Why Roses are Red

Rosa @DBG LAH 016Color. It’s probably the primary reason we grow flowers. Yellow daffodils and red roses, irises in every color of the rainbow. Without flowers, our yards would be much more subdued. Gardeners rejoice in the options available, but why do flowers come in so many colors in the first place? What do they get out of it?

For one thing, not all flower colors arise in nature. Plant breeders have spent centuries coaxing new combinations from the available genes—even inducing mutations to increase the possibilities. The wild roses that grow in our foothills range in color from pale to deep pink, but at the garden center I can buy rose bushes that produce blooms of yellow, peach, salmon, orange, lavender, burgundy, pure red, and white—or even combinations of these. Petunias were originally a pinkish lavender. Now they come in every hue except green.

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Checklist Changes

Yellow-rumped Warbler- Myrtle's_Patagonia-AZ_LAH_3751Many serious birders keep a life list of the bird species they’ve seen. We can tell you exactly how many birds are on that list, and there’s great excitement when we can add a new “lifer.” We may also have a list of “target birds,” those not yet seen, and we often spend considerable effort tracking them down. But once a year, we have an opportunity to add a new bird or two without lifting a finger.

All year, ornithologists are busy debating bird taxonomy. They present evidence—behavioral, morphological, a new DNA analysis, etc.—to support their opinions as to which species need to be split into two, which need to be lumped together as one (perhaps as subspecies), which need to be moved to a different genus, and other taxonomic changes. Every July, the AOS (American Ornithological Society) publishes the agreed-upon changes, and we all scramble to update our life lists.

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August Bird Quiz: Uncropped Photo

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

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(Not Just) Purple Coneflower

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Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) used to be purple. You can still buy the purple-flowered version of this perennial (actually more of a pink, at least to my eye), but purple is only the beginning. Consider passionate hues such as raspberry pink and florescent orange. On the other hand, perhaps you’d prefer delicate pinks, or even an innocent snowy white. A related species, E. paradoxa, below, is a pure lemon yellow.

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August Bird Quiz

Can you identify this bird? The photo was taken in Colorado in February. 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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Don’t Buy Ladybugs

Ladybug_XG-CoSpgsCO_LAH_9349Every gardener knows that ladybugs are “good” bugs because they eat “bad” bugs. Educated gardeners know that ladybugs are actually beetles, and that they eat aphids, scale insects, immature beetles and true bugs, and mites. The adults are efficient predators; the larvae are even more voracious. No wonder we want lady beetles in our gardens!

The simplest way to get lots of these colorful beetles is to buy them, and many people do just that. It’s a huge industry. However, buying ladybugs is largely a waste of money, and may even harm the environment! There are better ways to attract not only ladybugs but other beneficial insects as well.

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The Real Bigfoot

 

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What has two big hind legs, two small front legs, a big tail, a pouch, jumps, and lives in Australia? I used to think the obvious answer to that was a kangaroo. Then I learned about wallabies. And wallaroos. Being thoroughly confused, I turned to the internet. Oh my.

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