Quote of the Week
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley, Complete Essays Vol. II
Word of the Week
ignorance – lack of knowledge or information
A culinary favorite, chanterelle season is highly anticipated by chefs around the world. Full of rich flavor reminiscent of apricots, the golden chanterlles are probably the most sought after, although the rarer red cinnabar with its slightly spicy flavor is a close second. Chanterelle is actually a generic name applied to a variety of edible wild mushrooms. They cannot be cultivated and are wild harvested when in season, from mid-summer into fall depending on conditions. The name chanterelle originates from the Greek kantharos meaning “tankard” or “cup”.
Because of their high water content chanterelles are not ideal for batter-frying. You wouldn’t want to mask their great flavor anyway! Here’s our favorite recipe for chanterelles – quick, easy, and truly accentuates these delicious mushrooms. Quickly removing their moisture in a hot skillet gives you crisp, flavorful mushrooms that are excellent on their own, added to salads, or as a topping for a filet of your choice.
Another great cast iron skillet recipe!
Pan-Fried Chanterelle Mushrooms
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference:
Raw chanterelle mushrooms are 90% water, 7% carbohydrates, including 4% dietary fiber, 1.5% protein, and have negligible fat. A 100 gram reference amount of raw chanterelles supplies 38 kilocalories of food energy and the B vitamins, niacin and pantothenic acid, in rich content (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV), 27% DV of iron, with moderate contents (10-1 of riboflavin, manganese, and potassium (table). When exposed to sunlight, raw chanterelles produce a rich amount of vitamin D2 (35% DV) – also known as ergocalciferol.
The gardenia is a common and adored feature in southern landscapes, making this non-native plant one of LSU’s Southern heritage plants. Its love for acidic soil and humid, sub-tropical regions makes the gardenia an excellent choice for most Covington properties, especially along the river. Best known for its showy, incredibly fragrant flowers, there are many varieties that adapt readily to our environment.
Gardenias are flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae, also known as the coffee family. The gardenia genus consists of approximately 140 species native to the tropical and sub-tropical climates of Africa, Asia, Madagascar and the Pacific Islands.
An evergreen with rich, dark glossy leaves, the gardenia is grown for its beautiful foliage as well as its flowers. Leaves are opposite or in whorls of three or four, eventually opening into a singular or small cluster of blooms mid-spring through mid-summer.
Gardenia flowers have a tubular-based corolla with 5–12 lobe-petals, ranging from 2 to 4.7 inches in diameter. Most varieties have highly fragrant white blooms, some with variations of light yellow. In contrast to its hardy leaves, gardenia flowers tend to be very delicate and will brown quickly in heavy rain. Most plants prefer bright, indirect light.
Some Quick Fun Facts About Gardenias:
In France, gardenias are the flower traditionally worn by men as boutonnière.
The genus was named by Carl Linnaeus and John Ellis after Dr. Alexander Garden (1730–1791), a Scottish-born American botanist, zoologist and physician of Charleston, South Carolina.
Sigmund Freud remarked to the poet H.D. that gardenias were his favorite flower.
Gardenia flowers are associated with purity, clarity, and love. In some cultures the gift of gardenias signifies secret or untold love. It is revered in most all cultures as a symbol of beauty and loveliness.
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Our iconic image of the South would be incomplete without the inclusion of the Southern magnolia. Known scientifically as Magnolia grandiflora, it certainly lives up to its name with giant white blooms measuring up to a foot in diameter. Its flowers stand in stark contrast to large dark green glossy foliage, fuzzy brown underneath. Wonderfully fragrant blossoms begin opening in spring and may continue into early summer. For its unforgettable beauty, the Southern magnolia was designated the Louisiana state flower in 1990.
Magnolias are part of the most ancient families of flowering plants with fossil records that date back up to 95 million years. These plants predate bees and were originally only pollinated by beetles. The flower bud has not changed much from its original primitive structure. It has what is called “tepals,” a combination of sepals and petals similar to water lilies. Unlike most flowering plants they do not produce nectar but instead are heavy pollen producers. The beetles will collect this pollen for food and in turn help to pollinate the flowers. Now many common pollinators can be seen visiting the magnolia. Still, beetles are widely considered its primary pollinator.
The Southern magnolia is a large evergreen tree averaging 90 feet in height, although there have been some exceptional trees. A 30 meter (98.5 ft) tall tree was documented in Baton Rouge by the US Dept of Agriculture in 1970, along with an astonishing 37 meter (121 ft) tall tree in Smith County, Mississippi. The magnolia tree is a fast grower, averaging a lifespan of 80 – 120 years. The oldest documented Southern magnolia is in Roma, Italy, and is presumed to be over 320 years old.
There are more than 240 species of magnolias and thousands of cultivated varieties, according to the Magnolia Society International. Eight of these species are native to the US, the Southern magnolia being one of them. Dwarf cultivars are popular in local landscaping, like the Little Gem, selected by LSU AgCenter as a Louisiana Super Plant. It grows to half the size of the Southern magnolia at 20 – 40 feet and it a heavy producer, with flowers blooming late into summer.
Sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), also called swamp or laurel magnolia, is another native species commonly found in our area. An evergreen tree in our climate, its leaves have a blue-ish hue with a silvery underside. Strongly fragrant flowers are creamy-white, about 8-14 cm in diameter. The inner bark has a mild scent of bay spice.
Many species of magnolia are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes around the world. The bark, leaves, blossoms and fruit of this tree can be pickled, made into teas, or used to flavor certain rice dishes and miso soups. Popular in Asian countries and parts of Europe, these practices have not gained much notoriety here in the US.
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If you’re a bird-watcher, or just a casual bird-observer, you have no doubt spotted woodpeckers around Covington. Not only are these birds very common in our area, they are also easily recognizable, whether it be for its bright red head, its odd perch hanging off the sides of trees, or the distinctive sounds of its jackhammer-like pecking.
Woodpeckers are part of the family Picidae and can be found over most of the world. There are three species of woodpeckers that can most often be found in south Louisiana; the red-bellied woodpecker, the red-headed woodpecker, and the pileated woodpecker.
The red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is probably the most common here in Covington, and can be spotted quite regularly on oak trees and telephone poles. A smaller bird, averaging about 10 inches and 2 ounces, it has black and white speckled back back and wings, similar to its cousin the ladder-backed woodpecker of the west. The re-bellied woodpecker has a pale chest with hints of red and yellow and a bright red cap. This woodpecker has adapted well to urban life and can often be seen at backyard feeders.
Slightly less common is the red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), similar in size and often confused for the fore-mentioned. Note the red covers its entire head, hence the name. It also lacks the speckled pattern of the red-bellied woodpecker, having a solid white body and mostly black back with white patches on lower wings. The red-headed woodpecker was at one time listed as near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, with a significant decline in population due to loss of habitat. It was downlisted to least concern in 2018. These birds fly-catch most of their prey and can often be spotted swooping erratically through the air.
The pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is the 2nd largest, if not possibly largest* woodpecker in the US, measuring an average of 18 – 20 inches long with a wingspan of 26 – 30 inches. It bears similar markings to the red-headed woodpecker with the exception of an elongated red crest from which it gets its name, pileatus being Latin for “capped”.
The pileated woodpeckers’ favoring of mature woods and shy nature makes it rather hard to spot – however the loud drumming from its powerful beak in unmistakable. Most often to proclaim territory, the pileated woodpecker will seek hollow wood, utility poles and even metal or tin for loud, quick bursts of 11 to 30 taps in less than a second. They will chip out large, usually rectangular holes in the tops of old trees searching for insects. The pileated’s home is a large nest in the cavities of dead trees in which it will raise its young to maturity, and then abandon to create a new nest next season. It is considered to play an important role in ecology as many other species of birds and mammals depend on these abandoned nests for homes.
Listen to pileated woodpecker drumming: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dryocopus_pileatus-Pileated_Woodpecker-_XC71727.ogg
*The largest woodpecker in the US and one of the largest in the world is the critically endangered and possibly extinct ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis). Averaging 19 – 21 inches with a typical wingspan of 30 inches, the last universally accepted sighting occurred in Louisiana in 1944. It is closely related to the slightly smaller Cuban ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus bairdii) and the Mexican imperial woodpecker (C. imperialis), the largest woodpecker in the world. The imperial woodpecker measures 22 – 23.5 inches long and is also on the critically endangered list.
Unlike its close relatives, the pileated woodpecker is highly adaptable and has actually seen an increase in population from 1966 to 2015.
More Fun Facts About Woodpeckers
Woodpeckers have exceptionally long tongues for foraging insects from deep inside trees. The tongue when retracted wraps around the bird’s skull. This and additional cushioning in the brain helps to protect the bird from any damages that might occur to the brain due to its aggressive pecking.
Most woodpeckers exhibit what is called undulated flight – a few rapid wing beats followed by a glide where the wings are pulled into the body rather than spread out as most birds do. This gives the appearance of a sporadic up-and-down flight pattern.
The woodpecker does not have a distinctive song but rather communicates with chirps, chatters, calls and drumming. A woodpecker can drum up to 20 pecks per second and averages 8,000 to 12,000 pecks per day.
“Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus”. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. U.S. Geological Survey. https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/tr2015/trend2015_v3.html
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The Crape Myrtle, also spelled crepe myrtle, is a genus of trees and shrubs with approximately 50 species. These evergreens can range from 1 – 100 feet tall, but all share the common characteristic of many long-lasting, showy flowers blooming through summer and fall. Colors vary from deep purple to red to white, with almost every shade in between. The name “crepe” stems from the flower’s crimpled, crepe-like texture.
Native to southeast Asia, northern Australia and Oceania, this colorful ornamental can be found in yards, gardens and parks over much of southern US. Three species we most often see here are the common crape myrtle (L. indica), the Japanese crape myrtle (L. fauriei), and the queen crape (L. speciosa).
The common crape was introduced from China and Korea to Charleston, South Carolina in 1790. After over 200 years of cultivation, the common crape myrtle has many varieties to fit almost any landscaping need.
The Japanese crape is known for its distinctive smooth, slippery bark. The Japanese name, saru suberi, literally translates to “monkey slip”. This species is much hardier to frost and fungus, making it a popular parent plant in crape hybrids.
The Queen crape, also known as the giant crape myrtle or banabá, is native to tropical and subtropical India. This species is only suitable for similar climates, and in the US can be found in Florida, southernmost Texas, South Louisiana, coastal southern California, and Hawaii. It is a small to medium-sized tree, most characterized by it’s flaky and smooth white bark.
Crape Murder – Is It Actually Murder?
A common practice for many landscapers is to cut back crapes significantly at the end of each season, called ‘crape murder’. The idea is that new growth creates more blooms next year. While this may be true, excessive yearly pruning can lead to long-term damage to the tree, including stunted trunk growth and a weakened immunity to mildew. It is recommended to only prune dead limbs or limb ends.
Here in Covington, the Crape Myrtles are in full bloom! Take a walk around downtown to admire all of the beautiful varieties!
Here are some links to websites i referenced in this article:
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You can’t live in south Louisiana without running into one of these guys – the Green Anole is native to southeastern US and has spread to most of the region. They have also been introduced to Hawaii and have been spotted in California. Common in yards, the Anoles have adapted to coexist with most urban and suburban habitats.
Adult males are from 5 to 8 in long, 60-70% of which is made up of its tail. Anoles are typically bright green, although they can change colors from a variety of brown, yellow and green hues, making them sometimes mistakenly referred to as the American Chameleon. In fact, anoles are more closely related to the Iguana than the Chameleon. They change color depending on mood, level of stress, activity level and as a social signal, such as displaying dominance.
Anoles are fiercely territorial creatures; males can often be observed fighting other males to defend their territory. The anole will take a stance, bobbing its head, compressing its body and extending its ‘dewlap’, the red fold of skin under its neck. The two will circle each other in an attempt to drive the other away, occasional fighting. This can most often be seen during mating season.
Green Anoles are widely considered to be good beginner reptile pets. Their requirements are fairly minimal and they adapt well to captivity. Shy and timid at first, they can easily be tamed with patience, and some will even eat out of your hand!
Here’s some references I used in this article:
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Blue Jays are possibly the most recognizable common birds of North America – you don’t have to be a birder to pick out its bright blue feathers fluttering through your yard. Most of us by now even know its loud caw, and have often seen them squalling with other birds at feeders.
But while we can identify them, do we really know them? Here are some fun facts about Blue Jays that may just blow your mind!
First off, Blue Jays aren’t really blue!
That’s right! We perceive their feathers as blue, but they are actually black. So what phenomenon produces the blue of bluejays? It’s the same science that explains why the sky is blue. Blue Jays (and all blue birds!) use light scattering, meaning when visible light passes through the feathers all wavelengths of the color spectrum pass through EXCEPT the color blue, which is reflected back to us. Unlike the Cardinal, whose feathers have a red pigment that gives them their color, the Blue Jay has no blue pigment. This phenomenon sometimes called “light scattering” or “Tyndall scattering” causes the blue to keep the same hue when viewed from different angles.
Male and Female Blue Jays Have the Same Patterns
Unlike most birds whose males are usually brighter than their female counterparts, male and female Blue Jays look basically the same. This rare distinction, called sexual monomorphism, makes it difficult to tell the sexes apart, although the males are still usually bigger.
Blue Jays are Loud, but Sometimes for a Reason
We’ve all been berated by squawking jays at some point. Originally the name Jay was given to a talkative, impertinent, chatterbox of a person who tended to dominate conversations. Blue Jays were so named because they tend to be loud, lively, and energetic. They are mostly known for being the bullies of the bird-yard, but they can be helpful too. Blue Jays are incredibly good at imitating the call of a hawk, a common predator to most yard birds. The jays will call out a warning to all that can hear when it spots a hawk approaching.
Blue Jays Mate for Life
And both mom and dad help raise the young.
Hopefully you’ve learned something new about Blue Jays, and we have all gained a new respect for these beautiful birds!
Here are some references I used for this article:
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Summer is the time of year that we can observe the many migratory birds that flock to breed in our area, including the unique hummingbird.
The most common found in our area is the Ruby-throated hummingbird, or Archilochus colubris. It has a metallic green back; males have a bright red throat, females have a white throat and belly. They can most often be found zipping around feeders or tubular flowers, ones that their beaks are designed perfectly for.
On average, the hummingbird flaps its wings 12 – 80 times per second, depending on the species. Mating season also has an affect on this statistic, where the smallest birds can reach up to 100 beats per second. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird beats its wings about 53 times a second. The hummingbird can fly at speeds up to 34 mph on average, and it is the only bird with the ability to fly backwards. They are among the smallest of birds and include the worlds smallest bird, the Cuban Bee hummingbird, measuring 5 cm.
Hummingbird feeders can be a lot of fun to have, sometimes attracting dozens of hummingbirds! But with this fun comes an important responsibility too.
During our hot Louisiana summers the sugar water used in feeders will quickly ferment, turning into an alcohol that is highly toxic to our tiny friends. It is important to clean and sterilize your feeders regularly. One trick is to not fill it so much that is has much time to sit. Food coloring can also be harmful to regular feeders and is unnecessary.
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September got its name from Latin, as most months have. But September is set apart from the other months in that its name is quite deceptive. “Septimus”, the root of “September”, translates to “seventh”, referring to a time when September was actually the seventh month in the year. This changed in 46 BC, when January, and later February, were added to the calendar, but the name stuck. September is the sixth month in the astrological calendar, and September 1st marks the beginning of the meteorological autumn.
The autumnal equinox also finds its home is September, falling between the 21st and 24th. This year the equinox will be on the 22nd, a day where night and day will be equal lengths, going into the longer nights of winter.
When the British Empire adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, some minor adjustments had to be made. To even out and discrepancies, that year September 2nd was immediately followed by September 14th.
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