Tendrils: Sun clock

Hello, and welcome to the Equilux edition of Tendrils! Equilux is a new word I learned this morning. Apparently today and tonight will both be 12 hours long. From now on, the days will be longer! You might expect that this is what happens on the Equinox next week, but that’s not the case. The short explanation is that this is because the Sun is a disc and not a point of light. The Met Office have the full explanation of equilux v equinox, but quite frankly it’s a bit much for a Friday morning!

Also new to me this week is Surinam spinach. Talinum triangulare is a pretty and productive perennial leafy green, but sadly it looks like it needs a warmer climate than I can manage.

Sycamore seedlings are springing up everywhere, in and out of the garden, and I’m weeding them out of the raised beds at the moment. I wasn’t sure what they were, until I found one just germinating from its seed ‘wing’. The Woodland Trust have a short guide to flying seeds, which is quite fun.

They probably won’t have to worrying about flying weed seeds in the Amazon Spheres (globe greenhouses on the Amazon campus in Seattle), but we can keep an eye on their progress as they now have an Instagram account. There’s nothing quite like a spot of armchair gardening!

Best Grow Your Own Blog

Waltons have been kind enough to award me ‘Best Grow Your Own Blog’ in their blog awards. I’m in exalted company, as you can see from the full list of winners. They’ve used a lovely photo of my Japanese wineberry, which I can confirm is not dead*, and so we can expect more from it this year 🙂

One of the things that has been on my mind this week is how science is reported in the media (and by people like me!). It’s all too often sensationalised, dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, or simplified into 140 characters for a tweet. The results of the latest piece of research are reported out of context, and presented as facts. But, as one science writer has eloquently explained it this week, Science is Mostly Wrong, But That’s OK. We need to get better at showing the complexities and the uncertainties. If we’re upfront about the bits that are still in doubt, perhaps we’ll have better luck convincing non-scientists about what’s not in doubt any more.

When you’re having a discussion with someone, make a point, back it up with data from a reputable source and then have “but that’s just not true” thrown back in your face, it can get a bit demoralising. That’s not a debate, that’s bickering. Fortunately there’s plenty of happy things to read about plants, to make the day better 🙂 For example, did you know that you can make Forsythia jelly? I don’t have a Forsythia (and – judging from the photos – there’s not one near here), but it’s good to know, all the same!

If you’re a liquorice fan then you may not be quite as thrilled to know that liquorice can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol. That article is actually about the different chemicals that combine to give liquorice its familiar smell, which have been recently determined by scientists. A report in Chemistry World has some molecule diagrams (which I know some of you love!), and a link to the original paper: Characterization of the Key Aroma Compounds in Raw Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) by Means of Molecular Sensory Science. And there’s a sister paper: Characterization of the Key Aroma Compounds in Heat-Processed Licorice (Succus Liquiritiae) by Means of Molecular Sensory Science for those of you who are really interested! It looks to me as though these are the first results of their kind, so for science to do its job properly, different scientists will have to replicate them in due course, although that important work is less media-friendly and so is likely to happen less publicly.

If you’d rather just grow your own liquorice and/or eat it, then that’s fine, too 🙂 (Having typed liquorice several times now, I am beginning to think there’s a significant advantage to the American spelling – licorice).

A fish tank brimming with urine is the first thing you see…

So begins Why a German science lab is growing tomatoes in urine, which is possibly enough to put some people off becoming a plant scientist 😉 Of course, this is this week’s space-related story. It goes on to explain that most of the water on the ISS is recycled astronaut urine. Which may put people off being an astronaut!

We’ve also got an experiment producing fat with algae solution using our urine water.

I think I’ve just gone off my lunch. Bergamot spoon sweets, made from bergamot oranges (not the herb of the same name) sound (and smell!) much more appetising.

On that happier note, I will bring this edition of Tendrils to a close. Look out for more fresh plant goodness next week!

*The list of plants that aren’t dead is growing, so I am a happy bunny! I brought the Japanese wineberry with me from the old garden, in a small pot, and it had a stint on the allotment ‘refugee camp’. Last year I almost killed it by not taking enough care to keep it watered in hot weather. It’s planted in the ground now, so it has a better chance of continued life….

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