Christmas day at the North Pole is dark. In Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homelands of Canada, the Arctic Circle (66.6 degrees), marks the latitude where the noon sun is just visible on December 21st, the northern winter solstice. The sun rises above the horizon for about 2 hours. On Christmas day in Iqaluit, day length will be 4 hours and 22 minutes.
Photo 1. Lighted qulliqs tended by Inuk women in Pond Inlet (left) and Cape Dorset (right), with traditional and modern lamp wicks
Christmas gift tags from Gallery Oldham collection.
The Winter Solstice has been celebrated in many cultures for thousands of years. In our northern latitudes evergreens show how life continues even in the depths of winter.
In pre-Christian times evergreen boughs were hung in winter to encourage the return of the sun gods. Christians preferred holly with the red berries representing the blood of Christ amid eternally green leaves. Continue reading
by Wildfeuer (own work) [GDFL + CC BY 2.5] via wikimedia commons
The genus Kalanchoe
(the preferred pronunciation is kal-un-KOH-ee(1)
) belongs to the Crassulaceae family. Like other members of this family, such as Aeonium, Crassula, Echeveria
and Sedum, Kalanchoes
tend to be succulent evergreen perennials, come from arid environments and make popular houseplants. Continue reading
Photo by Karen Andrews
They say that you should never judge a book by its cover. Walter C. Blasdale’s ‘Cyclamen persicum: Its Natural and Cultivated Forms’ is an unassuming, concise volume that normally sits in the restricted access section of the University of Reading Library. In an age of print or e-books laden with full-colour, blousy photographs, this 1952 edition looks puritanically modest with its black and white prints. It is a gem – just like the flower it describes.
A single tree of the brazil nut
Filling your lap with the sharp fragments of nut shells as you work through a bowl of shell-on nuts is one of the pleasures of Christmas. Less fun is later treading on the sharp fragments that have pinged across the room unnoticed. The, sometimes, superhuman effort of cracking open the nuts is a sure sign the plant didn’t really want you to eat them. One of the most challenging nuts to crack is the Brazil with it’s tough shell and almost no air space inside to allow movement.
Brazil nuts were the most exotic of the standard selection of mixed nhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4065611.stmuts seen for sale each Christmas in the UK. Hazel, walnuts and almonds can all be grown in the UK and around much of the rest of Europe however the Brazil nut really does come from Brazil and it has a fascinating biological story. The pecan has now replaced the brazil as the exotic nut of choice for a standard supermarket bag of mixed nuts due to fear of aflatoxins in the shell-on nuts but this is a poor second choice in my opinion. Shelled brazils are still readily available. Continue reading
With Christmas approaching quickly, many of you are braving the cold and crowds to complete your Christmas shopping. If you do have time for a break you may enjoy one of the most popular lattes on the high street, a Chai latte. Before we go off at a tangent and start debating how much of the high street product actually deserves the name (we are very picky with our beverages here… But we do love Meera Sodha’s Massala Chai), we want you to take a minute and appreciate the star of today’s Advent Botany Blog, the Queen of Spices: Cardamom. Continue reading
This deep dive into pineapple anatomy is our contribution this year to the very fun Advent Botany essay collection, a celebration of plants that are at least somewhat tangentially connected to the winter holidays. In previous years we’ve contributed essays on figs, peppermint, and sugar.
December is the time to bring out the fancy Christmas china, polish the silver pitchers, and . . . bedeck your best bromeliads. In 2017, as in 1700, no proper hostess can be without a pineapple for her centerpiece. Here we unpack the botany of pineapple, which is as complicated and fabulous as its cultural history. A proper hostess, after all, should also be able to dazzle her guests with tales of tropical fruit morphology.
A pineapple in flower (Uni of Reading)
The developing fruit of pineapple (Uni of Reading)