Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Death by Nectar or Sticky Way to Go

Drosera capensis with beetle. I felt the last picture just didn't do Drosera capensis justice so I got a close shot of a leave with a beetle. You can see the tendrils holding it up against the leaf. Fascinating in an odd, "nature does what nature needs" sort of way. This one is in full sun on the back porch and, so far, appears to be happy.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sticky Fun

Drosera capensis (Sundew). Those sticky drops attract insects that are captured and digested by the sundew to obtain much needed Nitrogen to supplement the nitrogen-poor peat that they live in. This particular sundew is native to the Cape in South Africa.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hot, Hot Midnight

Epiphyllum Midnight, blooming in the garden. Epiphyllums are easy to grow. They have awesome flowers. They are downright durable. I'm always amazed that you don't see more of these around. Perhaps they're not as popular as they could be because each flower only lasts a couple of days or due to the odd spine or two... Still, on a full grown plant, they bloom for weeks with bloom after bloom, making an incredible display.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Agapanthus or Lilly of the Nile

Agapanthus blooming in the neighborhood. This is one of the darker cultivars. They happen to grow grow amazingly well in Southern California although some cultivars are reported to survive up through zone 7. My dark clones and white clones have managed to interbreed resulting in a mish-mash of light lavender offspring that have sprouted up below them from seed. Consider it an experiment in Mendelian inheritance or perhaps in recessive mutations since none of the offspring were either white or dark purple (all being a more or less standard lavender).

Oh yes, Agapanthus, while called the lilly of the nile is neither a lilly nor from the Nile! They originate from South Africa as do Amaryllis, both of which do stunningly well here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mockingbird Body Slams Fledglings

Mockingbirds are fierce protectors of their nests and territory. Shown here is a Mockingbird body slamming a fledgling red tailed hawk. The pair of mockingbirds harrassed the pair of hawks until both hawks left. Talk about David and Goliath...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Juveniles on a Rampage?

Juvenile Red Tailed Hawks, Buteo jamaicensis, just recently fledged. Philip Unitt, Curator, Department of Birds and Mammals at the San Diego Natural History Museum, was kind enough to ID these two for me. They appeared to be variants of a red tailed hawk, to my novice eye, as the coloration didn't quite match the coloration of adult red-tailed hawk. Fledglings never even occurred to me as these are rather large birds (although it is that time of year...). Pretty doggone cool! There must have been a good nesting year, with the wet Winter we had, as there are four of these guys patrolling the canyon in back of the house. Imagine if you were a trying to keep four of these huge birds fed.

Red tailed hawks are found from Canada clear down through Panama. The can reach about 3.5 pounds and about 26" in wingspan! These were being pestered by two mockingbirds but that is for another day...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Parakeet to Good Home

Someone's pet parakeet has taken up residence in my front yard. Between the hawks and the ravens, I'm a little worried for it. It appears to be a young female. I've put out water, bird seed, some lettuce and a millet sprig but would prefer that it find a good home. If the owner (or other good potential caretaker) of this lost parakeet would like to come catch it....it's in my tree fern. Send email...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lock Ness Monster?

Nessie shows up in the oddest places! Loch Ness Monster? ...or just something natural? Care to enter a guess?

Sticky Fingers or Nature's Natural Bug Trap

Drosera rotundifolia, Sundew, Cedar Bay, Alaska and a small spider both out hunting for prey. Sundews have a sticky, sweet nectar on their hair-like stalked mucilaginous glands that cover their leaf surface. The "nectar" attracts small bugs which quickly get enmeshed by the closing stalks where they are digested for their nitrogen. The bugs supplement the sparse nitrogen available in the acidic bog environments that these plants favor. These nifty little plants will propagate from leaf cuttings, given the proper environment, sprouting a new plant from the leaf section as might an african violet.

Save Gas Now!

Mini-car in the South of France (Nimes, if I recall...). I have no idea what mileage this tiny little car gets but it has got to be better than what I get! It is kind of cute. They are advertising for wood pools and garden sheds (just in case you were wondering).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Running Free on Dog Beach

Dog Beach, San Diego, in May 2010. If you look close, you can see my dog getting a head start on me off in the distance.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Seeing Eye to Eye

Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas, Oahu, Hawaii. Friendly little guy passing a curious glance. While these turtles are listed as endangered and are protected, their numbers, perhaps because of that protection, have increased tremendously and they are becoming a common site, even at some of the busiest Hawaiian beaches.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nesting Glossy Ibis

Nesting Glossy Ibis, Plegadis falcinellus. This is one of the most widespread species in the Ibis family, being found in parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Zen of Gardening...or Mystery Pleurothallis

Pleurothallis species mislabeled as Pleurothallis ruberrima. Okay, I admit it. I don't know which Pleurothallis species this is...so I'll take suggestions (lest I have to look through the whole group -- OMG). The fingers should give you some sense of size as to the flower. The leaves are somewhat spathulate. The flowers hang pendantly from the leaf axil.

Clearly I was not meant to be a finger model! In any case, you might wonder why I garden and why I seem to have an endless variety of plants in my back yard. It's partly because there is something soothing about watching plants grow and some sense of reward when they bloom. It's also because there is an inherent beauty and wonder in nature that is difficult if not impossible to duplicate by man-made efforts. I stake no claim as to how it all happened, leaving that to each of nature's admirers to find on their own. My only hope is that each of us can find the moments to participate in the wonders of this world and to bathe in the myriad diversity and intricacy that we are a part of.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On the Wild Side, Life in Miniature

Pleurothallis scurrula. Most of the Stanhopea have finished blooming in the greenhouse but the tiny Pleurthallis are just getting into full bloom as the greenhouse temperatures rise. These fern-like orchids have tiny flowers, some just millimeters across. This flower is around a centimeter high. You have to stop and take a serious look to appreciate these little guys.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How Do You Know When You Are TOO CLOSE to a MORAY???

Moray Eel, Waikiki, Hawaii. When a moray opens its mouth in a very personal and threatening way, like this one is, you are too close! In fact, this rather large moray promptly swam out of his hole and charged me. Moray eels tend to bite and tear, thrusting their body back and forth while their sharp teeth maintain hold. Generally, unless you're silly enough to want a picture, I recommend a wide berth.

Just Say Dole, Pinapple that is...

Pineapple Fields, Wahiawa, Hawaii. In the old days, working in the Pineapple fields was a rite of passage in Hawaii. All the high school kids worked for Dole over the summer canning and picking pineapples. Dole-Hawaii pioneered the hybridization of the modern pineapple from its original bromeliad roots (thus, you will not find pinapples growing in the wild). Thus, while pineapples were a economic force in Hawaii from the time of the Hawaiian Monachy, the role of the pineapple in Hawaii has greatly declined. Sadly, even high school kids couldn't work inexpensively enough to stop the migration of the labor-intensive pineapple business to Taiwan and the Philippines. There, pineapples are cheaply grown and harvested for the canning business and, ironically, even for the fibrous biproducts which are used for wallpaper and furniture. There are still a few pineapple fields in Hawaii, largely for the fresh cut fruit market but even that is under pressure from foreign competition.

Pineapple in Hawaii: A Guide to Historical Resources.

Thursday, June 09, 2011


Buckeye Butterfly, Junonia coenia. These little butterflies are found all the way from Manitoba down through Columbia, including, you guessed it, Southern California along the way. Their caterpillars are apparently partial to snapdragon, toadflax, gerardia. plantain (Plantago) and Acanthus.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Friday, June 03, 2011

Betty's Tattoo

Okay, Betty and Wilma have been really popular. Just in case you were wondering what that tattoo that Wilma was staring at really looked like, here it is. Could it be a Pterodactyl or maybe a stray plesiosaur? You decide.

Alligators in San Diego???

San Diego Alligator Lizard, Elgaria multicarinata webii, out enjoying the sun. The San Digo Alligator lizard is found along the San Diego region and then up through central inland California. While these little guys are normally active during the day, they may favor mornings, evenings and even nights during the hottest part of the year. Apparently, they are also able to swim, which, given those tiny legs, is not at all intuitive.


In Hawaii they have beautiful semi-precious olive crystals (yes, peridot!) in some of the lava formations and, on a few beaches, the sand is actually green with Olivine!

Lizards, in Hawaii, are considered good luck!

Copperband Butterflyfish

Copperband Butterflyfish, Chelmon rostratus, is native to coral reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It uses that beak to get into crevices to snack on small crustaceans.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011