ok, follow me. so the latin word for apple is malum. if you look this up you will discover that the latin word malum means evil or wicked. why would an apple be associated with evil or wickedness? well, the first thing that comes to mind is the garden of eden and the apple of knowledge. so maybe apples and evil are intertwined all the way back to latin. ah, but wait. the latin word mālum with a long “a” means apple. but the latin word malum with a short “a” means evil. root of the french word for evil, “mal,” and lots of english words like malefactor, maleficent, malediction, etc. the two words come from two greek roots that are entirely unrelated, and so it is purely coincidence that malum, long “a,” and malum, short “a,” happen to be latin homographs. if, of an evening, you find yourself poking around the internet on this subject, you will also find that the apple in the garden of eden was almost certainly not an apple, which doesn’t grow well, or at all, in the deserts of southern iraq, but was most likely either a quince or a pomegranate. so there you have it. two words: malum and malum, tied together by their spelling and by a rich cultural history, and, in the end, completely and totally unrelated. i can’t decide if i’m happy about the way i just spent the last half hour, or sad.
we found this guy in a puddle in the middle of an asphalt parking lot in downtown minneapolis. i can only guess where he came from. probably the mississippi river, but that would have made for an awfully long flight for an insect that flies only rarely during warm weather. he looked half drowned, but was probably happier in his puddle than in our car, as we drove him home to get his portrait taken. we only found out later that he was a water scorpion, and that the long needle at his back end is neither a stinger nor an ovipositor, but a breathing tube. and that he grabs his prey with those mantid-like front legs, then eats them by sucking their fluids out. despite this somewhat antisocial behavior, i find him rather handsome, in a gangly, awkward, lyle lovett kind of way.
brown water scorpion (Ranatra fusca)
every year in september
something about the evolution of lily of the valley leaves draws me to them at this time of the year. something about how the summer heat turns them green, and the coming of autumn turns them brown. as if they were cooled by the sun and burned by the cold.
lily of the valley leaves
turtle lake, shoreview, minnesota
queen anne has hairy legs
a good skill to have if you are a plant picker like me is to know the difference between queen anne’s lace and poison hemlock. they are cousins in the parsley family, but, as in many families, one cousin is an angel and the other is a devil. in this case, one is edible, and the other will kill you in about an hour. fortunately if you remember that “queen anne has hairy legs” (in other words, the stems of the benign queen anne’s lace are hairy and the stems of the poison hemlock are smooth with purple blotches), you should mostly be safe. regardless, i don’t know if i will ever be able to bring myself to eat any part of a queen anne’s lace. i just can’t imagine that the pleasure could equal the worst case scenario risk.
wild carrot, queen anne’s lace
red stem bluestem
in the hierarchy of things, there are artists and there is michelangelo. there are dancers and there is nureyev. there are lakes and there is lake superior. there is grass and there is big bluestem.
big bluestem prairie grass in fall