Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Aberrant Gray Hairstreak

A friend sent me this pic, asking for ID. I couldn't figure it out, so I asked the experts. They said Gray Hairstreak. Normally, this butterfly has orange spots on the hindwings, but not the forewings. So this one looks different than most. I wonder what happens......?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Usually, when passion is mentioned, we think of sexual passion. But in the fifteenth century, people were more likely to be referring to religious passion. And that is what the missionaries who arrived in South America saw when they looked at the parts of this flower. Wikipedia explains it clearly: 

Symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:
Blue passion flower (P. caerulea) showing most elements of the Christian symbolism
This plant isn't sacred in a strict sense, but the religious history is interesting. 

This plant is common in the Berkeley area. Generally people grow it because it is easy and has beautiful flowers. It also attracts butterflies. As I have mentioned before, Gulf Fritillaries lay their eggs on it. My plant (the photo at the top) is "Sally's Rescue," officially known as "Berkeley." The Wikipedia photo is P. caerulea, one of the most common. Both are favored by butterflies. They also have a fabulous tunnel of nectar hidden below the filaments, which bees love. 

Highly recommended for a chain link fence. But it grow ferociously. Be ready with the pruners. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sacred Rose

The rose was associated with Venus and Aphrodite, the Goddesses of Love in ancient  Greece and Rome. In addition to love, the rose symbolized beauty and springtime.
Remember Venus on the Half Shell? Those flowers floating around the Goddess are roses. 

For a long time, Christians rejected rose symbolism because of their association with Greek and Roman myth. Then finally, in the middle ages, things changed, and the white rose became a symbol of Mary and her virginity. At that same time, the rosary became an important tool for prayer. And where does the word "rosary" come from? From "rose" of course! Perhaps the first rosary was actually a crown or roses or a garland of roses. 

In Islam, the rose, which usually flowers on a bush full of thorns, is a symbol of the soul, which may flourish in spite of misery of earthly life. 

And don't forget the Rosicrucians. Since the name means "Rosy Cross" the the rose must be a sacred symbol to them. 

I'm sure the rose symbolizes many other things, both sacred and profane, but that is enough for now.  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Aristolochia Seeds Again

I detailed my propagation method of Aristolochia californica in April. Here are pics. First, the seed pod starting to break open.
Then the seed pod fully opened.
And then the seeds.  Most seeds are hard and dry and enclosed. These are soft and wet and open. I wonder if they will sprout if I let them dry out...

Thursday, May 12, 2016


We think of tobacco as a horrible habit. But at one time it was a sacred plant. Almost all tribes in North America and most tribes in South America used it. It was smoked during rituals, ceremonies and during social events.  It was used to connect the worlds because the it has long deep roots underground, a green plant on the surface of the earth, fire that represented the sun, and smoke that rises skyward. It was put in a fire in a sweat lodge to thank the creator.  It can be smoked during prayer to take messages to the creator and to those who have died. It was also used medicinally for stomach aches and fever.

In bloom now in the crop garden at the UC Botanical Garden.

Crown of Thorns

Remember the crown of thorns placed on the head of Jesus? It was probably made of this plant. It was common in the area and flexible enough to bend into a headpiece. I guess it is not a sacred plant, but a plant with religious significance.

It is in fruit now at the UC Botanical Garden. This plant is on the path above the Rose Garden. It grows in a big mound, and seems to invite people to pat it to find out exactly how spiny it is. Prickly Burnet: a good common name.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pipevine Seed Pods

People have been asking me what the fruits of Aristolochia californica look like, so here they are. They are ridged and about 2-3" at maturity. I am more excited that ever that my vine is fruiting because I have learned how to propagate the seeds. It's easy! But you do have to do a little work. The main problem is that the wasps like to eat the seeds. They clean out everyone if you let them. So, when the pods get to be full size, protect them with a bag. I tied some netting around them last year.
Then, when they break open, collect the seeds. Most seeds are collected when hard and dry. These are wet and weird when ready. They don't seem to have a full shell. It is like a tiny boat in a half-shell. And wet! And gooey! So weird!
Then plant immediately. I started mine in a four-inch pot filled 3/4 full with normal potting soil. Then I added a bit of seed mix at the top. I Spread the wet seed on the surface of the seed mix. Next, I sifted  some seed mix over the top to cover. Then I used a spoon to press the seeds into the soil. I watered once/day for 5 months. Yes! Five months! The directions I read said three months, but I saw nothing at the three month mark. I decided to wait a little longer, and wow! Success! Almost every seed sprouted!

The short version: Protect the fruit from wasps. Be patient! It takes five months for the seeds to sprout!

And let me know if your seeds spout. I'd like to know if my method works for others. Thanks!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar in January

At the UC Bot Garden on Aristolochia Baetica. I guess if the pipevine is evergreen, the butterflies take advantage of it.