Pollinia: How Milkweeds Do It

It seemed simple enough. On the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way back from an oil change yesterday, and in no particular hurry. I pulled off to the shoulder of the road and grabbed my camera (which you can also use as a phone! Really!) and walked back a hundred yards to a nicely-lit display of surrealistically-orange Butterfly milkweed. I grabbed a couple of shots and brought them home.

But as so often happens, looking and thinking back to this ordinary moment with this common roadside wildflower, I considered the story contained in this and every living creature’s “natural history.”

How does this plant make a living in ways it shares with other milkweeds? And in what ways is this plant or group of plants different in structure or “behavior”, and what role does it play in the larger ecology of this place?

Well, these considerations are complicated, and to me, incredibly interesting and intriguing, posing at least as many questions as answers.

If you care to see deeper into the living world, dig into its stories, one insect, salamander or fern at a time. What you’ll learn will make you a more engaged and committed resident of your neighborhood, community and planet.

We are in desperate need of nature and science literacy that exceeds the eroding average in America in our precarious times.

Trust me: watch this video, and then find the nearest milkweed (probably the pink, sweet-smelling common milkweed) and dissect a single flower and find the pollinia.

What are pollinia, you ask? Honk if you watched this short video.

Spontaneous Flora of Floyd

One of my favorite features on the trip to town along 221 this time of year is the wildflower assortment, the “unplanted garden” in which yellow is disproportionately well represented.

Much less familiar than the yellow-rayed Black Eyed Susans or the soon-to-come goldenrod y is this yellow (or lady’s) bedstraw.  The flowers can only be seen individually if you stop your car (near Ray’s Rest for instance) and look carefully. The leaves remind me of the thready foliage of dill.

About this plant, Wikipedia has this to say:

“Galium verum (lady’s bedstraw[1] or yellow bedstraw) is a herbaceous perennial plant of the family Rubiaceae. It is widespread across most of Europe, North Africa, and temperate Asia from Israel and Turkey to Japan and Kamchatka. It is naturalized in Tasmania, New Zealand, Canada, and the northern half of the United States. It is considered a noxious weed in some places.

In the past, the dried plants were used to stuff mattresses, as the coumarin scent of the plants acts as a flea repellant. The flowers were also used to coagulate milk in cheese manufacture and, in Gloucestershire, to colour the cheese double Gloucester.[6] The plant is also used to make red madder-like and yellow dyes. In Denmark, the plant (known locally as gul snerre) is traditionally used to infuse spirits, making the uniquely Danish drink bjæsk [da].”

Blogging: Of Language and Light

You’ve known people, surely, that if they had to keep their hands in their pockets, they couldn’t tell a story.

I’ve just realized that part the reason for the dearth of blog posts over the past year is because I’ve had to keep my hands in my pockets.

Photoshop 5 (at the end of more than a dozen years of upgrades) has finally stopped working after being maddeningly frustrating for more than a year. I can’t tell you how many draft blog posts never saw the light of day because I gave up trying to get a low-res 600 x 800 pixel image ready to post.

Good bye, Photoshop. No thanks, Adobe, I will not pay $120 a year to subscribe when I can own Affinity Photo Pro for $40.

So yes, all my muscle memory and actions and routine of a dozen years is useless, and I’m climbing up the learning curve on wobbly legs of a day-old fawn.

And so no more excuses (but not necessarily a whole lot more blog posts than recently). But my photo-life shows promise. The lack of tools to work with photos has been so severe that I have simply stopped thinking of taking them. Much of the joy of taking an image has been working with it to fully express what the light “felt like” or “had to say” about the subject. I’ve lacked that voice, and now have it back.

Meanwhile, I’ll be pouring more time into finishing up the writing project–the purported book. I may have changed the working title, and if so, will have to adapt some of the preface and foreword to reflect that minor shift in center of importance that this creates.

So much shop talk. Blog on!

THE IMAGE: My first exploration with Affinity, I pulled up a random picture–of spikenard, a relative of Ginseng–taken on Goose Creek Run. The mirror filter created the kaleidoscope effect. And it was really great news to discover that Topaz filters could be manually imported from Photoshop into Affinity, and the painterly effect was from that tool. Adult play. Keeps me off the streets.

BOOKENDS: Sowing Seeds

This is a screenshot from a portion of my BOOKS RECORDS in Notion app for Mac

I am having a spurt of organizational drive this week, and so I’m getting around to doing a better job of books book keeping, of distributing my books beyond Floyd, and getting back in motion not just with existing books but also and especially for the “new one” still in digital and embryonic form only.

Today I added book sales locations to the blog sidebar, notwithstanding the fact that there is an echo in the cobweb-festooned room that is Fragments from Floyd. That may change if the current surge of motivation continues.

So just to sign off on this minor change and move on, here’s the list of places where you can find my books. I visited all the out-of-town sites on a round trip last week, and had wonderful conversations and met many new readers and friends.

And that is a good bit of what has me jazzed: I am energized by finding folks who resonate with my curiosity and interest in “our relationships to nature, place and community” that is the theme for all three books.

Finally, if you are interested in purchasing a book and helping support independent authors, use the printable form. Saves you money (both books at $15 a piece) and I don’t have to pay a 40% discount to the nice shopkeepers who kindly sell my books. — Fred

IN FLOYD
Floyd Country Store
Maggie Gallery
Floyd Center for the Arts

IN MEADOWS OF DAN
Poor Farmers Market

IN GALAX
Chapters BookShop

IN ABINGDON
Heartwood Cultural Arts Center

IN MEADOWVIEW
Meadowview Farmers Guild

IN WYTHEVILLE
Wythe Visitors Center

SAVE $$ BUY FROM FRED
Print and mail this order form and get your books in the mail

ORDER One or Both Books  by PAYPAL

Music, Mountains and Big Trees

Back in December, I was offered the opportunity to contribute a “500-700 word article on Southwest Virginia’s outdoors or nature” by the Crooked Road folks. It now appears (on page 23) in the program guide for next week’s Mountains of Music regional celebration.

The topic I chose (because Jane Cundiff and I had been talking about Big Trees in Floyd County) was SWVA’s known and as-yet-unrecorded Big Trees–and the Stadium Woods issue on the Va Tech campus.

You can read my article; see a larger version of the wonderful image of Stadium Woods that Tech allowed us to use for the essay; and view a 6 minute video by Chris Risch (who filmed the To The Last Drop video on Floyd’s water back in 2014.)

And then take a look at the MOMH program guide and decide where you’ll go next week to hear some of the best live-performance music our part of the country has to offer. (See you on June 13 at the Floyd Country Store for the Stanleys and company.)