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These “Cotton Candy” Flowers Look Like Something From Dr Seuss

You’ll be excused for thinking you’ve stepped right into a Dr. Seuss book when you come across a field of Prairie Smoke Flowers.

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(TMU) – State fairs and festivals are few and far between at the moment, as is the beloved pink cotton candy that makes fairs and festivals even more special for most of us.

You’ll know it when you see it, a field of nature’s own cotton candy to delight the soul, and you’ll be excused for thinking you’ve stepped right into a Dr. Seuss book when you come across a field of Prairie Smoke Flowers.

Geum triflorum, commonly known as Prairie Smoke (for its long plumed, wispy seedpods resembling puffs of smoke), or Old Man’s Whiskers (for the hairy covering of the seedpods), is a perennial native to North America. Growing wild from southern Canada to the central and northern United States, this hardy plant favors temperate and sub-arctic grasslands in the wild.

One of the early spring bloomers, these prairie wildflowers continue through summer with clusters of up to nine nodding rose-pink, maroon or purple flowers on each stem of 12-18’’ long. Once fertilized, the seedpods follow.

These silver-pink fluffy cloud-like pods, called achenes, are absolutely reminiscent of pink cotton candy, and even more decorative than the flowers, but not for eating!

The styles are part of the female reproductive organs and stretch in the fruit, forming plumes of close to three inches long. After pollination these stems turn upright and by the time the tufted fruit appear, the feathery heads look like smoke wafting away.

The seed heads remain on the plant for several weeks and turn a golden color and when they dry completely, are lifted and dispersed by the wind.

Sadly, these beautiful wildflowers are becoming scarce in their natural habitat due to stronger naturalized invaders and ever encroaching human development.

Prairie Smoke is not difficult to grow and you can keep these delightful ‘cotton candy’ flowers alive in your own garden quite easily where they’ll thrive in full sun and rocky or sandy soil with moderate moisture, a southern or western exposure is preferred.

Perfect for a dense ground cover, which is useful for controlling weeds and a lovely plant to add to garden beds and borders with other native wildflowers who prefer dry summers.

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Prairie Smoke catching the light of a warm summer evening. Prairie Smoke is the perfect name for this flower! They seem like frozen poofs of smoke, suspended in time. My favorite time to see them is when a warm breeze blows in the golden sunlight of late afternoon or evening. And that’s just what it was like last night when I took this photo. You can feel the warmth in the glowing fuzz of their centers. This image conveys so many sense to me. The sounds of the swooshing and whispering grasses all around. The smell of the tree blossoms carried on the breeze. The feeling of the pleasant air of early summer. All while the full moon rises early in the sky. #prairiesmoke #nativeflowers #minnesota #wildflowers #wildflower #flower #flowers #naturetherapy #phenology #naturejournal #naturelovers #summer #summertime #summerflowers #summervibes #summerevenings #summerlight #prairie #june

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On growing Prairie Smoke from seed, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Master Gardener Program webpage advises:

Triflorum can be grown from seed sown in the spring. Seed started indoors should be stratified for 4-6 weeks. Plants started inside in late February should be ready to plant outside in late May. Autumn sowing outdoors can be successful and this plant may also self-seed, but it is a poor competitor, so is easily out-competed by other more aggressive native or introduced plants. To encourage volunteer seedlings, keep other plants from growing too close to the seedlings.”

Plants can be propagated by division in early spring, after flowering or in the fall. Large clumps in gardens can be divided every 3-4 years to maintain vigor, but those established in prairies can be left alone.:”

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Animals

Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral

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A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.

Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.

The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.

Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.

While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.

“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”

“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.

It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.

“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.

The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.

“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.

The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.

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Environment

Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History

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For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.

Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.

However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.

Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.

The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.

To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.

The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.

“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”

“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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