Today is starting out fine

April 10, 2012 • 4:55 am

All the harbingers are good.

First of all, I’m no longer Peepless in Chicago®.  Although my expected haul of Marshmallow Peeps didn’t materialize 🙁 , I made it to Walgreens before the half-price Easter candy was sold out.  Although there had been a run on the Peeps, I managed to score four boxes, and found sundry other goodies at prices too cheap to resist.  Everything below cost me the munificent sum of $2.50.  (No lectures on health, please—these will be eaten over time):

On my 11-minute walk to work, I saw that the shapely tree (species unknown to me) in front of our Oriental Institute is in full bloom (click to enlarge):

And I almost never see cats on my way to work, save for the occasional bedraggled stray that makes me sad.  Today, however, there was a funny-looking dude with a black nose who apparently had an owner.  He looks as if he’d stuck his snout in an inkwell.

Any day is good if it starts with a cat.

60 thoughts on “Today is starting out fine

    1. Jerry is in Chicago, not So Cal. Jacaranda are tropical trees and would not tolerate the frost of a place like Chicago. I’d say it’s a redbud of some species, perhaps Cercis siliquastrum?

      1. Cercis canadensis, Eastern Redbud.
        They are long done here in NC. They bloom before dogwoods and before the ornamental cherries. Even the cherries are almost done here (Kwanzan cherries are the last).

        Spring was way too fast.

        1. I’d agree. A Redbud was my first thought. Hard to say which variety, but Eastern would grow there. Here in Virginia, I had one in my front yard for many years (until it died) and they were absolutely beautiful in the early spring.

          1. I’m 99.9% sure of the species given the location.

            Don’t forget that “variety” is not the same as species. A variety is a naturally occuring form of the species. A cultivated variety (cultivar) is a human-made form.

            I can’t say if this is a particular cultivar or not (I know which ones it isn’t), but it is proably not a variety. The most common varieties of C. canadensis are mexicana and texensis. A close up of the flowers would have made all this easier.

            And yes, they are gorgeous. The pink flowers show up beautifully against the dark bark even in low light. They often look even prettier in the rain, when the bark really stands out.

        2. Concur. I’ve fond memories over the years watching for it in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

          I gather that there is a Western Redbud?

        3. You are correct. The Eastern Redbud is found from Canada to Central Texas. Here in South West Oregon they grow pretty well, but a heavy flowering is one or two flowers. Pity.

          Oh well the Rodedendrons flower from December ’till late summer. Some compensation!

        4. Yes, Cercis canadensis most certainly. Gorgeous when young (and preferably multi-trunked), but pretty bedraggled when older than 20 years or so.

          1. Actually I think they can be a bit gawky when young, but they can age gracefully. If poorly pruned, they can get ugly, especially here in the south.

            I would guess that tree is over 20 years old.

      1. Just for fun I looked up Jacaranda–wasn’t sure I knew what they were. Gorgeous, but those flowers are bigger than Cercis. Completely different family though, Bignoniaceae. We can grow some nice plants from that family. I love Bignonia capreolata, a vine that’s hardy in USDA zones 6-9.

        1. As a landscape designer, it is good to know how much this plant looks like Jacaranda (at least in flower). People often want to install plants that evoke the feelings and looks of plants from other places.

  1. “Any day is good if it starts with a cat.”

    Not if the cat in question doesn’t understand why he is getting less food than usual and starts banging and scratching on doors making a noise loud enough to wake the neighbours at 04:30.

      1. He was a stray who adopted us when he was about 9 months old. Unfortunately there is something wrong with his pelvis, but we have no idea what caused it. At the best of times he isn’t a very good jumper and he has a rather peculiar gait. As he puts on weight his rear end wobble becomes even more pronounced and his jumping and landing become increasingly ungainly.

        1. I have an old cat (he turned 17 this year) who, eleven years ago, escaped my apartment when my landlady entered illegally and let both my boys out. One hid in the attic but the other got outside and was gone for four days in the middle of a cold, snowy January. He must have gotten a mild case of frostbite which damaged his hind legs. He cannot jump, and reels about the house like a drunken sailor. A recent exam had the vet pronounce him in average health for his age, though a trifle skinny, and in apparently good spirits given his condition. Sometimes he has bad stretches which make me wonder how much more time he has, but I hate the thought of having him put down. If you live in a northern climate, it’s possible that the stray who has adopted you had a similar experience.

          @Reginald Selkirk: Most cats think they don’t get as much food as usual.

  2. It does look like a jacaranda; but I don’t think they would survive a Chicago winter.

    I’m guessing some kind of cherry. Our wild and domestic cherries are in full bloom here, also in the middle of N. America, latitude ~45 N.

  3. Looks like a redbud to me (Cercis canadensis – per wikipedia) – they finished blooming here (Tennessee) a few weeks back, so being in flower in Chicago now would be about right. I don’t recall seeing them as far north as Chicago, but according to wikipedia (that font of all knowledge) their northern range stretches into Ontario.

    1. Yes, it is a redbud. Color, carriage, and latitude are all wrong for jacarandas, and the flowers are too small and well-dispersed on the branches for cherry or hawthorne.

    2. I’d go with redbud, too. They’re quite common in the Virginia Piedmont. Honaker, down in the SW tip of VA, has an annual redbud festival next week, but I suspect that with the warmest March on record, they’ve finished blooming already. I saw some blooming in Atlanta in mid-Feb.

    3. I don’t recall seeing them as far north as Chicago

      I have personally witnessed them in northern Iowa and upstate New York.

  4. My copy of Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words offers “qualtagh” (pronounced kwŏl’ tŏk) as “the first person seen after leaving the house”. It is a loan word from Manx Gaelic. I find this a very useful word; I extend its meaning to include the first living creature, not just person*, seen, and consider a day to be an extremely favorable one when my qualtagh is a cat.

    On the morning after the first night my late wife (then my girlfriend) spent with me, she woke to find me looking at her, and I greeted her with the words, “Good morning, my qualtagh.” (extending its meaning again to the first person seen in the morning). Fortunately, she was smart enough to figure out that it was some kind of obscure compliment.

    *I shall avoid here any philosophical tangle on the personhood of cats. That’s for another day.

  5. It looks so much like a jacaranda – the twisted branches, but the colour is wrong. Jacarandas make Perth, WA, look very pretty. And the cat is looks a self-contained character out for the morning consitutional & checking the neighbourhood ahsn’t gone to wrack & ruin. I agree, days that start with cats are excellent.
    That tree is so lovely! I am looking up redbuds…

  6. By the way, the flowers of the redbud are edible. The tree is a legume and the flowers look like small, pink pea flowers. They often taste like fresh peas, but there is considerable variation with some tasting like nothing more than grass.

    Put a few on a salad for a really pretty look. I usually just pick a few to nibble when out walking.

    Long ago I was told by my plant ID instructor that there is a small amount of a toxic compound in them (maybe cyanide?) so one should not eat large quantities of them. I haven’t recently confirmed that, though.

    1. Have you eaten polk? An immediate source tells me that it’s edible after the second boiling, the first to rid it of some sort of toxin.

  7. Molasses cookies! Have you had the big, soft, rectangular ones called hermits in RI and vicinity? They’re the best, IMO.

  8. Reese’s eggs (or any Reeses for that matter) are mine.

    I did get some Peanut Butter M&Ms–these are my favorite little chocolate covered candies. (This is where I part with Reese’s, no Pieces for me.)

  9. First post of the day, 4:55 am. Nice job, Mr. Coyne. It’s nearly 9am and I’m just rolling out of bed. I’m certain this has something to do w/ why you are a Professor at University of Chicago and I am unemployed in the western suburbs of Chgo. But, we are both enjoying those beautiful lilac colored trees throughout our area. And, the tulips are also in full bloom.

    1. Only when they’re slightly stale. When they’re fresh, they’re too gooey. But slightly stale, the flavors intensify.

      MMMM…stale Peeps.

      1. Age them in a salt lined room for 2 months, then grill them to a lovely medium rare. Oh, wait. That’s ribeyes, not peeps…

  10. It is a lovely sunny day here, if a bit chilly. Saw ice crystals forming on the bird bath this morning.

    First, the only proper color for Peeps is yellow. No wonder they were on sale, heretic.

    Second, the Oriental Institute is a nifty museum if you’ve never seen it. Of course, the whole UofC campus is lovely. Actually, the Redbuds are a little early this year, but so is everything else around here.

    Third, some owner, if s/he just lets their cat wander the streets. Nice looking kitteh, though.

  11. When I lived in Illinois, I had 14 redbud trees in my yard, thirteen planted as seedlings. Here in Texas, I, dummy me, planted four eastern redbuds, knowing better at the time. One, under a liveoak tree, is doing OK but has very few flowers. My neighbor lost an eastern redbud and I explained about Texas redbuds. He replaced the dead tree with a Texas redbud. It is doing fine.

  12. The species unknown to you are the mexican Jacarandas.

    Right now, all of Mexico is purple, you can even see it from the air, because the thousands of Jacarandas are beautifully blooming.

  13. Any day is good if it starts with a cat.

    Oh yes. I especially like mine fried on toast, with a side of scrambled eggs – you?

    Just kidding 🙂 Though when our kitteh wakes us up at 6am by running across the bed and using us for a trampoline, I come very close to not kidding.

  14. If you want to see strays you should come work at the hospital as my dad. Yesterday evening I was helping him bring a bunch of furniture home, he was moving his rooms, and there were about eight stray cats in the parking area.

    That section seems to get closed off at night so they get it all to themselves usually and apparently people give them food so they are breeding rather happily. Most of them seemed to have the same coats as Siamese but there were also two or three that looked to be plain black.

      1. Forest Pansy is very pretty.
        But have you seen a weeping redbud?

        There are some fabulous weeping cultivars of Cercis. The best use the mexicana variety for great foliage that holds up really well here in the heat. There is even a red leaved one now. The nurseries train these to a certain height so they can be used in many landscape situations–as a specimen tree, like Japanese maples.

  15. OK, I’m going to comment on something I think no one else has so far:

    On my 11-minute walk to work

    Wow, now that’s a great commute! (Even in winter I suspect!)

  16. Oh, I went to Fannie May and bought 4.67lbs of yellow buttercream eggs that were $120 and I paid $20. I’m going back tomorrow to buy some more. Easter is always one of my favorite holidays…

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