Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A way to honor one's ancestors

One of the interesting things about Bhutan is the way ancestors are remembered. After someone dies, they are usually cremated. Not all of the body is consumed during cremation. The bits and pieces left over are gathered and pulverized, mixed with clay, and molded into these figurines, which are then painted and left in holy places in the mountains. Usually they are placed under rock overhangs to protect them from weathering.
Clay figures
This particular site is along the trail to Tiger's Nest, a monastery clinging to a cliff at 10,500 feet.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Penstemon petiolatus - at last!

Last weekend I was in Utah for the American Penstemon Society meeting. We stayed in Springdale, Utah - the gateway to Zion National Park.  Field trips included hikes in Zion National Park, a road trip to visit unusual and rare species of Penstemon, and a Monday excursion to visit some of the more unique species that occur in Utah.

One of the highlights for me was Penstemon petiolatus - a species that is endemic to limestone outcrops.  Limestone outcrops - the kind that are weathered and razor sharp, that is. One would not want to slip and fall on this substrate - you'd be suffering some dramatic lacerations. Needless-to-say, I was very careful to be balanced and step very carefully.

 My colleague, Mike Stevens, refers to P. petiolatus as "skidmark penstemon" - that's because you slam on the brakes when you spot it from the road. It truly is a stunning species, and I very much wish I had collected it back in the 1990s when I was trying to find it in Nevada. I didn't have success then, which meant that it could not be in my phylogenetic study of the genus. It is the only member of section Peltanthera subsection Petiolati, and that was the only subsection that wasn't represented in the study my lab published in 2006. 

We visited the Beaver Dam Mountains of Utah to see this species.  The plants were easily seen on a limestone outcrop.  On the side facing the road, the plants were scattered over the north face. Climbing over the top and onto the other side, though, revealed an amazing garden of Penstemon petiolatus and some barrel cacti. What a feast for the eyes!

For more information about this interesting species, check out my Penstemon of the day: Penstemon petiolatus blog post at News from Andi Wolfe's Lab.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Civil War Encampment at the Ohio Statehouse

Steve and I got back late on May 8th. The trip to Bhutan was awesome, and I'll post photos in the coming weeks.  However, this post is about an annual event here in Columbus - a Civil War encampment that takes place on the Ohio Statehouse lawn on a Friday and Saturday. This year the weather was pretty miserable - raining all day yesterday. The participants were really good sports about the weather and continued on as if this were normal. I guess if one is going to do this kind of role playing, the weather would not be a factor. I enjoyed talking to the participants, and I learned a bit about the uniforms and costumes - made as authentically as possible.

Here are some photos from the morning. I used the Fuji XE-1 for this shoot, converting raw files into monochrome using Silver Efex Pro 2. I did a custom filter to emulate an antique plate effect. All photos by Andi Wolfe ©2014 - all rights reserved.