Good Vibrations

Stachys byzantina - Lambs Ears @DBG LAH 004

Is that why they’re called Lamb’s Ears?

Can plants hear? At first glance, this seems like a silly question. Plants don’t have ears, so of course they can’t hear. But wait—do organisms need ears to hear? What is hearing, anyway?

Given that sound consists of a series of vibrations that are propagated through air, water, or another substance, then hearing must be the ability to sense those vibrations. And while our ears are very good at sensing vibrations, there are other options.

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Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes_BosquedelApacheNWR-NM_LAH_9089You’re out in the yard enjoying the garden, or lying in bed in the stillness of the night, when you hear them. It’s a unique sound, a resonant, nasal honking, sounding much like a high flying traffic jam. I may be challenged when it comes to distinguishing warblers or sparrows by their calls, but Sandhill Cranes are so distinctive, even I recognize them as they fly by. Summer is over, and the cranes are heading south. Since I’m in Colorado, their destination is likely Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, in central New Mexico, although they range as far south as Mexico and Cuba, and as far west as Siberia.

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Rhus trilobata: A Winner by Any Name

Rhus trilobata_Three-leaf Sumac_DenverZoo_20091007_LAH_3355.nef

All summer, the shrub sat in the back corner of our yard, quietly filling the space between the fence and a dry creek bed. The olive-green leaves were a bit drab, but provided a nice, neutral backdrop for an adjacent Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris). The shrub had been a bit late to leaf out, and I was contemplating replacing it with something more interesting. I’m glad I waited. In the last few weeks, that inconspicuous shrub has suddenly become the star of the garden. Continue reading

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Vulnerable Pests

House Sparrows_Gretna-LA_LAH_1853House Sparrows are frequently despised by North American birders. An invasive species, they commandeer nest cavities needed by native birds, hog feeders, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Agricultural pests, they’re the target of various, and usually unsuccessful, “control” strategies, yet I have to admire this species. In spite of all our attempts at thwarting them, House Sparrows continue to thrive.

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October Bird Quiz: Uncropped Photo

If you were stymied on Monday, now can you name this bird? The photo was taken in Colorado in October. The answer will appear at the end of next Monday’s post.

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Save the Seeds

Poppy seedheadsWhile we haven’t had a hard freeze yet, the lack of warm sunshine is telling my plants that the season is about over. Poppy seedheads act like salt shakers—just invert and shake out the seeds. We missed harvesting some pole beans and they’re now overripe, the pods puffy and enlarged. I’m letting them dry on the vine.

I let some of the cilantro mature and bloom, as the flowers attract lacewings and other beneficial insects. Parsley is a biennial, and I overwintered last year’s crop; it also bloomed this summer. Both are producing more seeds than I will ever use. Continue reading

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October Bird Quiz

Can you name this bird? The photo was taken in Colorado in October. I will post the uncropped photo on Saturday, giving you one more chance to identify this bird. The answer will appear at the end of next Monday’s post.

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