Cheap like borscht

“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this beet juice clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.”

Apologies to Shakespeare, but I love that second sentence.

Cooking borscht
Cooking borscht

It was rather a multicultural borscht because I didn’t have cabbage, so I used bok choi instead.

 

Fall colours

We didn’t have much of a summer, so we’re not happy that fall is coming.

Most of our sugar maples are still green, though branch-by-branch they are showing some signs of turning.  This one was in a hurry, though.  Two days ago, I went to get the paper from the end of the driveway and when I turned around, this maple was catching the sun.  I hadn’t noticed its colours before as we have had almost two weeks of dull days (so we never got to see the Northern Lights peak), but this time there was no mistaking it.

Sugar maple
Sugar maple

On a smaller scale is the sunset maple.  I planted this as a seedling about 15 years ago.  They have red leaves at the end of the stems right from spring, because they are red when they open for a few weeks, but then they get their fall colours starting from the ends as well, hence the name.

Sunset maple
Sunset maple

I’ve learned the hard way that I haven’t figured out how to get my new point-and-shoot camera to focus properly.  There are settings to get different focus points but it’s not as simple as my “complicated” camera, where if need be I can just turn off auto-focus, or turn a dial to switch between focus points. But I haven’t had sun on these fringed gentians since, so we’ll have to settle for these slightly blurry pictures because the gentians only open in full sun.

Fringed Gentians
Fringed Gentians

Fall Garden pictures – Wild Grapes

Wild grapes, some interesting features of composite flowers, and other miscellaneous garden flower pictures from this week.

I already put the last two on Facebook, but included here for those who don’t use those media.

We have wild grapes in fruit in the garden.  Like strawberries, these are a fruit where the wild ones, albeit much smaller than the domesticated, are even sweeter. Each fruit is about 7 mm diameter.

Wild grapes
Wild grapes

Now for a botany lesson – for those of you already familiar with it, you can just learn from my photography mistakes.

Flowers are, of course, the plants’ way of attracting pollinators, and they need to compete for attention with their neighbours. Some of them go for size:

Sunflowers
Sunflowers
Sunflower
Sunflower

In fact, the sunflower, like others of its family, are actually composite flowers, made up of many smaller flowers. When I was first learning botany, the family was called Compositae but now they have been renamed to Asteraceae after one branch of the family. In fact, the composites are possibly the largest family of flowering plants, rivalled by the orchids; it is hard to tell which family is bigger. Wikipedia can tell you more.

Look at this closeup.  On the far left are the bases of the large “petals” of the flower. Each one is a small flower of its own, called a ray floret.  The middle set are a different shape of floret, disk florets. It’s easiest to see from the ones on the left edge, where you can see a little crown of five petals.  Each of these flowers will form a sunflower seed.  By the way, can you see the little insect near the edge in the centre, almost perfectly camouflaged?

Sunflower close up
Sunflower close up

The sunflower and, to a lesser extent, the other daisy-like flowers have a single large disk of ray florets surrounded by the ray florets that make the composite flower look bigger. (Dandelions and others only have ray florets).

Other composites go one level further, they assemble a mass of composite flowers into a cluster.  An example is this Heath Aster.

Heath Aster
Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides)

Packing even more, even smaller composite heads into a cluster is the goldenrod.

Goldenrod close up
Goldenrod close up

By looking even closer, it is easier to see that they are indeed composite. The one on the right hasn’t yet opened its disk florets so you can more easily see the rays with their own pollen-bearing stamens. The one on the left has opened some ray florets which almost hide the rays.

Goldenrod closer up
Goldenrod closer up

Of course, from flowers come seeds.  The next picture is a set of seeds from a true geranium. I like the neat way the seed pod opens up from the bottom, still carrying the seed.  Somehow, one has come loose but is still hanging on to its neighbour.  I shot this one into the sun so as to catch the light refracting from the hairs.

Geranium seed
Geranium seed

Finally, just because they are almost over, a picture of some garden phlox.  I wish the camera could capture the scent.

Phlox
Phlox

Although there are some red leaves on the small maple on the right, it is not a sugar maple but a sunset maple, so they are not dying leaves but the new ones that the sunset maple keeps opening most of the year. They open red, turn green and do turn back reddish as they die in the fall, but not as deeply coloured as the sugar maples.  (Unfortunately, a few of those are starting to turn).

 

Ladies’ Tresses Orchids

Apparently these are getting scarce in Ontario, but there are several growing only 50 m(etres) from my front door.
The first one was from several weeks ago so it may a different species of Ladies’ Tresses but there are several species growing in Ontario and many are difficult to tell apart without DNA analysis. The cost of DNA sequencing is dropping so quickly, I’m looking forward to the day when I have a pocket PCR analyzer attached to my phone and can identify a species without all that picky peering through field guides.

Ladies' Tresses 1
Ladies’ Tresses 1

The next two are definitely the same species because they’re the same plant, but there are about a dozen growing within a few metres.  They don’t look as delicate as the first one.

Ladies' Tresses 2
Ladies’ Tresses 2
Ladies' Tresses 3
Ladies’ Tresses 3