Showy Tarweed Seeds (Madia elegans)
It might be that people don’t wake up early enough to appreciate and familiarize themselves with this fascinating annual sunflower relative. Arising from a single hairy, sticky, and resinous stalk that smells like pineapple, showy tarweed explodes into a multi-headed hydra of gloriously bright yellow flowers nearly 4 inches across that are often marked with deep magenta centers. The magnificent flowers that burst forth before sunrise, curl up from each petal tip by midday, eluding late risers.
But the bees know.
Male melissodes (long-horned bees) in particular, know tarweed flowerheads are a great place to spend the night, clustered together in nectar-soaked revere, awaiting the sunlight of dawn and the female bees that wake early to pollinate this plant.
Showy tarweed reaches heights atypical of our native wildflowers, often standing more than 5-feet high, towering above the dried-out kin of earlier seasons. This late season bloomer also has the fantastically amazing ability to set deep tap roots that allow it to prosper in the latest, hottest days of summer, even in heavy clay soils, months after the last rainfall. Occurring from southern Washington throughout California, showy tarweed wraps up its short, dazzling lifecycle with small, sunflower-like seeds that attract goldfinches and other songbirds. This is an easy to grow garden plant, and one that more people should get up early to take notice of.
Growing Tropical Fruit in the Pacific Northwest
Back in June, I visited my family out in Pennsylvania. I love seeing them for so many reasons, but one that stands out is my Aunt Caryl’s mouth-watering cooking. While I was there, she baked a delicious pie with blueberries she bought from the farmers market. She also used the one and only lemon that she grew from her very own lemon tree.
Pennsylvania, like Seattle, can be an inhospitable place for tropical plants. However, they can do very well indoors during those colder months. Browsing your local nursery or big-box home improvement store, you will discover all sorts of them.
Earlier this year, in May, an ex-coworker and I saved the seeds of a specialty tropical fruit. This fruit makes only a brief appearance in the grocery stores around here, for about a month, then it goes unheard of until next Spring. It’s called the cherimoya.
We soaked the seeds for a couple days before planting them.
I knew that it was possible to grow the plants here. I had heard of a man up in the Cascade mountains growing a lemon tree against a huge rock that collected heat and reflected light onto it. However, before planting them, I had to do a bit of research and peruse the Internet.
On May 5, I planted them in a pot with an avocado pit I had rescued earlier.
An avocado pit was planted in the middle with cherimoya seeds surrounding it.
Originally from northern South America near the Equator, the cherimoya, also called custard apple, is now grown and cultivated all over Central America, Mexico, and even parts of California. Apparently it can grow successfully near Los Angeles. It tastes like a mix of pineapple, banana, and jackfruit.
While I won’t be hand-pollinating any flowers this year–the United States has no natural pollinators of cherimoyas–I will have some foliage to add to my little apartment.
My 4 cherimoya plants on my west-facing windowsill.
A view of 3-month old cherimoya from the top.
The covered one is greener and healthier than the other ones.
I kept a few outside during the summer, but they were getting burned, so I returned them indoors.
My beloved cherimoya.
One grower complained that after the plants reach 8 inches they die. Others have insisted that cherimoyas are extremely difficult to grow. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll see me at one of the Seattle farmers markets, selling tropical fruit that someone else’s favorite aunt might use for her pie.