Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hot, Loud and Proud in November

 Calotropis gigantea, giant milkweed or crown flower, grows to be a big shrub. It is a weed because it can thrive even in mostly disturbed wastelands of hot and dry areas. The flowers are also waxy in either white or lavender. This white Calotropis gigantea was seen in Batanes, Philippines. It is growing in the wild sandy soil near the beaches. It is also a host for a very beautiful butterfly, whose larvae specifically eats only this plant. (Can you see the very red spider at the rightmost flower?).
This purple species is found in Dubai Desert, which is the only dicot plant found there. The more common plants there are just the monocotyledonous weeds. Also a noticeable difference is the waxy leaves which resemble a thick film cover because of deposited desert dust. The profuse flowers of these plants here somehow tell me they are still happy without water.
Pods develop from those center parts of the flower, and seeds are scattered by winds. References reported economic importance in making fibers and medicinal use. I saw this unopened flowers in Thailand being made into garlands too.

This lump of plants on a Dubai desert knoll keeps sand in this area not to be easily swept by wind. Maybe the area became a knoll because the roots hold the sand firmly there. However, this is an exempted area to pass for desert safari vehicles circling in the desert.

An example of the desert terrain for the safari, which we tried last year. The sand here is orange, and lots of awesome sand patterns can be seen.

For other Hot, Loud and Proud posts please visit Noel's site.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Skywatch Friday of Philippines skies for 26 November 2010

Rosie of leavesnbloom commented in my last Skywatch Friday post she noticed  that we have lots of wonderful sunsets in this part of the world! Yes Rosie, we are getting lots of them, and not only sunsets but sunrises as well. As you will remember in that last Skywatch post there are sunrise frames too.

  Luna Miranda, who is also from this patch of earth, has been posting lots of beautiful photos from her building residences's rooftop. Maybe most of us living in high rises are very privileged to have these views. I sometimes go home early cutting off my office time just to be at the 5th floor for the sunsets. And i want to share some of those afternoons with you.  

Ordinary day view, zoomed out
before an impending rain, and clouds are still a bit far

above is just an ordinary sunset with dramatic clouds, while the following three (3) are real ordinary days and ordinary view of sunset from my window at the 5th floor

Please visit  Skywatch Friday, Season 4, Episode 20 posts around the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Anti-aging plants

Torch ginger, Etlingera elatior,  has long been posted here several times, and by several bloggers. Autumn Belle of My Nice Garden even gave several uses and posted some recipe because the heart of the flowers are considered vegetables mixed in stews in Malaysia.

It comes with many names in different countries, and many uses too. Sometimes it is also called Philippine wax flower. However here in the country, it is not eaten but considered a commercial ornamental plant. Due to the big sizes at the vegetative stage, they need plenty or room to grow, hence they are normally seen in wide landscapes of big buildings, hotels and resorts. And the cutflowers are used in big flower arrangements used also in functions for big establishments; hotels, restaurants, and conferences.  

nicely camouflaging the rock walls of a big hotel, green leaves are also aesthetically suited for this use, as well as backgrounds for shorter flowering plants

The flower stalks come out directly from ground and not at the terminal ends of the plant. This habit lends itself favorably to be used as cutflowers. On the other hand, the rhizomes typical of plants in the ginger family, are the ones planted and also being sold to gardeners.


Flowers at all stages of development are very beautiful, which show already some reddish tinges even at the flower stalks. The above photos show all the flower stages.

the fully mature inflorescence, showing the bracts drooping down at the sides exposing the torch-looking inflorescence

 Aside from its use as food and aesthetics, Etlingera elatior leaves have been reported to produce the   highest antioxidant, antibacterial and tyrosinase inhibition activities among five Etlingera species. Some of these antioxidant compounds are three caffeoylquinic acids including chlorogenic acid (CGA), and three flavonoids of quercitin, isoquercitin and catechin. Source:  Wikipedia

Anti-oxidant properties are the compounds which not only help humans stay healthy, but also help us stay young, active and beautiful. These compounds react with the products of metabolism like toxins, and the much publicized free radicals.

These are some medicinal uses of quercitin:

Quercetin is used for treating conditions of the heart and blood vessels including “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), high cholesterol, heart disease, and circulation problems. It is also used for diabetes, cataracts, hay fever, peptic ulcer, schizophrenia, inflammation, asthma, gout, viral infections, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), preventing cancer, and for treating chronic infections of the prostate. Quercetin is also used to increase endurance and improve athletic performance. Source: http://www.webmd.com/

A lot more uses of quercitin are enumerated here: as in anti-inflamation and allergies, and a lot more.
Source: http://www.supplementfacts.com/BioflavonoidBookS3.htm

For other medicinal properties please visit www.stuartxchange.org/TorchGinger.html


Monday, November 22, 2010

Chicken Pantomime

This is a Phillippine native chicken,  which looks like any other chicken. Ours are fully organic, they roam and graze around the property to look for their food. Most landholdings in the provinces are  not fenced, so they are free to fend for themselves.

When still young they are still vulnerable. Their predators are monitor lizards, cats, crows and hawks. In adulthood,  their only predators are their human owners, especifically us, because we love chicken stew with young chili leaves and tops, immature papaya fruits with a little ginger.

These two think and act simultaneously, the same stimulus above affect them. Look at their heads and eyes.  What do you think made them act in unison?

They seem to have the same thing in mind! They even extended their necks more, inclined their heads further. I wonder why the other one has its mind far away and doesn't seem to mind. Maybe it is deaf, do you think chicken can get deaf too?

I love to call it the chicken pantomime, because for me that is a performance.By the way, I was actually their director, and i really wonder why they looked up, when i am at the same ground level as them.

P.S.  I just posted these chicken photos because One said she love animal photos more than plant photos. And she even further likes it when the animals have the same postures like my previous cats. Maybe she will love this better because chickens are difficult to coach, not even the domesticated chicken. Unless they are performing the pantomime!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Skywatch Friday: 19 November 2010: Philippines Skies

The Philippines has only two seasons, as in 2!!! We are  an archipelago of 1,107 islands, a little bit north of the Equator and the country has 4 major climates, but the seasons are just really 2: the dry and the wet. Dry months are mostly from January to May, while rainy months are normally June to Dec. There are variations of plus/minus 1-2 months, especially with the climate change. There are some areas/regions with longer dry months while some jokingly say that their climate is wet and very wet. But that doesn't change the 2 seasons.  Autumn and Winter are aliens to us.

The skies i am showing here are mostly just before and during the rainy season, which shows more dramatic cloud formation. In contrast, dry season shows mostly clear skies with occasional  white-cottony cumulus clouds, except when it is about to end.

 early morning from Metro Mania via the North Luzon Expressway to Nueva Ecija

 Mt Arayat, Pampanga at the background

 these areas have previously been lahar laden from Mt Pinatubo eruption,
it is now overwhelmingly colonized by these profusely flowering grasses

 A normal sunset view in Mabini, Batangas, Philippines
after a long dry season, this signals the incoming rainy season. There are also deciduous trees in dry climates, but the Autumn colors do not show in these trees, leaves just wilt and fall

bluish haze from the setting sun: Mabini, Batangas

dry season sunrise view in Mabini, Batangas

dry season sunset view at Mt Gulugod Baboy, Mabini, Batangas

a dramatic sky before an impending rain versus a bright blue summer sky of a long dry season

For my friends at the other side of the world, and also those who are near the poles like the Scandinavian countries and Alaska, how do you imagine uprooting yourselves from your country of birth and living in a very different environment and seasons?

Please visit other  Skywatch Friday posts around the world.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cat Gardeners!

Does your cat help you in the garden?

I have a nephew and a niece at home. They are 12 and 15 yrs old. They live with us with my mother. We also have a dog, cats, goats and many chickens. But among them, the cats live with us inside the house.  We have 2 females and 1 male cats. Allen call the male as Pusa, the local term for cats. The females are called Maripusa and Muningning. "Muning" is another endearment term for cats. So you can see that all the names denote cats or "pusa". Allen is naughty, so are his cats. But they love each other, Allen love the cats, and the cats love him in return. You might ask how!

 Eriel a few years ago, now she is 15.
 Kittens are always curious on what people are doing, that somehow they normally become nuisance.

Looks like it is helping Eriel cut the grasses, but when you are not quick you might
cut off its feet when it suddenly lunges on the scissors.

Allen sleeps with his mother and Pusa (male one) has a way of getting to him early dawn unnoticed by anybody. Allen's mom doesnt like cats going to bed, so she always shoo them off before bedtime. However, the cats have silent ways of getting-in unnoticed. It crawls under the sheets, and somehow Allen's hand always find it. So the cat and the hand pet each other under the sheet unnoticed, while Allen was supposed to be sleeping, or is pretending to be so!

The Mom gets off the bed early every morning to prepare for the kids' food and needs  for school. Hardly did she realize that an ongoing rendevouz and elicit affair happened at dawn. She realized just recently that it has been ongoing for a long time. And she can't complain but laughed with it.

 Muningning when still young and naughty, see it picking on the guinea pigs!

 Maripusa (right) is actually the mother of both Pusa and Muningning (on her left)

 They give birth maybe 3-4 times per year, and it became a problem to look for
adoptors. The 2 mothers also have 2-4 kittens per delivery.

 These are some of the weanlings. Allen and Eriel always have some tears when they part with the kittens, but we cannot afford to have a cathouse: aka people living in a cathouse.

The kittens love sleeping like this, or on top of TV or laptops.

The two females almost always give birth simultaneously, maybe 1-2 wks in between. What is unfathomable but remarkable is that no matter who gave birth first, it always is Maripusa (the older mother) who takes care and feed both her kittens and her grandkittens. Even if Muningning gets her own kits out of the box, Maripusa will surely get them back to nurture them herself. And even if Muningning and Pusa are already both adults, they can also seep her milk once-in-a while if they want. And Maripusa allows them to do so. Can you imagine that from a mother! We shoo them away if very obvious, because the small kittens might be deprived of their rights to have enough milk. However, they still go on with their habits. Muningning can look for new mates because anyway her mother takes care of feeding. So she seems to have kits ahead of her mother most of the time.

Obviously, cat culture is very different from what we culturally know. Remarkable maybe, but incredible!

 Allen (left) and Eriel (right) with their kittens.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Drooping Beauties

Heliconia species

These are Heliconia species, spikes are erect, brilliantly colored, the form always associated to an animal form.

There are also H. species which have different inflorescence habits. Because of the length of their spikes, this Heliconia species tend to droop (another drooping Heliconia is the sexy pink shown in Autumn Belle's older post). The longer and bigger the droop, the prettier will be the show. They are beautiful in whatever size, purpose and arrangement you would like them to be. This is Heliconia rostrata.
it is like a crab claw when still young

 newly formed inflorescence against their natural green stems and leaves

strongly shaded lanky plants producing short inflorescence against a rock wall

 as hedge to cover a wall of interlinked wire fence

 with other free growing species in an otherwise untended green patch

...and as a central flower arrangement highlighting an important pedestal

Whatever form, use, purpose, state of plant quality, and arrangements; Heliconia rostrata will always be standing out, even in its drooping form.

This is posted in Todays Flowers

For beautiful photos please visit Autumn Belle's My Nice Garden.

To see a lot of Heliconia species and cultivars (about 44)
with photos, and a thorough discussion on propagation,
growth and care requirements, please visit: http://www.heliconiasocietypr.org/heliconia_cultivars1.htm

Post Script: I removed the 4th photo as it is not a Heliconia spp.
 I just posted it hurriedly as a heliconia because it was next to the heliconia files. My apologies for my carelessness and insensitivity,and my gratitude for Rainforest Gardener for pointing it out.

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