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Sycamores and Burning Bushes

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It is said that Xenophon halted his army for an entire day to admire the beauty of a single sycamore tree. I think of him whenever I see the leopard camouflage of one of our loveliest native trees. What a color scheme that would be for a bedroom. Mushroom gray walls, cream trim. Why, that's the color scheme in my bedroom! Knew I got it from somewhere.

Paler as you go up.

This sycamore gets the Perseverence award. It had been a huge tree, which must have fallen and rotted out.
Only one side, the back side, was still alive, and that side sent up two very robust shoots which went on to become sturdy if unlikely looking trees. Amazing. With trees, it's hard to tell when they're really dead. If you haven't heard my NPR commentary on that subject, you can hear it here.

Walking on, we found an unusual plant on the banks of the creek. I remembered it from my childhood in Virginia--a southern thing. It's Burning Bush, Euonymus atropurpureus.
Such lovely, glowing fruits! The green twigs are distinctive, as well as their opposite arrangement. Shila and I had found a nice bower of E. obovatus the week before, in the middle of the woods. We weren't expecting either species. And each are native, which makes it that much nicer. Just goes to show you what you find when you get out.

**Many thanks to Jason Larson, Botanic Chimp Extraordinaire, for correcting my ID's!

The star of the hike was the witch hazel, all abloom. Fabulous.
The lanky flowers smell of fresh ditto paper to me. Of course only those of us old enough to have had our tests run off on a ditto machine, those of us old enough to take the still cool and moist purple-blue papers, smash them to our noses, and huff the vapors in ecstasy, will know what I mean.

*Many thanks to alert reader Wayne for explaining that mimeo machines used black ink, and were used for runs of 500 sheets or more. The heady purple-inked papers we huffed were from ditto machines, or spirit duplicators. Dude. Spirit duplicators. What a name.

The Science Chimp, caught out twice in one post! Dang!

Witch hazel. Ahhh. It takes me back to elementary school.

Chet Baker and I went out today after finishing a painting, and I finished cutting the Loop Trail so I can have rapid healing hikes all winter. Chet was gone for a very long time and when he finally answered my calls he was collarless. I had noticed that it was looking loose on him but didn't think anything of it, derr.

So when I got home I weighed him. Here's our ritual. I walk him up to the scale and say, "All four paws on, Chet!" and he carefully climbs aboard. I weigh him and cheer for him and he jumps around and then he climbs right back on again for another check. Well, he's down to 23.5 from 25.5. And I thank KatDoc for that, for helping me realize that he doesn't need several bikkits a day, or even one; for making me see that if he gets extra goodies on top he needs less kibble. He's sitting under the table, burping quietly as I write. Good dog, Chet. Good owner, Zick. Good advice, Katdoc.

Now, if only somebody would take my bikkits away.


Just the other day I was making copies at school and waxing nostalgic for that distinctive smell, the one our kids have never experienced. I've never been much interested in witch hazel before--those pathetic "flowers"! Tchaa!--but if I can get that smell back, I might have to plant one.

Posted by Anonymous November 11, 2009 at 2:21 PM

Thanks so much for mentioning and identifying the strawberry bush, Julie! I came across quite a few of these a while back in the field across from our house, but had no idea what they were. And now I know.

I love the smell of witch hazel! I use it now as a face cleanser. It is a mild astringent and works wonders on the facial skin. Maybe I was drawn to it not just for the cleansing properties, but also for the memories it invokes! What a lovely plant.

I never bothered to smell witch hazel, but now I will. Love that mimeo. I like Goof-off too but I probably shouldn't mention that. Big benzene-ring fan, here.

One way to tell if a tree is likely dead is if it's one I planted myself.

I'm with you, Julie. Earlier this evening I was also wishing someone more powerful would take my bikkits away. Dieting would be a piece of cake.

Mimeo paper was the only socially acceptable form of huffing. Take the sheaf of tests; breathe in the intoxicating aroma; pass back. Repeat. Wavy Gravy was wrong: Some of us remember the 60s because we WERE there.

My red witch hazel blooms a little after Christmas; it smells like dryer sheets.

No one ever knows what I am talking about when I wax about mimeograph paper and that wet, blue ink. Nothing better against the nose then fresh, wet paper. I used to volunteer to crank the copies out so I could inhale at length. Ditto paper - love it. Gorgeous woodland shots. I want a tour!

The Strawberry Bush photo -- it looks like the bush we called Wah-Hoo back in the valleys of southern Ohio, east of Cincinnati. Or would that be the Burning Bush?

Those pink-and-red-orange berries! THAT's a color scheme that makes my heart jump for joy - especially here in the Oregon rain! Thanks for taking all us readers on your wonderful walks.

This from Jason Larson, my cool botanist friend: Hi, JZ! It's science chimp botanicus! I can never figure-out how to post on your blog...either that or I never remember my I thought I'd send the note via your e-mail. I'm almost positive that the photo of the plant (with the bright pink capsules) in your post about Sycamores and Strawberry Bushes is actually Euonymus atropurpureus Jacq. It has smooth capsules. Euonymus americanus L. has tuberculate or verrucose capsules. The other plant that you refer to was most likely either Euonymus obovatus (also tuberculate capsules) or the non-native Euonymus alatus. E. americanus is restricted to extreme south-central OH. "Hi!" to all! Love ya! Jason

Thanks for the beautiful pictures of the sycamores. They took me back to the sycamores we had in our yard when I was a child. They didn't live a long time because they are not suited to the Central Texas climate, but their peeling bark was so pretty -- not to mention the "monkeyballs"! I loved those things.

Glad to hear Chet Baker is losing weight. When we cut out most of the treats for our old beagle, she shed weight quite quickly, much more quickly than a person. And she doesn't really seem to miss them, or mooch any more than she ever did ...

We called it a mimeograph. They were made from a machine that had a crank type wheel and I remember seeing the teachers in the teachers lounge through the crack in the doorway (to let out the cigarette smoke) grinding out the tests and hoping it was for MY class!

Your note gave me a laugh, Linda, because the teacher's lounge was always blue with smoke in my high school, too. Uck!! If you don't think times have changed...
And like you, we called it a mimeograph or mimeo machine. Interesting to know that we were wrong all along. I don't recall ever hearing it called a ditto machine. Or a spirit duplicator. But I love that name.

No smoking in the teacher's lounge in my Catholic high school, although one nun regularly sent my friend Judy and me out to get her a pack of smokes.

Ahhhh! Ditto paper! My first drug of choice (not that there have been very many). Loved the way that smelled. And when I think of ditto sheets (my sons are saying Ditto WHAT???) I think of this little old lady substitute we had. Her wig was always perfectly coiffed and perfectly crooked. And she would hand out the sheets saying "I am handing out di-TOE sheets. When you are done, please bring your di-TOE up to me." She and ditTOES will always be entwined in my memory.

I have the same pink and red berries around here. Now I have a name for them.

Even though I need someone to take away my bikkits, I'm afraid I wouldn't take it as well as Chet.

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