Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Simple garden nooks in the tropics

Many of you have seen this canopy shade (1st photo below) I posted early this year. This is in Rafael Farm, Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines.  Due to the high humidity in the area lots of ferns grow luxuriantly at the edges of the roof. I remember many of you appreciated it, and I am also awed by the growth which i want to emulate in our backyard. However, our place suffers from long dry season, which might not agree to this type of design. Our annuals including ferns and epiphytes die during the dry months.

In another area at the foot of the mountain here, I again saw a small garden with small sheds like the above. It utilized leaves of our endemic palm, anahaw (Livistona rotundifolia),  which is also our national leaf. The base materials for the roof as well as the posts are bamboos, which also grow luxuriantly in this country. 

The topside is covered with mesh nets to lessen wind damage and discourage birds from playing on the loose leaves. However, the edges at the bottom retains water which enhances growth of epiphytes. 

Biodiversity finds its way so easily in these structures. The lower photo shows different kinds of ferns and epiphytes growing favorably. It is not uncommon to see orchids also growing there. 

This is the full photo of the hut placed under the mango tree. It provides nice private area for cozy conversations, picnics or to welcome some visitors. Temperate country gardens can do away with open structures because they normally love the sun in cold weather. In tropical countries like ours, we need protective canopies from our hut sun and rainy weathers. The Araucaria sp near it provided more charm.

In another part of the garden a cozy table and chairs look very accommodating. In this country where the sun is already hot starting from 9:00am, these structures can just be used either very early or near dusk, and at night. But it enhances the beauty of the lawn.

Another nook in the other side of the garden used another style of canopy, this time utilizing a vigorously growing yellow bell, Allamanda cathartica. It gives a very beautiful sight when the yellow flowers are in full bloom. Benches and table are built under it too.

Now, which do you prefer as a canopy on your cozy garden nooks?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Let's go back to butterflies

Butterfly larvae are host specific, i read! There are host plants and there are nectar plants. But i learned producing butterflies the hardest way! I wonder if the old scientists share my experience. Of course, during those times there were hardly any references, so they just started on their own to produce the references. I am wondering, did they also chase them? I did, with some regrets because books now are already available, and web-based references are so easy to locate. In my case, i also have friends who are authorities on butterflies. But time and again I still do chase those butterflies in our property in the province. You might think I am doing that to take photos, but actually not. I am chasing them to know which plants they lay their eggs on. That way, when the time comes for me to make my own butterfly garden, I know which plants I will be producing for a successful butterfly farm. Many times I encounter double problems, e.g. I don't know the butterfly as well as the food plants. And I tell you, most of the time I don't know both of them. That is the time when I resort to the internet and to friends, or to visit established butterfly farms.

Maybe I really learned the hardest way, but I console myself with the thought that scientists long ago, before they were to become entomologists also chased their butterflies. And I have been very happy my own way! Unfortunately, till now I still don't know most of them, haven't started my dream, and I still am scared to touch caterpillars!
Papilio alphenor, male

Papilio rumanzovia

Graphium agamemnon

Above and below: Parthenos sylvia

Cethosia biblis, top side

Cethosia biblis, underside
Idea leuconoe, at the back is Cethosia biblis

Troides rhadamantus

Tagiades japetus
Papilio demoleus 

Ideopsis juventa 'manillana'
a hairstreak butterfly, Hypolycaena sipylus

Idea leuconoe

Papilio demoleus

Clockwise:  Ideopsis juventa (4), Euploea mulciber, Parantica vitrina, Catopsilia pomona, Euploea mulciber (6), Papilio demoleus, Appias olferna (left center), Eurema hecabe (left bottom), Papilio alphenor -female, Junonia hedonia.

Scientific names provided by Dr. Peter B. Hardy

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Foreign Plants in my Files

You from the temperate climates have been posting these flowers a few months back in time for your spring. Many blogs I follow take turns posting these flowers, and I've always been elated at them, even if they seem to be the same. That goes true for the crocus and the gallanthus. Crocus differs in colors and forms, but gallanthus is different, except for some patterns and multipetals. Despite its always drooping habit, it is always beautiful and admired.

Now that you are past posting them, it is my time to post mine. They had long been in my files, but I always think of them even if they are alien to our climate. The story and the habitat behind these photos are so special. They are found growing naturally at the top slopes of the rocky mountains of Antalya, Turkey, almost near the snow caps. When the ice melts these flowers start to bloom and the people in the area hold "The Snowdrop Festival" with festivities, dances, and food. Lots of tourists also come. Being in that city that time, we were lucky to be invited to join a group attending the festival. And i didn't think twice in joining. A three-hour trip to the top is an experience of a lifetime.

Rocky mountains of Ibradi, Antalya,Turkey

 That was my first time to see crocus, gallanthus, grape hyacinth, and a lot more flowers i still don't know until now. They just look like weeds in their natural habitat, but very fascinating. I was also smitten with the white flowers of the wild plums (below). They grow just near the roadsides at random.

I found the above flower in a container in front of a hotel, which magnify its importance. But i haven't been able to know its name. A later comment supplied its name as Lotus bertolii, thank you very much to Veronica of Tassels and Twigs 

Lastly, this is my favorite flower, Wisteria sp.  I found it for the first time in Sweden trained in a habit much different than this one! I was told that we already have this in our country, but was observed to be invasive, which stopped me from planting it.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cont'n of the Plant that Gave me a Head Swirl

The head swirling almost stopped, but a scientist somehow is always a scientist, at least in curiosity! Just like a gardener who always find ways to plant something, the curiosity of a scientist stays with them far beyond their work in the laboratory. My work as a scientist stopped long ago, but the curiosity remains, and maybe permanently embossed in me till the next lifetimes!

I have told you in the previous post that my 'mystery plant' will now be getting extra attention. Not only you, my blogger friends, were involved in its identity crisis. But non-blogging friends were also in the sidelines. In fact, Rico, who has stopped blogging helped me look for the book that i have been looking for years. All editions were sold out but i still am hoping to find one. He asked all bookstores he went to and fortunately was told by a bookstore in the Mall of Asia that a bookstore in the Global City still has one last copy. I immediately called a friend living in Serendra One, near that bookstore to please buy it for me. She got it, exactly the book i am looking for: The Pictorial Cyclopedia of Philippine Ornamental Plants. I feel so lucky to have friends who can make things happen!

So it is Floridagirl, who gave me the link to Proiphys amboinensis or P cunninghamii. Reading lots of articles further led me to John & Jacq~s Gardenwho previously also believed it was a hosta. She took care of her plant for 7 years before it flowered in 2009, and next flowering was after another 2 years. She also explored the seed production and germination, which took 6 months to finally see the seedling. She also had wonderful experiences in searching for its identity, even approaching a European hosta taxonomist! I now believe it really is a very special plant.

She has several wonderful posts about P. amboinensis, and honestly, I admit, she has better photos than mine. In fairness to me, I was able to see my plant for just one weekend, while in her case her plants are in her home. But, I really salute her lovely photos.These are her posts.

I admit i still have questions. I wonder why i still cannot just keep my mind contented. Jacqui's photos and descriptions in the Australian Botanic Gardens show greener leaves for the P. amboinensis. My plant has lighter green leaves. I wonder if it is the effect of too much shading or really its characteristics. Only 4 species comprise this genus, one of them is P. alba. This is described to have shiny, light-green leaves, however no images are available on the net. but the description looks like mine. However, it was not reported to be included in the species originating both from Australia and Southeast Asia. It looks like i still have problems.

Then, Rico's comment said it is Eurycles amboinenensis, getting it from the Pictorial Cyclopedia of Philippine Ornamental Plants. The book says it is endemic to the Philippines, and the author Madulid is a botanist-taxonomist. I found Eurycles amboinensis is an older name for Proiphys amboinensis, a term after the island of Ambiona, now Ambon, in Indonesia. Common names include Cardwell Lily and Northern Christmas Lily, because it flowers around this time in temperate countries. Of course its endemicity is Australia, and Southeast Asia including Indonesia and the Philippines. According to Mona Lisa Steiner in Philippine Ornamental Plants, it is found in Luzon, Mindoro, Palawan, Malaysia and North Australia. I learned from my mother that it is called "katunggal" in Tagalog. She was the one who got the bulbs from her ancestral house because of its medicinal values.

I rest my case!!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Plant giving me a head swirl

Just like the orange Hippeastrum, this plant has been in our property through ages. That means it is already in our backyard even before I set my eyes on plants. It never receive fertilizer, water or nice attention. I even do not care even if it's eaten by stray animals, or strangled by noxious vines during the rainy season, when the yard clearly typifies what Charles Darwin described as "survival of the fittest". However, at the deep convolutions of my consciousness, I know it is present in the garden somewhere. My previous years had been involved with orchids, not much minding any other plant to be in my garden. I've been so enthralled with them, had an episode of collecting whatever comes at sight, as long as i can afford it. I always have an orchid at hand whenever i return from out of town trips. Then my enthusiasm faded, gave up all of them, and just helped some friends who build their own collections. 

Here comes the blogging craze, and i am introduced to so many plants from around the world which are alien to me. Subtropical and temperate climate plants and flowers amaze me. Will you believe that i have an encyclopedia of temperate flowers, but can't have a hold of its tropical counterpart! And that is how my head swirl with this plant i am telling you. 

I saw it flowering after the first heavy rains. Because i have been seeing hostas in blogposts, I just believe i have a hosta. It has the same leaf shape and flower stem as hostas. However, I cannot just call it a hosta because further readings even seem to get me out of my belief. Then I serendipitously come in contact with Lily of The Suburban GardenerShe is a lily enthusiast with lots of hosta collection. I sent her my photos for ID, which she graciously thought of either a Hosta  plantaginea or a Eucharis grandiflora. I searched more and with some trepidation decided it is not a hosta, basically because it has a bulb and not stolons. Then comes Eucharis, which turned out to have lots of genus and species. I am at the dead end. Search, read, search and read again. I came across a very nice scientific literature describing Eucharis versus Caliphruria ( This 2nd term is really a very new term even for my subconscious.  I opened my photos and completely compare it with the net photos.  

It is very difficult to choose the characteristics that differ between the two. It is good i can somehow recall some technical terms from Botany class ages ago! Eucharis has curved perianth, while Caliphruria has straight perianth. This unusual term for laymen is the fused structure comprising the base of the flower, just like a petiole. Clearly, my specimen has straight perianth. is a Caliphruria!!! And what species it might be? Caliphruria has only 4 species, but it did not give the images for them. They are even endangered and one species is thought to be extinct. Suffice it to say i am happy calling my heirloom plant as Caliphruria sp. This is already safe! Great, i can have a steady head now. And i learned it is not endemic but from South America, how it came over? Blame it to our colonizers, the Spaniards and Portuguese, who brought a lot here including this Caliphruria. 

But it doesn't mean I will stop there. Please help me give its proper identity. Thank you. I can rest in peace now! I wish Phil Gates of the digitalbotanicgarden will help me for the ID. 

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