Posts Tagged ‘wild plants’

Poor Images

11 April 2020

With a broken play on words, I introduce some of my photos from today’s trip back from Folsom. Was my camera giving me trouble or was I the problem? Hopefully this question is not important enough to answer at this time…

hummingbird on dead branch

Hummingbirds don’t often pose for me, but one did today. Still, I used all the optical zoom I could plus a crop of the photo to bring this little one this close.

people on the trail

This photo of some of the other trail users features a young man riding what seems to be a giant scooter. I’m not sure if it was motorized.

old cut in river bank

This is one of several cuts into the sandstone bank of the river that were likely made many years ago to facilitate gold mining operations.

manroot fruit

Though this would normally be called “wild cucumber,” it appears to be the related plant Manroot.

deer feeding on young leaves

There must be something in the young tree leaves or flowers that attracts this deer, as forage is abundant this time of year.

head of bluebird

This bluebird was also posing for me in this tree, but I failed to point my camera correctly, catching only its head. This bird is probably here because of the nearby nest boxes put out as part of a habitat restoration project.

jackrabbit running away

Likewise here, I had several good opportunities to get a profile of this jackrabbit, but ended up only with a shot of its rear. I have seen this animal in this area before, but they are very rare in these parts, and I consider myself lucky to have noticed it at all.

the clouds thin

By lunchtime, the clouds started thinning, as predicted. This is at the William B. Pond Recreation Area. Sometimes horse riders come here, as there’s plenty of parking space and some nice short trails.

horses at William B. Pond

This lady told me that the horses like having their pictures taken.

locust tree

I just call this tree a “locust,” but it’s probably a Black Locust. It is in the Legume family, related to the Acacias, Brooms, Clovers, Peas, etc. The flowers are striking as they bloom, but usually don’t last long.

men work on power lines

There are two sets of power lines that run basically north-to-south through this part of the county. I believe this was the “first” set of lines (more to the east). I never see these lines worked on. It is fairly uncommon, as you have to turn the power off to do it, and that’s a lot of power (about 300,000 volts at some hundreds of amps).

sundrops flower

This Sundrops plant was blooming! It’s a yellow Evening Primrose, and I last noticed in the late summer last year.

As I headed into the city, I saw more turkeys at the arboretum, but I already have a bunch of better photos of turkeys posted. Next stop was at the train tracks.

freight train going through midtown sacramento

This line runs through midtown (around 20th) and is used a lot. Fortunately, this train wasn’t very long.

In other news…

The most surprising thing (I think) that came to my attention recently was the fact that the U.S. now has a Space Force. The plan is to make it an independent branch of the Armed Forces, operating under the Air Force Department of the DOD.

I found out about this because I get newsletters from a bunch of electronics trade magazines and sites, and a recent featured article covered the story of how the Space Force is upgrading their near-earth radar systems so they can track more orbiting space objects.

I understand that a lot of people aren’t thrilled with the U.S. decision to militarize space. They don’t want to see space weaponized, as we already have enough trouble with land-based weapons. There is a United Nations treaty to this effect. However, with no space-capable fighters yet visible, these objections seem a bit premature. The current mission of the new branch consists mostly of protecting our most vital assets in space, like the GPS satellites.

There have been multiple stories released since the Air Force Space Command was established in 1982 concerning what might be “out there” besides our own satellites and space probes. No one is officially talking about that these days, though Reagan talked about the “other possibility” at least four times in public, so that keeps the fires burning under the story that there is more to our Space Force than meets the eye.

Space Force Seal in bad taste?

There has been some problem with the logo, or “seal” as it is called, for the new unit. Some Star Trek fans seem to feel that it might have been stolen from that show (late 1960s). However, the show’s emblem was purposely based on NASA’s emblem, which had been around since 1959. The main problem remains that the Starfleet was considered a non-military (mostly) activity sponsored by a federation of planets that had established peaceful relations among themselves. This was a central tenet of the original series, an appeal to viewers to embrace the diversity of races and cultures on Earth and abandon the Cold War and other types of war. With the implementation of our new Space Force, we have turned and walked defiantly off in a different direction, or so it appears.

Here is the “seal:”

U.S. Space Force Seal

Ferns and other unusual plants

28 December 2019
maidenhair fern
Photographed with a Pentax SLR camera on color slide film.

Last week I noted that ferns were springing up along the American River, even though it’s winter. I thought I’d go a little deeper into ferns and other odd plants in this post.

The beautiful symmetry of the maidenhair fern pictured above is unusual even for fern plants. I have always treasured this photo, taken in Ann Arbor when I was in high school, simply for the dramatic pattern displayed by this plant.


I was studying botany at the time, not as a passion exactly, but mostly as a way into the world of living systems and the exhaustive naming and categorization procedures of the life sciences. It had started with a penchant for taking long hikes in then-nearby Bird Hills. I wanted to know what the plants were, so I got into field botany (plant identification). I even did a science project based on it! This park (Nature Area) continues to be maintained by the city and its ecology is probably not that much different than when I lived there in the 1970s.

I found many old books on the subject; most were filled with drawings of plants, which interested me much more than all the theory in the text.

Asa Gray's fern illustrations
Asa Gray’s fern illustrations.

The thing about ferns is that they don’t have flowers and seeds. The leaves hold the reproductive parts, and reproduction is accomplished either on the leaf or on the soil, in the presence of moisture. Once a new plant has started to grow and established itself, the need for moisture may be much reduced, though moist environments are still favored.

And so it is that new fern leaves are sprouting up now, in “winter,” because it is the rainy season.

Typical bracken fern habitat along American River.

These ferns (the “weedy” type known as bracken fern) seem to favor the old rock piles left by the gold miners. These piles of rocks are now 100 to 150 years old, and in the parkland areas have remained largely undisturbed for most of that time.

sun shining through a fern frond, showing the "dots" that can bear spores.
The dots seen on these leaves may develop into spore sacs.

I wanted to get a fern leaf (or frond) with the sun shining through it to emphasize the pattern of spore sacs. By inspection, these have not yet matured on these plants.

Ferns in other places

The common bracken fern lives everywhere around the world, and is the archetypal “fern.” But there are many other ferns. The maidenhair is only one example of how amazing the fronds can look.

My nephew took a trip to Indonesia several years ago and provided the following photos via his blog:

fern of Harau Valley Sumatra
Harau Valley, Sumatra
Fern near Telaga Warna, Indonesia
Near Telaga Warna, Indonesia

There is so much possible variation in this group of plants, as is true of so much of life.

Other interesting plants

pitcher plants
Pitcher plants, Harau Valley

Andy got some great photos on his trip to Indonesia. Pitcher plants grow in many boggy places all over the world, but these are a great example. They are a “carnivorous” plant; they feed on insects that fall into their specialized leaves and get trapped.

Andy with Rafflesia
Rafflesia, plant with largest flower.

Rafflesia, however, is much less common. Andy made an extra effort to find and photograph this specimen is its native habitat. This plant attaches itself to certain vines, then grows this monster flower. It has no stems or leaves.

Another plant that uses other plants to settle on is Spanish Moss. However, it is neither a moss or particularly Spanish. It is a seed plant that grows on trees, probably to obtain more sunlight and avoid getting drowned by floods.

Spanish Moss, Florida
A Spanish Moss growing in Panama City, Florida.

I got this photo while I was visiting Florida as a Volunteer Minister to help with emergency supplies and clean-up after Hurricane Michael.

But for sheer lushness of undergrowth, there is nothing like a young forest’s floor during the warm moist days of a Midwest summer, such as we always experienced in Michigan.

Michigan forest floor
Typical Michigan forest floor, summer.

There are about six different plants in this photo, including the kidney-shaped leaves of Wild Ginger. I’ve never seen a habitat like this in California. Perhaps there are some coastal areas that get close.