No need to panic: it’s just the first few panicles of fall


Welp, it’s the middle of October and the first few panicles of the muhly grass in my front yard are beginning to show up, right on schedule: For those of you who may have forgotten your graminological terms, a panicle as defined by Walter Kingsley Taylor is A compound inflorescence consisting of branched racemes; the [...] [...]

Equinox moon with rays


On the morning of the equinox, as I was fruitlessly attempting to capture an image of Mars near the waning crescent moon, I did manage to create a small mystery for myself with the digiscoped image of that crescent moon: This is Day 25 of the lunar cycle, which means there are only 4 days [...] [...]

More action on the passionvine: Zebra heliconian


Florida’s state butterfly is supposed to be the Zebra Longwing: So designated by the 1996 Florida Legislature, it was written into the Florida statutes under the Executive Branch (Title IV), Secretary of State section (Section 15) as follows: 15.0382 Official state butterfly.—The Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius) is designated the official state butterfly. History.—s. 1, ch. 96-153. Section [...] [...]

Florida Word of the Day: Hastula

Today’s word is a botanical term, hastula, which I [...]

Pro(toc)tista redux: the Phaeophyta

I’d already been planning a follow-up of my recent post on that oddball eukaryote kingdom, Pro(toc)tista, just to discuss a couple of phyla that interest me [the brown algae, which include kelp and seaweeds, and the Bacillariophyta, which include diatoms (if you were in and around swimming pools as much as I was when I [...] [...]

Florida word of the day: patronym

A reader commented on yesterday’s post about the use of the word patronym, which prompted me to look into the matter more closely. In my day job, I would have used the word “eponym” where the committee on ornithological names used “patronym.” After all, not only is there a problem with the etymology (patronymic, “Of, relating [...] [...]

Florida word of the day: Red-shouldered Hawk

Yes, I know it’s more of a bird of the day than a word of the day, but bear with me. My recent post about raindrops led me to venture into the realm of the compound word. With any such venture comes the inevitable discussion of the hyphen. And hyphens are a real bugaboo in [...] [...]

Florida word of the day: pickerelweed

In my day job, I spend a lot of time with my nose in dictionaries and style manuals. And today, while thumbing through Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition* (you see why in the trade we call it MW11), I ran across a headword (MW11 calls them “guide words”) that I actually know something about, and, [...] [...]

The gen(i)us of family names

Now that we have the 5 kingdoms of life straightened out (Bacteria, Protoctista, Animalia, Plantae, and Fungi), it’s time to move on in my explanation/exploration of scientific nomenclature. One of the things that had always puzzled me about the naming of things was how many different levels of organization there are. This burgeoning complexity is the [...] [...]

Complexity of organization

As human knowledge grows ever more vast, it becomes more and more difficult for the nonspecialist to keep tabs on such basic things as the classification of life. Remember back in junior high, when you “learned” that there were three basic categories of “thing”: animal, vegetable, mineral? (Actually, you probably learned to make this distinction [...] [...]