I Am Quite Famous in the Botanical Community

Sigyn, do you know what day it is? It’s go-to-the-outcrop-and-look-for-the-rare-plant day! The weather should be lovely, too, so grab your sunscreen and let’s go!

(a bit later)

Here we are. The human female is meeting two colleagues here. Between the three of them, they hope to get an accurate account of how many (if any) plants are blooming this year. Here comes one of the others now.

Ehehehee and neener, neener, neener! Do you know what his first utterance after “hello” was? Not, “How have you been?” Not, “How many do you think we’ll find this year?” Ha! No, what he said was, “Did Loki and his little friend come today?”

Yes, indeed we did, good sir, and thank you for putting the human female in her place!

Idunn’s little green apples! Our first Navasota false foxglove has met us right at the top rim of the outcrop, and it’s a big, well-branched one.

Now that we have all reminded ourselves what it looks like, we can start carefully quartering the outcrop and getting a good count.

Hmm. It looks as if this will not be a record-breaking year, number-wise, though it is certainly better than the worst year. Most of the plants are well-grown and flowering well, which is good to see. There’s a good growth of grass and a lot of leaf litter, however. That means it must be time to BURN this place again! Just name the day, humans, and I will be here with a torch and my fireproof cape. (Setting things on fire is FUN!)

It is like meeting old friends, seeing the usual fall plants right where we expect them to be.

The obedient plant is abundant this year. The flowers will stay in whatever position you put them in. While Sigyn dangles, I think I will try to arrange the flowers on the next plant over to spell out semaphore-wise, “the human female is a dork.” It will look something like this:

except with more pink and less yellow and red. It will be a lot of work and might take two or three plants to get in the entire message, but it will be worth it, and I will definitely have time, as it is taking the GPS forever to calculate the waypoints.

The holly at the top of the outcrop is in full fruit. Isn’t my color-coordinated sweetie cute?

Hello! What’s this? The human female says it is a wild petunia and she’s not sure she remembers seeing it out here before.

It’s not really a petunia. I guess someone thought it looked like one, though.

And this might be new, too.

It’s snow-on-the-prairie. There are only a few plants her, but I imagine that a whole roadside of it would look whitish. Great Frigga’s corset! Sigyn, do you see any mature fruit? I need seeds of this dreadfully! The human female says the sap is caustic and that’s she’s really, really sensitive to it! I want to plant it all over the yard and see if she really does swell up like a red, peeling balloon if she gets any on her. (All for science, of course.)

Oooh! What’s this? I thought junipers made little blue-green-gray fleshy cones and not these pointy, twiggy structures.

Ah. Not fruits. Sigyn, did you hear? The human female says there’s an evergreen bagworm caterpillar in each of these, all tucked up for the winter. Basically, bug hotels. Imagine if you built and lived in a case constructed of everything you ate! It’d be cherries and Cheetos and apples and…more than a little messy!

We have finished our survey of the sides of the outcrop and are ready to have a look at the top. We don’t expect to find any of the rare plant up here, but the human female says we might see other interesting plants.

There’s this. It smells vaguely minty and has small, purple, hand-puppet-shaped flowers.

The common name is “skullcap”, which doesn’t sound very nice but it is decidedly comfy to lie in. The human female is telling some tedious story now, how the little extra “flange on the calyx” is the same shape as an old-fashioned John Deere tractor seat, except that today’s students are used to tractors with enclosed cabs and AC and stereo and have no clue and..blah, blah, blah. How is anyone supposed to rest with you yapping away like that?

One last plant to look at before we wrap up the day’s investigations. I like this one! The flowers of the zizotes milkweed have a strange, alien-looking anatomy—and they have horns!

Supposedly, butterflies love them. If I hang here quietly, maybe I can catch one for Sigyn to cuddle. It’s definitely worth a wait!

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A Fall Scramble, Part II: Thar She Blows (Whatever The Heck That Means)

The human female is becoming a bit concerned because she hasn’t seen any of her rare flowers  yet.  I think it is one of those things, though, that you have to see the first one, and then, once your eye is trained, you start to see them everywhere.

Augh!  Now she’s squealing abominably.  I suppose that means she’s spotted some.  Yes, there they are, hiding in the tall grass.


Sigyn says she has learned how to tell the rare ones from the common ones.  The flowers can be the same color on both, but the common ones have wider leaves, and the flowers have almost no stalk at all.  It’s an over-all thickish sort of plant.


The rare ones have very narrow leaves and long flower stalks, so that the whole plant is open and airy, sort of tricky to spot if it’s not in flower.


There are some differences in the flowers, too, but you have to be as big a plant nerd as the human female to understand.  I don’t pretend to, nor do I listen when she rattles on and on about “anther placement” and “calyx sinuses” and “stigma color.”  As  Future Ruler of Midgard, such details are beneath my notice.  I’ll have minions for that.

Odin’s eyepatch! Now that she’s spotted them, the human female now proposes to walk over every inch of the outcrop and count the rare plants.  I don’t know whether to hope that there aren’t very many this year so that this will all be over quickly, or to hope that the rare plant is having a good year, even knowing that it will mean listening to the idiot woman try to remember what comes after “threety-eleven.”

This is, unfortunately, going to involve some clambering.  Sigyn insists on doing it all herself.


But my love, would you not appreciate a magical boost?  Maybe just a little one?

(a bit later)

We have reached the top and completed our survey, having counted about one hundred plants, which makes this a good-ish year, though not a great one.  Now we are free to look about at other members of the flora.

This wafer-ash is also known as hop tree, presumably because of the flat fruits.  (Apparently someone thought it looked like beer-brewing hops and the name stuck.  I don’t see it myself.)


It is very good for dangling, though the foliage is looking rather tattered.  The human female says this tree is a relative of oranges and lemons and, as such, is considered  yummy by the giant swallowtail caterpillar.  Sigyn says she would like to see one of those caterpillars.  However, they are camouflaged to look like bird droppings, and I’ve no real desire to go poking piles of bird poop to see which ones are wiggly and have legs.

But here is a good one for you, love!  (No poop-poking required!)


I actually learned this one because it has such marvelous horns.  It is the larval stage of the pipevine swallowtail.  It ought to be munching on pipevine; I’ve no idea what it thinks it is doing with this greenthread.

There really is a splendid view from up here.  I can see a good portion of the county, though the removal of a few junipers would improve the vista even more.


Sigyn and the human female are still oohing and aahing and speaking in slanty names, enthusing over fall favorites such as this blue sage.

salvia azurea

I, on the other hand, propose to divest myself of my hot and heavy (though noble!) helmet and relax on this pat of moss while they fossick about.


Who knows?  I might even doze.  Being magnificent and knowledgeable about caterpillars is hard work. Wake me when it is time to go home.

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A Visit To an Old Friend

Last year the human female’s bad trotters kept her off the outcrop that’s home to the rare plant she studies.  But this year, things are a bit better, and we finally have a bit of a break in the rain, so we’re off to see if the Agalinis is blooming this year.

It’s a nice day for a drive.  I can’t wait to get there, because after being cooped up indoors with the human female for ever because of the rain, it’s just more torture to be cooped up in the car with her for another forty minutes!

The landowners aren’t home today, so we’ll have to park on the roadside at the base of the outcrop, walk down to it, and then climb up.  Do you have your sturdy shoes, Sigyn?  I would hate for you to turn your pretty ankle.

Opposite the base of the outcrop is a fence full of yellow camphorweed.


It smells good in the sun and is not too bad for dangling, though barbed wire and horns do not mix.

On the outcrop, the first thing that has caught my beloved’s eye is this dayflower.  Electric blue really stands out against the greens and tawny browns of the grasses.


It appears to be a banner year for asters.  There are purple ones and an entire galaxy of white ones.


The shining goldenrod is right where the human female left it last time she was here.


Perennials are so predictable.

And,  yes!  Yes, there it is!  The Agalinis navasotensis is in bloom!


Now that we know it’s in flower, the human female and her colleague will need to get down to business and count* the plants carefully and mapping their positions with a GPS unit. (GPS is Midgardian shorthand for “Gotta Pinpoint Something”).

That sounds like work.  I think I will leave it to them and just relax here on this moss tuffet.


The Rightful Ruler of Midgard does NOT do fieldwork.

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* Not that I believe for a second that the human female will be of any use once she runs out of fingers

A Dash to the Outcrop, Part I: Old Friends (Sigyn speaks)

The humans are on their way to the Big City to the South.  Fortunately, the outcrop that the human female and I love so much is on the way, more or less.  We are making a quick stop to see the effects of last year’s controlled burn.

The last time we saw this place, it was on fire.


It looks very good!  There is a lot of new vegetation coming up, including this ground plum (which the human female says is not a plum at all.  Common names will get you into trouble every time.)  It is a true prairie plant, and the fact that it’s here and happy is a good sign.  She says she only sees it in good years.  It will make a big, round legume fruit.


The bluebonnets are back!   This is a different kind than the sort on the roadsides.  This one likes sand rather than clay.


The big yellow flowers and round fruit in this photo belong to bladderpod. The trifoliolate leaves belong to bur clover.


Some botanists say that the bladderpod should be Physaria rather than Lesquerella.  “Lesquerella” is more fun to say!

Loki likes the spiderwort.  Usually, they are blue, but the ones here are more purple.


Wild onions!  They are everywhere!  And do you see the little green bug?


Really, it is hard to walk without stepping on something in flower.  It is a very good year!

: )

What I Did On My Yule Vacation, by Loki, God of…FIRE!

It is finally happening! The stars have aligned!  Calendars have been beaten into submission, the weather has cooperated, and snotty colds have been banished–or at least ignored.  And we are GOING TO GET TO PLAY WITH FIRE!!!! 

I am the god of fire! What are we waiting for?!  Come on, mortal!  Get up off your meaty haunches and get your gear in the car.  We have an outcrop to burn!

The human female and her plant-nerd compatriots have been talking about burning the outcrop for several years now. They haven’t done it because conditions and timing have to be just right–or so they say.  Personally, I think they are just lazy.  But today they are actually going to DO it.  It is a cool day, not too windy, and it has been a bit damp over the last week or so.  It should be fairly simple to keep the flames confined to the bit of rocky prairie they want to clear.

The human female is lecturing me.  Don’t back the wind around.  Don’t let the threatening rain fall until AFTER the burn.  Don’t chase the humans with flaming branches.  Don’t blow sparks onto adjoining property. Don’t encourage a canopy fire.  Do keep an eye on Sigyn.  Do remember that the house at the top of the outcrop, as well as all associated structures, is off limits.  Nag, nag, nag.  Shut UP, woman.  I get it.  Look–Sigyn is here.  Do you really think I am going to take any chances?

The first thing to do is to establish the firebreak boundaries.  The road at the bottom of the outcrop will serve well as one edge.  We are now lighting a string of little fires along the top edge of the outcrop, between it and the house’s lawn.


Oh ho!  Last season’s dry grasses burn quite nicely, and past-prime yucca leaves go up in moments.


The two experienced fire-setters are handling things on the face of the outcrop.  The human female, Sigyn, and I are to remain up top, to make sure the fire does not advance across the lawn or stray to far to the side.

Cough, cough!  It is very smoky up here now!


Rather like the time Thor and I accidentally set the stables on fire when we were lads, only with more juniper and less horse manure.  The black thing in the image above is a heavy, rubbery, flappy thing on a pole that can be used to swat and smother any little tongues that try to stray.

Ehehehehe!  Here comes the fire department.  Someone was supposed to tell them we were doing this today.  Wouldn’t it be funny if the human female got arrested for ARSON?    Aw, shucks.  They’re leaving, because the mortals apparently DO have it under control.


To be honest, they’re having to work to keep it all alight, dragging flames to individual bunches of grass.  Still, the popping, snapping, roaring noise is tremendous, and it smells like all the campfires of my life, rolled into one.

I had some notion of breaking out the marshmallows and making s’mores, but Sigyn thinks we are far too close already and is beating a strategic retreat.

running away.jpg

(A bit later.) The flames are gone now, more’s the pity.  The fun part is over.  Now the grunt-work begins, as the mortals plan to spend several hours cutting, clearing, and stacking weedy woody brush and small saplings.  There certainly is a lot of yaupon holly on this rock!  It’s quite a job, to weasel one’s way into the juniper thickets, find and cut the little trunks, and then haul all the waste over tricky terrain to the top of the outcrop where it will sit until it’s hauled away.

By my little horny helmet, what a lot of work!  I’m exhausted just sitting here on top of the pile and watching.


I could, of course, snap my talented fingers and have it done in a trice, but physical labor is so improving to the human character.  Tomorrow, the female will be stiff and sore, with a smoke-stuffed head and a load of laundry that reeks of ash.

Tonight she will lie in bed and wonder if they really did find and extinguish all the slow-smoldering embers…

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Old Botanical Friends (Sigyn Speaks)

After all the playing indoors with pens, it feels so good to get out into the field!  Last year the human female very kindly let Loki and me help her with looking for the rare plant she studies.  What with one thing and another (mostly being busy and/or sick, as well as coordinating with other botanists), she is late getting back out to the outcrop this year.  But here we are, with our eyes open, looking for Prairie False Foxglove.

Look at all the flowers!  Fall is apparently a very bloomy season here, drought notwithstanding.  I just got out of the car, and I already found this bright-blue dayflower (Commelina erecta.)


They call them that because they only last one day.  The human female says they are also known as Widow’s Tears, for the same reason.  I don’t think that’s very nice.  You can read more about them here.

Loki has also found something blue.  This is autumn sage, Salvia azurea.  He’s frowning. I suppose it is more beautiful than comfy to sit in.


My next plant is a fall-flowering Obedient Plant.  All the others flower in the spring–remember?  We saw some in the local woods back in May.


But is the Agalinis here?  There are a lot of white flowers, and yellow ones…


… and green ones, and grass, but is the rare plant blooming this year?  I remember that they are pink and rather showy, but I’m not seeing ANY, which is a little scary.

The human female has stopped to make some notes about what we aren’t seeing.

Um?  What is this right here next to your knee?


This is it, right?  This is it!  See?  Two flowers in bud!  Hello, old friend!  And look, this one is in full flower.



But wait. Weren’t there hundreds last year?  And this year there are only five?  That is so sad!  What a disappointing year.  Maybe it has been too dry?  Or maybe there is too much grass, using up all the sun and water and nutrients?


That is a lot of grass.  It looks pretty, but the Agalinis doesn’t like to be crowded, and some of it is an invasive, non-native grass.  Is there anything we can do?

The human female is saying we need to have a controlled burn*  to take care of the leaf litter, woody plants, and excessive grass.  We never did get to do it last year.  It sounds dangerous, but maybe it’s the right thing to do.  It would help the grasses and the other wildflowers too.  Now we just need a still, dry day after rain, when we are not under a burn ban.

The human female is sad about her plant.  Cheer up.  Next year will be better, and I think there’s some rain in the forecast.

: )

* To read about a previous controlled burn and see pictures, you can go here.

Dragged out into the field…again, Part II: There’s a fine line between beauty and death.

A few more photos from our rambly, scrambly day:


Old Plainsman. Indeed, it is a bit stooped and wavery. (Or perhaps my innate, all-powerful godhood has inspired it to genuflect. I shall, of course, accept its obeisance.)

The human female says this is a “Fringed Puccoon.” Suuuuure it is…


To me, that sounds like the name of either some exotic tropical bird or a very unpleasant social disease.

This coral honeysuckle was flowering above our heads, up where hummingbirds can reach it easily. Sigyn wanted to know what color the flowers are inside, so I magicked a blossom down. Look! The inside is orange!


We have been out here a long time, and I have poked a tendril of magic at the human female to cause her to begin to think that it is time for her lunch. She often brings snacks along but has failed to do so today. Would it be too evil of me to suggest that the crunchy bulbs of Zigadenus nuttallii (Nuttall’s Deathcamas) would be yummy? It would certainly cut this hike short!


While the peckish mortal fossicks about for botanical comestibles, Sigyn and I can enjoy a nice rest in this magnificent specimen of Penstemon cobaea.


Sigyn wants to creep inside and examine the bee-guide purple markings. Be careful, my treasure. You’d fit just fine, but the flowers are quite slick with nectar and I wouldn’t like you to slip out and fall!

Hmmm. The female has declined to sample the Zigadenus (damn!) but has consented to return home (about time.) Say farewell to the outcrop, Sigyn. If you are a good girl, perhaps we can come back another time.

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Dragged out into the field…again, Part I: Steep going.

I was hoping that the human female *might* eventually get a little bit sick of looking at flowers. Sigh. No such luck. It’s a cool, cloudy afternoon, and instead of napping like most civilized Midgardians, she has Sigyn and me out traipsepassing on what is undoubtedly someone’s private property.

This not just botanizing, it’s exercise. This is a rocky outcrop so tilty that you could kiss the ground while standing up. You know, if you wanted a mouthful of Oligocene sandstone…

Must say, though, that the view from the top is rather nice.


The human female says she likes this place because she discovered a very rare plant here and got to name it. If I found a new plant, I would name it after Sigyn, but the foolish mortal squandered the only chance she will ever have to make her mark on science and saddled the poor plant with an unpronounceable string of syllables that is most unlovely.

So apparently, this outcrop is a last little bit of largely undisturbed prairie. I have filed this away as possibly useful information if I ever grow really angry with the human female, since it would take only a very small fire or a soupcon of dynamite to remove it –and her beloved plant– from the map permanently.

Sigyn wants to show me something. What have you got there, my pet?


Oh, very pretty. Didn’t you once have a hat like these?

This is a handsome flower as well.


Parts of it are still wearing their furry winter underwear. Get with the program, plant! It is spring!

These yellow daisies are showy, aren’t they Sigyn?


If you want to play he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not, I will pick one for you. (I will give you a hint: He loves you.)

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