Yosemite (yo-SE-mea-tea) National Park is best known for its towering granite monoliths, deep valleys, waterfalls and ancient giant sequoias. The day I entered Yosemite it started snowing, that season’s first snowing. Looked like the visit was badly timed… but there was no option. For a person from the opposite part of the world this was an exciting experience! 😊 Couldn’t view the iconic monoliths. Managed a few shots of the landscape covered with the first snow of the season. It looked beautiful!! The first picture was captured just before snowing and then the spectacle unfolded!! The road was intermittently cleared by the agencies concerned.
Succulents are plants with adaptations to thrive in arid conditions. They have swollen and fleshy leaves. Most of the succulents show very interesting patterns in the arrangement of leaves or spines on their fleshy stem. Many times, leaves are arranged in a rosette pattern, giving the plant a floral appearance. Aeonium, the tree houseleeks, have leaves typically arranged in rosettes around central axis at the end of stems. Sempervivum, the houseleeks, are succulent perennials forming mats composed of tufted leaves in rosettes. With its pinkish-grey succulent leaves in rosette form, Mother-of-pearl-plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) is also called ‘Porcelain plant’. All the three plants belong to the family Crassulaceae.
Cosmos plants are cousins of daisy and marigold, and belong to the huge Asteraceae family. These attractive flowers bring an explosion of colours to the garden landscape with white, red, yellow, orange, pink and various shades of these colours. Cosmos are annual flowers that are borne by long slender stalks. Blooming throughout the summer, they attract birds, bees and butterflies to the garden. Cosmos are easily grown from seeds and even survive in poor soil conditions. Though these are mainly grown as ornamental plants, traditionally they were used in indigenous medicines and certain culinary preparations. Cosmos flowers also yield dyes. Cosmos flowers are said to symbolize order and harmony, due to the flower’s harmonious petals. The flower is also viewed as symbolizing tranquility, peace, innocence and love.
Sunsets are romantic! Whether you are a nature lover or a technocrat, the beauty of sunsets is undeniable. I’m sure there is no one who hasn’t said “wow” after watching the glorious sundown. The magical view of the setting sun and changing colours of the sky never get old! Here is a series of sunset pictures captured at Santa Cruz, California. Watched the sunset along with roosting pelicans and cormorants. I was surprised to notice a peculiar feature- after the initial stages, there was no golden reflection on the water!! I have no explanation…
When we think of friends in our garden, Potter wasp is not likely to be on the list. However, potter wasps are beneficial insects that provide natural control of many types of caterpillars that are pests of our vegetable garden. The name ‘potter wasp’ derives from the shape of the mud nests built by the female to lay eggs and these nests are known as brood nests. These are built in a variety of places, like on tree trunks and twigs as well as exterior surfaces of buildings. The nest interestingly looks like a miniature pot or jug, complete with cover when it is sealed! The female wasp hunts caterpillars, stores them in the nest after paralyzing them by her sting. The developing wasp larva feeds on these caterpillars and comes out as an adult. I found this lovely potter wasp (Phimenes flavopictus) hovering in my garden, feeding on Leucas aspera (Thumba) flowers and then having a drink in the birdbath. You can see the nest that is built on a plant twig. The seal of the nest has two tiny holes to let in air for the larva inside!
‘Thusharagiri’ literally means ‘misty mountain’, a name given due to the snowy spray of water droplets of the waterfalls that surround the mountains like a misty blanket. Thusharagiri Falls is a scenic waterfall located in Kozhikode district, in my native state of Kerala, India. This is among the well-known tourist places of Wayanad and can be visited throughout the year, monsoon season being the best time. Surrounding the waterfalls are the evergreen forests of Western Ghats. The gurgling streams add to the pristine beauty of the place and the place is known as the ‘trekker’s paradise’. Thusharagiri falls is formed by the cascading Chalippuzha river.
Friends, you may be remembering my earlier post of the painted leaves of Caladium. If not, please check out HERE! This is another variety of the Caladium that grows in my garden. Caladiums can instantly add colour to home gardens. Their bright colours and unique patterns are simply fascinating and delightful. Some of the ornamental Caladiums generally have large heart-shaped leaves, sometimes growing to more than a foot long. These tropical plants are easy to grow in home gardens.
Beans are among the most versatile and commonly eaten vegetables throughout the world. Many varieties are grown by farmers and people in their home gardens. Edible beans are nutrient-rich vegetables and they contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, in addition to protein, fibre, a moderate amount of calories and other nutrients.
I have four varieties growing in my garden, as you can see in these pictures. Notice that the structure of the flowers is different from other flowers. A bit of Botany here 🙂 The heart-shaped big petal is called the ‘standard petal’ and attracts pollinators such as bees. Next two petals are named ‘wing petals’ and the last pair that grows fused is called ‘keel petal’. All essential parts are enclosed within the keel petals.
Bean blossoms with the above configuration are said to be ‘papilionaceous’, meaning butterfly-like.
Today I have three orb-weaver spiders from my garden. Orb-weaver spiders build spiral wheel-shaped webs that are very common in gardens and places with a lot of plant growth.
Opadometa fastigata, the pear-shaped Leucauge, is a species of spider in the family of long-jawed orb weavers. It is found in India and East Asian countries. This species can be identified by its pear-shaped abdomen and the fourth pair of legs with a thick brush of spines. Side view shows a hump formed by the pear-shaped abdomen overhanging the cephalothorax (the structure formed by head and thorax). Gasteracantha geminata is a species of spider, found in India and Sri Lanka. It is known as the Oriental spiny orb-weaver or Spiny-backed orb-weaver, due to the prominent spines on either side of the abdomen. Argiope pulchella, another species of the orb-weavers is seen in India and other Asian countries. The species can be often seen near human habitats. Like other species of this genus, it is a “signature spider”; it builds the web with a zig-zag ‘stabilimentum’ resembling a signature! These spiders build their web close to the ground in order to catch low flying insects.
Grand Canyon, located in the state of Arizona, USA, is often considered one of the Wonders of the World with visually overwhelming size and its intricate and colourful landscape. The awe-inspiring Grand Canyon is a deep gorge carved by the Colorado River through millions of years. We can see a unique combination of geological colours and erosional forms of landscape. These layered bands of red rock reveal millions of years of geological history. The Grand Canyon is a World Heritage Site. These photographs were taken from the South Rim of the Canyon.