Stonecrop Flower

October 21, 2007

Bartram's Stonecrop flower

Stonecrop Flower

The header photo for my blog shows the leaf rosette of Graptopetalum bartramii (Bartram’s Stonecrop), a rare succulent from the oak woodlands of southeastern Arizona’s “sky island” mountain ranges.  The plants are blooming now, with half-inch flowers scattered along a stalk that grows about a foot tall.  More photos of this and related plants can be found on my “Stonecrops and Rock Mat” page:

http://www.mineralarts.com/cactus/graptopetalum.html

“Graptopetalum” means “writing petal” and refers to the red spots and/or stripes that separate this genus from other stonecrops with similar-looking leaves.  The blooms are surprisingly subtle.  The beautiful leaf rosettes have a strong presence year-round, yet they are also quite fragile and the plants are extremely picky about growing conditions.

Morning Trumpet

October 18, 2007

While walking on the beach at Cape Hatteras Point – our pilgrimage to the “utter East” or the “end of the world” – I found two large whelk shells.  Three species of whelks are commonly found as broken beach shells on the Outer Banks.  The Point is one of the best places to find whole shells.  Shown on the left is the Lightning Whelk (Busycon contrarium) which is unusual in having a sinistral spiral – a left-handed opening.  Most snails are “right handed”.  This particular shell retains some of its natural colors.  On the right is its heavier cousin, the Knobbed Whelk (Busycon carica).  This shell is more wave-battered and is stained brown with iron oxide and gray with iron sulfide.

whelk shells

As soon as I picked it up and shook the sand out in the surf, I saw that the larger shell would make a good trumpet, as is done with conch shells.  I didn’t want to saw off the beautiful terminal spiral, but one of the knobs on the shell had several small wormholes in it, so I drilled that out and flared a piece of copper tubing for the mouthpiece.  The fringe is white silk, and the bead is a rusty iron beach pebble.

whelk horn

Islands of the Morning

October 16, 2007

I’ve just returned from vacation, including two weeks on North Carolina’s Outer Banks – swimming in the ocean, birdwatching, walking in the woods, and exploring the mainland swamps.  Each morning we walked down to the beach to greet the sun:

Atlantic sunrise

We walked in the complex old-growth maritime deciduous forest at Nags Head Woods, and wandered in the younger, denser, and more tropical palmetto forest at Buxton Woods:

Buxton Woods

On the mainland, we explored pocosins (pond pines, sphagnum moss, pitcher plants) and cypress groves draped with Spanish moss.  At Merchants Millpond State Park, we rented a canoe for a dreamy paddle around a lake filled with groves of bald cypress and tupelos:

water tupelo

These are Water Tupelos (Nyssa aquatica), which are more common in the Mississippi Valley.  They have large purple berries and their big leaves turn bright yellow before falling.  The Swamp Tupelo (N. biflora) is more common in the N.C. coastal plain swamps.  It likes slightly drier environments but still needs to have wet feet.  It has small blue berries and its leaves turn bright red.  Like the swamp-loving bald cypress, both species have swollen trunks.  But instead of “knees” like the cypress, tupelos a serpentine network of surface roots.

I have many more photos, notes, and memories to incorporate into new art projects, but for now I’m still sorting them out – and catching up with yardwork!