Species Conservation begins at home

 

Species Conservation begins at home, in our yards.  Every day we walk over things we may not see because we are too hurried but if we slowed down and looked we would find below our feet (as discussed in other blog entries here) that there is a whole other World of Adventure below our upright field of view, waay down at our feet and it relies on us for its life and very existence. Why should conserving species not begin at home in our own yards?

My yard is a cacophony of tangled native grasses and plants. I have no immaculate, pampered lawn devoid of life…  This half-acre is a vibrant ecosystem that is amazing to get out and explore in.  But occasionally, I miss things..  Those little things hiding at my feet.  Sometimes it takes a strange little teeny-tiny-PINK flower to poke its head up and saying, like Horton’s friends; “I’M HERE !”  This is what happened two weeks ago.

I was walking along in the yard one early evening when I spotted this tiny beautiful little pink flower poking its head up out of the native grass.  It was under a Sabal Palm tree in part shade.  Just a small mass of low growing thick leaves with two pretty little flowers…  Excited, I hit my books looking for an ID.  I went back out into the yard to do a survey, could I find any more of the plants?  I then did several more surveys.  I didn’t immediately see any others so where did this one come from?  Did a passing bird, my hiking shoes or pants bring it in to my yard from CREW? or from other places I go hiking?  Or did one of my nature geeky friends bring it in on their clothes?  It was growing in our sitting area… One thing was for sure, I had to carefully dig it up and pot it so it would not be trampled in its current location, or fall victim of the mower or a nibbling, passing Chihuahua (I have three.)

Its Species name is   Stenandrium dulce (Cav.) Nees  Author Roger Hammer in Everglades Wildflowers states that Stenandrium is Greek for “tight anthers” and dulce means “sweet” referring to sweet-smelling flowers.  It is usually solitary but spreads quickly from seeds and will form dense colonies in container culture – as I have it now.  It blooms all year-long.  Another common names is Sweet Shaggytuft or Pineland pinklet.  It is suitable for growing in containers.  Pinklet grows from Florida to Mexico to South America.

As I was digging the plant up I noticed a root system larger than the plant composed of some tubers.  I was amazed with how large the plant was underground It was an iceberg!  I always say, if you want to learn more about Native plants, you have to grow them!  Watch them, and live with them.  At least that works for me being Dyslexic, I learn and experience things differently. I find immersive, tactile experiences help me to remember and understand things with more depth vis limiting myself to only reading about a subject.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My section of yard the Pinklet comes from is reminiscent of Pine Uplands, with sandy, well-drained soil (sand) so I wanted to be sure to pot it in the same type medium, from my yard.  Not commercial soil.  I water my potted plants with rain water – or tap water that I have let sit out for several days.  I’ve let this little guy sit out in the rain each storm.. to get that extra Nitrogen boost that rainwater provides.  I’m so happy it’s doing well.  I’ve provided several images of the plant so you can see its interesting stem and low growth of leaves.  The little Pinklet flowers reaching out to the Sun…

I hope the next time you go out into your yard, you take a survey to see who is around… what butterflies, birds and plants.  You might just be surprised at what and who you find out in your backyard.  Have no Native plants?  Visit your local Native garden center and bring some home.

TURN OFF THAT TV AND GET OUTSIDE IN NATURE !  

a Little Bird Said: Go Star-Gazing!

I woke to the calls of a brilliant red sentinel Cardinal sitting up in the tops of the Mulberry Tree..  Today I’m planting out Nasturtium seedlings into pots and then  working on tonights Observing session for CREW Land and Water Trust.  Jim is busy adding a new Telrad to the LaVigne  10″ Dobsonian telescope for tonights use.

If you miss this evenings (Feb 9) Public Observing Session (Registration for tonight is closed)  at CREW we will offer another observing opportunity March 9th so if you happen to be in South West Florida visiting, or you live here, consider signing up via this link to attend our Family Star Gazing session.    

What will we see?  Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, various Star Clusters.. Galaxies M31 and M32 as well as pointing out numerous constellations and bright stars as well as telling some star-tails from CREWs beautiful Dark-Sky observing site I simply call Star Gazers Field.  If you go to the above Star Gazing link it will give you all the information about what you need to bring (don’t forget the blankets!) as well as where CREW Gate 5 is located.  Pre-Registration is required so check your calendar for March and include the Night Sky – Star Gazing, in your next family adventure into the Wilds of South West Florida! 

Sentinel Cardinal

Sentinel Cardinal

Make time to see the Stars..

A Star Gazing moment.
South West Florida, All times are in EST.

a Color Star Chart for January to Print out.

 

With the mayhem of the Fiscal Cliff and the rush of the Holidays OVER  (at least for now)  it’s time to make time and do some things to de-compress…  Things like.. take a walk in the woods at a favorite nature preserve, visit a museum, or perhaps just take time out to go outside and look up at the night sky.  Yes, just walk over, turn off that blithering TV, and go outside and look up and relax in a lawn chair or on the ground.  

If you don’t have a good view of the night sky where you are, consider visiting a Planetarium, a State Park, or a local Observatory to Star Gaze from.  Go outside around 8pm and look East you’ll see three bright stars that make up Orion’s Belt all arranged neatly, (from our perspective anyway) in a row.  They are from bottom to top, Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. The bright visibly reddish looking star in the shoulder of Orion is Betelgeuse.  Betelgeuse is one of the largest stars known, with a diameter over 650 times that of the Sun! (It’s overhead by 11pm.)

By 7:30pm as the evening has progressed and these constellations rise higher in the sky go outside again and look for another bright star Sirius, in the Constellation of Canis Major – this is Orion’s dog. Sirius is also called the Dog Star. An easy way to find Sirius is to take the belt stars of Orion and draw a line down toward the horizon. Bright Sirius is overhead by midnight. At 9:49pm the brightest “Star” overhead from Orion is not a star at all but the planet Jupiter nestled up in the V shape of the horns of Taurus the bull.

Below Star Chart image credit is SkySafari for the Mac.

Orion Taurus Jupiter

 

The Perseid Meteor Shower or, The Tears of St. Lawrence.

The Perseid meteors appear to stream away from the shower’s “radiant” point near the border of Perseus and Cassiopeia. Under dark-sky conditions, you may see an average of one a minute around the time of the shower’s peak. Sky & Telescope illustration.

The Perseid Meteor Shower or, The Tears of St. Lawrence
Overnight August 11-12,  2012

 The Perseus Meteor Shower, or the “Tears of St. Lawrence,” occur every year between late July and August and are known to produce views of 100 meteors in an hour.  Of course to see near this number you will need two things in your favor.  One, a dark sky location with little light pollution, and two, you will need to have a fairly moonless night going into the morning hours.  We have the moonless night, with the 24 day old moon rising at 2:21am.  so the best remedy for any lighting issues near you, is to drive out to locate a remote spot to watch the shower from. 

The material that makes up this shower is debris from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle which was  discovered in 1862.  Between the years 1864 and 1866, noted Astronomer Schiaparelli performed computations examining the orbit of Swift-Tuttle and found a strong resemblance to the meteor shower.  This was the first time a meteor shower had been positively identified as being the debris produced by a comet.  

 But what does St. Lawrence have to do with a meteor shower?    St. Lawrence was a deacon of the Roman Church, he was also one of the many victims of persecution by the Roman Emperor Valerian.  In 258AD, Valerian issued an edict that all bishops, priests, and deacons should be immediately put to death.  On August 10th, St. Lawrence, the last of the seven deacons, was also put to death.  St. Lawrence is the patron Saint of librarians, archivists, cooks – due to the way of his death, and deacons. 

According to Folklore, one is to make a wish, or perhaps say a prayer when they see a falling star and it was better yet to make a wish and invoke St. Lawrence to pray along with you upon seeing the falling star.  The falling stars of the Perseids, occurring around the same time as St. Lawrence Martyrdom, were looked upon as his tears and Psalms 8. Domine, Dominus noster seemed appropriate to think of when watching the Tears of St. Lawrence.

Psalms 8. Domine, Dominus noster.

O LORD our Governor, how excellent is thy Name in all the world; * thou that hast set thy glory above the heavens!
2 Out of the mouth of very babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, because of thine enemies, * that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I consider thy heavens, even the work of thy fingers; * the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? * and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 Thou madest him lower than the angels, * to crown him with glory and worship.
6 Thou makest him to have dominion of the works of thy hands; * and thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen; * yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; * and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD our Governor, * how excellent is thy Name in all the world!