Coastal and Tropical South

September, 2011
Regional Report

Books

Insect Lessons
You will never see insects the same way after reading Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love and Language from the Insect World by Marlene Zuk (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011, $25.00). A professor of biology at UC Riverside, Zuk studies animal behavior and parasites, but mostly she brings the world of entomology out of the lab and puts it into your hands. Zuk has written articles, essays, and books about her passion, and I am admittedly a fan of her learned yet accessible scientific journalism. This new book is her best yet and enlightens as much as it amuses. She gives us the scoop on insect behavior, affirms our dependence on them, and busts myths, too. For example, although Aesop wrote about busy bees and industrious ants, both actually spend plenty of time doing nothing at all. Reward yourself with Zuk's book for more insight than any self-help book on the shelf.

Favorite or New Plant

Desert Rose
For those who like plants that are easy to grow and those who appreciate oxymoronic plant names, desert rose belongs in your collection. Adenium obesum, or desert rose, looks like a small succulent tree and is sometimes seen growing in bonsai pots, its gray trunk a perfect base for sturdy leaves and fat flowers. The blooms are red, pink, or white tubes with yellow throats and sometimes cute scalloped edges painted in white. These plants live for years in well-drained potting soil, a clay pot, a sunny exposure either indoors or outdoors, and with water only when the soil feels dry to the touch. Overwatering will reduce flowering and cause the trunk, called a caudex, to rot.

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