the “good life”, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be


I have yet to get all my pool-relating postings together although the process is moving along. In the meantime, enjoy these pictures from my very brief visit to the Strybing Arboretum on a dim, rainy day.


Daffodils bloom under a dormant crabapple tree.


The sun shone strongly enough through the clouds for me to get a picture of a cycad amongst palm trees.



Egads, the cycad!
The cycad looks like either a palm tree or a fern, but is neither (although distantly related to both). They were plentiful back during the Jurassic Age 225 million years ago, and have evolved very little since.
Cycads are dioecious: there are male trees and female trees. Wind is the pollinator between the trees. Sex changes by trees have been known to occur due to extreme trauma or stress, but this happens only very rarely.
About a quarter of the cycad species are endangered due to theft and collection from their natural habitats. They are regulated by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Cycads are not safe even when dead and fossilized: Fossil Cycad National Monument was a national monument in South Dakota beginning in 1922. The site contained hundreds of fossil cycads, one of the world’s greatest concentrations. Because vandals stole or destroyed all of the visible fossils, it was withdrawn as a national monument in 1957.


I did not know this, but it was prime magnolia season when I visited. Many magnolia species flower before their first leaves appear.

Magnolias are an ancient genus that appeared on the evolutionary timeline before bees. It is theorized beetles were its first pollinators. The Arboretum’s magnolia collection is ranked fourth in the world, with nearly a hundred species.



There were pink, red, and white magnolias at the Arboretum, but the only pictures that turned out well were of the white ones, likely because the weather did not provide good lighting that day.
Just kidding, I found one. 🙂
This is Magnolia campbellii, Campbell’s Magnolia, Michelia doltsopa, Sweet Michelia, a tree closely related to the magnolia and native to the eastern Himalayas and the Meghalaya subtropical forests in India. The trees grow very tall and have large, fragrant flowers. The wood is also fragrant and is used for house-building in Nepal and Bhutan.



Camellias had a section of the gardens as well. The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is a camellia.
Rhododendrons were also plentiful. The tall and low shrubs in this photograph are all rhododendrons. Fun fact, rhododendrons can grow very, very large — plants grown as ornamental shrubs can grow larger than the houses they ornament.
The below rhododendron bush is 125 years old(!).

whoa nelly

(you may click to embiggen)


There were also some neatly weird plants.
This neat little one is Aristolochia californica, also known as the California pipevine or Calfornia Dutchman’s-pipe. It smells like rotting meat and this scent attracts carrion insects which then pollinate its flowers.
The California pipevine swallowtail butterfly’s caterpillar uses the flowers of the plant as its own little apartment in which to pupate.
Initially, I was going to just post pictures and no neat factoids because I couldn’t figure out what this plant was.
But we all know I have an endless obsession with knowing, if only for the sake of knowing. I embarked on an epic Internet search adventure and found…
I even tried the very extensive database at the Arboretum website. I went through a few hundred pictures (insomia filler) before I was all, screw this, I’m finally sleepy enough to sleep.
UPDATE (thanks, reddit): This fluorescent yellow Jim-Henson-y plant is a member of the Euphorbia (Wikipedia says not to be confused with euphoria) genus, the fourth-largest genus of flowering plants.
Euphorbia’s common name “spurge” derives from its use as a purgative. (Basically, it’s a puke-plant.) This particular Euphorbia seems to be Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii, the Mediterranean Spurge. This variety is named “Lambrook Gold”.
This is Edgeworthia chrystantha, also known as the Oriental Paperbush. Its bark fibers are used in the making of Japanese paper.
Caught this just before I ran out of batteries. I love the bright, bright speckles of pollen on the petals that look like the most delicate of crinkled tissue paper.
This is Cistus albus, the White Leaf Rockrose. Various Cistus species are known to emit volatile oils, rendering the plants flammable. Some sources state that under dry, hot conditions these species may be capable of self-ignition.


thanks to Wikipedia and the Internet for the fun facts

6 Replies to “the “good life”, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be”

  1. Isn’t knowledge, just for the sake of having it, wonderful? My family wonders why I’m so good at trivia games and I relate it, entirely, to my desire to know stuff. All stuff. Just because.

    1. 🙂 knowledge and its pursuit are definitely one of the highlights of life… and thanks to the internet and the knowledge of others, the final three plants have been identified

    1. It is a nice, even light, but when it rains… dammit! It was a dim, but whenever it got a little bright, I ran around like plant paparazzi 🙂

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