Sunday, May 31, 2009

Purple Water Lillies

Purple Water Lillies, Balboa Park, San Diego. Water lillies open for the day and then close each evening.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I've Got the Bernardino Blues

San Bernardino Blue Butterfly, Euphilotes bernardino bernardino, Santa Rosa Plateau. There are a fair number of species of totally adorable, tiny, blue butterflies in Southern California. ID'ing them is a little messy for the novice, myself included. Luckily for me, Dennis Walker very kindly ID'd this little butterfly as a Bernardino Blue! I found it flitting around the grassy fields up near the Santa Rosa Plateau. I've seen Acmon Blues south in Mission Park Trails. If you do a search for my prior post, you'll see that the Acmon Blue and the Bernardino Blue are definitely different but you'll also see that it takes a good close look to identify the differences. Thank goodness for cameras freezing the details!

Meanwhile, I the myriad people jogging by, riding horses and zipping by on bicycles were just plain missing out on all the really cool wildlife they would see if only they slowed down and spent the time to look. LIFE is like that, though, isn't it? Something about slowing down to occasionally smell the roses (or see the butterflies) lest you find that life has passed you by and the roses had long since wilted.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Nuts for Nuts

Male Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus, Silver Meadows, Santa Rosa Plateau, California. What a beauty, huh? These little guys stash acorns into holes in an old oak tree, often referred to as a "granary tree," which they use to tide them over until Spring when bugs become available. If you look closely, you can see the holes in the bark where the little colony of woodpeckers has pounded in acorns into the soft oak bark. You can also see that the acorns are mostly gone except for perhaps a little tidbit in his beak and that the transition to the bug menu must be ongoing. These birds are found in oak forests up and down the coast and also in parts of Arizona, Texas and Mexico. I saw one once up near Palo Alto many years ago but these are the only ones I've seen since then. Perhaps, if people would leave the big old oaks on their property, we would see them more often. On the other hand, can you imagine if they decided that your house made a better granary than the oak tree (OMG!)?

What would happen if people went vegetarian every Winter and carnivore each Spring? Historically, perhaps it was the other way around for early man, prior to developing agriculture and grain storage.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Romance on Hooves

Romantic Horseride, Santa Rosa Plateau. Romance comes in all colors, forms, preferences, shapes and modes. These two are enjoying a romantic horseride together. If it works, why not, right?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pilgrim Geese

Pilgrim Geese, Anser hybrid. Pilgrim geese are so named because they supposedly were brought over from England by the Pilgrims. They are unique in that females are grey (shown) and the males are white. They are pretty big birds, nearly as tall as the lady who was feeding them. A little girl was chasing around one of the large white males who was equally as big as she was. Her Mom was hollering at her to stop chasing the geese. Suddenly, that big old goose stopped running, turned around and gave her a peck on the chest. I doubt that it hurt much, given that she was wearing a sweatshirt but it certainly cured her of her goose chasing habits. It seemed rather rude of her to be chasing the geese that the other lady was so carefully feeding anyhow. Some kids have no manners whatsoever. Maybe she learned something out of the event. If nothing else, she figured out that geese bite, particularly when aggravated!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ascocentrum ampullaceum

Ascocentrum ampullaceum. These flowers typically come in a bright lavender. However, this one is a bright, sparkling red. Not too shabby. It is still happily blooming in the greenhouse! They normally come from Southeast Asia where they grow high up in trees where they get high humidity and lots of sun. They're not real fond of pots so it makes it hard for people like me in dry, dry California to keep them alive without a greenhouse. Oh, but I have a greenhouse, oh yeah. Hopefully, it will survive the water rationing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, Mission Beach. The grunion were running tonight, at least the charts said they were. Note, however, that the charts do not say what beach they are spawing at. I drove down to Mission Beach hoping to snap a few pictures of the amazing grunion spawns. Well, the sand turtles were there in great numbers, possibly hoping for some grunion eggs. The Black-crowned Night Herons were also out in numbers, also likely longing for a grunion feast. As Black-crowned Night Herons are typically nocturnal, however, they might simply be beach regulars. Sadly, the Grunion never showed up to the party or at least not in any numbers. We went up and down the beach with flashlights and there did not appear to be anthing looking like a grunion spawning in the sand. I did see the herons snap up a little silver fish that was roughly sardine size (grunion candidate). However, there's no way to know what it was as it was up in that sharp beak and then down into the gullet in one fell swoop.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

California Thrasher

California Thrasher, Toxostoma redivivum, Batiquitos Lagoon. The California Thrasher lives on bugs and fruit. I'm not at all sure what purpose the hooked beak serves although I'd guess that it is for getting into little nooks and crannies where some tasty bug may be hiding. You see something similar with reef fish. These birds are found only in California and Baja California where they live in coastal chapparal. This is the first one I've seen although they are apparently not threatened. In listening to the recordings on the web, I believe that I've heard them before but this one just happened to be perching up in the open where I could snap a picture.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fiddler Crabs

Mexican Fiddler Crab, Uca crenulata, Batiquitos Lagoon. I've always seen Fiddler crabs on TV in various nature shows. Little did I suspect that we have fiddler crabs in San Diego! They're not as colorful as some but they have just as much personality, as they dance across the sand waiving their oversized claw at each other.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Honey, Could You Pass the Fly Swatter Please?

Western Black Widow Spider, Latrodectus hesperus. There are apparently both Western and Eastern/Central Black Widow Spiders (Latrodectus mactans), both quite venemous. San Diego being about as Southwest as Continental U.S. gets, this is the Western Black Widow Spider. Some black widow trivia for you. The female black widow may be 15 times as venemous as a rattlesnake; yet, less than 1% of people die from black widow bites and none have died from Black Widow bites in over 10 years (apparently because they generally inject little venom). Black Widows are native to the United States. Only the females have the red hour glass; the males have yellow stripes. Only the females are mega-toxic.

This gal-spider was hanging out by the dog's water dish (NOT GOOD). I am generally pretty respectful of wildlife but black widows by the dog dish are VERBOTEN, SEVERO, PROHIBIDO, INTERDIT, JUST DOWNRIGHT TABOO. One good swat..oh, okay, a couple of good swats with the fly swatter and poof, no more black widow. There wasn't much left by the time I was done. Still, I have to admit that some things just look creepy. Creepy enough to merit an extra swat or three! Just a digital memory now. Phew... Creepy spider dreams tonight? Hope not. Pleasant dreams.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

All Fur and Gloss

Red Pincushion Protea. Wow. This thing is all fur and red gloss. It's pretty amazing. It makes you wonder what all the hairs are for. Did it protect the flowers from UV at high altitudes? Did it keep bugs off of certain parts of the flower? Do the hairs force the bugs to travel in a particular direction (doesn't look like that is the case but you never know)? It's fun to wonder.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Aloe in the Setting Sun

Aloe species. I have a huge Aloe blooming in the back yard. It's a pretty cool one with giant, wide, spineless leaves that are orange tinged from the sun and have light polka dots. Well, when it blooms it really puts on a show. Of course, there is nothing quite like the rays of the setting sun to set yellow flowers absolutely ablaze. Here it is in all its glory!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Addicted to Color and Texture

Red Ayssinian Banana, Ensete Ventricosum. These are some of the prettiest Banana trees around with deep reds and rich greens in the leaves. They make nice garden accents although I have yet to see one actually bear fruit.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Agave attenuata 'Kara's Stripes'. I enjoy Agave attenuata because of it's variety of colors and glaucous (white chalky) coating. It's also really easy to grow in Southern California, is relatively drought tolerant and pups freely. All good things. This one is named "Kara's Stripes." It is a variegated cultivar that was widely tissue cultured (cloned). The variegation is not quite as stunning as the previous Agave attenuata var. variegata from a few days ago's posting. However, it is a pleasant honey-yellow-green and that makes up for the lack of strong striping.

Western Tiger Swallowtail

Western Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus. I found this little guy fluttering around the very profuse trays of flowers for sale at Armstrong's Nursery. He did not seem to mind my snapping a few pictures while he calmly went from one cluster of flowers to the next. My only regret was that the Nikon was at home so the little Pocket Canon had to do the trick. These butterflies are supposed to come through Southern California in February; however, perhaps this one is from a second brood. Either way, it was quite a treat.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Aeonium 'Sunburst'. More variegated plants from the back yard. Aeoniums are pretty cool. They look like little flying saucers floating on a stick or maybe a colorful, gangly mushroom!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Agave attenuata var. variegata

Agave attenuata var. variegata. I had this on reserve at Exotic Gardens and it finally was in stock today, propagated by pup. Pricey but really beautiful. Of course cacti and succelents are the new thing here in San Diego, now that there is a water shortage. They are quite beautiful as they are but variegation does add a little extra exotic flair to it. In Japan, variegated clones may go for thousands of dollars.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Living Stones

Lithops (brown) and Argyrodermo testiculare (blue). Living stones come in all sorts of colors and forms. Here are two. The first is a Lithops, apparently a quite large family of living stones with a flat face and rock-like colors. The second is an Argyrodermo testiculare which is a really cool jade green.

Furry Pincushion

Furry Pincushion Protea. Some flowers are just too fastastic to figure out. Can you tell where the pollen and the stigma are? Hahah! Me neither. Cool though. I wonder what its pollinator looks like?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mutant Ninja Neofinetia

Neofinetia falcata 'Kibana'. Neofinetia falcata is a wonderful, compact, Japanese native that has a Jasmine fragrance at night. They are tolerant of a broad variety of weather conditions including cold, wet, dry and hot, something you would expect of an epiphyte in their Japanese homeland. They are normally pure white, a large plant throwing clouds of small, brilliant white flowers. However, the Japanese have been line breeding mutant strains of these in different leaf and color forms. Leaf forms include miniatures, bean shaped leaves, thick-short leaves and variegated leaves. Color forms started with light lavender and have since progressed to dark lavender, yellow and even green! Kibana is a bright yellow. Nothing to sneeze at, unless you're allergic to the smell of Jasmine anyhow.

The Poppy Experiment

California Poppies, Escholzia californica, the poppy patch. I bought a bag of California Poppy seeds from Home Depot in March and tossed the seeds on the hillside as kind of a science experiment to see if they would all grow. Well, grow they did. There are poppies all over the hillside managing to sprout through the branches and bramble. They are growing, thriving and blooming in spite of the lack of rain. Of course, they are a California native. That's also probably why they are known for being pioneer plants after a fire in California (similar to fireweed in other areas of the country). They're tough, they bloom like little banshees and put on quite a show.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Echinocereus Heaven

Echinocereus species. Wow, those Echinocereus sure do know how to bloom! At least that's what I'm guessing this is. This time, no label. However, what a flower! It's almost as big as the cactus itself. I bought this little guy as a no name cacti in a $2.99 pot at Home Depot because I thought the spines looked really cool. It was one of those late Sunday afternoon Home Depot sprees! Little did I know this little cacti was packing a heck of a flower!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pretty in Pink

Echinocereus species. Well I can't promise that there is something new blooming every single day in my back yard but sometimes it seems close to that! Here's another Echinocereus species in bloom and this one is hot pink! Wow, what a beauty. No spines too! How can you beat that? Good grower, low maintenance, no spines and pretty to boot! I'll take three! If you know the name of this puppy, feel free to chime in since Echinocereus was as close as I got.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Alligator Jaws

Aloe ferox, Alligator Jaws. With those huge red thorns, you can see why they call this Aloe, Alligator Jaws. They get huge, rising up on wrinkled trunks to tower over the surrounding savannah. I've got one growing among the poppies, neither of which receive any water. Hopefully, they'll make it through the hot summers here. I can't help but think, however, that those bright red thorns are far more beautiful than any alligator's teeth...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Easter Cactus

Easter Cactus, Echinopsis oxygona? The label just said Easter Cactus, Echinopsis species. oxygona is a guess but I'm open to suggestions. Whatever species (or hybrid) it is, it sure is a beauty. Two humongous, gorgeous, flamingo pink blossoms greeted me this morning. It's motivation for a whole new day. There are a bunch of buds still on the way as well. Wowzer...

Friday, May 08, 2009

California Bluebells

California Bluebells, Phacelia campanularia. After all the wildflower seeds I tossed out back, there were two Phacelia that germinated and this one is blooming. Wow, they sure are a sight to see. I'll toss more seeds out next winter and hope I get more next time!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Lesser Goldfinch

Lesser Goldfinch, Carduelis psaltria. I first saw these guys hanging out on my rosemary, eating the seeds. Every now and then they would pass through the yard but they wouldn't eat at the regular feeder. The House finches would eat the regular birdseed but not the Gold finches. I finally caved in and bought a finch feeder and a big bag of Nyjer. About a day later, I had finches! First one or two and then a whole flock of them. Soon, they had nyjer all over the deck and the squirrels were starting to come up under the nyjer so I moved it all down under a tree where they can mess and munch all they want.

Nyjer is also called thistle. That, of course, got me good and worried that the yard would soon be covered in thistle (a noxious weed in California). However, a little bit of Googling and I found out they are totally different plants - no relation whatsoever. Also, Nyjer seed is all imported (much of it from India of all places) and is apparently sterilized (baked at 250F) to prevent the introduction of still another noxious weed that gets mixed in as a contaminant.

Dwarf Chin Cactus

Gymnocalycium baldianum, Dwarf Chin Cactus. This is one of my favorite cacti. These little guys are native to Argentina and typically are grown by seed. They come in a variety of colors including red, pink, white and yellow. They're pretty durable, mine having lived on the front patio wall for some years now, and bloom reliably every year. The flowers open during the hottest part of the day and then close back for the night. On the South side of the house, they'd stay open most of the day. Ironically, on the North side of the house, they only open up when the direct sun hits them and between opening time and closing time, are only full open for about an hour. Pretty wild, huh? Worth the suspense though and the flowers last for days and new flowers continue to pop up for quite a while.

They're supposedly hardy down to 15 degrees F! I, of course, chose a beautiful red one (way back when...). If you wondering why they're called dwarf chin cactus...heheh...I've got no idea.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Eat Your Veggies

Swiss Chard. With the prices all going up and salaries going down, I decided to make a veggie garden. At the time, I was thinking about iron and calcium and vitamins. However, the Chard has turned out to be quite pretty in the garden.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Catch the Monkey!

Monkey Flower, Diplacus puniceus. This showy Monkey flower is fairly common along the trails in the San Diego area. They range in color from yellow to burnt orange to red with most being in the burnt orange color range. These are blooming in the canyon out in back of the house. They are called Monkey flowers because they are supposed to look like smiling monkeys! I admit, my imagination is failing me on this one but perhaps you can see the monkey! Also, for you Monkey lovers, I found a Monkey-flower web page! Now that's special!

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans, San Diego, California. This little cutie came up and landed on my railing while I was studying for finals on the patio. He might have been attracted by all that expensive nyjer seed that's slipping out of the finch sock... He came, looked at me, I snapped some pictures and he left, not stopping to eat.

I finally found an ID in the National Geographic Birds of Western North America! I highly recommend it for you West Coast birders. It is arranged roughly by body type/bird section and has these really cool tabs like the old phone books used to have for quick access. Better yet, it was on sale when I bought it (Borders)...grin.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Ever Wonder What a Bee Sees?

Iris. Here's a picture on the business end of an Iris. You can see how it funnels the bee in through that tiny little passage and forces the bee to leave with pollen on it's back. You can't quite see the stamens and stigma as the falls curve on inward a bit but they rest up against the top surface and end up rubbing pollen quite effectively on/off of the bees little furry back! Would you crawl down a yellow, hair-lined tunnel that looked like that?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

epiphyllum King of Yellows

epiphyllum King of Yellows. The Epiphyllums in the yard are in full bloom now. Gorgeous yellows, reds, maroons and oranges everywhere. They are huge and yet fragile and delicate, their flowers reminiscent of sparkling crepe paper.

Most of my epiphyllums came from the San Diego ephiphyllum Society Annual Sale in Balboa Park. Back when I bought them, they had cuttings for $1 each! I bought about 20 of them and now I have huge epiphyllums in all sorts of cool colors and combinations around the house. What a bargain! I still have name tags in them too but, when they get large, getting down into the pot to pull the tag can be a slightly prickly situation. I say slightly prickly since most of my epiphyllums are relatively spineless with perhaps a few prickly hairs around the aureoles. However, down along the main trunk of the plant, some of them can be a little prickly so, if I refuse to stick my hand down in the pot, it's understandable. Oddly enough, they're also prickly when they're young but grow into large, flat stemmed, relatively non-prickly adults.

They are generally great all around plants. They don't need much water or food and grow really easily. Few bugs will bother them. Their one issue, those nasty California Brown Snails love them. However, if you don't water much, eventually the snails go away too. Let's hear it for Xeriscape!

Friday, May 01, 2009

In the Greenhouse

Bifrenaria harrisoniae 'Ruth' AM/AOS. This lovely awarded orchid hails from the Brazillian coastal areas where it lives at around 600-2000 ft. It also has a lovely perfume fragrance. This particular plant has been an awesome grower and is now a huge plant in a 12" pot. It also blooms reliably each Spring. Overall, a lovely plant for any collection.

California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica. The California poppy was named by German botanist Adelbert von Chamisso after Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz during a California Expedition in the early 1800s. These are commonly seen along Southern California highways and in distubed area (such as after fires).

My Poppies have finally started blooming. I was wondering if the little guys were going to make it to blooming size before the summer heat wiped them out. They got a late start but it looks like I may still get a hillside of poppies after all. Here's a picture of one of the first to bloom and of the patch of poppies that it was growing in.