Thursday, January 31, 2013

Invasion of the Reds

January this year is our coldest month, and that only means our temperatures in the city dipped to at least 18°C at 5:30 in the morning! That is way before the sun rises at 6:30am and most people are still in bed. It only happened this year! My blogger friends from the temperate climates will laugh at this, but that is the lowest we got, courtesy of the winds coming from the deep winter of Siberia and China. While you are braving the negative zero temperatures, we are already blessed when this temperature range visits us. The most amusing thing is that it only happened once, only that moment, and most of this month we get around 25°C. We are already at the start of the dry season, and by next month we will again be in our 30's again. Oh how lovely it would be if the lower 20Cs will be with us for at least a few months! That will be heaven.

And analogous to the color descriptions, we are of course getting all the warm colors: the reds, orange, red-orange and yellows. I am posting the crown of thorns or Euphorbia milii. Above shows the young flowers in the foreground and the more mature open ones at the back.

 This plant is not taken care of at home, they are just left at the edges for their thorns not to be accidentally touched by any animal, including humans. Moreover, the sap is poisonous! Being neglected didn't deter them to produce lovely blooms. We have 4 varieties, above is the solid red.

 This is another variety with slightly white specks, and majority of the color is pinkish.

Another variety is the red with more pronounced white specks or variegation. I don't have any preference for their colors though. But insects and bees also visit them.

This is their mature stem, and those thorns are really hard. It is really dangerous when placed in a busy location. This characteristics physically relegated them to the sidelines.

For the Two Questions Meme:
1.  Are you intimidated by their thorns?
2. Will you still be planting this plant despite the dangers?

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Come in Pairs!

 Look i have some birds too! I have always been fascinated by bird's photos in blogs, but i cannot show many of them. I get a bit disappointed when it comes to birds because we have a lot of them too in our property. My niece and nephew can even identify the birds with just their sounds. And they can even distinguish one from the other even if they are so almost similar, at least to me. Nobody seems to remember that it was I who introduced birds to their awareness when they were still babies.

Back to the disappointment of not having bird shots, the reason is the lack of good camera lens. But when they get nearer, my 150mm can sometimes get them too. And of course, they have to be alighted on something, or else i cannot do justice to them when in flight.

 This is the common 'maya' or Philippine trogon, Harpactes ardens. It is endemic to the Philippines and sometimes pose a problem to rice farmers. The above photo is in our backyard in the province, but there are also a lot of them in the cities. The one at the right seems to have just bathed and drying up, while the other talks to it incessantly. I don't know their genders, so i guess at the left is the female! What do you think?

Our mother and son cats. I remember when One (blogger from Malaysia) still has a blog, she is in awe how i was able to get animal photos which have almost the same position to the camera. I guess when you know how animals behave, you know how to coach them pose for you! Look at their eyes, different colors eh!

 Crossandra infundibuliformis and Petunia hybrida.

I remember when my nephew was 6 years old i taught him to memorize the scientific names of porter weed and Crossandra. I don't know its common name so i always call it crossandra. By the way, porter weeds scientific name is Stachetarpheta jamaicensis. Can you visualize my nephew's mother's big eyes when her son showed her crossandra and porterweed flowers by their scientific names!

This is the flower of the common vegetable, upland kangkong/Chinese kangkong or Ipomoea aquatica. This is also my first time to see its flowers, as we always just see the top shoots and stems for sale. If i didn't let it grow old i would not be privileged to see the purely white flowers!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jewels Under the Leaves

I have two kinds of 'rubies' here. The first one, i thought are just specks on the leaf near this bug. I was actually taking shots of the bug, although it is just only half a centimeter long. After 2 shots i touched the reddish spots with a leaf and the insect fell off together with the 2 red specks. When looking at the photos in my computer, i realized they are actually babies of the insect. They are safely attached to the legs of the mother, oh how so convenient! I just concluded that this insect is so caring with her youngsters, oh how so cute!

And this 2nd ruby looks really stunning and so glittering in its full red regalia. This is a spider that apparently lacked the other 2 right legs. I wonder what happened but i guess it is now doubly crippled. I promise, i didn't have any contribution in their removal. I saw this already looking this way. I've looked at so many plants in the vicinity, but I can't find any other spider looking like this. This seemed to be alone in its world. I am so sorry, spiders don't have the capacity to regenerate their appendages, so it might have to stay cripple the rest of its life.

   Ruby Tuesday 2

Thursday, January 24, 2013


 Wildflowers have always been fascinating, although not many here in the tropics fall for their beauty. True enough beauty is really in the eye of the beholder, and maybe I am just one of the very few who even notice them. Most people whose preoccupations are attached to the soil noticed them for their obnoxious behaviors, understandable because they compete with crops. But someones waste is always another's treasure, and in this situation i am the "another".

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

I noticed only the above weed in adult life, as they have blue flowers and really loved by butterflies. Blues being not a common color in the tropics, these provides the color i love most. Aside from these functions, i don't yet know any of their uses.

Plumbago indica syn Plumbago rosea

This might not be considered a weed because they are not prominently growing anywhere, but in our property it is a weed. My definition of weed is undomesticated, growing profusely in mostly marginal areas, normally invasive, and not taken care of. At least in our property, this beautiful flowering plant i consider as weed. It might just have wandered around and escaped domestic care, thrive well somewhere and now growing marginally outside our considered 'garden'. At least it provided color contrasts in an otherwise boring corner lot.

 This is a real weed, in all definitions of weeds both technical and laymen's. They are growing anywhere in marginal areas. And they compete with crops in farmers field. In our area, it grows on the street sides and i love photographing them. It is one of the first growths when the first rains come after the long dry season. However, i still don't know its ID.

This is another NOID growing among the 'carabao' grasses. The showy part of the flower is about just 1cm in length. My 35mm macro lens cannot get a good magnification because it is creeping on the ground. The slight wind around its micro climate did not help my focusing! But being purplish, i surely love it!


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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oxygen Generator Consumers

You might be thinking why these animals are also posted here, they are not Oxygen Generators! Yes they are not, they should not be here! But we have a few native goats in our property, so i guess there should be some correlation with them to be included. They are Oxygen Generator consumers, because they love grass, so will that suffice?  But do you know that goats are not like sheep that love grazing on grasses! I guess you could say that goats are more discriminating.  When given grasses or plant feeds in their shed, they only want to eat those put slightly above their heads. I wonder too why they love to stretch their neck fully when eating. The farther the feed to get, the more they prefer that feed. It actually has long been an amusement for me, and till now i don't know the reason! 

When cut grasses are put on the ground before giving them to the goats, they wont eat that, wont matter even if they are hungry! If a goat has already eaten a live grass on the prairie, another one will not eat the leftover. The second one will choose a patch not touched by another. If you don't call that discriminating, i don't know what is!
 I wonder too why they look so sad even if they are not hungry!

These are native goats, so smaller than the hybrids. But they are more resistant to environmental conditions and diseases as well. Moreover, they can live on natural grasses and weeds unlike the hybrids that must be fed with commercially prepared feeds.

I really wonder why goats always look so sad! Anybody guess?

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dangerous Beauties!

 Hinlalayon! This is the local term we call this creature. "Hinlalayon" is a collective term we use for larvae with dangerous spines, and also dangerous to animals that accidentally ingest them while grazing. I've seen this dangerous beauty only for the first time. I learned that this is also included in the group called slug caterpillars, because they move so slowly and the body looks like a slug.

Old folks in our area say that animals like goats die because their mouths and throats get burned upon eating grasses or feeds with live larvae like this. We were able to get this because my sister had burned patches on her arm for accidentally brushing on this creature while getting citrus fruits. She did not stop searching for it on the leaves planning to kill it, but i intervened and instead brought it home to observe. I put it also on small citrus branches with leaves, but it kept on walking looking for something and didn't eat at all for half a day. Getting younger leaves didn't entice it to eat or even nibble. My sister said it is already thin and will soon die. My  mother said i should not allow it to live because it will later produce eggs which will produce more danger! So after getting a lot of photos, I brought it back to the citrus tree, not showing anybody which part of the tree i put it. Actually, i returned it to the fruitless tree, so it wont harm anyone again.

I visited it a few times later, and also the following day, but it did not go far from where i left it. The difference is that it already stopped walking on the live tree. I wonder if it sensed that the branch at home is a dying branch, so it kept on walking to search for a real live branch.

Look at those black minute spines, these makes it very dangerous when touched or ingested. Some species have these spines connected to toxic glands which makes the sting fatal. For this species, the spines can cause dermatitis. Even looking at them make you feel itchy!

on the citrus leaf

I posted it on the FB page for moths and butterfly group here, asked for the ID and someone led me to the Family Limacodidae, Genus Setora. The species is difficult to identify unless an adult that surely emerged from it can be observed. A comparison from the book "moths of Borneo" saying it is from the Philippines,  shows its resemblance to Susica malayana. However, it is safer not to point the species at the moment. So those IDs are temporary at the moment. 

Camera Critters Meme

Windows on Wildlife Blog Carnival

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Do you know your coffee enough?

Who doesn't want a cup of coffee! Everybody wants a cup, and most often another few cups per day. I guess this is one of the most famous drinks of all time. In the last few years, a lot of coffee shops sprouted here in the country, triggered by the foreign coffee shops you are most familiar with.

In the past there are no coffee shops here, as purely coffee shops. Coffee is just in restaurants, offered as drinks, together with other recipes. But that doesn't mean we don't have it. It has been here for centuries, mostly introduced during the colonization period by the Spaniards. History says it is brought here in 1784, and my province was the first biggest producer. It produced the traditional coffee blend we locally call "Barako", and is now being promoted by one of the biggest coffee shops here "Figaro". I guess 'kapeng barako' can very well be an intellectual property right as Geographic Indication.

My father being a heavy coffee drinker planted a lot of coffee plants in our property. So we basically are coffee drinkers starting from childhood. As kids we also had our share of harvesting and processing coffee beans. But when father died, the trees are not cared for anymore, and we don't process our own coffee too. The small harvests are now sold as dry beans, to the assembler wholesalers who buy from small producers.

A young coffee tree, 'Arabica' variety

A blooming coffee tree will not pass unnoticed. The scent is so mildly sweet specially in the mornings. And the white blooms are so beautiful.

young immature berries line every branch and every leaf axils

 When properly tended and fertilized,  every branch is laden with fruits.

 A neglected tree in our property showing very few fruits in a plant, not all branches have fruits.

 This is the 'Liberica' variety famous in the country as 'kapeng barako', planted and popularized in my province. 'Barako' is a local term for male animal, which might be the term given to describe the strength of this coffee. It is said that there are only two countries where this variety is successfully cultivated. The other varieties are Excelsa, Robusta, Arabica. Blends from these varieties make excellent aroma and brew, and the proportion of the variety makes for a particular type of blend. I specifically like more of the Arabica variety, although we were so used to the Liberica variety because Arabica grows in colder conditions.

Sundrying coffee berries in cement structures takes a few days, the length depends on the intensity of the sunlight and temperatures. Cloudy skies lengthens drying and lessens the quality of the dried coffee beans. It should well be taken care well not to catch any drizzles or rain, as moisture will allow fungus infection on the drying pulp. However, this might not give bad effects on the coffee beans as their seed coats are very thick and hard for the fungus to enter. But care is given not to incur unsightly appearance. Modern coffee plantations use electric driers for their harvest.

Further processing of the sundried coffee berries include depulping, cleaning, roasting, grinding before we get the coffee brew most of us normally clamour for! 

These are fallen flowers of 'Liberica' coffee variety, the scent is still soothingly strong even at this stage.

Come, let's have a cup of coffee, everybody is invited!

Now here are my Two Questions for the Thursday Two Questions Meme: 
1. Have you personally seen a coffee plant?
2. Can you relate your cup of coffee to the plant?


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Monday, January 14, 2013

Seed Natural Art

 How would you describe this photo above? It could have been mimicking the rays of the sun! But why is this structured this way, structure for function!

This is actually a seed of a big hardwood tree. The light, thin, winglike structure is necessary for dispersal of the seeds to wider areas, propelled by the wind. The seed is not eaten by birds so a unique structure is needed for dispersal. I don't know if this structure is evolutionary acquired, but isn't it a great appendage! I am awed by that, as am awed by nature. Whose mind goes to this structural design, we all know!