Friday, October 30, 2015

Flower for the Day Moss Campion Greenland 10-30

Moss campion (Silene acaulis), part of the pinks family, is a cushion plant. It is an evergreen perennial which is common in the high arctic on sand crevices and tundra. It develops a long taproot which anchors the plant and helps it extract water and nutrients from deep in the ground. The leaves and branches form a compact cushion and the flowers are a showy magenta. Larger cushions indicate older plants. Some have been dated to more than three hundred years of age. 
Moss campion is a remarkable arctic survivor withstanding both cold and drying wind. The abrasion of snow and sand driven by gale force winds can cause much more damage to a plant than just the cold alone. The dead and withered leaves of moss campion do not drop off but accumulate making the plant more like a cushion. The dead leaves shelter the living leaves from snow abrasion in the winter and from drying out in the summer. In the summer the leaves absorb the sun's warmth and trap the warmed air so that the temperature in the cushion is several degrees higher than that of the surrounding outside air. The dead leaves also provide nutrients to the cushion.
On the tundra it is like an old friend that always shows up.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Flower for the Day Lapland Rosebay Greenland 10-29

Lapland rosebay (Rhododendron lapponicum) has showy upward facing flowers. It is a member of the Heath Family
(Ericaceae). The rosebay has larger blossoms than the alpine azalea and the difference between the two is in the number of stamen - 10 for the rhodadendron and 5 for the azalea.
This flower was an amazing Greenland tundra find. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Flower for the Day Marsh Marigold - Greenland 10-28

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris). It is in the buttercup family and its other names
include double yellow marigold and Kingscup. It is a delicate but sturdy tundra plant. 
There are no petals but five rounded sepals. Caltha means cup and refers to the shape 
of the flower. The name from the Middle Ages referred to it as the flower of the Virgin Mary 
or Mary's gold and marybud.
 It was mentioned by Shakespeare in Cymbelline II.3:  
    Winking Marybuds begin
    To open their golden eyes  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Flower for the Day Arctic Buttercup - Greenland 10-27

 During our recent trip to Greenland the buttercup (Ranunculous) was the Queen. It was in full bloom everywhere.
It can usually be distinguished from other yellow arctic flowers because the petals and sepals have a waxy shine, as if coated with plastic. 

And here it fills the meadows in Brattahlid, the site of Eric the Great's estate.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Flower for the Day Field Forget-Me-Not Greenland 10-21

This miniature flower is a field forget-me-not  (Myositus arvensis) (H.S.). The blossoms are smaller than the
forget-me-nots that came up from seed in my wildflower garden this year. 

Truly wondrous to behold.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Flower for the Day Arctic Harebell - Greenland 10-22

This is Arctic Harebell (Companula uniflora), delicate and resilient. It is more funnel shaped
than many of the other bluebells. It is very common on the tundra.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Flower for the Day Arctic Thrift - Greenland 10-21

I took a number of Greenland Flower  images on my trip. I have been working on identification for several weeks.
Friends have helped and I am down to four which I have not been able to identify. For the next few weeks as my gardens wind down we will have some interesting arctic flowers from Greenland.

This is Arctic thrift - Armeria scabra ssp.labradorica (H.S.). Also known as sea thrift, sea pinkand Paarmarsuaq (Greenlandic). Thrift is circumpolar.
This is a striking perennial which I have had in my rock garden in the heartland for years. Who couldn't love little pink balls made up of little pink flowers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Don's Blog Greenland XIII There was a fungus amongus

Slow down - this could be interesting.
We were hiking on the western Greenland tundra and this little beauty showed up. This little mushroom is probably a Russula emetica. It is commonly called the sickener and is a basidiomycete mushroom.There are literally hundreds of Russula species. This one has a convex red cap (pileus) and a pure white stem (stipe). Distinct identification is difficult and may even require a expert with a microscope. In Kirby and Fatto's Online Key to Russula Species in North America there are 83 species that have red caps and white stems.

Some have suggested that Russula emetica can be specifically identified in the field by taking a small taste which should, in an R. emetica, result in a peppery bitter taste with associated nausea and vomiting. I make no such recommendation and prefer to observe this little red top mushroom and enjoy it in its natural surroundings. I never eat non commercial mushrooms. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Don's Blog Greenland XII Lichen 2 10-19

Map Lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum) grows closely attached to igneous rocks such as granite and quartz.  It looks like someone has applied greenish dots on a black background. As it intermingles with other lichen it looks like a colorful map.

Although difficult to interpret, this map helped us find our way back to the ship.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Don's Blog Greenland XII Lichen 1 Rock Tripe 10-16

Oh,Oh it looks like the Greenland Blog just will not end. These next two are about lichens - something we all can identify but few can say much about it.

Lichens are made up of a combination of a fungus and an alga. Although previously described as a symbiosis scientists now see the interrelationship of fungi and algae as a finely controlled parasitism in which the fungus is parasitic on the alga. The lichen forming fungi are able to capture the alga and put them to use to form a lichen. This benefits the fungus in that the alga cells carry on photosynthesis utilizing the sunlight to produce food especially sugar alcohols to supply the fungus allowing the formed 'lichen" to grow. The lichen is a composite organism which has plant-like properties but is not a plant. It is estimated that 6% of the earth's land surface is covered by lichens. Some lichens have been considered to be among the oldest living organisms. Their slow steady growth rate has been used to date events. By convention the scientific name of the lichen is the same as the fungus present and not the alga. Recent perspectives on lichens indicate that they are relatively self-contained ecosystems in and of themselves possibly with microorganisms living with the fungi, algae, and/or cyanobacteria making this a holobiont.

Below is rock tripe (Umbilicaria) which are black leathery-looking lichens which adhere to predominately no-calcareous rocks. Its growth form is called crustose which indicates that it grows on the surface with its edges curled looking like peeling paint. 

On their trek across the barrens from the Hood River to Fort Enterprise the starving men of the Franklin expedition of 1819-1822 ate these lichens. As a result they were further weakened by nausea and diarrhea.The lichens contained not only  rock particles but also high levels of acids which irritated their intestinal tracts. To make them edible would have required boiling them with several changes of water and adding baking soda to counter the acidity, steps that were not available to these intrepid hungry explorers.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Flower for the Day Persimmons anyone? 10-15

The persimmons are almost ready. We usually wait until the first frost but some are almost purple. These are in a tree by the screen porch at
the Lake House. Come by in a week or so and help yourself.



#11 The Final Bloom

Last night the small but powerful Night Blooming Cereus came up with its last bloom of the season.



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Flower for the Day 10-14 It won't stop blooming.

We brought our night blooming cereus plant inside about a month ago. About two weeks ago three new 
blossoms appeared. These were blossoms 9, 10 and 11. Last night numbers 9 and 10 bloomed.

Notice how the bloom comes right off the leaf.


Number 11 will bloom tonight.


An amazing flower.



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Flower for the Day Lupine - Greenland 10-13

Lupine (Lupinus) is common in Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, Greenland and Iceland. It grows in large clumps that can fill fields and meadows.

In Qaqortaq.

 In the meadows in the site of Erik the Red's Estate, Brattahlid.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Flower for the Day Elfin Thyme - Greenland

This plant with miniature pink flowers is elfin thyme (Thymus druceri minus). It is also called timian and 
Tupaarnaq (wild thyme) in Greenlandic (H.S.). I have elfin thyme between stepping stones in my garden paths
but the flowers are white and much smaller.
Below the green carpet of creeping thyme can be seen. This is the base from which the pink flowers arise.

I have asked a friend from Nuuk for help in identifying this flower and others native to Greenland.
When this has been done I will credit H.S. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Flower for the Day Arctic Cotton - Greenland

This is Arctic Cotton(Eriophorum callitrix) from Greenland. It is also called arctic cottongrass, suputi and pualannguat in Inuktitut. When we lived in Anchorage this was very common and we called it Alaska cotton.

 Jan acquired these Inuktitut  "old time baby pants" in Anchorage in 1969. They are made of caribou skin edged with soft rabbit fur.
In daily life they were lined with moss or clumps of Arctic Cotton which was discarded when soiled.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Flower for the Day Field Coreopsis 10-6

Field coreopsis is currently in the second wave of full bloom.
I love its stark colors.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Flower for the Day Zinnias 10-5

These are the last of an extraordinary zinnia season.



Sunday, October 4, 2015

Back in Business

Earlier this summer when I was swinging the rope broke. No surprise - it was many years old.
While cleaning the garage I found another long piece of swing rope. I had forgotten where I stored it.
After sanding and applying three coats of spar varnish to the seat, my friend Dick Palmer tied it back 
up to the branch and voila - we're back in business.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Don's Blog GREENLAND XI (Final) Linblad-Nat.Geo. and Dan, my travel buddy

Begin forwarded message:

From: Don Sessions <>
Date: September 30, 2015 1:53:47 PM CDT
To: Don Sessions <>
Subject: Don's Blog GREENLAND XI Linblad-Nat.Geo. and Dan, my travel buddy

The Linblad-National Geographic Expedition to Greenland was exciting for me in many domains. In addition to the spectacular geography and the exceptional ship and crew with its amazing attention to detail, I had not been with such an exciting and focused  group of travelers. Refreshing to me was that people did not discuss their illnesses and failing bodies. Seldom were vocations discussed. The three main topics of daily discussion were where we are, where we have been, and where we are going next. This was fascinating to a newcomer to the Linblad experience. Although everyone was welcoming there were times that I felt that I was not quite a Member of the Club. As someone who has traveled extensively and participated in many Canadian Arctic Canoe Expeditions I found this feeling of sometimes being an outsider was interesting.

On the other hand I could not have had a better travel buddy than Dan West. I have known Dan and his family for over 30 years. He is a professional traveler - try over 40 trips to China. I was forever learning travel tips from Dan. Foremost however was his ability to get along with humor in all situations
and usually not quietly. Dan is a man of action - one evening after dinner as I walked by the men's room outside the dining room I saw water flooding out from under the door. I found a crew member who immediately called a plumber. Dan walked by a little later and saw the water now flooding the floor. He opened the door and pressed some button on the wall and the toilet stopped overflowing immediately. There is nothing like traveling with an engineer.

Always with a mischievous smile. His camera was always at the ready.

Below Dan is purchasing a sea urchin from two children after a tough bargain.

Hoping that the car is stuck.

On the trail in a field of buttercups. 

Above all Dan was interesting and fun. Dan has been a Fire Fighter Nut since college. Currently he has been elected to our 
local Fire Board. When we got to the capital city of Nuut, Dan disappeared. He walked 45 minutes to the Fire Station and made friends 
with the Assistant Chief. When it was time to leave Dan asked, "Do you have a shirt?" (Fire Nuts exchange shirts with other staff when 
they travel). The Assistant Chief said, " No but you can have this," and proceeded to take off his Fire Jacket complete with the Nuut Emblem,
and give it to Dan. Then he gave Dan a ride back to the dock in his official car. 

As a bonus when I got home Dan sent me a special CERTIFICATE OF AWARD indicating that I was now a FULL MEMBER OF THE CLUB and that FULL PRIVILEGES ARE NOW AVAILABLE.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Don's Blog Greenland X Tupilak

In Greenlandic the word tupilak  means an ancestor's soul or spirit. In Greenlandic legend a tupilak was an avenging monster made by an Inuit  shaman using objects such as animal parts. It was reportedly given life by ritualistic chants and then was placed in the sea to seek out and destroy a specific enemy. No early tupilaks were preserved. For many decades Inuit carvers have been making tupilak representations out of animal parts including walrus, caribou, whale, and musk ox.

Here is a Greenland tupilak from a walrus tusk that I acquired many years ago from a trading post dealing in Inuit art in Door County Wisconsin.

Many of the stores in Nuuk, the capital city, were selling tupilaks. Below is a tupilak carved out of caribou antler that I purchased in Nuuk. The difference in the skill of the carvers is noticeable.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Don's Blog Greenland IX Hiking

Hiking in Greenland - tundra hiking -  is glorious. My only disappointment was that there was not enough time set aside to hike. This area was described by the guides as a fjord in the Kalaallit Nunaat in western Greenland. 

The ship was anchored near the above waterfall and we took Zodiacs to the shore.

The spongy turf of the tundra had numerous flowers and streams.

And an occasional caribou antler.

Above the falls.

And an occasional proof of presence.

This was the first day we had serious mosquitos.

 After checking out the falls many of us chose to start climbing up the the hill. At that point the younger gazelles ran up toward the heights. The more mature of us set a slow but steady pace. We were running out of time but no one was willing to turn around. I finally decided that I had had enough and announced a turnaround. Within two minutes seven people turned around and joined us in the downhill trek. Interesting group hiking dynamics. My hiking poles made the downhill trek more simple. I remember when using the poles was a sign of weakness. Now they are seen as a huge technological breakthrough.