Flower Friday – Jade Vine

Jade Vine - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Jade Vine – Photograph by Laura Lecce

The Jade Vine (not to be confused with the jade plant also known as money tree) is an unusual plant native to the Philippines and is closely related to beans and peas. It grows into a monstrous vine with stems of up to 60 feet (18 meters) and once mature will hang hundreds of cascading flowers, dangling from stems as long as 10 feet (3 meters). These flowers range from a lovely turquoise color to a mint green. The flowers above were photographed from a mighty vine growing inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory (photo below) at the New York Botanical Gardens. It is a temperature controlled glass house that contains many tropical plants, which like myself, are most intolerant of New York winters. Happy weekend everyone!

New York Botanical Gardens - Photograph by Laura Lecce
New York Botanical Gardens – Photograph by Laura Lecce
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Turtles always look sad

Sad Turtle - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Sad Turtle – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I can say that I have been a truly lucky human being to have had the opportunity to swim with sea turtles on quite a few occasions. This turtle was photographed while snorkeling at a beach on Fitzroy Island, a beautiful tropical paradise near Cairns (in Queensland, Australia). A lazy afternoon, just myself, my husband and several turtles… and we watched as they went about their daily munching on sea grasses.  To swim with these beautiful reptiles makes you appreciate how graceful they are at moving under the water, and they are quite content to have you swimming nearby. You’d think that for an animal which has outlived the dinosaurs, they should be happy, but instead they always look sad. Actually many of them are now listed on the endangered species list, which also makes me incredibly sad. I especially get upset when people think that rather than just observing wildlife, they interfere with it. I have seen this happen to turtles in Hawaii, where divers or snorkelers will grab onto them. This is NOT ok, and more respect should be given to these ancient and incredible creatures.

Flower Friday – Renanthera

Renanthera - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Renanthera – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This is an orchid that I photographed while at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. A magnificent tropical garden which stretches as far as you can see. It was a bit of an effort walking around all day, on what was an incredibly hot day with 100% humidity. Though, as much as the people suffered in these stifling weather conditions, it is perfect for these orchids. They belong to a group of plants which are collectively called epiphytes, meaning that they love to grow harmlessly attached to another plant or tree with their roots free to absorb nutrients and moisture from the air and rain. These plants grow as a single, unbranching stem with leaves alternately growing on either side. They produce multiple branching flower stems with many flowers (pinkish-red, fiery red, orange or yellow) dancing on either side. Seeing a group of fully grown plants in flower is like looking at a brilliant firework display of heated colors exploding into the sky. Needless to say, this is one of my very favorite orchids.

For other orchid posts, please click here.

A snail, is a snail, is a snail…..Not.

Puerto Rican Snail - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Puerto Rican Snail – Photograph by Laura Lecce

You know you were meant to be a biologist when you get excited to discover that snails from different parts of the world look different. Both Puerto Rican and Malaysian snails are the size of mammoths compared to snails found in Sydney backyards (hopefully this fact makes Sydney gardeners a little happier). However, the shell shapes of these slimy creatures is very different. The snails from Puerto Rico are quite flattened, with the center point of the spiral barely protruding at all (photo above). Malaysian snails have a very elongated shell with the spiral being very pointed (photo below). If you are unlucky enough to have lots of snails in your veggie patch in Sydney, you might one day be lucky enough to attract a blue tongue lizard to your yard. These stocky lizards will happily take care of your slimy infestation, which is reason enough for me to keep feeding the snails in the hope that a lizard one day comes to dinner.

Malaysian Snail – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Flower Friday – Aussie Star

Aussie Star - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Aussie Star – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This flower is an unknown that I photographed in Tasmania. A little, orange, star-shaped flower on a small shrub in the Tassie grasslands. Even though I spent a very long time trawling through Google images under many search terms, the flower and the name remained elusive. I am surely not the only person to have photographed this little gem, so if anyone can shed some light on this flower, that would be very much appreciated. It is fitting that I introduce a star in a month where the talk of planets has been quite abundant. The five planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have been visible this month in the night sky, together, shortly after sunset. I hope some of you have been out sky, star and planet gazing this month. Happy Friday everyone!

Look At That Face!

The Cutest Pademelon - Photograph by Laura Lecce
The Cutest Pademelon – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Today is a pademelon photo purely for the cuteness factor. I just look at this furry, chubby little critter and want to cuddle it. Hopefully, this little cutie can bring a big smile to your face on what is likely a very ordinary Thursday (or at least it is for me).

If you’d like to read more about their fascinating reproductive biology, please click here.

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Moraine Lake – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Moraine Lake was one of the destinations on my trip to Canada last year. The purpose of this trip was to see some of Canada’s natural wonders, the beauty of the mountains and the amazing wildlife that call this country home. This lake was one of the many highlights of my trip. There are few places in the world that are as photogenic as this turquoise lake, surrounded by snow-capped mountains which provide a stunning backdrop. Located in the Valley of Ten Peaks, the lake is filled with glacial runoff which gives the water its signature color. As the glaciers thaw, the trickling water collects rock flour (sediment) on the way to the lake, formed by erosion of the rocks as the glaciers grind against them. This is a place in the world where photography cannot live up to actually being there. The crispness of the air, the tranquility of the forest, and the magnitude of the mountains all contribute to the magnificence of Moraine Lake.

Turquoise Water - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Turquoise Water – Photograph by Laura Lecce