A Japanese maple with marcescence

Marcescence: When foliage won’t fall

What is marcescence? Well, apart from sounding like the answer to a Jeopardy clue that Alex Trebek might spring on unsuspecting contestants, it’s a botanical term to describe a phenomenon that occurs when a normally deciduous hardwood tree stubbornly retains its dead leaves through winter. It is a fairly obscure word and not exactly something […]

How accurate are Canada’s leaf symbols?

It’s been a year of leafy patriotism for Canada’s 150th birthday and of course our favourite leaf from our national tree—the maple, has been proudly displayed on everything from Tim Hortons cups to souvenir t-shirts, mugs and some flyer I found in my mailbox from a slightly shady duct cleaner advertising a celebratory rate in […]

Giant puffball tastes best when fresh

This damp and rainy winter, spring and summer has provided ideal conditions for fungal growth and a real bonanza for wild mushrooms. They seem to be everywhere this year, from a few Dryad’s saddle hanging onto the sides of stressed out trees, to hundreds of tiny Japanese parasols (Parasola plicatilis) making little fungal forests in […]

Curl up with these plant books

Well, there aren’t exactly a heck of a lot of matters that need attention in the “Horticultural Matters” department these days other than tending to giant tropicals that are waiting for the warm spring day when they can escape to the great outdoors. So ever since the big freeze I have been entertaining myself by […]

Superstitions are out of this world

It’s no secret that the plant kingdom has been responsible for creating more than its fair share of superstitions and wacky beliefs over the last few centuries. There are plants that guarantee good luck, prosperity, longevity, romance — and even a few that will repel demonic entities and supernatural beasts from sneaking into the house, […]

Ancient garden art makes a comeback

When I lived on Lee Avenue in the late seventies and eighties there was a unique piece of art on display in Kew Gardens. But this type of art in the park wasn’t of the usual wood carving, sculpture or painting variety. Back in the days when you could buy your socks and underwear at […]

Little beetle means big trouble for Toronto’s ash trees

Just when we thought we had established a beachhead in the battle against the dreaded Asian longhorn beetle, along comes another deadly pest to terrorize our urban forests. As Phil Lameira reported in this newspaper four years ago, the latest participant in the parade of tunnelling chewers assaulting our trees is the well-publicized emerald ash […]