Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Rather Sorry Showing by the Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus) usually does well here where it decides to grow. It likes disturbed soil, so it is found along roads, around buidlings, and also as part of the succsessional sequence on well-drained frost boils on the tundra. It seems to be fairly rampant, so Iwas a little dubious about having it in the tundra garden. However, it showed up, it is a tundra plant, and it does smell lovely (a bit like sweet alyssum), so I let it stay. What I have has nearly pure white flowers, while most plants have a distinct purpleish cast to the flowers. I do pinch all leaves which show up where I don't want it, however. It appears to spread by roots, with leaves showing up first, and then flowerstalks the next year. The "pinch the leaves" strategy keeps it where it belongs.

This year the coltsfoot just hasn't been very impressive. The flower stalks have been lying rather flat, and the flowers are only about half open. I'm not sure why. I took a trip south along the coast which involved a couple of miles of road through tundra, and the coltsfoot was really spectacular there. It was also incredibly fragrant, with clouds of aroma several hundred feet away (despite the fact that it was windy as always).

The big event of the next to last week in June was the arrival of a lemming to set up residence in the tundra garden. It is a fairly high lemming year, which means there are lots of snowy owls (and snowy owl researchers) in evidence here in Barrow. It also means that there are lots of lemmings on the move trying to find a place to set up housekeeping. A young one found the tundra garden and moved in. S(h)e nibbled a bunch of grasses, but seems pretty oblivious to the flowering plants. I haven't gotten a picture, but am still trying. I'm not sure how the lemming will stay unless a mate shows up, and I don't think they will survive if they try to overwinter, since lemmings seem to range much further than the confines of the tundra garden, and it is in the middle of a gravel pad.

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