A few mornings ago, as I set off to water on the east end of the garden, I passed through section C. That’s the section where the grains have been mysteriously disappearing into the stomach of the phantom herbivore. Make that formerly phantom herbivore:
What the…? Are you eating the ragleaf bahia (Bahia dissecta)?
Yes, the bunny is finally busted.
Rabbits (this is a young eastern cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus) are fast and able to turn on a dime. Off it went to the protection of the thicket on the west edge of section C. Grrr!
I’m not sure what to do. Eventually, I might get a live trap and relocate any rabbit(s) I catch to somewhere far enough away that returning will not be a viable option. The barred owl (Strix varia) seems to have moved on but maybe it will be back. Barred owls eat rabbits. For now, I’ll wait to see how bad the damage gets and how dense the rabbit population becomes. The good news is that that so far, with the exception of the grain bed, damage hasn’t been too bad. A lot of nibbled areas here and there, but nothing has been decimated. Peace for now, bunny.
While weeding recently, I came across these two:
Junco chicks (Junco hyemalis) whose nest was hidden beneath leaves and understory plants on the garden’s edge. The alarm calls of their parents tipped me off. The parents were getting pretty agitated so I had to quickly snap this shot and move on.
It might be my misperception, but it seems like there is an increasing number of juncos and a decreasing number of white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) in the garden over the last decade or so.
They’re less than an inch long, but Pacific crabapples (Malus fusca) have a bright, tangy apple taste. They were traditionally eaten by Pacific Northwest natives, from Alaska to California. Bark from the trees was used to treat lung, heart, skin and eye conditions among other things. I’ve seen Pacific crabapple trees growing in an estuary in BC, near Bella Coola. They were sometimes flooded with brackish water and appeared none the worse for it.
Wild plums (Prunus americana) ripening near Cascara Circle. They have thicker skin than most domesticated plums and the flesh resembles the consistency and flavor of apricot (Prunus armeniaca).
Leafy goosefoot (Chenopodium foliosum) has edible, nutritious leaves. Its attractive red fruit are also edible but dull. Leafy goosefoot used to be in the Chenopodiaceae, a plant family that included spinach (Spinacia oleracea), lamb’s quarters (Cheopodium album), and quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa). All of the above are now in the Amaranthaceae. Recently, the family formerly known as Chenopodiaceae has disappeared, subsumed into the Amaranthaceae. I get dizzy, trying to keep up with all of the changes happening in the world of plant systematics.
Fruit on the Ephedra plants in the xeriscape bed are edible. Though several sources describe them as sweet and insipid, I get a hint of sweet and a hint of bitter, and yes, they are insipid. I’m growing two New World species, Ephedra chilensis and Ephedra nevadensis. Neither species is known to contain significant amounts of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or norpseudoephedrine. Some of the Old World species, like Ephedra sinica (usually the species used in the ma huang of commerce), are high in ephedrine alkaloids. I would grow ma huang here but it has been stolen (repeatedly) in the past.
The fruit of this plant in section B, near the fig tree, are lupine seeds but the flowers smell like grape Kool-Aid or maybe grape Jolly Ranchers. It’s tarwi (Lupinus mutabilis), a food crop grown in the Andes. They get powdery mildew around this time every summer, but they’re covered in flowers right now, so smell them if you get the chance.
There’s nothing about the indigo plants (Indigofera tinctoria) in section C that points to their importance as a dye plant of the bluest blues. I expected them to at least have blue flowers but they’re small and pink. Indigo is supposedly a zone 9 plant, so it might make it through the winter outside with protection around here.
Flowers of the chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), north of section A are similar though a bit larger than the flowers on the Chinese chaste tree (Vitex negundo) near section B. The seeds of chaste tree are sometimes referred to as monk’s pepper because they are considered to be an anaphrodisiac. They are currently used to help regulate the female reproductive system, especially to treat symptoms of PMS.
You might have heard of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I think I caught it on film. Either that or qu mai (Dianthus superbus).
Spend a lot of money buying summer purslane (Portulaca oleracea) as a fancypants vegetable at your local farmers market. Or you can come to the Medicinal Herb Garden and get an official authorization from me that will allow you, for a very limited time, to harvest as much summer purslane from the garden beds and pathways as you and your mule can carry home. Really.
What is it about certain shades of yellow and white that confounds my cheap little camera? I couldn’t focus, but finally decided the dreamy, haunting haze around the flowers was, no kidding, just the effect I was looking for. The plant is sweet yellow bells (Hermannia incana) from South Africa. It has been used traditionally to treat diarrhoea, stomach ache, nausea and vomiting. Its effectiveness in treating diarrhoea seems to be confirmed by recent tests on rats. Living in a wealthy, industrialized nation, it is hard to believe, but the World Health Organization reports that diarrhoeal diseases are the second leading cause of death worldwide, for children under the age of five.
Flowers of thyme-leaved savory (Satureja thymbra) in section B. I recently bought a big jar of Lebanese olives that was packed with thyme-leaved savory. It added a bitterness that was addictive. Olives, who can eat just one?
The manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) that I planted a couple of years ago has grown quickly. I wonder if it isn’t a different variety than I’ve grown in the past. We have had some hot summers and warm winters, so the weather could be a factor, but the newer manuka is as tall as I am and the much older plants are less than a foot tall. Hmmm.
It’s easy to walk past wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). Its pale pink flowers aren’t as showy as scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma), but it’s sometimes worth inspecting more closely the things we take for granted. The flowers have a subtle beauty up close.
Wild senna (Senna marilandica) flowers profusely every year and the plants are vigorous. Unfortunately, they rarely produce seeds. I’m not sure why.
Leaves on one of the chokeberry bushes have started to turn bright red, as they would normally do later on in autumn. It might be caused by drought stress.
Floral display in the border between sections A and B. The pink flowers are showy tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense), the yellow are safflowers (Carthamus tinctorius) and the blue are gentian sage (Salvia patens).
If you make it to the Medicinal Herb Garden, be sure to walk across the street and view the site of the future Life Sciences Building and Biology Greenhouse. It changes from day to day.
That is the southwest corner of the Plant Lab basement and this is the last shot you will ever see of it. It’s amazing how quickly this lot is going from a demolition site to a building site.
surprised once again
as always by late summer
we savor these days
See you in the garden.