Spectacular Night Blooming Cactus Flowers!

Cactus Flowers Surround Palm Trunk

Cactus Flower Trio

Side View of Night Blooming Cactus Flower

Close-up of Night Blooming Cactus Flower

So Many Cactus Flowers

Cactus Climbed Palm Tree (raccoon on lower right)

Our night blooming cactus put on the best show ever on Sunday night – over 60 huge flowers were in bloom!  This snake vine cactus (Selenicereus pteranthus – Princess of the Night) is only 7 years old and grew from a tiny cutting.  Moths pollinate the flowers.  What a spectacular sight!  (click any image to enlarge)

Spectacular Pincushion Flowers!

Leucospermum cordifolium, Yellow Bird

Leucospermum Spider Portrait

Leucospermum Spider Pair

Leucospermum cordifolium (Perry’s Orange)

Leucospermum veldfire: Close-up of Ribbons

Leucospermum erubescens (natural “bouquet” of flowers at various stages of bloom)

Leucospermum Tango (closed bloom)

Leucospermum Tango (open bloom)

Leucospermum grandiflorum (Rainbow Pincushion)

Leucospermum reflexum luteum (Yellow Comet / Rocket Pincushion)

Leucospermum reflexum (Red Comet / Rocket Pincushion)

The pincushion flowers at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum are spectacular!  These evergreen shrubs in the genus Leucospermum originated in South Africa.  Proteas are one of the Earth’s oldest families of flowering plants.  The flower structures are incredibly complex and interesting, and heavy nectar attracts birds and insects.  Learn more at:  https://arboretum.ucsc.edu/

Sebastian Inlet State Park Beach Collage

Sebastian Beach Collage

We enjoy going to Sebastian Inlet State Park on Florida’s central Atlantic coast.  It is a spectacular place to visit!  The weather this winter has been especially beautiful.  We made this collage of our favorite scenes at the inlet (click on the picture to enlarge and see details).  Info and live cam links are available at:  https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/sebastian-inlet-state-park

Eclipse of the Moon!

Moon Before Lunar Eclipse

Peak Totality of Lunar Eclipse

Last night (Sunday), January 20, we watched the “Super Blood Wolf Moon” Eclipse. It was stunning!   It was “Super” because the moon was passing Earth at its closest point in orbit, so it appeared bigger and brighter than usual.  It was a “Blood” moon because it turned coppery-red during the eclipse.  And it was a “Wolf” moon because in January the moon is associated with increased wolf activity and howling.

It was a crystal-clear evening here in Florida and the sky was full of stars.  The eclipse began at 10:34 pm EST, totality started at 11:41 pm, and the peak coppery-red color appeared at 12:10 am.  What a beautiful sight!  The next total lunar eclipse will not be visible in the United States until 2022.

Bok Tower Gardens at Christmas

Bok Tower and Reflecting Pond

Golden Brass Door at Base of Tower

23K Gold Snake Gnomon Timepiece on Sundial

Pinewood Estate 1940s Sparkly Christmas Tree

Holiday Candles

Poinsettia Courtyard

Orange Bowl with Mr. and Mrs. Claus

Bird-of-Paradise “Red Christmas”

Camellia “Sweetie Pie – Red Stripe”

Red Camellia

Orange/Red Camellia

Pink Azalea

Purple “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”

Yellow Celosia

Beehive Ginger

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake, Wales, Florida, is spectacular over the holidays!  The decorations are beautiful at the Pinewood Estate, and the camellias and azaleas are gorgeous too (peak bloom time is January and February).  Plus the weather can’t be beat!  More info is at:  https://boktowergardens.org/christmas/

Arizona: Life in the Desert

White Winged Dove on Saguaro Flowers

Cluster of Saguaro Flowers

Young Saguaro (100 years old)

Multiple Saguaro Arms

Mature Saguaro (200 years old)

Barrel Cactus Group

Barrel Cactus Flower Smile

Purple Prickly Pear Pad

Reg Manning – Cartoon Cactus Postcard

Reg Manning – Cartoon Elf Owl Nest in Saguaro

Horny Toad on Opuntia Cactus Pad

Desert Spiny Lizard

Sonoran Gopher Snake

Javelina (Peccary) and Twin Piglets

Round Tailed Ground Squirrel

Male Gambel’s Quail

Anna’s Hummingbird on Nest

Desert Pollinators Sign

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly on Red Salvia

White Datura Flower (Moon Lily)

Cercidium Desert Museum Palo Verde Tree

Giant Easter Lily (Red Cactus Flowers)

The abundance of life in the Arizona desert is amazing!  If you look closely, you will see all kinds of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and plants.  

The cacti in Arizona are especially fascinating.  Barrel cactus act like a compass and usually lean south.  Saguaros come in endless shapes and sizes.  They grow their first arm when they reach 75‑100 years old, and don’t reach full size until the age of 200!  They are 98% water and can survive 4 years without a drink.  Bats pollinate the flowers at night, and hummingbirds visit the flowers during the day.  Sometimes little elf owls and woodpeckers nest inside the cactus – it keeps them nice and cool.  Saguaros are so unique and full of character that a funny cartoon book was written about them by Reg Manning: “What Kinda Cactus Izzat?”.

Although the desert may seem somewhat barren during the dry season, flowers can appear quickly after a rain.  The desert is most beautiful at that time!  We are already planning another visit!

Arizona: Petrified Forest National Park

Painted Desert Overlook

Teepees Rock Formation at Blue Mesa

Blue Mesa Badlands Trail

Photography from Crystal Forest Trail

Petrified Wood Bark and Knot Hole

Sectioned Petrified Logs in Landscape

Sign Describing Who Cut the Wood (no one)

Colorful Petrified Wood

Postcard: Origin of Colors in Petrified Wood

Sign Describing Time to Petrify Wood

Painted Desert Inn

Inn’s Glass Skylight Ceiling with Pottery Designs

Famous Mountain Lion Petroglyph

Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs

Petrified Forest Visitor Center by Architect Neutra

Rock Shop Outside Park

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona has one of the best concentrations of petrified wood in the world!  One of the largest logs (Old Faithful) is 35 feet long, 10 feet wide, and weighs 44 tons! 

The trees (mostly conifers) were buried in mud during the late Triassic Period 225 million years ago.  The mud contained volcanic ash.  Silica in the ash was absorbed by the wood and crystallized into quartz over time.  This happened through a process called permineralization – the minerals do not actually replace all the organic material, but instead take on the shape of the cells.  Some petrified wood is so perfectly preserved that you can see individual tree rings, bark, and even knot holes!  Color results from minerals in the ash. In general, iron oxides produce red, yellow, orange, and purple; manganese oxide produces black; and pure quartz produces white.  Since petrified wood is so brittle and splits easily, it looks like someone took a chainsaw and cut up logs across the landscape.

A portion of the Painted Desert is contained within the park – scenic badlands with rocks of every color and hue (blue, lavender, red, and pink).  Vivid layered deposits of clay and sandstone make the scenery particularly dramatic.  You can hike through this landscape at Blue Mesa Badlands Trail.

The Painted Desert Visitor Center (at the entrance to the park off I-40) opened in 1963 and was designed by architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander.  Large windows let the sun in and high walls keep the wind out.  Neutra is famous for his midcentury modern buildings in Palm Springs and Los Angeles.  Nearby, the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark showcases a variety of historic artifacts.  The Rainbow Forest Complex at the south entrance contains the Rainbow Forest Museum, Visitor Center, Bookstore, Gift Shop, and access to the Giant Logs, Long Logs, and Agate House Trails. 

In June 2018 Petrified Forest National Park was designated an official International Dark Sky Park, which means it is one of the top places in the world for star gazing!  If you would like to enjoy the park’s night sky programming or other park activities, more info is at:  https://www.nps.gov/pefo/planyourvisit/index.htm

A kid’s guide to Petrified Forest National Park is at: https://www.nps.gov/pefo/upload/YoungerStudent2006.pdf

Remember, if you want your own piece of petrified wood, please don’t take it from the park.  There are plenty of rock shops outside the park with an amazing selection for your collection.

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