The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines smattering as “a small scattered number or amount,” and that is what this blog entry is all about this time. I’ve covered spring blossoms several times in the past so this spring I decided to pull up some disparate images from the past from both myself and from my wife. Certainly a smattering of different images from point-and-shoots like the Canon PowerShots, top end non-removable lens higher-end cameras like the Canon G12 up to DSLRs, Sony A350s and Digital SLT Alpha A77V. One image has been processed as an HDR but the others have had minimal alteration other than cropping and sharpening.
Since we’ve all seen excellent flower pictures I though I’d show a few unusual blooming plants and flowers from only the southwest area of the US and even the Baja California area of Mexico. Lets begin.
The IDRIA COLUMNARIS
Boojum tree – Sony DSLT A77, ISO 100, f/8, 1/160 sec, 50 mm prime, 0 ev
“The Boojum is native only in the deserts of Baja California and Sonora, Mexico. Fancifully, it resembles a slender upside-down carrot, up to 15 metres (50 feet) tall and covered with spiny twigs that bear yellowish flowers in hanging clusters and it is a relative the Ocotillo,” says the Encyclopedia Britannica dictionary. It blooms in the spring.
But since we’re looking at flowers lets go back to our grade school biology class and dissect a flower. Remember it’s parts?
Parts of a flower
All I could remember were the petals, the stamen, and the pistil. Here’s a night blooming cactus flower from our backyard. Can make out the major parts?
Night blooming cactus flower ( Cereus peruvianus) in our yard blooms only at night – Konica/Minolta DSLR Maxxum 5D, ISO 400, f/5/6, 1/125 sec, 70 mm, 0 ev
When we look at the unusual plants like the Boojum you have to get really close to even find the actual yellow flower. Sorry I don’t have one for you to see. Here are some more blooms.
Vine bloom – Sony DSLT A77V, ISO 400, f/7.1, 50 mm prime, 1/100 sec, 0 ev, HDR
Flowers pop out most anywhere on cactus. This one just sprouts out along the body of the creeping cactus along the ground. This is HDR enhanced just for fun. HDR gives it that “thin pink crisp paper” look to the flower and brings out the multi-color pebbles along the background. Here’s another one.
Red Cactus flower – Canon G12, ISO 160, f/5, 1/40 sec, 0 ev, 6.1 mm
My wife took this nice red bloom with her Canon G12. I played with the image in Aperture and gave it a soft feel and then finished it off in NiKs dFine to smooth out a little bit of the digital noise I noticed.
Since we saw the Boojum we might as well look at the Ocotillo a relative of that unique tree.
Saguaro and Ocotillo – Sony A350, ISO 100, f/11, 1/320 sec, 35 mm, 0 ev
I used to think that this plant flowered only in the spring but after buying one and planting it in the yard I noticed it grows flowers many times throughout the year except during our winter months. It looses its leaves, yes it has leaves and spines during certain times. I haven’t exactly guessed when that occurs either. Seems each plant has it’s own cycle except for the winter time. The ocotillo can bloom when it has leaves and even when it loses its’ leaves. Weird.
Ocotillo & Palo Verde tree – Sony A350, ISO 100, f/11, 1/320 sec, 35 mm, 0 ev
Of course the tree behind this Ocotillo is the Palo Verde, a green barked tree that means “green stick” and is the Arizona state tree. It is deciduous (sheds its leaves during extended dry spells) at which time the tree relies on its green stems and branches for photosynthesis. Like the Ocotillo’s leaves that come and go it seems many desert plants are able to grow alternate ways to stay alive with or without leaves. The spines keep plant predators somewhat at bay.
Cereus- Queen of the Night – Sony DSLR A350, ISO 400, 70 mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, 0 ev
The “Peniocereus greggii is a cactus species originating from the Antilles, Mexico and Central America. The species is commonly referred to as Nightblooming Cereus, Queen of the Night, Large-flowered Cactus, Sweet-Scented Cactus or Vanilla Cactus,” so says Wikipedia. Tohono Chul Park is a wonderful botanical desert garden here that has many of these single night blooming plants and they host a “bloom night” for the members and general public. It is an annual event and thousands of people are notified by email the exact night that the blooms open. If you’re in the area and want to see these amazing flowers that seem to grow out from grey non-leaved sticks take the link to the park and be put on their mailing list to be notified when they bloom. It’s fun to mingle among the horticulturist community and photographers when this happens. Okay only two flowering plants to go.
Mexican Bird-of-Paradise – Canon PowerShot SD1100IS, ISO 80, f/4.9, 19 mm, 1/250 sec, 0 ev
We can’t overlook the Red Bird-of-Paradise or Mexican Bird-of-Paradise plant found all over the Southwest. I’m used to the Bird-of-Paradise that looks like a long necked bird but this one was new to me. It is flamboyant, grows like a weed or shrub all over Tucson and attracts bees and butterflies. You can cut it to the ground in the winter and it will grow to 6 or 7 feet in the spring and bloom all summer long. This one was shot with a Canon PowerShot point and shoot.
Saguaro blossoms – Konica/Minolta 5D, ISO 100, f/9, 1/400 sec, 70 mm, 0 ev
Saguaros are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert. The most important factors for growth are water and temperature. If the elevation is too high, the cold weather and frost can kill the saguaro. Although the the Sonoran Desert experiences both winter and summer rains, it is thought that the Saguaro obtains most of its moisture during the summer rainy season.
Tucson Arizona is the home of Saguaro National Park. Since Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert area Saguaro cactus are concentrated both east and west of the city proper. The Saguaro National park is split into two parts, East Saguaro and West Saguaro National Park. Both are very unique.
The flowers on this 12 foot cactus run up and down it’s pleated skin like so many teats on a hog if you will. This example has more blossoms than any I’ve seen.
Saguaro fruit – Sony A350, ISO 100, 300 mm, f/5.6, 1/250 sec, 0ev
This cactus can weigh in a more than two tons and some really old big ones can check in at over 5 tons and be over 200 years old. Totally the grandfathers of the southern desert.
After the white waxy blooms are fertilized by the honey bees bright red fruits form and hang like bloody juicy berries. The Tohono O’odham native american people come to Saguaro National Park to harvest the saguaro fruit each year using long poles originally made from Saguaro ribs tied together to make them long enough to reach the tall cactus.
So there you have it. I hope you noticed the different cameras used to take these pictures in the article. It just goes to show you that you don’t need to have an expensive camera to make some nice images.
Till next time get out there and use your imagination and camera to tell a story.