Human Flower Project
Monday, September 28, 2009
A Legacy of Jamaican Fruits
Ackee and breadfruit send local ecologist Georgia Silvera Seamans up to the Jamaican highlands and three generations back in time. Thank you, Georgia and Yvonne.
Cacao on the branch in Jamaica; the seeds make cocoa and chocolate.
Photo: Yvonne Silvera
By Georgia Silvera Seamans
I never knew my mother’s maternal grandmother; Beatrice Baxter (“Auntie B”) died before I was born. My mother’s stories presented a picture of a generous woman, with her love, time, and her home. Though I was born and raised, until I was 13 years old, in Jamaica, I never saw my great-grandmother’s house. My mum was raised in “the country” of Clarendon Parish but raised her children in a suburban development in St. Catherine Parish. Perhaps she thought we could not make the hike up (or hoof it up like the goats) the hill to my grandmother’s house. (I should ask.)
Cooking • Culture & Society • Gardening & Landscape • Permalink
Friday, September 25, 2009
Spotlight on the Small
Attending to lowly phenomena (like how lilies bloom), a Harvard mathematician earns the highest honor—to continue his research.
A mathematician who’s studied, among other “commonplaces,” the workings of the Venus fly trap, is among this year’s MacArthur fellows
Call him the Seinfeld of applied mathematics. Or how about the Vermeer of Harvard Square? Professor Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, an exceptional scholar of the ordinary, studies why sheets wrinkle, how flags flutter, why honey coils and flowers open. Mahadevan has received one of this year’s “genius grants” from the MacArthur Foundation.
“I try to uncover explanations for everyday events that are easily seen but not well understood, “ Mahadevan says.
In this interview with Robert Siegel of NPR, the mathematician explains that with a half dozen store-bought lilies and time lapse photography, he and his team hunkered down to decipher an everyday wonder. Blooming. What did they learn?
“Each petal grows, but it grows along its edge more than it grows along its center,” Mahadevan explained. “As a consequence, the petals which are originally convex, closed, became concave and open and unfurl. And so, we made a mathematical theory for it.”
Here, two pink peonies do the convex to concave trick.
Each MacArthur fellow receives half a million dollars to spend as he or she pleases. The foundation stresses that its fellowship is “not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential.” We’re happy that the grantors saw fit to encourage this world-class scholar of commonplace things.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
HFQ#9: What Thrives in Qatar?
Calling all Persian Gulf landscapers…
Georgia Silvera Seamans, our well-traveled friend, forwards a question from her sister-in-law.
“Would you happen to have any idea of plants that would survive in Doha, Qatar? We have some palm trees lining the property but I am thinking of something along the lines of ground cover, shrubs or little knee high types of plants?”
(Qatar, for Ameri-centricists, is a peninsular state extending about 100 miles into the Persian Gulf, off the northern coast of Saudi Arabia. It’s about the size of Massachusetts, with a lot more oil.)
While Central Texans are becoming better acquainted with desert plants all the time, we don’t know what would do well in Qatar. But here seems to be some excellent offhand advice from Bonnie James, as she describes local plants to be featured in a new garden project of the Qatar Foundation.
“…acacia tortilis (Arabic name is Samr, umbrella thorn), cymbopogon parkeri (Khabar, a tall, scented grass), lycium shawii (Awsaj, a thorny shrub), rhanterium epapposum (Arfaj, a shrub), and ziziphus nummularia (Sidra).”
Friday, September 18, 2009
Plants with Wheels
Noxious intruder, romantic emblem, or prom decoration? This Russian immigrant has become synonymous with America’s Old West.
Uranium collectors, “lonely but free…”
Photo: Rob Lee
By James H. Wandersee and Renee M. Clary
EarthScholars™ Research Group
“Bloom where you’re planted” is the motto of many species, but plants actually spread—and bloom—far beyond where they first grow using a wide variety of strategies, including wind power.
Some aeolian plants send their seeds off in gusts to seek their fortunes via cottony tufts (cattails) and parachutes (dandelions), while others employ gliders (climbing gourds) and helicopters (maple trees). Most wind-powered plants launch such “botanical aircraft” to disperse their seeds, but some plants actually make the scattering trip themselves. We’re talking about tumbleweeds.
Tumbleweeds are globe-like, senescent (aged, dried) plants whose stems, at maturity, separate from their root systems during windy weather. Before these bushes mature, most of them are green and bushy with tiny light pink flowers, turning gray and stiff when they are ready to tumble. Then they are pushed across the terrain by the prevailing winds, scattering thousands of seeds (up to 250,000 per plant!) across the landscape as they roll.
Art & Media • Cut-Flower Trade • Ecology • Gardening & Landscape • Permalink