Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Venerable Horse Chestnut Trees

On my Bath walks there are two spectacular, aged Horse Chestnut Trees- or "Conker Trees" as I think of them- that I constantly admire. The first two images show the warty bark of one by the River Avon, the last three an Arthur Rackham-type tree on the other side of the river:

Bunya-Bunya Tree: Cones

Recently I wrote about Santa Monica Treesaver's success saving the Bunya -Bunya Tree in Douglas Park. I have just received a couple of Treesaver emails giving me more information about the Cones.

Treesaver Dan Jansenson supplies this info:

"The cones of this tree contain about 50 nuts, each about the size of a large thumb. In the Australasian regions, the nuts are often roasted or barbecued, popping spectacularly, and then blended with honey for very tasty spreads. They are also used for a unique variation on pesto (as a replacement for pine nuts).

In the old days, Australian aborigines would gather every three years (during bumper crops), harvest the nuts and bury them in the ground. After a few months the nuts were ready to be eaten, having developed soft sprouts."

In a forwarded email from Councilmember Kevin McKeown (the one and only committed environmentalist on the City Council) he describes how 15 cones have now been removed from the tree in Douglas Park, for pedestrians' safety. The largest weighed 22lbs and the smaller ones were softball size. From the tree outside City Hall 21 cones were removed, the largest weighing 15lbs and the smaller ones also were softball size.

Kevin supplied this spectacular photo of the largest cone adjacent to a soup can:

Bunya-Bunya on Foodista

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Roving Reporter: Mariposa Festival

Something that I have a passion for is how the late evening sun can transform a landscape with an incredible glow- I am always chasing after this brief moment. When I was a child, I remember being particularly attracted by the visual image of these lines from the poem "Nod" by Walter de la Mare:

"His drowsy flock streams on before him,
Their fleeces charged with gold,
To where the sun's last beam leans low
On Nod the shepherd's fold."

Equally as a child I empathized with the Aberdeenshire landscapes of the Scottish artist Joseph Farquharson, who totally captured this magic light, regardless of whether it became a cliche.

Because of this, I was particularly delighted when Zac, my Roving Reporter, recently showed me these images, taken when The Proclaimers were playing at the Mariposa Festival in Orilla, Ontario:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bunya- Bunya Tree

Notice of Intent to Remove Park Tree, SM City
Over the years one of my favorite places in Santa Monica has been Douglas Park. Off Wilshire Boulevard, it was only a short walk from my apartment in Yale Street. With its many fascinating trees, its ponds with exotic, iridescent Mallards, Turtles and visiting Herons and Egrets I always found something exciting to lift my spirits in this oasis. I regularly sat with a book and my camera on a large boulder by the pond. I regarded it as MY park.

Because of this I was particularly distressed to read in one of my emails from fellow Treesavers that one of the magnificent trees there was condemned to be killed. This was the Bunya- Bunya tree, Araucaria bidwilli, a native of Queensland- sometimes known as the False Monkey Puzzle.

Suddenly the City had decided that this historic tree- of a genus that goes back 250 million years to the Mesozoic and Jurassic era and can live to 1,200 years and grow to 160ft- was a danger to the public and must go.

The reason? the fruits of this tree- the cones- grow to a massive size in the Fall and can weigh up to 18lbs.

It cannot be denied that if one of these cones fell on one it would be traumatic- however it took Treesavers to point out to the City that there were other less drastic steps they could take- such as the simple solution of fencing the area off during the critical time.

Treesavers canvassed residents in the park, staging a visual protest- with Louise as an imploring Dryad trying to fend off Bill as he attempted a chain-saw massacre while Joe sat singing peacefully with his guitar...Many signatures were collected and remarkably the City for once saw sense and Treesavers were triumphant- the Bunya-Bunya was saved. Congratulations Treesavers!

Ironically, during their research Treesavers had located one of these deadly trees outside City Hall (4th image)...

The leaves of the Bunya-Bunya are reminiscent of its relation, the Monkey Puzzle. The Monkey Puzzle- Araucaria araucana, or the Chilean Pine, originating in Chile and Argentina- has also been having problems in the UK:

These eccentric trees are thought to have been introduced into the UK by the plant collector Archibald Menzies in 1795. All these years they have been regarded as both special and acceptable. However, Swansea has now decided that their sharp leaves are as dangerous to children as hypodermic syringes; so this 150 year old tree is facing the chop. Back to the Nanny State....

Following Photos: Supplied by Louise Steiner except final image from Daily Mail

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fruits 4: Plums and Damsons

Like the Sloe berries, the Plums and Damsons also have a fantastic bloom. First I am showing the charming yellow Cherry Plums growing near the River Avon- once where they grow must have been a cottage garden. These are followed by Victoria Plums and blue Damsons, also growing in the hedgerows:

Fruits 3: Rowans and Hawthorns

And to return to showing both flowers and berries, here I start with two images of Hawthorn berries and one of May blossom:

And here are three images of Rowan berries and one of Rowan blossom:

Fruits 2: More Hedgerows

To continue with abundant hedgerow fruits found on my Bath walks: here are early Elderberries; blue Sloes with their wonderful bloom; red mouthwatering Mulberries; Blackberries and some strange, elongated Crab Apples- anyone know what they are called?
Some of these fruits have obviously started out as domestic trees before becoming wild in the hedges.

Fruits 1: Lords and Ladies

This August there is an amazing abundance of fruits in the hedgerows around Bath- on every walk one discovers more wonderfully coloured jewels ...I will start by showing the Lords and Ladies both as Spring flowers and as they are now with their glowing orange/red berries...

Friday, August 7, 2009

River Avon again

And here's the River Avon in another mood....

A Brown River Avon

The water of the River Avon changes from day to day- or perhaps I should say hour by hour. One moment it can be a deep green and at others a perfect, glassy mirror. For the last few days - as the result of continuous heavy rain - it has turned a rich brown:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Roving Reporter: Vancouver and Skye 2

Next, I will show you some of my Roving Reporter's sunsets- first, three Canadian ones from Vancouver:

Secondly, here are some moody Scottish West coast sunsets from the Isle of Skye- actually photographed at midnight!