Oct 14, 2009

Nepenthes Gracilis (Periuk Kera)

Nepenthes gracilis is a widespread and common pitcher plant from SE Asia. Its latin name describes the long slender leaves characteristic of this species. The normal colour of the pitcher is green, sometimes spotted red but at this open shrubby grassland beside the peat forest.

While the pitchers are meant to catch prey, it is paradoxical that researchers had documented about 150 species of animals living within the pitchers (Phillips and Lamb 1996). These are commenals, that is they feed on excess food of the pitcher plants without doing any harm. Amongst these are frogs, tadpoles, insect larvae, crabs and crab spiders. Older pitchers are preferred since they are less acidic - so if you grow these plants, trim away the old pitchers to prevent mosquito breeding.

It is easily spotted on road banks and other cleared areas in Borneo. There are several colour forms, but all plants have a similar thin, scrambling vine structure, that is an easily distinguishable feature of this species. N. gracilis is predominantly found at the lower altitudes of its range, but has been observed growing next to N. stenophylla at Long Buan, Kalimantan Timur, and 2/3 of the way up the Crocker range in Sabah.

Borneo, Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, Sulawesi, Singapore, Thailand

ELEVATION: 0-1000 meters

Depending on the cultured plants origin, this species may be very susceptible to cooler temperatures. Grow as a typical lowland plant, and it will thrive. As plants get larger, put them into very large containers, and they will climb to form a large mass of stems and pitchers.

Oct 13, 2009

Charlotte's Phacelia (Phacelia nashiana ) Hydrophyllaceae Charlotte's Phacelia

Latin name: Phacelia nashiana Jepson
Pronunciation: fa-SEEL-ee-a nash-ee-AY-na 
Common name: Charlotte's phacelia  
Family: Boraginaceae (Borage) 
Habitat: Pinyon-juniper woodland, joshua treewoodland, west Mojave Desert, Tehachapis, Kern Co., southern Sierra Nevadas 

Description: Annual herb 1 1/2 - 7 1/8 inches (4-18cm) tall. Stems short, stiff, and hairy. Leaves 1 1/8 - 2 3/4 inches (15-70mm) long, ovate to round, with edge lightly lobed to shallowly indented. Flowers bell-shaped, deep blue with white tube, and 3/8 - 3/4 inches (10-18mm) long. Flower stalks are 1/4 - 3/8 inches (5-10mm) long. Fruit is an egg-shaped capsule 1/4 - 1/2 inch (7-14mm) long, with 40-80 yellowish seeds, 1/16 inch (about 2mm) long. 

Habitat: Sandy to rocky, granitic slopes. Pinyon/juniper woodland. Elevation 1920 - 7040 feet.

Blooming period: May to June

NOTE: The correct taxonomic position of this species vis-à-vis Phacelia campanularia is uncertain.

Oct 12, 2009

The Harpy Eagle, Panama's national bird...

The Harpy Eagle is the most powerful eagle of the humid Neotropical forests. Its is under threat because of forest loss and persecution from humans. These magnificent eagles only reproduce slowly in the wild with one chick every two to three years, so to expect any increase in their numbers from breeding in the wild will take a long time. Early South American explorers named the bird "harpy" eagle after the predatory half-woman, half-bird monster of Greek mythology.

The "Aguila harpia" is a very rare animal with an unknown population. This incredibly beautiful and majestic bird weighs from 5-9 kg. (males) and 7-9 kg. (females) with a wingspan of 7 feet (around 2.2 m). This is one of the largest of the 50 species of eagles and can achieve a speed of around 50 mph.

The Harpy Eagle's habitat is the tropical lowland forests like the Darien and is geographically restricted from southern Mexico, through Central and South America down to the northern part of Argentina.

In the wild the diet of the Harpy Eagle consists of small tree dwelling animals such as monkeys, opossums and sloths.

Its head is pale grey and crowned with a double crest. The back of the animal is black and its underside is white with a black stripe or band going up the chest thus giving it a menacing look to match its reputation.

There is knowledge of about 35 harpy nests in the Republic of Panama, although there are surely more.

The country is willing to save its national bird by leaving it and its habitat alone, and that's a conscious decision that people have to be convinced to make.

Two eggs are usually laid but only one chick hatches after 53-56 days of incubation. This species has one of the longest rearing periods of any raptor; about 2-3 years can pass between the birth of the chick and the next nesting attempt.

Oct 9, 2009

Kennedy's Mariposa Lily

Calochortus kennedyi var. kennedyi

Among members of the Lily family, Old World tulips are much loved and grown worldwide. Calochortus, the Mariposa Lily or Mariposa Tulip, is a related group of native bulbous perennial herbs with grass-like leaves. Mariposa Lilies are not as widely known as tulips but they win instant and enthusiastic admiration from all who discover them. Their simple but elegant flowers are adorned with elaborate hairy nectaries at the base of each petal. The shape, position, and bearded adornments of these nectaries are important characters for species identification.

DISTRIBUTION: Heavy or rocky soils in creosote-bush scrub and pinyon-juniper woodland from the Transverse Ranges to the Mojave Desert; 600-2200 m.

Oct 8, 2009

Lupinus succulentus

Scientific Classification

Kindom : Plantae
Division : Magnoliophyta
Class : Magnoliopsida
Order : Fabales
Family : Fabaceae
Subfamily :Faboideae
Genus : Lupinus
Species : L. Succulentus

Binomial name
Lupinus succulentus

Lupinus succulentus is a species of lupine known by the common names hollowleaf annual lupine, arroyo lupine, and succulent lupine. It is native to California, where it is common throughout much of the state, and adjacent sections of Arizona and Baja California. It is known from many types of habitat and it can colonize disturbed areas. It is used as a native landscaping plant. This fleshy annual herb grows up to a meter in maximum height. Each palmate leaf is made up of 7 to 9 leaflets up to 6 centimeters long. The inflorescence is a series of whorls of flowers each between 1 and 2 centimeters long. The flower is generally purple-blue with a white or pink patch on its banner, and there are sometimes flowers in shades of light purple, pink, and white. The fruit is a roughly hairy legume pod up to 5 centimeters long and about one wide.

Oct 7, 2009

Huntsman Spider (Isopeda Isopedella)

huntsman spider

The common huntsman spider is found throughout south-eastern Australia. It lives anywhere, favouring plants which will offer shelter such as ivy. It is very common to have huntsman spiders in urban areas, and the spiders will come inside your house.

These large spiders move very quickly, they are hairy with long legs. They often shock people who are not from Australia, as Australia has a reputation for dangerous creatures. Due to their size and speed, they do manage to intimidate a lot of people. However, these spiders are harmless. The spiders can measure up to 15 cms wide from leg to leg. They have a flat body, which is useful for them to crawl underneath bark and other such hiding places.

They can bite you, and if they do, it will be painful and swelling may occur. A cold pack may relieve the symptoms, but if pain persists please see a doctor.

Mating begins with the male's pedipalps, a pair of leg-like appendages located between the fangs and the first pair of true legs that aid in scent detection, manipulating prey and reproduction. The male drums his pedipalps on a tree trunk to attract nearby females. He then inserts the pedipalps into his mate to fertilize her eggs. The pregnant female then builds a silken retreat where she lays up to 200 eggs inside a flat, silken egg sac. She spends about three weeks aggressively defending her eggs, during which time she won't leave or eat. When it's time for her spiderlings to hatch, the attentive mother may even tear open the egg sac to help free them.

They feed on insects and other such invertebrates.

Oct 6, 2009

ASTER .. a typical garden flower seen everywhere

As written in wikipedia, Aster (syn. Diplopappus Cass.) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. The genus once contained nearly 600 species in Eurasia and North America, but after morphologic and molecular research on the genus during the 1990s, it was decided that the North American species are better treated in a series of other genera.

After this split there are roughly 180 species within the genus, all but one being confined to Eurasia.
The name Aster comes from the Ancient Greek word astron, meaning "star", arriving through the Latin word astrum with the same meaning, referring to the shape of the flower head.

Oct 5, 2009

Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea

A native of woodlands, the foxglove thrives in a damp, partially shaded spot. This stately plant look good grown under tall trees or to give height at the back of the border. Foxgloves have broad, wrinkled leaves which form a basal rosette. The magenta bells are large and appear in June on tall, erect stems. The long spikes of flowers open from the bottom upwards. On the inside of the flower there are dark purple spots edged with white. These guide bees and other insects towards the nectar, deep inside the flower. Foxglove is a biennial, common on disturbed ground on banks, woodland clearings, sea-cliffs and heaths. It can be very abundant in recently cleared forestry plantations.

Foxgloves are an easy-going traditional cottage garden plant that will grow in full sun or shade and do well in most soils. They look particularly attractive when they are allowed to self seed and naturalise, creating drifts of tall flowering spikes and are very attractive to bees and some moths. This is the natural source of the drug digitalis, which is used to treat heart conditions.

Foxgloves (Digitalis) has been mostly used by herbalists for medicinal purposes. Despite the beauty of its colorful display however, blooms, roots, sap, flowers, seeds and leaves, are all poisonous even when dried and should be handled with 'gloves'! sml. Medicinally, digitalis has been used for strengthening the heart and regulating heart beat. They should not be grown in areas where pets or children can likely make contact.

Some of the most common garden flowers have fascinating histories and symbolic meanings. Flowers have been associated with symbolism for thousands of years. Flowers are a significant part of our lives from birth to death. Many popular garden flowers including foxglove, lupines, poppies, sunflowers, sweet peas, tulips and zinnias are associated with a treasure trove of stories and mythologies.

Foxglove flowers have both positive and negative symbolic meanings. They are said to sometimes hurt and sometimes heal. In the language of flowers, foxglove flowers are associated with insincerity. On the positive side, the common name is said to come from "folk's gloves," with "folk" referring to helpful fairy folk.

In medieval gardens dedicated to Mother Mary, foxglove was called "Our Lady's Gloves" or "Gloves of the Virgin." The scientific name is digitalis, a reference to the presence of powerful chemicals that can heal heart conditions if taken correctly but can kill if taken in large amounts.

Foxglove thrives in soils that are rich in iron and coal. New coalfields can sometimes be located by finding masses of foxgloves growing together. Foxgloves are perennials that thrive in temperate zones and like shade, part shade and sun.

Foxgloves come in white, yellow, pink, rose, red, lavender and purple. Foxglove can be grown either through seeds or divisions of plant clumps. The plants range from 2-6' high depending on the variety.

The flowers look best in the back of a garden and bloom in a pyramid shape with the lowest blossoms opening first and the buds remaining closed at the top.

Oct 4, 2009

Hermit Crab Facts

Hermit crabs are decapod crustaceans of the superfamily Paguroidea . They are not closely related to true crabs. Hermit crabs are quite commonly seen in the intetidal zone: for example, in tide pools.

Most species of hermit crab have long, soft abdomens which are protected from predators by a salvaged empty seashell carried on the crab's back, into which the crab's whole body can retract. Most frequently hermit crabs utilize the shells of sea snails; the tip of the hermit crab's abdomen is adapted to clasp strongly onto the columella of the snail shell. As the hermit crab grows in size, it has to find a larger shell and abandon the previous one.

Two possible etymologies exist for the name of "hermit crab." One is that their habit of living in a second hand shell gave rise to the name, which is analagous to a hermit living alone in a small cave. The second is that it is a translation of the scientific name of the Caribbean hermit, Coenobita clypeatus, which translates as "shield-bearing monk"; this species is one of a few known to climb trees.

Hermit crab are really unique; therefore there are lots of interesting facts about them. For instance, did you know that some crabs abandon their shells and live without them? Or that crab sizes vary from a few millimeters to giants whom size can be compared to coconuts?

At first, these crabs were thought to live quite short lives in captivity. But, over the years, this has changed. People learned to take proper care of them. Today, if the crab has been cared for properly, it can live for up to thirty years.

Did you know why hermit crab can't reproduce in captivity? That is so because hermit crabs deposit their eggs to the sea. That is why they are only able to reproduce in captivity if there is a simulated shoreline.

There are two most common types of hermit crabs grown in home as pets. The Ecuadorian and the Caribbean crab.

Ever noticed that your crabs don't move a lot in daylight? That is because they are more active at night.

Even though it might sound a bit weird, but a hermit crab would drown if left under water for too long.

Do crabs make noises, communicate? That might be true, scientists are studying the croaking noises hermit crabs make, it might be their way of communicating.

Hermit crabs do not live alone; they are usually in colonies of 100 crabs and more.

Beware of the claws of purple crabs; they can even break a pencil in two!

Hermit crabs drink by dipping their claw in water and putting the drops on the claw to their gills or mouth.

There are over five hundred hermit crab species know today. The ones that can be grown as pets in homes are terrestrial (living mostly on land).

Oct 3, 2009

Gentiana acaulis "Trumpet or Stemless Gentian"

"Blue flowers are the least plentiful, and the philosophers tell us why. All flowers, they say, were at first green; from this they diverged to yellow and white; their next advance to shades of red. Their triumphant colour - or, say, their final stage in chromatic evolution - is blue. If we accept the hypothesis - for theory it is not - we must regard the gentians as incapable of further change in respect of colour. They have passed through all the prescribed phases, and having reached the goal, may rest and be thankful, while myriad flowers in the earlier stages are still slowly fighting their way to the ‘blue ribbon' of the turf amidst which they sparkle and glow."

Gentiana acaulis has a wide distribution throughout the mountains of Europe (Alps, Balkans, Carpathians, Jura, Pyrenees), and is therefore found growing in a variety of habitats from pastures to rubble and scree and to coniferous woodlands at sub to alpine levels. It also grows in both lime and acidic soils.

Acaulis means "stemless" and is also a group name covering a number of trumpet gentians. The acaulis group includes Gentiana acaulis, angustifolia, alpine, dinarica, ligustica, occidentalis and clusii.

Trumpet Gentian is a beautiful spring species producing large, upturned trumpets of brilliant deep blue over a mat of glossy, dark-green lance-shaped foliage. The trumpets are spotted green inside and the flowers have metallic flakes in their petals. Height is only 5-8 cm. It is an evergreen, mat-forming species which spreads outward by a slow increase in its rosettes. These are easy to pull apart into separate rooted sections and be replanted separately, once the need for division arrives after 3-4 years. Flowering is normally late spring to early summer.

Next to Gentiana septemfida (Everyman's Gentian), G. acaulis is perhaps the easiest species for novice rock gardens to try. It is not difficult to please. Consistent moisture, but a well-drained spot seems essential. Full sun is preferred for best flowering. It is exceptionally hardy, at least to Zone 3. I have seen the species growing with the vigour of a border perennial in Alberta and the Yukon and it certainly thrives in many gardens in the Ottawa area.

Germination from seed requires either cold treatment or GA-3 (with germination at warm within 2 weeks). Growth is slow, as with most Gentians, so expect to wait for at least 3 years for flowering-sized plants. For the impatient, plants are now readily available from alpine nurseries.

Oct 2, 2009

Wildlife Tourism in India

The pristine forests of Namdapha lies in the North eastern most part of India, tucked amongst the hills, crisscrossed by the rumbling Noa-Dihing and Namdapha rivers and their countless tributaries. Located in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, Namdapha National Park was declared a "Tiger Project" in the year 1983 and today boast of a healthy tiger population, no doubt, because of inaccessibility- just another reason for it virginity.

Namdapha takes pride in its flora and fauna and it is a dream for any botanist and wildlife enthusiast to be within its lap at least for once in life. It is the only place in the world to have for different big cats as its inhabitants namely the tiger, the leopard, the snow leopard and the very elusive, Clouded leopard. It is also home to the very rare hoolock gibbon-the only ape that is found in the Sub-continent. Countless other species like elephants, bison, wild pigs and antelopes enhances the diversity of its varied and rich fauna.

With the majestic snow capped peaks of the Daphabum range as its backdrop, Namdapha is a photographers delight as well, and its not just the professionals but the amateur who can take pride in the masterpieces that they have clicked. The best time to visit Namdapha is from October till March, but I would suggest, January. Temperature during this time generally hovers around 1 to 5 degrees Celsius and is ideal for conducting long treks deep into the forest. A tiny Hamlet called Deban, nestled in the environs of the majestic Patkai range, is the focal point of entry into the core of Namdapha and the forest guest house out there is the jewel of its crown.

One can just sit and enjoy the dazzling beauty of the winter morning, in the manicured gardens of the Deban tourist lodge, with hot sips of tea, or for the more adventurous, treks into nearby interest like horn bill, bulbulia and not so nearby interests like firmbase can be another wonderful option.

Heavy jackets and woolen jumpers are recommended during this time of the year and if you wish to go on treks make sure that you get yourself a nice pair of leech guards from the local forest department.

Complete details regarding bookings and permits can be requested from the Field Director's office located at Miao, Changlang district or by visiting the following website: http://changlang.nic.in/howto1 .html#touristinfo
If you really yearn for adventure, want to be in the lap of nature or even go on a tiger's trail, Namdapha is the destination for you.

Flora, fauna altered by global warming

SACRAMENTO -- When Berkeley biologist Chris Conroy and colleagues went looking in Yosemite for the alpine and shadow chipmunks, they had trouble finding mammals that an earlier generation of Berkeley scientists found everywhere in the park.

The California pocket mouse, ordinarily making its home in chaparral, was found 2,000 feet higher than where it was 90 years ago. Scientists likewise had to hike 1,000 feet higher to find the wood rat and California vole.

The pinon mouse, typically found on dry, eastern Sierra slopes and never in Yosemite, today is found all over the park, along with another new arrival, the harvest mouse.

Something is rearranging California's flora and fauna, and climatic shifts are topping the list of explanations. Sierra snows are melting one to three weeks earlier than historically, ushering in an early spring and drier soils and forests, particularly at middle elevations.

For the better part, that's where climate researcher Anthony Westerling has found an explosion in wildfires across the American West. The number of wildfires has quadrupled in the last 17 years and the burned acreage has swelled almost seven times over, mostly at middle elevations.

"There's a really strong correlation here between temperature and forest fires, and it really picked up since the late 1980s," Westerling said Friday in Sacramento at the California Energy Commission's third annual conference on climate change.

For now, the greatest wildfire risk in California is on the southern coast and in the southern Sierra foothills. But every computer simulation of greenhouse-gas warming shows higher fire risk in California, and the greatest increase in risk is in Northern California, Westerling said.

If the rate of fossil fuel burning continues to accelerate at its current pace, the greatest probability for large property losses shifts to the Sierra foothills northwest of Sacramento, he said.

Whether there will be forests to burn there is another question. Ponderosa pines in the northern Sierra foothills are getting harder to find where scientists mapped them in the 1930s.

Jim Thorne, an environmental science researcher at the University of California, Davis, compared the latest vegetation maps with ones made by Berkeley scientists in the 1930s and '40s. In Eldorado County, he found, the forests have shifted 16 miles toward the mountains and more than 1,700 feet higher, climbing three meters a year on average since the '30s.

"I think a lot of this might be due to climate change," Thorne said Friday.

Ordinary wildfires are claiming the trees, but Thorne said he suspects the replacement seedlings are encountering warmer, drought- like conditions and failing. Those warmer conditions are apparent when Thorne looks at monthly minimum temperatures in the foothills, which usually are nighttime cools.

In the early '80s, those average minimums for Lake Tahoe in May and October rose above freezing and never have come back down.

In Yosemite Valley, the coolest temperatures in November, March and April went past freezing in or before 1990 and haven't come back.

Winter in Placerville no longer is reliably white. Nighttime temperatures in December, January and February have averaged above freezing since the early 1990s.

"There are no longer any months at Placerville that remain frozen," said Thorne.

The changes aren't unique to winter. During last summer's heat wave, nighttime in Fresno brought virtually no relief, with temperatures staying as high as 90. That makes sense for southern desert places like Needles and Death Valley, but not the Central Valley, said Kelly Redmond, director of the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno.

"That's just way beyond what I would have expected to see," Redmond said. "And we're seeing it all over the West."

Oct 1, 2009

Alnus incana (Alder) Betulaceae (Birch Family)

Alder is a common tree along watercourses, damp ditches and other wet habitats. The male catkins are superficially similar to those of hazel, but rather more reddish. The long male catkins produce the pollen, which is carried on the wind to the smaller, red female flowers seen above them (which are not reminiscent of hazel). After pollination these female flowers develop into small, woody cone-like fruits which persist on the branches for some time, which makes alders easy to recognise and identify!

Alder is an attractive, low-growing tree common along streams. Its leaves are toothed and often folded inward along the central leaf vein. Alder has small persistent cones which are actually remains of the staminate flower clusters. These remain on the branches after the leaves have fallen. Alder almost always has many slender trunks.

"Alnus" is the ancient Latin name for the tree, and "incana" is Latin for "gray or hairy".

It is a small to medium size tree 15-20 m tall with smooth grey bark even in old age, its life span being a maximum of 60-100 years. The leaves are matt green, ovoid, 5-11 cm long and 4-8 cm broad. The flowers are catkins, appearing early in spring before the leaves emerge, the male catkins pendulous and 5-10 cm long, the female catkins 1.5 cm long and one cm broad when mature in late autumn. The seeds are small, 1-2 mm long, and light brown with a narrow encircling wing. The Grey Alder has a shallow root system, and is marked not only by vigorous production of stump suckers, but also by root suckers, especially in the northern parts of its range. Th e woo d resembles that of the black alder, but is somewhat paler and of little value.


Alnus incana is a light-demanding, fast-growing tree that grows well on poorer soils. In central Europe, it is a colonist of alluvial land alongside mountain brooks and streams, occurring at elevations up to 1500 metres. However, it does not require moist soil, and will also colonize screes and shallow stony slopes. In the northern part of its range, it is a common tree species at sea level in forests, abandoned fields and on lakeshores. It is sometimes used for afforestation on non-fertile soils which it enriches by means of nitrogen fixing bacteria in its root nodules. Several species of Lepidoptera use Grey Alder as a food plant for their caterpillars. In the Boreal forest area of Canada, A. incana is often associated with Black Spruce in the forest type termed Black Spruce/Speckled Alder.


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