Friday, February 29, 2008

Another orchid. A Dendrobium.

I've always have had difficulty photographing this Dendrobium orchid. It is tall and gangly and the color which should be a dark red purple as in the foreground flowers, is never captured right by the camera. I guess the backlighting doesn't help as it bring out the mottling in the petals. I tried to get the same effect as the white Phalaenopsis orchid but I had to place the Dendrobium in the bathtub to have it bathe in sunlight :) Well no matter, there it is.

We bought this orchid about 4 years ago and it has bloomed reliably every year though it didn't have many flowers this year.

Encyclopedia of Life update

The Encyclopedia of Life is up and running with their first installment of organisms started this Wednesday 02/27/08. The list of Exemplar Species pages (where the entries for the organism are quite complete) are still small with only 25 entries but it's a good preview of how the information is presented.

I like the format with the photos prominently displayed. I haven't looked thoroughly throughout the site but I hope they will have a way to scan photos to identify something you may have photographed or seen somewhere.

In late 2008 EOL "will set up a mechanism for anyone to contribute species-related content (photos, drawings, text, video, etc.). The curator(s) of the species will consider the submissions for incorporation into the authenticated species page."

Connecting to the site is very slow. They must be getting a lot of hits, so be patient.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Unbelieveable! Exxon tries to get out of $2.5 Billion Alaska punitive damage claim

OUTRAGEOUS! I am fuming! I just heard on NPR that Exxon Mobil is appealing a $2.5 billion punitive damage claim at the Supreme court for the environmental damage caused by the Exxon Valdez oil disaster.

They still refuse to take corporate responsibility for the horrendous damage their oil spill caused in Alaskan waters despite record profits of $36B in 2005, $39.5B in 2006 and $40.6B in 2007 with probably another record year in store.

I stopped going to Exxon then Mobil stations (when Mobil was acquired by Exxon) after I heard/read about the extent of the environmental damage caused by the oil spill and Exxon's stonewalling and foot dragging to accept responsibility for the clean up and long drawn out court battles to escape payment for damages.

It's been 19 years since the Exxon Valdez oil spill!

Here's a nice synopsis of the oil spill from Wikipedia.

Exxon Mobile is not good citizen of this planet. Their corporate GREED is unmatched!

I urge you to boycott their gas stations and products.

Update: Thursday 2/28/08 NY Times report on the Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday.

Here's the PBS Newshour report on the Supreme Court argument for today (Wednesday).

Slate's take on Wednesday's proceedings.

MSNBC report (Wednesday).

NPR webpage.

See this NY Times /AP article for more details.

Monday, February 25, 2008

First Phalaenopsis orchid to bloom this spring

We have many Phalaenopsis orchids but this is the first one to bloom this year. I looked at my photos last year and by this time most were in bloom so they're late this year. I wonder what accounts for the difference in bloom time?

The photos were taken in sunlight streaming through a bathroom window. The slanting afternoon light was just right, highlighting the flowers. Lots of shadows too because of the direction of the light but it adds to the drama.

Joey of the Village Voice blog beat me to it. She posted great photos of her Phalaenopsis. Check them out.

Here's our pal the Marmorated stink bug hiding between the petals of the orchid.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


P.S. I've added this 100% crop to show the red eye spots. Please click on the photo to see an enlargement. You can also plainly see the separate lenses of the compound eye.

Last year we had a few of these stinkbugs emerge at various times throughout the winter from their hiding places in our home but this year they are much more in evidence. I think I counted 6 bugs total last year and we've already have seen that number this year before they really get active when the warm weather arrives. Shows how air tight our home is if they can manage to squeeze through tiny cracks and somehow end up in the house. The adult bug is about the size of a dime. They are somewhat more persistent than lady bugs. I usually see a couple of the ladybug carcasses in the house usually along the windowsills but I haven't seen any this year.

Here's a good site for more information about the stinkbug which seems to becoming well established and increasing in numbers if the amount found in our house is any indication.

This bug is smaller than most and appears to be dying. Maybe the small size makes it more vulnerable to dessication. I don't know how the stinkbug survives indoors in a rather dry centrally heated environment. During this time it doesn't eat or drink yet some of them are still alive when spring arrives.

I took the photo with my homemade macro attachment consisting of two binocular objective lens elements. I used the camera flash which was too harsh until I covered it with an index card. I was surprised to see the two red false eyes? I couldn't see them with my naked eyes. Click on the photo to see an enlargement. It's difficult to see the red eyes in the small photo which seems to be about an 8x enlargement.

Friday, February 22, 2008

More photos of witch hazels and a late night bandit

Native or common witch hazel. Hamamelis viginiana. The yellow flower petals which may actually be bracts are much shorter than the petals on hybridized plants. See below for comparison.

Yellow and red hybrid witch hazels.

Yellow witch hazel in landscape.

Bandit! Sorry about the blurry photo. The double pane glass and low light conspired to make a less than sharp portrait.

'Hasta la vista, baby'

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Project BudBurst

I was half awake listening to my favorite radio show LOE, Living on Earth and happened to hear about Project BudBurst. LOE is on at 6:00 am on Saturday so I'm usually asleep and just catch bits of the show as I go in and out of somnolence. It was fortunate I was awake for this part of the show or I would be in complete ignorance about this program.

Project BudBurst enlists citizen scientists (you) to observe and record various events in your garden or (neighborhood?) ..."taking careful observations of the phenological events such as the first bud burst, first leafing, first flower, and seed or fruit dispersal of a diversity of tree and flower species, including weeds and ornamentals."

"Last year's inaugural event drew thousands of people of all ages..." "The citizen science observations and records were entered into the BudBurst data base. As a result of the pilot field campaign, useful data was collected in a consistent way across the country so that scientists can use it to learn about the responses of individual plant species to climatic variation locally, regionally, and nationally, and to detect longer-term impacts of climate change by comparing with historical data. Due to the enthusiastic response and robust participation in the 2007 we have expanded the Web site features for Project BudBurst in 2008!"

If you scroll down on the LOE website to Project BudBurst and click on it, there's a transcript of the segment. Or you can go directly to the Project Budburst site for more information.

The 2008 project just started YESTERDAY! February 15th.

I think this would be a fun thing to do especially when plants are beginning to bud and flowers will be bursting forth soon.

My readership is small so I would encourage all who read this and who have their own blogs to do a write up. This way we can reach as many gardeners as possible. The more input the project has the more accurate the picture of how global warming is affecting the growth of plants.

P.S. I just registered on the website. There are specific plants on their watch list. These were chosen because they were easily identifiable to most people but you can add your own plants as well. It was interesting to find the exact location of where I live (longitude and latitude) by using the UCAR EO Geocoder. You just type in your address and the Geocoder spits out your long. and lat. I guess if you had a GPS receiver it could give you the same information but with more accuracy and even give you the correct elevation. I had to do a Google search to find out the average elevation for my town.

Project BudBurst is a collaboration of the following institutions and organizations:

Management Team:
Chicago Botanic Garden,
National Phenology Network,
Oak Ridge National Laboratory,
UCAR Office of Education and Outreach,
Windows to the Universe,
University of Arizona,
University of California, Santa Barbara,
University of Montana,
University of Wisconsin, Madison,
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee,

Associated Partners:
Plant Conservation Alliance,
USDA Forest Service,

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More scans: Allium Bulgaricum

The weather is still quite nasty - snow changing to rain with slush everywhere and I haven't been able to take photos of the conifers yet so I've posted scans of the spent flowers of the Allium Bulgaricum taken last year. The Allium Bulgaricum flowers are quite interesting because the flower buds are down facing but slowly rise as the flowers open and rise even further when the flowers close.

The upraised form of the dried flowers remind me of Egyptian paintings of papyrus. The last picture is a 100% crop of the previous one. Water droplets are clearly visible on the scanner glass surface.

I messed around with the template of the blog again and somehow managed to cram the sidebar right next to the photos. I'll have to do more tweaking to correct this unsightly formatting, grrrr.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Scans again.

I meant to do a post about evergreen conifers for winter color but I haven't been able to take photos of the shrubs and trees so I'm posting scans I took last year. I was enamored of the process - using the scanner to capture pictures of plants and the ability to take very detailed and sharp pictures always intrigued me. The plants do look like specimens in some kind of display and many people thought it looked rather cold but I like the detail the process affords - so much more than 100% crops of a picture taken by a camera.

Please click on the image to enlarge.

I think this is some sort of milkweed I found in a development tract. A rather insignificant weed but interesting when enlarged. The white specks are pollen dusted off the flowers.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The "Encyclopedia of Life" a plan to compile all information available on 1.8 million known species that inhabit the Earth.

Initially funded by the MacArthur and Sloan foundations to pay for the first 2 1/2 years, the Encyclopedia of Life intends to make available on the web all information available on the Earth's 1.8 million known species. The new encyclopedia will fill about 300 million pages and will include information from scientists as well as amateur observations which will be placed in a clearly marked side page/s.

Imagine going to one website and finding all the information available including photos, videos, maps, species description and links to scientific journal papers and links to the entire genome of any living thing! Which means one day you will be able to look up all the known information about, as an example, the Silene cucubalus without having to visit and sift through many sites to find the data you want. This is like an enormous Wikipedia of living things.

I do like the clean format of the demonstration pages. The photographs are large and in a prominent location and pop up explanations are enabled for more detailed instruction. I hope there will be a way to disable the pop ups as they may become annoying after becoming familiar with the formatting of the pages. But it looks to be a splendid start and I hope they will start making the pages available as soon as possible rather than waiting until the entire encyclopedia has been completed. Take a look and see what you think.

The institutions who will launch the effort are:

Biodiversity Heritage Library

The Field Museum of Natural History

Harvard University

Marine Biological Laboratory

Missouri Botanical Garden

Smithsonian Institution

with more to join the effort.

"Ten major natural history and botanical libraries are collaborating to digitize the biodiversity literature in an open access manner through a partnership called the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) project." The participating institutions are:

American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)

The Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago, IL)

Harvard University Botany Libraries (Cambridge, MA)

Harvard University, Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (Cambridge, MA)

Marine Biological Laboratory / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Woods Hole, MA)

Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis, MO)

Natural History Museum (London, UK)

The New York Botanical Garden (New York, NY)

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Richmond, UK)

Smithsonian Institution Libraries (Washington, DC)
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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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