- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Scenario: A female praying mantis, a Stagmomantis limbata, is perched on a daphne.
Pho-tog: "Good morning, Ms. Mantis! How are you today? Hope you're not thinking about catching a bee for breakfast!"
Ms. Mantis: "Oh, no! I would never think of catching a bee! I'm...ahem...allergic to bees. Yes, that's it. I'm ALLERGIC to bees. I'm just...ahem...doing my morning exercises. Gotta stay in shape."
Pho-tog: "Bend and stretch, right? Bend and stretch? No honey bees on the menu?
Ms. Mantis: "Oh, yes, bend and stretch. My morning exercises! No bees on the menu!" (Then she spots a bee below)
Pho-tog: "Hey, wait, why are dropping down in the daphne?"
Ms. Mantis: "Gotta go do my floor exercises now! Yes, that's it. My floor exercises."
By Julie Pramuk, UC Master Gardener of Napa County
At this time of year, you can spot sunflowers growing in many gardens and along roadsides in Napa Valley. Sunflower stems can grow nine feet tall, producing large. stunning flowers.
These cheerful plants have been cultivated in North America for centuries, used for food, medicine, dyes and oil. By 1500, the Spanish conquistadors had exported them to the rest of the world.
Last February, when I was planting sunflower seeds in my small cold frame, my granddaughter asked if she could have some of the seeds to plant. I was delighted and told her that it would be best to start the seeds in a bright inside spot so she could see them germinate, then plant them in her sunny back yard and keep them watered.
We both transplanted our seedlings in April. Mine, although healthy, were much slower growing. I noticed that the summer sun doesn't reach my garden until about 10 a.m. I also observed that, as my sunflowers grew, the heads all faced east as if waiting for the sun to come over the hill behind our garden. Then, as the sun progressed across the sky, the sunflower heads followed the path of the sun. As I watched my sunflowers each day, I wondered why and how this flower followed the sun.
Its Latin name, Helianthus, is rooted in two Greek words: helios, meaning sun, and anthos, meaning flower. In Italian, the word for sunflower is girasole, meaning to go around the sun.
In Greek mythology, the sunflower's origin is rooted in a love story. Apollo, also known as Helios, the sun god, was admired and loved by many, including a beautiful water nymph named Clytie. Every day she would follow his path across the sky from east to west.
Sadly, Apollo never returned her affection for he was in love with Daphne, daughter of a water god. Unfortunately for Apollo, Daphne did not love him. Clytie never gave up in her love for Apollo. So she became a sunflower following the path of the sun from the moment it rises in the east until it sets in the west.
Although this is a charming story of unrequited love, there is a reason why the sunflower turns its head toward the sun. Scientists say these young plants exhibit a trait known as heliotropism, or tracking the path of the sun. The phenomenon can be explained by circadian rhythms, the behavioral changes tied to an internal clock that we humans share, which follows a roughly 24-hour cycle.
The sunflower faces east at dawn and greets the sun, then slowly turns west as the sun moves across the sky. During the night the flower slowly turns back east to repeat the cycle.
Stacey Harmer, a professor of plant biology at UC Davis, told Science magazine that this behavior was a prime example of a plant's clock modulating its growth in a way that benefits the plant.
Researchers have found that the plant's turning is a result of different sides of the stem elongating at different times of the day. Growth rates on the east side of the plant are high during the day and low at night, whereas growth rates on the west side are low during the day and higher at night. Once a sunflower is mature, the circadian clock ensures that the plant reacts more strongly to early morning light than the afternoon or evening light as it gradually stops moving westward.
Research also reveals that east-facing flowers attract five times as many pollinators because the flowers heat up faster. Bees like warm flowers. Just like people, plants rely on daily rhythms to function.
Because of the sunflower's ability to attract pollinators, the sunflower was chosen for an experiment to see how the earth's pollinators are doing. The Great Sunflower Project is a fun, interactive family project that you can access online. Join other citizen scientists in helping scientists to evaluate and improve the habitat for pollinators. When you learn that one-third of our food depends on pollinators, you realize how important they are.
The sunflower is remarkable for its history, variety of flower heads, easy cultivation and vigorous bloom from early summer through fall as well as for its important role in attracting pollinators. Like Clytie, you may find yourself falling in unconditional love with this spectacular plant.
Food Growing Forum: Join Napa County Master Gardeners on Sunday, September 27, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., for a free Zoom forum on “Harvesting and Storing Produce.” This forum on food growing will continue monthly on the last Sunday of every month. To receive the Zoom link for the September 27 forum, register at http://ucanr.edu/FoodGrowingForum2020.
The UC Master Gardeners of Napa County are volunteers who provide University of California research-based information on home gardening. To find out more about home gardening or upcoming programs, visit the Master Gardener website (napamg.ucanr.edu). Our office is temporarily closed but we are answering questions remotely and by email. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a phone message at 707-253-4143 and a Master Gardener will respond shortly.
The language of flowers . . . UC Master Gardeners Janice Encinger and Iris Craig have been doing their research! They prepared this for our Valentine's Day newspaper column in the Napa Valley Register, and here it is again, with pictures.
Valentine's Day will soon be here. What do we give our favorite valentine? In American culture, the gifts of choice are often candy (chocolate preferred), cards and flowers. For flowers, of course, a bouquet of red roses symbolizes love.
Since antiquity, flowers have been part of major life events such as births, graduations, weddings, illnesses and death. Throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East, flowers are used to communicate. The earliest evidence of floral symbolism is in excavated graves near Mt. Carmel in present-day Israel. These fossilized impressions from 12,000 BC show people lying on, and covered with, leaves—possibly healing herbs— and flower petals.
Aztecs carried small floral bouquets to signify high rank. Victorians relied on nosegays, also called tussie-mussies, which were small aromatic bouquets wrapped in a doily, tied with ribbon and worn on the wrist. They served to mask body aromas and unpleasant street smells.
The Aztecs used flowers to represent opposing sides in their ritual flower wars. In ancient Persia, people conveyed feelings of love and antipathy with flowers.
Hanakatoba is the ancient Japanese art of assigning meaning to flowers. Romans linked their gods to plants and flowers. When Apollo pursued Daphne, her father saves her by turning her into a laurel tree. Apollo in his grief declares, “With your leaves, my victors shall wreath their brows.” Daphne is the symbol for immortality, while the laurel symbolizes victory.
In medieval and Renaissance paintings and sculpture, plants tell hidden stories. The flowers in a painting may reveal the sentiments of the artist. A white lily in a painting of the Annunciation represents virginity; the golden anthers (the part of a stamen that contains the pollen) tell of the Virgin Mary's radiant soul.
During the 19th century, the study of botany increased. Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species and Fertilisation of Orchids. The sexual structure and insect pollinators of orchids were his interest.
During the Victorian era, plant explorers gathered specimens from around the world and brought them to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, for study. The demand for new species sent plant hunters to little-known countries. Improved glasshouses helped protect the new species. The Victorian garden design, an extension of the house, was formal, with separate “rooms” for growing kitchen vegetables, brightly colored bedding plants, fruit trees and hedges. The inclusion of fishponds and tiger lilies reflected the influence of Chinese design on the garden.
In those days, with communication between men and women constrained by cultural mores, flowers were sent to describe one's feelings. Women wore flowers in their hair and around their waist and carried tussie-mussies close to their heart if they loved the sender.
In the early 20th century, several dictionaries were published to explain the meaning of flowers. Some of these works were small enough to fit in the palm of a young lady's hand. Receiving yellow roses, a symbol of friendship, would have been a crushing blow to someone expecting red roses. Every bouquet had its intended message. To the recipient, pansies might indicate that the sender was thinking of her. A bouquet of heliotrope conveyed devotion, whereas deep red roses denoted utmost love.
To create your own tussie-mussie, select flowers that express your sentiments. Remove leaves from stems, except for needed leaves. Keep flowers in water while you work. Place one larger flower in the center for the tussie-mussie “heart.” Add flowers and herbs to send individual messages. Place larger leaves around the outside to form a base.
To add a doily, cut a hole large enough to accommodate the bouquet. Secure stems with floral tape. Carefully place all the stems through the doily. Tie a beautiful ribbon at the base. Make sure to add a card clarifying the meanings.
In his book Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll gives credit to the Tiger-lily in the Garden of Live Flowers.
Alice approaches Tiger-lily and says, “I wish you could talk!”
“We can talk,” said the Tiger-lily, “when there's anybody worth talking to.”
Alice replies, “And can all the flowers talk?”
“As well as you can,” said the Tiger-lily, “and a great deal louder.”
What flowers are in your garden? Do you have rosemary (for remembrance), red tulips (ardent love), violets (modest worth) or orchids (refined beauty)? Next Valentine's Day, think of sending flowers that tell how you feel.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
“Honey bee insurance” buzzed into the news Feb. 1 when Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared on the CBS Show, "Face the Nation" and blasted the state of the economy and President Obama's economic stimulus plan.
"I doubt if the government buying $600 million worth of automobiles would provide the kind of stimulus that we're talking about here," McConnell said. "And we certainly don't need honeybee insurance. Look, this thing needs to be targeted right at the problem, if we're going to spend this enormous amount of money.”
Honey bee insurance? I listened closely for more details, but none came.
What he didn’t say--or explain--is that this is a form of crop insurance, similar to what is offered to many crop producers.
One of the earliest to write about honey bee insurance was UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen, who discussed revenue insurance in the November/December 2002 edition of his “From the UC Apiaries” publication. At the time, beekeepers were exploring ways to protect their investments against devastating losses. The program works like this: pay a premium to an insurance company, and if a devastating loss occurs, you’re protected up to a specific portion of your loss.
The program is now under way, but is not offered yet in some states, including
So, bottom line: Beekeepers who elect to pay a premium will receive compensation if the honey crop revenue falls below the listed “trigger” value of that year. The compensation depends on the level of coverage purchased for the colonies they own.
Currently, only honey production--not pollination or queen or bulk production--can be insured through this specific honey bee insurance program, Mussen says. And this is based on weather conditions. If there’s a drought, for example, and the bees have little food, satellite images would verify the lack of plant growth.
Back in 2002, Mussen estimated that the insurance would cost a little over 6 cents for each dollar of coverage. The federal government’s subsidy would reduce the beekeeper’s premium to three cents per dollar.
It’s taking the good with the bad.
It's like the daphne (below) that offers scented flowers but beware those poisonous berries.