The Wild Potato or Indian Potato Vine – Desirable or a Pesky Weed?

Food, Plants
[caption id="attachment_26946" align="alignright" width="480"] Ipomoea pandurata on fence. Image by Kevin Ternes[/caption]Also called the wild sweet potato or the man-root, this tuber-producing vine is viewed by some as the free source of tubers that smell like sweet potatoes and have a tasty, unique flavor. By others, it is viewed as a pesky, invasive weed. Which will it be for you? Although these "potatoes" are free, it takes a little work to gather them. Many hands make the work light. One thing about these natural treats is, they are certainly easy to identify. [caption id="attachment_26951" align="alignright" width="200"] Ipomoea pandurata root. Image by Kevin Robertson, Pebble Hill Plantation, 2015[/caption] The wild potato can grow quite large, one lone potato weighing as much as an entire 20-lb. bag of grocery-store potatoes. But, as…
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The Dandelion – What Is It Good For? A Lot

Beauty, Plants
When my firstborn son was very young, I took him out in the backyard and showed him a dandelion¹ gone to seed. We called 'em puff-puffs. He was awed. He was excited. We'd pick up one after another and blow them (if a neighbor had seen us, he might've been aggravated). The floating white parasols were a joy to see. Images The dandelion flower is a remarkably bright yellow, symmetrical, even beautiful. The flower can be used to make... you guessed it... dandelion wine! Strange as it is, an older kid in high school once saw me on the road, hopped out of his car (drunk as a skunk) and poured some dandelion wine on my head. Ever since, I've wanted to try the stuff. The white fluffy "blowball" consists…
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Algae – When Life Hands You a Lemon

Plants, Technology
You purchase a fish tank, obtain the gravel, fixtures, pump, and filter. You set it up, making sure the tank chemistry is correct. Finally, you purchase a modest number of compatible fish, adjusting tank temperature to fit their needs, adjust the light for their comfort. It's beautiful! But after a while you notice... what's this? A kind of green slime, algae! Oh, bother. Why does that stuff have to come along and ruin things? So you purchase algae eaters and wage the same war that other enthusiasts fight. It seems that life keeps giving you lemons. So make lemonade! The Good, the Bad, and the Algae A little algae here or there is a part of nature and not ordinarily a problem. But sometimes it just plain takes over. Notice…
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What is Peat Moss? How Could It Harm the Environment?

Plants, Technology
[caption id="attachment_24609" align="alignright" width="480"] A beautiful peat moss bog.[/caption] Peat is composed largely of sphagnum and other mosses, although some other plant material may be included. Because these plants grow in wetlands, the abundance of water decaying plants breakdown slowly and without the presence of oxygen. That is, decomposition is anaerobic, more than aerobic. Commercializing Peat Moss Harvested peat is employed in a number of ways. Perhaps best known is its use as a soil amendment and in the manufacture of peat pots for seed germination. In some regions, dried peat is used for the generation of electric power. There might not be much impact from this, except over large periods of time, meters-deep peat bogs form. They become a valuable resource. However, the need for peat is sometimes less…
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Have You Ever Seen Beautiful Gray-Green, Dipped-in-Red, Soldier Moss?

Biology, Plants
I rarely ever notice the kind of car a person is driving, or the clothing they are wearing. Yet from the first time I was exposed to a tiny lichen on a piece of rotting wood, I was enchanted by its beauty. It had short shafts of pale gray-green with tips of the brightest, purest red I've ever seen in nature. But then, I've often noticed the tiny things are often the most beautiful, if you look at them closely. Soldier Moss Soldier moss is also known as British soldier. The red tips are referred to as fruiting bodies. Although the comparison is not quite the same, the mushrooms we eat are just the fruiting body. The essential part of the fungus is called the mycelium. Actually, Soldier moss is…
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The Curious, Ever-Circling, Bee-Eating Robber Fly

Nature, Plants
About 25 years ago, I entered a phase of my life in which I envisioned a kind of nature reserve for the 5-acre plot surrounding my home. The land was beautiful. It was wooded and rocky and the soil was rich. Recently, I had fallen in love with native wildflowers and since I tend to focus when I'm interested in a thing, I soon became well-acquainted with hundreds! The Trees There was a wonderful assortment of hardwoods on the property. Hickory, oak, black gum, cucumber magnolia, linden, sassafras, cherry birch, and tulip-poplar. I'm not even sure I haven't missed a few. Well I planted black locust. If I still lived there, I'd have planted Osage orange, too. The Flowers I am not going to attempt to name the hundreds of…
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Chimera African Violets – What Are They? How Do I Cultivate Them?

Biology, Plants
[caption id="attachment_23293" align="alignright" width="480"] Pinwheel[/caption] In the 1950s, if an individual owned an African Violet, it was usually a small houseplant with fuzzy green leaves and blue or purple flowers. It wouldn't be long before violets came in nearly every color except the elusive yellow. And flowers were no longer necessarily singles. All sorts of combinations were introduced. Some flowers even had curly green edges. But even more striking developments were to come. Among these were the chimera violet. We ask: what is a chimera violet? where does it come from? how can I cultivate one? What Is a Chimera Violet? First, consider the word chimera. It is a complex word with various meanings. In mythology, a chimera is a beast constructed of parts from two or more different animals.…
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Give that Old African Violet a ‘Facelift’

Biology, Plants
[caption id="attachment_23247" align="alignright" width="480"] Image: Morguefile by Ronnieb[/caption] You've grown to appreciate African Violets. You started growing them about 10 years ago. Now you have several very beautiful varieties. Your first purchase produced single purple flowers. Now the plant has a long twisted stem and is not desirable to look at. But it has sentimental value. Your mom gave it to you just before she died. You wonder if anything can be done to save it? What Needs to Change The plant lost leaves over the years, producing a long, ugly, stem. Failure to rotate the plant on your windowsill caused the plant to lean so much it tips easily. The lower leaves have discolored, curled edges. You want to fix all of this. What can you do? The Long…
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Growing African Violets – Common Misconceptions

Plants
[caption id="attachment_23222" align="alignright" width="480"] The truly historic Athena.[/caption] A newly found friend heard the story about my mother and me, that we were African Violets aficionados. The story was true. We raised hundreds of them in dozens of varieties. My friend had many questions concerning the care and welfare of her violets. My Background Mom was always taking day trips of eight or ten hours length. To view antique glass or bisque, drop by a cemetery, listen to a recital at the Academy of Music, or visit a greenhouse complex. However, she hated to travel alone. So I was drafted. I was easy to get along with. As to greenhouses specializing in African Violets, we frequented Fischer's in Linwood, NJ and Tinari in Bethayres, PA. If it had been close-by,…
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Purpose of the Plume Poppy (Macleaya cordata)

Plants
I recently discovered this plant with very decorative leaves plus a kind of flower that didn't actually look like a flower growing on top. Although I didn't recognize it, I thought somehow this plant seemed familiar. I took a few snapshots with my tablet and edited one so that only one leaf remains. My mind began to squeak out the beginnings of recall, with the single letter "p". That's all the further I got, so I contacted a plant identification site and was informed what it was. A few weeks later, I visited the owner of the house and plants with the intent of informing him what the plant was (since he didn't know either), when I realized the plant, with leaves about two inches in size, were now huge,…
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