Tag Archives: Botany

A short walk into our Finca Navasola in June.

The entrance to Finca Navasola.
The entrance to Finca Navasola.

imageHere are some views along the path from the front gate through Navasola East to the house. It is now looking more like a house and although a lot of work is still to be done on the inside I think I can start clearing some of the building rubbish. We are still waiting to install the solar and then to sort out the wood burning stove and hot water for the cold winters.  The trucks have to deliver along this path so we are hoping this will be successful this week.

At present quite pleasant and in the mid 20s for June.  There is pleasant shade from the chestnuts in full leaf and bloom, the olives, madrono ( arbutus unedo) and different oaks.

The house at Navasola: June 2014
The house at Navasola: June 2014

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View walking down the hill from the gate. Chestnuts and pines on other side of the valley.
View walking down the hill from the gate. Chestnuts and pines on other side of the valley.

When we first saw the Finca over 10 years ago I fell in love with this first path through the woods . We did not really fall in love with the old house and it is still our main struggle but the landscape of the Finca was quite interesting and varied so that is why we bought the place!

We  love the subtle differences and the different types of flora over such a small acreage. The flower shown was the only one seen of its kind on the main path. It has withstood being brushed by builder’s trucks over the last week. It is a type of thistle / knapweed.F rom the Guide to Wild flowers of the Mediterranean I think  it is Mantisalca salmantica, once labeled as a centaurea. In English part of the knap weed family. Navasola  has a tremendous range of biodiversity for a small acreage.

PostScript . Solar panels have been delivered to the gate and we had to carry each one ourselves to the house!   Will post more on that later. And butterflies galore, I particular large cardinals.

A poem for Peony: The Wild Peony Forest; cycle of change from March to May, paeonia broterii,

Dverse poets have suggested a prompt based on ecopoetry. Do check out this inspirational poetry group at  Dverse  . The poetry bar is open and serving up so many different ideas most of the week. Ecopoetry seems to be a different term being introduced by groups such as Green Spirit and Resurgence. Alice Oswald is also mentioned and I find her a fascinating poet who has such an observant style that also brings out deep emotions. I’m not sure I want my own writing to be put into a category and I had never come across this term before but I certainly seem to be focused on my own and others relationship with the natural world at this point in time.

Trevor organised a nature course here some years ago and it was led by the botanist Teresa Farino. This started my inquiry into the plant kingdom. I was also given a mother’s day present of the Alice Oswald anthology, Weeds and Wild Flowers.  I loved the Snowdrop one ,’ A pale and pining girl,head bowed, heart gnawed’ ……. ‘ her wildflower sense of wounded gentleness’

I wrote this poem early on in blogging inspired by the wild peonies here at Navasola and in the Sierra Aracena. It is January 2016 now but on our return from our special birthday trip to the Azores within 10 days there have been changes. The invasive mimosa is out in its bright yellow headdress, the almond blossom is delicately feeling for the early bees, and the peonies are beginning to thrust through the cold ground. Some are near paths so I stick sticks around them so we don’t forget and tread on these wild sisters of the many cultivated ones.

 

A Poem for Peony and all those wild loving sisters

Ms Peony Broterii

Wild genes live dangerously

Not cultivated carefully

Like your gardened sisters.

But your barb is in your poisonous roots,

Anchored, aching deep in chestnut groves,

In the shade of veteran friends, long standing,

Bringing you your strength, uprightness, roots rooted.

Unlike the myriads of visitors ready to be satiated

In your open sensuous bloom.

Bringing a light touch on velvet petal,

A rubbing of stamens, a staining of pollen,

Buzzing bodies beating,

Intoxicated with your nectar.

They stay only for their own satisfaction.

You may have some regrets, a sense of loss

As petals fall and breezes betray your beauty.

But your thrill is in your seed pod,

Ready to ripen, always ready,

To begin again, always hopeful

To survive into another Spring.

Only the danger of the human mind
Can threaten you.

Georgina Wright

 

 

Wild peony forest January/February

Mid May
Mid May, seed pod, ripening and hopefully fully fertilised by an amazing range of insects that have loved being inside this peony!
Part of peony forest in full bloom - April to May
Part of peony forest in full bloom – April to May
Early May
Early May
Pollination
Pollination, fully open to the sun and all insects!
The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects.
The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects. April.
Wild peony forest January/February
Wild peony forest –  Early March.
Peony Plot in Kew gardens. Over 30 different types of peonies and now reclassified!
Peony Plot in Kew gardens.
Over 30 different types of peonies and now reclassified!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link to Dverse   For the ecopoetry prompt  January 2016

With thanks to the poems by
Alice Oswald, Weeds and Wild Flowers ( Faber and Faber ) and to the peonies and photos taken at Navasola among the ancient chestnut trees.

Originally written in 2013 and posted then.

May Day : spring flowers, insects, beetles and attempts at botanical drawing

imageHere on the first day of May it must be the first public holiday in Spain I am experiencing this year which does not have the link to holiness. Unless of course it is unholy, unhealthy, or not wholesome to treat work and workers unfairly.

There are too many flowers out for me to draw as it takes a long time and real concentration. However there are at least two that I have found out more about by close observation and looking up in my Collins Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean Guide. Am still practising my drawing skills and it is part of my new work to try and pay really close attention to the natural world !

Tassel Hyacinth; the top part is sterile but the buds below will carry the genes forward!
Tassel Hyacinth; the top part is sterile but the buds below will carry the genes forward!

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Halimium atriplicifolium, a yellow rock rose, whose flowers like the cistus will fall each night and other buds are ready to open the following day. Some of the leaves have 3 clear veins on the non flowering part so can’t be seen on this sprig!

The tension remains between keeping the wildness and cultivation. I have been busy and with some help am creating a place to grow vegetables but the wild boar need to be kept out or they will dig it all up. Hence an anti boar fence but small mammals can pass through. One of the better park directives. Sadly some white cistus also got dug up. One of the photos shows how this plant defeats lack of water. Every day a flower comes and then falls at dusk. The next day a new bud comes out and is ready for the bees and insects which help in pollination and life goes on. But not if we humans pull out all the wild and kill off the insects which are all part of a complex Eco system!

White cistus in flower, bud and stamens showing from previous day's flower all together on one branch.

White cistus in flower, bud and stamens showing from previous day’s flower all together on one branch.

Kew Gardens, Botany, Illustrations and a visit to the Herbarium

 

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The Tropical Palm House, Kew Gardens, March 2014
Willow sculptures at end of day, Mach 2014
Willow sculptures at end of day,Kew Gardens March 2014

It has been an intense two weeks at Kew on the botanical illustration course and although it was daunting to work along side trained artists there were also some beginners similar to myself. The aim was to learn some of the skills needed so that I can try and draw some of the wild flowers at Navasola ; to keep a record and to learn to identify plants more. My memories of Kew do go back a long way as we lived nearby and as a family would visit often when it was about a penny or an old threepenny coin? I also did a weekend job waitressing in the restaurant near the Temperate House and saved my pennies and tips for my trip to India! Its now quite expensive to visit Kew Gardens so it is worth being a member and the work that Kew does is so much more than just having a really amazing collection of plants and trees and the cost of just the upkeep of that. Conservation and saving endangered plants, horticulture, Plant studies, DNA, diseases and more….

A member of the Zamia family I had an attempt at drawing and a robin came and watched me with a critical eye!
A member of the Zamia family I had an attempt at drawing and a robin came and watched me with a critical eye!

Our teacher, Lucy Smith is a professional botanical illustrator and specialises in palms. I visited the palm house at lunch time as it was warm and a break was needed ! The  first photo of the Palm House and daffodils was taken at the end of a hardworking day drawing leaves in Museum No 1 near the famous Palm Glasshouse. The shapes of the palms looked grand and ghostly against the stormy evening sunset. I also found a lot of information about Paeonies in the horticulture gardens and a lot of examples of plants we find in Southern Spain.

Poster in Herbarium about the range of activities supported.
Poster in Herbarium about the range of activities supported.

A lot of work behind the scenes goes on at the Herbarium and we were given a fascinating tour by a long serving Mexican botanist whose specialism was in the vast leguminosae or pea family. The Herbarium is a library of plant specimens and it is vast. Kew also promotes a lot of art work and installations.

Plant studies in the Plant Library; The Herbarium at Kew Gardens.
Plant studies in the Plant Library; The Herbarium at Kew Gardens.

Last year I joined again because of the David Nash wood sculptures and this year there are some fascinating willow sculptures. Kew always has such variety and this year I found all the different varieties of flowering cherry trees. Kew works hard to conserve wild plants and the seed bank has been set up and attempts are made to propagate endangered species like the Madagascan palm that Lucy Smith had illustrated.

One of Kew's famous historic trees, the Stone Pine or Umbrella Pine which there are so many of in  parts of Southern Spain and Portugal. This one grew its different shape as it was kept potted for so long in the 1800s!
One of Kew’s famous historic trees, the Stone Pine( Pinus pinea) or Umbrella Pine of which there are so many  in parts of Southern Spain and Portugal. This one grew its different shape as it was kept potted for so long in the 1800s!
Photo from Cabanas and seen in Kew with its name!
Photo from Cabanas and seen in Kew with its name! Retama  sahaerocarpa,  Family Leguminosae  papilionoideae.

 

 

have just about survived the course and will add some more details of that later and the beauty of suburban London in the Spring. Maybe a Spring poem is needed along the following lines and in memory of Robert Browning’s famous Oh to be in England, now that April’s here……..

Oh to be in London when the daffodils are out

And the streets with cherry blossoms…….

Hide the gardens turned to drives!

 

Autumn and Spring in January: Mushrooms, berries, blossom and birdsong.

This close up could be useful for the course on botanical illustration but as yet we cannot name the beauty that is that berry!

The Finca has so many of these beautiful blue berries and they glisten in the rain and mist.However, one of the bushes was discovered with one flower beginning to blossom. See picture below. So even,on the Finca we can find signs of Autumn,Winter and Spring together! We finally discovered the name of this shrub Viburnum Tinus or more commonly Laurustinus.  Then in one of our old English newspapers we came across a lovely picture of the garden variety. It has been harder to discover the variety of mushroom but it does bear a resemblance to ones that are referred to as hallucinogenic and toxic in our Spanish Mushroom book! Very mixed weather patterns at present but not that cold.

Viburnum Tinus with the first flower seen January 28th:some berries can still be seen behind flower.
Viburnum Tinus with the first flower seen January 28th:some berries can still be seen behind flower.

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Our trip to the Algarve, 100 miles away but down from our 720 metres in the Sierra to sea level,  showed that Spring is in the air. Very warm and even hot in the sun with the almond blossom, bees and birds all very busy. I will feature pictures of Portugal later as I will create a new page for our observations there and along the Ria Formosa. On the road down we did see evidence of Storks in nests and flying around. Possibly just arriving to nest. Apologies for no pics of the storks yet. Might need to update camera for that!