Monday, January 27, 2014

Garden Finds

Whether this is a bird's or a chicken's downy feathers, I don't know! I just know it is hanging through a strand of a spider web, swaying with the slight wind. The background is a rich color of croton's leaves.

This is a variegated Alternanthera, but that curved leaf i guess is done by a larva or a spider that pulled both leaf edges to hide inside. I've done several intrusions in leaf rolls like this, finding them inside. A spider normally jumps to escape, but a larva just crawls away. Nevertheless, there is beauty in these worlds!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wildflowers in the hot tropics

Here are some grasses in our property that attracted my attention. I am looking for butterflies, but in these chaotic weed growth it is difficult to photograph butterflies. Even if they alight on some plants for a few minutes, it is still difficult to maneuver myself through the growths, so i would rather wait for them again to come near me in the clearing.

These are invasive weeds species. They tag on clothes whenever you come near them. When they happen to touch your skin, there will surely be scratches, and they are painful when taking a bath. They also tag along the hairs of goats, cattle and horses. That is their way of colonizing and spreading the species.

 This is an invasive introduction to the country, Chromolaena odorata. They have strong and deep roots that can withstand our long dry season, and they will be the first one to grow when the heavy rains come. They easily cover an area when left uncultivated. The sad thing about this is its  poisonous effects with ruminants.

This is another introduced species, flowers not as lovely as the previous one, and also quite invasive. However, i still don't know the name, probably this is Mikania micrantha.

 This is Wedelia trilobata, or Singapore daisy. I wonder if it came from Singapore to have that name. But it is used as groundcovers before, so might have escaped cultivation and invaded the marginal sidestreets. This is easy to eradicate, so i love it. Besides, the butterflies love nectaring on their flowers.

I found this single petal Clitoria ternatea in a second growth forest when we passed to the other side of the ravine. I very well know it being used favorably these days in Edible Landscaping. There is a multipetal of this too. They are used in salads and also source of color for making blue rice, while the blended juice is also a good colorful thirst quencher. There are resorts and restaurants that cultivate this for their commercial business.

 This is also a bushy weed, but i am not familiar with the identity. It lends beautifully through a macro lens, but the flowers are just 1 cm long, not very attractive to humans, but lovely for butterflies and other insects. The stem has a high tensile strength enabling goats to be tied on them when grazing. I guess this is of the Malvaceae family.

This Ipomoea pes-caprae is a cousin of the sweet potato . It is covering the smaller bushy weeds near the roadside. I wonder if maybe some butterfly larvae are eating the leaves. If time allows, i will observe them for longer periods.At the moment, i can only take its photo.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Flower Biography

Flower Biography, is there such a thing? 

Actually in plants we have such things as growth and development. And the following photos portray such processes in a flower. We cannot say that growth precedes development because from the point of view of the cell they are intertwined. Development will not proceed if there is no growth, and vice versa. Someone might say that a cell can increase in size without growth, yes that is right, but that is cell enlargement and not growth, nor is there development. These two processes are two very complex processes that we only normally appreciate as the flower becoming a brightly colored beautiful bloom. 

For us laymen, we just don't try understanding the processes happening within the plant, and the chemical or physiological stories within, let us leave that to the chemists, physiologists, botanists! I would just want to show you the life cycle of the marigold flower, Tagetes erecta. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Garden Critters

Most of us gardeners go to the garden to see our plants, whether they are growing well, or the flowers are coming out favorably. Most of the time we go there clutching our camera to document the colorful and the exceptionally beautiful. However in the tropics, most of the plants have been there throughout the year, and we are already almost familiar with their expressions. When some flowers die, others will replace them, and so on. The foliage just get old and we realize it is time to prune to produce younger stems and flowers again.

When familiarity or boredom with the ordinary sets in, i dig in deeper in the leaves, under the canopy, or just wait for whatever comes along. It is actually a world on its own, with the creatures living there.

This Odontonema strictum or firespike has been growing beautifully under the canopies of trees. In fact this plant is not watered or cared for at all. They just go on their own, self supporting. We just cut them before the start of the rainy season to replace the old growths. The cricket on it doesn't seem to be eating the flowers, maybe it is just appreciating them. Can you imagine an insect appreciating a flower? LOL.

 And this one is a saprophagous insect, meaning it eats decaying plant materials. No wonder it is very near the decaying portion of this Dieffenbachia leaf. They are called stilt-legged flies in the Micropezidae family. I have noticed that sometimes it is black and sometimes orange like the above. I don't know if this is the female, or just an immature one. I have to search on that yet.

 I saw this one in someone's arm. It cannot discern if it is a spider or an insect because i cannot see the legs. The whole body looks so transparent, which could be its style of camouflage.

 This is one of the stingless wasps, with very long antennae. But look at that appendage at its back, as if a pin is stuck on it. Amazing how that helps this insect!

This one is a very common sight in tropical structures. They even inhabit some dark portions of the house like under the cabinet or some corners. All my life i thought this is an insect, but i just see in the photo that it has four pairs of legs, so it is a spider! It walks on a surface as if it is always jogging, relentlessly moving wherever it went. Daddy long legs we call it, Pholcus phalangioides

I looked above and there are spiders this big. This is midway to the canopy of the fruit trees. Its big web help it catch its food like a net. Insects are usually its prey. I even find some butterflies caught in spider webs sometimes. 

And when i drop my sight to the ground, there are also creatures there like these very small ants. They are trying to pull the bits of coconut meat to their colony. A lot of them try to help each other pulling their big food. I actually watched them move the haul for about two inches. Some of them leave and others take their place. There is nothing insurmountable when everybody will help pulling through!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Hoya is my Current Passion

I have been telling my friends in blogs and in FB that I am currently hooked on hoyas. It started last year and at the moment continues to go strong. When i realized that most of them are endemic here in the Philippines, the enthusiasm is even aggravated. I attend exhibits, garden shows, lectures, plant exchanges, and more, and even if i am not trying to buy every species for my collection, i realized they are already plenty.In the beginning, i chose only those with bright colors and easy to care for, then i looked for those with bigger umbels. I again realized that even those with small umbels are so beautiful, they are attractive on their own, specially when they are managed as hanging plants with profuse flowering. 

The trend with me might be different if i am staying at home, where they are maintained. My sister and nephew, and my 84 yrs old mother water them, care for them. I only see them occassionally on some weekends i have time for the province.  They are still small, so only a few of them flowers, and not simultaneously yet. 

I bought this one already as a mature mother plant. After a few weeks it showed an umbel, in time I am home for the Christmas holidays. I am so ecstatic. I watch it when i wake up, tend to the plant, and visit it many times during the day. I almost see the flower change size. For a hoya lover, even just the beginning of a new growth is wonderful enough, much more the blooming of the flowers! It took almost 2 weeks before the whole umbel bloom.

I realized it is more amazing if viewed through a photograph. My sister was thoroughly awed when she saw this picture and also that below. The minute hairs on the corolla are very visible, as well as the fine lines longitudinal to the lobes. The details of the corona are also obvious.

 Here i changed the white balance, and the color becomes more wonderful. Nobody will say they do not like this. It looks so spectacular.

 This color is more like the real thing, more near the truth. But it isn't the color that matters. It also depends on the size of the umbel. Yes it has a lot of flowers in an umbel, and it has a slight scent, but do you know the size of this umbel? I will tell you later.

 This is the whole umbel at another angle. Do you still love it?

And this is how it looked during its last day, 4 days specifically from opening, before the flowers drop. It still looks nice, do you agree?

But if i tell you that the umbel diameter is just 1.0 inch, would you still like it?

My sister actually laughed when she saw the photographs, because the actual flowers are difficult to see when with the mother plant. She wasn't able to see it unless i showed it to her, i actually waved off the leaves for her to see the flowers! Can you beat that? I now envision a hanging plant with many developing umbels, by that time, am sure my sister will appreciate it more fully. And by that time, i will also not have a second thought in appreciating this species, Hoya camphorifolia.

Friday, January 10, 2014

More Violets Please!

Most of you know that i have a deprivation bias for blue flowers. And most of us also know that blue colors are really not plenty in the hot tropics, so you will understand why I am longing for the blues. They are associated with the temperate climate, while the reds and oranges are associated with the tropical zones. 

Hence, i will settle now for the violets, the next color with slight blue hues in them. I selected and will parade with you the violets that are currently blooming in our garden. They might not be very healthy and vigorous, but i love them. And they are mostly available only during the rainy season. 

Impatiens balsamina have different color varieties. We have the beige and pink for several years now. They are lost during the dry season, but ressurrect when the first heavy rains come in May. I have long been looking for these violets, so when i saw it in a very far province from my own, i didn't hesitate getting for some seeds. Now the three plants that survived the long haul are now blooming. And i am enjoying them.

close-up of the Impatiens balsamina

 This Asystasia intrusa might be invasive, but it is still favorable for me. I planted it as a hedge on a slanting sloping land near a ledge and is now cascading through the cement wall. It covers the not so beautiful wall at the side of the entrance.

some spikes finishing their blooms

 My Hoya diversifolia might not be as violet to you, but i am trying to see violets in them, because i prefer it to be colored violet. If you wont agree, so be it, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, i will not contest that. But we are talking about color violet not beauty, never mind that, just pretend it looks like violet!

Now, this dendrobium is trying hard to be violet to please me. But other yellow hues still surface, and i agree, it is more beautiful that way than monotone! 

This might not be an ornamental to you, yes i again agree. This is a viny weed at our sidewalks. This is also found is some sandy beaches in many tropical and arid shores of other countries. You might not believe me, but i found this wonderfully blooming profusely at the sandy shores in Dubai, where it is extremely hot in their dry season. This is Ipomoea pes-caprae, and this is unwanted in agricultural properties in our area.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Walk to our Mountain

 I decided to join my sister and nephew, my cousin and her daughter to visit a relative at the foot of this mountain. We used the old-old paths through the deep ravines, paths sometimes already covered with overgrowths. That is typical in tropical settings, when a path has not been used for sometime colonizing species immediately take over. It was not a leisurely walk as i've not done this for a long time. There is a cemented road to these remote barangays in our municipality but we chose the old routes. It was a bit sentimental to reminisce our youth, but i confess i haven't been this far yet. My companions are fast and they are always ahead of me, then they can rest while waiting for me till my breath stabilized.

On the way back, I i took a leisurely stride, watch the surroundings and had some shots. I saw a lot of forest butterflies but i don't have the time to chase them. I promise i will come back solely for that purpose. And here are some photos i haphazardly took on the way.

I love that waning morning moon about to hide at the top of the mountain. This mountain range is at the back of our community, literally we are at its foot, but we are way-way far down about 2 km from the foot and also 2km from the seashore. We call this Tore or Tower or Mt Tore. To the far right, not seen in the photo, is the more famous Mt Gulugod Baboy that is more accessible to hikers. Not many people reach Mt Tore except maybe for some landowners near it. Just recently, due to some quakes emanating around it I realized it is called Mt Panay, an ancient volcano. And most of the unusual frequent quakes happening in our country now are near ancient volcanoes, in consonance with the movement of the trenches. If it will erupt like the ancient Mt Pinatubo before, we will be very vulnerable.

The foot is already agricultural, as i can see towering coconut trees. There are also cattle tethered in some clearings. Slash and burn agriculture is not good for the environment, but there are still some of those that happens here to open land for agriculture. I can see a whitish line in that cove, i wonder if that is a landslide or a waterfalls. Next time i will bring a binocular. In our youth, some tales about supernatural beings or 'kapre' or 'tigbalang' are said to live here. They are even provided with complete examples of old people's experiences. Fascinating but we don't know, they might be to discouraged the youth from exploring these unsafe terrain.

This spider web is more than one meter in diameter, facinatingly moving with the wind. It is woven with regular number of fibers per group, amazing how they know those numbers before a margin is provided. 

 I also found this tree trunk fascinating, full of thick scary thorns on some irregular bark mounds. I wonder if its trunk is so delicious maybe for hervibores, for it to wear that protection!

a close-up of the thorny bark

Even this dead tree looks so old, with a lot of character and experiences through its life. Maybe it suffered a lot during its younger years, evidenced by the hollow portion of its base trunk.  Now it provides some space for the undergrowths to get some sunlight and grow. And the dead branches provide good perches for the birds.

Can i resist the sudden appearance of this blue Clitoria ternatea? It provided a very colorful contrast in that otherwise otherworldly scene!

Our World Tuesday Graphic

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Shadow Shots

I have seen this insect often near the bruised trunks of citrus trees. I am wondering if they are the adults of the small maggots developing in the cambium layer of the tree, feeding on the sap flowing from the cut phloem vessels. I am sure the sap is nutritious and sweet, as it is supposed to be the food of the plant manufactured in the leaves termed as photosynthates. They are transported downwards via the phloem vessels to the roots and other parts of the plants. This sap is a very high energy food, and it is nourishing the larvae to adulthood. The larvae continue to grow and the tree struggles for survival. 

However, a lot of frequent observations did not give me answers as to the identity of the insect, nor its actual relationship with the plant. Sometimes it alights on some leaves which almost serves as its camouflage, like in the following photos. Lastly, the length of the adult insect is only 1 centimeter, excluding the appendages.

 I love its shadow, mimicking a leaf spot!

An unusual body part at the front of its head is the pair of orange protrusions, which might have been serving as antenna. That is a bit funny as antenna, but maybe they are the later versions of antennae! hahaha, what do you think?

Updates: I just learned of this insect. It is a stilt-legged fly, of the Order Diptera. If you will google it, there are a lot of genus and species, and they are mostly in the tropical and subtropical regions. I even saw a video in you tube which is interesting as it seems to have a very simple but regular exercise with its front pair of legs.