An eclipse, a drought, an owl, some new flowers and more

We finally got some rain and cooler temperatures after setting a new Seattle record of 56 days without rain. And many of those days were really hot. This summer there are a lot of stressed plants in Seattle.

The barred owl is back and a coyote has been seen recently in the Medicinal Herb Garden.

Barred owl (Strix varia) looking backward from a tree, west of section F…

…and looking forward. Owls can turn their heads up to 270 degrees left or right without injuring themselves. Their eye sockets are fixed, so by turning their heads, they are functionally doing what we do by turning our eyeballs in the direction we want to see. Human heads can turn up to 90 degrees left or right without injuring ourselves. No pictures yet of the coyote but I have my trail camera deployed on campus.


Though we were a bit north of the totality path of the recent eclipse, there were some unusual shadows to see, for those of us without eclipse glasses. Wandering through section E, waiting for something to happen, it finally did.

Looking up you could see an eclipse (so I hear), but looking down at the light filtered through the trees, you could see many eclipses. While taking these photographs, the garden visitors I met all seemed spellbound by these specters.









At the peak stage of the eclipse, it looked like the light on a clear day when a storm is brewing, but instead of anvil-shaped cumulus clouds blocking the sun, it was the moon. Strange sensation, a brilliant contrast of shadow and light.

Some new flowers have made their appearance this summer.

Luma apiculata (arrayán or Chilean myrtle) northwest of Cascara Circle. It’s flowering so hopefully we’ll get some fruit this fall.








Myrtus communis (common myrtle) in section C border has been around the garden for years, but notice the similarity to the flowers of the Luma apiculata. They’re in the same family, the Myrtaceae.

Metaplexis japonica (rough potato) is flowering for the first time. While photographing the flowers I made a mental note to track down the intoxicating scent from some nearby plant.

Drawing close to take this picture of the Dolichovespula maculata (bald-faced hornet), I realized the scent is from the Metaplexis flowers. They’re in section B near the…









…Aralia cordata (udo) that also attracted the bald-faced hornets. I’ve seen more of these hornets than honey bees on the garden flowers in late summer. As long as you don’t bump into their nest (I can report from experience that’s a bad idea) they seem oblivious to people, especially when they’re feeding.

Argyreia nervosa (elephant creeper) tendrils  seem to be doing some sort of interpretive dance in section A.

But what does it mean?







Stinkvine (Paederia foetida) in section B. The crushed stems and foliage give off a scent reminiscent of sour milk, enough to stimulate the gag reflex in some people.  It has many uses in Ayurvedic medicine.

Rhynchosia volubilis (lu huo) in the same bed. It’s flowering now and that might be too late to produce beans. Maybe next year.

Pollichia campestris (barley sugar bush) section A. Though they’re quite small, those white, fleshy bracts surrounding the flowers make for a sweet treat.











Grape flowers aren’t much to look at but the fruit are.

Vitis californica (California wild grape) north of Cascara Circle. Getting up into the canopy has improved their fruit production.

Immature fruit of Cucumis metuliferus (African horned cucumber) will get smoother and turn yellowish-orange with jelly-like flesh. Sometimes a few of them ripen around here.

Liriope platyphylla (wide-leaf monkey grass) isn’t a grass but a member of the Asparagaceae. Rabbits are eating it. Along with its close relatives, it is considered an ornamental plant (when it flowers) but it has traditional medicinal uses in eastern Asia.









This nest, hidden among vines on a bamboo tripod, escaped notice until after the birds had left. It was built by Psaltriparus minimus (bushtits).

Opuntia humifusa ssp. mickeymousensis (Mickey Mouse prickly pear) is an endemic from a small area southwest of Orlando, Florida. It’s finally starting to exhibit its characteristic form.

Atractylodes macrocephala (bai zhu), used in traditional Chinese medicine for all sorts of abdominal conditions, among other things, is an attractive garden plant, until…









…a rabbit decides that one bite is not enough.

Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus or meadow saffron) in the border of section D. Colchicine, which is contained in the plant, has been used for thousands of years and is still used to treat gout. Autumn crocus is often confused with Crocus sativus (saffron crocus) but they are actually in different families. The former is in the Colchicaceae and the latter is in the Iridaceae.

This is the color of autumn. The equinox is here. Rains have cleared the forest fire smoke and the fresh, cool air is invigorating. Get out and enjoy it if you can.
















longest summer drought

river birch dropped half its leaves

then the rains returned





See you in the garden.





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2 Responses to An eclipse, a drought, an owl, some new flowers and more

  1. Rick says:

    an unusually dry latter half of the summer here in Maine also, glad I put in drip irrigation in half the garden this year. next year the other half gets it…..

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