Friday, February 28, 2014

Gongora galeottiana

Gongora galeottiana, blooming in the greenhouse.  This lovely species hails from the Pacific Coast of Mexico.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Paphiopedilum haynaldianum

Paphiopedilum haynaldianum.  These are native to the Philippines where they typically grown on limestone hills.  When happy, they quickly grow into specimen plants.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus, at the  Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, perching on barbed wire overlooking the cattails.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Paphiopedilum gratrixianum

Paphiopedilum gratrixianum, blooming in the greenhouse.  This species is a native of Laos and Northern Vietnam.  I've had this plant for some 20 years.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Brassavola revoluta

Brassavola revoluta.  A delightful miniature growing up near the peak of the greenhouse on an old twig.  Sadly, it is not seen in cultivation very often as it is an easy grower, compact and has the most wonderful flowers.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dendrochilum yuccaefolium?

One of the myriad, wonderful Dendrochilum species.  This was was labeled as Dendrochilum yuccaefolium (although I have not keyed it out).  It's growing high up in the sunny ridge area of the greenhouse in a plastic basket.  In nature, yuccaefolium grows at about 1500ft in the Philippines and is so named for it's thin, rigid, yucca-like leaves.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dendrobium speciosum

Dendrobuim speciosum (variety curvicaule) blooming outside in the yard,  San Diego, CA.  These Australian natives grow great outside here and turn into huge, fragrant plants (a real beast!).  In fact, one plant grown in Santa Barbara was so big, they had to bring it to the orchid show with a fork lift!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Laelia Zip X Lc. Trick or Treat

Laelia Zip X Lc. Trick or Treat.  This shows the gloss, substance and color of Cattleya aurantiaca (ironically, only about 1/8th of the parentage), Laelia milleri and Laelia cinnabarina!

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Rare Sight: The California Clapper Rail

A California Clapper Rail, Rallus longirostris obsoletus (longirostris referring to its long beak), coming out of the water after a brief splash bath.  I have been hoping to see one of these for some years; however, they are elusive little birds.  Basically, the drill works like this.  The bird runs out of the dense, tall grass and into the open water; splashes about and thoroughly cleans itself off; gets up; runs out of the water and back into the dense grass.  No wonder I've never seen one before.  You have to be waiting there for it to pop out into the open at just the right moment.  Although they live on crustaceans, aquatic insects and small fish, there appears to be plenty enough of these within the cover of the tall grass.  At any rate, due to habitat loss (read that as multimillion dollar houses along the ocean), there are now only around 1000-1500 California Clapper rails left.  I consider myself pretty lucky to have seen one.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bufflehead: What's in a name?

Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola, one of the smaller diving ducks, pausing for breath between dives for food.  I've seen them eating eel grass; however, their diet varies quite a bit including insects, crustaceans, mollusks, plants and fish eggs.  They're fun to watch as they arch down into the water for food, often popping up with a mouthful.

I'd always wondered about the name, Bufflehead, as duck names are typically descriptive.  the word Buffle can mean "to puzzle" or it can refer to a "buffalo," both uses being obsolete.  The derivation is French: buffle m (plural bufflesfeminine bufflonne), for buffalo.  While this bird is a little enigmatic, as it dives up and down in the water, it seems like buffalo is the likely intent.  So I hunted down a link to a Buffalo picture and, yes, I suppose, there is a ever so slight resemblance in that over-sized, squarish head but, perhaps, it would not have been my first choice of names.

Perhaps the scientific name will give us a clue.  The Bufflehead is in the genus Bucephala!  Aha, you word lovers say, it's a clincher.  "cephala" or "cephalus" normally refers to a head!  What about the "Bu," you say?  That apparently came from Greek, "bous" for cow or bull.  Here's what I found on Websters: fr. Gk boukephalÄ“, fem. of boukephalos bullheaded, fr.bous bull, ox, head of cattle + kephalÄ“ head — more at cow,cephalic

So, imagine that you're an early American, perhaps from France, and you see this duck for the first time.  Perhaps you even realize that it reminds you of other ducks in the genus of, yes, bull heads (Bucephala).  This one has a bit of an over-sized, squarish head.  Not to mention that it is an American duck and yes, there are bison roaming the plains of early America, why not name it Buffle-head!  Hahah!  It turns out that it was also called the buffalo-headed duck prior to being called a bufflehead.  So that's that.

What about albeola?  Where did that come from?  Albeola is a diminutive of Latin albus, referring to that big white spot on the head!  It makes it easy to remember the name now, doesn't it?  Think of a Buffalo with a white spot on his head and poof, Bucephalus albeola.

Okay, so if you really want to get esoteric, why do you suppose this little duck has that great big white spot on his head?  My guess is that it is an eye spot misleading potential predators into thinking that a) the duck is far bigger than he really is (i.e., there be more underwater than meets the eye); and/or b) that the duck is looking backwards so you can't sneak up on him from behind.  Of course, your guess is as good as mine.  Happy Blogging. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Tillandsia in Bloom

Tillandsia species, in bloom.  The genus Tillandsia consists of over 500 species, mostly growing up in trees as "air plants."  They have tiny scales that catch water from mist and rainfall and some of them have the most adorable blue blossoms.  These grow outside just fine in San Diego.

Lcn. (Upstart x Star Rocket)

Lcn. (Upstart x Star Rocket).  Lcn Upstart = Lc. Rocket Sprite x Ctt. Chocolate Drop.  Lcn. Star Rocket = L. (Schomburkia) schultzei x Ctt. Golden Wax.  Really awesome, waxy, red flowers on a tall, sturdy spike.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stanhopea saccata

Stanhopea saccata blooming in the greenhouse.  Every now and then I threaten to get rid of all those huge Stanhopea specimens I have to let some light into the greenhouse; at least until something blooms and then I remember why I grow these magnificent, fragrant orchids.  Stanhopea saccata hails from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama in mixed oak/pine forest from around 1,000-5,000 ft.  This one has been growing for a while but never bloomed until I ran it dry in the Winter and poof, big beautiful flowers.  Go figure.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Castles at the Hotel Del Coronado

Yours truly posing in front of a large sand castle along the Hotel Del Coronado beach.  Everyone was taking pictures so I figured I'd join in the festivities.  The Hotel Del Coronado has had eleven presidents stay within it's wooden walls including Harrison, Taft, Roosevelt, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush Jr., and Clinton.

San Diego Bay Skyline

San Diego Bay skyline with a bit of Coronado showing on the left and downtown San Diego in the center.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Bulbophyllum Wilbur Chang

Bulbophyllum Wilbur Chang.  Bulbophyllums are often fly-pollinated and, like other fly-pollinated plants (such as Amorphophallus), tend to smell like things that attract flies such as rotten meat.  Meanwhile, the greenhouse is sealed up for Winter so smells tend to concentrate a bit.  I walk in and I'm thinking that some rat decided to die in the greenhouse.  I look and I look and no rat!  Finally, I give the Bulbophyllum a sniff and lo and behold, I find the source of the smell.  Hmmm...  This one is pretty but definitely not something I'm using to decorate the house.  Nope.  No way.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

It's Pupping Season for the Harbor Seals!

Smiling Seal Pup! Harbor Seal or Pacific Common Seal, Phoca vitulina v. richardsi. They are soooo cute. We are in the midst of pupping season. Note, no floppy ears so this is a seal; if you see floppy ears, it's a sea lion. You can also tell by the back flippers which go straight back on a seal but are down-turned like feet on a sea lion.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

What's All the Stink About?

Sea Lion Pup, Zalophus californianus, La Jolla, California  The residents of those gorgeous homes and luxury condominiums and the patrons at the restaurants off the cliffs of La Jolla have been complaining about the stink caused by the sea lion and bird poop.  Notably, the birds had been there, nesting on the cliffs, for years.  However, in the last few years, the sea lions moved up onto the rocks, claiming it as a prime basking spot.  Well, sea lions and birds do what sea lions and birds do, and the rocks became a bit pungent.  The city tried spraying the rocks with bacteria to digest some of the smelly left overs; however, short of on ongoing spraying program, that was just temporary relief.  Soooo....the city opened up the fence to the cliff area, by installing a gate, for the tourists, photographers and others to walk down to take a closer look.  That seems to have cleared out most of the sea lions and, sadly, almost all of the nesting cormorants as well, greatly reducing the smell.  In fact, there were only two cormorant nests on the cliff where there used to be dozens of them.  This little sea lion pup, however, was still there posing for the camera and, gosh, isn't he cute?

Dewey Mornings Are Back

Mrs. Spider was up all night spinning that web and it's all foiled by the morning dew.  Visible webs means no food for Mrs. least until they dry off!  Yes, the marine layer is back and those unseasonably dry days have eased off a little bit, making way for foggy, overcast mornings and dewy webs.