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More Backyard Nature: Milkweeds!

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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...

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Suburban Serengeti

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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...

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So Your Garden is Rusting

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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...

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It's Euxoa Time

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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.

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Timing is Everything

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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...

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Do Plants Grow Old?

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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...

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Four Spring Gardens Last Week across Denver

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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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Ah, Spring! The North Takes a Deep Breath

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Ah, Spring!  The North Takes a Deep Breath

One of my earliest science class memories (and maybe one of yours, too) is learning that people and other animals “breathe oxygen” and plants “breathe carbon dioxide”.  I carried this gem all the way to AP biology in high school, when things got complicated.  As it turns out, plants need and use oxygen for all the same things that we do, and they exhale carbon dioxide to boot!  So what’s going...

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Morning Rain Brightens Gardens for Spring

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[gallery link="file" orderby="title"] Rain may not brighten your day, but I was positively enthusiastic about it this week.  After enough winter, it seemed like a sign of spring and a chance to step into the Gardens.  My shoes clomped across wet pavement and I relished the sensation.  When I hit a patch of ice, I nearly went down: even looking directly at it I couldn't see it.  If it hadn't been for...

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The Importance of Being Ephemeral

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The Importance of Being Ephemeral

The first daffodils are peeking through the soil, and some of the earliest bulbs—crocus and galanthus—are finishing up their flowering cycle.  As spring progresses we will watch the annual parade of our favorites:  tulips, allium, eremurus, and others will flower and vanish before the worst of summer heat.  Denver is a great place to grow ephemeral plants of many kinds because the harsh seasonality it experiences annually is the sort of...

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