Strange but True

European Wool Carder Bees: Likable Bullies

European Wool Carder Bees: Likable Bullies

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Nature shows always get you to root for the protagonist, whoever that may be. If the star of the show’s a fox, you’ll find yourself cheering her on to catch the rabbit (although you may have cheered for the rabbit in a previous episode). If the subject’s a skunk, you’ll wish him well as you watch him go about his… Read more →


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Understanding Roots by Robert Kourik--You Need This Book

Understanding Roots by Robert Kourik–You Need This Book

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Maybe I shouldn’t review a book when I’m hungry, but I found Robert Kourik’s new book Understanding Roots to be one of those meaty kinds of books you can really sink your teeth into, with lots of delicious morsels along the way. For example, I learned: In loose soil, carrot roots can go down 7 ft. One cubic inch of soil can… Read more →


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The Weird, Wonderful World of a Peat Bog

The Weird, Wonderful World of a Peat Bog

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“I’d like to visit the swamp.” My parents thought this an odd request when I visited my home state of Minnesota last week, but I’d recently learned that I’d grown up literally next door to one of the most unique plant communities in the world, and I had never appreciated it. So I set out to rediscover the peat bogs of… Read more →


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What's That White Stuff on My Crape Myrtle?

What’s That White Stuff on My Crape Myrtle?

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So the other day I noticed my Tonto crape myrtle had this crusty white stuff on it. Not powdery mildew, which sometimes appears later in the year on crape myrtles. Mildew looks like white film on the leaf’s surface. Mine had white stuff on the tips of the leaves. My first thought was woolly aphids or cottony scale, but it… Read more →


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Japanese Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys): A Living Fossil

Japanese Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys): A Living Fossil

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Until this winter, I only knew Japanese umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) as a handsome but dinky conifer I’d seen at garden centers selling for what could feed a family of four for a month. Then I learned in Phyllis Reynolds’ Trees of Greater Portland (Macrophyllum Press, 2013) that Portland is home to several mature specimens and that I could see this… Read more →


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Feeling Brave, I Taste Ginkgo for the First Time

Feeling Brave, I Taste Ginkgo for the First Time

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  Nobody who’s smelled ginkgo fruits for the first time has ever said, “Yeah, I think I’m gonna have to eat some of that.” If you haven’t experienced them first hand, well, they have the aroma of something that maybe was once food, but has since passed through one or two digestive organs before finding its way to the nostrils.  Dog vomit,… Read more →


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When Does Bamboo Bloom?  The Answer Will Blow Your Mind

When Does Bamboo Bloom? The Answer Will Blow Your Mind

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So, I’ve been looking for a plant to screen a gap in the hedge that looks right into the neighbors’ backyard (and trampoline).  I thought a well-behaved clumping bamboo might do the trick, and I checked out the helpful website of Bamboo Garden Nursery near Portland, Oregon. It seemed the common and quite hardy (to Zone 5) Fargesia nitida looked like… Read more →


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ginkgo biloba yellow in fall

Ginkgo biloba, You Don’t Look a Day Over 56 Million

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Is there anything more satisfying than golden ginkgo leaves backed by blue autumn skies? Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) delivers taxi-cab-yellow foliage to the Lower Midwest from the week of October 11 until mid-November, with most trees reaching peak color during the latter half of that period.  The margins of the fan-shaped leaves turn first, so that early in the show the green leaves are… Read more →


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dragonfly

The Bizarre, Sordid Secrets of Dragonflies You Will Wish You Had Never Learned

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I’ve always enjoyed it when dragonflies visited the garden, but I realized I didn’t know much about them. I knew that dragonflies had finely tuned, 360-degree vision, because I knew how hard it was to get close enough to them for a photo.  I knew they were territorial, because one of them took ownership of the tip of our car antenna for about… Read more →


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What Does Katsura Smell Like to You?

What Does Katsura Smell Like to You?

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Katsura (Cercidophyllum japonicum) makes a grand entrance in fall, turning yellow from head to toe between October 4 and November 7 in the Ohio Valley.  In some parts of the world, the tree turns apricot-yellow or even a ruddy orange, but in the Lower Midwest, yellow is nearly always the uniform, and that’s just fine, because it is a luminous yellow—clear and strong. … Read more →


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