Common Mullein

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After the storm earlier this week, snow blankets the fields, hiding most signs that anything ever grew there. But interspersed with the even white blanket and occasional dried grass leaves are spikes, sticking up like posts in the empty landscape. We’re finally noticing the dead and dried flower/seed stalks of Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus).

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All in the Family

karin, leslie and willow_everett-wa_lah_3765Did you know that plants come in families?

You may remember learning taxonomy in your high school biology class. Way back when, I taught my classes of 15-year-olds the seven levels of classification: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. (Since that time, scientists have been busy, and we now have domains, which precede kingdoms.) All these can have super- and sub- added to their names, as well. If you’re talking about plants, “phylum” is replaced by “division” and “order” is sometimes replaced by “series,” just to keep things as confusing as possible. Continue reading “All in the Family”

What Plant is This?

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I was looking through my camera downloads for blog-topic inspiration when I noticed that I have many lovely photos of pretty flowers, but no idea what they are. Some were taken in exotic (at least compared to Colorado) locales, others at our local gardens. It’s past time I get around to identifying these plants. And if I have a need to identify my mystery plants, maybe you do too. Here is how I go about putting names to pretty plant faces.

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Vampire Plants

Humpback_anglerfishWhen I think of parasites, I typically think of creatures such as tapeworms, fleas, ticks, and leeches—nasty invertebrates that drain the life out of us humans. Then, I might recall that some higher animals can also be parasites, such as the deep sea anglerfish. You’ve likely seen pictures of anglerfish, with their huge, pointy teeth in a large head, followed by a tapering body. When these fish mate, the male permanently attaches itself to the female and lives off her bloodstream for the rest of his life, his sperm his only contribution.  (See National Geographic’s video of a particularly beautiful anglerfish species.)

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Plant Photography: Color

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My final post on photographing plants, in all their forms, deals with one of my favorite aspects of photography—color. My dad was an avid photographer as well, but he preferred to shoot a medium format camera loaded with black and white film. Then he’d disappear into his darkroom and spend hours dodging and burning, doing his best to emulate Ansel Adams.

Me? I want color, and the more, the better. Happily, gardens are colorful places.

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Thigmo-what?

LAH_5161My pole beans, which got a rather late start, are finally climbing their way up the strings on my bean tower. I’m always impressed that the plants know just what to do. Those reaching tendrils that come into contact with the string immediate start to coil around it, securing themselves to the support. A few plants were still free, waving in the light breeze. I tucked them between the two strands of twine, so they too could wind their way upward.

A few rows over, my pea vines have their tendrils securely wrapped around the netting I put up for them. We all know that pole beans climb and pea tendrils wrap, but I wondered how they knew to do so. After all, most plants don’t have this ability.

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Plant Photography: Composition

Last month I wrote about keeping your photo simple—isolating the subject and avoiding distractions. But there’s much more to composition, many more ways to make your photos terrific. Here are a few tips and suggestions you may find helpful. Continue reading “Plant Photography: Composition”