Flower Friday – Leonotis leonurus

Leonotis leanurus - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Leonotis leanurus – Photograph by Laura Lecce

These photos are from the very unusual plant called leonotis leonurus (commonly called lion’s tail or wild dagga) native to South Africa. A very hardy perennial plant belonging to the mint family which is drought resistant, deer resistant and also used as an annual in colder climates. It forms unusual tubular flowers in clusters along the stem with newer clusters appearing at the top. The shape of the flowers are perfectly suited for pollination by sunbirds and hummingbirds, but also attracts butterflies and bees with sweet nectar inside the flowers. This plant has psychoactive compounds with similar effects to cannabis in that smoking dried leaves and flowers can give a mild calming effect (please do not try this on account of my blog!) Leonurine has also been found to have antioxidant, cardio-protective, anti-inflammatory and hypoglycemic (anti-diabetic/blood sugar lowering) properties. The unusual flowers which are commonly orange but also come in a white and yellow variety gave me some very bright and interesting photographs. Happy weekend everyone, see you in 2017!!!

Lions Tail - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Lions Tail- Photograph by Laura Lecce

Psychedelic Clams

Psychedelic Clam - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Psychedelic Clam – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This gorgeous and very large clam was photographed while swimming off a beach on Fitzroy Island, Australia. This beautiful island is situated just off the coast of Queensland about a 45 minute boat ride from Cairns. It is surrounded by coral reef that is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, where you can see many different corals, clams, fish and even turtles. Clams are incredibly fascinating creatures especially in regards to their life cycle and reproductive habits. They are born male and remain so for the first few years of life and produce sperm to reproduce. Once mature they also develop ovaries and produce eggs making them hermaphrodites. To maintain genetic diversity, clams living in the same area will spawn at the same time. Clam spawning, along with many corals takes place when sea temperatures rise and the moon is at the correct phase. Once spawning has begun they simultaneously release reproductive pheromones telling other nearby clams to spawn. First they release sperm which gets moved away by the current (hopefully to meet another clams eggs), and then they release eggs (to hopefully meet another clams sperm). After fertilization takes place the baby clam passes through a mobile larval stage (which sadly many do not survive), before finally settling on a permanent home and growing into the beautiful, colorful clams that we see amongst the corals.

For other underwater posts, please click here.

Great blue heron at sunset

Great blue heron at sunset - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Great blue heron at sunset – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I love the warm golden colors that the setting sun has painted across this landscape. This magnificent great blue heron was photographed in Zion National Park in Utah. I have seen many herons since moving to America, and even though we have herons in Australia I never really noticed them before. I am always amazed that for such a large bird, herons are incredibly shy and skittish. No matter how slow I try to creep up they never let me get very close at all, but I have seen these birds get courageously close to some pretty massive alligators! The photo below is the original before cropping which has a very beautiful arch created by tree branches. A dry looking landscape hiding a trickling stream just behind the tree line, and a dusty red path occasionally dotted with a green firework – sometimes nature creates its very own artworks.

Heron under tree arch - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Heron under tree arch – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Friday Flower – Epidendrum Orchid

Epidendrum - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Epidendrum – Photograph by Laura Lecce

New York is currently in full Christmas swing, and so I thought a Christmas colored photo would be a great one for today. This photo is of an adorable type of orchid called an Epidendrum, and they come in a large range of beautiful colors. This photo is actually flipped upside down, as this plant grows its flower stems pointing directly up (instead of many other orchids which arch over) so the flowers actually appear upside down on the stems. This is an orchid which is quite hardy and can tolerate drier conditions than a lot of other orchids, so it will grow outside in Australia without much trouble at all. Happy weekend everyone!!!

For more orchid photos please click here.

The ones with hair

The Ones with Hair - Photograph by Laura Lecce
The Ones with Hair – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Once while sitting on a Western Australian beach, I was very amused by the appearance of a few seagulls which looked like they were wearing a black toupee. It was also funny because they were having as bad a hair day as I was and were looking quite frazzled (WA is well known for becoming increasingly windy in the afternoon). It turns out that the ones with hair are not seagulls, they are a different kind of bird called a crested tern. Obviously both gulls and terns are quite happy to have each other as company. Also, if this photo is at all representative of these populations… seagulls are lazier and prefer to sit down.

Survival against all odds

Survival against all odds - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Survival against all odds – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I came across this tiny Autumn colored tree growing in Central Park and it reminded me of a bonsai. I’ve read that the purpose of a bonsai is to evoke contemplation in the viewer. Looking at this tree, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it is that a seed managed to grow in such an unlikely place. This tree will forever have to grow against the odds, fight for the chance to survive, and I will wholeheartedly cheer it on. Why? Because I always fight for the underdog, I lend my strength to those who are overlooked, I protect people from bullies….. That is who I am!