Sunday, April 29, 2012

Binomen Art - Tillandsia usneoides

 Binomen Art - Tillandsia usneiodesBinomen Art - Tillandsia usneiodes with Digital Assist

Besides being struck by the architecture and ambience of the French Quarter, we couldn’t stop drooling over the beautiful, and quite large, Live Oak trees (Quercus virginiana) in New Orleans. Of course, great examples can be found in parks and, in particular, in Audubon Park and City Park, two parks we visited.

On many live oaks you will find Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) and Resurrection Fern (Pleopeltis polypodiodes). The Spanish Moss sways in the breeze giving the massive trees a gentle and dreamy look.

City Park has some of the oldest Live Oaks in the world, some between 600 and 800 years old! Inside City Park, next to the New Orleans Museum of Art there is a beautiful sculpture garden with free entry, The Sdyney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, where we attempted to spell out Tillandsia. A large branch full of T. usneoides was lying on the ground and this is where we gathered the spelling material.

The genus Tillandsia is “[n]amed in honor of the Swedish physician Elias Erici Tillands (Tillander, Tillandz, Til-Landz, Til-Lands), 1640-1693, botanist, Dr. med. Leiden 1670, professor of medicine at Åbo, wrote Diputatio de atrophia.” [Quattrocchi]. The species epithet, usneoides, refers to the fact that this plan ressembles Usnea, a lichen. T usneoides is in the Bromeliacea (the bromeliad) family and includes terrestial plants like the pineapple and epiphytic plants like T. usneoides which gather water from their leaves.

Spanish Moss on Oak with Arnaldo Pomodoro (1926 - ) - Una Battaglia (A Battle) 1971
The Sdyney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Arnaldo Pomodoro (1926 - ) - Una Battaglia (A Battle) 1971

Spanish Moss on Oak with Gaston Lachaise (1882 - 1935) - Heroic Man, 1930-34
The Sdyney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Gaston Lachaise (1882 - 1935) - Heroic Man, 1930-34

Tillandsia usneoides Flowers, Right with “Average?” Thumb for Scale
Tillandsia usneiodes Flowers

Live Oak Information – City Park Botanical Garden, New Orleans
Live Oak Information – City Park Botanical Garden, New Orleans

Head of Spanish Moss

Soholm Pottery and Arisarum proboscideum

Soholm Pottery and Arisarum proboscideum
The three Soholm pottery pieces featured here are a cylindrical blue vase (marked Denmark Stentoj 3314 and 3317, a factory “second”), a tapered blue bottle-vase (marked Denmark Stentoj 3313 on the bottom), and small blue jug (marked Denmark Stentoj 3310). Soholm (Søhoelm) was a ceramic factory on Bornholm (a Danish Island in the Baltic Sea). The factory was founded in 1835 and closed in 1996. From what we’ve gathered, these stoneware pieces (Stentoj means stoneware) are designed by Maria Philippi as part of a 1963 series called Nordlys (Northern Lights). The series features a raised pinwheel with brown accents.

The Soholm pottery in this pots and plants piece is placed in front of our ever-spreading patch of Arisarum proboscideum. The patch started as a little clump over 10 years ago, surviving a house remodel, a fence replacement and much trampling. The patch is in a north exposure location with no direct sunlight, evenly moist soil, and otherwise no special care. In the photos you can see that we have hazelnut shells for groundcover.

The common name of A. proboscideum is Mouse Tail Plant and one look at the inflorescence gives a clue why. The inflorescence (usually hiding under the sagittate leaves) have very long and tapered, maroon-colored spathes “suggestive of the tail and hindquarters of a mouse.”* The spathe is a large bract or several bracts subtending and enclosing the actual flowers. Cutting away part of one inflorescence reveals the spadix - a spike with the actual flowers on it, female at the bottom, followed by some male flowers further up. At the tip of the spadix is the part called the appendix which for A. proboscideum is spongy and white. In the Deni Bown book Aroids: Plants of the Arum Family (1988) on page 69 in the section called “The aroid that thinks it’s a mushroom” we find out more about the spongy appendix.

“Inside is the crooked spadix with a few female flowers at the base and a larger number of male ones above. Then, fitting exactly into the hood of the spathe, there is an appendix which is spongy and white - a perfect replica of the underside of a fungus. Its faint mushroomy scent attracts female fungus gnats.”

Once deceived, the gnats lay eggs in the spongy part and then end up in the base, transferring pollen carried from another inflorescence.

A. proboscideum is a member of the Araceae family - or Arum family - one of our favorite plant families. Alas, A. proboscideum is native to Spain and Italy. For the etymology of this binomial name see Arisarum probscideum - Mouse Tail Arum.

For more Soholm pottery examples, see Soholm Blue Series and Helleborus or the full pots and plants page.

Arisarum proboscideum with Soholm Potter (left) and Pottery Marks (right)
Soholm Pottery and Arisarum proboscideumSoholm Pottery marks

Arisarum proboscideum Flowers (left) and Flowers Dissected and Labeled (right)

A. proboscideum and Deni Bown’s Aroids

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Balconies and Bright Colors of the French Quarter, New Orleans

French Quarter Balconies Series 1

We spent just a few days in the French Quarter but were immediately struck by its fascinating architecture. Most of the quarter’s architecture was built during the Spanish rule over New Orleans, a relatively short 40 years from 1762 to 1803. There are plaques in the walls of buildings in the French Quarter that give the Spanish names of the streets when New Orleans was the Capital of the Spanish Province of Luisana. From Wikipedia:

The Great New Orleans Fire (1788) and another great fire in 1794 destroyed most of the Quarter's old French colonial architecture, leaving the colony's new Spanish overlords to rebuild it according to more modern tastes—and strict new fire codes, which mandated that all structures be physically adjacent and close to the curb to create a firewall. The old French peaked roofs were replaced with flat tiled ones, and now-banned wooden siding with fire-resistant stucco, painted in the pastel hues fashionable at the time. As a result, colorful walls and roofs and elaborately decorated ironwork balconies and galleries, from both the 18th century and the early 19th century, abound. (In southeast Louisiana, a distinction is made between "balconies", which are self supporting and attached to the side of the building, and "galleries" which are supported from the ground by poles or columns.)*

It is those pastel stucco walls and balconies and galleries that caught our eye. The architectural scale and playfulness feels right. They are in such contrast to the cold, blocky business district which butts up against the French Quarter. So be it. Old meets new. Perhaps the French Quarter really just stirred memories of the countless, pleasant hours we spent wandering Italian towns and villages? Here we assembled some dreamy photos (just like the Spanish moss swaying in the breeze on the live oaks) - always looking up at the balconies. Most of the photos were taken in the French Quarter and just a few in the warehouse district.

Plaque Recalling the Name of a Street When Spain Ruled

French Quarter Balconies Series 2

French Quarter Balconies Series 3

French Quarter Balconies Series 4

French Quarter Balconies Series 5

Monday, April 23, 2012

Abbey Road Mural - Golden Oldies Records

Abbey Road Album Cover (left) and Mural (right)
Abbey Road Album CoverAbbey Road Mural - Golden Oldies Records
While you are are eating a Dick’s Burger on 45th in Wallingford, you might notice this rendition – across the 2nd Ave NE - of the Beatles’ famous album cover which is on the west wall of Golden Oldies Records. Of course, the album depicted is Abbey Road, the 11th studio album by the Beatles. The graffiti on the east side of the building (you would see this if you are eating at the Rancho Bravo Taco tent) featuring Mr. Magoo, is to our eyes, more pleasing. No burgers or tacos were consumed for this blog entry.

Here's a blurb about the creation of the mural.

Golden Oldies Abbey Road Mural
Abbey Road Mural - Golden Oldies RecordsAbbey Road Mural - Golden Oldies Records
Golden Oldies Mr Magoo and Colorful Graffiti
Golden Oldies Mr Magoo and Colorful GraffitiGolden Oldies Mr Magoo and Colorful Graffiti
Happy Musical Notes
Happy Musical Notes - Golden Oldies

Monday, April 16, 2012

Binomen Art - Rosmarinus

 Binomen Art - Rosmarinus
The same botanical art accomplices that helped out on Binomen Art - Cycas revoluta, helped out on this spelling of Rosmarinus officinalis, known of course as Rosemary. Quattrocchi says: the origin of the name is “Latin for the plant, from ros, roris ‘dew’ and marinus ‘maritime,’ ros marinus, ros maris, marinus ros; see Carl Linnaeus, Species Planataurm, 23. 1753 and Genera Planatarum Ed. 5. 14. 1754;” Wikipedia goes further to say that it has this name because in “many locations it needs now water other than the humidity carried by the sea breeze to live.”

This particular shrub is at least ten feet by ten feet with a maximum height of about four feet. Who knows if it is one plant or many? Or, what cultivar it is. A brick border separates the rosemary form artificial turf in a Henderson, Nevada back yard.

Contemplating Rosemary (left), Rosemary Sprigs Touching (right)
Binomen Art - RosmarinusBinomen Art - Rosmarinus

Binomen Art - Fouquieria splendens

Binomen Art - Fouquieria splendensBinomen Art - Fouquieria splendens - the plant
While most people are hanging out on the strip while in Las Vegas, Travelmarx is hanging in and around Henderson, southeast of Las Vegas at La Nonna’s house. At the edge of her yard there is this huge ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens. What a striking plant. F. splendens, known as ocotillo, desert coral, coachwhip and other imaginative names is not a cactus although it grows alongside them. F. splendens is native to the Sonoran Desert, growing in open, rocky areas. They are easy to spot because they grow moderately large (up to 30 feet) and almost always have a pleasing and distinctive vase shape to them. The plant does have true leaves (hence it is not a cactus) but from a distance it’s all about those branches (which sometimes look like arms) and the clusters of brightly colored flowers.

The genus name Fouquieria honors the French physician Pierre Fouquier (1776 - 1850). The species epithet splendens is named, well, because it is splendid! The interesting question is where the common name, ocotillo, comes from. According to Merriam Webster the origin of ocotillo is from the “Mexican Spanish, diminutive of ocote, a resinous pine tree (Pinus montezuma), from Nahuatl ocotl pine, torch made of pine. First known use: 1856.” So, taking a guess, the common name likely refers to the brightly colored flowers that resemble a lit torch.

In these photos of binomen art, we dismantled one flower cluster to spell out the name. We tried first with old twigs but the wind kept blowing the letters away. (Apparently the fresh flowers can be used in salads and have a tangy flavor. We did not try them!)

The Work Wall (left) and the Ocotillo Inflorescence – Panicle (right)
Binomen Art - Fouquieria splendens

Ocotillo Inflorescence on a Branch (left) and a Branch Close Up (right)Ocotillo Inflorescence Ocotillo Branch Up Close