Tuesday, January 12, 2010

There was a thin sheet of ice on the Anacostia River Monday morning

The top picture is a view from the Japanese Woodland down to the Anacostia. The bottom picture reverses directions; I took it standing on the riverbank next to the beautiful Salix chaenomeloides. I am inordinately proud of the condition of the flood plain. It's an institutional pride, not personal pride; I provided neither the impetus nor the labor. Nathan prodded and prodded and finally succeeding in getting a work day scheduled. About 15 of us sweated, toiled, and bled and at the end of the day the plants were free. Ed bush-hogged and has subsequently mowed a time or two. Nathan mulched for a week and has stayed on top of the weeds as they reappeared.

Now beds of coarse mulch made from our own recycle surround the plantings where weedy undergrowth had flourished. Ampelopsis, Celastrus (not the good one!), and Japanese honeysuckle had completely covered this willow last year. Three people or 4? spent half the morning freeing this plant. From this point onward if we can stay on top of the maintenance, we won't have to spend much time to keep the area under control. By we I mean, of course, Nathan.

Common names are funny. Some plants have long standing common names that arose naturally from regular people, not botanists or horticulturists, referencing the plant in day to day conversation. Those names may not be as scientifically unambiguous as a Latin binomial, but they at least they have a level of linguistic validity. Linguistic validity lacking in those common names that were made up because there was no common name. Often these "made up names" are simply a translation of a common name, hence Aventius windfallii becomes Avent's windfall. Anyway my point was going to be that this plant, Salix chaenomeloides, seems to have, on its own, acquired the very reasonable common name of "Giant Pussy Willow". My feeling is that this is a mixed blessing forcing a sort of self-limitation on its uses in the florist's market. Yes, it is a spectacular plant when the buds open, but the buds themselves, giant and red, are wonderfully useful in winter holiday arrangements.

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