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Showing posts from February, 2013

A very pernickety little flower

Remember my post about the fynbos of the Western Cape? I included a photo of a mysterious pink flower that we couldn't identify. My niece Magriet, who's another veldt expert, has come to our rescue. Dankie, Magriet!

The flower is a sea rose or Orphium frutescens, a perfect example of so-called buzz pollination. Wot dat? That's when an insect, usually a bee, vibrates its wings on just the right frequency, which causes the flower and anthers to vibrate, thus releasing pollen. The sea rose, though, is very fussy. It won't flirt with just any old bee. Nope, it has to be the South African carpenter bee.

This BBC article has a great headline: Bee is key to flower power. Dang. I wish I'd written that! You can also see a BBC video about this particular South African flower, delivered in a delicious Scottish accent by Professor Iain Stewart, here:

Plum blossoms at Kameido Tenjin

Just to prove that I've really returned to Tokyo – and to get back into a Japan frame of mind – and after all this is a blog about Japan ...
Where wôs I? I've got jet lag. I can't concentrate.
Just to prove that I've really returned to Tokyo, I went to Kameido Tenjin to immerse myself in the fragrance of plum blossoms. That's the best thing about plum blossoms: unlike their famous cherry cousins, they have a sweet scent.

Long before frivolous cherry blossoms took centre stage, the shy plum blossom was the most highly revered flower in Japan. The Man'yōshū¹ contains 113 poems about plum blossoms; cherry blossoms enjoy far fewer mentions.
A plum blossom is a symbol of beauty and virtue in women. Traditionally, girls were taught to be pure and noble as plum blossoms, and to stand able and proud despite all adversities. The link between the blossom, purity and strength is probably due to its blooming period: in winter, often at the coldest time² of the year, in the…

South Africa, kingdom of flowers

The mountains of the Western Cape seem to be nothing but blue granite rocks; the veldt appears to consist of uniform grey-green shrubs. That's if you look at it from a distance, but move closer. No, that's not close enough. Squat down, on your knees, and look carefully. See them? Thousands and thousands and thousands of tiny, delicate, unique flowers. Aren't they gorgeous?

You're looking at fynbos, the naturalheathlandvegetation that occurs in the Western Cape, mainly in the winter rainfall coastal areas with a Mediterranean climate. The area is famous for its exceptional biodiversity.
As a matter of fact,it's also known as the Cape Floral Kingdom, and has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. Unesco described the 553 000-hectare Cape Floral Kingdom as "one of the richest areas for plants in the world. It represents less than 0.5% of the area of Africa, but is home to nearly 20% of the continent's flora. Its plant diversity, density and endemism are …