Archive for November, 2010

Heart in Nature – Bulgaria

Special thanks to Maya Karkalicheva for permission to use this photo. This shot depicts a lake in Bulgaria. Do you see the heart?

do i see heart in the lake ..
Photo courtesy of .:: Maya ::.

For more gorgeous pictures of Bulgaria, I would highly recommend Maya’s PhotoStream.

November 30, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Is Mollie Trying to Tell Us Something?

Life hasn’t been especially easy for our three-legged snotty cat, Mollie, and she is getting up there in age. I have heard about how older cats sometimes will leave home to die. I’m wondering if Mollie is taking a different approach. She seems to have developed an odd affection for cookware. : )

Elizabeth City - Mollie for Dinner
Mollie in the Frying Pan

Elizabeth City - Mollie In Baking Stone
Mollie in a Pampered Chef Baking Stone

November 26, 2010 at 5:00 am 4 comments

Thanksgiving and Pigging Out

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today Ryan and I will be spending the day with extended family in Silver Spring, Maryland. Last time we spend the holiday there, in 2008, there was a convenient scale in the living room. We weighed ourselves right before the meal… and then we weighed ourselves again after ingesting numerous helpings of delicious turkey, stuffing and that decadent sweet potato casserole I’d still trade my sanity for.

Thanksgiving 2008 - Ryan Weighs Himself
Ryan Weighs Himself – Thanksgiving 2008

The data collection made for some interesting banter, but that’s about all we used it for. We didn’t step back and reflect, “Hmmm… what are the evolutionary implications of gorging oneself?”

National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) is doing a blogging competition where the prize is a travel grant to Science Online 2011 conference (which Ryan and I are attending). One of the entries tackles a topic that I found very fitting for today’s festivities. Enjoy!

Eat ‘til you can’t eat no more: Evolution of the pig-out

November 25, 2010 at 5:00 am 1 comment

Tentacle Beards in Nature?

When I first encountered the Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) in Douthat State Park, I thought it looked like a Koosh Ball.

Karyn at Boulders 2 Bit uncovered another fungal look-a-like this past June at the NC Museum of Life and Science— Cedar-Apple Rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae) and Davy Jones from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean!

I highly recommend checking out her post to learn more about Cedar-Apple Rust and see part of its lifecycle in action!
I’m Galled By It: Cedar-Apple Rust

November 23, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Wedding – American Chestnut

In 2008, I visited one of the research farms of The American Chestnut Foundation and learned about their backcross breeding effort to restore the American chestnut. It’s hard work! Innoculating trees, evaluating blight resistance, pollen collection, flower bagging, meticulous hand pollinations and fall harvests of the spikey burs. After 25 years, all that effort produced the B3F3 generation. Dubbed the “Restoration chestnut”, the trees are 15/16th American and potentially blight resistant. But keep in mind– blight resistance isn’t enough for the trees to rebound in the wild. There’s a very good reason why we couldn’t just throw some Chinese chestnuts in the Appalachians and wish them well. Chinese chestnuts don’t grow fast or tall enough to compete with the likes of tulip poplars and other forest trees. To be successful, the trees would need American growth characterstics with the Chinese blight resistance.

Does the B3F3 generation have what it takes? Does it have the winning combination of Chinese and American traits? To help answer that question, The American Chestnut Foundation invited its Sponsor Members to become a part of their science team. Last March, Sponsor Members were able to receive two Restoration chestnut seeds to grow, measure and report on.

Ryan Somma and I received our seeds on March 17th. We were getting married three days later on March 20th. The timing allowed us to have a very special guest at our wedding. Good people have been trying to save the American chestnut since the blight was first spotted in New York City in 1904. It’s an effort that has spans generations. After 106 years of heartache and hope, Ryan Somma and I had the great honor to plant a Restoration chestnut during our ceremony.

Wedding Weekend - American Chestnut Unity Ceremony - Ryan Plants (by Liza Franco)
Ryan Plants Our Unity American Chestnut

Wedding Weekend - American Chestnut Unity Ceremony - Ryan and Vicky Water (by Liza Franco)
Ryan and Vicky Water American Chesntut

I can’t say for certain we were the only couple who have had an “American Chestnut Unity Ceremony”, but my hunch is it’s pretty rare. : )

In lieu of gifts, Ryan and I suggested two charities for our guests to donate to. For science, we suggested Elizabeth City’s Port Discover. For nature, we suggested The American Chestnut Foundation. The response was resounding! Out of just the donations that we know about, our guests gave $1392.50 to The American Chestnut Foundation. One of our guests, Ryn R, handmade a card to document her charitable donations. She did her homework. She gave the American chestnut leaves teeth!

Wedding Weekend - Inside of Alex and Ryn's Card
Card – The American chestnut leaves have teeth!

It’s been eight months and a handful of days since our wedding and Ryan and I are still fielding questions and witnessing continued chestnut enthusiasm from our family and friends.

To have your loved ones so wholeheartedly embrace and support a cause that is near and dear to your heart…. could there be a wedding gift better than that?

For more information of donating to or becoming a member of The American Chestnut Foundation, visit:

November 22, 2010 at 5:00 am 4 comments

Identification of “Identification by Blight”

In December 2008, I stopped on Salt Pond Mountain to snag a season compare shot when some unusual bark caught my eye. Without the leaves I usually relied on, I was able to recognize a little orchard of American chestnut trees…by their blight.

Bear Cliffs - Surprise Chestnut Trees
One of the Trees I Spotted On Salt Pond Mountain

This past Sunday, the Roanoke Times ran an article, Researchers work to save American chestnut trees from blight. The article talks about the 40 year effort of Lucille and Gary Griffin to restore the American chestnut. “The project started in earnest,” the article writes, “on Salt Pond Mountain in Giles County.”

So nearly two years after my chance encounter of the trees, I now have a good idea of whose behind them. : )

(Hat Tip, Paul E!)

November 20, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Hungry Tree – Gravestone

Back in 2007, when I did my original collection of Hungry Trees, I featured a tree in Boston eating a tombstone. Here is a tree “across the pond” with a similiar appetite. Enjoy!

Tree Eating a Gravestone
A tree in Nottinham’s General Cemetary (Photo by El Struthio)

November 19, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Conclusion from a Turd

This morning I woke up and, as usual, I let the dogs outside while the coffee maker worked its magic. The dogs had been out earlier that morning and I discovered poor, old Jimmie with his increasingly sporadic bowels had had an accident on the back deck. Then I noticed on the very bottom step, a squished turd with the unmistakable imprint of a shoe tread.

I laughed and felt bad for Ryan at the same time. That small, misshapen piece of poop gave me a clear vision of how his work day started out.

He came out of the house, admired the changing fall leaves, and inhaled the crisp and invigorating morning air.

“Today is going to be a GREAT day!!!” I imagine he thought.

Then *SPLAT*!

Reality sunk in. : )

November 18, 2010 at 9:51 pm 4 comments

Frank Lloyd Wright at Madison Airport

So say, the laxative effect of your morning coffee has taken you offguard. You find yourself in an airport…with urges. Out of all the airports I have been through, the one I would find most comforting in this situation would be the Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, Wisconsin. Between Gates 10 and 12, there is a restroom which I have found to have surprisingly low traffic. As a result, it provides a luxury most airport bathrooms can’t– privacy!

And that my friends, is what stood for years in my mind as the most unique characteristic of the Madison Airport. When I thought about flying through Madison, that’s what came to mind.

On October 20th, after we visited the UW Arboretum, Larry and I pulled over at a place called Monona Terrace. No real reason we stopped there. We just thought it looked neat. We went inside and as Larry pursued a bathroom of his own, I wandered into the gift shop. I was surprised to find a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright stuff… and then I noted all these pictures of Frank Lloyd Wright and his buildings hanging in the hallways. It was shortly thereafter, Larry and I pieced together we had stumbled into Frank Lloyd Wright’s last public building. The design for Monona Terrace was originally conceived in 1938, but construction didn’t begin until 2004, roughly 45 years after the architect’s death.

The next morning Larry and I flew out of Madison Airport and suddenly my eyes were open to details I had missed before. I noted patterns that looked very much like the coasters and clocks and ties that were on display at the Monona Terrace gift shop. All over the Madison Airport, there are little homages to Frank Lloyd Wright. You can even see one as you work your way through airport security.

Madison, Wisconsin - Frank Lloyd Wright At Airport Parking
Parking Garage Flags

Madison, Wisconsin - Frank Lloyd Wright Light at Airport
Light in the Concourse

Madison, Wisconsin - Frank Lloyd Wright at Airport Security
Panels Near Airport Security

Madison, Wisconsin - Frank Lloyd Wright at Gate
Panels Near the Gate

What wonderful details to add to an airport. I don’t know how many times I rushed by to baggage claim without giving these elements a second glance. I do know, now that I’ve noticed, I’m going to continue to notice.

And when I think of Madison Airport, it will be TWO things that come to mind.

(Apologies, Mr. Wright)

November 18, 2010 at 5:00 am 3 comments

Heart in Nature: Greek cyclamen

Heart in Nature, Fractal in Nature? Gorgeous!

Nature's Heart
Nature’s Heart (Photo by macropoulos)

November 17, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

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