Our Man in Savana

hmmm what to put here

See what I did there? Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Our friend the mesquite seems to pop up in the most unlikely of places. Mesquite, a genus which includes thorny desert shrubs/trees from various parts of the Americas, perhaps most clearly demonstrates the importance of context. It’s not that a species is inherently bad because it’s invasive. Or, to go as far as some naysayers, that to want to prevent or remove invasive species is a sign of xenophobia. What that argument glosses over, is that context is key. For example, mangos are delicious… unless you are allergic.

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It gives me the duck face

Like this, only it last for a few days... Image from Emergency Brake from Wikimedia Commons.

Like this, only it last for a few days… Image from Emergency Brake from Wikimedia Commons.

There is still time to contribute to the science of science communication! See the bottom of this post to do so AND also win prizes. Survey closes Nov 20, 2015.

This may, perhaps, be more than you needed to know. But I am allergic to poison ivy. No big deal, you might think. You’re a botanist. Surely you know what it looks like! Just avoid it.

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Students of Ethnobotany: There’s more to ginkgo than you think

This edition of Students of Ethnobotany, by G. Loi, looks more deeply into the medicinal uses of our smelly friend, the ginkgo.

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The ginkgo plant at the University of British Columbia. Picture taken in October 2013. Photo by G. Loi.

Which tree has no living relatives? Which tree was still standing after the Hiroshima atomic bomb in 1945? Which tree has awful smelling seeds that can enhance memory? The Ginkgo biloba, a plant native to China. My first experience with the ginkgo plant was when I was shelling the white seeds and picking out the fruit to make congee for my mother when she was sick. The slightly bitter and bland taste did not make much of an impression for me. It was not until much later, that I realized how the history and the uses of the ginkgo were so diverse and curious.

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Students of Ethnobotany: Beware the ‘magic’ fruit

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Do you buy this? Image created by someone else, but we’d rather not link to them…

This skeptical edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes to from the clear-eyed Sydney Beatty-Mills.

Procrastination tends to get sweeter as the days go by while studying for my final exams. Often times, this procrastination will involve perusing the web for the most frivolous and non-academic entertainment I can find; anywhere from Facebook to searching for fun things to do once exams are over. While perusing through fun Christmas recipes and how to knit cute socks online I have lately been bombarded with advertisements for a ‘miracle’ weight loss supplement that goes by the name “Garcinia Cambogia”.These sorts of promises come a dime a dozen but I thought I would humour my botanical curiosity and click on the link which presented a svelte women’s abdomen next to an odd looking squash-like green fruit with an off-white fleshy interior.

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Students of Ethnobotany: Seasoned Greetings – Powers of Cinnamon

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons by photo8.

Spice up your holidays with this warming Students of Ethnobotany post by Shannon Keefe.

Have you ever noticed the amount of memories people have about the holidays that are related to spices? For example, how the smell of scented candles, gingerbread houses, cinnamon cookies, or spiced baked apple crisp are related to recollection of the holidays. In addition, as much as we look forward to the holidays, many of us fear enjoying it too much, by overeating and therefore negatively affecting our health. All of these things are directly related to spices and how they are used in the holiday season.

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Students of Ethnobotany: Heart of the Chontaduro

Chontaduro_(Bactris_gasipaes)_at_Cali

The noble Chontaduro. Photo by http://www.cropsofthefuture.org from Wikimedia Commons.

This installment of the second round of Students of Ethnobotany gets to the heart of the peach palm, thanks to Marizulu.

Picture this: A man climbs avidly up a bare palm trunk strapped to a triangular wooden formation.  He skilfully avoids the spines that threaten to injure him 20 meters above the ground and cautiously stretches to the neighbouring plant to reach the chontaduro raceme. (See this in the video below or here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yyr3q0qFzU at the 3 min mark.)

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Students of Ethnobotany: Himalayan blackberry, my favorite invasive plant

blackberries

Foraged blackberries. Photo by Amy J.

This new series of Students of Ethnobotany: Round 2 starts off with a bang and a paradox – a plant that is both wonderfully useful and terribly invasive – thanks to the keen observations of human nature by Amy J.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I was thrilled to discover that blackberries grow wild along the sides of roads and on the edges of forests here.

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