Category Archives: Did you know?

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Perhaps if we renamed them

Did you know?

About a year ago a friend of mine was out trying to buy milkweeds for her gardens. That reminded me that I wanted a milkweed, too. I went searching but couldn’t find regular, everyday milkweeds at any of the nurseries. I’m thinking that, perhaps, if we were to rename them, say, butterfly bushes, the nurseries might carry them. Anyways……..

The last nursery I stopped at had an interesting tree near the checkout stand. Looked like this:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

I wandered around the nursery looking for plants that I didn’t have, that I needed, that I wanted. I found a few, but I kept coming back to that tree with the Chinese lanterns hanging on it.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

I had not seen any for sale so I asked about it. The plant lady told me that it was a Gomphocarpus physocarpus, that it was in the milkweed family, and that it always had monarch caterpillars and butterflies on it each year. She said she thought it was about ten years old.

I asked her if she had any for sale. She had “a few in back” so she went to get me one. It was just a little thing on July 17, 2018:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Here is what mine looked like on May 26 when I saw the first monarch butterfly on it:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

It looks like this today, full of Chinese lanterns:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

This thing blooms year-round, and I have seen monarch butterflies on it, lots of caterpillars, but no chrysalises. I’m thinking there might be some predators around who snack on the caterpillars before they can hide in their chrysalises.

Here is a 31-second video of a monarch caterpillar chomping down on it:

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Did You Know?—Perfection creates perfection

Did you know?

It’s hard to believe that my last blog post was March 26. I guess I have some splainin’ to do.

Since I have been extraordinarily bored in my third attempt at retirement (the first two were equally boring), I have been out & about looking for things to do. I found it! A long-time acquaintance, now a 3-time author, hired (uh-oh; there goes retirement) me to do the final editing and design layout of his fourth book, titled “Spiny Succulents.” Right up my alley.

Spiny Succulents, by Jeff Moore

I got his final draft on January 28. At 358 pages and over 1,300 pictures, I’m still working on it. Close to being finished. Just Index, Table of Contents, minor changes, and a final read-through, and that’s it!

After I get back from my trip to northern Utah for the 150th anniversary celebration of the driving of the Golden Spike and the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad, I’ll be writing my own book. Two books, actually (that should keep me busy for a while in retirement!). The first will be Nature’s Geometry: Flora with Nature’s Geometry: Fauna being a natural follow-up.

Both will be picture books mainly, so I will be able to combine my love of nature, photography, and books. I’ll be looking at stars, circles, triangles, symmetry, and spirals.

It was spirals that got me interested in doing the books because then I can add my love of mathematics to this endeavour (I misspelled endeavour for my Canadian friends).

I have been enraptured by spirals in nature ever since I discovered my first spiral succulent back in 1973. It was an Aloe polyphylla:

They grow high up in the mountains in Lesotho in Africa. They like it cold, often being covered in snow for half the year. I grew one in a terrarium from 1978 to 1993 in Texas, adding ice to the terrarium each day to mimic it’s natural environment. I now have another one, a juvenile that is not spiraling yet, also in an “ice terrarium.”

Aloe polyphylla in an ice terrarium

Spirals in nature are quite predictable by using the golden ratio that exists in the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. The Fibonacci sequence begins with 0 and 1. Succeeding numbers are created by adding the two previous numbers. So the sequence would be:

0   1   1   2   3   5   8   13   21   34   55   89   144   233   377   …

Yesterday in my gardens, I found a mammillaria which perfectly illustrates the sequence and shows the spirals very well.

Mammillaria exhibiting Fibonacci influence

See the spirals? Very beautiful.

Since I know a lot about Fibonacci number sequencing, I’m expecting to find a total number of spirals that equals a number in the Fibonacci sequence. Look what I found:

Spiral count on a Mammillaria

There are 13 spirals (red) going counter-clockwise, and 21 spirals (black) going clockwise. Total of 34 spirals. Here is the Fibonacci number sequence again:

0   1   1   2   3   5   8   13   21   34   55   89   144   233   377   …

And there we have it!

13   21   34

As one gets into the higher numbers, problems creep up, most often related to events that interfere with how Mother & Father Nature wish to do things—extreme weather events, pests, diseases, and damage from humans. That’s where standard deviation comes in, but I won’t get into that here.

What all of this tells me about my mammillaria is that Mother & Father Nature are very happy, no extreme weather events have interfered with its growth, no pests have tried to eat it, no diseases have ravaged it, and humans (me!) have not damaged it.

So, basically, I have a perfect plant.

Well, duh.

It’s my plant growing in my gardens.My wise old grandmother

“Perfection creates perfection” my wise old grandmother used to say……………

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Did you know?—Actinic keratoses, skin cancer, and photodynamic light

Did you know?

I have been fighting actinic keratoses and skin cancer on my face and scalp for several years now. Nothing serious, just ugly and itchy.

Last month my new dermatologist recommended a procedure called PDT (Photodynamic Light). Wow. What a procedure. I can highly recommend it, though.

More interestingly for me is that I got 16 opioid pills to alleviate pain. I can’t say that they specifically alleviated any pain but they did let me sleep up to six hours.

I have been a “polyphasic sleeper” all my life, so sleeping up to six hours was quite interesting, especially since I had dreams for the first time in my life. I always died in the dreams, which is when I woke up.

Now that I’m out of opioids, I’m back to sleeping “normally” for me, up to 2½ hours at a time. No dreams.

All of that makes me wonder just what effects opioids have on all those people who are addicted to them.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Did You Know?—California Safe House

Did you know?

Seen in Los Angeles on September 21, 2018.

California fire station safe house

A Safe House is a location, usually a hospital or fire station, where newborn infants can be surrendered within 72 hours of birth with no questions asked.

It’s sad that we need Safe Houses but the alternative is worse.

Safe Houses were created in January 2001 by the Safely Surrendered Baby Law in response to an increasing number of newborn infant deaths due to abandonment in unsafe locations. The law was made permanent in January 2006.

From January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2015, 770 newborns were surrendered in California, with 84 newborns surrendered in 2015 calendar. Unfortunately, 169 infants were abandoned during the same period, five of which occurred in 2015.

Since the law was enacted, abandonments have decreased from 25 in 2002 to 5 or fewer in ever year since 2010, inclusive.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Did You Know?—Bees get thirsty, too!

Did you know?

Part of my landscaping project for our new home was to create a little pond. Not too big because I prefer plants to ponds, but a little pond does create visual interest to go along with the plants. Shortly after creating my little pond on December 16, 2017, it looked like this:

Pond

A couple of days ago, my little pond looked like this:

I’m a big fan of honeybees. However….

I don’t want a beehive in my yard. But I have never seen a beehive on or under the ground, and certainly not where it can get flooded by waters from a pond.

Not wanting to kill the little bees—after all, my wise old grandmother taught me that all life has a right to live—I stopped by a bee removal business and asked them what was going on and what I could do.

Turns out that honeybees get thirsty, too, and the bees here at my little pond have discovered a great water source out here in the dry boondocks. That knowledge, though, didn’t lead me to any conclusions about what to do other than let my little pond dry up. I wasn’t going to do that. So I have decided to create yet another pond, but this one will be out in my Wildlife Corner where, currently, the squirrels and rabbits are fighting it out for supremacy.

It's 4-2, squirrels over rabbits

The block wall already is gone and in about 15 hours I will have a little pond there.

I asked the bee guy about the bees that tend to get into the water and drown. I couldn’t figure out why bees would practice self-drowning. He said that those bees came the farthest and were so excited about finding a water source that they went swimming, forgetting that they didn’t know how to swim. Ooopsy.

More seriously, they didn’t have the energy left to get out of the water if they fell in, and they didn’t have enough energy left to keep their balance and not fall in. With that knowledge, the new pond in Wildlife Corner will have lots of shallow areas, beaches, and rocks where they can rest, or crawl out of the water if they fall in.

Once I have the new pond in Wildlife Corner, I will help the bees find it. The way to do that is to put some fresh fruit—pears and mangos are best—in a little bag, put the bag about 20 feet from the pond, and in a couple of days all the bees will move to the fruit. I have about 60 feet between front pond and Wildlife Corner pond, so it will take me a couple of weeks to get these bees moved to the Wildlife Corner pond. I feel like a little kid in first grade doing his first experiment. Will this work? I don’t know. Everything on the Internet indicates that it will. I’m cautiously optimistic.

So, did you know that bees actually get thirsty, too! I figured they got all their liquid sustenance from flowers, but in thinking about that more logically, that doesn’t make much sense. Hmmmm. Sixty years, 10 months, and 15 days on this Earth, and I’m still learning stuff….

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Did you know?—Ombrohydrochory

Did you know?

This is a little teeny tiny seed pod—about ¼” in diameter—of Glottiphyllum linguiforme taken with my Tamron 90mm Macro lens:

Glottiphyllum linguiforme seed pod

The seed pod releases its seeds via ombrohydrochory, a special form of hydrochory where the seeds are propelled by the action of rain falling on the plant.

Ombrohydrochory occurs primarily in very wet habitats and in very dry habitats and deserts where rain is sporadic but often heavy.

When the seed pod gets wet, it swells, shooting the seeds out like a jet leaving an aircraft carrier.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Did You Know?—Controlling ants, snails, slugs, and gnats

Did you know?

When my wise old grandmother got sick the first time and had to spend some time in the hospital, she thought she was going to die. She was making peace with everyone and asked me if I had anything on my mind. I did. I wanted to know why she never had problems with ants, snails, and slugs in her garden. Her answer was mulch. Very fine mulch. I use Earthgro Decorative  Groundcover Bark:

Earthgro decorative groundcover bark

Note that the description says, “A very fine-textured mulch.” This stuff also comes in larger sizes. Don’t use them for ant/snail/slug prevention purposes. Only the very fine-textured stuff. Ants don’t like crawling around on this stuff and will make a trail around it. I use it to keep ants in the garden and out of my house. Snails and slugs don’t like it because the stuff cuts their little tummies.

A problem that I always have had with my interior plants is a problem that I did not ask my wise old grandmother about. Gnats. She had so many plants inside yet never had a problem with gnats. A couple of days ago I found out why I have such a problem with gnats. Mulch & Sphagnum moss.

I don’t like the appearance of bare soil in my planters inside so I have always put mulch and sphagnum moss on the top of the soil. Wrong thing to do. Gnats love to get between the soil and the mulch or moss and set up little communities. I think the only creature that breeds more than rabbits is the gnat.

I now have experiential evidence that mulch and moss, indeed, were the culprits. My planters that had mulch and moss were full of gnats. The planters that I recently had planted flora in and had only bare soil did not. But bare soil inside still looks bad. Enter decorative pebbles and rocks, what the cactus & succulent society calls “top dressing.” Turns out that the little gnats can’t get between the heavy pebbles and rocks to set up little communities beneath them.

After dealing with hundreds of gnats each day after moving into our new home, on Friday I replaced all the mulch and moss in all my interior planters with decorative pebbles and rocks. Here are a few pictures:

Top dressing

Top dressing

Top dressing

Top dressing

Top dressing

Top dressing

The result? One gnat, and that was about 9:00 Saturday morning. The average lifespan of a gnat is seven days, and the maximum lifespan thirty days. I used insecticidal soap on the top of the soil before apply the top dressing, so between that and the top dressing, I’m not expecting to see any more gnats in our home. Yahoooooooooooooooo!

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post