Sep 30, 2009

Sitka spruce - picea sitchensis

The Sitka Spruce is named after a place called Sitka in Alaska although its natural range is all along the coast of NW America. It was introduced to Britain in 1831 and is therefore a non native conifer. The tree grows with a very straight conical shape trunk. Long downward flowing branches hang down low from the pointed crown.

It can grow up to 50 m or more with a trunk over 2m in diameter.

Is greyish brown which gets curved fissures and flaky plates as it grows.

Leaves Flowers and Cones

Leaves are green flattened needles that grow individually. They are stiff, hard and very sharp. The red flositka flowerswers are seldom seen as they are found right at the top of the older trees. They ripen into pale brown, blunt and domed cones. The thin, hard, crinkled scales of the cones protect the seeds inside.

Where and how does the Sitka Spruce grow?

This conifer naturally grows on the west coast of North America . It has a very fast growth rate compared to some other trees. This means it can yield high volumes of timber in a comparatively short time. Foresters have developed models for growth or yield. The “yield class” figure is the mean cubic metres growth, for each hectare of tree species for each years growth. Sitka spruce has a yield class of 14 (14 cubic metres per hectare per year); Oak can be as low as 4. In terms of time, a Sitka spruce only needs to grow for 40 -60 years to reach its maximum timber potential. An oak can take up to and over 150 years.

The Sitka Spruce has been grown commercially for timber especially in upland locations. Deep, moist and well drained soils are best for growth and so it flourishes in the North and West of the country on damper and elevated sites. Seeds dropped naturally from this conifer grow extremely well and at enormous rates; this “natural regeneration” is encouraged in many Forest sites.

Wildlife around the Sitka Spruce

Sitka Spruce can grow close together to make a very dense canopy. It is difficult for sunlight to find it’s way through to the woodland floor so few plants can grow underneath them. Sitka Spruce do, however, give excellent shelter from wind, rain, cold and sometimes the heat of the sun. Larger animals such as deer and foxes like to find cover amongst the branches. Birds of prey, like Goshawks and Sparrowhawks can find excellent nesting and hunting sites on and around the Sitka Spruce.

Smaller birds such as the Crossbill, Tree Creeper, Coal tit and Siskin also enjoy living and feeding around the Sitka Spruce. picture


The wood from this tree is top quality - it is very versatile and is easy to work with. “Thinnings” (smaller trees taken from plantation) are particularly valuable for paper making as the white colour of the wood and long cellulose fibres make strong but smooth paper

Sitka spruce wood today

Boat and ship construction, pallets, packing boxes, board manufacture and paper making
Old uses - Used for aircraft frames and gliders.

Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum)

Kingdom: Plantae

(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots

Order : Alismatales

Family : Araceae

Subfamily: Aroideae

Tribe : Thomsonieae

Genus : Amorphophallus

Species : A. titanum

The titan arum or Amorphophallus titanum (from Ancient Greek amorphos, "without form, misshapen" + phallos, "penis", and titan, "giant") is a flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. The largest single flower is borne by the Rafflesia arnoldii; the largest branched inflorescence in the plant kingdom belongs to the Talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera). It thrives at the edges of rainforests near open grasslands. Though found in many botanic gardens around the world it is still indigenous only to the tropical forests of Sumatra. Due to its fragnance, which is reminiscent of the smell of a decomposing mammal, the titan arum is also known as a carrion flower, the "Corpse flower", or "Corpse plant" (in Indonesia, "bunga bangkai" – bunga means flower, while bangkai means corpse or cadaver; for the same reason, the same title is also attributed to Rafflesia which, like the titan arum, also grows in the rainforests of Sumatra).

The spectacular titan arum produces the world’s largest compound flower or inflorescene; the largest of which is reported to have reached 3.5 metres tall . Years may pass between flowering events but when the time does come this plant produces a truly spectacular bloom. A large bud appears on the forest floor and with remarkable speed the flower grows and opens to its full size. As with all members of the Arum family the inflorescence consists of a petal-like structure known as a ‘spathe’ and a flower-bearing spike, the ‘spadix’; the whole structure is borne on a stout stalk only 25 – 35 cm high. The spathe resembles an upturned bell with a frilly margin, the outside is pale green but when it unfurls the inner crimson walls are displayed. The spadix emerges above the spathe, the upper portion is known as the appendix and is brownish-yellow in colour.

The male and female flowers are situated on the lower portions of the spadix where they are sheltered by the giant spathe. The tightly packed cream male flowers are found in a band above the female flowers. Once pollinated, the female flowers develop into olive-sized bright red fruits that are carried in cylindrical clusters up to half a metre long. The single leaf of the titan arum is also gigantic in size; resembling a small tree rather than a leaf, it can tower up to 5 metres tall and divides into an umbrella-like canopy that can be 7 metres across.


Rafflesia, a native of rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo in the Indonesian Archipelago, is the largest flower in the world. Interestingly, Rafflesia is a parasitic plant without any leaves, stems and roots (It has only nutrient-absorbing threads to absorb nutrients from the host on which it lives) but for the largest flower.
Kingdom: Plantae
Division : Magnoliophyta
Class : Magnoliopsida
Order : Rafflesiales
Family : Rafflesiaceae
Genus : Rafflesia
Species : R. arnoldii

Rafflesia is a huge speckled five-petaled flower with a diameter up to 106 cm, and weighing up to 10 kg. Rafflesia flower has a small life of 5-7 days. Rafflesias have their stamens and pistils fused together in a central column, producing a corona, or crown, in the shape of a ring. The reddish brown colors of the petals, are sprinkled with white freckles. The smell attracts the carrion flies and then pollination occurs. After 9 months of maturation, Rafflesia plant opens into a cabbage-sized bud. The sexual organs are located beneath the rim of the disk.

Facts About Rafflesia

  • Rafflesia is the largest individual flower. Titan arum bears the largest inflorescence.
  • Rafflesia is a parasite which attaches itself to a host plant, Tetrastigma vine, which grows only in undisturbed rainforests, to obtain water and nutrients.
  • The genus Rafflesia is named after adventurer and founder of the British colony of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles.
  • Dr Arnold is remembered in the species name as Rafflesia arnoldii.
  • Rafflesia is the official state flower of Sabah in Malaysia, as well as for the Surat Thani Province, Thailand.
  • Rafflesia manillana, the smallest species in the genus Rafflesia is also has 20 cm diameter flowers.
  • Rafflesia flowers are unisexual.
  • Forest mammals and tree shrews feed on Rafflesia fruit which is 15cm in diameter, filled with smooth flesh and thousands of tiny hard coated seeds.
  • It is believed that rafflesia is related to poinsettias, violets, passionflowers, and other members of the order Malpighiales.
  • The rotten smell of the flower is due to the reddish tentacle-like, branched ramentae, inside the corolla of petals.
  • Rafflesia is an endangered or threatened genus.
  • Rafflesia arnoldii does not have chlorophyll, as all the green plants have and so it cannot undergo photosynthesis.
Growing Rafflesia

As Rafflesia is one of the rarest plants on earth, people started to study them since 1929. They tried to cultivate the plant artificially, as the plant takes 9 to 21 months until a bud flowers - only to last for less than a week. But all the experiments ended in failure.

The Queen`s Flower

The `Queen`s Flower` tree, known as `Lagerstromia Speciosa` in science, is a very beautiful sight when in bloom. This is a member of the `Lythraceae` family and a common Indian tree. The Hindi speaking people call it as `Arjuna` or `Jarul`. It is known as `Jarul` in Bengali as well. The tree known as `Kadali` and `Pumarathu` in Tamil language. In Sinhalese, it is `Murutu` while it is named as `Bongor Raya` or `Sebokok` in Malayalam. The English people know it as `Queen`s Crepe Myrtle` or the `Pride of India`.

In the month of April, the flowers and leaves of the tree appear in a great style. At this time, the tree covers up with some fragile colours. The tree blooms until the month of July, when the hot season ends. It is justifiably popular in the gardens and also in villages.

The Queen`s Flower TreeWhen the tree is in its full bloom, the pale greens and multicoloured bunches of flowers stand out to relieve our eyes from the dense darkness of the jungle. The bark of the tree is grey and smooth and also squared with polish and cream. The tree is broad-leafed but the leaves fall so slow and steadily that it rarely becomes bare. The large and vertical pyramids of flowers appear in the Summer. Varying from trees to trees, they change their colours. In some trees they are of purple colour, in some others they are mauve. Sometimes, they take a pretty pinky-mauve colour while sometimes they also take the definite pink colour. They even become white in some special occasions. Usually, the new flowers contain a deeper colour, but the older or aged ones become fade and sometimes almost white by the course of time. The various shades of the flowers scatter along the sprays and give them The Queen`s Flowera charming appearance. At the end, the buds are soft bluish-green. They also have a touch of pink in them. The wavy sepals give them the look of the velvet jugs. Inside the flowers, six or seven of the sepals are very soft green in colour and they are revealed between the slim bases of the petals. These petals are very uneven and wrinkled and this is why the tree acquired its other name, the `Crepe Flower`. The whole flower calculates around 6.3 cm across and it has some yellow dotted stamens and also a long style that radiate from the centre. When the flowering season is over, the numerous fruits form, sitting like little green crab apples in the wasted calices. In the later part of the year, they turn black and remain in the tree for almost the rest of the year along with the next flowering and fruiting season.

The Queen`s Flower TreeNormally, the leaves of the tree grow alternating each other and sometimes in nearly making a pair. They also grow in all the directions of the branches. They are bright green in colour and a little pale below. Being heavily veined on the underside, each leaf is a smooth and pointed oval that measures from 12.5 to 20 cm in length and grows from a short stalk. Sometimes, they turn an eye-catching coppery shade just before they fall down in the Winter. They also give the tree a temporary charm provided the insects don`t disfigure them.

The timber of `Queen`s Flower` posses a great value that can be compared with that of the `Teak Tree` only. The wood is very tough and strong and it can also resist the effects of salty sea- water and sea air for many years. For this great quality only, in India it is used for making wharf posts, boats, casks, etc. With a fine polish, the timber can also be used for making panels on the wall as well as furniture. The country people found some medicinal values of the tree as well. According to them, the roots of the tree are astringent, the seeds are narcotic and the bark and leaves are strongly physique. However, the main reason of the people to cultivate the tree is the ability to be used frequently in decoration.

Lecocarpus pinnatifidus (Asteraceae) in an isolated population in the Galápagos Islands

Lecocarpus pinnatifidus is an endemic member of the Asteraceae occurring on only one island in the Galápagos archipelago. The capital are large with female ray florets and male disc florets. They are self-compatible but this study suggests fruit set is pollen limited. Visits from Xylocopa darwini and other larger insect pollinators are rare, and small insects seem to be the main pollinators. Small insects carry few pollen grains and most likely mediate self-pollinations. Self-compatibility and seed set after selfing are the most common reproductive strategy in the Galápagos Islands and L. pinnatifidus seemingly fits well into this group.

The cutleaf daisy (Lecocarpus pinnatifidus) is named for the deeply and irregularly lobed margins of its leaves. It is one of the rarest plants in the Galapagos, and the world, known only from Punta Cormorante, Floreana Island, where this picture was taken. This area is one of the best visitor sites to see a variety of endemic plants in a relatively small area.

Sep 29, 2009

Red Stemmed Thalia (Thalia geniculata)




Native or Introduced:

Nutrient Removal Rating:
High (cleanse and polish)

Wildlife Value:


Rooted or Floating:

Site Requirements:
Full sun

Maximum Water Depth:
36 inches

Plant Description:
Red stemmed thalia can be as tall as 10.5 feet. Leaves are basal with green or red-purple sheaths. Petioles are green to red-purple and smooth.

Blades are oval to narrow elliptical and measure 8-24 inches by 2-10 inches. Blades are green and have rounded bases and pointed tips. Inflorescences open and spread widely. Flowers are lavender to purple in color. Flowers yield elliptical fruits that contain brown/black smooth seeds.

Flowering occurs from summer to fall with fruits developing summer to winter. Red stemmed thalia inhabits ponds, ditches, swamps, marshes, streams, and lakes. It can be emergent or grow along the banks.

Lizard's Tail (Saururus cernuus L.)

Identification: A partially aquatic plant. Flowers small, white, arranged in an elongate, compact, thickened spike, spike usually curled or nodding near the tip. Stems thick, smooth. Leaves large, dark green, heart-shaped with thick petioles. Plant 2 to 5 feet in height.

Distribution: Michigan in the west to Ontario and New England in the east, southward to Florida and Texas.

Habitat: Lizard's Tail is found in swamps and shallow water.

Flowering period: June to September.

Similar Species: The combination of the aquatic habitat, the long flower spike with its nodding tip, and the large, dark, heart-shaped leaves should easily identify this species.

Sep 28, 2009

Sweet Alyssum Lobularia maritima (Brassicaceae)

A hardy annual native to Southern Europe, but has naturalized throughout the United States. Dense clusters of tiny snow-white flowers bloom continuously throughout the growing season if the spent blossoms are trimmed back. A compact, rapid growing variety which is drought tolerant and heat resistant. Thrives in full sun to partial shade, in almost any soil. Best sown in early spring, seedlings cannot withstand a heavy frost. A seemingly endless parade of blooms.

Characteristics of Sweet Alyssum
Although treated as an annual in the North, sweet alyssum is one of the hardier annuals there: it may survive light frosts that tenderer plants will succumb to. Sweet alyssum flowers do come in other colors (there is a purple alyssum, for instance), but white alyssum is the most widely planted. Its flower clusters are fragrant. The flowers have 4 small, blunt petals set in such a way as to give the blossom almost a squarish appearance. Sweet alyssum plants are short and spread to form mats. The plants' narrow leaves hardly show at all when sweet alyssum is in full bloom, if the plants are packed tightly together.

Uses for Sweet Alyssum

Sweet alyssum flowers can form a striking border when massed together as bedding plants. Mat-forming sweet alyssum stays short and complements taller border plants well: planted in front of the taller plants, sweet alyssum won't obscure them. They are also popular in container gardens; as short plants, you can install them along the rim (they'll hang over slightly). Their short stature also makes sweet alyssum plants useful as temporary rock garden plants or ground covers. White sweet alyssum flowers are often used with red salvia and blue ageratum in the U.S. for a "patriotic" landscaping color scheme.

Care for Sweet Alyssum

Hate to deadhead plants to encourage reblooming, because it's so time-consuming? Not to worry, with sweet alyssum flowers. Just give the plants a good "haircut" with a pair of scissors when they start to get leggy (remove about 1/2 of the growth): not only will this care promote further flowering, but it will also keep the plants optimally compact. Sweet alyssum sometimes re-seeds.

Outstanding Characteristics of Sweet Alyssum

Sweet alyssum flowers boast a long blooming period, and the flowers are rugged (unlike those on petunias, for example, which are a veritable blight upon the landscape after a strong rain has ruined them). For that matter, even after a few of their flowers have died, sweet alyssum plants still look good: their individual flowers are so small, you really don't notice a dead one here or there. This latter feature makes sweet alyssum flowers relatively low-maintenance, as there's no compelling aesthetic reason to "pick up after" them.

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), also known as the Virginia deer, or simply as the whitetail, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States (all but five of the states), Canada, Mexico, Central America, and in South America as far south as Peru. It has also been introduced to New Zealand and some countries in Europe, such as Finland and the Czech Republic.

The white-tailed deer is tan or brown in the summer and grayish brown in winter. It has white on its throat, around its eyes and nose, on its stomach and on the underside of its tail. The male has antlers. Males weigh between 150 and 300 pounds and females weigh between 90 and 200 pounds.

The white-tailed deer lives in wooded areas. In some areas, deer overpopulation is a problem. Gray wolves and mountain lions used to be predators of the white-tailed deer and helped keep their population under control. But because of hunting and human development, there are not very many wolves and mountain lions left in some parts of North America.

White-tailed DeerSometimes a bobcat or a coyote will kill a young deer, but people and dogs are now the deer's main predator. Because there are not many natural predators, deer populations can sometimes grow too large for their environment and deer can starve to death. In rural areas, hunters help control deer populations, but in suburban and urban areas hunting is often not allowed and deer populations can grow out of control.

White-tailed DeerOther things can change deer populations. Disease and parasites like lice, mites and roundworms can weaken or kill deer. Young deer and old deer often get sick and die, especially in the winter. Winter is a dangerous time for deer. Their long narrow legs and pointed hooves make it hard for them to move around in the snow and ice and it is easier for predators like dogs to catch them.

White-tailed DeerDeer and people are living closer to each other because of human development and growth in deer and human populations. Because humans and deer often share a habitat, there can be problems for both of them. When a deer's habitat becomes smaller because of human development, deer will often eat food from gardens. Deer need to cross roads to look for food and water and are sometimes struck by cars. People can also catch a sickness called Lyme Disease from the deer tick.

When a white-tailed deer is alarmed, it may stomp its hooves and snort to warn other deer. It may also "flag" or raise its tail and show its white underside. When a mother deer is running, this white underside can help her fawns follow her.

White-tailed Deer White-tailed deer are very good runners. They can run at speeds of up to 30 mile an hour. They are also good leapers and swimmers.

White-tailed deer mate in November in the northern parts of their range and in January or February in the southern parts of their range. The female has one to three fawns after about six months after mating. Fawns are reddish-brown at birth with white spots that help camouflage them. They can walk at birth and forage for food a couple of days later. They are weaned at about six weeks.

White-tailed DeerThe mother leaves her fawns well-hidden for hours at a time while she feeds. If she has more than one fawn, she hides them in separate places. While they are waiting for their mother to return, the fawns lay on the ground with their heads and necks stretched out flat on the ground. This makes it harder for predators to find them. Female fawns may stay with their mother for two years, males usually leave after a year.

Sep 27, 2009

Caper Flowers

Botanical name: Capparis spinosa Linn.
Family name: Capparidaceae

Indian names are as follows:
Punjabi:Kaur, Barar

A spiny shrub of straggling habit, a little less than a meter high, it is valued chiefly for its flower buds, which are picked and sold as `Capers`. It may be grown as a greenhouse plant in colder areas and outdoor in warmer parts. It is deciduous with almost round leaves. The most conspicuous feature of the fleeting white flowers is the mass of purple-tipped stamens.

The tiny buds open when the sun rises and close when it sets. Once cut, they remain closed. The capers are graded on copper sieves, and the smaller the bud the higher the grade. Usually, they are cured and prepared in salt. The bitter salty taste is epicurean, and very few capers are necessary to give the added flavor sought for.

Caper Flowers and budsCommercial European capers are the pickled flower buds of the plant. They have an acrid, burning taste, and are considered useful in scurvy. In India, the buds and also the fruits, are similarly taken.

Flower buds contain a glycoside, rutin, which on acid hydrolysis gives rhamnose, dextrose and querctin. On hydrolysis, by the enzyme rutinase, it yields the sugar rutinose and quercetin. The former, on acid hydrolysis, gives rhamnose and dextrose. Flower buds contain about 4% pentosans on dry basis. They also contain rutic acid, pectic acid, a substance with garlic odor, a volatile emetic constituent and saponin.

Many European and American cooks use capers most expertly. Fish and meat sauces are especially delicious with a few capers added; and as a garnish for cold roasts and salads, capers are unequalled in flavor. Many of the famous Italian dishes are well known for the taste because of use of spices appropriately including capers. Besides, capers are also used for flavoring pickles and relishes; caper sauce with boiled mutton is a great favorite worldwide.

The fruits though edible, are not eaten raw, except as an appetizer in East India. The dried pericarp is of great value for its delicate taste and flavor. The dried rind possesses antiseptic properties. The rind contains 30% acid (calculated as citricacid) on the dry basis. It is used in medicines for ailments such as rheumatism, rickets, and enlargement of spine and for treating animal disorders. The dried rind also finds use in polishing gold and sliver and for coagulating rubber latex. On commercial scale, the concentrates of the dried rind are manufactured largely capturing the flavor of the dried fruit.

Caper SeedsCaper seeds yield 34 to 36% of a pale yellow oil. Its Iodine value reported to be 115 to 125. It is basically a unsaturated oil, with fatty acid composition as given below:

Oleic:42 to 46 %
Linoleic:45 to 51 %
Palmitic and Stearic:7 to 9 %.

The process of harvesting or picking of caper is easy and simple and can be done by ordinary village folks. Grading of capers after picking can be done easily with the help of copper sieves.

Gul Mohr flower

The beautiful flower Gul Mohr attracts the eyes of almost everyone whosoever passes under the tree. The Scientific name of Gul Mohr is Delonix Regia. The family of this flower is Leguminosae and its sub-family is Coesalpineae. Almost all the trees, shrubs and climbers of native and warm countries belong to this sub-family and it also contains some of the most beautiful trees in the world. The origin of the trees is Madagascar, from where trees were taken to Mauritius about 1824. Seeds from these trees were then taken to England and now it is to be found in most tropical countries.

The name of the flower `Gul Mohr` differs in various languages. When it is called `Gul Mohr` in Hindi, its called as `Rakta Chura` in Bengali. The Tamil people call it as `Mayarum` and it is `Alasippu` in Malayalam. `Shima sankesula` is the name in which the Telugu people call it and the Sinhalese call it as `mal Mara`. But it`s famously known as `Peacock Flower` or `Flamboyant` all over the world as it is called so in English.

Gul Mohr TreeThe Gul Mohr is amongst those rare trees in India that are extra-ordinarily striking and ornamental. When the month of April comes, everyone just wonder about thinking how a bare, skinny tree that is standing on a dry and hard earth can create such a glorious wealth of bloom. Just a few days after the first blossom appears, the whole tree starts shining with various splashes of crimson and orange. In the Month of May, the soft, whitish, rich green of the new plants spread out and the tree develops a light and soft beauty. The long ugly, black pods and bare, gray branches stays hidden and the spreading sunshade of green lace and cherry blossoms get the loveliest beauty. There is always a rich variety in the shades of crimson and cherry. Some trees become almost orange and some other take a deep red shade. All the variety of colour has their respective admirers.

Gul Mohr FlowerThe usual size of the Gul Mohr flower is 12.5 cm across. The large ones put up with numerous, combination of blooms and roundish drowsy buds. The design of the flower is somewhat uncommon. Five thick crimson sepals curve back and display their lime-green lining and bright yellow rims from the spaces between them. If you spread out the five spoon-shaped, curvy and crinkle-edged petals you will find one of them is larger. Its-white or yellow center splashes with scarlet. Ten long stamens spread and curve from the center. After the fall of the flowers the soft, green pods make their appearance. But soon they become hard and black, they are the long ugly straps hanging amongst the leaves. They wait there throughout the year for the next year`s flowers to appear. These leaves are just like those of several other trees.

Branch of Gul MohrAnother very interesting thing about Gul Mohr is that one can very easily recognize it even when there is no flower in it. Because of its smooth, gray limbs and the characteristic formation of outward spreading branches and leaves, it becomes easily recognizable. Gul Mohrs are some excellent light-shade trees that can grow up to about 12m. People normally plant them in such avenues where most of the trees are of same height and there they form a superb landscape. The advantage of the trees is that they grow readily from seed, although they often take a long time to germinate. As a garden tree it has some disadvantages as well. That are the limbs of these trees break easily in strong winds and that grass and other plants do not grow well beneath it.

However, there is some controversy over the meaning of the name of this popular tree. There are some people who say the word is `Mohr` that means peacock, while `Gul` is flower. To some others the word is `Mohur` that is coin. But everybody does agree with the matter that the name `Gold Mohur`is not adequate in illustrating the aesthetic appeal of the flower. In fact the most attractive of its names are those given by the French that are `feur de Paradis` and `Flamboyant`.

Sep 25, 2009

Iris plant

Iris is a genus of between 200–300 species of flowering plants with showy flowers. It takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, referring to the wide variety of flower colors found among the many species. As well as being the scientific name, iris is also very widely used as a common name; for one thing, it refers to all Iris species, though some plants called thus belong to other closely related genera. In North America, a common name for irises is flags, while the plants of the subgenus Scorpiris are widely known as junos, particularly in horticulture. It is a popular garden flower in the United States.

The genera Belamcanda (blackberry lily), Hermodactylus (snake's head iris), Neomarica (walking iris) and Pardanthopsis are sometimes included in Iris.

The genus is widely distributed throughout the north temperate zone. Their habitats are considerably varied, ranging from cold and montane regions to the grassy slopes, meadowlands and riverbanks of Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa, Asia and across North America.

A wild Iris prefers the wet soil of the flats during the Spring and the periodic rainfalls during the summer making the climate in Alaska, USA ideal for the wild Iris flowers. The sepals on the wild Iris are deeply veined with a yellow white signal and the petals never exceed the base of the sepals.

The Eklutna flats are tidal influenced wetlands and the wild Iris grows to be about 60 centimeters in height. With this mass of flowers growing to these heights, the landscape of the flats is extremely colorful during the Spring.

Wild Iris (Iris setosa) in full bloom in bright sun on flats near Eklutna, Alaska, in June.

Helmeted Honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops cassidix)

There are around 170 species of the honey eater variety recorded in Australia. As the name suggests, most from this variety are nectar feeding birds. However, nectar only makes up a small proportion of the Helmeted Honeyeater's diet.

The Helmeted Honeyeater is endemic to Victoria, and is also the only bird species to be endemic to the state. For this reason, the Helmeted Honeyeater became Victoria's bird emblem in 1971.

The Helmeted Honeyeater is listed as Threatened in Schedule 2 of Victoria's Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and is listed as Endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The Helmeted Honeyeater is approximately 20 cms in length (tail to tip). They range in colour from black to olive-brown to yellow. They have a yellow crest which sets them apart from other honeyeaters.

Currently (2006) the Helmeted Honeyeater is listed as critically endangered. There were only 50 of this species left in 1990. The numbers are steadily increasing, but the species is still critically endangered.

The honeyeater is currently found in a captive release colony in the Bunyip State Park Reintroduction Site. They also inhabit a very small range between Ferntree Gully and Yellingbo in the wild.

The diet of the Helmeted Honeyeater consists of mainly manna. Manna is a sap-like substance produced by trees through the bark and at points of injury. They also feed on nectar from eucalypt flowers, berries from the prickly currant bush, insects, spiders and lerps.

Breeding occurs from August to February. The gestation period is two weeks where 2 to 3 young are born.

Castilleja miniata (Indian Paintbrush)

Latin Name: Castilleja miniata, etc.
Common Name: Indian Paintbrush, Red Indian Paintbrush, Harsh Paintbrush, Cliff Paintbrush, Small-flowered Paintbrush
Family Name : Figwort

The Northwest is a great place to catch several types of paintbrush. They are known for their bright red color, although it can vary from orange to scarlet to purple to even white or yellow. Their color comes from dense, bright bracts that surround the actual flower.

The Northwest is home to a wide variety of paintbrush, and identifying the different variations can require a good deal of examination. Unfortunately, the paintbrush shown in these photos are difficult to identify. Nevertheless, as you scroll through them, information about the different species can be found. These pictures were taken at Elk Meadows, Elk Cove, and Dog Mountain.

The Paintbrush evoked the Native American legend of a young brave who tried to paint the sunset with his warpaints. Frustrated that he could not match the brilliance of nature, he ask for guidance from the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit gave him paintbrushes laden with the colors he so desired. With these, he painted his masterpiece and left the spent brushes in fields across the landscape. These brushes sprouted the flowers we now so wonderfully love!

The most common paintbrush in the Northwest is the Common Red Paintbrush, aka Giant Red Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata). Its upper leaves are mostly whole (i.e. not lobed). Closely related to the Red Paintbrush are a variety of niche paintbrushes that are similar to the common paintbrush (e.g. Seashore Paintbrush and Alpine Paintbrush). Another showy variation is the Small-flowered Paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora), found at alpine and sub-alpine meadows. C. parviflora is characterized by its upper leaves, which are divided into 3-5 lobes, the whole plant stands no more than a foot tall. In the North Cascades, the C. parviflora's bracts can even be white.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus

The Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, is a large owl native to the Americas. It is an adaptable bird with a vast range and is the most widely distributed true owl in the Americas.

The Magellanic Horned Owl (B. magellanicus) of the Pacific Andes was for some time included in this species too.

Great Horned Owls are large, powerful, fierce predators, which rule the night sky. These birds possess “silent flight.” This means that their fringed flight feathers muffle the sound of their approach. In this way, their prey never hears them coming. Since these birds hunt from above and behind, their prey never sees them coming either. This translates into some very successful hunting for these big beautiful birds.

Physical Description

Great Horned Owls range up to 25 inches in length and with wing spans up to 5 feet in width. These owls are North America’s largest “eared” owls. The “ears” are actually tufts of feathers on the bird’s head. Great Horned owls are usually brownish with blackish spots and streaks. They possess paler under-parts and a whitish throat patch. Owls from forested habitats tend to be darker, while owls from open habitats tend to be lighter in plumage or feather patterning. These birds have large bright yellow eyes and huge feathered feet with razor sharp black claws called talons.

Family Life

Mother Great Horned Owls lay 2 to 3 eggs in January of February. Both mother and father Great Horned Owls take turns incubating (sitting on to warm) their eggs for 26 to 30 days. The young are fledged (grow their adult flight feathers) by June. Owlets, like their parents, are aggressive and solitary once they leave the nest.


Rabbits, squirrels, mice, woodchucks, raccoons, snakes, bats, foxes, ducks, swans, other birds of prey, frogs, fish, scorpions and porcupines!

Sep 23, 2009

Banksia Marginata

Banksia marginata is a very variable species both in habit and habitat. It is typically a medium shrub about 2 metres high by a similar spread but also occurs as a scrambling, prostrate plant and as a small to medium-sized tree. Leaves are linear, 15 to 60 mm long by 3 to 13 mm wide often with recurved (rolled under) margins. The leaf margins and tip may have small serrations. The upper surface of the leaves is dull green and the under surface is silvery, giving the plant its common name.

The flowers occur in cylindrical spikes which are 50 to 100mm long, 40 to 60mm wide and pale yellow in colour. The seeds are enclosed in follicles attached to a woody cone and are generally retained within the cone until burnt.

Family: Proteaceae
Distribution: Coastal heaths, forest and woodland in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
Common Name: Silver Banksia
Derivation of Name: Banksia...after Sir Joseph Banks.
marginata...from Latin marginatus; bordered, referring to recurved leaf margins on some forms.
Conservation Status: Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

Fire-sensitive and fire resistant forms are known. The former rely solely on seed for regeneration while the latter can regenerate from both seed and from vegetative growth from a lignotuber.

Banksia marginata is common in cultivation and is generally hardy. However, due to the wide natural range of the species, forms for cultivation should be selected from similar climates to that of the location where it is to be grown. For example, in Sydney the forms selected from coast and mountains of New South Wales are very successful while forms from drier area (such as western Victoria) are difficult to maintain. In cultivation the species is not demanding in regard to soil types but waterlogged ground should be avoided. The plant favours a position in full sun or dappled shade.

Propagation from seed or cuttings is relatively easy.

A similar species is B. canei which is found in semi alpine areas of New South Wales and Victoria.

Acmena smithii

Acmena is a genus of 15 species of which six occur in Australia. The genus was previously included in Eugenia and they are generally known as lilly pilllies. Acmena smithii is the best known member of the genus and it has been in cultivation for many years.

In nature, A.smithii is usually a medium to large tree reaching 15 - 20 metres in height. However, in cultivation it is usually a dense-foliaged, medium tree of about 8 - 10 metres high by 6 metres wide. The leaves are glossy green, lance-shaped to elliptical, about 50 -- 100 mm long by 10 - 50 mm wide and tapering to a point. The flowers are creamish/white and occur in clusters at the ends of the branches in spring and summer. They have a fluffy appearance due to the numerous long stamens but are not especially attractive, horticulturally. The flowers are followed by fleshy fruits, white to purple in colour and about 10 - 15 mm in dimeter. The fruits are edible but not particularly palatable.

Family: Myrtaceae
Distribution: Widespread in east coast rainforests from north Queensland to Victoria. Also found on King Island.
Common Name: Lilly Pilly.
Derivation of Name: Acmena... After Acmene, a Greek wood nymph, presumably referring to the habitat of the genus.
smithii... After Sir J E Smith, botanist and founder of the Linnean Society.
Conservation Status: Not considered to be at risk in the wild

This is a very hardy plant in cultivation, adapting to a range of climates from tropical to temperate and to most reasonably well drained soils. It will grow in full sun or fairly heavy shade. In an open position it usually retains foliage to near ground level. Several cultivars have become available, usually varying in growth habit:

  • Variety 'minor' - grows to about 3 - 3.5 metres.
  • 'Hot Flush' is a relatively new introduction with a moderate growth habit and reddish new growth.
  • 'Hedgemaster' - low growing form to about 1 - 1.5 metres.
  • 'Red Tip' - grows to about 6 metres and has flushes of burgundy new growth.

The species is resistant to at least moderate frosts and tolerates extended dry periods once established, although it will have a better appearance if adequate water is available.

The plant responds well to pruning and can be used as a tall hedge.

The most serious pest of lilly pillies is the lilly pilly psyllid (Trioza eugeniae). This can cause disfiguring pimples on the leaves of susceptible species. Fortunately, A.smithii is rarely affected by this pest.

Propagation is usually carried out from fresh seed, either by sowing the fruits whole or after removing the flesh. Germination may be slow and spasmodic. The species can also be grown from cuttings of firm, current season's growth.

Species of Nymphoides

Nymphoides is a genus of aquatic flowering plants in the family Menyanthaceae. The genus name refers to their resemblance to the water lily Nymphaea. Nymphoides are aquatic plants with submerged roots and floating leaves that hold the small flowers above the water surface. Flowers are sympetalous, most often divided into five lobes (petals). The petals are either yellow or white, and may be adorned with lateral wings or covered in small hairs. The inflorescence consists of either an umbellate cluster of flowers or a lax raceme, with internodes occurring between generally paired flowers.

Species of Nymphoides are sold as aquarium plants, including the "banana plant", N. aquatica and the "water snowflake", N. indica. Species native to the United States are N. cordata in the northeast and N. aquatica in the southeast. Nymphoides peltata is native to Europe and Asia, but can be found in the United States as an invasive aquatic weed. The non-native species N. cristata and N. indica also reportedly occur in Florida (Jacono 2000).

Numerous species of Nymphoides grow in Australia, and others exist in Africa, America, and Asia. There are approximately 50 species of Nymphoides.

Sep 22, 2009

Himalayan Blue Poppy

Poppy is a kind of plant belonging to the Papaveraceae family. This family is conformed by about 200 species of herbaceous plants, small woody trees and shrubs. Poppies are known for their beautiful flowers, however no true poppy gives blue flowers. Blue poppies come form the Meconopsis genus and they are called poppies because they are alike in many ways.

Himalayan blue poppy.- it’s original name is Meconopsis Betonicifolia. It is native from southeastern Tibet and was discovered in 1886. Although there are many blue poppies the Himalayan blue poppy is probably the best known of all because of it’s beautiful flowers and the fact that they are easier to grow than other blue poppies. They are among the top flowers in the world and for that reason they are very expensive. It is said that this plant has a strong Saturn influence.

Himalayan blue poppy appearance.- This plant forms a rosette of hairy leaves. It grows up to 5 feet high and gets stems that can bear up to 5 flowers each. The flowers are big and come in a deep blue color. When fully grown the petals extend and you can barely notice the cup shape. Usually their stamens and pistils (the center of the flower) are yellow and gives a unique look.

Growing the Himalayan blue poppy.- as many big perennial Meconopsis it grows in partial shade because they require cool summer temperatures. They need a moist, humus rich, well drained soil. The acidity level of the soil is also important for it will have its influence on the color of the flower. They are very easy to grow form seed although they grow very slowly. These plants survive harsh winters if they have the conditions mentioned and they will grow as a perennial plant, so it is recommended to separate them every 2 or 3 years. If it doesn’t it is very likely that it will become monocarpic and only live a year. If you live in a drier area you’ll need to water it daily. This plant will bloom in early and mid summer.

This plant sets a lot of seeds after it blooms and they are used in many baking goods for their sweet, nutty taste. It is amazing that with the amount of seeds this plant gives, now days they are very hard to find.

The Himalayan blue poppy is very important because it is used to get hybrids along with its cousin M. Grandis or Tibetan blue poppy. The difference between the Himalayan blue poppy and the Tibetan blue poppy lies in the flowers. The Tibetan flowers are larger and the cup shape is very noticeable. Also the shade of blue varies a little.

What is Flora and Fauna?

Flora and fauna refer to plant and wildlife, respectively. The indigenous plant and wildlife of a geographical region is often referred to as that region’s flora and fauna. Both are collective terms, referring to groups of plant or wildlife specific to a region or a time period. For example, the flora and fauna of a warm region may consist of tropical to warm-temperate vegetation and exotic species of birds.

By definition, flora is a word of Latin origin referring to Flora, the goddess of flowers. Flora can refer to a group of plants, a disquisition of a group of plants, as well as to bacteria. Flora is the root of the word floral, which means pertaining to flowers. Fauna can refer to the animal life or classification of animals of a certain region, time period, or environment. Fauna is also of Latin origin. In Roman Mythology Fauna was the sister of Faunus, a good spirit of the forest and plains.

The flora and fauna of any given region is usually explained in biological terms to include the genus and species of plant and animal life, their preferred growing or breeding habits, and their connection to one another in the environment as well. In addition to geographical groupings, environment also helps further classifications of flora and fauna. For example, aquatic flora and fauna of a region refers to the plant and animal life found in the waters in or surrounding a geographic region.

Biologists and environmentalists study flora and fauna for a number of reasons. Preservation and conservation as well as gaining new biological understandings are just a few reasons why flora and fauna are important to researchers. Several organizations, including Fauna and Flora International (FFI), work together to use their research and findings to further policy on conservation and preservation as well as biodiversity.


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