The Mottled Ducks which we described earlier in our pond departed for the north, however, there are captive ducks which are noteworthy. My favorite is the Mandarin Duck(Aix galericulata). They are originally from Asia and are very colorful. Perhaps they were named after the elite Chinese former imperial civil service. The name Mandarin may actually be derived from Portuguese.
I saw these in Central Park on Manhattan 45 years ago when I was working at the Sloan Kettering Institute. I was so surprised by their rich color. Due to the female’s lack of vibrant color I did not recognize them. The Mandarin ducks shown here are at the Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs, FL. They are fun to watch and I was allowed to enter the restricted area with staff help to make these photographs.
There is an extensive complex history of traditional formal clothing in China. They were not only fashionable, but also highly regulated by the Manchu who conquered the Han, but were eventually assimilated by them. The Qizhuang design was originally developed to facilitate horse riding and archery. It evolved over the 4000-year history of Manchu influence on the Han and Qing dynasties. It is a highly stylized formal clothing form worn in multiple variations by both men and women. They can be remarkably ornate and colorful.
I really paid attention to the Plumeria when we visited Hawaii 25 years ago. The flowers are used to make leis as a garland worn around the neck especially during a greeting ceremony. There are alternate names for the plants. A common name is “frangipani”. The scientific name is Plumeria Apocyanacea. The following adage apples to my experience in finding them in Florida. “If you don’t look for them you don’t see them”. While biking I noticed a tree that was remarkable for its lack of leaves and flowers. Now my eyes are open and I see them everywhere. Plumeria plants are native to Mexico and Central America.
In the fall the tree starts out with a very unbecoming aspect. It seems to be from another planet. I wondered why anyone would have such a strange looking tree dominating their front yard. Check out previous references to these trees in this blog Blooming Trees of Spring and Trees of Christmas.
In mid summer the Plumeria are in full color and the trees are spectacular. The trees that I found here are better than the trees which is saw in Hawaii. They thrive in the heat and full sunlight therefore many of the transient winter visitors may never see the blossoms.
As you would expect with a name of Apocyanacea, the sap of the plant is toxic.
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Is a palm tree not a tree? In categorizing plants and animals for the Everglades Ark Epicollect5 data base I was conflicted in assigning the characteristics of trees to palms. I have called them palm trees forever but they really look different from oak, olive or other trees. Checking out the definition of a tree resulted in an ambiguous answer.
Featured image: In a spin about palms
Definition of tree: From a technical standpoint, palms fit American Forests’ current definition of trees, as they are woody plants with an erect perennial stem or trunk, at least 9.5 inches in circumference at 4.5 feet above the ground. They also have a definitively formed crown of foliage and a height of at least 13 feet.
This still didn’t satisfy my curiosity. I still wondered why they were so different. Here are photographs of tree aspects to show the physical differences:
Tree landscape view
Photomicrograph of leaves
Common biology of both di and mono cotyledonous plants. Both have chloroplasts for metabolism and stoma
Tree cross sections
Tree behavior to injury
There is no mechanism for healing in palm trees.
All dicots have five petals to their flowers
Here is a list tabulating differences in the characteristics between the tree types.
shallow multiple small distributed
deep, branching with tap root
the trunk is actually the stem which bends
veins beginatthebase, run parallel to the length of the leaf, stoma on upper leaf surface
central veins with multiple arborizations to leaf periphery, stoma on lower side of leaf
stumps of old growth leaves, no structured interior wood
specialized bark covering wood
fibrous without annular rings
woody, highly structured interior nutrient flow system
Comparison of plant distinguishing characteristics
A palm tree is really a palm grass.1 They are monocotyledons. Genetically they are similar to other grasses like bamboo. They are resistant to storm damage fracture because of their lack of a woody interior structure but are more subject to uprooting because of their shallow roots.
Grasses are flowering plants that are members of the monocot class that also include corn, rice, lilies, orchids and palms. Now that I understand what a palm is I can more freely post palm types, flowers and fruits. Later I will show the microscopic view of tree anatomy pointing out differences between monocots and dicots.
This subject opens a wide spectrum of ideas regarding plants. We have already broached the idea of cotyledons. There is much more to explore including the microscopic examination of cross sections of plants and their appendages or stems, roots and flowers as well as angiosperms vs gymnosperms and the role of sexual vs asexual reproduction and seed development.
The micrographs shown here are all done with simple direct bright field and transmitted light. Just wait until we get into cross sectional, stained, transmitted plane, and polarized light illumination!
These Mottled Ducks (Anas fulvigula) are commonly found in my back yard. They are spring residents in most of the local ponds of the community. They are fun to watch especially when the chicks follow the hen. Sometimes these birds are difficult to photograph because they are always on the look out for the Red Hawk which resides near by. The featured photograph is a mated Mottled Duck couple with female on left male on right.
These mottled ducks are very similar to the Mallard ducks in Michigan with which I am familiar. They are easily distinguished by the yellow bill.
Mottled Ducks form pair which bonds earlier than most other duck species. They typically pair in November well before the breeding season which starts the following spring. Male Mottled Ducks tend to remain with their mate well into the incubation period and sometimes later.
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The solution for low production is: light control, frequent water, fertilizer and pest control.
I worked diligently to encourage the orchids to grow this year because of the very poor performance of the last three years. Until last November all 12 of the vandas died. We explored the use of soap applied to control pests. The cattleya stopped all activity and what was left were leafless vertical branches. The phalaenopsis bloomed but minimally. In the face of this discouraging result I developed a new strategy. I gathered all of the plants in a protected but bright area in the courtyard with no direct sunlight and no rain. I replumbed the area to allow a garden hose attachment. I installed a timed, directed mist water spray system and I began an aggressive fertilization program. I used a soap spray to reduce the probability of pest growth. The results were prolific beyond my expectations! All of the plants grew doubling the size of the plants with new stems and leaves. In the home courtyard there are 20 phalaenopsis and 13 cattleya orchids. Most of the season has favored the phalaenopsis species where the plants have simultaneously provided at least 145 blossoms with a maximum production of over 220 during the three months. The cattleya have been growing but less prolifically with episodic blooming from some plants yielding about 30 blooms. They may still produce for the next two months. The cover picture is a cattleya with its second yield this season.
The plants were watered with an automated misting system timed to 5 minutes on alternate days. They have been generously fertilized on alternate weeks. The first blooms came in early February and have persisted until now where I expect all to be lost in the next two to three weeks. The peak blooming period was one week before Easter (approximately March 14).
The Price of Production:
Now that the wet season has begun the watering is reduced and just in time. One plant has its first outbreak of mealy bugs (Coccoidea). These showed up on the crotons on the other side of the yard about two weeks earlier. I removed the crotons from the yard and sprayed them with an insecticidal soap. None the less here we are with an infection showing up on two of the phalaenopsis plants.
I first cut away one leaf that was highest infected and explored the specimen using the microscope. After identifying bugs accurately as mealy bugs. I treated all surfaces of the plants and the surface soil with a thorough spray of 70% alcohol.1 Orchids have succulent leaves and tolerated this treatment. After the alcohol evaporated I followed up with a spray of insecticidal soap.
Plan for next season:
I think this has been a fair trade. Pest control is necessary to counteract the high fertilizer and water schedule. The ants are attracted by the mealybugs’ sugar, therefore, lowering the bug population will lower the attraction of the ants and reduce the spread of bugs. For the summer I have reset the watering timer lowering the watering rate. This is for two reasons. The plants have recovered from their earlier experiences and are now lush. The rainy season will begin soon with humid days. I also reduced the fertilizer concentration but I keep the same schedule. The plants need to rest. This will reduce the growth of the bugs. I will continue the alcohol and soap on scheduled basis to kill any remaining bugs before and during their next hatch. For next season I will Introduce new plants into the colony including dendrobium and cattleya orchids.
There are a few stragglers from the early spring flowering trees. See the previous post on Spring tree blossoms. We now have a new collection of flowering trees that have captured my attention because of their spectacular blooms. These trees are not seen by the seasonally migrating residents nor by the tourists because they have returned home to their residences in the northern States. These are the next group of trees preparing for the new summer season.
I have included five flowering trees present along the streets of the city of Naples. It is difficult to express the overwhelming verdant, colorful canopies stretched over the avenues. A later post will specialize on plumeria varieties.
The cover image is a sample of a Southern Magnolia showing the leaf, bud, blossom and seed pod.
There is a constant change in tree blooms throughout the year here in SWFL. The beauty and adventure of discovery adds delight in the journey. This is the third in a continuing series of blooming trees. All of these are located on the Everglades Ark Epicollect5 data base.
Thanks for your interest. I hope that you enjoy the trip through my eyes. Look for the Plumeria show in a post that is still to come. “Like” if you like it. Comment as you wish.
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Plant paracites are inevitable in the garden and may result in leaf damage and defoliation of the plant. In the past I used chemical agents such as Chlordane, DDT and Sevin. Subsequently I have seen the light and use much less toxic agents such as soap. The active ingredients are potassium salts of fatty acids also known as soap salts. This solution is not toxic to the plant and breaks down without leaving toxic residue in the soil. The soap works only when wet and loses its effectiveness after it dries. Plant watering washes away most of the residual soap. As you will see it is effective in controlling soft bodied insects and pests like these mealybugs. Mealybugs are insects of the Pseudococcidae family.
How to make soap insecticide for insect control at home:
Make your own solution at home. Purchase a bar of unscented lye soap. (About $3.50) Grate about one third of the bar and add it to about double the volume of hot water. Gently stir until dissolved as much as possible. This makes 12 oz (1200 ml) of saturated solution. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t all dissolve. Place this into a storage container with a cover for further dilution down to 1 to 2% solution. For application use an 8 oz (700 ml) hand held spray bottle fill it nearly full of water and add a teaspoon (5 ml) of the saturated soap solution. Spray the plant on all sides with the diluted soap solution once per week or as needed. Repeat once per month for maintenance. Replace equal volume of tap water into the concentrated solution as it is deleted until any undissolved soap disappears. Remake the concentrated solution when the supply is exhausted. Depending on the amount used, this supply of solution from one bar may take years to deplete. There are numerous home recipes on the internet but the main ingredient is soap.
Before treatment look to see if the problem is the result of a soft bodied pest. I use the microscope. You can use a magnifying glass. This observation is made because the soap will do nothing against bacterial, fungal, viral or other parasites. The first line of defense may be to hand remove the pest. Trimming a leaf with early signs is easy. When hand removal is not possible then other agents may be used. Horticultural soaps also known as biorational pesticides can be used. These include horticultural oil and insecticidal soap sprays. Biorational insecticides are typically used to target soft-bodied pests like caterpillars, mealybugs, whiteflies, spider mites or aphids. They provide a relatively non-toxic alternative to conventional insecticides, with few ecological side effects.They can be used on indoor and outdoor plants, including vegetables. Before eating be sure to wash your produce. There are commercially available plant-derived insecticides like neem oil and pyrethrum, and microbial pesticides like Bt. Even with commercial agents, repeat applications may be necessary to get the best results. Obviously I can check the leaves with microscopic observation to see the efficacy of the application. Again, you can use a simple magnifying lens. Be attentive to the weather conditions and the time of year. Cold will also act to control these insects.
The featured images illustrate only one portion of the great complexity in the organization of bird orders. A problem arose when searching for an acceptable naming system that would be meaningful and easy to use. Classically there are thousands of bird varieties with more than 40 orders. This is obviously not going to work for citizen scientists unless they are essentially ornithologists. Alternatively, I selected a new method of ordering birds. Naming of the birds is built on bird “clades” * . This method is based on Avian DNA and evolutionary periods. It covers almost all of the post Cretaceous epoch until today.
For management of the Everglades Ark database I needed to call birds by names to distinguish one from another. I searched the internet resources for a simplified method of naming the birds without individualizing each animal. I decided that this could be done in a two-step fashion. Step one is field observation where a reduced drop down list could be used for organized sorting. The second stage is to enter the common name and scientific name after the field observation.
There is a continuing discussion regarding the classification of birds and which order belongs in which clade. Despite these discussions the organization is sufficient for our purposes. On the Everglades Ark Epicollec5 site the new list of avian clades puts most orders into five major clades listed here:
Strisores — nighthawk, frogmouths, diurnal swifts, hummingbirds other nocturnal birds
Inopinaves — all landbirds and songbirds, including raptors, hawks, owls, toucans, falcons, parrots.
This is based on the following scheme published in Science News:
This illustration shows the organization of the bird orders and their partitioning into subgroups called clades. The illustration continues from Fig 1 lower left to Fig 2 upper right.
Phylogeny of birds:
“The five major, successive, neoavian sister clades are: Strisores (brown), Columbaves (purple), Gruiformes (yellow), Aequorlitornithes (blue), and Inopinaves (green). Background colors mark geological periods. Ma – million years ago; Ple – Pleistocene; Pli – Pliocene; Q. – Quaternary. Clade numbers refer to the plot of estimated divergence dates. Illustrations of representative bird species are depicted by their lineages.” **
It is easy to see that the “green” Inopinaves have the largest number of orders mostly from the Quaternary period. The “blue” Aequorlitornithes has the second largest number of orders and they are from the Pliocene period. I expect that the greatest number of observations will be these two clades.
Because of the DNA portions that each clade share I can speculate that related clades will suffer from virus diseases that attach to the similar DNA and RNA sites. I will surveil the literature over time to see if there are corresponding connections.
GO BLUE! Maybe the UoM should have the armadillo as the school mascot (Defense! Defense!) I couldn’t help myself.
Easier to observe in the back yard than in the zoo, Armadillo are mammals of the order Cingulata where as ant eaters and sloth are from the order Pilosa. Both are somewhat related in classification and are grouped together in the magnorder, Xenarthra. Without careful understanding of the anatomy the distinction can be seen only by dissection. “The lumbar vertebrae are xenarthrous; that is, they have extra contacts (joints, or arthroses) that function to strengthen the lower back and hips.”1 This facilitates the use of the forelegs for digging. The distinction can be seen in their behavior where the primary method used by anteaters and armadillos to obtain food is by digging for insects and roots. I made the distinction in the Everglades Ark Epicollect5 database to make observation data collection in Africa easier.
Armadillos have a really bizarre reproductive metabolism.2 They exhibit “obligate monozygotic polyembryony” where each fertilized egg will divide into quarters to produce four separate embryos thereby giving birth to litters of four genetically identical young. Additionally their ovulation period can be varied depending on available food resources. The fertilized egg may stay in the uterus for about 14 weeks before implantation into the wall for the four month gestation period.
These animals were really clever in their defensive behaviors. They have “armor plated” skin on the outside of their bodies, they have a low metabolic rate and body temperature, Among their defensive behaviors they can curl into a ball shape, climb, swim and jump. They are omnivorous and nocturnal. Although they are not indigenous to Florida they are considered native to the Americas. They are not an endangered species.
You might recall another animal with similar behaviors. Check out Gopher tortoise in the Everglades Ark.
Wouldn’t It be interesting to see ant eaters in the back yard ?
Caution: Armadillos dig holes and eat ground dwelling bird and reptile eggs. Try not to pick them up.
Giraffes are so unusual. They are big with extraordinarily long necks and legs and their coloration is vividly variegated. it is hard to imagine that they are camouflaged in the wilderness. They are one of my favorite animals.
Zoo encounters are interesting reminders of the real world beyond the confines of our daily lives. Nothing in a zoo, however, compares to the sight, sounds, smells and surroundings of animals in the wild. I highly recommend the experience of seeing the wild surroundings of our remarkable resource of four million acres of the wilderness of the Everglades National Park and associated state parks around us. Everglades Ark is my attempt to bring the wonders of it to you. Later this year I will be in Africa to observe and photograph the sanctuaries of the Okavango Delta in Botswana and the Maasai Mara in Kenya. I hope that you will see many examples of how this sample of Africa compares to our wilderness in SWFL.
Zoos which have value depend on money and leadership:
Zoos and nature reserves have several agendas which are not necessarily well understood and not always well directed. Superficially these nature reserve areas are entertainment to the public for a price. The public is invited to see and in some instances interact with the captive animals. It is almost like a circus. They also have another agenda which is to preserve some of the animal species in a protected environment. The price paid to see and interact with the animals is the welfare of the animals and the admission for the public to enter. Zoos are very expensive to operate in numerous ways. The two biggest costs are protection and preservation of the animals and protection of the public. I have looked at the literature regarding the effectiveness of the missions of zoos. The information is sparse and scientific studies are few and not well documented. A small number of zoos are well endowed and have the opportunity to facilitate breeding in captivity, promotion of species survival in the wild, and provide research into physiology and pathology that effects both the wild animal populations as well as humans.
Here is your citizen naturalist participation assignment: Go out and enjoy the wild world around us.
Feel free to participation in a discussion regarding the topics in the comment box below.