Berry Go Round #23: The Janus Edition

by Jeremy Cherfas on January 5, 2010

The cleverest carnival hosts seem to be able to weave the submissions they receive into a single themed ribbon of discovery. Not me. I knew when I volunteered to host the January edition that it would be a squeeze between returning from the festivities across six time zones and showing up for work bright-eyed and bushy tailed. I did not know I’d have to contend with extra delays en route. But hey, I have to stay up anyway, so here goes nothing.

A seasonal start, with Elizabeth over at The Natural Capitol sharing some of the lore surrounding holly. I didn’t know that Romans celebrated Saturnalia with holly; that’s one to revive.

Dave Ingram at his Natural History Blog has a dreadful punning title about the good things he discovered while cleaning up a lilac that had snapped under the weight of a snowfall. Lichens! Not the easiest things to identify; Dave’s photographs give an insight into the diversity of these strange plants.

John at KindofCurious has also been out and about with his camera, and posts a stunnning feast of flowers from the Christmas Display at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. (I always thought it was in Delaware.) Not very Christmassy — if you were expecting holly, ivy and red poinsettias — but pretty for all that.

The sole species of the sole genus of the family Tetracarpaeaceae is native to Tasmania. No wonder Dave at Tasmanian Plants is excited about the Delicate Laurel Tetracarpaea tasmannica, Tasmania’s iconic orphan.

Now, what’s the oldest living tree specimen in the world? I’d have got that simple question wrong; it isn’t a bristelcone pine, as I used to think, but a specimen of Palmer’s Oak (Quercus palmeri) in Southern California that is 13,000 years old, give or take. Thanks to Greg Laden for the information.

Just when I feared that there would be nothing about agricultural biodiversity, a couple of posts from Laurent at Seeds Aside, the founder of the Berry go Round Carnival. His first is about a wonderful member of the melon family, the kiwano or horned melon, Cucumis metulliferus. He pulls out three interesting factoids about kiwano, and the one that surprised me most (but really shouldn’t have) is that the leaves are extremely rich in micronutrients and could make a valuable contribution to a diverse and nutritious diet.

As for Laurent’s other post — OMGs GMOs — I am going to say absolutely nothing. It hinges on a video about GMOs as a “solution” to climate change. Watch it and join the debate at Seeds Aside or over at YouTube where, astonishingly, the video has attracted not one single comment.

Continuing the its-not-all-lovely-dovey-in-the-world-of-botany notion, Sally at Foothills Fancies documents her one-woman war on a ghastly invasive, Dalmatian Toadflax “(variously Linaria dalmatica, Linaria genistifolia ssp. dalmatica, etc.)” Did she win? Read the post and find out.

As host, I exercise my privilege to draw attention to a few things I’ve noticed. One has to be the 2009 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, an institution if ever there was one. In 2009 Professor Sue Hartley discussed “the epic 300-million-year war between plants and animals, and how that conflict has shaped us and the world we live in”. And if you think that because the lectures are for kids there’s nothing there for you, think again. Then there’s the sumptuous Love Plant Life blog, new to me, and thanks to Anna for asking us to link to it. And Patrick at Bifurcated Carrots has a guide to buying and growing “heirloom/OP seeds” that could be of interest.

If you’re a follower of the Paleo (or palaeo) Diet, you might want to check out what our ancestors in Mozambique were eating 100,000 years ago. (Hint: sorghum.) And with a special hat tip to the Phytophactor, if you come across any further examples of the Inappropriate Use of Agricultural Images or any other pseudo-scientific nonsense, please send it to us.

And finally, if you’re into the whole turn over a new leaf because it’s the new year thing, here are some gardening New Year resolutions, from the PhytoPhactor.

Thanks everyone. Not sure who is hosting next time around.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Laurent January 5, 2010 at 10:51 am

Thanks for this very interesting edition!

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Sally January 5, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Thanks, Jeremy– can’t wait to dive into these. Looks like there will be several new blogs for me to explore, and it all sounds most tempting!

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