Words of the Day

Written by charlie   
Sunday, 20 July 2014 02:05
Some new words of the day:

One of my favorite scents is the first minute or two of during a storm, the scent of rain on bare earth.  Apparently it has had a official name all this time.... Petrichor.  Who knew?

Ruderal species, also known as pioneer species, are hardy plants among the first to colonize disturbed areas (recent construction or the sides of a roadway for example), and often stabilize soils.  Depending on the species, they can also outlive their welcome if its an invasive that does not allow the succession of native species.
Additional reading:

Congo bog

Written by charlie   
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 13:50

I’ve written previously about peat and its importance to gardeners, scotch drinkers and its role in climate change (carbon sequestration) but apparently, in this golden age of mapping and remote sensing, the world’s largest peatland has just been discovered in the Congo!

I've always considered bogs and fens (Both are considered Mires, but a major difference is water chemistry;  Bog waters are acidic, and fens are neutral to alkaline) as the more mysterious types of wetlands, evoking images of Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles in the Scottish countryside.

Like myself, many people are more familiar with northern peat bogs, which are almost entirely populated by spagnatum moss. The Congo bog is different, consisting of a broad range of partially decomposed plant matter, detritus provided by the tropical rain forest.  Due to the constant waterlogged conditions, decomposition happens very slowly, if at all, over the course of centuries and the peat layer slowly deepens, an estimated 5mm per year.

The massive bog wascreated during the last ice age, approximately 10,000 years old and is estimated to be between 40,000 and 80,000 square miles (102,000 sq km to 2024,000 sq km) in size and as deep as 23 feet. For comparison purposes, the state of Pennsylvania comes in at 46,055 sq miles (119,283 sq km). Since there are literally billions of tons of peat, the worlds largest carbon sink may have just been discovered

Prior to this discovery, the worlds largest bog was located in West Siberia, Russia, and covers more than a million square kilometers. Due to climate change and the permafrost melting, forzen bogs found in the tundra have been thawing out and increasingly releasing carbon (CO2) into the atmosphere.

The importance of conserving bogs can hardly be overstated. Consider this quick fact; peatlands cover less than 3% of the Earth's surface, but are believed to contain twice as much carbon as the world's forests.

Additional Reading and Sources






Some articles about Peat Bogs





Written by charlie   
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 18:57

Common name: Common Spicebush
Scientific name: Lindera benzoin

Out of season, a Spicebush plant can easily be overlooked, but it’s a good illustration of the variability and importance of plants in a wetland.  The Spicebush is an aromatic, understory shrub which typically grows between 5-10 feet and found in wooded bottomlands, low swamps, and along streams. Like most shrubs, Spicebush has many trunks, and is colonial, or spreads asexually via its roots.  Alternatively, the spice bush can also reproduce sexually, as there are both male and female plants (dioecious), something of an oddity in the botanical world.  (It is estimated that only 4% -7% of plants are dioecious.)

The shrubs name derives from the spicy/lemony fragrance of the stems, leaves, and fruits when bruised.  It has some limited food value as a flavoring or adding scent, but it had been used as an indicator species by early settlers to locate fertile soil.

Beyond its scent, the shrubs other identifying feature are its fruits, or drupes.  The drupes are shiny red berries which are eaten by many birds, particularly thrushes, and wildlife. The drupes mature between  August and October, and only appear on the female plant if it has been fertilized.

The leaves are dark green, alternate, pointy-tipped, oval-shaped stalked leaves smooth edges that range between 2 and 6 inches long.  The Spicebush is one of the first bushes to bloom in March or April, and produces  small, pale yellow flowers.  During the fall, the leaves turn yellow.

The Spicebush is also a host plant to butterflies in the swallowtail family, especially the Spicebush Swallowtail and the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail who lay eggs on the underside of the leaves.  When a caterpillar emerges from an egg, it wraps the leaf around itself like a jacket, safely spending most of the day in its leaf shelter, leaving only at night to eat.

The Spicebush It is found throughout east Texas, Oklahoma and eastward through all of the Atlantic states and as far north as Maine and southern Canada.

Spicebush with yellow fall foliageSpicebush Berries

Additional reading and sources:




USDA Plants Database. Plant Guide “Spicebush: Lindera benzoin (L.) Blume.” http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_libe3.pdf




Photos copyright  USDA, NRCS. 2014. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 28 May 2014). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.


Last Updated on Thursday, 29 May 2014 00:59

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