Potpourri for March 14

Potpourri is a mixture of dried, naturally fragrant plant materials, used to provide a gentle natural scent, commonly in residential settings. It is often placed in a decorative bowl. – Wikipedia

Actually, potpourri makes me sneeze, so I never saw the attraction. However, as always, my potpourri posts are unscented. So, if you sneeze while reading this, it means you haven’t dusted your house for a while.

  • My publisher tells me that production of the Fate’s Arrows audiobook is on schedule and sounds great. As I slowly work my way through Weeping Wall, my novel in progress, it’s nice to see something new en route to Amazon.
  • The male, short hair, black-and-white kitty who has adopted us after being dropped off on our country road by some nefarious person is slowly working his way into our hearts.  Were refuse to name him until we have a chance to take him to the vet to be checked out. Right now, he is simply OC, for outside kitty. Our inside kitties are curious but aren’t above hissing at him when we open the front door.
  • Other than sore shoulders, no apparent side effects from our first Moderna COVID shot. Nice to have that out of the way. Maybe we’ll be able to visit the granddaughters in Maryland this year since COVID cancelled last year’s planned trip.
  • I’m finally getting around to reading Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane. My nightstand is always overflowing and my wish list on Amazon is infinite. It’s a nice change of pace from John Hart’s The Unwilling. Being an old-fashioned sort of person, I’ve always preferred the term “firefly” to “lightning bug.” 
  • My GP has kept my prescriptions in place even though I haven’t seen him for a while. I said I thought doctors’ offices were dangerous for people my age until I had my COVID vaccinations. Fortunately, he agreed.
  • On a bit of a political note, I’m really getting tired of turning on the news and seeing that there’s more unrest in Portland and elsewhere. We have much to do to fix everything that’s broken, but it will take time. The violence from those riding the protestors’ coattails isn’t helping.
  • It’s time to change my Facebook cover photo. So, in hopes of seeing some springtime weather soon, here’s the new picture compliments of NPS Glacier National Park:

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of paranormal, magical realism, and contemporary fantasy short stories and novels.

What’s all that green stuff?

Part of describing a locale in a novel is mentioning the green stuff outside the car window. Oaks and Pine trees and flowering shrubs are usually obvious. But what about the wildflowers and grasses?

Wikipedia Photo

I once knew a man who knew what every single piece of green stuff was, whether it grew in a forest, savannah, marsh, or coastal area. When he led tours, I was there as he not only named and described every plant and its seasonal cycle but told us how to know one plant from another.

If there had been a test, I would have flunked. Even if I’d crawled through it, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between Bluebunch wheatgrass and rough fescue.

I have wildflower guides for most of the areas I write about. I’ve found others online. But occasionally, I come across (in my writing research) a place where my characters will interact in some way and realize that I can’t be sure what all the green stuff is.

Many state, federal, and private wildlife areas and private preserves list the specialists in charge of interpretation. They have been a godsend. For some books, I’ve asked about the prominent plants one sees when driving through a place. In others, where there are, say, Longleaf Pines and other trees that depend on fire, I’ve asked specialists what order the smaller understory plants return after a fire.

I owe a great debt to specialists who will take time to field questions from a novelist, some of which take quite a few pages to answer. I always try to note down their names and organizations and mention them in each book’s acknowledgments. It’s my kind of thank you and also a way of saying that I’m a writer and not a biologist.

Malcolm

Malcolm R.  Campbell is the author of “The Land Between the Rivers” which focuses on early Florida Folklore and animals.

Florida Wildflowers: Seaoats

“Seaoats are important dune builders and protect beach dunes from erosion. It is unlawful in Florida to destroy or take this grass.” – “Florida Wildflowers: a Comprehensive Guide” by Walter Kingsley Taylor

“It shall be unlawful for any person to cut, collect, break or otherwise destroy sea oat plants, Venus’s-flytrap plants or any part on public property or on private property without the owner’s consent. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined not more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than thirty days nor less than five days. Each violation shall constitute a separate offense.” – SC Code § 16-11-590 (2013)

Herbarium Specimen – Atlas of Florida Plants photo.

Seaoats (Unicola paniculata) are perennial grasses, often clumped and with vast root systems, that can grow over six feet tall that are found throughout the state in coastal uplands and beach dunes. The flat, inch-long flowers (spikelets), which are slightly purple or the color of straw, blooms throughout the year.

Seaoats can be found along the coasts and on barrier islands along the eastern seaboard from Virginia to Florida. Seaoats are very tolerant of salt spray. They are also very heat and drought tolerant and green until late in the summer. While the conditions under which they thrive reduce encroachments from other plants, beachfront development is a primary threat. (As you can see in the Florida state park photo below, developers, dune buggy enthusiasts, and others are likely to write the plant off as a weed.)

Some people like using them as accents in flora arrangements or as the focus of dried arrangements–one reason why some areas classify the grass as a threatened or endangered species as well in addition to being vital to soil stability within its habitats. They not only protect dunes year around but are an important factor in protecting coastal areas from the erosion associated with tropical storms. Restoring seaoats often becomes an important part of dune restoration programs.

Seaoats provide food for songbirds, burrowing owls, mice and marsh rabbits. While the grass produces numerous spikelets, these don’t generate a lot of viable seed. Fortunately, the seeds don’t have any important commercial value.

Seaoats on the crest of a dune at the John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, Florida – Wikipedia photo.

“What is so tantalizing about sea oats, making one wish to break the law to have sea oats in their own garden? For starters, they have a striking appearance growing and swaying in the slightest breeze. The decorative plumes (seed heads) are often dried and placed in floral arrangements, or displayed alone as a focal point. Sea oats are quite easy to have without breaking the law, but few people are aware seeds and/or plants may be bought legally from nurserymen licensed by the state of Florida to propagate them. These nurseries supply sea oat plants to local, state and federal government agencies for dune restoration after hurricanes; the nurseries are allowed to sell them to the public as well.” – Darius Van d’Rhys

Seaoats are edible (browned or used as a cereal), but if you want to try them, you have to grow your own. Note that the plant is not the same as Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) that often grows as a ground cover in open areas and is found in northern states as well as the southeast.

–Malcolm

For a chance to win a free Kindle copy of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” see the Amazon giveaway which runs through August 8th.

 

Handy Guidebook for Glacier Park’s Wildflowers

During the Spring and Summer, hikers throughout Glacier National Park report being enchanted by the colorful profusion of wildflowers from McDonald Valley to Granite Park to the Belly River Valley. For years, I counted on Guide to Glacier National Park by George C. Ruhle and Plants of Waterton-Glacier National Parks by Richard J. Shaw and Danny On for identifying just what I was seeing along the trail.

Sad to say, both of these books are out of print and relatively hard to find. The pages of my old wildflower book are now a loose-leaf collection of sheets; the same would also be true of Ruhle’s book if it were not spiral bound.

Last year, Mountain Press Publishing came out with a wonderful replacement for the book by Shaw and On: Wildflowers of Glacier National Park and Surrounding Areas. Written by botanists Shannon Fitzpatrick Kimball and Peter Lesica, the book features beautiful photographs and layperson friendly details.

A botanist for 15 years, Kimball has served as a consultant for the park. Lesica is also the co-author (with Debbie McNeil) of A Flora of Glacier National Park, Montana and other books based on his 25 years as a Montana botanist.

Published in April 2010, this 260-page guide is an easy-to-use wonder for Glacier’s visitors from Red Bus tourists to casual hikers to ardent backpackers and climbers. The book is available from Amazon and through the Glacier Association. Like my earlier book, this one also groups flowers by color—a very handy technique.

Readers of Glacier Park Magazine will also enjoy Kimball’s article “The Healthy Rose” in the magazine’s Spring 2011 issue.

You May Also Like

The first time I drove to the lake it was a lakemy Earth Day post about a lake that now exists more in my memory than in fact

Malcolm

A Glacier Park Novel