Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Butterfly Orchids

Psychopsis papilio, Source

Psychopsis papilio, Source

Psychopsis sanderae, Source

Psychopsis versteegiana, Source

Psychopsis krameriana, Source

No words needed.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Larkspur for July

Delphinium Consolida Rocket- Rocket Larkspur
Image via Aggie-Horticulture, Texas A&M University
Gig 'em Aggies

File:Consolida regalis 030705.jpg
Consolida regalis, Forking Larkspur
Image via Wikipedia Commons

OK gang, hold on to your hat. July's birth month flower is the Larkspur. The flower itself is a complicated beauty, as complex and enchanting as the orchid. To add to the fun, larkspur are delphinium. Well, no they're not but they could be. But they aren't. Oh yes they are if they're annuals not perennials. No no, you've got it all wrong.

You can see what we're up against this month- a luscious purple, blue, pink, and white cloud of cottage garden confusion. So, I've researched the larkspur a bit more than usual, consulted with my personal horticulturalist (thanks Mom), and stared at photo after photo of these summer beauties. I will do my best to parse out the technicalities of larkspur versus delphinium as I understand it but let's not get too fixated on those technicalities. The larkspur is such a lovely flower that it would be so much better to simply relax and enjoy. All of horticultural sticklers-for-detail butterflies will need to bear with me as I simply flitter around and enjoy the larkspur.

Consolida ajacis. Source

The larkspur, of the genus Consolida, is an annual version of the Delphinium and is a member of the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to western Europe through the Mediterranean region east to central Asia and naturalized in North America. Delphinium, also called larkspur (because that makes things so much more fun for we mere mortals), are also in the Ranunculaceae family but their genus is Delphinium, not Consolida. Right? Let's look at the scientific classification charts for the two to see if that helps (larkspur on the left, delphinium on the right):

Molecular data shows that Consolida is embedded in Delphinium. Again, just to make it all more fun. Consolida flowers are more open (eh hem- usually) than Delphinium and have a more branching spike as opposed to the more dense columns of delphinium. Usually. You know, with hybrids growing rampant, things can get pretty interesting- sort of like the "purebreed" Black Lab that mysteriously has six puppies of six different colors.  July's gal-  the smaller, wilder cousin to Delphinium-  is a freely seeding plant so once she gets going in your garden you'll generally have a nice yearly crop. There are no genetic barriers to prevent Consolida and Delphinium from crossing so it's kind of a free for all out in your garden if that hussy Consolida is present. Delphiniums, on the other hand, are a perennial. The name Delphinium, by the way, comes from the Greek "delphis" for dolphin because the buds look like fat little dolphins. Are you getting a headache? Let's move on from the murky genetic waters to the pretty bits about larkspur.

Image via Flores Alpes

The plant's name comes from the shape of the spur, which resembles the hind toe of a lark. The petals of the flower actually grow together to form the spur.

Photo by Continis via Flickr

Other names include Lark’s Claw, Knight’s Spur and Lark’s Heel (by Shakespeare). The larkspur is a tall flower, reaching 3 - 6 feet in height with colors including purple, blue, red, yellow, and white. They need full sun and should have some protection from high winds because the hollow flower stalks, though strong, are often so covered with flowers that they can break in the breeze. Each of its flower is made up of single or double row of brightly colored sepals with tiny fringe-like petals at the center of each flower, often covering the pistils and stamens. There are also two sacs filled with nectar inside the spur which attracts hummingbirds and bees. All parts of the plant contain the alkaloid delphinine and are very poisonous, causing vomiting when eaten, and death in larger amounts. Cows, especially, have been known to die after eating only small amounts of the attractive plant, and many people who pasture cows wait until the heat of summer to let them out onto fields where larkspur blooms, as the majority of the plants will have died back at that point. Domestic sheep, however, are apparently not affected by the toxins in larkspur and are therefore used to help eradicate the plant on cattle range. The plant’s toxicity may vary depending on field conditions and seasonal changes; as the plant matures, generally it becomes less toxic. The alkaloids in the plant can cause neuromuscular paralysis; clinical effects include constipation, increased salivation, colic, stiffness, muscle tremors, weakness, convulsions and recumbency (which is a fancy way of saying sitting around, maybe listless and lacking energy). Cardiac failure may occur, as can death from respiratory paralysis. Young children in particular are especially vulnerable to larkspur's nasty properties. Pretty wicked for such a festive looking gal.

Wedding bouquet featuring larkspur. Image via Rustic Wedding Chic

Larkspur is very easy to grow and it often self seeds in the garden, coming back year after year. Plant larkspur from seed directly in the garden in early spring. Larkspur doesn't like to be transplanted and prefers rich, well-drained soil and ample water. When hot weather strikes and larkspur starts to brown and fade, pull out these fading plants but be sure to leave a few to brown ones to reseed. Here's the lowdown on growing larkspur:

Light: Sun, Part Sun
Plant Type: Annual Plant
Height: 3-6 feet tall
Plant Width: 6-12 inches wide
Soil: Deep, rich loam soil
Cultivation: Grow to their full potential in climates with cool and moist summers. They are annuals and also highly susceptible to frost, therefore sow the seed after the frost.
Blooms: Late spring through late summer though they can be grown for winter blooms in the deep south.
Landscape Uses: Containers, Beds & Borders, attract butterflies, bees, and bumble bees
Special Features: Flowers, Cut Flowers, Dried Flowers, Drought Tolerant, Deer Resistant, Easy to Grow

Image via Flowerinfo.org

Sounds perfect for a wild cottage garden, doesn't it? But what is the myth and mystique associated with larkspur? These lush, dolphin-shaped flowers symbolize an open heart and ardent attachment. White generally signifies a happy-go-lucky nature, pink represents fickleness, while purple is often indicative of sweet disposition and first love. Larkspur symbolized a desire for laughter and a pure heart in the Victorian language of flowers. In mythology of Greek, the flowers of larkspur are said to have sprang from the blood of Ajax, a figure in Greek mythology. A red flower supposedly emerged from his blood after he killed himself. I once heard that you can supposedly find the letters "Al" in the petals of larkspur, which is the Greek cry of mourning, but I have never been able to work it out. A Native American story credits the larkspur to a celestial figure who tore open the evening sky, scooped up and twisted a portion of that sky and created a spike. When she plunged it down to earth so she could climb down, small blue flecks of sky adhered to it. Eventually the sun dried out the stalk and scattered small pieces along the planet, thus creating the delicate larkspur flower. As one of the flower symbols denoting the Virgin Mary's sorrows, larkspur represents Mary's tears.

Black Hollyhock - Blue Larkspur, by Georgia O'Keefe
Image via Wiki Paintings

In spite of its toxic properties, larkspur has had various uses in the past for folk remedies and magic. Witches used the flower for various spells and non-witches used it to protect themselves and their animals against witches and sorcerers. In England dried and fresh larkspur was used in protection spells, to cure ailments and as integral ingredients in marking the "longest" day of the year, the summer solstice.  In Transylvania, dried larkspur was placed in stables to keep sorcerers from casting their spells on the animals. Used by Native Americans and European settlers to make blue dye, it’s believed that the most ancient use of delphinium flowers was for driving away scorpions and venomous snakes as well as more ephemeral threats, such as ghosts. Larkspur flowers were widely used for medicinal purposes in ancient times, especially for treating wounds and killing parasites and is commonly known as an insecticide.

Miller Botanical - American Larkspur engraving - color - Click Image to Close
1809 engraved botanical plate by Philip Miller.
Image via (and print original print available)
Brian DiMambro Antique Maps & Prints

If you're in the mood for a little bit of cross-stitching, you can go to Ellen Mauer-Stroh's website and download this free cross-stitch chart of July's flowery gal.

July - Larkspur

If you have a July birthday cake to make, perhaps you could commemorate the lovely larkspur of the buttercup family in buttercream.

Buttercream Larkspur
Image via Cake Central

Or surprised a lucky July gal with a lovely larkspur necklace...

Image via bstudio on etsy

... or two...

Image via Silver and Pewter Gifts

... or three...

Stained Glass Pendant with Real Pressed Flowers LARKSPUR
Image via Design and Be Mary on etsy

Let's finish up today's post with nod to the lovely blue larkspur with a lovely blue butterfly, the charming Eastern Tailed Blue butterfly.

See ya again and thanks for visiting.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hectic In The Jungle

Life here in the jungle has been pretty busy. I started a new job a couple of weeks ago and even though it is for the same hospital doing similar type of work, it's still a change. My brain has felt like my new desk looks...

... full and in need of some organization (that's my Gracie Mae peeking out at us). My new position involves setting up a new program of sorts, or an extension of an existing one, so it's kind of exciting in that respect but I feel a step removed from the actual medical care that goes on so that will be an adjustment. Part of it might be that I haven't gotten in the groove of seeing patients regularly again so maybe I'm just missing that aspect until I can shake out all the administrative type things. My new office is lacking a window, something that will be hard for me, but I have already been trolling poster websites for something "outdoorsy". I do have an entire folder on my computer dedicated to cloud photos, like this one that I took out the bedroom window yesterday. Maybe if I tweak one of them and get it printed up humongo-sized I could have nothin' but sky above my desk.

Everyone has been so apologetic about my bitsy-sized space but I honestly don't care: it's good to have a job in this day and age and I like to think, correctly or not, that I can make any space cute. This little cubby hole of an office would be a great subject for a remodeling post but we'll see how that goes. I've already disarmed half of the florescent lights as their glare off the screen gives me instant and huge headaches.

My Zippy-girl returned after almost two weeks at the beach with a friend, sporting her first real sunburn. I have had skin cancer in the past and while I'm not as rabid about the sun protection as I should be, we do try to make a good effort at protecting our hides. That Zippy got to her teens before her first significant burn is way better than I did and a learning opportunity for her. Now she knows how much a good burn can really hurt. I make sure to play up my sadness that she has to suffer a sunburn to try to emphasize that it's not a desirable thing to get.

This was Zippy's longest time away and there were a couple of late-night texts that made this momma want to jump in the car and drive the 500 miles to "save" her baby but homesickness is something that everyone needs to learn to deal with and I think I did well. Zippy did well too.

So a few things have been happening in the jungle: new job, world traveller kid, new neighbors, wrecks in front of the house, heat, heat, heat, heat, friends to pray for, visiting relatives (gotta love a houseful of Norwegians), dental surgery, and dog fights. Did I mention the heat? But I have managed to finish a little cross-stitch project that I started back in June when we had a lovely Crimson Butterfly at the end of our birth month flower post. June's flower is the rose and I came across a "rose" butterfly but couldn't get it together to use that little lovely so we went with the Crimson beauty. The rose butterfly I discovered is the elegant Ceylon Rose (Atrophaneura jophon) from Sri Lanka.

Photo by Nayana wijetilaka via Wikimedia Commons

This lovely butterfly is found primarily in the lowland evergreen rainforests of Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, and grows to about five inches. It is a rare butterfly and critically endangered  by Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) due in most part to habitat loss. Environment Canada has a very nice fact sheet on this butterfly if you would like to learn more about her.

Image via dnp.go.th

But what I really wanted to share with you last month and wasn't able to complete in June is the little cross-stitch I did of our classy Ceylon Rose.

This isn't a complicated pattern at all and in fact, it is actually a crochet pattern designed by Sandy Marshall that I found here. I added the lettering so I'm to blame for that bit of wonkiness but it was great to do some cross-stitch again. There are several butterfly patterns in this series so I might have to try some of the other ones.

And here we are, at the end of today's post. Gosh, we've kind of been all over the place today. I'll finish our July birth month flower in a day or two so please flitter back soon. As always, I so very much appreciate your visiting the jungle.

Stay cool. Use sunscreen- seriously.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Spectacularly Painted Lady

This is a Painted Lady Butterfly. She's a sweet little gal found almost worldwide and while she has lovely markings on her wings with nice atumnal colors, she isn't a standout, knock-your-socks off butterfly.

Don't get me wrong- I think butterflies are beautiful no matter what but let's admit it, Painted Lady is kind of plain in her markings. Not a wall-flower but not Prom Queen either. Unless, of course, Susan Brubaker Knapp gets ahold of her, that is.

Photo used with permission.

Shazaam and Ka-Pow !

Susan is a fiber artist, quilt pattern designer, and teacher who is one of those incredibly lucky folks making a living at what was once "just" an obsessive passion. This quilt, Lepidoptera, is a wholecloth, painted quilt.

Photo used with permission.

To read more about how Susan was inspired to create this incredibly gorgeous quilt and how she went about it, click here. Jump over to her blog, Blue Moon River, and look around at her fabulous quilts. Her website is also Blue Moon River. Plenty of yummy things to see.

OK, that's it for today, just a short look at a fabulous quilt. I simply HAD to share this beautiful work with you. Thanks for checking in today- see ya next time.