Archives For May 2015

Cappadocia is known around the world as one of the best places to fly with hot air balloons. The spectacular surrealistic landscapes combined with excellent flying conditions allow the balloons to gently drift over and between fairy chimneys, pigeon houses in the unique rock formations, orchards and vineyards – through impressive valleys, each with distinctive rock formations, colors and features – and then float up over rippled ravines for breathtaking views over the region.

Image Source: http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/wallpaper/photography/photos/best-pod-september-2011/balloons-cappadocia-turkey/

The Cappadocian Region located in the center of the Anatolian Region of Turkey, with its valley, canyon, hills and unusual rock formation created as a result of the eroding rains and winds of thousands of years of the level, lava-covered plain located between the volcanic mountains Erciyes, Melendiz and Hasan as well as its troglodyte dwellings carved out of the rock and cities dug out into underground, presents an otherworldly appearance. The eruptions of these mountains which were active volcanoes in geological times lasted until 2 million years ago. A soft tuff layer was formed, 150 m in thickness, by the issuing lavas in the valley surrounded by mountains. The rivers, flood water running down the hillsides of valleys and strong winds eroded the geological formations consisting of tuff on the plateau formed with tuff layers, thus creating bizarre shapes called fairy Chimneys. These take on the names of mushroom shaped, pinnacled, capped and conic shaped formations.

Data Source: http://wikitravel.org/en/Cappadocia

The prehistoric settlements of the area are Koskhoyuk (Kosk Mound) in Nigde, Aksaray Asikli Mound, Nevsehir Civelek cave and, in the southeast, Kultepe, Kanis and Alisar in the environs of Kayseri. This area with unusual topographic characteristics was regarded as sacred and called, in the Scythian/Khatti language, asKhepatukha, meaning “the country of the people of the chief god Hepat”, although there are more poetic claims on the origin of the region’s name, such as the Old Persian Katpatuka, which allegedly means “the land of beautiful horses”. The tablets called Cappadocian Tablets and the Hittite works of art in Alisar are of the important remains dating from 2000s B.C. After 1200s B.C., the Tabal principality, of the Khatti Branches of Scythians, became strong and founded the Kingdom of Tabal. Following the Late Hittite and Persian aras, the Cappadocian Kingdom was established in 332 B.C. During the Roman era the area served as a shelter for the early escaping Christians. There are also several underground cities used by early Christians as hideouts in Cappadocia.

Image Source: http://www.afar.com/places/cappadocia-voyager-balloons-goreme

Image Source: http://www.vagabondish.com/photo-hot-air-balloons-cappadocia-turkey/

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The Common Starling

May 20, 2015

Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds in the family Sturnidae. The name “Sturnidae” comes from the Latin word for starling, sturnus. Many Asian species, particularly the larger ones, are called mynas, and many African species are known as glossy starlings because of their iridescent plumage. Starlings are native to the Old World, from Europe, Asia and Africa, to northern Australia and the islands of the tropical Pacific. Several European and Asian species have been introduced to these areas as well as North America, Hawaii and New Zealand, where they generally compete for habitat with native birds and are considered to be invasive species. The starling species familiar to most people in Europe and North America is the common starling, and throughout much of Asia and the Pacific the common myna is indeed common.

Data Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starling

Image Source: http://10000birds.com/american-trash-bird.htm

 

Starlings have strong feet, their flight is strong and direct, and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country, and they eat insects and fruit. Several species live around human habitation, and are effectively omnivores. Many species search for prey such as grubs by “open-bill probing”, that is, forcefully opening the bill after inserting it into a crevice, thus expanding the hole and exposing the prey.

Plumage of many species is typically dark with a metallic sheen. Most species nest in holes, laying blue or white eggs.

Starlings have diverse and complex vocalizations, and have been known to embed sounds from their surroundings into their own calls, including car alarms and human speech patterns. The birds can recognize particular individuals by their calls, and are currently the subject of research into the evolution of human language.

 

Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/marc-vogel/5195155568/

 

Image Source: http://www.wired.com/2011/11/starling-flock/

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Cats sleep an average of fifteen hours a day, and some can sleep up to twenty hours in a twenty-four hour period. Which raises the question: Why do cats sleep so much?

The first thing you should realize is that cats are most active between dusk and dawn, which means that they sleep mostly during the day and become active around twilight. This can come as quite a shock if you’re bringing a new kitty home for the first time. Your cat will waste no time investigating and getting into trouble — usually while you’re fast asleep!  But as soon your cat is done with breakfast, as the rest of the world winds up for action, you’ll find him winding down for a long day of slumber.

Data Source: http://www.petmd.com/cat/behavior/evr_ct_why_do_cats_sleep_so_much

Cats have the physiology of a predator, meaning that they’re hardwired to give chase and hunt — mainly at night. Large cats such as lions have a similar pattern of sleeping during the day and hunting at night. Although they have been domesticated for the most part, housecats still retain that wild streak. Even cats at play will display the feline primal instincts of creeping about in the shadows and, without a whisper of warning, pouncing on their target prey.

And hunting prey takes an amazing amount of energy. Whether your kitty is hunting for outdoor prey or tackling a catnip toy, all that sleep he gets is reserve energy for running, pouncing, climbing and stalking.

Image Source: http://www.buzzhunt.co.uk/2013/12/26/cat-finds-perfect-napping-spot/

Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/sicsa/pet-funnies/

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The grey falcon (Falco hypoleucos) is a rare medium-sized falcon, one of the enigmatic ‘mystery’ birds of Australia, neither easily nor predictably seen. Recent studies however have contributed to the gathering of further information on this elusive bird of prey.

One of the reasons behind this lack of information could be the difficulty in identifying a grey falcon while in the field. Schoenjahn (2010) has identified other species of birds which are often mistaken for a grey falcon such as the; brown falcon (Falco berigora), grey goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae), adult collared sparrow hawk (Accipiter cirrhocephalus), brown goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus) and the black-shouldered kite (Elanus axillaris).

The grey falcon is an Australian endemic, usually confined to the arid inland. Open country: Triodia grassland, Acacia shrub land, and lightly timbered arid woodland. They have been sighted over most of mainland Australia except for Cape York. Very few have been seen on the Nullarbor Plain and in the Great Victoria, Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts. Most sightings of the grey falcon have been within the arid zones, with rainfall less than 20 inches.

Data Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_falcon

Grey Falcon (1) - Christopher Watson.jpg

Image Source: http://www.raptor.org.au/fhypoleucos.html

Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonymorris/2099169358/

 

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Beautiful Sea Shells

May 18, 2015

How are seashells created?

Francis Horne, a biologist who studies shell formation at Texas State University, offers this answer.

The exoskeletons of snails and clams, or their shells in common parlance, differ from the endoskeletons of turtles in several ways. Seashells are the exoskeletons of mollusks such as snails, clams, oysters and many others. Such shells have three distinct layers and are composed mostly of calcium carbonate with only a small quantity of protein–no more than 2 percent. These shells, unlike typical animal structures, are not made up of cells. Mantle tissue that is located under and in contact with the shell secretes proteins and mineral extracellularly to form the shell. Think of laying down steel (protein) and pouring concrete (mineral) over it. Thus, seashells grow from the bottom up, or by adding material at the margins. Since their exoskeleton is not shed, molluscan shells must enlarge to accommodate body growth. This pattern of growth results in three distinct shell layers: an outer proteinaceous periosteum (uncalcified), a prismatic layer (calcified) and an inner pearly layer of nacre (calcified).

Data Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-are-seashells-created/

Image Source: http://www.thephotoargus.com/inspiration/shells-are-swell-beautiful-examples-of-seashell-photography/

 

Image Source: http://i2.wp.com/www.sycmu.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/579608_468104876576565_1521840411_n.jpg

 

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Giant Hibiscus

May 17, 2015

“Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.”

Paul Theroux

 

Hibiscus are large shrubs or small trees that produce huge, colorful, trumpet-shaped flowers over a long season. Other common names include Chinese hibiscus and tropical hibiscus.

About This Plant

Hibiscus are deciduous shrubs with dark green leaves; the plants can grow to 15 feet tall in frost-free areas. Flowers may be up to 6 inches diameter, with colors ranging from yellow to peach to red. Hibiscus can be planted singly or grown as a hedge plant; they can also be pruned into a single-stemmed small tree. The flowers are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.

Special Features

Attracts hummingbirds
Attracts butterflies

Data Source: http://www.garden.org/plantguide/?q=show&id=2133

 

File:Giant Hibiscus (13).JPG

Image Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=giant+hibiscus&title=Special%3ASearch&go=Go&uselang=en

Image Source: http://www.statelykitsch.com/blooming-this-week-a-little-break/

 

To buy a giant hibiscus, you can click on the images above, or click here:

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At the time Oak Alley was built, the River Region sugar industry was flourishing, and a chain of stately plantation homes lined the banks of the Mississippi. Too many of these since have been devoured by the passage of time, exposure to the elements and mankind’s struggle to move on, but Oak Alley remains as a testimonial to the old South’s golden age. There is a simple authenticity about her grandeur that reassures and frees the mind to contemplate and appreciate all facets of her existence. She offers the enchantment of one way of life without compromising the significance of another. Here indeed is something for everyone.

One of Oak Alley’s mysteries is who planted her magnificent Live Oaks. While we know the approximate era, 1725-1750, why they were planted or by whom remains a question.

This is a stunning place to visit and everyone should make it a point to visit this beautiful and historic home.

Data & Image Source: http://www.oakalleyplantation.com/

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Fabulous Ferns

May 15, 2015

A fern is a member of a group of roughly 12,000 species of vascular plants that reproduce via spores and have neither seeds nor flowers. They differ from mosses by being vascular (i.e. having water-conducting vessels). They have stems and leaves, like other vascular plants. Most ferns have what are called fiddleheads that expand into fronds, which are each delicately divided.

Leptosporangiate ferns (sometimes called “true ferns”) are by far the largest group, but ferns as defined here (ferns sensu lato) include horsetails, whisk ferns, marattioid ferns, and ophioglossoid ferns. This group may be referred to as monilophytes. The term pteridophyte traditionally refers to ferns plus a few other seedless vascular plants (see the classification section below), although some recent authors have used the term to refer strictly to the monilophytes.

Life cycle of a typical fern:

  1. A diploid sporophyte phase produces haploid spores by meiosis (a process of cell division which reduces the number of chromosomes by a half).
  2. A spore grows into a haploid gametophyte by mitosis (a process of cell division which maintains the number of chromosomes). The gametophyte typically consists of a photosynthetic prothallus.
  3. The gametophyte produces gametes (often both sperm and eggs on the same prothallus) by mitosis.
  4. A mobile, flagellate sperm fertilizes an egg that remains attached to the prothallus.
  5. The fertilized egg is now a diploid zygote and grows by mitosis into a diploid sporophyte (the typical “fern” plant).

Image Source: http://www.fernlifecenter.com/about-fern-life/why-the-fern/

Ferns are among the oldest living plants on earth and there are both indoor and outdoor types of ferns. There are about 20,000 species of ferns in 150 different families. In their native habitats, most ferns grow on moist, nutrient-rich forest floor where they can receive little light and some are epiphytes are nestled on branches of tall trees. Ferns are different from mosses by being vascular, they have stems and leaves and are the most versatile plants on the planet. They first appear in the fossil record 360 million years ago but most of the current families and species did not appear until roughly 145 million years ago. They grow in many different habitats around the world and were at the height of their evolution during the Carboniferous Period (also known as age of ferns) where they were the dominant part of the vegetation at that time.

Many types of ferns flourish both outdoors and as houseplants. Outdoor ferns thrive best in partially shaded areas and those grown indoors flourish in bright light, provided they are not placed in the path of direct sunlight.  In general ferns rarely suffer from diseases or insect infestations and are easily grown by even the most novice gardeners. The diverse forms of ferns offer plenty of variety to choose from, making htem fascinating to grow indoors in hanging baskets or perched on pedestals. In the landscape, gardeners frequently plant ferns as edging and to add texture. Some types do well in containers, and most resist rabbits and deer and they range in size from just a few inches tall to more than 12 feet in the case of the tree ferns.

 

Popular indoor ferns include: Holly Ferns, Boston Ferns, Maidenhair Ferns, Staghorn Fern, Button Fern and Bird’s Nest Fern.

Holly Fern – commonly known as leather leaf holly have 3 – 5 inch leaflets lining the fronds of Cyrtomium falcatum, the leaflets are dark gree, glossy and shaped like holly leaves without the spines. This fern loves cool temperature (under 75 degrees F), moderately high humidity and moisture. It is hardy in zones 7-10.  They are available in three species including Japanese, Hawaiian and East Indian holly ferns.

Boston Ferns – are the most popular of the houseplant varieties though they would also grow wild outdoors in many regions. They have dark green leaves with many deep, evenly spaced indentations in the edges and benefit from frequent but  light misting of the fronds and can grow to gargantuan proportions. Care and maintenance for this type of fern is quite easy, just place it where it’ll get indirect light (some direct morning sun is fine) and keep it moist.

Maidenhair Ferns – is one of the most delicate types of indoor ferns. It is a unique plant with thin black stems and small, dainty leaves. It’s also one of the fussiest, preferring high humidity that’s difficult to maintain in most homes. Maidenhair ferns grow well in the corners of large bathrooms because of the humidity but cannot survive in direct sunlight.

Staghorn Fern – this species commonly grows on the bark of trees in Asia, Africa and Australia. It will make a good houseplant if planted in a coarse soil with good drainage. It has two set of fronds: green and brown, the green fronds are fertile and resemble stag horns and grow up to four feet long while the brown fronds are infertile and grow outside the green fronds. They are short, flat and round.

 

Popular outdoor ferns include: Bird Nest Fern, Ostrich Fern, Japanese Painted Fern, Australian Tree Fern, Asparagus Ferns and Cinnamon Fern.

Bird Nest Fern – are often thought of as garden garnishes as they are compact providing a great constrast to the flowering plants in the garden. They prefer shade and can grow on rocks and trees as well as in soil.

Ostrich Fern – is one of the tallest and most majestic of outdoor fern varieties with frond that can grow to five feet in length and are a striking accent at the back of any shady garden bed. Ostrich ferns like moist soil and shade. Water them infrequently at ground level, making sure not to get any moisture on the delicate leaves to make them more compact.

Japanese Painted Fern – is almost always grown for its silvery or sometimes purplish foliage. It is a close relative of the Lady Fern. The fronds grow to a length of 12-18 inches and taper at the tips. They are darker down the center with lighter edges. For those living in areas with harsh winters, this would be the perfect outdoor fern as it can withstand temperatures as low as -30F degrees.

Australian Tree Fern – is a tree that can grow up to about 30 feet tall with eight foot fronds and trunks. It grows well all over the rain forests in New Zealand and Australia and can be planted only in a climate with heavy precipitation and warm temperatures. These fabulous ferns can add height and Jurassic drama to a woodland landscape design.

Asparagus Ferns – has three varieties with the most common type having fine, needle-like leaves that are irritating to the skin. They need to grow outdoors as they require strong light. They also have the tendency to become invasive and once they do its almost impossible to eradicate them.

Cinnamon Ferns: are commonly found growing wild along creeks and streams which means they require lots of water if they are to be planted in a garden. This fern grows about five feet tall and has two kinds of fronds: the infertile ones are bright geen and the fertile ones are deep, brown cinnamon color. If you want tall plants, site them in shade and keep their soil constantly damp. For more compact clumps, grow them in brighter light and drier soil.

Data Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fern

Curled Leaf Image Source:

http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-of-the-day/curled-fern-leaf/

Fern Life Cycle - Fern Life Cycle

Image Source: http://4hdwallpapers.com/fern-life-cycle.html

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Growing Clematis

May 14, 2015

If you’re a beginning gardener, then growing clematis is for you.  It is extremely easy to be successful for this climbing “queen” of plants.  There are many types of clematis available including:  Henryi, General Sikorski, Jackmanii and Comtesse de Bouchard.  Many local garden stores and big box stores offer these and many more varieties!

Image Source: http://www.yardshare.com/yard_ideas/2011/04/12/grow-up-ideas-for-climbing-plants/

Clematis vines can grow to be 10-12 feet in length, so you will need to take this into consideration when choosing a spot to grow one.  Ideally, you will have a partially sunny spot to grow your  new vine.  Sometimes clematis can take 1-2 years to start blooming, so you will want to buy a plant in a gallon container to make sure you get an established plant.

Clematis vines are happiest when they have something to grow on like a small trellis or arbor.  Because these leaf stems are minimal in size, anything that’s more than about 1/2 inch wide is too wide for the leaf stem grab. The easiest things for a clematis to grab onto, are twine, fishing line, wire, thin branches, wooden dowels or steel rods. The more grabbing opportunities you offer, the better!

 

The President Clematis

Image Source: https://www.gardenerdirect.com/buy-plants-online/1793/Clematis-All/The-President-Clematis

 

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History of Globes

May 13, 2015

Written evidence suggests that people have used globes to model the world around them since antiquity; Strabo (63/64BCE-24CE) reported that Crates of Mallos had a globe of the equivalent of 10 feet in diameter. Globes are delicate, though, and the surviving evidence for early globe use is sparse. The earliest globe that survives today was made in 1492 by Martin Behaim, a German navigator and geographer in the employ of King João II of Portugal. Behaim’s globe recorded not only the lie of the lands being discovered by seabourne explorers, but also details of overseas commodities, market places and local trading protocols. Thus, the earliest surviving globe, which probably reflects many others produced around the same time, features information on more than cartography.

Data Source: http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/whipple/explore/globes/abriefhistoryofglobes/

English globe by Joseph Moxon

Image 1 The English Globe by Joseph Moxon, 1679. The globe’s sphere was stationary above a planisphere drawn up for the latitude of London.Image © the Whipple Museum (Wh.1466).

Globes retained their decorative function in the 17th century, and some innovative designs were produced that promoted the gentlemanly use of globes as accessories or furniture items. Pocket globes were first produced in England by Joseph Moxon XR  (1627-1691) in 1673, and gentlemen might well have used these miniature instruments as status symbols. Moxon also collaborated with Roger Palmer XR  to make the ‘English Globe’ in 1679 (Image 1), which was best used in the garden. Indeed, the fact that the ‘English globe’ could not be rotated on its stand meant that it could only be used for latitudes matching that of the south of England and would have been useless on sea voyages. Pocket globes and instruments such as the ‘English globe’ meant that makers could promote globes among new audiences.

 

(Above) The early sixteenth-century engraved ostrich egg globe among other ostrich eggs. Photo: Washington Map Society.  Asia on the ostrich egg globe, showing the large peninsula jutting southward at the right which is evidence of the influence of Henricus Martellus. Photo: Washington Map Society.

Image Source: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/26763

The Lenox Globe (above) is often referred to as the oldest extant post-Columbian globe.  The globe itself, measuring only 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter, is an engraved copper ball of excellent workmanship.  It was found in Paris in 1850 by the architect, Richard M. Hunt, and was presented by him to James Lenox the founder of the Lenox Library. It is now a prized possession of the New York Public Library, of which the Lenox Library now forms a part. The small globe is composed of two copper-engraved hemispheric sections closely fitted along the equator, as in the case of the Ulpius Globe (#367), and pierced for an axis. Whatever mountings it may have had are lost. It may once have even formed a part of an astronomical clock. A very similar globe, belonging to an astronomical clock and apparently of about the same age as theLenox Globe, is in the library of the Jagiellon University at Cracow in Poland.

Data Source: http://cartographic-images.net/Cartographic_Images/314_Lenox_Globe.html

 

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