Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spotted Prinia

Spotted Prinia, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Oct 12, 2010 - an early morning stroll on John and Jane Wessel's property in Wilderness, South Africa. It was a cold, but sunny morning - perfect for doing some nature photography with the low angle of the sun illuminating the birds.

Spotted Prinias are usually so active that it's hard to get a good photo of one. On this particular morning, the temperature was cold enough to keep the bird from flitting away as I approached. I thought that was rather nice of him.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Variable Cracker

Variable Cracker, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

The Florida Natural History Museum has a butterfly exhibit, which is amongst the best I have ever seen. The 'aviary' is not in an enclosed conservatory, but is open to the air. There are mesh screens to keep the butterflies in, but allow the air to circulate. I only had my walkabout lens (Canon 24-105 mm f/4.0 L). I really needed the 70-200 mm zoom for this excursion. This Variable Cracker butterfly was one of the most interesting to see. The docent on duty told me that it is the only butterfly that makes a sound audible to humans, and that it sounds like a taser. I'm not quite sure what a taser sounds like, and I hope I never have the opportunity to learn that sound :-)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More irises

Iris, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Another view of the petite irises growing in my garden. If I had my career to start again, I'd be tempted to work on plants in Iridaceae. I just love this family, especially in the wilds of South Africa.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A sure sign

Iris, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Spring has sprung, at least as far as these early blooming irises are concerned. They are the first flowers to bloom in my garden. They are 4-6 inches tall and a sight for sore eyes - especially after a long winter.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Water lilies

Water lilies, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Last of the series for now. I have an inordinate fondness for beautiful water lilies. If I thought my dachshunds would stay out of a water garden, I'd try to build one in my back yard. However, I can well imagine how Topper would use his enthusiasm for getting into trouble to wreak havoc with such an installation. Sigh.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ode to better days

Ode to better days, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Another Nymphaea picture from the University of Florida museum garden. This one looks as if it's drowning and has seen better days.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Nelumbo, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

This is a picture I took yesterday in Florida. I have a real soft spot for water lilies, and I wish I could have a water garden in my yard. I can just imagine the chaos if I had one, though, with three dachshunds to swim in a pond containing pretty flowers.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

After the burn

Wildflowers at Jonkershoek, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Wildflowers at Jonkershoek. There was a huge fire in the Stellenbosch region in 2008 or 2009 (I can't remember when it was, but it was recent), which destroyed massive areas of vegetation. However, the biomes of South Africa are fire adapted and it doesn't take long for the ecosystems to bounce back with new growth from the stumps, or from seeds germinating after the stimulation of the residual chemicals left in the soil after a burn. It makes for a beautiful landscape when all the flowers come into bloom during the spring.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Watsonia, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

This plant is so photogenic, so I can't help but post multiple images of it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Watsonia at Jonkershoek

Watsonia at Jonkershoek, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is a lovely place to hike and to be close to nature. The morning we visited we had planned to hike up the mountain. The weather had other plans for us. The clouds were thick and low hanging, and leaking all over the place. The wind was blowing with great enthusiasm.

However, these conditions are actually great for photography. The thick clouds make for soft lighting. The moisture on the foliage, flowers, and rocks make for lovely saturated colors. The main challenges are to get the camera settings just right, to have the patience to wait for that one moment where the flowers are vertical rather than slanting towards horizontal, and to be willing to get one's bum wet while positioning oneself for a good composition.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Incarceration?, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

This young boy was playing in the guard shack at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch, South Africa. He was such an imp, and was also very curious about the tourists his dad was signing in to the reserve.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A path to serenity

A path to serenity, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

The water garden at Oude Nektar in Stellenbosch, South Africa. It is beautiful and serene - definitely a wonderful place to visit.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Full moon over Waterman Farm

Full moon over Waterman Farm, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Tonight was the biggest full moon we've seen in the past 22 years. That's because the moon is the closest to Earth in its orbit right now; it's a perigee.

Steve and I walked over to Waterman Farm to position ourselves for moonrise. We were joined later by families and curious sky watchers. It was great to see so many people out to see what the hype was all about.


Scabiosa, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

This is a plant native to South Africa. You're going to love the family name: Dipsacaceae. I always have an inner smile when I read the name Dipsacaceae - I'm not sure why. . .

Friday, March 18, 2011

Yes, another Watsonia picture

Watsonia, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

If I had my career to do over I would choose to work on the Iridaceae. Not that there hasn't been a lot of systematics research done on the family, but I just adore the beautiful genera one can see in South Africa.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Watsonia, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

This is one of my favorite genera of flowering plants in South Africa. This one was growing in a garden at a winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Karl, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

A cow named Karl, or does this belong to someone named Karl? The photo was taken at the OSU Waterman Farm, one of Steve's and my favorite places to walk. It's nice to have an urban farm in the neighborhood. It gives a bit of breathing space, quiets the area a bit, and it provides a refuge for many different species of birds, including a few hawk species.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Leucodendron, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Silvermine Nature Reserve on the Cape Peninsula of South Africa is home to some beautiful fynbos vegetation. Dotted over the hills are sunshine bush, aka Leucodendron (Proteaceae). The most colorful part of the plant is the subtending leaf bracts around the inflorescence.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ghosting backstage

Ghosting backstage, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Backstage at the Southern Theater, prior to Quarter Toujours concert. Long exposure to capture the flurry of activity in the dark, tuning and preparing to go on stage.

Sometimes it's just plain fun to break all the rules in photography. It was very dark backstage and so I knew I would not be able to get a "regular" kind of photo. So, I decided to play with light painting. The really cool thing about this photo, I think, is that it was a 2.5 second exposure, hand held, and I was able to get the effect I was after - namely the ghost image of the cellist entering through the door.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Water lily

Water lily, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Another photo from the water garden at the winery we visited in Stellenbosch, South Africa. I would have preferred to not have the reed in the way of the flower, but I didn't have the means to move it out of the way for this photo.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Water garden

Water garden, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

This is a photo from a winery water garden in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Aloe, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Aloes are amazingly diverse in South Africa. While visiting a winery garden in South Africa, I came across this beautiful specimen

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Consolation that works

I've had a pretty frustrating quarter in terms of ultracold freezer failures in my laboratory. It started over winter break when the -80°C freezer in my lab broke. A mad scramble to find temporary storage for tissues collected from 1996-2005 ensued, with my collections distributed to two of my colleague's ultracold freezers.

The paperwork for repairs were initiated straight away, and my freezer was hauled off and repaired about 6 weeks afterwards, and delivered another two weeks after that. We let it stabilize in the lab before moving half my collections back into it. Unfortunately, it failed again - this time due to the air compressor having a more powerful motor. It blew some debris into a capillary tube feeding into the coolant system. Another two weeks for repair/stabilization resulted, and another scramble to relocate tissue samples.

The freezer was finally ready for the relocation of my samples. When I went to the freezer where my tissues were being stored I found it to be off and non-functional. The circuit breaker for the line it was plugged into had failed. After much investigation, we figured out that one of the night janitors probably plugged a piece of equipment into the spare outlet last Friday, or perhaps on Thursday, which overloaded the circuit. Damn! My tissue samples were thawed. After all that, I was really, REALLY disappointed and, to say the least, upset.

The next day my graduate student, Dan Robarts, surprised me with a culinary creation that truly brought a smile to my face.

It's a Hyobanche cake, of course, in honor of the hard-won tissue samples that were lost to science. The collections were of species of Hyobanche, which were flash frozen on liquid nitrogen in the field. They had been used previously for a gene expression study by a former graduate student (Chris Randle), and were being stored for future studies. The loss is a huge one, I assure you.

The cake is chocolate with chocolate and peanut-butter frosting for the flowers and rhizomes, respectively. It's made from scratch with plenty of healthy ingredients, including spinach and zucchini. It was very yummy, too!

I got the biggest kick out of the 3D rendering of the inflorescence. It's pretty similar to the plant, and I loved the gum drop details to give the essence of the flower color.

Here's my grad student, Dan Robarts, with his culinary creation. It just goes to show what a successful evening in the lab, combined with too much coffee, can inspire in a student.

Thanks, Dan! You made my day much, much brighter than it had been before your surprise.

Here's a clump of Hyobanche sanguinea to give you an idea of what this beautiful plant looks like.

I've been studying Hyobanche since 1996. Hyobanche is primarily found in South Africa, but a couple of species are also found in Lesotho and Namibia. It's a holoparasitic plant genus in Orobanchaceae, a family of parasitic plants related to the snapdragon family. Holoparasitic plants don't make their own food through photosynthesis. Instead, they attach to other plants and obtain their water, mineral nutrients and reduced carbon from these host plants.

Hyobanche does not have a root system. Instead, it has an extensive underground rhizome system where host roots can be attacked via organs of attachment that form on the leaf bracts of the rhizome. Whenever a host root makes contact with the leaf bract, a haustorium (organ of attachment) forms and establishes a connection through which water and nutrients pass from host plant to parasitic plant.

This is part of the rhizome system of Hyobanche robusta.

Although I lost quite a few samples, I have to remember that it was only part of the total collection of tissue acquired over the course of several field seasons. It does have a huge impact on future projects, but it's not a total loss.

Chocolate cake certainly helps as consolation. . .

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Of grape and grain

Of grape and grain, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

October 10, 2010 - we visited the vineyard of Gigi's brother in Stellenbosch, spending a lovely evening there October 9. It was a blustery day, which made for some lovely soft light. The vineyard is inter-cropped with wheat.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Mostly primary colors

Mostly primary colors, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

St. James is on the east side of the Cape Peninsula, south of Muizenberg and north of Simon's Town. There is a row of colorful beach houses along one side of a narrow strip of beach that have always caught my eye. I posted a picture of the row before, but here's a detail of two of the houses. The vibrant colors always bring a smile to my face.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Hout Bay

Hout Bay, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

On October 8, we did a hike in Silvermine Nature Reserve with our good friend, Dennis Laidler. The goal was to have lunch atop Noordhoek Peak. This view of Hout Bay is from the saddle below the peak. It was a nice place to rest for a few minutes to take in the scenery.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Penguin trail

Stony Point, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Stony Point, near Betty's Bay, South Africa has a large colony of African Penguins and various cormorants. The rocks are usually chock full of birds drying off, and there are numerous trails used by Penguins as they come ashore and go up to their burrows or sunning spots. The trail that leads around to the right side of these boulders is dotted with penguin footprints.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Skeleton Gorge Falls

Skeleton Gorge Falls, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

Walking along the contour path of Table Mountain in Cape Town one has to cross the Skeleton Gorge stream just below the falls. In color, there are lovely shades of green and it's a very peaceful place to see. I think the processing in black and white brings out some of the drama of the falls. Regardless of the processing, the place is stunning and is amongst my favorite places to visit.

Friday, March 04, 2011


Aglow , originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

The Leucospermums at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden are very beautiful all of the time, but exceptionally so in the early morning when the sun is still shedding golden light. Back lighting of this inflorescence gives it an inner glow that reminds me of an aura.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Everlasting, aka Helichrysum

Everlasting, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

This is one of several species of Helichrysum that occurs in South Africa. The common name is Everlasting, and it is an appropriate name. These bracts are persistent throughout the year. I photographed this specimen at Silvermine Nature Reserve on the Cape Peninsula.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

The Streilitzia is a symbol for Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, and it's easy to understand how this beautiful plant can represent such an amazing place. In the early morning sun, with moisture still clinging to the bracts, it is absolutely stunning.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Fernwood Buttress

Fernwood Buttress, originally uploaded by andiwolfe.

This is one of the spectacular views of the back side of Table Mountain one can see from Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.