Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Naga Skins

The nagas must be pleased. They have left us gifts—two newly-shed skins under the boxwood bushes in the front yard. Forrest found the first one, then I spied the second. I like to think the nagas were sunning themselves, all warm and happy, and shed almost simultaneously.

I wonder where they are now?

We think they are maybe black racers.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pine Candles Moon

I've heard the new growth on pine trees described as "pine candles," and that's an apt description. For a couple of weeks now, on my way home from work, I've been passing some classic examples, and waiting for just the right time to take a picture.

Tonight was IT, in the evening light with the sun setting behind me and the moon rising ahead, temperatures in the 70s and a brisk breeze that made it feel even cooler.

In another two months, we will be shut up in the house running the air conditioner and fans, and evenings like this one will be beautiful dreams that will, hopefully, carry us through another brutal Florida summer. The pine candles will have turned to green boughs, and these trees will be a good foot to foot-and-a-half taller.

Remember to click on the picture for a better view!

Ferals' Progress, Part 8 (Bill's Stomach)

Yes, Bill..aka William of Orange...is a housecat!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Naga Tree, Part 3

Finally, here's a view of the whole tree. Remember that you can click on the picture for a bigger view.

Naga Tree, Part 2

Here's another view of the Cellon Oak, looking back toward the trunk from one of the branches that runs along near the ground.

Naga Tree, Part 1

Nagas are sometimes said to live in powerful trees, and there's no local tree more powerful than the Cellon Oak, Florida's state champion live oak located just a little bit north of Gainesville.

The trunk is 30 feet in circumference. The oak is 85 feet high, and the average spread of the crown is 160 feet. Supposedly it is visible from space via Google Earth!

One picture can't do this tree justice, because to get the whole tree in a photo you have to back up about a quarter of a mile—so I'll post a couple of shots. Here's a closeup, above.

The Cellon (pronounced SEE-lun) Oak was named for a descendant of one of Alachua County's pioneer families. Painter Angela Hoppe has rendered a lovely image of this tree that graces the poster of this weekend's Santa Fe College Spring Arts Festival.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Purple Wisteria

As long as I'm on a wisteria kick, I thought I'd post a picture of the purple-flowered plant I pass on my way to work every day.

This picture was taken in mid-morning light, which was rather harsh. The blossoms have also begun to fade a little bit.

I learned last year that if I don't stop and take pictures of certain plants within a very short window of time, that chance disappears for another year. Wisteria is one of the plants that doesn't bloom for that long, and our dogwood trees have already started to lose their flowers and leaf out. I saw a big flurry of dogwood blossoms coming down in a breeze just this morning, like dakinis dancing in the wind.

The phlox, however, will bloom for quite a while—pink and purple carpets of wildflowers along the roads and in the old fields.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pine with Wisteria

I couldn't resist posting this one too. For more information, see "White Wisteria" (previous post).

Remember that you can click on the picture for a better view.

White Wisteria

This may become known as the Spring When Everything Bloomed at Once. I pass a tall pine tree on my way to work that is covered in white wisteria, a vine that climbs almost to the top of the tree.

Since I've only figured out how to post one picture per blog entry, I decided on the closeup (above) because it gives a better view of the wisteria's flowers—but the picture of the whole tree with the vine climbing up it is pretty impressive, too.

Wisteria is a member of the pea family, and Wikipedia says there are about 10 species of climbing vines native to the Eastern United States and the Asian countries of China, Korea, and Japan.

I've always loved the purple wisteria, and the little plant we started from a cutting that belonged to my mother's neighbor is hanging in there but not doing well enough to warrant a photo. The white-flowered wisteria is not as common down here, so my jaw dropped about a foot when I first saw this vine on our neighborhood pine tree.

I think in one of my parallel lives, I live in an old wood frame house with a huge porch that is shaded by a thick, luxuriant growth of purple wisteria. In the hot summer afternoons after I come back from the springs, I drink limeade on the front porch and swish the bugs away with my grandmother's heart-shaped palm leaf fan.

I just found out that this vine was planted by my neighbor Bonnie's aunt. Talk about deep roots in the neighborhood! (See previous post.)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bonnie's Flowering Dogwood

My neighbor Bonnie lives in a house that sits where her mama and daddy's home used to be, at the highest point of the glen. She has an unobstructed view of the setting sun and some of the most wonderful wildflowers I've ever seen, and she also has this magnificent dogwood tree that she says is a descendent of the old dogwood she remembers when she was growing up.

She has often told me, "I would never want to live anywhere else."

My family moved so much when I was young that it is hard for me to imagine what it must be like to be rooted so deeply to one place. I am rooted here, now, by love—but that's not the same as loving a place you've grown up in, a place where you and your parents and grandparents and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins once, twice, and thrice removed all have history going back probably hundreds of years.

If I had to choose them, I'd choose two places where I felt rooted growing up. When I was very young, my paternal grandparents' house in Arlington, Texas, was a stable center for family vacations. When I was a little bit older, my roots shifted to my great-aunt and uncle's old house in Orlando, and then to my parents' house there.

As an adult, I've lived in North Central Florida longer than I've lived anywhere else—but the roots I've put down here are very shallow compared to those of my neighbors.

The flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is described in Florida's Best Native Landscape Plants as "One of northern Florida's most attractive and well-loved trees...a showy indicator of spring." Bonnie's dogwood is certainly putting on a show this spring!

If you live anywhere in the eastern U.S. from Massachusetts to Central Florida and west to Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas, you've probably seen this tree and know what a welcome sight its flowers can be after a long, cold winter.