Saturday, September 24, 2011

Photos From New Camera, Florida Keys Birding & Wildlife Festival

Starting this past Thursday, I've been dedicating a tour per day 'til Sunday the 25th to registrants of the Florida Keys Birding & Wildlife Festival, which means six tours (including the two for guests) in four days!  The tour is listed as one of many activities of interest to naturalists in a schedule that involves numerous walks, talks and tours taking place throughout the Keys.  Needless to say, I've stocked up on Gatorade and all those hours in the gym are paying off as I near the half-way mark of this mini-marathon of tours.  Ok, so it's not THAT bad, and in fact, it is quite enjoyable for me to be able to educate so many people about the importance and value of plants.  Specially for the Festival, I spent some time brushing up on avianbotany, a little-known field akin to ethnobotany that hasn't really...taken off (cue half-hearted laughter).  In all seriousness though, I did some research on our collections and tried to find out any connections our plants might have with birds and other wildlife so that I could present them to anyone registering for the tour through the Festival.  I was able to come to a greater appreciation about how not only humans, but all animals, depend on plant life for their survival.  Birds and squirrels use plants as a source of food and nest material, insects use plants as homes and for food, and lizards use plants for cover and apparently for enjoyment as props for parkour runs, as they are always bounding acrobatically across the landscape.

The Botanic Gardens recently made the exciting purchase of a new digital camera that has more features and takes higher quality images than our point-and-shoot, so I thought I'd show off some of the sights this week's tour participants are seeing in our gardens through this new lens.  My skill as a photographer needs quite a bit of work before I can produce some truly high-quality photos that will hopefully allow me to effectively capture and present the beauty and complexity of plants, but everyone's got to start somewhere!

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) was used in this bird's nest and has now begun to grow down the silver buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus var. sericeus) in which it was built.

Ants (bottom-right corner) have made a home in the trunk of an old gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba).

A brown anole atop a leaf of one of our pineapple (Ananas sp.) plants keeps watch or, more likely, scopes out his/her next parkour sequence.

Bromeliad inflorescences (left) and the unmistakable flowers of the royal poinciana (Delonix regia).

So ends another picture-perfect day at Kona Kai...

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wedding Recap, Project Updates and Cork

Finally back at Kona Kai and getting settled in after a great time in Ohio.  The wedding was excellent and much to my relief, the music seemed to be a big hit with everyone.  Admittedly I was a little nervous before starting, but once things got going, I found it easy to get to work making sure everyone had an unforgettable night.  As promised, I have a couple preliminary pictures for you; the ones from the photographers won't be available for another four weeks or so and I didn't want to disappoint on the tantalizing end of my previous post...

First a picture of my setup, which was pretty basic: a laptop with a mixer hooked up via USB, a couple disco balls, two QSC K10 speakers with a KSUB to the right of the table providing the thump, and of course a tree in my corner.  The speakers don't look like much, but they sure can fill a hall really well when it's time to get your dance on.  Annnd here's a shot of the Ethnobotanist-DJ in action, singing/rocking out with the dance floor:

Almost as excited as I get about plants and ethnobotany, but not quite.  So if you see me start air-guitaring in front of a plant I've never seen bloom before, you'll know why.  Ok, getting back to the Gardens...we're finally finishing up the immense project of connecting the Resort to the new Keys sewer system.  Even though it's taken a little longer than expected, we have been fortunate in encountering no major botanical crises along the way and the grounds including nearly all of the plants appear miraculously untouched.  Credit to Veronika and Joe for this, as I'm sure they were driving contractors a little nuts with panicked botanical warnings like "Mind the Bambusa vulgaris 'Wamin Striata'!" and "I better not see a scratch on that Hyophorbe verschaffeltii!" and "Ah!! Don't step on the Cycas panzhihuaensis!" etc.  If you'd like to see a glimpse of what the project involved over the past few weeks, take a look at the "Installing sewer lines at Kona Kai - August 2011" photo album, posted on our Facebook wall.

In other news, we received our second batch of 50 display labels from Nameplate & Panel Technology, who do a great job when it comes to producing display labels for plants.  Their materials and printing combined with Ronnie's graphic design expertise have created some of the best display labels I've seen at any botanical institution.  You might say I'm biased so I challenge - no, I double-dare you to come see for yourself this winter.  Yes, a double-dare is legally binding, so if you are reading this, I'll be expecting to see your smiling face here at Kona Kai in the next several months - I promise you won't be disappointed.  Veronika and I will be placing these labels in the coming weeks, so look forward to learning much more during your stay!

Joe, our Gardens Director, sent me a link to a great ethnobotanical story about why natural cork is still the best topper for wine bottles to keep wine tasting great over the years.  It's neat to explore the reasons why, despite our technological advances, products made from plants are many times still the very best quality products one can buy and this article is a good example of that.  Although it's not mentioned in the article, most of our natural cork is sustainably harvested bark from Quercus suber, the cork oak.  If you have some time, surf the Web to find more information about this plant and the production/usefulness of its cork and I know you'll find some great 'gee-whiz' facts that you'll want to share, so feel free to post any you find especially interesting as a comment below!  It also seems like the plant would enjoy our climate, so I'll be keeping it in mind if we ever have a spot open up...Kona Kai Resort, Gallery, Botanic Gardens & Wine Co.???

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director