Category Archives: Stuff you Missed in Botany

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Parasitic Wasps (and other beneficial insects)

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Parasitic Wasps (and other beneficial insects)

I’ve barely been in the garden this week, but today is cool and gorgeous; so this may be a short post.

A reader wrote me to ask what a parasitic wasp was and how, as I had suggested, they could make them their friends? What a great question to answer on Botany day!

These little guys are very small, sometimes 1/100th to 3/4’s of an inch long. That’s small. So small, in fact that they often go unnoticed, to humans.

Trichogramma Wasp, Not a Mosquito

Read the rest of this entry

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Plant Nutrition

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Plant Nutrition

It was time to feed the melons. They said, “Thank You!” They’re so obedient and respectful when they’re little. They have rewarded me with loads of beautiful flowers that will blossom into a protrusions of melon sweetness. So, I’m more than happy to give them a springtime snack with they’re drink.

Plants get nutrients from the soil, but they also get some goodies from the rain and some plants, like legumes, get nutrients like nitrogen, from the atmosphere. Plants also change the energy the get from the sun into nutrients using the green pigment called chlorophyll in the process of photosynthesis.

So, what are the nutrients that plants need?

Plant nutrients are broken in to two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients.

Read the rest of this entry

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Experiment With Organic Pest Control

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Experiment With Organic Pest Control

No, I’m not telling you what an experiment is as such. I’m telling you about a Botany experiment I’m going to be doing with my son, Jonathan.

Last week while searching for various and sundry things, I came across an interesting article about Myrosinase. This has sparked much curiosity, scientific probing,  and even a bit of the entrepreneur spirit around the Gunz household.

Myrosinase is an enzyme that is released when radish leaves are stressed. (It’s not only radish leaves, but most of the brassicas family, the largest quantity comes from rapeseed) The enzyme acts as a repellent to insects, and other foragers.

DNA of Myrosinase~it looks like confetti...so pretty and paisley!

Read the rest of this entry

Stuff You Missed In Botany: Stem

Stuff You Missed In Botany: Stem

Let’s talk about plants, from the roots up.

Roots are the pipelines, the feeder roads if you will. Leaves are the factories. The flowers/fruits are the press agents and research and development department. And last, but not least, the stems are the superhighway that keeps everything connected.

Stem parts

Read the rest of this entry

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Book Review

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Book Review

My stuff you missed is not a Botany term at all, but rather, a book review.

Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock

I’m recommending this book to everyone, not just those with kids. In truth, I use it more than my kids, or at least as much as they do.

Inside Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock

The book is The Handbook of Nature Studyby Anna Botsford Comstock. It was written in 1911 with a rewrite in 1931. Either version is great, but I prefer the 1911 personally. This book has a thousand things to learn about that you’ve always wanted to know, and another thousand that you didn’t even know you wanted to know.

So, here’s how we used it this week.

Read the rest of this entry

Stuff You Missed In Botany: Cambium Growth

Stuff You Missed In Botany: Cambium Growth

Did you ever wonder how a plant can turn itself towards a light source (the  sun, or a grow light)?

It’s called Cambium Growth. There is a tissue paper membrane called Cambia that form identical rows of parallel undifferentiated cells for plant growth. The side of the plant that is away from the light source grows longer, stretches out, this is how it reaches for the light.

If you turn your plant, you’ll notice that the next day, it will again be reaching. The cambia will grow longer cells on the side away from the light. If you remember from photosynthesis, the plant needs the light to complete the chemical transformation of light to food for the plant. It makes sense that there would be a mechanism to ensure the light source can be utilized most effectively. Our God is an awesome God!

Cambia is also the layer that makes the rings of a tree each year. They are dormant in the winter and grow long during the summer. Let’s see a cross section. This will help the visuals out there.

Cross Section of Cambia

Here it is again from another angle. Just for you = )

Another way to see it, Cambia

So, next time you see your plants performing their little plant acrobatics, reaching for the sun, you’ll know, “Hey, that’s the cambia!”

Have a paisley cambia day~KeriAnne

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Symbiosis

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Symbiosis

With all the talk of the Three Sisters planting, I couldn’t help but think that the appropriate Botany topic this week should be symbiosis.

From the Ancient Greek syn (together) biosis (life). As the German Mycologist Heinrich de Bary said, “the living together of two or more unlike organisms.”

For the purposes of a gardening blog, I’m going to focus on how different plants, growing together, help each other and fulfill the symbiotic relationship.

Read the rest of this entry

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Propagation from Cuttings

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Propagation from Cuttings

When the Parsnip was a young preacher just getting started, we would often visit with the older members of our congregation. We would see if they had any physical, environmental or, most pressing in our line of work, spiritual needs.

While living in El Dorado, Arkansas we were always glad when the time would come to visit Henry and Marguerite Hogg. Henry was a strapping man in his early eighties when we met him. He had stories, many stories of how he had been a school teacher (at age 16!), then went on to be the county postmaster at the ripe age of 19. He had been to war, lived through the Depression and raised a strong, loving family.

As interesting as it was to visit with Henry, I always looked forward to my visit with Marguerite. This tiny, 5 foot, soft spoken woman chose her words carefully and didn’t “put on airs”. I liked that and I liked her. But, my favorite thing about visiting with the Hoggs was…the violets.

Marguerite had loads and loads of beautiful African Violets.They covered every inch of every windowpane. Rich burgundy, royal purple, majestic pink, quiet lavender violets, violets, everywhere.

Violet Array

One Thursday morning Curt (the Parsnip) called me and said, “Hey, Henry and Marguerite want us to come over, can you be ready in 20 minutes”? When we got there we had coffee and some treat or other and then Henry took Curt out to his large, beautiful garden to talk man things. Marguerite said, “I want to give you a violet, you always admire mine so”. I was thrilled beyond words. My own violet treasure. Read the rest of this entry

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Leaves

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Leaves

Leaves are such fun! We love to see them stretch themselves in our little peat pots in the early spring. We love to see them set themselves ablaze in the dog days of summer and the proclamation of fall. We take treks to behold the wonder that are leaves.

So, what are they? How can we help them be healthy in our gardens?

Leaves are the organs of photosynthesis, typically flattened and thin. Although some leaves have adapted to be quite unrecognizable as a leaf in the way we think of leaves. The leaves of conifers are those needles you pull out of your carpet for six months after Christmas. The leaves of succulents are fat and juicy, sometimes waxy or pokey. (Pokey is a technical term, don’t try this at home)

Leaves come in a gazillion shapes, sizes and colors. Like people. (Gazillion, another technical term) = )

Leaves in my garden are the indicators of health for my plants. If they’re perky, green and abundant, life is good. Proceed with gusto. If they’re droopy, sallow and sketchy, an intervention of some sort is necessary. Proceed with caution. If they are rotted, brown and chewed on, well, it may be time for a new hobby or at least some new plants. Proceed to the seed catalog or knitting store, whichever seems logical at the time.

Leaves perform the duties of changing the energy in sunlight chemically into a form of energy or food for the plant. Think of them as tiny little powerhouses. They arrange themselves in such a way that they get the most amount of sunlight they can without shading their brother and sister leaves. If you’re even half observant in your garden you’ll see leaves turn themselves towards the radiance of the sun. It’s amazing.

Cucumber stretching to the sun!

Read the rest of this entry

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Scoville Scale

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Scoville Scale

Some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on...”~Robert Palmer (via Duran Duran)

This pepper is hot. But what does that mean? Hot when it comes to the spiciness of a pepper is subjective, right? I mean, two serranos in a Thai stir-fry is approaching the right “heat” for my son, but has me running for the milk and an alternative meal. Subjective.

If only there were some way to quantify the spiciness of a pepper without relying on the conjecture of an individuals palate. Thank you Wilbur Scoville.

In 1912, Wilbur Scoville devised a method called the Scoville Organoleptic Test, giving us a scale that measures the capsaicinoid content of a substance. In other words, how “hot” something is depends on how much capsaicin is in it.

 

So, what’s not and what’s hot?

The scale is pretty straightforward. If a pepper has a lot of capsaicin, it’s hot. If it has less capsaicin, it’s mild. Here is a nicely colored picture available from http://hottestseeds.com

Scoville scale

Read the rest of this entry