Deadly? Or Delicious?

Devil’s Trumpet (Datura sp.)
Devil’s Trumpet (Datura sp.)

Eating just a few leaves or berries will leave you writhing on the ground. Your mouth dries, your pupils enlarge, and you run a fever. Within minutes, you gasp as painful cramps turn into vomiting and diarrhea.  First your pulse races, then it slows, as does your breathing. Your head pounds, and then the hallucinations start. You’ve become paralyzed.

But soon, none of that matters any more—because you’ll be dead.

Happily, if you do manage to get to a hospital in time, there’s a good chance you’ll recover, although the symptoms can last up to three days. Eating an unidentified plant is never a good idea, but if it happens to be one of the more dangerous members of the nightshade family, it could be fatal. Continue reading “Deadly? Or Delicious?”

Colorful Birds: Part 1

What’s the first thing you see when you look at these birds? For me, it’s their incredible diversity of color! And it’s not only tropical birds—even cold climates produce blue Steller’s Jays, red House Finches, yellow goldfinches, and pink rosy-finches. Or consider the ruby gorget on a Broad-tailed Hummingbird, flashing its iridescent hue when the sunlight hits it just right. How can feathers be all these colors? It varies.

Continue reading “Colorful Birds: Part 1”

Don’t Salt the Soil!—Part 2

landscape of salt-resistant plants
A landscape of salt-resistant plants, including junipers, bearberry, Colorado blue spruce, aspen, and Japanese barberry

Last month I described a number of ways that salt can creep into our garden soil. Here are a couple more, plus what you can do about it.

Continue reading “Don’t Salt the Soil!—Part 2”

Beaks

Rhinoceros Hornbill @DenverZoo 20090527 LAH 238r

We have hands. Birds have beaks. Have you ever noticed how useful a beak is? While lacking our manual dexterity, birds have no problem securing their dinners and stuffing said meal down the gullets of their young. Beaks are used to manipulate objects and preen ragged feathers. Some birds use their beaks to impress potential mates, or to scare away intruders. Beaks can even be used as weapons. Have you ever tried to steal an egg from under an irritated hen?

Beaks are also useful to birders, as their size, shape, and color are all helpful when it comes to identifying bird species. In fact, the more attention I pay to birds’ beaks, the better birder I become.

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Bulb Crazy

Bulbs in box 2019-10-010

I did it again. Last spring, in a fit of gardening fervor brought on by the first flowers of the season, I put in an order for more spring bulbs, to be delivered in the fall. With my yard full of crocuses, glory of the snow, and miniature irises—and not much else—it was easy to see where those new bulbs should be planted.

Now it’s October, and I just received delivery. Yes, my box of bulbs arrived just ahead of our first snowstorm of the season. Now I have to plant them. Today.

What was I thinking?

Continue reading “Bulb Crazy”