Monthly Archives: May 2013

Bottle Brush Plant

The bottle brush plant, or Callistemon, is a type of flowering shrub. Native to Australia, the shrub is now grown throughout Canada and the United States as both an indoor or outdoor plant. The shrub is popular for ornamental purposes thanks to its red brush-like flowers.

Given enough light, the Bottle Brush Plant will produce upright flower spikes in spring and summer.

It doesn’t actually have petals. Each “bottle brush” flower is made up of bright-red stamens with yellow tips, clustered on flower spikes up to 4 in (10 cm) long. At the top of each fuzzy spike is a tuft of leaves.

Each woody stem is covered top to bottom with long, narrow leaves. The dark-green leaves are pointed at the tips and grow upward, giving this captivating plant a lean, elegant look. They have a fragrant, lemony scent, giving this plant another common name: Lemon Bottlebrush.

An Aussie native, this evergreen shrub will do best with bright sun, warm temperatures and dry air. Give it good care, and it will become a fairly large shrub. However, regular pruning will keep it compact. Dwarf bottle brush plants are available, if you want a smaller house plant.

This image was captured during a recent outing with my CNPA friends.

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Posted in art and entertainment, CNPA, flowers, outdoor, photography

Pitcher Plants

As mentioned in earlier posts, I am a member of the Carolinas’ Nature Photographers Association (CNPA). Just the other day some of us were lucky enough to be invited to a private botanical garden not far from home. One type of plant found there is something you don’t see everyday – the Pitcher Plant! Specifically Sarracenia! There are several species of Sarracenia, nine I believe, as well as hybrids.

Most of the species have erect and tubular pitchers. The pitchers are modified leaves. Insects are attracted to the pitchers because they mimic flowers—the pitchers are brightly colored, and are endowed with sugar-exuding glands called extrafloral nectaries (i.e. nectar sites that are not in flowers). It is significant that the pitcher coloration and distribution of nectaries are usually strongest near the pitcher opening—a dangerous place for incoming insects!

Crawling insects make their way from the ground up to the pitcher opening, where they greedily dine on the large number of sugary secretions on the pitcher lip. Having reached the pitcher mouth, creeping animals are at great risk of falling into the pitcher, and this is of course what happens to a certain, small fraction of the visitors. Meanwhile, flying insects usually land on either the pitcher lip or, very frequently, on the pitcher lid. The nectar glands on the top surface of the lid are most densely distributed along its edge, tempting the foraging insects to the lid’s circumference. There are even more nectar glands on the underside of the lid, so soon the insects find themselves dining in a most precarious and dangerous place—hanging upside down, directly over the plant’s maw.

Despite common misperception, the lid on erect species does not slap closed on prey. The lid functions as a landing pad and probably also as a rain shield to protect the pitcher from being overfilled by rainwater.

Bugs that fall into the pitchers are in serious trouble, as the inner surface of the pitcher is extremely slippery. Furthermore, it is a narrow, erect tube so flying insects (most of which do the majority of their flying laterally, instead of hovering) crash back and forth into the pitcher walls and, loosing control, they career into the pitcher depths. Deeper into the pitcher, downward-pointing hairs on the pitcher walls prevent escape by those prey that try to climb to freedom. The bottom of the pitchers is filled with fluid (sometimes lacking in plants cultivated in less-ideal conditions). These fluids are filled with digestive enzymes. Obviously I have only given you an introduction to what is a much more complicated situation.

Shown below are three different types of Sarracenia that I was able to shoot. I hope you enjoy these amazing plants!

Posted in art and entertainment, CNPA, outdoor, photography, South Carolina

Chile Peppers

During my last visit to New Mexico, I spent some time in the interesting village of Madrid and while there shot the chile peppers that you see below.

Chile peppers originated in the lowlands of Brazil as small red, round, “berry-like” fruits. This location called the ‘nuclear area’ has the greatest number of wild species of chile peppers in the world today. Scientists believe that birds are mainly responsible for the spread of wild chile peppers out of this ‘nuclear area.’ Over the centuries birds developed a symbiotic
relationship with chile peppers. Birds do not have the receptors in their mouths that feel the “heat
” and a birds digestive system does not harm the chile pepper seed. So while birds could go
around gathering up the small fruits and consuming them with no adverse effects,
dispersed seeds would grow into new plants.  Many scientists also believe that chile
pepper plants evolved the capsaicinoids, the chemical that makes chile peppers hot, to deter mammals from eating the pods, thus ensuring the spread and continuation of the species. The fruit of wild chile peppers, when ripe, are easily removed from the plant by birds, however when green will not pull away from the calyx very easily, thus ensuring that only viable seeds are being dispersed.

 

Posted in art and entertainment, New Mexico, outdoor, photography

African Iris

Dietes bicolor comes from South Africa, and is often commonly called African iris. It produces fan-shaped clumps of iris-like, narrow, sword-shaped, basal, evergreen leaves. Flowers appear on branched stalks. In frost-free areas, plants bloom from spring to fall and intermittently throughout winter. Flowers last one day, but are quickly replaced. Each flower (to 2” wide) has three light yellow petals with dark brown blotches at the bases and three petal-like staminoids that lack blotches. Each flower stalk carries a large supply of buds. Flowering occurs in bloom bursts that often occur at 2 week intervals, hence the sometimes used common name of fortnight lily (though it is not a lily). Plants generally grow to 2’ tall. Fruit is an obovoid capsule.

Shown below are some images taken in my backyard! Hope you enjoy them!

Posted in flowers, outdoor, photography

What is a Mandala?

The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself–a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.

Although I prefer to be outside capturing images with my camera, during the times I am inside it can be fun to create various forms of Digital Art. Mandalas are one of these forms.

Shown below is one I did this morning. You can see other Mandalas in the gallery under “Fun Stuff” http://www.billbarberphoto.com/galleries/fun-photography/

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Posted in abstract, art and entertainment, mandala, photography

Just Announced – New Lens from Canon

Posted in photography

Sketch Effect

Last night I was playing with my “sketch effect” and ended up with one that I really liked. 

If you would like to learn how to do this, I have a video tutorial along with written instructions in the “tutorial” section. Or just click this link: http://www.billbarberphoto.com/tutorials/sketch-effect/

 

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Posted in Digital Art, fowl, Fun Stuff, huntington beach, photography

Castillo De San Marcos

A monument not only of stone and mortar but of human determination and endurance, the Castillo de San Marcos symbolizes the clash between cultures which ultimately resulted in our uniquely unified nation.  Still resonant with the struggles of an earlier time, these original walls provide tangible evidence of America’s grim but remarkable history.

The Monument site consists of 20.5 acres and includes a reconstructed section of the walled defense line surrounding the city of St. Augustine incorporating the original city gate. The Castillo de San Marcos’ architecture and detail are distinctive and unique. It isthe oldest masonry and only extant 17th century fort in North America. As such it is an excellent example of the “bastion system” of fortification.

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Posted in outdoor, photography, St Augustine

Gharial

Found this gharial on my recent trip to St. Augustine. The gavial or gharial (common name) has a characteristic elongated, narrow snout, similar only to the false gharial, (Tomistoma schlegelii). Variation in snout shape occurs with age. It generally becomes proportionally shorter and thicker with age. The bulbous growth on the tip of the male’s snout is called a “Ghara” (after the Indian word meaning “pot”), and is present in mature individuals. Two possible functions have been attributed to it: as a vocal resonator (which produces a loud buzzing noise during vocalization) and as a visual signal to females. 

The elongated jaws are lined with many interlocking, razor-sharp teeth, an adaptation to their fish diet. The gharial is one of the largest of all crocodilian species, approaching the Australian saltwater crocodile, the largest crocodilian, in maximum size. Males reach 20 to 23 feet (6 to 7 m) in length.

The gharial is poorly equipped for locomotion on land. Its leg musculature is not suited to raise the body off the ground or to produce the “high-walk” gait. It is able only to push its body forward across the ground or “belly-slide.” It is, however, very agile in the water. The tail is well-developed and laterally flattened, and the rear feet possess extensive webbing.

The gharial has 106 to 110 teeth in the elongated snout.

Click the image for a larger view!

 

Posted in art and entertainment, outdoor, photography, St Augustine