destructive plant pathogens. Rusts and smuts...
It's Euxoa Time
  Plants aren’t the only thing becoming more active this time of year.  Warmer weather triggers a lot of invertebrate activity, and you may be noticing that your home is suddenly (apparently) some sort of transcontinental superhighway for arthropods. Which is just one of the reasons that I love springtime.
Timing is Everything
Few things signify spring like trees covered in blossoms.  Spring so far has been on the early side, thanks to our warmer than usual temperatures through March.  Many species that would oftentimes only be beginning to bloom at this time of year are already finished flowering—they seem to think it’s already May in Colorado.  Still other species haven’t broken bud, and look as though we’ve had a month of today’s...
Do Plants Grow Old?
At first glance it seems obvious that plants age right along with everything else on planet earth.  Everyone can recognize an old tree. But is ageing really the same as being weather-worn? Compared to human ageing, where progressive deterioration of physiological function eventually leads to death, plants can hardly be said to age at all. Plants are organized differently than animals. Usually animals complete all their major structures and organs while...
I didn't realize until now that I visited four public gardens last week.  Naturally, I saw something different at each, and more remarkably, I had my camera with me.  I hadn't planned to compare the four, but why not?  Four Gardens in different places between central Denver and the Chatfield area really illustrate how different spring appears in different places all across the front range.  The challenge is that spring...

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