Elowan: A plant robot hybrid

Plants working as light sensors is exactly what Elowan was designed to convey—Deep integration of technology with our nature. One small capability such as response of plants to light shows how plants could be harnessed for our physical devices or interaction purposes.

This leads to applications such as sensing a surrounding environment through a plant or tree signals or routing those signals through our interactive devices. The plants could be used as sensing platforms for monitoring their own health, minute changes in the environment or to give rise to new organic interactive devices.

I think such a process of hybridizing with nature leads us to think about how we design our future devices. The way we have seen environment and sustainability efforts have been much more passive and always about saving while we are the back foot, but if we start looking at capabilities in the environment, we align ourselves with the development, as opposed to being divergent from it. I called this new type of interaction design as convergent design.

Elowan

Texas Orange Cap Mushrooms aka (Amanita jacksonii)

These showed up along the running trails in late Sept after a very rainy, humid month.

They grow near oak and pine trees and appear in late summer to autumn

The caps can reach 5″ in diameter

Native to Asia, found in North America between Quebec to Hildago, Mexico and throughout eastern US
aka American caesar mushroom

* this should not be confused with the edible ‘Caesar’s Mushroom’ which does not grow wild here. Many similar appearing mushrooms in the Amanita family, the destroying angels, are highly toxic, similar in appearance and some grow wild here.

Amanita jacksonii
Tom Volk’s Fungus of the month, Amanita caesarea
The Mushroom expert, Amanita

Scare your plants to produce stronger offspring


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — By temporarily silencing the expression of a critical gene, researchers fooled soybean plants into sensing they were under siege, encountering a wide range of stresses. Then, after selectively cross breeding those plants with the original stock, the progeny “remember” the stress-induced responses to become more vigorous, resilient and productive plants, according to a team of researchers.

This epigenetic reprogramming of soybean plants, the culmination of a decade-long study, was accomplished not by introducing any new genes but by changing how existing genes are expressed. That is important because it portends how crop yields and tolerance for conditions such as drought and extreme heat will be enhanced in the future, according to lead researcher Sally Mackenzie, professor in the departments of Biology and Plant Science at Penn State.

read more..

Lycoris radiata ( Red Spider Lily, Hurricane Lily, Corpse Flower )

Hurricane lily blooming 3rd week of Sept

Like most flowering bulbs in Houston this is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family. It only flowers after heavy rainfalls. I had forgotten all about it, and there it was blooming as I left for a morning run. It’s been a rainier year than usual. The total rainfall is typical, the frequency is much higher.

First brought to US in 1854 when Japan and the US opened trade. They are planted in Asia along the edges of rice patties to keep rodents out of the rice.

Prefers full sun, this one is in shade with dappled light only.
Not frost hardy, but this one has been out there for several years, through several cold winters.
Toxic: I think all lilies and Amaryllis are toxic
Prefers lots of water, does best along the edges of rivers
Blooms in Autumn after heavy rain
Propagate by division
Planting depth ~4″

Origin: China, Korea, Nepal

Pseuderanthemum variable

Funny how the most common plants are the most difficult to identify. This one had me stumped for a long time.

It’s a weed, grows in shady areas, not invasive. It shows up some years and not others. This year has been very rainy, winter was cold, one or both or something else must trigger it.

Typically grows in zones 11-9b
Blooms late summer – early fall ( in Houston )
Propagate by dividing rhizomes, will self sow
Stays under 6″ in height
Grows in shady rain forests

Native to Australia
Host plant for Australian Leafwing butterfly
Relative of African Violet

( Australians claim it is impossible to remove by hand or weed killer, so it’s a good thing it’s not invasive )

It’s also a food for White Bearded Dragons. How could you not like it?

Pseuderanthemum is from Greek ‘false Eranthemum’

Information is scarce, as is often the case with common plants
Some Magnetic Island Plants

Acer macrophyllum aka Big Leaf Maple aka Oregon Maple

This plant caught my eye along a pathway through the woods. I’d swear I’d never seen it before but now that I’ve ID it I seem to keep finding it. Every one I’ve found has been along a pathway at the edge of a heavily wooded area.

Its leaves are the largest of any maple, fitting its large size when grown in the right climate

It can grow over 150′, usually tops out at about 20′, spreading wider than its height. Not suitable for home gardens because of its size and water demands.

Native to wet areas along the western coast and mountains of the US. Doesn’t handle frosts well or droughts

Zones 5-9
Full sun to full shade

The Wild Garden, Acer mactophyllum
Fire effects of Acer macrophyllum

Justicia chrysostephana “Orange Flame”

This is a pretty easy plant to grow. I’ve had it in part sun – full shade and it happily grows and flowers all summer. Drought tolerant, but like most plants prefers damp, well drained soil. It starts blooming as soon as it leafs out and keeps blooming until well into winter.

It’s rated to 20’F but I find it dies back to the ground if winter temps go below freezing, and returns from the roots mid-spring.

There is also a yellow flowered variety, old Victorians claim there is also a pink variety

Loved by hummingbirds and bees

Grows rapidly
Grows 4′-6′ tall
Rated for zones 9b-11

Easy to grow from cuttings, plant in spring

If you’re in the Houston area it can often be found at Master Gardener Plant Sales