Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lunar Eclipse 15 June 2011

Here is my version of how the (total) lunar eclipse developed over the Joburg (Johannesburg) sky in South Africa on 15 June 2011.

I took this photo of a "perfect" full moon at 19.40

From about 20.00 one could see that slowly from the "bottom up" the moon started to "cloud over".

This photo was taken at 20.19

By 20.53 only just more than half of the moon is still "lit up".

By now the eclipse of the moon is almost "complete" = at 21.13

Five minutes later (= 21.18) the first "signs" of what all moon-gazers that evening were waiting for - the moon started to "turn" red.

Seven more minutes later (= 21.25) & the moon is red whilst the previously moon-lit environment "turned" dark.

As the light fades my camera "battles" to focus - it was just too dark (= 21.42) to take more "close-up" photos.

This is an example of what I "managed to produce" at 22.41 - for the eye = a magnificent spectacle; camera-wise = a "botched" attempt.

This photo was taken at 23.12 = the end of the lunar eclipse = the moon becomes "visible" again from the bottom up.

It is said that this was the longest eclipse since 2000 BUT it's apparently the 1st of 2 such eclipses this year!! The next one: 10 Dec - hope that on that date, the night sky will be as clear as was the case on 15 June :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

More Indigenous SA Flora

As I "go along" & share more of my photos on this blog, I'm amazed from what I'm also learning during my research on SA flora - how many flowering plants, by now known all over the world, actually are "natives" from our country South Africa! Other than what I've already posted [SEE: previous blog entries] a great variety of Watsonia species grow "naturally" in many parts of southern Africa. These flowers - like six-petalled stars - are either trumpet-shaped ot tubular & vary in colour from red, pink, white to darkish orange. Other than the 52 species of watsonia indigenous to southern Africa, there are now many hybrids.

Another SA indigenous flower is the Agapanthus, which grows in almost any soil, is also known in other parts of the world as "Lily of the Nile", although it's NOT a member of the lily family. Unfortunately these flowering plants are no longer common in their natural habitat, but instead are widely cultivated.

flower during summer-time and are either blue or white.

Plumbago plants in SA are originally "at home" in the coastal areas of the eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, although they are also native to other warm temperate to tropical regions of the world. Also called (Cape) leadwort, this name might refer to this multi-branched climbing shrub's clusters of lead-blue colour of the flowers OR because it was once thought to be a cure for lead poisoning!?

The (Cape) Everlastings are also known as "paper daisies" and in Afrikaans are called sewejaartjies - which reflects its longevity = 7 years. These flowers were given their popular name because they also retain their colour long after being picked, and their colour is sometimes enhanced by dyeing. During the days of the first settlers at the Cape Peninsula, these dried flowers were exported to Europe for use in flower decorations but ALSO as stuffing for mattresses!
Did you know that a superstition existed with regard to sewejaartjies-stuffed mattrasses? It was said that those sleeping on such mattresses would be blessed with prosperity & fertility.

The Golden guinea everlasting might be pretty to look at but has become a noxious weed in parts of the Eastern Cape, where carpets of shimmering silver and gold virtually cover otherwise grazing lands.

And then there are the Ericas - also called heath or heather - of which world-wide about 860 species are known, whilst more than 600 of these are indigenous to southern Africa! Most ericas are small shrubs with mainly tubular or bell-shaped flowers & together with proteas [SEE: one of my previous blog entries] & restios (= reed or grass species) are part of the Cape Floral Kingdom also known as fynbos.

I've posted a picture of these flowers before & to this day haven't been able to identify - HELP!? I simply call them Fairy Bells - but perhaps someone can assist by "properly" naming them? Personally I love this photo - another reason to post it again (brag a little :). I also assume it's an indigenous SA plant!?

Similarly I've posted this photo of Cosmos before although this is NOT a SA indigenous plant! Instead it's a native of scrub & meadow lands in the southern USA, Central & South America from where it was "accidentally" imported to South Africa. How/Why? It's said that the seed of Cosmos arrived in SA in bales of fodder for the horses of the British army during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). These days the pink, white & lilac flowers "adorn" many road verges and fields on the Highveld during late summer and autumn - "heralding" Easter & some years ago (before the "date" changed), the last "preparations" for one of our most famous long-distance runs = The Comrades Marathon - at least that's what I remember our Comrades hero, Bruce Fordyce (= winner of 9 consecutive races) used to say about the "time" of the Cosmos.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Indigenous SA Flora

It's rather unusual for me but for now, I'll continue to concentrate on indigenous South African Flora - because I also have a rather large collection of flora-photos & learn more about it "in the process" = when doing research on the "topic". Until I started this "project" I actually didn't know that ALL Strelitzia "originate" in South Africa = are native to this country.

The Strelitzia is also known as the "bird-of-paradise-flower" or in South Africa, we also refer to it as the Crane flower (because it reminds us of our national bird = the Blue Crane). This indigenous (& perennial) plant mainly grows "wild" along riverbanks & coastal bush of the Eastern Cape (province). In nature, the flowers are pollinated by sunbirds.

Mostly the coastal regions & especially in the sub-tropical parts of our country is "home" to the Wild banana or Giant Strelitzia (= Strelitzia nicolai). Because the flower isn't as colourful as its (smaller) cousins, it is often "overlooked" - yet it's the one Strelitzia that continues to grow "unhindered" in the wild.

As I "confessed" above, until recently I was under the impression that this Rush-leaved Strelitzia was the only indigenous strelitzia in South Africa. It has reed-like (= restio) instead of banana-plant-like leaves & appears to be the most frost-resistant of the Strelitzia genus.

And then we have a "cultivated" Strelitzia species that's very special & I think it's name says it all: Strelitzia Mandela, also called "Mandela's Gold". It is a pure yellow variety with long, sturdy stalks & was "created" at Kirstenbosch (= South Africa's National Botanic Garden in Cape Town) after 20 years of careful & selective hand-pollination. However it has an "enemy" . . .

. . . in the "form" of the Grey squirrel, which many years ago was introduced by Cecil John Rhodes to the Cape (= originally from North America, "imported" to the UK & from there to South Africa). This "non-native" naturalised itself through the years along the Cape Peninsula (including Kirstenbosch) & tends to consume nearly all of the crop of the rare Strelitzia Mandela.

To prevent the "total" destruction of this strelitzia at Kirstenbosch, the staff at the Botanic Garden "encloses" each fertilized flower in fine-mesh chicken wire (as many visitors to this garden have observed with "shock") - this isn't a pretty "picture" but the preventative measure manages to keep the squirrels out!