Showing posts from May, 2022

Book review: California Desert Plants

Every now and then a book comes along that is a complete game changer. California Desert Plants (ISBN 978-1-941624-14-2) is one of them. Written by Phil Rundel, Robert Gustafson, and Michael Kaufmann and published just a few weeks ago by Backcountry Press , a small independent publisher in Northern California, it covers the tremendous diversity of plants in the three deserts that extend into California: the Great Basin, the Mojave, and the Sonoran (the California portion of the Sonoran is often referred to as the Colorado Desert, after the Colorado River). Of course there are other books on California desert flora, especially wildflowers. However, they're often organized by flower color (like Introduction to California Desert Wildflowers ), which makes it difficult to grasp the bigger picture. California Desert Plants takes a different approach, focusing on desert plants within distinct ecological communities. As a result, plants that live together are described together. “In this

'Flying Saucer' flying high

I vividly remember the first time I saw Echinopsis ‘Flying Saucer’ in flower. It was at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in April 2014: I couldn’t believe how many flowers were open at the same time, and how massive they were! Fast forward to the present. After a long quest trying to track down Echinopsis ‘Flying Saucer’, I finally found one last year at Bach’s Cactus Nursery in Tucson, Arizona. And on May 18, 2022 it flowered for the first time: The flower was a full 6 inches across. Here’s my wife’s hand for scale: Out of all the cactus flowers I’ve seen, ‘Flying Saucer’ might just be my favorite. It’s easy to see why: The photos above were taken at 9 a.m. when the flower was still in the shade. In the images below, taken at 10 a.m., it’s sidelit by the sun: Echinopsis flowers are notoriously short-lived. ‘Flying Saucer’ is no exception. This is what the flower looked like at 4 p.m.: By the next morning, the flower had collapsed completely: As they say, the higher they fly, the harder t

Snapshots from Germany, part 2

Part 1 of my snapshots from Germany was all about nature: fields, forests, and the like. Part 2 is about the human environment: photos taken in the town where I grew up and in neighboring villages. Even though time has marched on, there are still buildings dating back centuries. It boggles the mind to think that the town where I was raised was founded in 976, while the city in California were I now live was incorporated in 1917! View from my late cousin's property on the edge of the forest Downtown Hersbruck Road shot Old barn in a neighboring village Barn wall with tree trunks—not sure what they'll be used for Barn window Ivy-covered facade in another nearby village This dilapidated building is uninhabitable, but since it's under heritage protection, it cannot be torn down. It's so far gone that renovations would be cost-prohibitive, so it just sits there. This is a problem all over Germany. Same house from a different angle The old farmhouse across the street from my

Snapshots from Germany, part 1

I just got back from a trip to Germany to visit family. I didn't do any traveling around Germany—I just spent time with my kinfolk—but I still managed to take a bunch of photos I'd love to share with you. If I had to sum up my visual impressions in one word, it would be green. No: make that GREEN . Even though California is still clinging to the last remnants of spring verdure, the signs of the worst megadrought in 1200 years are everywhere. As a result, the contrast between California and Germany couldn't have been greater. See for yourself. The first set of photos was taken at my late cousin's property on the edge of the forest.  The woods looked as inviting as can be. No Brothers Grimm fright fest here! The apple trees in my cousin's orchard were in full bloom. The white of the flowers contrasted beautifully with the yellow of the dandelions. More tree tapestries from elsewhere in town: The panorama below is my favorite photo of this trip. It was pouring when I