Lifestyle, botany: yard find: knapweed

Plant identification means constant self-tutoring. The tutor shares a recent lesson.

I’ve noticed this perennial in the yard since I can remember:

Apparently, it’s a knapweed.



Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Tree identification: London planetree

The tutor identifies a London planetree.

A London planetree is a hybrid between American sycamore and Oriental planetree. (The Oriental planetree is a sycamore as well.)

London planetree’s leaves are similar to American sycamore, but its fruits come in strings of 2 to 4, like Oriental planetree. There’s a tree like that a few blocks away.



Brockman, Frank and Rebecca Merrilees. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. New York: Golden Press, 1968.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: tree identification from field guide: English oak

The tutor shares his discovery of English oak in Campbell River.

English oak is easy to zero in on around here. First of all, it’s a white oak: the leaf lobes are round, rather than pointed. (Pointed means red oak.)

When you see a white oak here (knowing by its rounded leaves), it will likely (so far as I know) either be a garry or an English. Yet, the trees are easy to tell apart. The garry oak acorns grow on very short stalks, or possibly just right from the branch. The English oak acorns develop on long stalks.



Little, Elbert L, Susan Rayfield and Olivia Buehl. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees, Western Region. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: remote tree identification: American sycamore

The tutor shares a nice find from his walk home today: an American sycamore tree.

Sometimes, identifying a tree, one can’t get so close as one might like: the tree might be on private property, so the viewer can’t inspect it close-up. Yet, the tree might have distinguishing characteristics that can be identified from across the street. So it is with the American sycamore.

The American sycamore has maple-like leaves, but its fruit are hanging balls (called buttonballs). Specifically, the American variety has one ball per hanging stem. Also, the marginal clefts of American sycamore leaves are much shallower than those of other varieties I’ve read about.

There we have it: a local ID of an American sycamore:)


Brockman, Frank and Rebecca Merrilees. Trees of North America. New York: Golden Press, 1968.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: plant identification from a field guide: California poppy

The tutor brings up an oft-seen ornamental in populated areas of Vancouver Island: the California poppy.

California poppies are hardy plants on Vancouver Island fields, and they’re perennial. They’re typically around 40cm tall, with netted foliage that isn’t very noticeable. The flowers are: they’re usually bright orange, about 1-2 inches across, with 4 petals. The centre is orange too.

Back in June, I walked by California poppies in a field on my way home. They’re still there; I wonder if they just keep flowering until the frost. Around here, you see them in untended fields, beside highways, etc. I think they’re often planted in places where the land has been disturbed but will not be landscaped.

Now school’s back in, my daily walks will likely resume: hopefully, so will my plant shares:)


Pojar, Jim and Andy MacKinnon. Plants of Coastal British Columbia. Vancouver: BC Ministry of Forests and Lone Pine Publishing, 1994.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Botany: mast and masting

The tutor shares a couple of terms he recently learned.

In a forest setting, mast can refer to food dropped from trees and bushes, such as acorns, nuts, or berries.

Masting refers to the trees’ production of the mast, but can specifically mean their coordinated production of bumper crops some years, thin ones other years.

Mast and masting are interesting to the botanist, but perhaps even more so to the sportsman, since produce from the trees influences the behavior of game.

I’ll be talking more about mast and masting.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Oak trees: do red oaks produce acorns every year?

The tutor shares the answer to a question he’s long harboured.

Generally, red oak acorns take two years to mature. Does that mean the tree drops a crop of acorns only every second year?

According to Cathy Blumig of, red oaks flower every year. Therefore, they certainly can produce acorns every year: this fall’s acorns will be from the flowers of sixteen months ago, rather than from the recent spring. Next year’s acorns, in turn, will be from this spring’s flowers.

While the quantity of acorns from a red oak may vary from year to year, the tree can definitely produce them every year.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Botany: black walnut: juglone

The tutor researches the effects of juglone from black walnut trees.

Juglone is a toxin produced by the black walnut tree; it’s found throughout the tree and in its leaves, shells and nuts.

Apparently, to humans eating the walnuts, the juglone is not a problem. However, it enters the soil from the roots of the black walnut tree, as well as from its leaves, twigs, and even pollen falling to the ground – not to mention the nuts and their shells. Some plants, such as tomatoes, potatoes, lilacs, and rhododendrons, can be damaged by the juglone.

To be safe, composted matter from black walnut should wait a year or more before application.

Horses are particularly sensitive to juglone; neither black walnut shavings, nor the husk fibre, etc, should be used in a horse’s environment.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Botany: can creeping buttercup flowers be orange?

The tutor discusses a find yesterday that has him guessing.

Yesterday, clearing foliage from between some paving stones, I noticed an orange flower. In fact, it was going to seed: the petals had collapsed, but still clung to the pistil. There seemed to be five, and they were orange. This plant was among a colony of creeping buttercup, and seemed to be that, as well. (Interestingly, none of the rest of the colony is flowering, so there were no other blooms for comparison.)

The question: can creeping buttercup flowers be orange? I seem to recall they can be, but wanting confirmation, I searched the internet. Two sites suggest that creeping buttercup flowers can be orange: and

I’ll be talking more about yard finds in future posts:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: plant identification from field guide: sulphur cinquefoil

The tutor is glad to offer a botany post.

The past school year, I walked home most weekdays from my wife’s work after dropping the kids at their school, then delivering the car back to her. (She works at a school, but not theirs.) During those walks, rain or shine, I had the opportunity of noticing various plants in the weedy margin of the school field, in vacant lots, or just along the road. From the field guide, and perhaps with the help of the internet, I would identify those plants, then write posts about them. You can find those posts under the botany or lifestyle categories in the sidebar.

My regular readers, of course, already know what I’ve just explained. However, I do so to offer perspective. When you follow a pastime, then your lifestyle changes, your pursuit of that pastime likely will as well.

With my family home for the summer, I haven’t been dropping anyone off anywhere, or leaving the house much. Therefore, I haven’t been seeing many new plants to identify and share. However, I’ve noticed one lately, and I’m glad to talk about it: I believe it’s sulphur cinquefoil.

Sulphur cinquefoil comes from Eurasia, but is well established throughout North America except in the very cold regions. Not being native, it’s not in my guide; I had to find it on the internet from a description search.

Sulphur cinquefoil flowers are five-petaled; the petals are notched, so each may appear to be two. The flowers appear as terminal clusters, although the one I studied isn’t flowering all at once; many blooms are coming, but only a few are open right now, about one per bunch.

The flowers are noticeable from across a field: they are pale yellow, perhaps sulphur-coloured. No other plant around here has flowers that color. The flower center is yellow as well.

On the plant I observed, the leaves are toothed, but not pointed; they are thinly oval. The plant might be around 50cm tall. It’s got several neighbors; they are at the edge of an athletic field. There is another colony more or less opposite.

I can’t recall seeing sulphur cinquefoil before now.



Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.