Tag Archives: plants

Yum! Edible Invasive Species at the Wildflower Center during Nature Nights

Eating invasive species is a great way to get rid of them

Eating invasive species is a great way to get rid of them

Nature Nights returns to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center this Thursday, June 11, 2015, and I’m excited to let you know that I’ll be there with my Invasive Hunter Academy.

The Wildflower Center hosts this free, fun, and family event on Thursday nights during the summer. It’s a great opportunity for kids to enjoy learning about the plants, animals, and the ecology of Central Texas.

You’ll get the chance to create crafts, go on hikes and adventures, and listen to nature presentations. In addition to goodies that they can pick up as part of the nature night activities, kids 12 and under will also receive a free gift from the gift store.

Plants – They taste good!

This Thursday’s Nature Night is all about plants and how they taste good and can help us. We all know about fruits and vegetable plants, but what about invasive species? (Watch my video invitation to the Nature Night’s event on plants.)

Invasive species are not native to the ecosystem, and they can cause millions of dollars in damage to the environment and economy.

The best way to get rid of invasive species is to prevent their spread. If they’re already established, removal efforts can be time consuming and expensive. It may not even be feasible to get rid of them. For example, it’s not going to be possible to remove KR Bluestem from our Texas roadsides and fields, even with the Amazing Invasive Hunter Man’s help.

There is another way to get rid of invasive plant species…to eat them!

Join me at the Nature Nights event on Thursday, June 11, to learn about invasive plant species you can eat, including a variety of delicious Elephant Ear (Colocasia esculenta – also known as Taro) and Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea).

Note: Always be sure to learn about invasive plant species to see if they are edible before you decide to eat them. (Kids, always ask your parents first.) For example, don’t try eating elephant ear raw. It’s inedible, but the variety commonly known as Taro, can be boiled or cooked to make it both edible and tasty.

In addition to learning about invasive species and sampling an invasive plant as part of the Invasive Hunter Academy, you’ll also be able to take a guided tour of the gardens, enjoy story time, and go on a scavenger hunt as part of the Nature Night’s event.

That’ll build up your appetite!

Videos for your invasive plants dining

While you’re snacking on invasive plants, enjoy some of my earlier Battles with Invasive Species videos:

Still hungry?

Did invasive plants wet your appetite for more invasive species?

2015 Summer Nature Nights Schedule

Young naturalists train to be invasive hunters during a previous Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Young naturalists train to be invasive hunters during a previous Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

There are many fun Nature Nights events planned for this summer.

  • June 11 – Plants
  • June 18 – Pollinators
  • June 25 – Snakes
  • July 9 – Springs, Streams and Ponds Ecology
  • July 16 – Harnessing Fire
  • July 23 – Birds of Prey
Learn about edible plants at the Nature Nights on June 11, 2015 (Image credit: Wildflower Center)

Learn about edible plants at the Nature Nights on June 11, 2015 (Image credit: Wildflower Center)

Hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Nature Nights, Wildflower Center

How I Learned Biology with my Textbook, iBook and Audiobook

Miller and Levine Biology book on the iPad - A must!

Miller and Levine Biology book on the iPad – A must!

I finished up my high school freshman finals yesterday with a 100 on my biology final exam. Yea! My favorite subject this year was..yes, you guessed it…biology!

I had a fantastic time learning about biology, and here are just some of the topics that we studied during the year:

  • Ecology: Plants are autotrophs, which means they produce food from solar energy. They’re primary producers and very tasty to heterotrophs like us, since we get our food from consuming plants and other living things.
  • Cells: We have eukaryotic cells, which means our DNA is enclosed in a nucleus, unlike prokaryotic cells.
  • Genetics: A round of applause to Father Gregor Mendel for founding the science of modern genetics and for his experiments with pea plants. (They were easy to grow for the study dominant and recessive genes.)
  • Evolution: Ah. What fun it would have been to be on the HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin in 1831 and be able to explore nature, so new and mysterious. (I learned about Darwin’s Finches at a Science Under the Stars activity at the UT Brackenridge Field Lab a few years ago.)
  • Plants: CO2 + H2O — sunlight –> C6H12O6 + O2 (Photosynthesis, need I say more?)
  • Animals: Who knew cladograms could be so interesting? Cnidarians, like jelly fish and sea anemones, are the simplest animals to have radial body symmetry.
  • Human body: Thanks hypothalamus for monitoring concentrations of water in my blood and releasing more antidiuretic hormone (ADH) to let me know I’m thirsty.

Miller and Levine Biology Textbook, iBook, and Audiobook

We used the Biology textbook by Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine. Although the book is wonderfully written with great illustrations, it wasn’t easy for me to learn from with my dyslexia. Fortunately, I was able to to get the iBook version from iTunes and the audiobook version from Learning Ally.

I liked being able to select portions of the iBook version and have my iPad read the text out loud to me. Unfortunately, it couldn’t read the text on pictures or diagrams, and that’s why it was helpful to have real people describing the drawings and reading the text in the Learning Ally audiobook that I also listened to using the Learning Ally iPhone app.

Miller and Levine Biology iBook quiz

Miller and Levine Biology iBook quiz

I also liked being able to take the quizzes with each iBook chapter to practice for my tests. (The iPad version is a lot lighter in the backpack too!)

Try this setup to be surrounded by all things biology: Have your printed biology textbook in front of you, your iBook on the iPad on your right, and your audiobook on your Learning Ally iPhone app to your left. Oh, and your herbarium on the wall in front of your desk!

(If you want to learn more about Learning Ally and what they and their many wonderful volunteers have done to help dyslexics and those with reading challenges, watch my YouTube video, The Sound of Reading.)

The iBook version of Miller and Levine’s biology book is only $15 on iTunes. Even if you’re not in high school, but you would like to learn about Biology in a fun and easy to understand way, the iBook version is well worth it.

As much as I love my iPad and audiobooks, I’m always going to treasure my printed textbook with all my notes, highlights, and well worn pages. Thank you Miller and Levine!

An awesome summer ahead

I’d also like to thank my wonderful teachers, especially my biology teacher, and my parents for all their help and encouragement this school year. I took a lot of walks with my Dad where we talked about what I learned in class, studied upcoming quizzes and tests, and talked about new advances in science. It was a great school year!

I really love science and I’m going to miss all the fun biology labs. (But I’m looking forward to some amazing chemistry labs coming up during my sophomore year.)

I hope you’ll join me for an awesome summer as I get caught up on my blog posts and videos on science, invasive species, and dyslexia. And I also hope you’ll help me kick off the summer at the first Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Thursday, June 12. I’m bringing my Invasive Hunter Academy to help train future invasive hunters and have fun with plants at the same time!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Biology, Dyslexia, High school, iBooks, Invasive Hunter Academy, iPad, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Learning Ally app, Nature Nights

The Amazing Invasive Hunter Man

An accidental encounter with a plant grafting experiment transforms a geeky biology student into the Invasive Hunter, a hero to the ecosystem’s native species.

The Invasive Hunter returns to battle King Ranch Bluestem (KR Bluestem), an invasive species overrunning roadsides and fields and stealing lunch money. His powers, however, do not go unnoticed by his cranky professor.

This video is part of Commander Ben’s “Battles with Invasive Species” video series.

Learn more about the plants talked about in this video:

And don’t miss seeing your friendly neighborhood spider-man at the movies too!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Battles with Invasive Species, Giant Reed, Grafting, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Species, King Ranch Bluestem, KR Bluestem, Spider-man, Texas Bluebonnets, Texas Live Oak, Texas Mountain Laurel

Invasive Hunter Academy Helps Kids Learn About Invasive Species

Happy Independence Day from me and my dog, Obi-wan!

I’m looking forward to meeting kids, families, and everyone who loves nature at the Invasive Hunter Academy tomorrow during Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This free event on Thursday, July 5, at 6:00 p.m. focuses on the “Power of Plants”.

I can’t wait to teach kids of all ages about invasive species, the problems that they cause, and what you can do about them. Learn cool combat moves and create an action diorama to take home with you.

Check out the other fun activities during the evening too:

  • Take a special behind the scenes tour of the seed lab herbarium and nursery
  • Learn about edible native plants and make rope and tools using plants
  • Hear about traditional uses of local native plants from Mark Blumenthal, Founder and Executive Director of the American Botanical Council
  • Hike the Wildflower Center gardens with experts, including Ellen Zimmerman with the Austin School of Herbal Studies, botanist Flo Oxley, and Native Plant Society of Texas members, who will teach you about how native plants can be used as medicines
  • Go on a garden scavenger hunt and make seed balls with Master Naturalists
  • Create a paper version of the Venus flytrap using recycled materials with the Teenage Ecowarriors

So be sure to come to Nature Nights and join the elite ranks of the Invasive Hunters! I can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under American Botanical Council, Austin School of Herbal Studies, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Master naturalist, Native Plant Society of Texas, Nature Nights, Power of Plants, Wildflower center

Rise of the Butterflies at Nature Nights

Nature nights starts this Thursday, June 21, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center from 6 to 9 p.m. The event is free and is fun for the entire family. Get to know butterflies at this Thursday’s event.

As part of the evening activities, you can:

  • Watch the release of live butterflies in the courtyard by the Austin Butterfly Forum
  • Fold beautiful origami butterflies with artist Joan Son
  • Sing about the butterfly life cycle and pollination with zoologist
    Lucas Miller
  • Create a butterfly puppet with the Teenage ecowarriors
  • Walk the gardens and look for butterflies, moths, and other pollinators with nature experts

Invasive Hunter Academy and the Power of Plants

In two weeks, I’m bringing my Invasive Hunter Academy to nature nights. The July 5th event focuses on the power of plants.

As part of the academy, I look forward to teaching you about invasive species and graduating you as an Invasive Hunter.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Spot invasive species
  • Take down invasives with action moves
  • Create a fun action scene with you battling an invasive plant
    (You can take your diorama home with you!)

I’ll also have Plant Hero pins, pledges, and other fun stuff too!

I look forward to seeing you at Nature Nights!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Butterflies, Butterflies, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Moths, Nature Nights, Plant Heroes, Pollination, Power of Plants, Wildflower center

Invasive Hunter Academy joins Nature Nights at the Wildflower Center to Teach Kids about Invasive Species

Since I was very young, I’ve always enjoyed Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

Nature Nights are a great way for families, especially younger kids, to learn about wildlife, plants, and the ecology and ecosystem of Central Texas. On the following Thursdays from 6-9 p.m. this summer, you can listen to presentations, go on hikes, and take part in nature activities and crafts.

2012 Summer Nature Nights Schedule

  • June 21: Butterflies
  • June 28: Hummingbirds
  • July 5: Power of Plants
  • July 12: Birds of Prey
  • July 19: Bats
  • July 26: Snakes

Admission to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is free during Nature Nights. It’s a ton of fun for kids and adults too, and kids under 12 can also get a cool free gift from the center’s store.

Become an Invasive Hunter

I’m bringing the Invasive Hunter Academy to Nature Nights on Thursday, July 5, during the Power of Plants event.

I created the Invasive Hunter Academy as part of Kids’ Day during National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington D.C. earlier this year.

As part of the academy, I’ll teach you how to spot invasive plants, how to defeat your enemies with your invasive hunter moves, and how to create an action scene to capture your battle with invasives.

Learn more about the Invasive Hunter Academy:

Thank you Ms. Alice Nance, Wildflower Center Education Manager, for inviting me to be part of your wonderful Nature Nights event!

I hope to see you during Nature Nights, and be sure to join me on July 5th to learn how to become an Invasive Hunter!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Ms. Alice Nance, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Nature Nights

Native Plant Avengers – Ecosystem’s Mightiest Heroes

Although hopelessly outnumbered by the invasive species Bastard Cabbage, Texas wildflowers assemble their combined strength to battle against the choking monoculture invading their ecosystem.

The loyal heroics of Texas Bluebonnet, the hulking presence of Bitterweed, and the lighting power of Indian Paintbrush bring their native plant diversity together in a desperate fight against their invasive foe.

Learn more about the vile invader Bastard Cabbage with these recent blog posts:

Your friend,
Commander Ben

P.S. Looking for more Avengers action? Don’t miss Marvel’s Avengers movie coming out in May!

Update: Learn more about the Texas wildflowers cast in Behind the Scenes of the Native Plant Avengers Movie Trailer

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Filed under Avengers, Bastard Cabbage, Battles with Invasive Species, Bitterweed, Indian Paintbrush, Monoculture, Texas Bluebonnets, Texas Invasives, Texas Wildflowers