March 16th, 2010


Happy Birthday, Baby!

It's Alexis' birthday today. I took the day off and she took the afternoon off, so later on we'll go have Indian food and relax in a hot tub. I love to celebrate birthdays, special holidays for one person to let them know how happy you are they were born. Thanks for coming into my life Alexis!

In other news, it will be spring in a few days. (!!!!)

I wonder what the short term effects of our massive three day rainstorm will be: some erosion, obviously, but maybe an early bloom of mushrooms. With a couple sunny days ahead I expect bulb flowers to explode into many joyous colors, followed hopefully by the "real" flowers which I prefer (wildflowers and flowering weeds).

Some links

I could do something productive while I wait for Alexis to come home, but I think I'll share some links (and clear the tab-clutter away) instead.

Everyone likes multi-species interactions in zoos. That's why this photo of a zebra eating stuff out of a hippo's teeth made the BBC's website.

Speaking of animal photos, a camera trap in a small chunk of Southeast Asian forest caught a record 7 cat species. Kind of amazing biodiversity of predators, considering there are also other in the same forest, including dogs and civets.

Another photo essay from that part of the world shows a biodiversity of living animals in the local market, including dogs (but no civets).

Contrast that with this Portland farmers' market, which includes at least three species of mushroom.

Mushrooms are big business in Tibet, where they apparently make up 8.5% of the GDP. I haven't seen any comparisons, but this must be some kind of record. More interesting than that, is Tibet's second biggest mushroom crop is the insect parasite Ophiocordyceps sinensis (referred to as Cordyceps in most sources). The fungus infects adult moths, who pass the infection to their offspring. The insect lives a normal life (3 or 4 years, according to this article) until it's a full grown caterpillar, then the fungus consumes its body, and changes its behavior. Instead of avoiding dessication by burrowing deep into the soil, the caterpillar stays just under the top layer. When the infection is complete, the caterpillar dies, and the fungus sends an antenna-like mushroom to the surface to release more spores. Tibetan harvesters look for these tiny mushrooms and dig out the caterpillar-shaped fungal mycelium, which is used for medicinal purposes.


Urban Nature Pictures 3/16; 50 more urban species #7: Crocus

As I understand it Crocus is a genus of 80 plants or so, about 30 of which are cultivated, native to Eurasia and North Africa. Of these the most well known are those varieties which bloom very early in spring--in fact, it is not yet spring, and here they are. A waxy coating protects the parts of the flower from the elements before it blooms. One species of Crocus is cultivated for the production of the spice saffron, made from the dried stigma of the flower. All of this I have learned from the wikipedia entry on Crocuses. Anything more, from the gardeners and cultivated plant fans, would be welcomed in the comments here. I am particularly interested in corrections to the next paragraph, which is educated supposition bordering on bullplop.

I suspect that the pollinators of these flowers did not come over with the bulbs, and that their flowering, while it may cheer the weary winter heart, does nothing to further the plant's reproductive goals. This would be why one does not typically find crocus fruit following the dying of the flower, nor does a North American observer find wild or "volunteer" crocuses grown from seed. Or do they? This photograph shows a crocus growing from between stones, indicating a bizarre or clumsy bulb placement, or perhaps a wandering plant. Many plants, including snowdrop, spread vegetatively in the dirt, so that flowers may emerge some distance from the original bulb planting. The question still bothers me: does crocus participate in the ecosystem in any meaningful way, or is it just a pleasant reminder of spring, placed by conscientious gardeners?