Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ABC Wednesday: Not the Usual

As the ABC round winds down to the end of the alphabet, I find it harder each week to find a suitable word or words to highlight. Is there such a word as Un-Snow?? I think not, but that is pretty much what we've had here the past twenty-four hours. While blogging friends in Indiana and as far south as Mississippi and Texas have had snow, the big snowstorm forecast for us last night turned into a wet, cold, miserable rainstorm. So let's turn to the garden for a unique U . . .

. . . Umbel

Since beginning to garden, I have found that there is much more to a plant than just the stamens and sepals I learned about in junior high science class. Flowers like roses or lilies that produce one flower per stem are called solitary flowers. But other flowers produce an inflorescence, which refers to a cluster of flowers and how they are arranged on a single stem. One type of inflorescence is the Umbel, in which the clusters of florets are borne by small stems that arise from one point on the main stem of the plant. An example of an umbel inflorescence is the "Queen Anne's Lace," pictured above.

You can see more clearly in this budding "Queen Anne's" the shape of the umbel, which resembles an inverted umbrella, and, in fact, the two words come from the same root. This plant is also known as "wild carrot," but I much prefer the more regal name of "Queen Anne's Lace." Though it grows wild on the roadsides here, it's much too pretty to be called a weed, in my humble opinion.

Two other excellent examples of plants with Umbels are dill and fennel--I think the fennel is to the left, and the dill to the right.

To illustrate further how different inflorescences can be, you need only to look at other flowers in the garden. Notice the florets growing along the stem of this pineapple sage. I think this is a spike, but it is definitely not an umbel.

Neither are these--another salvia, "Black and Blue," and the rudbeckias, or Black-eyed Susans, illustrate other types of inflorescence as well.

Regular readers of this blog know that my knowledge of botany is very limited, so I had to do a little research to clarify this definition of umbel. I had planned to include this photo of a geranium, more appropriately known as a pelargonium, as another example of an umbel inflorescence. But when I looked it up to be sure, one source called this a pseudo-umbel. I think I'm getting in over my head . . .

And I certainly don't want to mislead anyone, in case you think all these flowers are now in bloom in my garden. Other than the geranium now residing in my garage, all these photos were taken in the summer.

No, this is what an Umbel looks like in my garden at the moment . . .

Frozen Fennel, anyone?


I had planned to end this post here, but this past weekend brought to mind another U for the Unusual harvest we have had this fall. The cornfields surrounding us were finally harvested on Monday, the latest I can ever recall. Usually the harvest is done by the end of October, but a late spring planting coupled with a very wet fall kept farmers out of the field until recently.

Once the soil was dry enough so that farmers could enter the fields with their heavy equipment, there was yet another problem. The corn itself had retained so much moisture that it had to be dried before it could be stored.

Grain elevators could dry only so much grain at a time, resulting in limited hours of operation while the corn was readied for storage. Semi-trucks loaded with grain found themselves sitting in line for hours at the local elevator or even having to wait until the next day to unload. This meant the harvest was extended even longer, as the farmer had to stop his combine and wait until he could unload the corn into an empty truck. In our fields, for example, what should have taken a day or day and a half to complete turned into a four-day task instead.

But all this doesn't matter much to a two-year-old who finds tractors, combines, and any kind of machinery totally fascinating. I picked up Youngest Grandson one morning so that he could get a firsthand look from the family room window. I think he was pointing out the combine to Sophie, who also finds all this activity very exciting.

Idle hours spent waiting for an empty semi also gave Grandson a chance to get a close-up look.

Looking out my window as I type, I can see corn still standing in some fields in the distance. After last night's downpour, I don't know when those fields will be harvested. Some farmers may find themselves working in the fields while Santa gets his sleigh ready.

Once again, thanks to Mrs. Nesbitt for hosting ABC Wednesday, and do check out the ABC blog for more interesting takes on the letter U.


  1. Very informative, thank you! And we've had similar delays with corn harvest up here. What a bizarre year!

  2. Hi!
    Awesome "U" post! Thanks for all that info. And I agree with you, Queen Ann's Lace is very pretty and should be a flower instead of a weed. Have a great day!

    Sherrie's Stuff

  3. I guess some of those are UN-umbels, Rose! What an interesting post you have put together for the letter U. A little bit of everything, weather, flowers, dried stalks, encyclopedic knowledge, cute kids and doggie tootsies, even heavy machinery. Wowza! :-)

  4. An interesting post. That's certainly late for harvesting.

  5. The Umbel post is very good Rose. I love seeing your grandson so engrossed with the combine and tractors. It is amazing how little boys just naturally gravitate to such things.

  6. If you don't learn one new thing a day... thank you for teaching me Umble. The farmers have been harvesting here, yet this week. However, snowfall/blizzard has probably called a halt. It has indeed been an unusual year. (Pardon me, but I kept wanting to insert the word "humble" in here somewhere!) :-)

  7. I never would have guessed that the corn wasn't all up yet! The umbel is an especially graceful flower form, especially as dill and fennel.

  8. Terrific post for the U day! Marvelous photos and I love your flowers!

    Enjoy your day!


  9. I love the word "umbel." It has such a great sound and feel to it. "Psuedo-umbel" is even better - thanks for introducing me to that one. I can't wait to use it in a sentence.
    Those poor farmers! I doubt they'll be able to get the harvest finished. This year has been one crazy weather rollercoaster.

  10. Rose....Grandson looked so tiny...the machine looked like some sort of monster....what a brave little chap....
    The machinery in my area is so tiny in comparison....we rarely see large equipment here....the roads and field entrances are way too small......

    Thank you for the science lesson.....I am impressed.
    Queens Ann's Lace is so beautiful.......weeds are wildflowers, are they not??

    Happy Wednesday Rose.....

  11. Hey Rose, I prefer the nicer name of Queen Anne's Lace too. I wonder if it is related to dill and fennel?

  12. Poor farmers. I do hope they get their corn in before it spoils. I loved your post on Umbels. I find Queens Anne's Lace a facinating plant, and I prefer the old fashioned name, which is so descriptive.

  13. Umbel is a great 'U'! And the one I like best is your frozen fennel. I wouldn't have known 'psuedo umbel' either, by the way, though I could have guess it wasn't a true umbel.

    Love the photo of Grandson with the harvester. Why do small boys love giant vehicles so?

  14. Hi Rose, great U post, and I enjoyed the info on the umbels, a new word for me. Love the shot of your grandson in front of the combine. We still have some corn left standing also, and it's raining again today!

  15. I loved walking round your unusual post! Loved the little grandson standing in front of that huge machine. Absolutely great photo!

    Nuts in May

  16. What I love about blogging is the LEARNING. I have a very un-green thumb and a postage stamp garden. I would never have read a book about umbels in a thousand years! But I read a blog!

    As you know, I'm a poet of a sort. Can I write about your Frozen Fennel? When I looked at it I felt a poem coming on!

  17. Dear Rose,
    I too love Queen Ann's Lace.
    It has been an unusual year indeed.
    Happy ABC Wednesday.

  18. Interesting plants and lovely photos. It’s so odd to see blooming flowers while it is snowing outside my window. Boys and big trucks, such a connection.

  19. Lovely pics plus some very educational material, whether about umbels or corn harvesting.

  20. I love umbels! I've just spent a pleasant hour in a used bookstore looking for Botany 101 books~~There are none for I am glad that you're giving lessons! I'm sure that V will be excellent, too,

    Love the little guys fascination with big machinery. Is it universal in boys? Perhaps an atavistic memory of large and dangerous animals;-)



  21. Admirable U! Frozen fennel looks like everything local. Cute grandson - he's sure fascinated by the giant machinery!

  22. Rose, Yes, it has been a strange year. And even stranger to see snow all around us on the map right now, but only a dusting here.

    Sherrie, Queen Anne's Lace is listed as a "noxious weed" on one site, but I've always thought it was so pretty.

    Frances, I was stumped this week, till I noticed the dill and fennel still waving bravely in the cold. Very observant of you to notice the doggie tootsies in the window:)

    Anthony, It's been a very difficult year for farmers.

    Lisa, I'm sure his parents hope he'll become a doctor or lawyer one day, but right now tractors are so much more interesting!

    Shady, I thought I might be defining something obvious to gardeners--thanks for reassuring me that I'm not the only one who doesn't know all these words. A humble umbel--now why didn't I think of that?:)

    Sweet Bay, This is the first year I planted both dill and fennel--I love the look of both. They're still standing tall even in this cold.

    Sylvia, Thanks! I love looking at the photos of my flowers in the midst of winter.

    MMD, Just when I thought I'd mastered the definition, I ran across the "pseudo" much to learn here. Yes, this has been a crazy year for weather.

  23. Cheryl, Farm machinery has gotten bigger and bigger, just as farms have gotten larger and larger. One seems to propel the other. I think "weed" is a relative term, isn't it?

    Susie, Queen Anne's Lace is in the same family as fennel and dill, so it's no wonder they look so similar.

    MG, In doing a little research here, I found that Queen Anne loved these wildflowers, hence the name.

    Jay, I was hoping for some "frosted fennel," but our snow didn't stick today. Little boys seem to love big machines!

    Carol, The plight of the farmers seems to be the same all over the Midwest. You have rain? I thought it was snowing everywhere but here!

    Maggie May, Grandson was very cooperative in braving the cold to let me take some photos; of course, seeing the combine up close was the real motivator.

    Rinkly Rimes, I learn so much reading blogs, too! I would be delighted and honored if you wrote one of your creative verses on my frozen fennel!

    Sherry, I've loved Queen Anne's Lace since I was a girl, and I love the romantic sound of the name, too.

    Sarah, It's fun to go through the photo archives to look at blooms on such a frigid day.

    Granny Smith, Glad you enjoyed it!

    Gail, I could use a botany book, too! You would think there would be an old college textbook somewhere in a store. Universal attraction--now why didn't I think of that word? Yes, boys are definitely "wired" differently than girls:)

    Tumblewords, Grandson is fascinated by machinery; he enjoyed the morning at our house getting a close-up look.

  24. I love that word "umbel." It sounds like a Brit's pronunciation of "humble." Exactly why I like your blog so much, Rose. In over your head, indeed! That is a very late harvest, probably one for the record books. That photo of your grandson in front of the combine is priceless.

  25. well, YOU may have gotten unsnow. We in Albany, NY got SNOW yesterday, at least 5 inches. all the schools were closed.

  26. I love Queen Anne's Lace! All your photos are great! Thanks for sharing.! Your urban legend about the rattlesnakes was very scary!

  27. How about U for 'under the snow'. That about describes northern Illinois. We have a huge U for 'ugly mess of snow' up here. Still, it was nice to see your cheerful flowers. I love Queen Ann's lace. It is a regal name for such a common 'weed' but I love it.

  28. I really love Queen Anne's Lace, most especially when I see it growing along the roadsides. I hadn't heard about your late corn harvest. It's been a strange weather year so I guess it shouldn't surprise me!

  29. Love the photo of Youngest Grandson eying up the tractor! We hardly got any snow at all. I was in Chicago yesterday and it really started snowing as we were leaving... snow continued eastward as far as Battle Creek and then pittered out by the time we got back to Ann Arbor. Boo! I love snow and so so my plants!

  30. Rose thank you for educating me in the world of Umbel. I think I like "Queen Anne's Lace" sounds prettier that umbel. hugs to you!

  31. Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment so I could find yours. Soybeans are still in the field near my house. Loved the tot looking at the combine.

  32. Rose, it is a pleasure to meet you! Thank you for your comments! I am the a gardener, an wannabe photographer, and the mother to four grown sons. So I adore the post and especially the photo of the boy and the tractor! FABULOUS! Wish I had taken such a shot myself!

  33. Queen Ann's Lace is a much nicer name Rose, it was nice to see it and think of Summer too! A very imaginative use of U here.

    It seems extremely late for harvesting ours was done months ago! I wonder if your grandson is a farmer in the making :)

  34. Aren't inflorescences fun? I had to memorize them for an exam a few years ago and have forgotten some of the obscure ones (luckily one of the most obscure, the cyme, occurs in the species I study, so that's easy now). In our botany lab we swear by this book: Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary, by Harris. You will not believe how many words there are to describe fuzz on leaves!

    Saw a lot of corn still standing a couple weeks ago up here in N Ill.... I was wondering why and now I know.

  35. Lovely, informative post. A lot of ubellifers grow locally, but many are a lot less kind than the wild carrot!

    I love the photo of the Boy and the Machine.

  36. Gosh, can't imagine harvesting so late.

    Love your frozen Umbel, pretty stricture isn't it?!

  37. W2W, The humble umbel does have a ring to it, doesn't it?

    Roger, When I watch the weather during the winter, Albany & Buffalo always seem to get the most snow in the nation.

    Reader Wil, Thanks; the rattlesnake legend was very believable at first!

    Marnie, Still no snow here...I've always loved Queen Anne's Lace, but I've grown to love many other "weeds" as well.

    Jean, Strange weather indeed--I think we've had one of the wettest falls on record.

    Monica, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I AM ready for some snow, too!

    Anna, I always prefer the prettier sounding names as well:)

    Nell Jean, Soybeans in the fields yet? Now that's not good. Glad to find you back, too--if I don't put a blog on my followers or blogroll right away, I forget where I found someone!

    Things, Thanks for those kind words and for coming to visit. I have four grown children, too! I think we have several things in common.

    ShySongbird, This was an unusually late harvest because of the rain. As much as Grandson loves tractors now, I don't see farming in his future.

    Diane, I'm just beginning to learn some of these terms. I need to see lots and lots of examples in the garden to understand:) Thanks for the tip on the book!

    Dragonstar, I didn't realize how many plants were from the same family until I looked this up.

    Suburbia, I was hoping to get an umbel in snow! Got some Christmas shopping done today!

  38. Always learn something, "Umbel", how interesting. Thanks for the information.

  39. Great post,
    It was very informative.
    I love you detailed photos of the flowers.

    Thanks for Sharing,
    Aanee xxxx


Thanks for stopping by. I love to hear from you, so please leave a comment. I'll try to reply here, but I'll definitely return the visit.