Cholla Flower Cluster

Cholla Flower Cluster

This interesting photo is of a cluster of cholla flowers in bloom just behind the wall next to the little wash. I liked the appearance of the crimson-tipped yellow flowers framed by the spiky stems of cactus.

Our friend, Crotalus tells us that this is a buckhorn cholla and that there are dozens of varieties of the cylindropuntia family of cacti. Click on the image to enlarge.

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First Color Image of the Pluto/Charon System

nh-first-pluto-charon-color-image.jpg

NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto released this image yesterday of planet Pluto and it’s satellite Charon. The distance between the imaging spacecraft and the two objects was about 71 million miles when this photo was taken.

At first glance, the colors appear to be quite close to those depicted in space artist Dan Durda’s 2001 illustration (commissioned by NASA) of the planetary system panorama seen here. The reddish color of Pluto is brighter than its grayish companion. Click on the image to enlarge.

New Horizons at Pluto

NASA Press Release:

First Pluto-Charon Color Image from New Horizons

This image of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was taken by the Ralph color imager aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on April 9 and downlinked to Earth the following day. It is the first color image ever made of the Pluto system by a spacecraft on approach. The image is a preliminary reconstruction, which will be refined later by the New Horizons science team. Clearly visible are both Pluto and the Texas-sized Charon. The image was made from a distance of about 71 million miles (115 million kilometers)—roughly the distance from the Sun to Venus. At this distance, neither Pluto nor Charon is well resolved by the color imager, but their distinctly different appearances can be seen. As New Horizons approaches its flyby of Pluto on July 14, it will deliver color images that eventually show surface features as small as a few miles across.

Some of us have been waiting for fifteen years to see the images from New Horizons. We’re looking forward to seeing more as the spacecraft looms closer.

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Ring of Tiny Pink Cactus Flowers

Tiny Pink Flowers

This nice little barrel cactus (species unknown) has almost a complete ring of flowers around its crown. Each station where a flower bud appears can be traced back to the crown of the cactus by following the smooth curves that connect the fuzzy peaks along the top. Click on the image to enlarge.

Bob posted some information about mathematical formations in nature along with a photo of this very cactus without flowers a couple of years ago. Just like in the image above, the post showed examples of Fibonacci spirals, both natural and man made.

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Goldfinch Feeding Frenzy

Goldfinch Feeding

Well, not in the shark sense, but today I was in the courtyard with the camera and telephoto lens looking for photo targets of opportunity. All of a sudden several goldfinches were competing for perches on Damsel’s feeder out front. I got this lucky shot while the competition was still on. Shortly after I took the photo, the birds had all settled on the six available perches and were calmly picking seeds out of the feeder.

Camera: Canon EOS Rebel SL1 - Focal length 300mm - F5.6 - ISO 200 - SS 1/400 sec. The range was about 10 yards. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Mexican Bird of Paradise

Mexican Bird of Paradise

We don’t have any of these in our inventory, but it might be nice to get one or two of them out in the west rock and cactus garden. they take up a bit more space than the Red Bird of Paradise which we have in the courtyard. A couple of the latter are beginning their annual new growth to become the four foot high shrubs with similar but brighter flowers than above. Click on the image to enlarge or click on the like to see the new growth.

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Presidents in Uniform

Presidents in Uniform

Found this on Fecesbook™. Submitted without further comment.

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Prickly Pear Cactus Flowers

Orange Yellow

When we were in town the other day, we took a roundabout way home along a street known to have a lot of prickly pears in the homes’ landscape gardens. I was not disappointed when I saw that a few of their flowers had begun to open.

I couldn’t tell you which variety of prickly pear (opuntia) these were on, but they differed in flower color, paddle color and needle arrangements. The flower on the left is deep orange in color (it looked reddish from a distance) and the one on the right is a more common yellow color. Click on either image to enlarge.

Other than the beavertail variety, none of the prickly pears in our yard have open flowers, but there will be some for sure. I’m looking forward to seeing the flowers open on our lawyer’s tongue cactus that currently has several flower buds for the first time since we planted it in the rock and cactus garden.

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Easter Lily

Easter Lily

This Easter lily flower opened up just in time for the holiday. Most of the plants that were available in the store were either far from opening or already open and wilting. I was lucky to find this one that was just about to open and, lucky for us, opened yesterday. Click on the image to enlarge.

We hope everyone had a very good Easter and Passover.

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Easter Deal

Easter Deal

The bungling of foreign policy has never in the history of this country been such a joke as the current administration makes it to be. I love Ramirez’ cartoon likening the idiot Kerry to a pink bunny while dancing on a carpet that is embroidered “Stupid is as stupid does.” It made me laugh out loud. Click to slightly enlarge the ‘toon.

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Ocotillo Flowers Coming

Ocotillo Flowers Coming

We had the landscape guys replace the old ocotillo cactus that was in front of the house outside of the courtyard last year because it was dead. The new one is in the same place and is showing every sign of being a viable addition to our xeriscape.

Springtime is when many of the desert cacti get flowers and the ocotillo is no exception. The photo at the right shows the top of one of our ocotillo.s canes with the makings of a cluster of flowers. The inset shows a cluster that I photographed downtown yesterday. Click on the image to enlarge.

I am very excited to finally have ocotillo flowers. The old ocotillo never produced much of anything in the way of leaves nor flowers before it gave up the ghost last year. It once tried to have a flower, but it dried up and broke off before really becoming one.

Here are a few factoids about ocotillos from Wikipedia:

Fouquieria splendens (commonly known as ocotillo, but also referred to as coachwhip, candlewood, slimwood, desert coral, Jacob’s Staff, Jacob Cactus, and vine cactus) is a plant indigenous to the Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Desert in the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

Ocotillo is not a true cactus. For much of the year, the plant appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks, although closer examination reveals that the stems are partly green. With rainfall the plant quickly becomes lush with small (less than 1 inch) ovate leaves, which may remain for weeks or even months.

Individual stems may reach a diameter of 2 inches at the base, and the plant may grow to a height of 30 feet. The plant branches very heavily at its base, but above that the branches are pole-like and only infrequently divide further, and specimens in cultivation may not exhibit any secondary branches. The leaf stalks harden into blunt spines, and new leaves sprout from the base of the spine.

The bright crimson flowers appear especially after rainfall in spring, summer, and occasionally fall. Flowers are clustered indeterminately at the tips of each mature stem. Individual flowers are mildly zygomorphic and are pollinated by hummingbirds and native carpenter bees.

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