Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday morning buffalo picture

I know, I know, you were expecting Sheba. This is sort of (barely) Sheba-relevant, though.

I really enjoy riding around on side roads and gravel roads. I like the lack of traffic, and having the option to jump out of the car and take a bunch of pictures of a weed on the side of the road when the spirit moves me, but also it's just more interesting. There are more things to look at, you're a lot closer to them than you are on the highway, and you have more time to check them out because you're not going by them as quickly.

We haven't done much of this lately, because when we bought the house, we lost our main excuse for doing it. Also there are only so many roads in the area, and we'd already been on most of them, so there weren't many left over, and part of the fun is getting to see new things.

But a few weeks ago,1 the husband and I got another chance to do some back-road wandering. We'd both cleared our schedules for the day, because we had a thing to do about an hour south of home and didn't know how long it was going to take. Also the weather was nice,2 so after we were done, we took the opportunity to try to locate some new roads on the trip back.

And we did! Found about 30 miles of brand-new (to us) gravel, which was pretty exciting on its own, but then at one point, we wound up on . . . well, not quite a ridge, but it was a lot higher than any of the surrounding area. Maybe an unusually large hill? In any case, it was neat, and I was taking some photos of the view . . .

This photo benefits a great deal from being viewed full-size.
Also: remember this the next time someone describes Iowa as flat and boring. Admittedly some of it is, but it's a lot more varied than people know.

. . . when the husband rolled the car forward a little and suddenly there was a BUFFALO.

Several buffalo, actually, but only one of them was in a good position for photos.

This wasn't the first buffalo we've seen in Iowa or anything; we'd also run into some somewhere north of Cedar Rapids, about five years ago. But they're uncommon. At one point during the 80s, I remember being told that buffalo were the meat of the future, that they were so much lower in cholesterol than beef, and tasted great, and so on and so forth. Twenty-five years later, it's pretty clear that reality isn't going to catch up with the hype (ditto for ostriches, which were promoted the same way, at around the same time, and which we've only encountered once in our travels, also north of Cedar Rapids), but apparently some people are still raising them anyway.

So this was neat. Plus we could just sit there and watch it for a while.

Sheba took a while to notice the buffalo (she is sometimes a little slow to pick up), but once she did, she freaked the hell out. Growling and barking and whatnot, which initially seemed silly, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that no, that's reasonable: they're huge, we have no reason to think that Sheba's ever seen one before, and they do have some menace to them. I mean, it wasn't being aggressive or anything, but just the horns, the face and, well, the size.

The buffalo did not appear to feel threatened in any way by Sheba, but it did, as you see above, look up from what it was doing so see what all the commotion was. The husband and I felt bad about disturbing it, so we left shortly after Sheba started going bonkers. Still pretty cool, though. I realized while writing this post that I kind of . . . forget, sometimes, that buffalo didn't actually go extinct.


1 (Same trip as this and this.)
2 I am pleased with this summer's weather so far; I don't know if we've been consistently cooler than the historical average this year, but we've been consistently cooler than the last few years, at least.
Last summer at about this time, you'll remember, I was pretty miserable. This year . . . well, the official high temperatures for Iowa City on 23 and 24 July were 79F/26C and 77F/25C, and the forecast as I write this is for a solid week of temperatures at or below 82F/28C. Our forecast high for today, Saturday, is 70F/21C. In Iowa. In late July and early August. Even taking into account that the NWS always predicts a few degrees cooler than reality winds up being, to even be thinking about temperatures below 95F/35C at this time of year is incredible.
EDITED TO ADD: The NWS is now predicting a low temperature of **49F/9C** for us tonight. 49. In July. What.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Random nonplant event: stinkhorn

Fungi aren't plants, and aren't even particularly related to plants,1 but people tend to think of them as plants, and this fits the scope of the blog insofar as it's something that grew in the yard, so I'm making an exception.

A few weeks ago (3 Jul), I encountered this in the yard.

I recognized it as a stinkhorn, a type of fungus, and eliminated a few species from the possibilities, but I couldn't narrow it down much better than that. My best guess is Phallus rubicundus, on the grounds that Mutinus species lack a clearly defined "head," and this definitely has a clearly defined head. P. rubicundus also seems to be relatively common in this part of the country, even though it's not native to the area -- the short version of the story is that it was probably introduced here via mulch; interested readers can find the long version here. I'm pretty sure that there was some mulch spread on this part of the lawn at some point since we moved in, though I can't remember why. So the odds would seem to favor P. rubicundus.

It's not clear where P. rubicundus is actually native; apparently it's been found on every continent but Antarctica. The first specimens discovered in North America were in South Carolina and Texas; it generally favors tropical and semitropical areas, but apparently frost isn't a dealbreaker: it's been introduced and established in the U.S. as far north as Wisconsin.

The brownish slime on the head contains the spores. It's supposed to smell bad and attract flies, though I didn't notice a smell when I took the picture. (Also it's supposed to be green, not brown; it's possible that this one wasn't fully mature.) New fungi are started when the flies carry spores away on their feet.

As to where the spores come from, well, fungi have a very different understanding of sex and gender than we do; I don't even want to try to explain. Try this: A Fungus Walks Into a Singles Bar.

Both 1) things that smell bad to attract pollinating flies and 2) fungus are going to appear on the blog again a few times in the next couple weeks; I know this because I have so many things to blog about all of a sudden that I've managed to schedule the blog for near-daily posts through 19 August.2 Haven't done that in a while. (It's possible I still won't. But that's the plan.)


1 (Fungi actually have more genes in common with animals than with plants.)
2 (Two days off in the next 24 days.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New plant: Mangave 'Macho Mocha'

I've been wanting a Mangave for a looooong time. Basically since I found out they existed, in fact. (If memory serves, that was via Digging, though it's been so long ago that I can't be certain.) And now, thanks to a reader, I finally have one. Or, rather, two: one big one, one small one.

The bigger plant. The pot diameter is ~5" / 13 cm.

Both traveled fine, and I potted them both up with minimal leaf drop. The small plant didn't drop any leaves, but it's not growing new ones yet; the large plant lost a leaf or two, but is producing new ones already. Neither one had spots when shipped, because they'd been growing in shade and then spent a few days wrapped in newspaper in a dark cardboard box, but they both colored up once I put them outside in the sun.

The smaller one, when first potted up: they were both this color when they arrived. Pot diameter: 3" / 8 cm.

That said, I don't think this is the ultimate full-sun coloration either. Depending on their particular spot, the plants north of the garage either get morning and afternoon sun, or afternoon-only sun. The Mangaves are in the first group, but there are still a few hours in the middle of the day when the garage is shading them and preventing them from reaching their full color potential, or something like that.

Close-up of the big plant, to show the spots off better.

Regardless of the color (and honestly, whatever color they wind up is going to be fine with me), it looks like a pretty robust plant. I'm a little concerned about the potential size ( says they get to be 36-48 inches / 92-123 cm across), but if I let potential size worry me, my entire collection would constitute, like, three plants.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pretty picture: Phalaenopsis NOID

The tag was inaccessible (all I could see was the word "Sweet'), so we don't have an ID for this one.

It's nice? I guess? I have a tough time finding any strong feelings about any Phalaenopsisesises, because they're so ubiquitous, though I plan to make an exception whenever my personal phal finally blooms. Everything's going okay so far.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Very Large Numbers

If Google's count can be trusted -- and why wouldn't it be; it's Google -- this is PATSP's 2000th post. It is not at all clear to me how I should be feeling about this, but I think we can all agree that it's a pretty big number, blogularly speaking. Consequently, there should be some Gazania photos ('New Day' mix, if you're keeping track), as Gazania is the Official Celebratory Flower of PATSP.

We also passed the one million word mark last November. Is there really that much to be said about plants? Probably not really, but, you know, I repeat myself sometimes.

Of course, we also got the three-millionth page view at the end of last March, too, so I guess people don't mind a little redundancy.

What's in the future for PATSP? I don't exactly know. For a lot of different reasons, I'm less interested in plants than I used to be. This has more or less killed the plans for the book. I feel bad about that -- I wanted to read it just as much as some of you did -- but I just can't force myself to work on that now. I did try. This may (MAAAAAAY) mean that the plant profiles are coming back in the next six to twelve months.

Having said that, the blog itself will probably endure. I am uncomfortable with having this much information about myself in Google's hands, and have been for some time, but that particular toothpaste has been out of the tube for years; nothing much to be done about it now. I do still have plenty of ideas for posts, including a solid half-dozen ideas right this minute, so my personal expectation is that Google will give up on hosting PATSP for free before I give up on writing it.

I'll still be surprised if we reach post #4000, but my surprise is not a reliable predictor of things. So we'll see what happens. 2000 posts is still an accomplishment, so let's have one more Gazania: