This is a blog about the pursuits of Naturalist Alan Russo to incorporate all things Natural, especially Plants, into his daily life. Living close to Nature has always been a passion of mine and I try, with natures help, to live a Healthy lifestyle for myself and for the Earth.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Speedwells are one of those flowers I have always admired. It is one of the plants I mentioned in a previous post about looking more closely at the smaller things in nature.
 Just the other day it got a little warmer and I did some walking around my property. On the southeast side of the house it was pretty warm and the speedwells were starting to bloom! These photos don't do them justice as they are incredibly beautiful when seen through a loupe or magnifying glass. As much as I have always admired them and use them on my walks to point out the subtle beauty of Nature, and as interested I am in the edible and medicinal qualities of wild plants, it never occurred to me to check if they were edible or medicinal! I don't know why, maybe I was just satisfied with their beauty. Anyway, I decided to look them up in several books. Turns out they are both edible and used as medicine especially in Europe where they originated from. So of course I had to go out and pick some! Turns out they were pretty good, not eat a ton of them good, but put some in a salad good. I have read they make a pretty good tea and will try it in the early spring as they get more prolific.
 There are many types of speedwells and one of the problems in in identifying them is they tend to cross pollinate and hybridize so you may see a flower that looks like a speedwell but not find it in any ID book.They all have one thing in common, the flowers have three wider petals on top and one narrower petal facing down. The flowers above are from the common speedwell and are only about 1/4in in diameter.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Forcing Spring (sort of)

 I can't wait for Spring! Spring is my favorite time if year.
Usually about this time of year I start getting cabin fever, I don't like the cold, and the ground has been to wet to work in the garden, so I do alot of stuff indoors. I long for color, so one of the things I like to do to get some Spring color in my life is to force some Forsythia branches to bloom indoors. It is really easy to do. All you have to do is cut some branches and stick them in water! The air in the house is warm enough to fool the Forsythia into thinking it's time to bloom. The best part is that it happens very fast, they start to bloom in about a week. So if you are like me, and can't wait for Spring, grab some branches from your Forsythia and bring some spring color into your life.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's the little things.

Henbit Flowers

 There are many things in nature that can teach us powerful lessons. 
 We here in the US, and probably most of the developed world, live at a pace that is much too fast for our own good and the good of the environment that supports us. How often do you take time to "smell the Roses". Probably not nearly as often as you should.
 Case in point, a little plant called Henbit. This is a plant that usually only gets noticed when it infiltrates your lawn or your garden. Most consider it a noxious weed, than proceed to pull it or poison it to death to remove it from their land without a second thought. Yet this little plant has a powerful lesson to teach, and that lesson is to take time to look more closely at the things we normally just walk over and trample under foot, you may be surprised what you find!
 When ever I do a plant walk I always take a 10x loupe with me to show people another perspective on the common nature that surrounds us.. Henbit is one of the plants I love to find on my walks. From the human standpoint (literally) the plant looks like a jumbled carpet of course and uninviting green stuff that is usually stepped on and ignored on your way to wherever you are headed. But if you take a closer look  you notice the unimpressive pink/purple things hanging off the end of the stalks. If you pick one and look at it more closely you see it is a tubular shaped flower, but still to small to be greatly appreciated. The magic happens when you put the loupe up to your eye and bring the flower into focus. The super intricate and beautifully colored flowers are beyond beautiful, they can easily be compared to some of the worlds most beautiful and expensive orchids. If you happen to have a dissecting microscope the intricacy and the beauty multiply 100 fold! You will quickly forget you are looking at a common "weed". You will never be the same!
 I have seen beautiful things happen by handing and teaching someone to use a loupe. I have seen people get watery eyes looking at the beauty of the small things in nature. Many people don't want to pass the loupe to the next person because they can't believe the beauty they are beholding. Mostly people just stand in disbelief and say WOW thats incredible! These people will never look at things the same way, they have learned a powerful lesson.
  Other plants with the same WOW factor are Chickweed, Purple Dead Nettle, and the Speedwells. There are many more of course, but these are sure to be in abundance as the weather gets warmer. Till than you will have to settle for the lowly weed Henbit.