Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Nero and Roses

Do you remember any Roman history? I don't. I had to read about it on Wikipedia. Anyway, there was this big fire in Rome about 64 CE. Nobody know how it started, but Nero was accused, because he built the huge Golden House on the ruins. It was a bit of a strange structure. It was covered in gold leaf and frescoes. The ceilings were veneered with semiprecious stones and ivory. It had over 100 rooms, but no restrooms or kitchens. Supposedly he had people there for fabulous dinners, but I don't quite see how you do that if you don't have a place for cooking or peeing. 

The rose story is that Nero liked to let rose petals drift over the diners. But like everything else, it was done to excess. The people dined under a dome. The ceiling was designed to revolve like the heavens, and slaves were used to power it. From this dome, petals were dropped and perfume was sprayed. But, instead of a few baskets of rose petals, it was tons. So many petals that some of his guests smothered and died. Such a host!

One of my neighbors has roses out front. This is a picture from that garden.

Monday, July 29, 2013


I guess around here, the big bloom month for roses is June. But roses overall seem to have a long bloom season, and many are in bloom now, even though it is almost August. The picture of roses was taken at the UC Botanical Garden.

Roses have a long, rich history and are associated with many deities, one of which is Venus. She is the Roman goddess of beauty and love.  Most everyone has seen "The Birth of Venus" by Botticelli. You know, the one with the naked lady on the clam shell rising out of the sea. Well, if you take your eyes off of the beautiful woman, you might notice that she is surrounded by roses. Roses are one of her sacred flowers. Roses were offered to her in sacred rites, and they symbolized her strengths.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July Butterfly Walk

I led a butterfly walk at the UC Botanical Garden yesterday. There were some cute kids, including these twins with braids. It was cloudy and cool, so very few adults were flying. We saw one cabbage white, and I considered that a great success. Yay!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Theobroma cacao--Cocoa Tree

Cocoa trees grow in tropical areas with lots of heat and humidity. This one is in a greenhouse at the UC Botanical Garden. It seems to be doing okay. Those little white things on the truck are flowers. It does form pods (fruit), but they never seem to mature.

The genus, "Theobroma," means "food of the gods." One would think that such a highly rated comestible would be healthy, and indeed it is. Although it was vilified for years, recent research indicates that it is good and good for you! According to the Mayo webpage cocoa contains antioxidants called flavanols that reduce cell damage, diabetes, stroke and heart attack. In addition, cocoa lowers blood pressure and  improves vascular function, Just remember, refined sugar is bad, so you might want to cultivate a taste for bittersweet chocolate.

Since it is a food of the gods, cocoa can be considered a sacred plant. The Maya had a festival in April in which they sacrificed animals to the cacao god. Men used it as a ritualistic drink. They believed that it was toxic for women and children. That sounds more like sacrilege than sacred to me!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cedrus Libani--Sacred Plant

This cedar is mentioned in the Bible 75 times. It was used in temples, palaces, ship masts, wardrobes, and chariots. It was also used to purify lepers and circumcise boys. According to the Psalms, the tree was created to glorify god and planted by god. So god planted the cedars to glorify himself? Didn't she plant everything? I'm confused!

Other cultures also used this tree. The Phoenicians used it to build ships and houses. The Egyptians used it in mummification. It was commonly exported. In fact, it was loved to death. Consequently, conservation efforts first started in CE 118 by Hadrian.

As you might guess, the Cedar of Lebanon is a national symbol of Lebanon and is on the flag of that country. Lebanon is called the Land of the Cedars sometimes.

The Cedar of Lebanon has been in use in gardens for hundreds of years. This one is in the UC Botanical Garden.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Caterpillar Killers Almost Done

Just a few little tweaks and some color, and this will be done. My graphic artist did a great job illustrating the plants, animals and the pesticide bottle. Now I have to figure out what to say about the different things that are enemies of butterfly larvae. Got any ideas?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Caterpillar Killers, Next Draft

So, I decided to use a spiral as a popup. Then of course it has to be passion vine with Gulf Fritillaries. Although, I suppose there are other possibilities, such as Pipevine Swallowtails on Aristolochia. Still pretty crude. But the idea is there.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Caterpillar Killers

I've started working on a new papercraft. I am thinking of calling it Caterpillar Killers. I love the alliteration, but it seems rather harsh. Maybe Enemies of Caterpillars would be better. It will show a caterpillar on a plant, surrounded by things that could kill it: pesticides, birds, snakes, spiders, parasites, diseases, etc. This is the first try. It has a long ways to go!

Friday, July 5, 2013


My husband found this dragon fly inside on the floor this morning. I guess it came inside to die. I took it outside and put in on a bouquet on the back deck, and it is still there. Maybe I should try feeding it some insects, but I am just not that dedicated. I wonder what kind it is.