Friday, May 23, 2008

Memphis in bloom

Warning: I'll be hopping back and forth across the USA probably for another month, as I continue to share my recent trip with you while, at the same time, recentering myself on Prescott (before I embark on yet another excursion, this to the OmegaMom family up in Alaska.) Today, I'm back in my sister-in-law's garden (we've been divorced, as she puts it, for many, many years but are still best of buddies.)

Nothing could be more Deep South than the magnolia grandiflora, a sometimes huge tree that bears lovely white blossoms with a heady scent. It's the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana. Wikipedia offers this fascinating tidbit: Magnolia is an ancient genus. Having evolved before bees appeared, the flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles. As a result, the carpels of Magnolia flowers are tough, to avoid damage by eating and crawling beetles. Fossilised specimens of M. acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and of plants identifiably belonging to the Magnoliaceae dating back to 95 million years ago. Another primitive aspect of Magnolias is their lack of distinct sepals or petals. The term tepal has been coined to refer to the intermediate element that Magnolia has instead. Magnolias are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Giant Leopard Moth.

Yet another blossom symbolic of the Deep South -- the honeysuckle. Again, Wikipedia fills in the blanks. It turns out that North America and Europe each claim 10 different native species, but some 100 (count 'em--100!) are native to China; there's even an Asian variety for the cats (it contains the same ingredient, nepetalactone, as catnip). When you were a kid, did you carefully pull out the nectar from honeysuckle? I did and now discover that the Crooks Corner Restaurant in Chapel Hill NC features a honeysuckle sorbet on its desert menu. Oh, the wondrous information The Google serves up!

Having lived in Florida long ago, both magnolia and honeysuckle are very familiar to me. Not to mention that my mother lived on Magnolia Street in Riverside CA when she was growing up. However, here's a tree I really knew little about -- the tulip poplar. This guy, with beautiful tulip-like blossoms, was growing tall and full in the yard of the Famous Niece from Memphis.

Had to get close-ups of the flowers. Yet another state tree -- in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. I can see why. BTW, did I mention that everywhere except in the newest subdivisions, the trees in and around Memphis were HUGE!

Foolishly, I did not write down the name of this curious flower from a shrub at the sister-in-law's.

A brilliant red maple, given to the SIL by my mother. It's named Marguerite in mom's honor and has grown mightily, but can't keep up with the natives!

And, just because of the enthusiasm my recent iris picture enjoyed, here are a couple more iris shots. It is indeed a voluptuous subject.


Oops -- what is this pink evening primrose doing in a Memphis post? Isn't it what we call Mexican primrose here in Arizona? Very well and good but the fact is that I saw this same plant growing wild all over Louisiana and Tennessee. So there! Below, as a finale, is one of the SIL's excellent specimen-quality poison ivies.

14 comments:

Granny J said...

Hah! Shoulda looked before I committed to ink. Re: pink evening primrose. Native from Iowa & Kansas down through Texas and into Mexico. However, has been naturalized as a wildflower in 27 states, many east of the Mississippi.

Changes in the wind said...

How I wished I could smell that Magnolia.....beautiful:)

RV-boondocker-explorer said...

Loved that photo of the leaf and flower of liriodendron tulipifera, the tulip tree, if memory serves.

You nailed it to emphasize the vegetation of the South. How lush it is compared to arid West!

Can readers make requests on this blog, like DJs accept? How about some sweetgum tree leaf shots! How about collard greens in the field or on the truck?

worldphotos4 said...

You have become a damn good photographer with that camera of yours, GJ. Mighty nice photos.

Granny J said...

windy -- I get overwhelmed by them.

boonie -- would you settle for sweetgum pods in a set-up shot and Spanish moss? Don't know if I even saw a collard green ranch. Nor okras.

steve -- if you come to the States, I will give you a big hug for that comment!

Nephew Grayson said...

Hey, that magnolia kinda looks like the one on the tree in my front yard! Oh yeah it is, and gorgeous at that! =P

Granny J said...

Tall Nephew -- but the big question is: do beetles buzz your magnolia blossoms?

meggie said...

Lovely photos of the flowers. the Irises are really spectacular!

Granny J said...

meggie -- I really like all kinds of flowers, but the wild ones are my favorites. That includes the wild iris which grows at higher elevations here in AZ. I started some from seed 15-20 years ago & it has only bloomed once or twice for me; apparently it is missing some crucial element of its high elevation lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

Famous Niece from Memphis here- I have to chime in here about the purple and gold iris I stole from the Prescott cemetery which stopped blooming just before you hauled out your cameras here in town. Your shots are just scrumptious! (Just saw Tall Nephew's blog! It's great! I'll enjoy following it! Perhaps we can get Nephew Z to start one as well! I can only imagine!)

Tall nephew said...

That's wierd 'cuz I can't imagine that =O

Granny J said...

FNFM & TN -- well, the local wild iris, which looks a lot like Dutch iris, is used to snow and snow mely. It's usually found in spots that stay moist thru spring & then dry out.

sarcozona said...

Oh, this makes me homesick!

Granny J said...

sarcozona -- what part of the south are you from? And, by the way, welcome. What brought you to NAU and, did I mention that my Sson got his PhD in biology/ecology there?

 
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