Thursday, 31 December 2020

ARCTOTIS

Arctotis is a genus of annual and perennial plants in the family Asteraceae. Arctotis is native to dry stony slopes in southern Africa. Some of the plants are alternatively placed in the genus Venidium. The common name is "African daisy", or "Gousblom" in Afrikaans. These plants have daisy-like composite flowers which tend to close in the late afternoon or in dull weather. 

Numerous cultivars have been developed for garden use which stay open for longer, and are available in a wide range of colours. Tender perennials are often grown in temperate regions as half-hardy annuals. The garden hybrid Arctotis × hybrida hort. 'Flame' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.




Wednesday, 30 December 2020

FUNGUS

Our warm and wet weather (a result of La Niña weather phenomenon), has caused quite lush vegetation this Summer. Included in this growth spurt are fungi that grow on dead wood and leaf litter. The one illustrated here is probably Pycnoporus coccineus, or the "scarlet bracket fungus". It grows on dead wood and is one of the most common and colourful brackets that can be found even in dry weather growing on sticks and wood.

It is an orange to scarlet, fan shaped, firm bracket attaching along the straight edge to wood. Size is very variable. Juvenile fruit-bodies are a lovely scarlet colour; the underside is a deeper colour and consists of fine pores. As this fungus ages, the bracket gets larger; also the surface colour tends to fade with age and exposure to strong sunlight – in fact some old specimens are bleached to white, but usually the pores retain some colour. Can be solitary but more common in large groups on sticks and logs, refreshed after rain. It is probably the most widely distributed bracket fungus in Australia and is a saprophyte.

Saprophytic fungi feed on dead plant and animal remains. Many are extremely beneficial, breaking down this organic material into humus, minerals and nutrients that can be utilised by plants. Without these fungi we would also disappear under a mountain of unrotted dead leaves and logs!

This post is part of the Wordless Wednesday meme,
and also part of the My Corner of the World meme,
and also part of the Nature Notes meme.


Tuesday, 29 December 2020

FED SQUARE

Federation Square in Melbourne's CBD, is a mixed-use development in the inner city, covering an area of 3.2 hectares and centred on two major public spaces: Open squares (St. Paul's Court and The Square) and one covered (The Atrium), built on top of a concrete deck above busy railway lines.

It is located at the intersection between Flinders Street and Swanston Street/St Kilda Road in Melbourne's Central Business District, adjacent to Melbourne's busiest railway station. The geometric shapes that make up the buildings of Fed Sq are not only an external decorative feature, but they figure prominently in the architectural construction of the buildings and covered spaces within.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Travel Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.


Monday, 28 December 2020

2020 IN REVIEW

2020 was a year full of unfortunate events, disasters and world-changing events that affected almost every person around the world. Here in Australia we were no exception. We suffered devastating bushfires that ravaged much of the east coast of our country in January. On the first of March, Australia recorded its first death due to COVID-19. As March progressed and COVID-19 cases increased, more and more restrictions were introduced nationwide and the financial and economic effects of these became more and more apparent.

As of 6 April 2020 at least 12 deaths and more than 700 cases of coronavirus in Australia occur and are linked to the cruise ship Ruby Princess, which disembarked passengers in Sydney despite several of them, and some crew, showing symptoms of coronavirus. Much of the country enters into lockdown measures in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19.

In early July, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Melbourne and nearby Shire of Mitchell reintroduce stage three restrictions for at least six weeks after a surge in coronavirus case numbers with the majority of new cases stemming from community transmission. All other states and territories introduce strict quarantine measures or deny entry for any incoming travellers who have recently visited Victoria. The border between New South Wales and Victoria is closed for the first time since the 1918–19 Spanish flu pandemic, after an increase in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating numbers of infection rates, especially in the workplace, Victoria declares a state of disaster and stage four restrictions are put in place on 2 August . This included a police-enforced curfew in metro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire between 8 pm and 5 am, the shutdown of a number of non-essential businesses, exercise only allowed for one hour a day and only one person per household allowed to go shopping once a day and within a 5 km radius of home. As a consequence of rising infection numbers imported from metropolitan Melbourne all other areas of regional Victoria are to enter stage three restrictions previously placed on Melbourne and Mitchell Shire on 5 August.

On 2 September the Australian economy went into recession for the first time in nearly thirty years, as the country's GDP fell 7 per cent in the June quarter.

The Australian Defence Force released on 19 November the final report of the inquiry by Justice Paul Brereton into alleged war crimes during the War in Afghanistan. The inquiry found there was credible evidence of 23 incidents of unlawful killings and a further two instances of the war crime of "cruel treatment". The inquiry also found that Australian soldiers summarily executed non-combatants and prisoners.

On 18 December the 2020 Sydney to Hobart yacht race race was cancelled for the first time in its history due to an outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sydney New South Wales. On 19 December, in response to a coronavirus outbreak in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney, all other states and territories close their borders to all residents of greater Sydney, throwing interstate travel plans into chaos for those intent on visiting or leaving greater Sydney.

On 21 December, the final report from the inquiry into Victoria's botched coronavirus hotel quarantine program which led to a second wave of coronavirus in Victoria and over 800 deaths was released. The report is unable to determine who commissioned the use of private security and criticises the Andrews Government for failing to do "proper analysis" of the plan.

On 21 December, Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets of the solar system, appeared in a rare "great conjunction". The two planets' proximity in the sky in 2020 hasn't happened in about 400 years, and it hasn't been visible in the evening sky (when the sunlight doesn't obstruct viewing) in about 800 years.

As the world begins to vaccinate widely against COVID-19 in December, there is mounting hope that 2021 will see the pandemic recede and the world may then begin to go back into some semblance of normality.

This post is part of the Mosaic Monday meme,
and also part of the Blue Monday meme,
and also part of the Seasons meme.



Saturday, 26 December 2020

SUMMERY

The weather was beautiful today and we went down by the Yarra, to the Fairfield Boathouse for lunch. It was busy enough, but not congested and it was fun watching the people who had hired row boats for a leisurely trip down the river. Many had their pet dogs with them, which I must say behaved better than their masters!

This post is part of the Weekend Reflections meme,
and also part of the Saturday Critters meme.





Friday, 25 December 2020

PLANETARY CONJUNCTION

This year, many people have been eagerly awaiting Monday (Dec. 21) to arrive for several reasons: For one, Monday was the last solstice of 2020. This means people in the Northern Hemisphere experienced the first day of winter, and the summer solstice arrived in the Southern Hemisphere. Second, the two largest planets of the solar system appeared in a rare "great conjunction" that same night, capturing the attention of people across the world.

Saturn and Jupiter are hundreds of millions of miles apart. However on Monday they formed a line through space with Earth, which caused the two gas giants to appear very close to one another in the evening sky shortly after sunset. Observatories and skywatching enthusiasts across the world have been keenly watching this conjunction because of its rarity. Saturn and Jupiter meet in Earth's sky about once every 20 years, and some years they appear closer to each other than in other years.

The two planets' proximity in the sky in 2020 hasn't happened in about 400 years, and it hasn't been visible in the evening sky (when the sunlight doesn't obstruct viewing) in about 800 years. So I thought I was quite lucky to observe this in my lifetime, on the night of December 20th, and even luckier to be able to capture a shot of it with my camera. That is the first image. The second is a screen capture from the excellent, free astronomy program "Stellarium" (download here: https://stellarium.en.softonic.com/mac/download ). It gives you a magnified view of thee two planets as well as some of their major moons.

In my photo, you can just make out two of Jupiter's moons, probably Ganymede and Callisto.

This post is part of the Skywatch Friday meme.



Thursday, 24 December 2020

CHRISTMAS BUSH

Ceratopetalum gummiferum, the New South Wales Christmas Bush, is a tall shrub or small tree popular in cultivation due to its sepals that turn bright red-pink at around Christmas time. The petals are actually small and white - it is the sepals that enlarge to about 12mm after the flower sets fruit and starts to dry out. The specific name gummiferum alludes to the large amounts of gum that is discharged from cut bark. 

Plants initially grow as rounded shrubs but mature to pyramidical trees. The leaves comprise three leaflets and are up to 8 cm long. The petioles are grooved on the upper side and are 10 to 20 mm long. Small, white five-petalled flowers appear in spays from October in the species native range. As these die the sepals enlarge and become pink to red in colour, the display peaking at Christmas time in Australia (i.e. during Summer).

Ceratopatalum gummiferum is one of nine species in the genus Ceratopetalum in the family Cunoniaceae, which occur in Australia and Papua New Guinea. The species was first formally described by English botanist James Edward Smith in 1793 in 'A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland'. The species is endemic to New South Wales where it occurs to the east of the Great Dividing Range from Ulladulla in the south to Evans Head in the north.

In cultivation, plants usually grow to no more than 6 metres in height. Plants may be propagated from seed or cuttings, the latter method being preferred to maintain good colour forms. Well-drained soil is required to avoid problems with dieback associated with root-rot fungus.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.


Tuesday, 22 December 2020

BLOCK ARCADE

Christmas in Melbourne's Victoria Era Block Arcade is almost normal. We still wear our masks in enclosed spaces, except for when we are eating! 

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Travel Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.





Monday, 21 December 2020

MERRY CHRISTMAS

It's Christmas on Friday and I hadn't realised how close it is! This year has filled us with all sorts of other preoccupations and priorities, so Christmas has fallen somewhat by the wayside. However, I think everyone who is celebrating Christmas this year will feel a little more grateful, a little more genuine, a little more humble about it all. Do something nice for a stranger this Christmas, I guarantee it will make you feel so much better!

This post is part of the Mosaic Monday meme,
and also part of the Blue Monday meme,
and also part of the Seasons meme.


Sunday, 20 December 2020

SUMMER VIEW

A walk around the neighbourhood parklands and a casual look up drives home the message that Summer is here.

This post is part of the My Sunday Best meme.


Saturday, 19 December 2020

HERON

The white-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) also known as the white-fronted heron,[2] and incorrectly as the grey heron, or blue crane. is a common bird throughout most of Australasia, including New Guinea, the islands of Torres Strait, Indonesia, New Zealand, and all but the driest areas of Australia. It is a medium-sized heron, pale, slightly bluish-grey, with yellow legs and white facial markings. It can be found almost anywhere near shallow water, fresh or salt, and although it is prompt to depart the scene on long, slow-beating wings if disturbed, it will boldly raid suburban fish ponds.

This post is part of the Saturday Critters meme.




Friday, 18 December 2020

FLYOVER

Flying over Melbourne's West. Now that the lockdown has ended and restrictions relaxed, air travel is slowly coming back to everyday life in Australia.

This post is part of the Skywatch Friday meme.


Thursday, 17 December 2020

CYMBIDIUM ORCHID

Cymbidium, or boat orchids, is a genus of 52 evergreen species in the orchid family Orchidaceae. It was first described by Olof Swartz in 1799. The name is derived from the Greek word kumbos, meaning 'hole, cavity'. It refers to the form of the base of the lip. The genus is abbreviated Cym in horticultural trade. This genus is distributed in tropical and subtropical Asia (such as northern India, China, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Borneo) and northern Australia. The larger flowered species from which the large flowered hybrids are derived grow at high altitudes.

Cymbidium plants are sympodial and grow to a height of 60 cm and the racemes as high as 90 cm. The raceme grows from the base of the most recent pseudobulb. Each flower can have a diameter of 5 to 10 cm, according to the species. They bloom during the winter, and each plant can have up to fifteen or more flowers. The fantastic range of colours for this genus include white, green, yellowish-green, cream, yellow, brown, pink, and red [and orange] and black (and there may be markings of other colour shades at the same time), but not blue.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.


Monday, 14 December 2020

ON THE HIGH ST

Northcote is the suburb I live in, and like most suburbs in Melbourne there is a main road through it, which in many cases is called "High St". A couple of days ago we went for a stroll and it was good to see life slowly returning to "normal". A good idea outside a pub was a designated area for "posting bills" - i.e. posters advertising venues, performances, artists, etc. This counterbalances the "Post No Bills" areas where no posting is allowed. In any case the bills make for a good mosaic!

This post is part of the Mosaic Monday meme,
and also part of the Blue Monday meme,
and also part of the Seasons meme.






Sunday, 13 December 2020

COBURG SUNDAY MARKET

Now that the Melbourne Lockdown is essentially over, life has returned to the "COVID-Normal" level, with most open air activities being free to take place. After many many weeks of being closed, the Coburg Drive-In Trash and Treasure Market has opened and has attracted large numbers of people who are after bargains and Christmas shopping... We visited the market this Sunday and like most sensible people had our face masks on and took the necessary precautions with hand sanitisers, etc. Always fun to have a wander around here, and even if one buys nothing, the people-watching is worth the trip.

This post is part of the My Sunday Best meme.





Saturday, 12 December 2020

WILLIE VS CROW

The Australian raven (Corvus coronoides) is a passerine bird in the genus Corvus native to much of southern and northeastern Australia. Measuring 46–53 centimetres (18–21 in) in length, it has all-black plumage, beak and mouth, as well as strong grey-black legs and feet. The upperparts are glossy, with a purple, blue, or green sheen, and its black feathers have grey bases. The Australian raven is distinguished from the Australian crow species by its throat hackles, which are prominent in adult birds. Older adult individuals have white irises, younger adults have white irises with an inner blue rim, while younger birds have dark brown irises until fifteen months of age, and hazel irises with an inner blue rim around each pupil until age two years and ten months.

The willie (or willy) wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) is a passerine bird native to Australia, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Bismarck Archipelago, and Eastern Indonesia. It is a common and familiar bird throughout much of its range, living in most habitats apart from thick forest. Measuring 19–21.5 cm in length, the willie wagtail is contrastingly coloured with almost entirely black upperparts and white underparts; the male and female have similar plumage.

Aggressive and territorial, the willie wagtail will often harass much larger birds such as the laughing kookaburra,RQ]A and wedge-tailed eagle. It has responded well to human alteration of the landscape and is a common sight in urban lawns, parks, and gardens. It was widely featured in Aboriginal folklore around the country as either a bringer of bad news or a stealer of secrets.

This post is part of the Saturday Critters meme.






PS: WILLIE WON, CROW FLEW AWAY!


Thursday, 10 December 2020

LAURENTIA

Isotoma axillaris is a heat-loving plant native to Australia that is hardy in zones 7-10 but is easily grown as an annual in colder climates. The common name laurentia comes from its previous classification as Laurentia axillaris; that name, as well as another synonym, Solenopsis axillaris, is still often used in the nursery industry. This species in the bellflower family (Campanulaceae) has other common names including blue star or star flower.

A profusion of star-shaped flowers are produced just above the foliage throughout the season until frost. The fragrant, 3cm wide flowers are produced in shades of blue, pink or white. The plants shed spent flowers on their own so do not need deadheading, although shearing in midseason will encourage more flowers on a more compact plant.

Grow laurentia in full sun to partial shade. Purchase plants in spring or grow from seed or cuttings. Seeds should be sown indoors very early Spring or late Winter as it takes about 4 months for the plants to come into flower. Place plants in the garden after the last frost. This plant has few pests, although it can be attacked by mealybugs, and is not favoured by deer or rabbits.

The cultivar illustrated here is "Pop-n-Fizz Glowing Purple".

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.


Tuesday, 8 December 2020

EARLY SUMMER

Our cool, wet early Summer makes for gardens and parks that are green and refreshingly inviting. 

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Travel Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.


Sunday, 6 December 2020

CHRISTMAS APPROACHING

At the South Melbourne Market, with restrictions easing it's easier to get into the Christmas season spirit and remember the good old times pre-COVID-19! 

This post is part of the My Sunday Best meme.


Saturday, 5 December 2020

WARY

Just a little wary of strangers, but friendly when you get to know him...

This post is part of the Saturday Critters meme.


Friday, 4 December 2020

BLUE SKIES

Of Southern Summer. A perfect day today: Warm, sunny, no wind and perfect for a walk outdoors.

This post is part of the Skywatch Friday meme.