Hopping Good Times

hops-cones

Common Hops, Humulus lupulus, is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the Cannabaceae or hemp family. It is a native to Europe and is cultivated in North America as well.  The sexes are separate or dioecious with the female plant’s strobili (pictured above) being of economic importance. The male staminate flowers do not have petals. Hops rely on wind-pollination of flowers. The plant is a herbaceous perennial climbing plant which sends up new shoots in early spring and dies back to a cold-hardy rhizome (underground stem) in autumn. You can find leaves with 1, 3, 5, and 7 lobes on the same plant. Plants can produce up to 20 years.

The female cone-shaped fruits from H. lupulus are used by breweries.  The fragrant flower cones, known as hops, impart a bitter flavor, and also have aromatic and preservative qualities. Hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages.

Hops plants grow best in the latitude range of 38°-51° (growing zones 5 – 8) in full sun with moderate amounts of rainfall and nutrient-rich soil with good drainage. Plants use the long summer days as a cue for when to flower around July or August. Plants can grow up to 30 feet tall and are typically suspended by free-standing poles or lattices will trellising twine.

Any hop rhizomes you buy will be female. Male hop plants are not cultivated.  Spring is the best time to plant hops.  First-year plants expend energy growing roots with only a few cones possible.  By the second year, you should see a marked increase in cones.

Chmelnice

A commercial hops yard using a trellis and pole system to suspend hops plants.

The American Holly

american holly tree

Holly is a popular Christmas and Winter holiday season decoration. In English poetry and English stories, the holly is inseparably connected with the merry-making and greetings which gather around the Christmas time. But this tree offers much more. It lends its unique beauty to the landscape all year long and provides shelter and food for birds.

The American holly, Ilex opaca, is a species of holly, native to the eastern and south-central United States. It is a medium-sized broad-leaved evergreen tree with alternate leaves that are stiff, green and often pale yellow beneath. The edges are curved with several spike-like points. The petiole is short with a pair of minute stipules. The leaves remain on the branches for two to three years, finally falling in the spring. The sexes are separate from the female tree producing those beautify red berries.

The American holly is often cultivated by plant nurseries for use as an evergreen ornamental plant. It is planted as a shrub or as a slower-growing ornamental tree with over 1,000 cultivars available.

If you are interested in growing holly please remember these facts and choose a suitable location. The American holly grows to a height of 40–50′ and a spread of 18–40′ at maturity. This tree grows at a slow to medium rate, with height increases of anywhere from less than 12″ to 24″ per year. Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Buttercup Plant Information

buttercup

Buttercups are familiar wildflowers of open fields, roadsides, and river banks.   They belong to the genus Ranunculus containing about 500 species of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae. These plants flower from April to May, but flowers may be present throughout the summer. Some species are popular ornamental flowers in horticulture, with many cultivars selected for large and brightly colored flowers.

The yellow petals are often bright and glossy, owing to a special coloration mechanism. The petal’s upper surface is flat causing a mirror-like reflection with sunlight that is comparable to glass. The reflected color is yellow due to the absorption of colors in the blue-green region of the spectrum by carotenoid pigment located inside the petals. The flashy color aids in attracting pollinating insects and helps in temperature regulation of the flower’s reproductive organs.

Buttercups have leaves attached as a whorl around the stem. In many perennial species, runners are sent out that will develop new plants as a form of asexual reproduction. The leaves lack stipules at the petiole base.

The flowers have both male and female reproductive structures. Each flower has sepals or bud leaves with five yellow, green or white petals. At the base of each petal is usually one nectary gland that is naked or may be covered by a scale. Male anthers are often arranged in a spiral with yellow pollen which will become the male gametophyte. The female portion of the flower has green or yellow individual carpels. These structures contain the female gametophyte.

Ranunculus_glaberrimus_labelled

Some Facts about buttercup plants:

  • Can grow from 14 to 16 inches in height
  • Have cup-shaped flowers composed of 5 petals
  • Flowers are usually bright yellow-colored
  • Have lustrous flowers thanks to a special layer of reflective cells
  • Buttercups are poisonous to humans and livestock. Contact may cause dermatitis.
  • Can be propagated via parts of the root and bulb or via seed

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