Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pipevine Swallow

Here is the Pipevine Swallowtail that we saw on the butterfly walk yesterday. Another lousy picture!


Yesterday was the monthly butterfly walk at the UC Botanical Garden. The Tithonia in the Crops of the World section turned out to be a butterfly magnet. This Monarch kept coming back over and over to nectar. It didn't seem to matter that we disturbed it over and over. There were also two Pipevine Swallowtails visiting. People just wanted to stay and watch and take pictures. My photo is not great, but you get the idea.

The Monarchs are heading south now, looking for warmer weather. Maybe there will be some more coming through the Garden.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Nuptial Flight of the Termites Today

More info here:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Palm Tree

In Roman times, the palm frond was a symbol of victory. When generals won wars, they wore togas decorated with them.  When lawyers won cases, their offices were decorated with them. Nike and Victoria, Greek and Roman Goddesses of Victory, respectively, were often represented by palm fronds.

 Everybody knows about Palm Sunday, when Christian churches are decorated with palm fronds to commemorate Jesus' triumphant return to Jerusalem. Although I have a hard time deciphering the story, apparently he was triumphant not because he had won a war, but because he had been declared the messiah. When he rode into Jerusalem, people were waving palm fronds.

In ancient Egypt, Hathor was the cow goddess. You have probably seen her depicted with a sun between the cow horns on her head. She was the goddess of life, joy, music, dancing and fertility and her symbol was the palm.

The palm tree has been a sacred symbol for thousands of years. Now  it commonly represents a tropical vacation. Maybe that is sacred, too.

The palm below resides near the tropical house at the UC Botanical Garden.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Elderberries can now be seen behind the Tropical House at the UC Botanical Garden. This isn't a great picture, but you get the idea. Do you remember the play, "Arsenic and old Lace"? Old ladies poisoned men by putting arsenic in their elderberry wine. There is also a famous quote from Monty Python, in which one knight insults another by saying, "Your mother was a hamster and your fathere smelled of elderberries!"  I think elderberries smell okay, and the flowers are supposed to have an excellent fragrance, so I don't really understand. Maybe I am not supposed to.

In some cultures, this plant is known for housing fantastical creatures and having  magical properties. The tree was sacred to the Goddess and was home to tree dryads. A leaf pinned to a door would keep away evil spirits. For a more info about elderberry mythology, check out this website:

Friday, September 6, 2013

Metasequoia glyptostroboides--Dawn Redwood

This is a Dawn Redwood. I love the scuptural look of the truck. Our regular California coastal redwood does not look like that. The leaves are similar to a Coast Redwood. And it looks a bit like a Bald Cypress when it loses its leaves in winter. But the truck, which looks like it has troll homes carves out if it, is unique.

Most botanists know the story about how scientists described this species from fossils before it was known to still be living in China. One place it was found was in the small village of Modaoqi. The people who lived there had built a shrine at its base because they considered it divine or sacred. The tree was used to forecast crop yields and human deaths. It does have a magical look about it.