Monthly Archives: January 2015

Big Seeds

Slicing open an avocado for breakfast prompted a conversation with my husband about whether an avocado seed is the largest seed among seeds. I ventured that coconut might be, but was uncertain.

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So, after some quick research I discovered that the avocado and the coconut are indeed among the largest of the world’s seeds. But there is another, spectacularly large seed, a 12” seed that can weigh 40 pounds- the coco de mer. Imagine dealing with that on the kitchen counter while you make toast and tea!

It is the seed of a very rare palm tree (Lodoicea maldivica), found only in the Seychelles Islands. (The Republic of Seychelles is so far out in the Indian Ocean, that I had to zoom out many times on Google maps to learn that the closest land is the mainland of Southeast Africa.) No wonder it is rare, no wind or bird can carry that seed anywhere.

The coco de mer seed is so rare that it is protected as a Natural World Heritage Site. Yes, a site. You have heard of World Heritage Sites, which include buildings and places; well a natural site includes flora and fauna such as trees, plants, ecosystems, and even seeds.

“A World Heritage Site is a place (such as a forest, mountain, lake, island, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.” (Wikipedia)

I loved learning about a new seed this morning. Let me know if you encounter any large seeds today.

~Elizabeth

A Cup of Tea

The big blizzard is slamming New England, but down here in western South Jersey, we only got a dusting. But because the predictions were so extreme, school was canceled. And since I work at a school, I got a snow day. I love a snow day, as much as a child; I will wait up late and get up extra early just to watch the school closings ribbon on the television news (despite all the more modern notifications that I receive).

IMG_0565Having a snow day means I get all this extra time to work on several projects with looming deadlines. But, here I am blogging (it is my newest passion), and making another cup of tea (a very old passion). In the morning I like a big mug of black tea with local honey and some milk. Several times. Every morning.

My sister, and many of my cousins, also loves tea. She frequents tea shops and actually traveled to Sri Lanka to visit tea plantations. I like to think that our love of tea is due to our Irish genome.

All tea actually comes from the same small shrub Camellia sinensis. It is different varieties of the plant and different methods of picking and processing it that give us the many styles and colors of tea, like black, white, or green. I have not actually seen a tea shrub in person. I understand that one would not thrive in my area, but I might mail-order one this spring just so I can look at it a little closer.

Enjoy your tea today fellow tea-drinkers!

~Elizabeth

Since the big news around here is the impending blizzard…and I did not want to share another dark, wintery photo today, I decided to utilize The Daily Post’s writing prompt photo challenge. This week it is “Express Yourself”.

One of my favorite photography activities is getting very close, extremely close, to my subject.

Eastern spadefoot toad with beetle

Eastern spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrookii) with beetle

This image of an Eastern spadefoot toad with a beetle on her head is one of my personal favorites. I had a wonderful time taking her picture that day. It is a summer picture, and I hope it will bring a smile to you face and a touch of warmth to your day.

For those in the path of the approaching storm I wish you safety and good luck.

~Elizabeth

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Express Yourself.”

Snow angel

This little angel serenely watches over the fish wintering in the bottom of my little garden pond.

“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person.”  — Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Freezing fog….

It snowed again yesterday. If you read my last blog about snow, you know that I love snow.

It was a beautiful late afternoon snow. A few inches of big thick globs of snowflakes fell quickly, clinging to everything-every tree, shrub, plant, and little winter sleeping buds. Then, right before I went to bed, the National Weather Service issued an advisory for areas of freezing fog.

Freezing fog? I had never heard of this phenomenon.

So I posted a warning of this potentially dangerous weather on Facebook, and then I googled it.

Wow, the images were awesome. Meanwhile, comments on FB indicated that others didn’t know much about it either. A friend posted a definition, another mentioned climate change, but one friend that lives down in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina wrote “…here in the mountains it is called Rim Ice…. that fog will freeze on everything…. it is beautiful…. you will need to get ready with a camera…”

I was already on that, camera ready, I didn’t sleep much last night, every few hours I got up to look outside. This morning brought a winter wonderland, but still no freezing fog. I wonder when a series of weather conditions will bring the chance of freezing fog here again.

~Elizabeth

January is for thinking about seeds….

January is the month that seed catalogs arrive and gardeners scrutinize them, fantasizing about rows of wholesome vegetables and beds of lavish, maybe exotic, flowers.

Some gardeners might order seeds to grow “easy, heavy-bearing, carefree vines” of giant loofah gourds, Luffa aegyptiaca, intending to gift luxurious bath sponges to cousins and friends the next Christmas. (No, it didn’t work out.)

Yesterday I found these few remaining seeds, stuck in a dried pod, overlooked by the birds and wind. They are of the common milkweed plants I put in my garden last spring, trying to do my part to help the Monarch butterfly. Populations of milkweed and Monarchs are both in serious decline.

Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, is a host plant for the North American Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, famous for their amazing migratory journey. They will use all species of milkweed, and only milkweed, to lay their eggs, from which the tiny caterpillars hatch and begin chomping away on the leaves. Conservationists encourage us to plant milkweed for the Monarch butterflies.

However, it is important to plant milkweed species that are native to your area. Scientists believe that many well-meaning gardeners are planting a readily available, very attractive, non-native, tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). This plant blooms longer, keeps monarchs in northern areas too long, and is detrimental to their life-cycle and health.

If you are thinking about planting milkweed, a good place to find out about species native to your area is at The Xerces Society.

Monarch Watch, a non-profit organization that focuses on the Monarch butterfly, is another great place for much information about milkweed and the Monarch butterfly.

~Elizabeth

Let nature takes its course?

It always poses a difficult question — rescue an animal that is clearly about to die, and help relieve its suffering, or let nature take its course?

These beautiful feathers were of the back and wing of a female mallard, Anas platyrhynchos. Mallards are a common duck of North America, the familiar male with his iridescent-green head is easily identified.

This duck was alone, struggling in an icy lake, being harassed by hawks, and in great distress. A friend of mine found the duck close to nightfall, chose to rescue her, and brought her to me for help. The duck was severely injured, and would need to be euthanized.

Female mallard duck

Female mallard (Wikimedia.org)

So again, the implications ran through my thoughts. Letting nature take its course allows valuable food to remain in the chain, so to speak, and I am all for letting animals eat naturally. However, I am sure that plenty of instances occur that never meet (my) human eyes. So when a wild animal is suffering or orphaned, right in front of me, and because I believe that the majority of reasons that animals are injured or orphaned is due to human activity, I feel moved to help.

Have you given any thought to your viewpoint on this question? Feel free to comment below.
~Elizabeth

A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives. ~Albert Schweitzer

Note: Wildlife rehabilitators provide a much-needed service to the community, and in New Jersey must be licensed to provide wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. NJ State laws do protect individuals that step in to rescue an animal to take it to a NJ licensed rehabilitator. However, many wild animals may appear injured or abandoned, when, in fact, they are not. Call a rehabilitator for advice and support. A current list of licensed rehabilitators in NJ can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/pdf/rehab_list.pdf