Category Archives: Species portraits
As I drive around the area, I am seeing Madronas blooming profusely everywhere. Along the Highway 20 corridor into Anacortes, the trees are revealed as giant clouds of white blossoms all along the roadway. I had never realized how many Madronas were growing there.
These are special trees to Pacific Northwesterners, and this year, they are really putting on a show for us. The Madrona (also called Madrone and Arbutus) has been correctly described as one of Nature’s works of art. The ‘Lem’s Cameo’ Rhododendron in the foreground of the photo is a Madrona relative.
Have you ever seen a photo of a newborn mammal? The way the light shines through the pink flesh, through the transparent eyelids and through the doughy snouts, a field of stars shining through every new finger and toe?
It shines through the new leaves in the same way.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the leaves…
Found along the eastern coast of Australia, are eucalypts known as Scribbly Gums. They were first described by European botanists in the 1700s, and since then have fascinated generations of Australians and visitors.
Until recently the scientific understanding of the scribbles was blurry. In the 1930s, entomologists discovered that the larvae of a very small moth caused the scribbles, It was identified as a new species and named Ogmograptis scribula – the scribbly gum moth.
In 1999 an observant student compared the scribbles on different species of eucalypts, found they were different and suggested that more than one species of moth might be responsible.
In 2005 two species of moth were collected from a tree with two different scribble tracks. This provided proof that more than one species was involved, and helped scientists to learn about the life cycle of the moths.
But it wasn’t until November 2012 that a breakthrough was made by a ‘retired’ moth expert, Dr Marianne Horak, working at the CSIRO National Insect Collection in an honorary capacity. Dr Horak discovered that there were at least 12 species of moths that made scribbles in bark, and described 11 new species of moth.
The question is – are they long? or long enough? or longer than the other ones? And are the leaves first? or the blossom? Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy explains how it’s not always easy to tell the haw- from the black- when it comes to thorns.
Gillian Ware shares a photo gallery of rainbow eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta) at her Tree A. Ware blog.
Apart from being a magic tree, it has two magic common names: Rainbow Eucalyptus and Painted Bark Eucalyptus, both descriptive of its multicoloured bark. Like other Eucalyptus’ it sheds its bark— but in this case the lower layer is a vivid green. As different layers mature, they change colour— to orange, purples and blues, dark maroon being the final colour— resulting in fantastic paint brushstroke-like streaks.
At Safari Ecology blog, Colin has followed up a fascinating post on why so many trees and shrubs in the African savanna are so thorny with one on a particularly useful thorny tree, myrrh (Commiphora). A bunch of recent studies have borne out the anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties of its sap, which has been used to treat infections at least since the ancient Sumerians. Myrrh trees also make good habitat, their berries are an important food source for a number of species, and — well, just read Colin’s post.
Field biologist and photographer Jill Wussow shares some lovely photos of Texas madrones at her somewhat alarmingly titled blog Count Your Chicken! We’re Taking Over! “If you haven’t seen the glory of these bad boys,” she says, “I suggest you book it over to Texas or New Mexico when you get the chance and worship them just a little bit.”
The ancient Greek story of the transformation of a river nymph into a laurel tree was immortalized in the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book 1, 452–53), a work that enjoyed great popularity in the Middle Ages. The story of Apollo’s pursuit of the unwilling Daphne has captivated poets as well as artists over many centuries, inspiring such famous interpretations as Antonio Pollaiuolo’s painting in the National Gallery and Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s sculpture in the Villa Borghese.
(I’m grateful to Colin for the submission, not only because he’s summarizing a research paper not available on the open web, but also because seeing baobabs is one of my life goals. As a matter of fact, I just mentioned my baobab-longing yesterday — if y’all will indulge me a link to my own blog — in a post called “Strange trees.”)
From Lower Dover Field Journal, a comprehensive portrait of the coconut palm. I wasn’t aware of all the health benefits:
Recent western medicinal research concluded that coconuts’ form of saturated fat actually helps to prevent heart disease, stroke and the hardening of arteries. Unlike other oils and fats, coconut oil contains a large amount of the fatty acid known as lauric acid, which is the predominant fatty acid found in mother’s milk. Studies have shown the coconut oil’s effectiveness against HIV, SARS, Crohn’s disease, as well as other chronic illnesses. It detoxifies the liver, helps to build lipoproteins, fats, hormones, and bile. Coconut’s amazing healing properties are also attributed to reducing the risk of other degenerative conditions such as cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes. The fatty acids help to create a healthy digestive tract, which in turn allows for better digestion and absorption of the nutrients in our foods. They also speed up metabolism, providing fewer calories than other fats but are still a viable effective source of energy.