Shawnee News-Star Saturday August 11th 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg What was going to be a spectacular display of brilliantly shiny festive stars and bursts of color above the pineapple upside down cake took an unexpected turn as Happy Birthday was sung as the candles were lit.   When decorating with little bouquets of thin plastic ribbons […]

Shawnee News-Star Saturday August 11th 2018

Birthday Cake

Becky Emerson Carlberg

What was going to be a spectacular display of brilliantly shiny festive stars and bursts of color above the pineapple upside down cake took an unexpected turn as Happy Birthday was sung as the candles were lit.   When decorating with little bouquets of thin plastic ribbons with the look of vividly colored fake hair on thin wooden sticks, do not use fire.   Must say, it added enormous kick to the celebration as the birthday boy nearly blew the candles off the cake in an effort to eradicate the little flames.   Plastic streamers can melt amazingly fast.

Have you looked around to see how many animals have hair?   Some of my balder relatives do, and make odious comparisons to those with full heads of hair.  They fire back with the old corny joke:   If you're bald in front, you are a lover.   If you're bald in back, you are a thinker.   If you are bald all over, you think you are a lover.   I warned you.     True fact: Pattern baldness is shared by Chimpanzees and human males. Make your own joke.

The cats in my life have all had abundant hair, at least where they lay or when you pet them.   The Siamese had sleek coats, the tabbys were well endowed, the spotted and calicos shed fierce amounts of hair, but there was Dasher.   Through his thin gray hairsone could see pink skin.   I don't know if he was embarrassed or if that was the reason he kept to himself on top of the wardrobe in the sleeping bag most of his life.

My mother had a dog with red hair and sensitive pink skin.   Pepper's coat had to be brushed quite gently and often she would be dosed with vitamins and oils to prevent her from scratching.   She could really run, no doubt in an effort to avoid the brush and pills. I usually have fish, but have never had a hairy fish.   If I did, I would send it back to the chef.  Sorry.

Rambutan spiny fruits

The plant world is awash in hairy leaves, stems, and fruits.   Technically speaking, plant hairs are called trichomes (Greek for hair) with over 300 types of various sizes, shapes, colors and function.   Margret Eldred's article 'Fuzzy, Prickly and Tickly to Touch' in the magazine 'Fine Gardening' states she caught her paper girl 'surreptitiously caressing the purple, velvety fuzz of the Spanish Lavender'.   Margret likes to touch the soft wooly leaves of Artemesia, pull the seed heads of blue fescue through her fingertips and rub the furry, silver-gray leaves of Lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina) against her cheek. She grumbles that gardening catalogs describe the color and size, but speak little of texture.

Has she encountered Rambutan?   This exotic tropical fruit known as the 'hairy Lychee' feels just like a Koosh ball.   Koosh balls were invented in 1987 by an engineer who wanted a ball his kids could play with without hurting themselves.  In a standard Koosh ball, 2,000 rubber 'feelers' are attached around the pliable rubber core.   Feelers are a good description because Koosh balls feel so good in your hand.

Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) fruit is covered with feelers that are actually soft spines on the rind of the fruit.   'Rambut' means hairy in the Malaysian language. The fleshy spines are known as spinterns.   The supple spike covered leathery peel surrounds glistening white tissue with one seed in the center.   The flavor of the fruit is very mild, sweet and refreshing.

Sweet Surprise Inside

The Rambutan fruits had come in a large plastic sack.   They were emptied on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator in a single layer.   When my husband opened up the refrigerator door, he jumped back in alarm and yelled there had been an invasion of sea urchins. Sure. Right from the refrigerator is the time you can fondle your spintern decorated Rambutan just before peeling and eating it.   No one will know.   Can't do that with a sea urchin.

Certain plants may not look like typical plants but resemble dyed angel hair pasta gone crazy.   Dodder has cropped up in many places, appearing in fields as patches of yellow or orange.   Once a member of the Morning Glory family, Dodder (Cuscuta species) is so special it has been placed in its own family.   The plant is so popular, it has garnered dozens of common names.   Strangleweed, Hell-vine, Devil's or Witch's hair, Goldthread, String Weed, Wizard's Net, and many other flattering names are used to describe the hairy mess of yellow tendrils tangled up in the weeds.

Dodder is a true obligate parasite that lives in the temperate and tropical regions. It has no leaves nor chlorophyll to make its own food and must rely upon other plants for nourishment.   The parasitized host plants receive nothing in return except poor health and a feeling of being run-down and exhausted.   The host plant should feel honored as most Dodder species are host specific and limit themselves to particular plants.   About 50 species of native and introduced Dodder grow in the US.

A Dodder seed has a hard coat which controls the gases and moisture within, allowing the seed to remain viable for over 20 years.  When conditions are right, the dedicated seed sprouts a vine and a few little anchor rootlets.   The seedling lengthens in search of a host plant, often going by odor or reflected light of the host, however that works, but the host has to be in close range or the seedling will run out of its little package of stored food stored inside the seed. As it winds its way up, the Dodder seedling penetrates its chosen plant stem, slides in between cell layers and begins to absorb water and food.   The Dodder rootlets wither and die, but the Dodder itself is now established and continues on its merry way from plant to plant. When the time is right, the Dodder will produce tiny yellowish-white flowers on vines wrapped around the host plant. From these come seeds and, again next year, the hair springs to life.

Dodder in field

Hair is everywhere.