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Mystery Plant! #777

John Nelson

Posted 5/29/24

By John Nelson
johnbnelson@sc.rr.com

    Let’s be bees. Busily buzzing bees. If I were one, this is where I would be.

            Very recently I spent part of a sunny afternoon at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, just wandering around in Marion Square, right in downtown. What a pleasant thing to do: the place full of local Warhols and Picassos selling their masterpieces, and there were plenty of vendors featuring farm produce (the market was in full swing) as well as plenty of tasty treats. A perfect place for wandering and browsing. Lots of well-mannered dogs, and even a few of the children were well-mannered. And of course, the botanist in each one of us has to take a look at the plant life.

(Photo by John Nelson.)

            This is a small tree planted in Marion Square. It is one of about 40 or so different plants in the same genus, most of them occurring in Asia, Europe, and North America. We have a number of native species here in the eastern United States; they don’t seem to get out west too much. These various species around the world, especially the ones in North America, are often really hard to separate as distinct species, and there has been a good bit of botanical controversy in actually telling them apart. The problem is heightened due to the rampant hybridization known to occur among many of these species, and of course, hybrids are often rather intermediate in various features, relative to their parents. It is one of those plant groups in which the concept of “species” is actually a bit strained; such groups might be better conceived not as distinct species, but as a complex of growth forms all within the same genus. But as I say, there is a good bit of academic controversy on this subject…so let’s get back to the fun stuff.

            These various species and hybrids are deciduous, most with dark green leaf blades, sometimes whitened or silvery below. The leaf blades are heart-shaped, and stalked. The trees tend to have dense crowns, and they are excellent for producing shade. (You’ll know of a broad avenue in Berlin, “Unter den Linden”, featuring lots of these trees. And, elsewhere in Germany and Europe, it’s commonly seen in the beer gardens, along with the ubiquitous horse-chestnut trees. To be botanically honest, it turns out that our Mystery Tree is indeed a hybrid.) These various species and hybrids have been prized for centuries as a source of medicine, and a variety of tonics, gargles, teas, and tinctures were made from the flowers, and inner bark of the stems. Various extracts continue to be used as cough remedies.

            The flowers are delightfully fragrant. They appear in clusters at the end of a slender stalk, which is attached to a narrow bract. Each flower will have five pale yellow or white petals, and a lot of stamens. Standing under the lower branches is a real treat: wonderful fragrance! And what must those bees be thinking? After all, the flowers are loaded with pollen, and sweet nectar. It should be (tee-hee) no surprise that this is one of the best bee trees in the world.

[Answer:   “Linden,”  Tilia europaea]

John Nelson is the retired curator of the Herbarium at the University of South Carolina, in the Department of Biological Sciences. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, visit www.herbarium.org or email johnbnelson@sc.rr.com.

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Daddy Had A Worm Farm

Tom Poland

Posted 5/28/24

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

The towns sounded distant, not as miles go, but as memories. Hazlehurst, McRae, Baxley, Soperton, Alma, and Tifton. Tifton meant trouble.

I was studying a map for a six-day trek into South Georgia in August. Near a place called Fargo, I will sleep two nights where a road dead-ends in wilderness that spawns headwaters for the Suwannee River. You know it as the Okefenokee Swamp. First of all, I will seek the farm in Bacon County where Georgia writer Harry Crews lived as a child. Crews’s life, in an odd way, reminds me of my father’s career. As I drive into Crews country a ghost will ride along with me, my father. Together, we will retrace roads familiar.

I go back now though miles of memories, the ’50s and ’60s. In eastern Georgia, I woke six mornings out of seven to the snarl of chainsaws. In a shop of tin, Daddy fixed saws and welded the steel supports that cradled logs on pulpwood trucks. He cut steel. I see him now, adjusting the flow of acetylene and oxygen. He snaps the flint striker. Poof, a neon-blue plume of fire shoots forth, which he adjusts to a lethal blue point. His torch cuts through steel like a knife through butter, unleashing showers of molten steel, a scattering rain of fire.

Back in the day tin covered the saw shop. (Photo by Tom Poland)

The bread and butter of his shop’s trade were chainsaws. The South’s new cash crop, a green monoculture of loblolly and slash pines, was spreading like a plague. Pulpwooders brought their dead and dying chainsaws to Dad’s shop where he revived them. He understood all there was to know as chainsaws go, particularly Poulan saws. And that’s why a man in Tifton, Georgia, hired him away from fixing saws to selling saws.

Dad’s territory was South Georgia. He did not like being away from my mother. He would get up before daylight and drive south. He’d get back late at night. Even so he was the top salesman. “I’m John Poland with Poulan chainsaws.” But when some smart-ass marketing director in Tifton learned that Dad drove home most nights he added northern Florida to his territory. Faced with being away three weeks out of four, Dad quit. He was 46 years old. Thus began a struggle called Survival. One of my flaws is I never forget someone who inflicts unnecessary pain. I ask the fates to rain down hellfire on them, and I am sure the know-it-all paid a price.

At home for good, Dad continued to repair saw blades, he drove a schoolbus as a way to get decent health insurance, and the nearby Clarks Hill Lake sparked an idea. He would raise worms and sell them to bait shops. He raised wrigglers along the fence line across from my mother’s koi pond, a source of pleasure and torment for her.

I don’t know just how he got into the worm business. No one is left who knows. All dead. I remember the containers looked like sour cream cartons. I see him squatting over the ground working his farm. I do not remember why he gave up his worm business but he did. After my mother died, my sisters and I began to get the place ready for sale. One day I pulled up a concrete block from the bottom of the chain-link fence that enclosed the dog yard. The block had sunk into the soil. A handful of wriggling worms took off when I pulled the block free. I smiled.

To this day, when I see a log truck, smell pine resin, or hear a chainsaw whine, I am transported to boyhood and the shop pictured here. Then I think of earthworms. Come August I am going down to Bacon County, Georgia. I want to see where Harry Crews lived, that man who wrote a line that sticks to me like beggar’s lice.

“Survival is triumph enough.”


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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Mystery Plant! #776

John Nelson

Posted 5/28/24

By John Nelson
johnbnelson@sc.rr.com

We’ve had a number of  mysterious pine tree species in this column, and here is another. There’s always a new pine species to learn about: after all, there are about 100 species worldwide.

(Photo by John Nelson.)

This one is growing in a small park not far from my house, in the Shandon area of Columbia, in my old neighborhood. Around here it is a common native species, and can be seen just about all over town, and for that matter, just about anywhere else in South Carolina (mostly though, in the piedmont counties). Now, you probably have this very handsome tree growing not far from where you live, as it is widespread in the southeast, extending from eastern Texas, and Arkansas and Missouri, to the Florida panhandle, and then north. It is frequently found in the New Jersey pine barrens, and may reach its northern limit on Staten Island (so said the excellent Harvard dendrologist Charles S. Sprague in 1933, in his famous “Manual of the Trees of North America”.)

It is a pine, rather obviously. In the genus Pinus, so there’s not much mystery there. But which one? There are about ten different pines that are native down here in the South. This one is potentially a large, stately tree, to 100′ tall (the national champion is apparently in Mississippi, and is 138’ tall), and is valued as an excellent source of lumber, plywood, and pulp, although it is not grown in extensive plantations as are its cousins, loblolly and slash pine. The needles are straight (not twisted) and fairly short (4″ or so) when compared to most of its relatives. Like all pines, it will produce male and female cones on the same branch. The male cones produce pollen. The female cones are the source of the winged seeds…and they are sometimes called “seed” cones. The seed cones of this pine are rather small, again compared to other pine species. Each of the woody scales on the seed cone comes with a sharp point, so the whole cone is quite prickly. (In fact, the scientific name of this species can be translated as “prickly pine”.)

(Photo by John Nelson.)

This pine doesn’t like wet feet. You will find it on high-ground sites, away from any standing water.  This species is a rapid colonizer of old fields throughout its range. When such fields are colonized, additional pine species as well as hardwoods will invariably show up, too, resulting eventually in what ecologists sometimes call a “mixed pine-hardwood” stand.

            Another mystery presents itself here: way up in the top of the tree on the left, you can clearly see a portion of growth which is especially compact and dense, with unusually crowded, stunted needles. This is a “witch’s broom,” an unusual and bristly growth form that may be the result of an injury to the tree, or possibly from the infestation of a parasite. Witch’s brooms occur in many conifers, as well as in various broad-leaved trees. They are sometimes prized in horticulture as curiosities.

[Answer:   “Shortleaf pine,” “Short-needle pine,” Pinus echinata]

John Nelson is the retired curator of the Herbarium at the University of South Carolina, in the Department of Biological Sciences. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, visit www.herbarium.org or email johnbnelson@sc.rr.com.

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Living on Purpose: Fallen but not forgotten

Dr. William Holland

Posted 5/28/24

By Dr. William Holland

This week we honor those who died while fighting for our country. There was a time when society seemed to be more sensitive and compassionate about casualties of war, but today there are so many distractions that cause us to not have our priorities in the right order. This day is not about politics or worldviews, it’s about giving the highest respect to those who paid the greatest price. The liberties we are thankful for today did not come without the sacrifice of many brave men and women as freedom does not come without cost. We remember those who were not given the opportunity to be reunited with their families or to enjoy the abundant blessings that we often take for granted.

While both Memorial Day and Veterans Day are Federal holidays, there is a distinction between them. Here are a few things some people might not know about this time of reflection and remembrance. Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May and commemorates the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. You’ll find that some veterans find it dismaying when they are thanked on this day and most realize the person has good intentions but are confused about who the day is meant to honor. Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor every veteran who has served or currently serving in the United States Armed Forces, in wartime or peacetime and is observed officially on November 11, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls.

Traditionally, on Memorial Day, volunteers often place small American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries. Flags are raised and then solemnly lowered to half mast. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 pm. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day in 1861, as military personnel was honored from the American Civil War. It’s believed the tradition of honoring fallen soldiers was inspired by the way Southern states decorated both the Confederate and Union soldiers graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan issued an order to designate May 30 as an annual day of remembrance. America’s compassion to remember its fallen warriors became prominent as monuments were constructed and ceremonies centering on the decoration of soldiers’ graves were held in towns and cities throughout the nation.

After World War I, Decoration Day included all fallen soldiers, not just those from the Civil War, and the term “Memorial Day” started being used. In 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday by an act of Congress. For all the grieving families that have lost loved ones to war we pray that God will continue to bring comfort and peace. 1Peter 5:7 promises, “Cast all your anxieties on Christ, for He cares for you.” “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him” – Gilbert Chesterton. It’s estimated that over 1.1 million American soldiers have been killed since the Revolutionary War in 1775. May we never forget that freedom isn’t free. It’s often said, we don’t know them all, but we owe them all.

My uncle Kenny and his cousin Thomas were drafted for the Korean War at the tender age of 18. Two young men fresh out of high school who had their entire lives ahead of them. My mother admired her older brother Kenny who as a teenager worked in a grocery store after school and would give their mother a part of his wages to help the struggling family. Mom was the youngest and remembers the day when military personnel arrived and knocked on the door with the devastating news that Kenny had perished on the front lines. His body was not recovered, but his dog tags were found on the battlefield. My grandmother ran through the house screaming and stayed in bed for a week. Cousin Thomas was never found and is listed as missing in action. As the generations keep moving forward, there will come a day when no one will remember them, however, it’s comforting to know that God will never forget them. Our flag doesn’t fly because the wind moves it, but because of the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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Hemingway’s Pocket

Tom Poland

Posted 5/21/2024

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

We give little thought to our pockets until one gets a hole in it. When it does, it becomes a liability. Well, what’s the history of pockets? When did these bags sewn into pants and jackets become handy for stuffing our hands in on a wintry walk in woods? Read on.

Pockets began to appear in men’s clothing in the 17th century. Pocket comes from Old French, “pouque,” which means “pouch.” Thus did the word, “pocket,” join our vocabulary. Before pockets, people kept things in small bags hung on a belt or worn around the waist. That brings to mind that awful fanny-pack contraption, a sure sign the offender cometh from up North. There’s much more history on pockets, but I didn’t come here for that.

I came to discuss something weighty. I read that before pockets came along people had no way to hide a weapon. That stopped me in my tracks. Then, this thought came to me. “Of course, we hide all kinds of things in our pockets.” Stay with me now.

Back in March, I spoke to a gathering of ladies at the Tuckahoe Woman’s Club in Richmond, Virginia, a fine occasion. The month before, Valerie Hemingway spoke to the club, talking about her book, Running with the Bulls, which chronicled her years with the Hemingways. She was Ernest Hemingway’s secretary, and after Hemingway’s death, she married his son, Gregory, becoming a Hemingway herself.

Some of us carry a bit of luck in our pocket. (Photo by Tom Poland)

The club gifted me a signed copy of her book, and it’s a good read. You see Hemingway as an ordinary human, one of us. On page 59 I read how Hemingway kept good luck charms and other things in his pocket. Wrote Valerie, “He handed me a furry rabbit’s foot pendant with gold stem and loop.”

Earlier he had given her a lucky pebble. “You never know when your luck will run out,” he told her. He told her, too, he “always hedged his bets by keeping a lucky stone close.” Then he proved to Valerie that his words carried iron. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a soiled white linen handkerchief, a rusting penknife, a string, and old chestnut, and a smooth black pebble.

It did me good to read about Hemingway’s pocket. I keep stones and things nearby myself. It just seems that some objects through some kind of mystic alchemy become talismans. Some of you keep stones and lucky charms in your pocket or close by. You’ve told me so. Good for you. As Hemingway said, “You never know when your luck will run out.”

When I am on the road, when I am afield in some patch of countryside, a Castillo knife with a burly birch handle in a leather sheath hides in my pocket. Handmade in Spain, it’s a fine tool. I keep it close by for three reasons. A folding knife comes in handy—those blasted plastic packs of ketchup and strawberry jam are impossible to open. I take the knife to them. Second, it’s a handsome knife. I love to feel it in my hand, balanced, sharp, and a treat for the eyes. But, third, it brings me good luck. I always find just what I seek afield as photos go. Now back to that book.

Ernest Hemingway validated what I believe and it is this: we humans, for all our learning and sophistication, clearly know that a bit of fortune goes a long way in this life. A stroke of luck can make a day.

As for Hemingway, a run of self-imposed harm and bad luck led to his demise. His smooth pebble? I wonder where it is today. And us, well, we’re not hiding things in our pockets. We’re just keeping them close by. And that book, Running with the Bulls? I can truthfully say I have a book signed by Hemingway. It’s just not that bearded fellow who kept a smooth pebble in his pocket.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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Living on Purpose: What is the abundant life Jesus offers?

Dr. William Holland

Posted 5/21/2024

By Dr. William Holland

It’s common in this modern age for religious seekers to comb the Bible for passages that promise endless blessings. People love to hear messages about God protecting His children from danger and suffering, and how He wants to give us everything we dream about. The problem is this is not exactly why the Christian life was established. Christians should read and study the Bible daily, while keeping everything in context is critical to understanding more clearly to what God is saying. It’s true that He loves us, but even in His endless compassion, He did not promise this life would be a bed of luxury while servants wait on us and we never have any pain or a need to have unwavering faith.

For example, we can cherry-pick verses from the Bible such as Proverbs chapters 2 through 4, but the big picture of comprehension comes when we study each word within the entire section and spiritually connect it together. The same is true for Psalm chapter 103 and all the other promises throughout God’s word. Yes, every word in the Bible is God-breathed, and since they are divine words, we must interpret them through God’s Spirit. The Greek word logos (Λόγος) has multiple meanings, including, “word,” “thought,” “principle,” “utterance,” “message,” “discourse,” or “reason.” In Christianity, it’s a title for Jesus Christ and identified with the second person of the Trinity. The term is most commonly used to refer to Jesus as The Word, as in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the word (logos), and the word (logos) was with God, and the word (logos) was God.”

There is also another reference for the word of God called rhema. Both logos and rhema are instructions from God, as the former is His written word objectively recorded in the Old and New Testaments, while the latter is an explicit word that He speaks personally on particular occasions through His Spirit. Have you ever heard God speak to you? A passage of the logos can move into being rhema if it is revealed by the Holy Spirit to apply to a certain situation. This explains why we must not attempt to piece together a theological view in our own intellect, without first listening to the still small voice of God directing and confirming His perfect truth. Trying to explain the Bible without praying for spiritual wisdom and discernment only increases the confusion.

I once heard a story about a missionary who wanted to travel to another country and preach the gospel. He had been seeking and praying for a rhema word that would give him the green light to move forward with his plans. He finally heard the word “go” and off he went with his family. He spent all that he had and ended up in a difficult place that was filled with dead-ends and obstacles. After a year of frustration, discouragement, and defeat, they came back home and he fell on his face fasting and crying out to God asking what in the world happened? He then heard the Lord clearly speak, “I said go…and stay busy where you are and wait for my perfect timing.” He had only heard what he wanted and was so impatient he failed to listen to the complete message. God has a definite plan for us, but it will not be effective or successful unless we do it His way.

Being a living sacrifice is the opportunity to have abundant life, as spiritual fulfillment is received through what we have invested in our obedience to God. Becoming one with Christ is how we are filled with the “abundance” of His joy and contentment. Jesus is always directing within the spiritual realm and the abundant life He gives is not based on materialism but for the Father to receive glory. How can we love God when our love is focused on our flesh? Yes, He provides our needs, but let us not twist His words around to satisfy our desire for earthly pleasures. True abundant living is about surrendering our will to Him so that we can accomplish His will. Everything we have was given to us including our very existence, and yet it’s easy to ignore the principle of giving is the very nature of God. This means the genuine abundant life is not about obtaining worldly riches and power, but is directly connected with our highest calling to give all that we have and all that we are to Him.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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Monsoons, Dogs, & Drought

Tom Poland

Posted 5/20/24

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

A spring long ago … It rained and rained. And then it rained some more. The rain gauge brimmed and our yard turned quagmire. It rained so long our Boston terriers couldn’t walk. We thought they had tick fever. A plump bloodsucking tick wasn’t the problem. A fungus had rendered the areas between their toes raw and red. The vet told us to soak their diseased paws in bleach. My father and I stood them in a basin of Clorox as they howled. If we’d cut their feet off, it would have been more merciful. It’s a memory I want to forget, but you cannot kill memories, and we readily summon up seasons when Mother Nature turns extreme.

Seems every so often I’ll say, “I’ve never seen it rain so much.” I’m saying it now. My pilgrimages to the rocky shoals spider lilies keep getting rained out. That’s not happened before. I fear this mini-monsoon-like season is a lost cause. “There’s some things in life you can’t explain, so I’m talking to God, praying for rain,” sang Henley. The prayer is working. Don’t you know, though, come July-August when corn is burning and dust devils spin across fields, when lawnmowers sit idle, and Copes gray treefrogs mute, we’ll wish we had some of this rain that keeps on keeping on.

Yes, when Sirius rises at dawn and the sultry Dog Days commence we’ll plead for rain. Superstitions will bloom like wildflowers. Some will hang dead snakes in trees. Many will wash their car to summon rain. Others leave umbrellas at home, a sure rainmaker. All will pray for raindrops, drizzles, showers, rainstorms, cloudbursts’ downpours, deluges, and storms. But no flood. Just heavy showers of dogs and cats.

Will all the rain lead to a summer drought? (Photo by Tom Poland)

“If it keeps on raining the levee’s gonna break,” sang Plant. Maybe not this summer. We’re having a curious year. So far we’ve seen rarely seen cicadas and we’ve seen rarely seen Northern Lights. Will we see a rarely seen drought thanks to Sirius, ancient Greek, seírios, for scorching?

In this year of strange happenings I suspect we might contend with that dire word, “drought” as we did when my father lay in his deathbed during the scorching summer of 2003. Death was on his mind, not his, but that of two giant oaks. He sent me to our church to water the oaks out front. Every day, late in the afternoon, water those oaks with a green hose. The ground sucked that water in and yet it still seemed thirsty.

Today the oaks and their deep green leaves, washed by rain live on, free of dust. And yet I find a strange beauty along dirt roads’ shoulders. Trucks raise dust, the fine powdered kind that coats leaves like some manifestation of pollen. You can lick your fingertip and write your initials on the leaves. A fine mud clings to your fingertip. When I do what I just described, I think of my father’s oaks.

Drought and rain and rain and drought. This tandem gives songwriters and novelists good material because deep inside we fear extreme weather. Cormac McCarthy: “In the oncoming years a terrible drought struck west Texas. There was no work in that country anywhere. Pasture gates stood open and sand drifted in the roads and after a few years it was rare to see stock of any kind ….”

He also wrote this. Read it aloud. “The rain had ripened all the country around and the roadside grass was luminous and green from the run-off and flowers were in bloom across the open country.” Luminous and green—that’s the landscape I’m seeing. The rain keeps falling. “Here Comes the Rain Again” goes the song Lennox sings. Tell me do your dogs find it painful to walk? What do you do for them?

No bleach I pray.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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Mystery Plant! #775

John Nelson

Posted 5/15/24

By John Nelson
johnbnelson@sc.rr.com

It’s not a grass, and it’s not a sage. It’s a “sedge”.

This week’s column is devoted to a certain plant family, and especially a certain genus within the family. This would be the family named “Cyperaceae”, an enormous group, in terms of number of species, all of which are called “sedges” of one sort or another.

You may have heard that “Sedges have edges, and grasses are round,” a simplistic statement describing the stems of these plants. Indeed, sedge species commonly have their stems (which we call “culms”) somewhat triangular in cross-section, and sometimes sharply so. Grasses, on the other hand, have culms which are generally circular in cross-section. Rolling the stem between your thumb and index finger often bears this out. The distinction between these groups is better based upon characteristics of the flowers and fruits, however, rather than on stem shape. Both sedges and grasses have highly reduced flowers, and hard, one-seeded fruits.

(Photo by John Nelson.)

In grasses, the fruit is what we call a grain, which most people already know. Each individual grain of a grass plant (for instance, corn or wheat) will have a single seed inside, whose wall is completely fused to the inner wall of the grain. Sedges, on the other hand, have fruits which we call “achenes”: in these, the interior seed is more or less free from the wall of the fruit. Of course, there are other differences, too, but they can be part of a different story.

There are many thousands of different species of sedges, and these species are found nearly world-wide, and in a variety of habitats. There are quite a number of sedge species in the Southeast, and a lot of them are weedy, some rather notorious and problematic, while others are quite rare.

Our Mystery sedge is a species placed in the genus Carex, as it turns out, and which is by far the largest genus in the family, if you go by species number.. There are nearly 3,000 different species of Carex, and to some botanists, they represent one of the more difficult groups for identification, due to the small size of their reproductive structures, and to their great variability. Species in this genus are perennials, and nearly all have their flowers segregated into spikes as either staminate (male) or pistillate (female). The female flower is represented by just a single pistil, and it will be found inside a little bag of tissue which we call a “perigynium”. Here, the perigynia are rather blunt-tipped (in some species of Carex the perigonium can be long and pointy), and the male flowers are crowded into a spike at the very tip end of the culm.

This particular species of Carex is common in the Southeast. I saw it in some considerable abundance the other day, growing in a ditch, and showing off its rather pronounced yellow-green foliage. The plants themselves are attractive, in a sort of sedge-y way, and I bet they would look good growing in a sunny bog garden, if given the chance.

[Answer:  “Thicket sedge”,  Carex abscondita]

John Nelson is the retired curator of the Herbarium at the University of South Carolina, in the Department of Biological Sciences. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, visit www.herbarium.org or email johnbnelson@sc.rr.com.

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Cicadas’ Rise & Fall

Tom Poland

Posted 5/14/24

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

A spring or summer day isn’t quite Southern without singing cicadas and it seems our annual cicadas love the heat of day come summer, singing best during sultry hours. To me, the singsong rise and fall of cicadas, a storm’s earthy rain fragrance, and the happy singing of rain frogs trademark warm seasons in the South. Sure cicadas and frogs exist throughout the world but our cicadas and frogs give the South dimension, a sort of grandeur. There’s something especially Southern about cicadas, the annual variety and the spectacular periodical ones.

James Dickey alluded to them in Deliverance. The men drive into the fictional town of Oree, seeking drivers to take their cars to where they plan to end their canoe trip down the Cahulawassie. “We went to a Texaco station and asked if there was anybody there who’d like to make some money. When Lewis killed the engine, the air came alive and shook with insects, even in the center of town, an in-and-out responding silence of noise.” That’s a good description.

And now the air shakes with a noise like no other thanks to our 17-year periodical cicadas, those alien bugs with red bulbous eyes. These industrial-strength cicadas are pretty much harmless, neither biting nor stinging. They don’t even harm plants that much. And yet so many folks tell me they can’t tolerate them. “I’ll be glad when they’re gone,” some say. “They scare me flying all over like they are out of control,” say others. “They make a mess of my driveway. I have to hose it down.” “They’re ugly. They look like weird roaches.” Those things clinging to trees look like pork rinds.” And so it goes …

If not dead already, it will be soon. (Photo by Tom Poland)

Well, I like them. They remind me yet again of the remarkable life strategies nature gives her creatures. And something else. I suspect cicadas would have a say about our cars and trucks zooming down the road crushing all insects in their path.

One thing’s for sure. No other insect creates as much excitement as periodical cicadas. You get up one morning, hear a sound that reverberates through the woods, walk outside, and see the critters darting about, and you know you’re in for several weeks of clamoring, flying bugs. From dawn to night, the males shatter the quiet with their ear-splitting song. It’s like some mega machinery howling at thousands of revolutions per minute. It’s said the male cicada makes the loudest sound in the insect world. Its trilling can carry up to a mile. The trilling is all about attracting a female.

They’re fading now. This stage of life is soon to end. Once the little critters consummate their relationship, the female will lay eggs within the branch tips. The young will emerge six to 10 weeks later, drop to the ground, and dig to tree roots where they’ll feed on the tree’s nutrients and emerge 17 years later.

Other species of cicadas exist besides those that take 13 and 17 years to develop. “Dog-day cicadas,” which some folks call “July flies” take two to five years to undergo metamorphosis. When cycles overlap and both species are out and about, you can tell them apart. Periodical cicadas have red eyes; annual cicadas have black eyes.

Our cool, wet spring has put a damper on the partying it seems. It’s sad in a way to see the cicada fest end and soon it will seem especially quiet. But beware of what’s to come. When the cicadas reproduce and their offspring burrow into the earth to start another 17-year cycle, something not so pleasant replaces the noise. Their dead bodies leave a smell some compare to Limburger cheese and that’s the end of this amazing spectacle, for 17 years anyway.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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Living on Purpose: Do we love God and ourselves enough to change?

Dr. William Holland

Posted 5/14/24

By Dr. William Holland

I recently read a story about an elderly preacher who was invited each week to speak at a school in Africa and he made a tremendous impact on the children. In every lesson, he would begin and conclude by leading them into confessing the phrases, self-control, self-discipline, and sound mind. One of the young students in these classes is now a man who remembers how they recited these words so much they became a part of their vocabulary. When the children would see him walking down the streets, they would shout, “self-control, self-disciple, and sound mind” and he would shout them back. He explains at the time he didn’t understand the weight and the sense of commitment these words carried, but over the years he developed a deeper wisdom about these principles that everyone can possess to fulfill the mandate that God has given them here on earth.

I embrace the power of positive confessions and believe it’s beneficial to speak God’s promises over our lives and those we love. It’s directly associated with faith in what He says and helps bring us to a place of maturity where we know He is listening. According to His perfect will, He can create the fruit of our lips and wants to demonstrate His truth. There is a carnal idea that we can name and claim whatever we want which is based more on our will than His. True spiritual confessions repeat and confirm what God has told us as we come into agreement with a revelation of His spiritual authority and victory that Christ wants us to walk in. As with every purpose, we realize that God wants to share His thoughts and agenda with us so that we can know what He is doing and how He wants to use us. These positive and powerful battle cries are critical to the faith and encouragement of every devoted warrior of Jesus as they fervently fight on the front lines for His glory.

Without self-control, we are as James describes like a wave on the sea tossed here and there as it’s declared that a double-minded person is unstable and cannot receive anything from the Lord. Let us train our minds and develop an awareness of God’s presence to stay focused on our mission. We cannot walk in the Spirit of God and continue to serve our carnal nature, as Matthew chapter 6 clearly explains that we cannot serve two masters at once. Either we will hate the one and love the other. Without self-discipline to learn divine wisdom and resist temptation, we will remain defeated by the many snare traps that are set for us every day. Without a sound mind, we become an easy target of the enemy to become infected with doubting and compromising that causes us to be unstable in our spiritual convictions.

When we look closely at our relationship with Christ and the gift of salvation, we do not see within God’s word where we automatically live as an overcomer for Him. On the contrary, while everything is provided, the gifts, armor, sound mind, wisdom, faith, love, discernment, holiness, joy, passion, and all the other tools and weapons of our warfare, do not just fall out of the air. They must become a relentless vision that we pursue and intentionally incorporate within our minds. When anyone is successful in anything, we learn that achievement does not happen with a half-hearted effort. They decided that nothing (including pain) would prevent them from being driven to succeed. Can we compare this level of intensity to being possessed to please God? Yes.

One definition of self-control is, “The ability to manage one’s impulses, emotions, and behaviors to accomplish long-term goals especially when facing resistance and discouragement.” Until we comprehend what it will take to become the best version of ourselves for God, we will find ourselves rendered powerless to the desires of our fleshly feelings and carnal nature. The question is do we love God and ourselves enough to change? Overcoming in this life is about resisting the internal and external influences that are battling us for control. Since Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, it’s given to empower us to like Christ as we strive to fulfill the Father’s plans. If we sincerely want to change how we live, we must change our habits, and the only person that has the power to replace bad habits with good ones is ourselves

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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