This site is for people who like plants -- growers, enthusiasts, aesthetes, novices and professionals, those who appreciate wild things and those who appreciate the cultivated. I garden in Chelsea, and I've been visiting people's yards for 20+ years in the course of my work. My goal is to make this blog a community project, so if you share my interests, please consider becoming a participant and contributing content -- Guerin. Info: guerinw@gmail.com

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Always the best orange

There's no better orange than that of our fabulous, familiar, native butterfly-weed, i.e., Asclepias tuberosa. Go west of Ann Arbor into the dry hills of the Pinckney and Waterloo Recreation areas and you'll see it everywhere. Go east of Ann Arbor and I don't know what you'll see because I hardly ever go in that direction. For those who take great offense to seeing the color orange in the garden, nice yellow strains have been developed. But the orange works just fine for me, thank you very much.

photo courtesy of 'world wide web'
Here's something about the milkweeds that I learned in plant systematics and continue to appreciate today: the pollen of milkweeds doesn't just lie there like so much dust; instead it comes packaged in little saddlebags (called pollinia) that get caught up in the feet of pollinating insects. These insects then act as postal workers, carry these saddlebags to another flower, and the saddlebags slip into little slots on the receiving end. How unlikely is that??

Note pollinia on front right leg (thank you anon for photo)
A fun project for the curious: take a pin or a fine pair of tweezers and you can actually pull out the odd little mechanisms from a ripe flower. A hand lens or a stereo dissecting scope helps with the closeups. (Consider getting a dissecting scope -- they are useful for all kinds of tasks, and the Chinese have made them very affordable).

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