Fri 6/26/09

A Daily Walk With DietPower

Walking is the best exercise for weight loss. And the things you see!

Evening Lychnis

This wildflower, which I found blooming on King Street today, might qualify as a World Wide Weed. Although native to Europe, it has spread over most of the temperate regions of the globe.

If you have a lot of experience with flowers, this one will look bizarre. It seems to have ten petals. That's very usual in the botanical world, because the number of petals on a flower nearly always belongs to the Fibonacci sequence 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55...each number being the sum of the two preceding it. Ten is not a Fibonacci number.

The Fibonacci sequence was first described by a 13th-century Italian mathematician whose nickname was Fibonacci (fib-oh-NOTCH-ee). Educated in North Africa by Moors, Fibonacci convinced all of Europe to abandon the cumbersome Roman numeral system in favor of the Arabic scheme that we use today. If you've ever tried doing long division in Roman numerals, you will bless his name.

The reason flower petals follow Fibonacci's sequence is that nature always finds the most efficient way to pack things into tight spaces—in this case, seeds in a pod. (A flower, after all, is just a plant's way of making a seed.) I'm not going to explain the math here (I'll wait for a moment while you breathe a sigh of relief), but if you're curious, you can read about it on this webpage.

If you look closely, you'll see that this flower actually has five petals (a Fibonacci number), but each petal is deeply cleft. That is one of many strange things about the White Campion (Silene latifolia), which this flower is.

Another strange thing is that the White Campion has at least seven other names. Native to Europe, it is often called the Evening Lychnis (pronounced LIK-niss), because it opens at twilight. (Lychnis is from the Greek lychnos, meaning "lamp.") This specimen, growing in one of the shadiest parts of my walk, must have opened only because the sky was black in anticipation of a thunderstorm. I have often seen the blossoms shining in moonlight, like fallen stars.

In rural England, the White Campion is also named Flower of the Dead, because it grows around tombstones. And some claim that lychnis must come from another Greek word meaning "of a garland," since strings of these delicate flowers wreathed the necks of athletic champions. Coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally, if these people are right), the English campion means "champion."

Still other names include Maiden's Tears, Bull Rattle, Bladder Campion, Snake Cuckoo, Thunder Flower, White Cockle, and White Robin. I can understand White Cockle (coccel is an Old English word for "weed"). Thunder Flower could refer to its habit of opening under stormy skies. Bladder Campion refers to the spongy bladder bhind the petals (visible in the out-of-focus blossom at left). The other names mystify me.

Of all the facts above, I knew only a fraction before I took this picture. I learned some of them from a book with the hilarious title Weeds of the Northeast, which apparently is such a monumental work that it took three men to write—two Joes and a Dick. Others came to me via Google search.

Photography not only opens my eyes, but whets my curiosity. Bless its name.


Download DietPower and lose poundsAbout this page: Precisely at noon each day, I step out of my office for a 3.5-mile walk around my Connecticut neighborhood. I carry a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TX5 pocket camera with a Leica 10x optical zoom lens. My object is to make an interesting photograph of at least one thing that is different that day. I post the results here, hoping they will inspire you and your friends to walk, too.  Terry Dunkle, DietPower founder and CEO.

Click here to return to today's page

All My Yesterdays

Thursday, June 25: A Convention of Geese

Wednesday, June 24: Painting a Scenario

Tuesday, June 23: Why Did the Beetle Cross the Road?

Monday, June 22: Clown Car

Sunday, June 21: What's Green and Sounds Like a Banjo?

Saturday, June 20: Swimming in Primroses

Friday, June 19: I Hate Deer

Thursday, June 18: Drenched!

Wednesday, June 17: They Sprang up Like Mushrooms

Tuesday, June 16: Where Time Doesn't Count

Monday, June 15: Behind a Basketball

Sunday, June 14: Flags for Elijah

Saturday, June 13: Crawling into a Daisy

Friday, June 12: Life Under a Warm Green Lantern

Thursday, June 11: Shell Game

Wednesday, June 10: Fearless Fox

Tuesday, June 9: Wet Clover

Monday, June 8: Two Bees, or Not Two Bees

Sunday, June 7: A Gorgeous Glutton

Saturday, June 6: Two Clowns

Friday, June 5: My Favorite Mailbox

Thursday, June 4: The Tomato's Deadly Cousin

Wednesday, June 3: Electric Pink

Tuesday, June 2: Lucky Boy

Monday, June 1: Six-Figure Mower

Sunday, May 31: Cool in the Shade

Saturday, May 30: Under the Butternut Tree

Friday, May 29: Awaiting a Pink Explosion

Thursday, May 28: I Shoot a Chipmunk

Wednesday, May 27: Who Dropped the Ball?

Tuesday, May 26: Out Standing in Their Field

Monday, May 25: Flags Galore!

Sunday, May 24: House of Patriots

Saturday, May 23: Memorial in a Rusty Hinge

Friday, May 22: The Sexually Clever Iris

Thursday, May 21: Raising the Wrong Baby

Wednesday, May 20: An Old Friend Is Dying

Tuesday, May 19: Crow vs. Hawk

Monday, May 18: Yours Truly

Sunday, May 17: A Wild Geranium

Saturday, May 16: War Flowers

Friday, May 15: A Mysterious Barn

Thursday, May 14: Who Invented the Microscope?

Wednesday, May 13: The Kitchen Sink

Tuesday, May 12: Slow Down!

Monday, May 11: What Lilacs Are For

Sunday, May 10: Mama Butterfly

Saturday, May 9: Gone to Seed

Friday, May 8: A Pack of Boston Terriers

Thursday, May 7: Underground Passage

Wednesday, May 6: White Violet

Tuesday, May 5: Singing His Heart Out

Monday, May 4: Kenny's Secret

Sunday, May 3: Monument to an Afternoon

Saturday, May 2: Gasoline Rainbow

Friday, May 1: The Duck and the Bashful Maiden

Thursday, April 30: A Poison Ivy Sandwich

Wednesday, April 29: The Very Picture of Spring

Tuesday, April 28: A Busy Bumblebee

Monday, April 27: Electric Pink

Sunday, April 26: Saturday Night Special

Saturday, April 25: An Old Oak Falls

Friday, April 24: How an Ant Sees a Daffodil

Thursday, April 23: The Nameless Brook

Wednesday, April 22: Weeding Time

Tuesday, April 21: Wet Apple Buds

Monday, April 20: Mr. Allen and the Crew Team

Sunday, April 19: Bloodroot II

Saturday, April 18: Green Jellybeans

Friday, April 17: Bloodroot

Thursday, April 16: Skunk Cabbage III

Wednesday, April 15: Find the Critter

Tuesday, April 14: Blessing of the Animals

Monday, April 13: The Crow Who Said "Wow!"

Sunday, April 12: A Quirky Church

Saturday, April 11: Self-Portrait in a Pothole

Friday, April 10: Easter flowers

Thursday, April 9: Dumb as a Squirrel

Wednesday, April 8: April Snow

Tuesday, April 7: Egg Trees, Connecticut Style

Monday, April 6: I Carry My Lunch

Sunday, April 5: A Tree in Spring

Saturday, April 4: Pigs with Drivers Licenses

Friday, April 3: Forsythia

Thursday, April 2: Skunk Cabbage II

Wednesday, April 1: Mystery of the Hanging Shoes

Tuesday, March 31: Downy Woodpecker

Monday, March 30: 300-Year-Old House

Sunday, March 29: The Broken Fence

Saturday, March 28: "You're Such a Delight"

Friday, March 27: Skunk Cabbage

Return to today's page

To comment on this page, .

This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information (verify here).   Ann Coulston (click for details)  Robert Epstein (click for details)  Barry Franklin (click for details) Click  here to see biographies
of DietPower's scientific
advisory board members.
  DietPower calorie counter logo

SPAM POLICY: DietPower doesn't send emails to people who haven't requested them, nor do we share email addresses with third parties. If you suspect that someone has subscribed you to our calorie counter mailing list fraudulently, email us at