A journey into the eyes and mind of a naturalist.

Cabin Fever

Photography is fun to do year round.  That said, winter certainly has its challenges.  The lush greens and browns of summer are reduced to a sea of white that makes for fun with white balance.  White is pure and beautiful, but is really hard to take pictures of!  Here in Minnesota the winters can be especially long and summer seems like a forgotten memory.  We Minnesotans keep house plants that give us the memory of what green really looks like.  I seem to have an every increasing and eclectic collection of various plants throughout my house.  When the weather get too cold for my camera to venture outside I turn inside and remember what the green of summer looks like.  Here is what I found last Saturday morning.

In summer this is my pot of Hens and Chicks, a popular perennial, on my front step.  In winter it turns into a spikey pit that resembles the Sarlac pit from Return of the Jedi.

While the Hens and Chick ride out winter some of my indoor plants  are carrying on business as usual.

One of my favorite types of plant are the air plants.  I have 13 different species of air plant split between my kitchen and bathroom.  They are epiphytes, meaning they don’t have their own established root system.  Instead these unique plants live high in trees and absorb their water and nutrients through the air.  Because they can only get their nutrients through this unique method they have to have a fairly humid environment to live.  I have one group hanging right about my kitchen sink and another in my bathroom.

Air plants steal the moisture from the air through unique structures on the surface of their leaves called trichomes.  These structures are what give the leaves a ‘fuzzy’ look to them.  Trichomes are little hairs that serve as a condensation point for any moisture in the air.  Once it is condensed the water is channeled to more important parts of the plant.

When the conditions are just right air plants will flower.  Their flowers are accompanied with their leaves turning a reddish hue.  I can only assume this change in color is to attract pollinators in their natural habitat.  Although they produce flowers, the most common means of reproduction is called pupping where the plant actually clones itself and sprouts off another shoot from a common base.  The result is a starburst of air plants all radiating from a common point.

Another plant I have is the locally famous Avocado tree we have growing in our dining room.  This is the plant that my wife planted from a seed while we were still dating.  She cared for the plant and got it established and then stopped.  I would nurse the poor little tree back to health each time I visited.  At one point it had a single droopy leaf and nothing else, the tropical equivalent of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree.   After we got married and moved in with each other I nursed the poor little avocado back to its full potential.  Today it is thick and bushy, full of leaves and growing strong.

The last plant is one that is probably the oldest plant in my house.  The Avocados is about 4 years old, I have air plants that are at least 10 years old, I have a cactus that is in the 40-50 ballpark but I have Shamrocks that have got to be nearly a century old.

The Shamrocks that I have I inherited from my Uncle Bill when he passed away.  My Uncle Bill had found two pots with nothing but dirt in my Great Grandma’s house after she passed away.  Bill took them home thinking he could use the pots.  He put them outside until he found a use for them.  After a heavy rain Bill noticed sprouts coming out of each of the pots.  Curious he let them grow, and to his amazement, shamrocks began sprouting in mass!

Now I’m very Irish so I have a bit of a superstitious side to me, these shamrocks could have very well been passed down from some of my ancestors from Ireland.  I really have no way of telling but it is fun to think about.  I keep my Shamrocks happy and they bloom year round.

Never underestimate the tenacity of a plant.  They can push their roots through solid concrete and can bring the strongest building to the ground in a strangle hold of vines.  Besides we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the oxygen and sugars they provide!!


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