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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Capillary Action from the Forces of Adhesion and Cohesion

Chemistry, Plants
What is capillary action? The easiest way to define it is to give the simplest example of it at work. A capillary is a tube with a fine bore, typically less than a millimeter. For the purpose of our discussion, we will use a scientist's glass capillary tube, which is both straight and clear. The liquids we will discuss as examples are water and mercury. Not All Liquids Exhibit Capillary Action Take note of Figure 1. Two capillary tubes (not drawn to scale) are immersed in liquid – the left tube in water, the right in mercury. The water rises up its tube and forms a concave meniscus at top. The mercury does not rise up its tube. It forms what looks like the upper portion of a sphere –…
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What Is It Good For? Poison Ivy and Other Toxicodendron Species

philosophy, Plants
[caption id="attachment_18375" align="alignright" width="460"] Poison Ivy Leaves[/caption] Toxicodendron radicans is the Latin name for poison ivy. Images of various aspects of the weed are included in this article. An attempt at providing a thorough physical description of it can be found elsewhere at the reader's convenience. We wish to discuss whether there is at least one useful purpose for the presence of this apparently noxious weed on this "good earth". In discussing it, we encompass poison oak, poison sumac, and other plants. A Kind of Mission Statement In discussing T. radicans, we will consider all of its component parts. No, we will not give an encyclopedic description, as is commonly found in comprehensive articles. Instead, we will demonstrate the plant's better aspects. Personal Contact Most of us are careful to…
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