Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Alpine of Australia

Alpine of Australia by andiwolfe
Alpine of Australia, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

Steve and I climbed Mount Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in Australia on March 28, 2012. Given that the altitude of the peak is only around 7300 feet, that doesn't seem like much of an accomplishment - especially after having climbed Kala Patthar at 18,500 feet in 2009.

However, the alpine zone of the Snowy Mountains of Australia is absolutely charming. The day we climbed Kosciuszko was rainy and cold, but that was good on several fronts: 1) there weren't as many people up there, 2) the lighting was awesome, 3) I had the fun of falling on my butt several times because the steel mesh walkway was more slippery than snot and my boots were definitely not the right ones for that track. I ended up throwing away those crappy boots. They're the ones I wore in Nepal that gave my feet such grief, too, so good riddance.

I was really thrilled to be able to see and photograph Euphrasia - one of the parasitic plants in Orobanchaceae I've studied. It's common in this alpine zone, and I would love to do fieldwork sometime to really have a chance to study it, but, alas - not likely to happen.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Kangaroo by andiwolfe (I'm back!)
Kangaroo, a photo by andiwolfe (I'm back!) on Flickr.

One of the most enjoyable things to photograph in Australia are the kangaroos and wallabies. They are often very reclusive, but in areas where they are used to people not bothering them, they are alert, but inquisitive. This one was encountered in a national park along the Sapphire coast.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

ICM: Mangroves

ICM: Mangroves by andiwolfe (I'm back!)
ICM: Mangroves, a photo by andiwolfe (I'm back!) on Flickr.

Back to Australia and some intentional camera movement technique for today's post. This was done along the boardwalk of Merimbula lake. The streaks are bits of light peeking through the leaves. It reminds me of rain for some reason.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Catching some rays

The Cape Sugarbird is a nectar feeder, usually seen foraging on various species of Leucospermum or other members of the Protea family. I photographed this one in 2010.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Carolina chickadee

Actually, this may be a black-capped chickadee since it was nesting at Magee Marsh.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Penstemon whippleanus

The alpine flora of the American west is truly beautiful, especially when it contains this gorgeous penstemon. I posted a different photo awhile ago, but this species is worth seeing again.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Opuntia by andiwolfe (I'm back!)
Opuntia, a photo by andiwolfe (I'm back!) on Flickr.

This beautiful cactus flower was in bloom during the American Penstemon Society meeting, which was last month in Wyoming. The habitat was sage brush scrub. With those spines, one has to be careful about where one steps.

The flower is a typical representation of what my major professor labeled "mess and spoil" pollination.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming

The first evening of the American Penstemon Society meeting featured a lecture by Dennis Knight, a retired professor at the University of Wyoming. He gave us an overview of the geomorphology and vegetation of Wyoming, focused on the areas we would be visiting.

One of the most interesting things he talked about was the uplift and erosion of the mountains. What you see here is an erosion basin, which makes the mountains look very small. In fact, I was at 10,000 ft in elevation, looking across to the Snowy Range.

The trees are one-sided (referred to as flag trees) due to the constant wind up here, which comes from the west. In the winter the wind carries snow and ice crystals which beat up the trees big time.

It's a gorgeous landscape, and the alpine flora is well worth exploring.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Penstemon laricifolius var. exaltata

Last month's American Penstemon Society meeting was in Wyoming. I hadn't spent much time collecting penstemons in Wyoming - mostly just along the I-80 corridor. For the field meeting we traveled in the Snowy Range, the Laramie Mountains, and up to the Ferris Dunes.

This beautiful species is Penstemon laricifolius var. exaltata. It's about five or six inches tall. It's in section Ericopsis, which is a focus my graduate student, Aaron Wenzel. He's doing an interesting study on the phylogeography of this group of penstemons.

I was very glad to make its acquaintance last month, and to have a chance to see some beautiful country out west.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monochrome tree

Monochrome tree by andiwolfe (I'm back!)
Monochrome tree, a photo by andiwolfe (I'm back!) on Flickr.

The drought that is affecting much of the USA has taken a huge toll on trees out west. In addition to the white pine bark beetle infestation, many trees are suffering from lack of water.

While in Wyoming last month, I took a photo of a dead tree against a dramatic sky. Monochrome is great for this kind of photographic imaging.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Wyoming landscape

The Snowy Range of Wyoming is absolutely stunning. This is at Medicine Bow, one of the beautiful places I visited last month during the American Penstemon Society meeting.

I love the alpine zone for many reasons, but the stunning scenery is at the top of the list of why I enjoy spending time at high altitude. This spot is still in a transition from forest to true alpine, with a mixed flora that makes it all the more interesting to visit.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Penstemon whippleanus

One of the lovely penstemons spotted during the American Penstemon Society meeting in Wyoming. This one was in the alpine zone of the Snowy Range, not far from Medicine Bow.

Penstemon whippleanus is one of nearly 300 species of Penstemon, and comes in a variety of hues, ranging from white to deep magenta purple. It's in subgenus Penstemon, section Penstemon. I've worked on Penstemon for more than 20 years of my career and there is still so much to learn about this interesting genus.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Room with a view

Room with a view by andiwolfe (I'm back!)
Room with a view, a photo by andiwolfe (I'm back!) on Flickr.

It's been awhile since I posted anything to the blog. The primary reason is that we were hammered with a huge storm June 29, 2012, which left my home without electricity until July 7, 2012. That wasn't a whole lot of fun, especially with temperatures in the high 90's and low 100's for the duration. However, it gave us an opportunity to clean out the refrigerator and freezer and camp on the living room floor with all the windows open. Upstairs was not an option with those kinds of temps.

An hour after our electricity came on I was checked into the conference hotel for the Botany 2012 meeting, which ran from Saturday to today (Thursday). My room was on the 20th floor of the Regency Hyatt, which gave a lovely view of downtown Columbus, Ohio.

Botany 2012 was a great conference. I learned a lot and had some great interactions with colleagues. The talks were informative and I enjoyed the workshop on next generation sequencing that I took on Sunday. The downside is that now I'm another week behind, but I have lots of good collaborations percolating that will keep me motivated for the rest of the summer.