On this page, the word nature has a somewhat wider meaning, including man-made habitats, such as fields and stone fences.
Gullies, eroded by rainwater, often form beautiful patterns. Three examples are shown here.
Over the years, these gullies at the foot of the mountain Fornastaðafjall, near Akureyri, Iceland, have been clad in forest of arctic downy birch (Betula pubescens var. pumila). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Mustang is a very dry area in central Nepal, which, however, receives enough precipitation to create gullies, such as these, encountered in a bluff along the Jhong Khola River. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Erosion from rainwater has cut deep gullies into this slope near Çankiri, north of Ankara, Turkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In Caumsett State Park, Long Island, United States, one liana is constricting another liana, hereby creating a beautiful pattern. They bring a Scottish proverb to mind: “Friends agree best at a distance.” (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Leaf rosette of a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Funen, Denmark. – Read more about this species elsewhere on this website, see Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Patterns on sandy beaches, created by small crabs, which have brought up tiny sand balls from their den and deposited them, near Tongxiao, western Taiwan (upper two pictures), and on the island of Pulau Gaya, Sabah, Borneo (bottom). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The flamboyant tree (Delonix regia), also called flame tree, is a huge tree of the pea family (Fabaceae), named for its gorgeous flowers. It is native to Madagascar, but is cultivated as an ornamental in almost all warmer countries.
Bark pattern of a flamboyant tree. This species is widely planted in Taiwan, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Patterns in algae, growing in a polluted stream, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In Norse religion, yellow bedstraw (Galium verum) was dedicated to Frigg, goddess of knowledge, love, and marriage, who was also protector of women giving birth. It was a custom to line the childbed with this fragrant herb. When Christianity was introduced, this heathen habit was banned, but as it persisted, the Church decided to dedicate yellow bedstraw to Virgin Mary instead, claiming that this herb was lining the crib of the newborn Jesus, hence the folk name of the species, Our Lady’s bedstraw.
Read more about this species elsewhere on this website, see Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.
At the edge of a gravel road in Småland, Sweden, the wind has been moving this yellow bedstraw back and forth, hereby creating a pattern of concentric circles in the sand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tree roots, which have been exposed due to rain water erosion, often create beautiful patterns on the forest floor. Four examples are shown below.
Exposed roots on a hiking trail, Gunung Rinjani Volcano, Lombok, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Exposed roots of a huge banyan, or Bengal fig (Ficus benghalensis), Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India. – Read more about this species elsewhere on this website, see Plants: Pipal and banyan – two sacred fig trees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Exposed roots on a hiking trail in a beech forest near Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Exposed roots of a Taiwan red cypress (Chamaecyparis formosana) on a hiking trail, Alishan National Forest, central Taiwan. Read more about these magnificent trees elsewhere on this website, see Plants: Ancient and giant trees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera), also known as myrobalan plum, is a native of south-eastern Europe, and western Asia. Due to its edible fruits, which taste somewhat like plums, it was introduced to most parts of Europe and North America at an early stage, and has become widely naturalized there.
Several pictures, depicting the fruit, are found elsewhere on this website, see Nature: Autumn.
Patterns on the trunk of an ancient, gnarled cherry plum, central Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Early in the morning, a patch of sunshine is illuminating people, who harvest rice in the Trisuli Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The native area of the beach almond (Terminalia catappa), also known as country almond, Indian almond, Talisay tree, and umbrella tree, is unknown. Today, this species is widely distributed in most tropical and some subtropical areas of the world, growing in a wide range of habitats. Three of its popular names stem from the similarity of its fruits to those of the true almond (Prunus amygdalus), but the two species are not at all related, the true almond belonging to the rose family (Rosaceae), while beach almond belongs to the family Combretaceae.
Other pictures of beach almond are found elsewhere on this website, see: In praise of the colour red.
Bright red winter leaf of beach almond, Taiwan. On this island, this species is widely planted as an ornamental tree. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In this picture from Taiwan, leaves of a beach almond have been partly eaten by insects. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Patterns in natural terraces, consisting of deposited calcium bicarbonate, Pamukkale, Turkey. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
As its name implies, the most important food item of the acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) is acorns. It has an interesting habit of storing acorns as a winter supply in small holes, which the bird chisels into the bark of living or dead trees. This bird is common from California through Mexico and Central America to northern Columbia.
This acorn woodpecker has chiseled its nesting hole in the trunk of a palm tree in Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, California, and around the nesting hole, it has made numerous small holes for storage of acorns. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The parasol-leaf tree (Macaranga tanarius), also called heart leaf or nasturtium tree, belongs to the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae). It is a native of eastern China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea, and eastern Australia.
The nerves on these leaves of the parasol-leaf tree create beautiful patterns against the light. This picture is from Taiwan, where this species is very common. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Every morning, devout Buddhists feed feral pigeons around the great Buddhist Bodhnath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. – Read more about the Bodhnath Stupa elsewhere on this website, see Religion: Buddhism.
After being fed, feral pigeons rest on the dome of the Bodhnath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal, contrasting sharply with the yellowish-white dome. Tibetan prayer flags can be glimpsed in the upper left corner. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
As a companion of Man for thousands of years, the horse, which in the wild state once roamed grass steppes of Europe and Asia, is today found in most parts of the globe. It is dealt with in detail elsewhere on this website, see Animals: Animals as servants of Man.
Horse riders in a snow-covered landscape, Arashan Valley, Kyrgyzstan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Horses on a snow-covered field, Manang, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Agave leaf, still not fully opened, Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja, Cordillera de Guanacaste, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A slight puff of wind creates ripples in a calm Pacific Ocean, in which a flock of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) are resting. – Coos Bay, Oregon, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In Taiwan, betel palms (Areca catechu) are cultivated by the millions. On this island, every other man chews betel, a mild intoxicant, consisting of a leaf from the betel bush (Piper betle), which is wrapped around bits of betel palm nut, lime, and, according to your taste, tobacco or spices. Chewing this mixture increases your spit production, and red blotches of betel spit is ubiquitous in Taiwan, and in many other parts of South and Southeast Asia.
Plantation of betel palms, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A cristate, or crested, saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) forms, when the cells in the growing stem begin to divide outward, rather than in the circular pattern of a normal cactus. This mutation results in the growth of a large fan-shaped crest at the growing tip of a saguaro’s main stem or ‘arms’.
Several pictures, depicting ‘normal’ saguaros, are found elsewhere on this website, see Gallery: Plants – Cacti.
Crested saguaro cactus, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Banana leaf, torn by the wind, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The medium-sized ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) has a very wide distribution, breeding across North America, from the northern prairie states of Canada south to northern California and the U.S. prairie states, and eastwards to Newfoundland. It winters in the U.S., Mexico, and the Greater and Lesser Antilles.
Its specific name refers to the Delaware River, where it was first collected. It was described by American naturalist George Ord (1781-1866), who, incidentally, also described several specimens, brought back by the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806), e.g. black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), grizzly bear (Ursus arctos ssp. horribilis), and pronghorn (Antilocapra americana).
Read more about the black-tailed prairie dog, as well as the Lewis and Clark expedition, elsewhere on this website, see Animals: Squirrels of North America. The pronghorn is dealt with under Nature: Rain.
This young ring-billed gull has just landed in Mill Neck Creek, Long Island, United States, hereby creating concentric circles on the surface. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) is native to the Mediterranean region, eastwards to the Alborz and Zagros mountains of Iran. This large tree, growing to 35 m tall, may live for 500 or 600 years, and cultivated specimens are reputedly 1000 years old.
Sweet chestnut is widely cultivated for its edible nuts and for its wood. Raw chestnuts are covered by a tough skin, which has an unpleasant, astringent taste. They are usually roasted, which makes it easier to remove the skin. Chestnut orchards are commonly found in Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, and elsewhere.
During my stay in the Zagros Mountains in south-western Iran (see elsewhere on this website, Travel episodes: Iran 1973 – In the mountains of Luristan), I was told that fruits of sweet chestnut, which is common in these mountains, were an important food item, when the wheat crop failed.
Fallen inflorescences of a sweet chestnut tree create patterns at a roadside, Bühlertal, Schwarzwald, southern Germany. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The common stray dogs of Taiwan, sometimes called Takasago dogs, are a result of the indigenous Formosan hunting dogs interbreeding with imported dog types. Taiwan dogs are usually black or brown, or a mixture of the two.
The domestic dog is dealt with in detail elsewhere on this website, see Animals: Animals as servants of Man.
Hair pattern on the rump of a Taiwan dog. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Detail of a weather-beaten beam in a house, which was formerly used as storage hut for harvested flax (Linum usitatissimum), Lerkaka, Öland, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Glacier with patterns, created by deposited moraine, Yrdyk Valley, Kyrgyzstan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Wood horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) often resembles a tiny spruce tree. This attractive species is distributed in the northern temperate and arctic zones of Eurasia and North America. The generic name is from the Latin equus (‘horse’), and seta, which has several meanings, including ‘rough’, ‘brush’, or ‘hair’. Seta can refer to the rough, silica-containing stems of these plants, but together with equus, the word means ’horse hair’. With a bit of imagination, a bunch of drying stems do resemble a horsetail. The specific name means ‘growing in forests’, from the Latin silva (‘forest’).
Read about other species of horsetail elsewhere on this website, see Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.
These wood horsetails, growing in a dark forest on the island of Møn, Denmark, are illuminated by a patch of sunshine. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Common goat’s-beard (Tragopogon pratensis) is native to Europe and northern Asia, and has also become widely naturalized in North America. The sepal-like bracts, which surround the flowerhead, contract before noon, closing it, which has given rise to a popular name of the plant, Jack-go-to-bed-by-noon. When the plant has seeds, these protrude from the flowerhead during the contraction, hereby resembling a goat’s beard.
A close view of seeds of common goat’s-beard, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Leaves of a tree fern, seen from below, Bedugul Botanical Garden, Bali, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Brightly coloured buildings, reflected in Lake Birksø, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Eroded Nanya Sandstone with layers of oxidized iron, northern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Stems of chopped-off leaves create patterns on the trunk of this date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), Nefta, Tunisia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Washed-up bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) creates patterns on a stony beach, Salt Point State Park, California, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
California black oak (Quercus kelloggii) is mainly a tree of northern California and western Oregon, where it grows in foothills and lower mountains. Its occurrence in southern California and Baja California is patchy, but it is common in the Sierras. Most trees live between 100 and 200 years, but some specimens are known to be almost 500 years old.
This species is adapted to fire, protected from smaller fires by its thick bark. It is killed by larger fires, but easily sprouts again from the roots. Acorns mainly sprout, when a fire has cleared an area of leaf litter. This was known by several indigenous peoples, who purposely lit fires to renew growths of this tree, whose acorns was a staple food source to them.
Tunnels, made by insect larvae, create patterns in a leaf of California black oak, Sequoia National Forest, Sierra Nevada, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Impressions of ox-cart wheels create patterns in fallow paddy fields beneath Phnom Krom Hill, near Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Palm leaf, Tikal National Park, Guatemala. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Plant, clinging to a stone wall, Lion’s Head National Scenic Area, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Parque Nacional Corcovado is a protected rainforest area on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. This interesting national park is presented elsewhere on this website, see Travel episodes: Costa Rica 2012 – Coastal hike to Corcovado. Two pictures from beaches in this park is shown below.
Small gullies on a sandy beach, created by receding water at low tide, Parque Nacional Corcovado. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tracks of numerous hermit crabs create patterns around a fallen fruit on a sandy beach, Parque Nacional Corcovado. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The shadow of two conifers creates patterns on a barn, Portland, Maine, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ripples on a lake surface create wavy patterns in reflections of common club-rush (Schoenoplectus lacustris) and broad-leaved pondweed (Potamogeton natans), Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Fallow terraced fields, Pokhara, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Saltmarsh rush (Juncus gerardii) is mainly a coastal species, occurring on coasts of Europe and eastern North America, and also on saline soils inland, in western and central Asia and central North America.
These tufts of saltmarsh rush, which have sprouted between large specimens of sea plantain (Plantago maritima), create patterns in a littoral meadow, nature reserve Vorsø, Horsens Fjord, Denmark. A littoral pond with vegetation of common cordgrass (Spartina anglica) is seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Stacked trunks of Norway spruce (Picea abies), Zealand, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Like the North American harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) and the South American torrent duck (Merganetta armata), the habitat of the African black duck (Anas sparsa) is fast-flowing rivers. This species is distributed in the major part of Africa, from the Sahel zone and Ethiopia south to South Africa.
Patterns in the overflow from the Mare Dam, Nyanga National Park, Zimbabwe. A pair of African black duck are feeding above the dam. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These densely cut tea bushes (Camellia sinensis) near Alishan, Taiwan, create an irregular pattern. – Read more about tea elsewhere on this website, see Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The place of origin of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) is unknown, and today it is found everywhere along tropical coasts, in some areas also inland. This species is utilized for countless purposes. Oil from the nuts, and also dried copra, is used in cooking and in lamps. Mats, weaved from the leaves, are used as walls and roofs in houses, and mats and rope are produced from the fibres in the husk. Charcoal is made from the shells, and the trunk is utilized as timber and firewood.
Coconut palm leaves are very ornamental. Two examples are shown below.
Close-up of a coconut palm leaf, Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Detail of a withering coconut palm leaf, northern Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola) is a smallish wader, which breeds in marshes of subarctic and northern temperate areas of Europe and Asia, wintering in Africa, South Asia, and Australia.
Feeding in a river in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, this wood sandpiper creates concentric rings on the surface. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), also called tulip tree, whitewood, or fiddle-tree, is one of the largest East American trees, sometimes reaching a height of 60 m, with a trunk diameter up to 3 m. This popular tree is the state tree of Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
The generic name, from the Greek leirion (‘lily’) and dendron (‘tree’), as well as the name tulip tree, refer to the large flowers, which superficially resemble lilies or tulips. However, this species is a member of the magnolia family (Magnoliaceae). The popular name fiddle-tree refers to the peculiar shape of the leaves, which sometimes resemble small violins.
The characteristic furrowed bark of yellow-poplar often creates beautiful patterns. – Caumsett State Park, Long Island, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Shadows from leaves of an American beech (Fagus grandifolia) are cast on the trunk of a yellow-poplar, Long Island. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Erosion from sea water has created patterns in these volcanic rocks at Fugueijiao, northern Taiwan. The rocks are covered in a species of sea lettuce, Ulva compressa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The grey-headed kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala) is widely distributed in Africa, from Mauritania east to Ethiopia and Somalia, and thence south to South Africa. It is also found on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. This species belongs to a group of kingfishers, which are not closely connected with water, mainly feeding on larger insects, lizards etc.
Patterns on the underside of a wing of a grey-headed kingfisher, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The European beech (Fagus sylvatica) is largely restricted to Europe, occurring from England and the Pyrenees eastwards to Poland and Ukraine, and from southern Sweden southwards to Italy and the Balkans, with a patchy occurrence in southern Norway, central Spain, and Turkey. In the Balkans, it hybridizes with the oriental beech (Fagus orientalis), which is found in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, the Caucasus, and the Alborz Mountains in northern Iran.
More pictures of beech are found elsewhere on this website, see Nature: Autumn.
Trunks of young beech trees cast shadows, which form patterns on the forest floor, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Multi-coloured leaf of a member of the arum family (Araceae), Parque Nacional de Cahuita, Limón, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dead stems of a vine create patterns on a wall, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ripples in a tidal area, created by waves, Fanø, Denmark. Shells of an American razor clam (Ensis americanus) are also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ripples in a tidal area, created by waves, Ras Murundo, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Most seeds of the so-called strangler figs, of the genus Ficus, begin their life as an epiphyte in a tree, the seed often sprouting in a pile of bird dung, delivered by the bird which ate the fig fruit. Over the years, aerial roots of the strangler fig wrap around the host tree, growing down to the ground, where they take root. With time, these roots completely envelop the host tree, which is eventually strangled to death, and as its trunk decays, it leaves the fig tree as a hollow cylinder of aerial roots. – Pictures of other fig species are found elsewhere on this website, see Plants: Ancient and giant trees. You may also read more about fig trees, see Plants: Pipal and banyan – two sacred fig trees.
As the trunk of the host tree decays, it leaves the strangler fig tree as a hollow cylinder of aerial roots, here in the town of Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Planted trees create an intricate pattern, Huoyan Mountains (’99 Peaks’), Pinglin, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sloping, harvested field, Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Fungi on a withered leaf, creating a beautiful design, Basianshan National Forest, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Millions of years ago, volcanic activity in today’s northern Iceland brought fluid basaltic lava to the surface, where it formed a plateau. As the lava cooled, it contracted and fractured in a similar way to drying mud. As the lava cooled further, these cracks penetrated downwards, forming 6-sided (sometimes 4-, 5-, and 7-sided) columns. Further volcanic activity since pushed some of the columns into a horizontal position.
Some of these formations, named Hljoðaklettar, have withstood erosion by the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River. Hljoðaklettar means ‘Echo Rocks’, so named due to the peculiar acoustics of the area, which produce echoes.
After the creation of these columns at Hljoðaklettar, further volcanic activity pushed them into a horizontal position. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
An alpine lady’s mantle (Alchemilla alpina) adds a touch of colour to the otherwise sombre Hljoðaklettar rocks. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lobelia telekii is a very tall member of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae), which is restricted to mountains in Kenya (Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon, and the Aberdares), growing at altitudes between 3,000 and 5,000 metres. Its flowers, which are pollinated by birds – especially the scarlet-tufted sunbird (Nectarinia johnstoni) – are hidden among long, hairy bracts, giving the plant an extremely hairy appearance.
This species was named in honour of Count Samuel Teleki de Szék (1845-1916), a Hungarian explorer, who led the first expedition to the northern parts of Kenya in 1887-1888.
This picture of Lobelia telekii, from Makinder Valley, Mount Kenya, shows the hairy bracts of this species. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning light on a leaf rosette of Lobelia telekii, Makinder Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Fallen branches create patterns in a vernal pool, Parker River Wildlife Refuge, Massachusetts, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Leaves of a palm species, Manicaria saccifera, in Spanish called palma real (‘royal palm’) are reflected in water, Tortuguero National Park, Limón, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi) has a limited distribution, found only in scattered grasslands in northern Kenya and eastern Ethiopia. Due to its very low numbers, a total of only about 3,000, it is regarded as an endangered species.
Grevy’s zebra, showing the distinct rump pattern of this species, Buffalo Springs National Park, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Devil’s Tower is a rock formation in north-eastern Wyoming, United States – presumably the eroded remnant of a laccolith, a large mass of magma, which is intruded through sedimentary rock. As the magma cooled, 6-sided (sometimes 4-, 5-, and 7-sided) vertical columns formed. This amazing rock rises dramatically above the Belle Fourche River, 265 metres high from base to summit.
For hundreds of years, this rock has been sacred to local peoples, such as Lakota, Cheyenne, and Kiowa, and it appears in the mythologies of several other tribes. Today, it is the site of tribal vision quests and other rituals, and in the surrounding grasslands, Sun Dances and other tribal ceremonies are performed.
Read more about vision quests elsewhere on this website, see Religion: Animism, and Books: Seed of Knowledge, Stone of Plenty, Chapter 3.
Devil’s Tower, north-eastern Wyoming, United States, rises dramatically above the surrounding landscape. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Devil’s Tower is popular among rock climbers. In this picture, climbers scale some of the columns. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Branches and needles of Taiwan red pine (Pinus taiwanensis), Shei-pa National Park, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Onion fields on the lower slopes of Gunung Bromo Volcano, Java, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Eroded coastal rocks, Sandiao Cape, north-eastern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Beautiful patterns on a rock wall after heavy rain, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Flowers and leaves, which have been brought as an offering to the Hindu Water Temple near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, are now floating on the surface of a pond. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The small toad rush (Juncus bufonius) is distributed over most of the world, but is restricted to humid areas. In this picture, it grows only in the deepest, most humid grooves of a tractor track, central Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
One day, towards the end of April 1992, I was hiking up a slope in Inyo National Forest, White Mountains, eastern California. In front of me were the most remarkable trees I have ever seen. At a distance, they appeared completely dead, with twisted, naked branches, stretching from a yellowish trunk towards the blue sky. But then – at closer quarters I noticed a narrow strip of bark on the side of the trunk, which pointed away from the direction of the prevailing wind. This strip of bark was leading up to one or two branches, densely covered in green needles, and from the tip of these branches, small cones were hanging down, their scales equipped with bristle-like appendages.
These peculiar trees were Great Basin bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva), which is restricted to high-altitude areas in eastern California, Nevada, and Utah. Apart from certain clones, including a creosote (Larrea tridentata) in the Mohave Desert, whose age is estimated at c. 9,400 years, this pine is the oldest living organism on Earth, a few of them being around 5,000 years old.
More photos of these remarkable trees are found elsewhere on this website, see Plants: Ancient and huge trees, and Plants: Mountain plants – Plants of the Sierra Nevada.
Twisted trunk of an ancient Great Basin bristlecone pine, White Mountains, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The spotted genet (Genetta genetta) is a small viverrid, native to most of Africa and along the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. At an early stage, it was introduced to Spain, where it quickly formed a wild population. It has since spread north and east through France, into Switzerland, Belgium, and southern Germany.
Pattern on the coat of a spotted genet, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Twig of an ivy (Hedera helix), clinging to the trunk of a common hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), Møn, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Withered leaf of Saurauia napaulensis, partly eaten by insects, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The American black duck (Anas rubripes) is found in eastern North America, from Saskatchewan and the Great Lakes, eastwards to the Atlantic Coast. This species is a close relative of the widespread mallard (A. platyrhynchos), and the two species often interbreed, which can make identification of pure black ducks difficult.
Feeding American black ducks, creating ripples in Mill Neck Creek, Long Island, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Wet rainforest leaf, seen from below, Sepilok, Sabah, Borneo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This iceberg, partly covered in moraine, is stranded in a glacial lake, Jökulsárlon, beneath Vatnajökul Glacier, southern Iceland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The large fruits of the jackfruit tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus), weighing up to 15 kilos, grow directly on the trunk. Below the knobbly outer layer is a whitish mass, surrounding the nut-like seeds. Both are delicious when boiled. A slightly acid layer around the nuts can be eaten raw.
Pattern of the knobbly outer layer of a jackfruit, Bali, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lichens often form beautiful patterns on trees, rocks, house walls etc., not least the bright yellow common orange lichen (Xanthoria parietina), also called yellow scale or shore lichen. This species is widespread and common, found in most of Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America. It is one of the few lichens, which is favoured by eutrophication. To other examples are also shown.
Common orange lichen, creating concentric rings on a stone wall, Hammershus, Bornholm, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Climbers and lichens on the wall of an abandoned building, near Puli, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These lichens form concentric rings on a rock near Lake Tunnhovd, Norway. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Persian lilac, or Chinaberry (Melia azedarach), is probably native to Iran and the Indian Subcontinent. However, due to its beautiful flowers and fruits, it is widely planted elsewhere. It readily becomes naturalized and is now regarded as an invasive in e.g. North America, East Africa, some Pacific Islands, New Zealand, and Australia.
The bark on old Persian lilac trees often forms cross-like patterns, like on this one in Taitung Ecological Park, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Young leaf of a bamboo palm (Chamaedorea), also called pacaya, Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal, Cordillera de Tilarán, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Patterns on a rock face, Shakadang River, Taroko National Park, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bamboo plants, which have just flowered, are now dying, stretching their withering stems towards the sky, Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The aardwolf (Proteles cristata) is a small relative of the hyaenas. It is fairly common in eastern and southern Africa, but is rarely seen due to its nocturnal habits. The name aardwolf is Afrikaans (the language spoken by immigrating Dutch Boers to South Africa), meaning ‘earth wolf’, relating to the fact that it lives in underground burrows.
Back pattern of an aardwolf, killed by a car, South Africa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In Turkish, the Column of Constantine, Istanbul, Turkey, is called Çemberlitaş Sütunu, from çemberli (‘hooped’) and taş (‘stone’). This column, also known as The Burnt Pillar, was constructed on the orders of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great in 330 A.D., commemorating the declaration of Byzantium, renamed by Constantine as Nova Roma (’New Rome’), as the new capital of the Roman Empire. Later, the name of the city was changed to Constantinople, and, following the conquest by the Ottomans in 1453, to Istanbul.
Resting feral pigeons create patterns on the base of The Column of Constantine, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Driftwood with numerous holes, made by shipworms, Tortuguero National Park, Limón, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The giant taro, or giant elephant’s ear (Alocasia macrorrhizos), which grows to 5 metres tall, is native from Malaysia south through Indonesia to northern Australia, but has been introduced to many other tropical and subtropical areas as an ornamental, food crop, or animal feed. It is listed as an invasive species in Cuba, New Zealand, and several Pacific islands.
The gigantic leaves of this plant are often used as umbrellas. Its rhizome is edible when cooked for a long time, but the sap irritates the skin in your mouth, as it contains needle-like calcium oxalate crystals. In Hawaii, this plant is called ʻape, and they have a saying, Ai no i ka ʻape he maneʻo no ka nuku. (’The one who eats ʻape, will have an itchy mouth’), meaning ’There will be consequences for partaking of something bad.’ (Sources: S. Scott & T. Craig, 2009. Poisonous Plants of Paradise: First Aid and Medical Treatment of Injuries from Hawaii’s Plants. University of Hawaii Press; and M.K. Pukui, 1986. ‘Ōlelo No’eau, Hawaiian Proverbs and Sayings. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu)
Underside of a leaf of giant taro, Taiwan. On this island, this species is ubiquitous in the lowland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) has a very wide distribution, found from south-central and south-eastern United States, south through Mexico and Central America to coastal areas of South America, south to Peru and southern Brazil. The name of the genus, Egretta, is from the French word aigrette, meaning ‘little heron’.
Another picture of this species is found elsewhere on this website, see: In praise of the colour blue.
This little blue heron is resting on aerial roots of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), J. N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Shadows from trees are cast on a large growth of daisy (Bellis perennis), mixed with a few dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), Bornholm, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This leaf of Dipterocarpus alatus has fallen among the ruins of Angkor Thom, Cambodia. The beautiful patterns in the leaf are created by micro-organisms, which have partly eaten it. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Young leaflet of a fern, unfolding, Parque Nacional Volcán Poás, Cordillera Central, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Patterns in coastal rocks, Jialeshuei, Kenting National Park, southern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Common, or European, ash (Fraxinus excelsior), of the olive family (Oleaceae), is a native of Europe, eastwards to the Caucasus and the Alborz Mountains in northern Iran. It has also become naturalized a few places in New Zealand, the United States, and Canada.
In later years, populations of ash have been much reduced by ash dieback, a disease caused by a fungus, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, previously called Chalara fraxinea. Most trees that contract this disease die after a few years. However, research has shown that some trees have resistance to it.
Patterns in the bark of an old ash, nature reserve Vorsø, Horsens Fjord, Denmark. A twig of cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera) is seen to the right. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The bark on this old ash tree has fallen off, revealing tunnels in the wood, made by the ash bark-beetle (Hylesinus fraxini). From the female’s egg-laying tunnel, the feeding tunnels of the larvae spread out like a fan. – Öland, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Shadows of serrated leaflets on this fern create zigzag patterns on other leaflets, El Yunque, Puerto Rico. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Wolf lichens (Letharia), of the family Parmeliaceae, are widely distributed in North America, Siberia, and Europe. In the old days, the common wolf lichen (L. vulpina) was utilized by the Norwegians to kill wolves and foxes. Its toxic foliage was mixed with crushed glass, and then stuffed into a carcass on frozen ground. (The specific name refers to foxes, in Latin Vulpes.)
This species, and the brown-eyed wolf lichen (L. columbiana), are both found in California, where many native peoples formerly utilized them for a variety of purposes. Their foliage was used to produce arrow poison. Klamath people would soak porcupine quills in an extract of the plants, which dyed them yellow. They were then woven into baskets to make patterns. The Okanagan-Colville tribe used these lichens medicinally, internally for stomach problems, externally for wounds.
This picture shows an unidentified species of wolf lichen, growing in concentric rings around the trunk of a white fir (Abies concolor), Sequoia National Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Pine pollen create patterns on the surface of a rainwater puddle, Pine Barrens, New Jersey, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ripples on a sand dune, caused by wind, Sossusvlei, Namibia. – Read more about Namibia elsewhere on this website, see Countries and places: Namibia – a desert country. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cracked mud in a dried-out wadi (desert wash), Metlaoui, Tunisia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is native to western North America, with two varieties, one coastal, growing from British Columbia south to central California, and one montane, found in the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia south to Mexico. Today, however, it is cultivated almost worldwide for its excellent timber.
The specific name was given in honour of Scottish naturalist Archibald Menzies (1754-1842), who participated, as surgeon and botanist, in an expedition around the world on board HMS Discovery, under the leadership of Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798). The English name honours Scottish botanist and plant collector David Douglas (1799-1834), who first reported this species.
Unripe cone of Douglas-fir, showing the characteristic three-pronged bracts of this species, Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
All but one of the 21 extant armadillo species live in Central and South America, and only one, the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), reaches North America. Since its arrival in Texas in the 1880s and in Florida in the 1920s, this species has spread north to North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, and Missouri. Climate change is the likely explanation to its occurrence in southern states like Georgia, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. However, biologists never thought that the winters of North Carolina, Indiana, or Missouri were mild enough to support an armadillo population, and a harsh winter or two would undoubtedly knock them back. (Source: scientificamerican.com/article/armadillo-moves-north-across-warmer-north-america)
In Spanish, armadillo means ‘the little armoured one’, referring to the ‘armour’ of these animals, consisting of overlapping scales, called scutes, which are composed of bone with a covering of horn.
These pictures of nine-banded armadillo are from Louisiana, the lower one showing details of its armour plates. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The wych elm (Ulmus glabra), also called Scotch elm or Scots elm, is a large tree, sometimes growing to 40 m tall. It is found in the major part of Europe, eastwards to the Ural Mountains, the Caucasus, and the Alborz (Elburz) Mountains of northern Iran. The name wych is from an Old English word, wice, meaning ‘pliable’. The specific name, glabra, means ’smooth’ in Latin, referring to the smooth branches on younger trees.
In Europe, the populations of wych elm have been drastically reduced by Dutch elm disease, caused by sac fungi, belonging to the genus Ophiostoma (formerly called Ceratocystis). These fungi are natives of Asia, where local elm species are resistant to the disease. However, this is not the case in Europe and North America, where the disease is epidemic.
Read more about Dutch elm disease elsewhere on this website, see Vorsø on my mind: Dutch elm disease on Vorsø.
This wych elm, growing in nature reserve Vorsø, Denmark, was killed by Dutch elm disease. A dried-out polypore fungus is seen on the trunk. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Patterns on a withering banana leaf, Lugu, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
An epiphytic fern, growing on a slender tree trunk in a rainforest, is illuminated by a patch of sunshine, Sepilok, Sabah, Borneo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Green algae, growing on eroded coastal rocks, Montaña de Oro State Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Knot on the trunk of a dead tree, Gunung Rinjani, Lombok, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Slender grass stems, Shei-pa National Park, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Pattern on the underside of fallen bark, Haverhill, Massachusetts, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
(Uploaded June 2017)
(Latest update January 2019)