Tag Archives: trees

Landscapes from a Moving Car, Part II: California

19 Mar

One nice thing about road trips is that along scenic stretches, a car is a mobile room with a view. But when a long day of driving is on the agenda, it’s hard to stop and admire every lovely landscape. So I put my camera on Sports/Action mode, aim it through the window as we are whizzing by, and hope some of the resulting photos turn out. (Of course, I only do this when I am a passenger, not the driver…).  Here are some shots from a recent road trip from Northern to Southern California, and back.

Old farm buildings near Gilroy

Foggy morning landscape near Gilroy

Mountain landscape with wildflowers near Gilroy

Plowed earth near Monterey                     Mountain and clouds near Grapevine

Red barn building near Castroville

Northern California sunset

Cypress Knees

14 Dec

I’d heard of a bee’s knees, but not a tree’s knees. Turns out cypress trees have knees, as we discovered when walking through the gardens at Historic London Town last weekend. We rounded a corner and stumbled upon an eerie landscape: a tall Bald Cypress tree surrounded by what looked like little stumps or treelets poking up from a blanket of leaves. It was almost as if we had been transported to the Island of Misfit Trees.

Turns out these little* woody projections are called cypress knees, and they are a bit of a mystery. The knees grow vertically from the tree’s roots, but no one quite agrees on what function they serve. Normally, they are found in swampy areas. This Bald Cypress and its knees were in Historic London Town’s Bog Garden–a very moist area, but not one that was under water (or at least not when we were there).  One theory is that the knees may help get oxygen to the tree’s roots, especially in the case of trees that are growing in several feet of water. But scientists who tested this theory found that the knees aren’t very good conveyors of oxygen, as one might expect from what is essentially a very woody stump. Another theory is that the knees provide the tree with stability. But no one really knows for sure; there is another school of thought suggesting that perhaps these knees serve no purpose at all…. Except to keep us wondering.

*These knees are still relatively little — but they can actually get quite tall.

Postcard from Senegal, Part II

2 Jun

After a week of meetings in Dakar, we had a nice opportunity to get out of the capital city and go on a field trip: first to a farming cooperative east of Dakar and then south to the Bandia Wildlife Reserve. It was lovely to be able to see a bit of the countryside.

The area around the farm and the reserve (and in fact, a large part of Senegal) is savannah. The landscape is dotted with the famous baobab trees, which store water in their trunks and can live for thousands of years:

… and also with acacias (new foliage, left; old vine creeping around acacia trunk, right).

On the farm, okra plants were in bloom. I had never thought about okra flowers before (which shows that I have never grown okra)–but I now know that okra flowers are quite lovely–as are the pom-pom like flowers of the Acacia robusta trees lining some of the farm’s roads.
We did not make it to the Wildlife Reserve until the afternoon, when most animals would normally be taking a siesta in a shady spot, but we were lucky to see monkeys, antelope, warthogs, ostriches, zebras, rhinos (from a suitably safe distance), and giraffes.

Ready for Spring

3 Mar

It is cold, windy, and grey here in the Mid-Atlantic United States, and I am ready for color and warmth. Where is spring? In my own yard, there a few small signs: tender shoots emerging from the ground, buds on trees, and increased bird activity. And though nothing has yet bloomed, I was encouraged today when I saw a few promising indicators from around the neighborhood, including a lone daffodil in flower. Here’s hoping my garden will not be too far behind.


Maple Buds

Magnolia Buds