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

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