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Modern Myths of Flora and Fauna

February begins with Groundhog Day when famous Punxsutawney Phil comes out from his winter sleep and looks around.  If he sees his shadow, winter will be 6 weeks longer.

It was sunny, so he saw his shadow.  It’s been a bitterly cold winter so far and Spring will not come early if you believe in predictions by rodents.  Ancient European cultures did, and courtesy of German immigrants to Pennsylvania, they gave us our Phil in 1841.  In the town’s yearly ceremony, they wear formal dress, top hats, and speak only German.  They claim an accuracy weather prediction rate of 75 to 90%.

However the Storm Fax Weather Almanac (1887) gives Phil 39%.  The National Climatic Data Center says that on average he was inaccurate.  Pure chance is 33%.  You can anthropomorphize animals, or even give them special magic powers, it’s up to you.  But dress warmly.

The folklore for plants is no less than for animals.  One of my books believes that houseplants can hear us, know when we love them and then they grow.  Another says that if you breathe on them they appreciate the carbon dioxide you exhale.  (A study of this showed it didn’t really do anything.)

The cold of winter is a time to cherish one’s houseplants.  I have always preferred fragrant ones, and the scent of my Meyer lemons is so special.  In Japan, some researchers postulated that the smell of lemon and rosemary in the morning, and lavender and orange in the afternoon improved Altzheimer’s  cognitive functions.  In Germany lavender supposedly helped with pain.  (Not too scientific, to be sure.)

Eventually you will probably get tired of your poinsettia from Christmas, however if you cherish it a little you can enjoy it this spring.  And if you like challenges, you may even get it to bloom next winter.

Native to the tropics, this plant has been bred to so many beautiful colors.  The petals are actually colored leaves (called bracts) that hang on for a long time.  However the green leaves often fall off, either from too much water, not enough water, cold drafts, or poor light.  They droop like a dog’s tail.

The colored bracts remain on top of bare stems.  You can fill these bare spaces with other plants.  Or you can cut the stems to about 6 inches, fertilize monthly, and new green shoots should grow.  Plants can go outdoors for the summer.

Bring indoors in fall.  To get the colored leaves to reappear requires total darkness for 14 hours each day, plus 10 hours of bright light, for about 3 months.  (Window sill to closet daily.)  If you are lucky the bracts may turn red for you.  I’ve tried this, and for my money, I let the nurseries do it.