Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Turtle Power!

The pureists will remind me we're talking tortoises here, and there are some important distinctions.

I do however, want to take time to remember ol' Cutshell, whom I haven't seen in a few years, but sometimes he(she) goes a few years without being seen. It would go from somewhere in our backyard to somewhere cross the street this time of year, had a cut on its carapace that looked like battle damage from a lawn mower. Cutshell was/is a survivor. Hope there are baby Cutshells running around.

Springtime Shell-ebration!It’s spring, which means gopher tortoises are out and about! After a winter of relative...
Posted by MyFWC on Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ramble On!

Fly in week at Lakeland Linder Airport. Many folks coming in for that. I'll have to research the history of fly in week. There's going to be airshows, lots of personally own/flown aircraft, and my cousin is coming into town! She's a pilot and airframe maintenance mechanic to boot.

Lots of metal birds to look at, and not just the feathered ones for a change.

Speaking of birds, migration is at its peak in FL. Reports are filtering in from all over the state of moving warblers, tanagers, buntings, and other feathered beasts. I haven't seen a lot yet, but I went birding Saturday morning with the oldest at Circle B Bar, still working on that post. The peak was probably a week ago, but there's still a lot out there to see. Plus, breeding for the locals has begun!

Discovered a wide area repeater network in FL:
SARNet.
Seems interesting, I can hit the local repeater with my $30 Radio Shack clearance (from 10 years ago) UHF special radio using a rubber duck. If you live near an interstate in FL, chances are you are already in a coverage area for one of these linked repeaters. Find out a local one, and give out a call. I've been trying to call every now and again, but haven't heard any activity on them yet.

FL has at lease one other repeater network, the NI4CE network, and I think there's some linked repeaters in south Florida too. It's important for an old hat like me to remember that repeaters are where a lot of the most important activities occur for ham radio, and repeaters introduce most new hams to the hobby. Be kind, be courteous, and always follow good amateur radio practices when using repeaters.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Attack of the Bromeliads Part 3, Revenge of the Needle!

This beauty is what really got me thinking about bromeliads:

Tillandsia setacea: Southern Needleleaf
This is Tillandsia setacea: Southern Needleleaf, and it has some of the most striking flowers out of something related to Spanish Moss I've ever seen.



T. setacea, showing seeding flowers
And this isn't when it's even all that pretty!
When it's in full flower, the flower is purple, I'll keep an eye out, supposedly this is the time when they bloom. Unfortunately, they've never been reported north of Georgia, and according to the USF Plant Atlas of Vascular Plants, has only been "vouchered" in Florida in counties south of and including I-4. There have been collections made in a few counties around Tampa, north of I-4.

Crimsoned triad breaks
Sending seeds into the wind
Planting in the air


From the underside
Of the Live Oak branch it grows
Needing only air.

I haven't found any information about commercial uses of this plant, nor have I found any folk medicinal uses. Mostly, it is pretty to look at, and scrubs the humid air under live oaks. That's not a bad lot in life.

There are a lot more different types of Tillandsias and there's even more different genera. In all there are sixteen native to Florida species, and there's two hybrids that occur naturally. One of the biggest dangers that they face is from an imported insect, the Mexican Bromeliad Weevil, Metamasius callizona. First reported in FL in the mid 1990's, the weevil quickly discovered that Florida's bromeliads are tasty. Many of the plants they feast upon have become uncommon or endangered as a result of their depredation. Fortunately for T. usneoides, T. recurvata, and T. setacea the weevil does not for now, find them tasty. The link above that describes the weevil problem also details a program started in 2007 to control the weevil population using a parasitic fly.

I've written these three articles on these common plants because I learned something while looking at them. Next time I'll share some interesting realizations I had while seeking flowers along the branches of a live oak tree.


Monday, April 13, 2015

The Bromeliads are Upon Us! The Sequel.

Spanish Moss drapes and envelopes the trees. It's distinctly southern. However, many times, even in the same tree, there exists another bromeliad, Tillandsia recurvata known as Ball Moss, hiding among the limbs.

The plant is compact
Sending out tendrils and seeds
Sprouting from flower

Tillandsia recurvata

In the picture above, we see that Ball Moss is a compact plant, similar and color to Spanish Moss, and like Spanish Moss, is stringy. The plant itself, however, grows differently. Instead of resembling a chain from a barrel of monkeys, T. recurvata grows in a more "normal" plant like fashion. There is a central place where the plant attaches to a limb. You can also see how the seed stalk is long and curves out. This is a key indicator for know when you have Ball Moss and Spanish Moss growing together, if you are trying to judge from a distance. I gave a picture of a seedpod dispersing seeds from a T. usneoides in the last post. Notice in that picture, that the seedpod is very close to the plant.

Another note about the seedpod of this plant: The seeds often germinate right on the end of the stalk, so the plant looks like it's "walking" ie, sending out a tendril and cloning itself. Nope, it's sprouting from the seeds, straight out of the nest!


T. usneoides  and T. recurvata growing together
To the right, we see Spanish and Ball Moss growing together, and this is how I first discovered it, even though at the time, I didn't know what I was seeing. I made the error of thinking that the Ball Moss was a baby Spanish moss plant. Now I know better.

Top, bottom, left, right
Surrounded, the plant juts out
Sending seeds on stalk




There's a chance Ball Moss is good for something other than looking pretty too! A study in 2012 revealed that it could help in the fight against prostate cancer. Green Deane reports that it and Spanish Moss can be nibbled.

 On the left, I'm holding a Live oak leaf behind a seedpod so I could take a better picture of the wispy, feather like seeds.

And there's a seed head, fully visible. Now that I know what they look like, Tillandsia seeds are easy to find, I've found them on trees, my windshield, in bushes, and all sorts of places. One long range photography project I have is to track a seed as it grows.

The seed, over time
Becomes a whole new plant
Making seeds itself

Part three involves a new-to-me Tillandsia that has very showy flowers.

Friday, April 10, 2015

It's the Bromeliads! They're Everywhere! pt 1.

Hide your wife!
Hide your kids!
This post is about air plants!

I want to highlight three plant species, all members of the same genus, Tillandsia. You find them on live oaks and bald cypress especially, but they also reside on many other tree species. They don't (usually) hurt the trees (we'll talk about the worst case scenario), but instead they simply live on the bark of the trees they inhabit. These plants need a "perch" not dirt, and it just so happens that live oaks and cypress trees serve as the perfect perch because they excrete certain minerals the Tillandsias sp. need to survive.

All three species shown in this post are common species. You can find them all over Florida, and I found them all in the same live oak. We'll handle them in the order that I discovered them in my area. Each plant deserves its own post.

First up:
Tillandsia usneoides: Spanish Moss.


Tillandsia usneoides
This plant surprises most people by being a bromeliad. Pineapples (Ananas comosus) are bromeliads too! True story, Spanish Moss is a cousin of the Pineapple. It's also the most widespread Tillandsia in the USA. The latin name refers to the superficial appearance it has with a lichen genus, Usnea. to tell them apart, understand that Usnea lichens have a solid white inner core, if you try to pull a strand apart, the white core is visible. In Spanish Moss, the core is black. They are both stringy, but with Spanish Moss, I always think of monkeys in a barrel, the plant is a long chain. With Usnea, it's more like a tree trunk with branches sprouting out. There's always one main trunk. When you have both in the hand, the differences are very apparent. When you look at them across the street, they start to look similar. Lichens don't have flowers though, and bromeliads do. While the flower of T. usneoides is nothing particularly spectacular, it's one of those flowers that grows on you  and leaves you saying "so that's what that flower looks like!"
T. usneoides flower

T. usneoides flower



 A green glint on grey
Catching bright morning sunshine
Glowing small flower






Not big nor showy
They open along the chain
Hoping for pollen




T. usneoides seeds







Ripened flower's seeds
Cast forth on the wind seeking
A new place to grow






 Early in Florida's history, Spanish Moss found its way into the mattress of many pioneers. While people, for the most part, no longer use it as bedding, the Seminole bat (Lasiurus seminolus) among other bats uses it as a daytime roost. When I see Spanish Moss, I instinctively know I'm supposed to be there. It's a sign that the air is clean, free from pollution (especially the pollution that causes acid rain), and that the weather doesn't get too cold. The way it hangs on trees suggests a wise elder, and I've spent many moments pondering the wisdom the grey adorned wood has to offer.


 In doing research on the Tillandsias common to the neighborhood, I came across some useful links that I've posted at the bottom, I hope you enjoy learning about them as much as I did.
Also feel free to share a haiku about the Spanish Moss in your neck of the woods.



LINKS:
Florida's native bromeliads: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw205
How to know when you've got Usnea: http://www.eattheweeds.com/usnea-food-and-pharmacy-lichen/
A list of Tillandsias: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Tillandsia_species

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Plodding Forth....


The meat of this post is as follows:

First, I've managed to work stations 2 days in the last five on my radio!
6 QSOs total. so over one a day, still! I broke the streak using voice on 15m, and kept the trend alive using CW.hopefully, I can continue to do well. I realized last week I went all March without a single QSO.

Secondly, I'm going to be doing some posts about epiphytes (air-plants), namely some local native bromeliads, namely Tillandsia recurvata and T. usneoides. There's another I haven't identified yet. We'll get to that later, lots of pictures coming! Likely a haiku or two, perhaps some straight up verse. If you grok what I'm dropping here, I got close to them, and understood their being. For a moment all was as it should be.

Finally:

There's much gurgling going on in my brain. Something is effervescent and building just beneath the surface of my consciousness. There's a connection to be made between the moral decay amoung individuals, the increasing authoritarianism exhibited by the state, and the increasing desire of society to utilize state authority as a bludgeon for what it considers to be the evil of the day. When things coalesce, there will be a good chance that what I postulate will offend and chagrin many people I love. I hope you'll bear with me, it's going to be a bumpy ride.



***EDIT 09 April 2015***
worked a VK2 today on 20m CW!
took the compost to the compost heap, drilled some holes in a box for my eldest child's science project, then turnt on the radio. took about five minutes to make sure I had their call right, and then call the station myself. very FB OP!
I need to work a lot more stations to bring the average up, but I did accomplish my goal of working stations on two separate days this week!

Also,
working on my Tillandsia post. Pics are on the computer, and I've been typing the background. Hoped to have it up today for my Dad's birthday, but I had to take a car tire to the shop and hop around a bunch, before I came to work.

***EDIT again 13 April 2015***
Jim in MO AF0F on 20m CW!
Need a lot more, will take schedules.

Also, two Tillandsia posts are up, and I'm working on the third
Featurinig:
 Tillandsia usneoides
 Tillandsia recurvata

Monday, March 30, 2015

Stalled

The 5 month old in the house is too dang cute ya'll.

New Years Resolution update:
1. Average QSO count of 1 per day: waaaaay behind. I'm trying to get into the habit of going to bed earlier, so that means no radio. Because most of my operating has been at night, post midnight local time, I have less time for long stents radio.

2. Two days of radio activity per week. Also, haven't had time for this. Trying to make more time, but I've got a lot going on right now, and need time for physical activity more than radio time though.

Haven't even uploaded QSOs from this year to LOTW yet. UGH.
My strategy is to renew resolution #2 first, get two days of activity. Even if only for one QSO. I'm keeping my CW skills up by whistling license plates while on the way to work, and also random texts. It helps, but not much.
Progress report due next Monday.