Studies of [South African?] plants by Robert Jacob Gordon, 1777-86 (via Rijksmuseum)
Sometimes the best botanical art is the type you can’t identify. Our triennial exhibition Weird, Wild, & Wonderful, opening April 19, brings together new pieces in the tradition of these older works. It makes you realize how nature must have looked to the earliest explorers. ~LM
Guzmani bromeliad. While cultivated as house and garden plants, bromeliads are native to the tropics and subtropics. It its native habitat the pools of water that collect around its leaves provide a home for insects and amphibians. Picture credit: Cliff
Plenty of these guys in the Conservatory to round out The Orchid Show (closing April 21!). It takes a certain kind of plant to avoid being upstaged by the orchids. ~LM
This one has a bit of an edge to it ~LM
Meet the pollen-gilded bat (Phyllonycteris poeyi), really living up to its name. This species, from eastern Cuba, has specialised fur that grips onto pollen, creating a very handy moveable feast.
At the risk of alienating those among our followers who are bat-haters, look at this dude. Also known as the Cuban flower bat, its wingspan can actually reach 14”. The flower it’s sitting in (Talipariti elatum) just happens to be a relative of the already large-bloomed hibiscus. Not exactly a bumble bee of a bat, sizewise. —MN
Serotiny is a phenomenon among seed-bearing plants, wherein the release of the seed is triggered by a specific set of environmental conditions. The most common form of serotiny is pyriscence, that is, when the release of seeds is contingent upon the presence of heat, or fire.
Above, a Jack Pine cone opens when heated. This is due to the resin, which had sealed the cone shut, melting.
At times like this, with droughts ravaging parts of the country and wildfires a daily threat, it can be hard to remember that nature still carries some contingencies for good outcomes in its back pocket. —MN
Weird is good, I say. And this spring, we’re going full-tilt weird (at least botanically speaking). On April 19, we’re throwing open the doors on a brand new art exhibition that embodies the stranger side of plants. Through a partnership with the American Society of Botanical Artists, Weird, Wild, & Wonderful showcases the results of a challenge made to a global community of painters, illustrators, and more: look beyond the simple flower.
The result is both visceral and beautiful. Head through for more info on this bizarrely enticing exhibition. —MN
(Contributing artists, clockwise from top left: Ann S. Hoffenberg, Akiko Enokido, Nancy Gehrig, and Asuka Hishiki)
Late Night Special: Old Douglas Fir Woodpeckers Covered With Acorns
Acorn woodpeckers spend their time collecting acorns, drilling holes in firs, and then popping the acorns in the holes for safe keeping. This is the most extreme example I’ve seen to date, with hundreds of holes on every surface, including the underside of the limbs!
(Mount Tamalpais, California - 4/2014)
I suspect these little miscreants would be a nightmare for our arborists and groundskeepers. Aside from trees, they’ve been known to create acorn “granaries” in just about anything they can punch holes in—buildings, fenceposts, etc. Lucky for us they’re westerners through and through. —MN
In the right light, even a raucous grackle exudes a quiet beauty. Just be glad this photo doesn’t come with a soundtrack. —MN
(Photo by our dear friend and Visitor Services Attendant, Pat Gonzalez.)
What’s Beautiful Now?
Those long-dawdling hints of spring sneaking their way up from the underbrush. The Rock Garden is just beginning what the irises promise will be a flamboyant spring bloom of jewel-like alpine plants, as ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ up there makes so very evident. In the Visitor Center, the first sunny yellow daffodils are waving hello, and the viburnum and crocuses in the Ladies’ Border and elsewhere have joined in.
We’re tapping our foot for future tulips—late April should be a kaleidoscope if our luck (and the weather) holds. —MN
Camila Carlow’s Eye Heart Spleen
When we look at human organs, sometimes their imagery can be off-putting (though fascinating!) but artist Camila Carlow uses our organs, at least pictures of them, to create her intricate Eye Heart Spleen series; human organs made from foraged plants.
The artist combines different plants, such as flowers and leaves, already themselves unique living organisms, to create one piece, one organ, of another living organism; the human. It is interesting to look at her series in regards to the place of humans in the world; how we pick flowers, tear down trees and stomp around in the grass, only to then have our bodies be consumed by the earth, covered by flowers, trees and grass. The plants sustain us, as either food or helping to create oxygen, just like our organs, and just like plants, we sometimes too forget to take care of our organs. As the artist states, “regardless of whether we fill ourselves with toxins or nourishing food, whether we exercise or not - our organs sustain us, working away effortlessly and unnoticed”. Both plants and organs are delicate structures, and both need to be taken care of, in order for them to take care of us.
There’s a business opportunity here for the morbid florists out there. How visceral can you make baby’s breath, though? —MN
California Coastal Forest Perfection
(Salt Point, California - 3/2014)
Explore more. It’s as much fun now as it was when you were a kid, but sometimes you need a refresher course. —MN
I had a star fruit tree in my backyard growing up, but still, it’s been a while since I’ve had some. Eat fun shapes, America! —MN
Because living terrariums with their impressive lifespans still don’t offer the security of near-permanence, this batch is composed of faux flowers; sewn, stuffed mushrooms; and at least one florally inspired human heart. —MN
Philip Seymour Hoffman animated illustration for The New Republic’s Ipad version.
A peony, a rose, a magnolia*—there’s got to be a new cultivar out there in need of a name, and why shouldn’t it hark back to P.S.H.? —MN
*Yes, I know