The Backyard Science group regularly features the Daily Bucket. We hope you will add your own observations of the world around you. Insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds, flowers, and more are all worthy additions to the Bucket. Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment, but limit any praise of slugs. Include, as close as is comfortable for you, your location. Each note records your impression for our future reference as we try to understand the enchanting patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.A couple of weeks ago, I received an unsolicited e-mail. I don’t know why they chose me. Later, I realized they’d probably been tracking my related Web traffic and knew my weaknesses.
The e-mail offered thrills, like nothing I’d experienced for decades. It had pictures. My mind was not my own. My heart pounded like I’d had two double expressos. I knew it was wrong, but I answered the e-mail.
How I feared what would happen next. Would my wife find out? She’d surely see the credit card charge. What about the morning the government sedan will pull into the drive way, and the two burly guys in cheap suits, Good Cop and Bad Cop, will force their way in?
I won't even want to open the front door, but what will I do if they’re already in the living room?
The Bad Cop will start,”We’re here investigating violations related to 18 USC 42. We can arrest you right now. Did you think the NSA wouldn’t see your e-mail?”
Good Cop chimes in,”We’re got people at your former address. We’ve found more potential violations there. Could you explain that?”
I might glimpse, in their hand, a copy of my indiscreet e-mail. If only I could control my impulses! Yes, I had foolishly ordered an invasive pond plant, “Floating Hearts,” (Nyphoides peltata). But it had pretty flowers in the picture!
While NSA didn’t really bust me for my pond plant order, I did get a notice from Pondbiz, a mail order plant wholesaler, that they couldn’t legally ship my order of "Floating Hearts" into Oregon. Only then did I peruse the State Department of Agriculture site. It's a category "A" rate noxious weed "... with the capability to dominate shallow lakes.." How low had I sunk?
I’ve attempted to repent, by seeking, instead, a native pond plant, the Rush, (Juncus effusus.) I just dug a couple out of the golf course ponds, and have transplanted them into my backyard ponds.
For the last day or two, I’ve sought to discover the beauty and utility of the Rush, a not-so gaudy plant. Its spikey grass-like stalks reach up, out of the water. It features star-shaped groups of tan flowers on the stalk ends, although Wikipedia insultingly calls the flowers “small and insignificant.”
If you were a small water-loving critter or bug, you could crawl out of the water, up the Rush stalks and enjoy the sun. If a predator approached, you could retreat back down into the stalks, where a raccoon or bird might hesitate to thrust its face. Small fish can hide in its stalks below the water line, and find some traction there during mating season. Ducks eat the Rushes' seeds and roots.
Just looking at the Rush plant triggers memories of a popular Bible legend. The Egyptian Pharaoh once ordered the drowning of every male Israeli baby. But Levi’s wife instead placed her infant Moses in a basket made of Rushes and pitch, and hid it among the bulrushes and flags, where the Pharaoh’s daughter found and rescued him. So the Rush basket saved Moses.
I may be treading in thin theological ice, by relying on the current Bible stories to prove up the honored role of Rushes. The true name of those plants may have changed over 2000 years of translations. There are also scores of species of Rushes. Mine are Juncus effuses, the common Rush.
I’ve read that Biblical bulrushes may refer to what we currently call cattails. I’ve got a few of those, too. Other source materials claim the Egyptian bulrushes could have been members of the sedge family, such as Cyperus Papyrus (paper reed) while my cattails are Typha. Rushes, bulrushes, papyrus and cattails all grow along Egyptian rivers.
For now, I'm courting the native Rushes and Cattails. I hope that atones for my impulsive grasp for the invasive Floating Hearts.