Nature’s patterns

 

 

On this page, the word nature also includes certain man-made habitats, such as fields and stone fences.

 

 

Firs (Abies) are a genus of c. 50 species of conifers, mainly growing in montane areas across Eurasia, North Africa, and much of North and Central America.

 

The Himalayan silver fir (Abies spectabilis) can grow to very large proportions, to 50 m tall, with a trunk up to 1.5 m across. This species is very common in the Himalaya, found from Afghanistan eastwards to Myanmar. It is widely used locally, its wood for construction, carpentry, furniture, paper-making, and firewood. The foliage is utilized medicinally for asthma, bronchitis, colds, and rheumatism, and is also burned as incense.

 

 

Patterns on the trunk of a burned Himalayan silver fir, encountered on the Lamjura La Pass (3530 m), Solu, eastern Nepal. The yellow fungus in the lower left part of the picture is a species of stagshorn (Calocera). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Trees, reflected in Lake Brassø, central Jutland. (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.

More pictures of beach almond are presented on the page Nature: Autumn.

 

 

Taiwan 2014
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)

 

 

 

 

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)

 

 

Annapurna 2007
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)

 

 

 

 

As trees age, beautiful patterns are often created by the texture of the bark. Lichens, growing on the bark, also often create decorative patterns. Several examples are shown below.

 

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.

A picture, depicting its huge, flat pods, which can grow to 60 cm long and 5 cm wide, may be seen on the page Silhouettes.

 

 

Bark pattern of a flamboyant tree. This species is widely planted in Taiwan, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

The sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) is a native of Central Europe. It was introduced to Britain around 1500, and has also become naturalized in other parts of Europe, and in Australia, New Zealand, and North America. In many places, it has become invasive, easily spreading by its winged seeds, which are produced in the tens of thousands on a single large tree. You may read more about this invasiveness on the page Vorsø on my mind: Expanding wilderness.

 

 

Peeling bark creates patterns on a sycamore maple, Hareskoven, Zealand, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Leaf of sycamore maple, partly eaten by insects, Nature Reserve Vorsø, Denmark. (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.

 

 

Vorsø 2016-20
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)

 

 

On the trunk of this old ash tree in Funen, Denmark, lichens create a pattern on the bark, which in itself forms a pattern. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Sverige 2015
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)

 

 

 

The native area of the wild cherry (Prunus avium) was probably from France across Europe to the Caucasus. At an early stage, however, it was cultivated throughout northern Europe, at least since the Viking Age, and today it is widely naturalized.

This species is dealt with in detail on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

 

Narrow cork stripes create patterns on the bark of a wild cherry, eastern Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Concentric rings on a wild cherry stump, surrounding a ‘heart’ in the centre, Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera), also known as myrobalan plum, is a close relative of the cherry. This small tree, sometimes reaching a height of 12 m, 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.

Cherry plum trees often produce an abundance of fruits. If they are not picked by people, they remain on the tree, until they are over-ripe and fall to the ground. Wild birds are not at all able to eat all these berries, which often lie almost in layers on the ground beneath the tree. Rotting cherry plums are much praised by butterflies and wasps. Pictures of these fruits are presented on the page Nature: Autumn.

 

 

 

Jylland 2017-18
Patterns on the trunk of an ancient, gnarled cherry plum, central Jutland, Denmark. (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 several regions, including North America, East Africa, some Pacific Islands, New Zealand, and Australia.

 

 

Taiwan 2014a
The bark of old Persian lilac trees often forms cross-like patterns, like on this one in Taitung Ecological Park, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

As silver birches (Betula pendula) age, the colour of the bark on the lower part of the trunk changes from almost pure white to blackish. This species is presented in detail on the page Nature: Autumn.

 

 

Patterns in the bark of a younger (top) and an older silver birch, Jutland, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The cross-striped bark on this over-turned trunk of a silver birch contrasts greatly with the luminous moss, central Jutland, Denmark. (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)

 

 

USA 2002-10
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)

 

 

 

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 may be seen on the pages Plants: Ancient and huge trees, and Nature: Autumn.

 

 

Grey lichens create patterns on the trunk of a beech, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Jylland 1977-90
Trunks of young beech trees cast shadows, which form patterns on the forest floor, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Beech logs, lined up along a forest road, Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

The European, or common, hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), of the birch family (Betulaceae), is native to Europe and south-western Asia, from southern Scandinavia south to Italy and Greece, and from southern England and France eastwards to Ukraine, Turkey, the Caucasus, and the Alborz Mountains of northern Iran.

 

 

Lolland-Falster-Møn 1970-86
A twig of an ivy (Hedera helix) clings to the trunk of a common hornbeam, Møn, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

USA 2016
Pattern on the underside of fallen bark, Haverhill, Massachusetts, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

The giant taro, or giant elephant’s ear (Alocasia macrorrhizos), which grows to a height of 5 m, 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)

 

 

Taiwan 2014d
Underside of a leaf of giant taro, Taiwan. On this island, this species is ubiquitous in the lowland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), also known by about a hundred other names, including lion’s tooth, cankerwort, milk-witch, Irish daisy, monks-head, priest’s-crown, blowball, puff-ball, face-clock, pee-a-bed, wet-a-bed, and swine’s snout, is native to the Northern Hemisphere, but has been introduced to most other parts of the world, where it has often become naturalized.

This species is described in depth on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry, whereas its medicinal usage is dealt with on the page Traditional medicine.

 

 

Leaf rosette of a dandelion, Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Malaysia 1984-85
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)

 

 

 

 

Common adenostyles (Adenostyles alliariae), also called hedge-leaved adenostyle, is a composite, native to the major part of southern Europe, from Spain eastwards across the Alps to the Carpathians, the Balkans, and Turkey. It is very common in the Alps, growing at altitudes between 1,300 and 2,400 m, in shrubberies, meadows, and rocky areas.

You often come across a growth of common adenostyles, whose leaves have been almost completely eaten by larvae of a metallic, bluish or greenish beetle, Oreina cacaliae, which belongs to the family broad-shouldered leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae). This species is partial to common adenostyles, as well as alpine butterbur (Petasites paradoxus).

 

 

Leaves of common adenostyles, almost completely eaten by larvae of Oreina cacaliae, Grossglockner area, Austria. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Even though you can hardly call modern large-scale fields nature, a few weeds always take root, a mole and a mouse or two may also live here, and an occasional roe deer or hare may be roaming. Under all circumstances, even these fields hold a peculiar beauty in their broad outline, or in the patterns created by the harvesting of the crops. A number of examples are shown below.

 

 

Nepal 1987
Terraced fields, lying fallow, Pokhara, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Terraced fields, some lying fallow, Ilam, eastern Nepal. One field has been inundated to plant rice, and others are covered in yellow-flowered leaf mustard (Brassica juncea). You may read about leaf mustard on the page In praise of the colour yellow. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fyn 2010-16
Sloping, harvested field, Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Indonesien 1985
Onion fields on the lower slopes of Gunung Bromo Volcano, Java, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Stubble of harvested maize create a pattern, which merges into a pattern of trunks in a spruce plantation, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Cambodia 2010
Impressions of ox-cart wheels create patterns in fallow paddy fields beneath Phnom Krom Hill, near Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Seemingly endless rows of cultivated currant bushes (Ribes nigrum), Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2009
Irregular pattern in rows of densely cut tea bushes (Camellia sinensis), near Alishan, Taiwan. – Read about the history behind tea brewing on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Sydasien 1980
Early in the morning, a patch of sunshine illuminates people, harvesting rice on terraced fields in the Trisuli Valley, central Nepal. (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.

Yellow bedstraw is dealt with in detail on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

 

Sverige 2016-18
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.

 

 

Bali-Lombok 2012
Exposed roots on a hiking trail, Gunung Rinjani Volcano, Lombok, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nordindien 1991
Exposed roots of a huge banyan, or Bengal fig (Ficus benghalensis), Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India. – Read more about this species on the page Plants: Pipal and banyan – two sacred fig trees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Alperne 2018a
Exposed roots on a hiking trail in a beech forest near Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2014b
Exposed roots of a Taiwan red cypress (Chamaecyparis formosana) on a hiking trail, Alishan National Forest, central Taiwan. These magnificent trees are presented on the page Plants: Ancient and giant trees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Beautiful patterns are often created on leaves, which have been partly eaten by insects. A selection is seen below.

 

 

Taiwan 2014d
Leaves of beach almond (Terminalia catappa), partly eaten by insects, Taiwan. This species is presented in detail above. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Leaf of horseradish (Armoracia rusticana), partly eaten by insects, Jutland, Denmark. (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.

 

 

Californien 2011
Feeding tunnels of a species of leaf miner moth create patterns in a leaf of California black oak, Sequoia National Forest, Sierra Nevada, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nepal 2013
Withered leaf of Saurauia napaulensis, partly eaten by insects, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Dipterocarpus alatus is a large evergreen forest tree, which can grow to a height of 40 m, sometimes up to 55 m. It is found in tropical Asia, from Bangladesh eastwards through Southeast Asia to the Philippines. It is one of the most important timber species in this region, and wild populations are highly threatened by habitat loss. It is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The generic name Dipterocarpus is derived from the Greek words di (‘two’), pteron (‘wing’), and karpos (‘fruit’), referring to the two-winged fruits of this genus.

 

 

Cambodia 2010
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 eaten most of it. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Leaf of redflower ragleaf (Crassocephalum crepidioides) with feeding tunnels of a species of leaf miner moth, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Leaf of downy birch (Betula pubescens), partly eaten by insects, Mols, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

This leaf of giant taro (Alocasia macrorhiza) has been partly eaten by insects, Wufong, Taiwan. This species is presented in detail above. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Winter stems of reed (Phragmites australis), Brassø, central Jutland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Tyrkiet 2018a
Tyrkiet 2018a
Tyrkiet 2018a
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.

 

 

Californien 2013b
Californien 2013b
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 native to eastern China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea, and eastern Australia.

 

 

Taiwan_2017b_256
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. This stupa is dealt with in detail on the page Religion: Buddhism.

 

 

Nepal 2013
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 close acolyte 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. Its domestication is described on the page Animals: Animals as servants of Man.

 

 

Kirgisien 1999
Horse riders in a snow-covered landscape, Arashan Valley, Kyrgyzstan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 1998
Horses on a snow-covered field, Manang, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica
Agave leaf, still not fully opened, Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja, Cordillera de Guanacaste, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Californien 2011a
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)

 

 

 

 

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, as well as pictures of many other cactus species, may be seen on the page Plants: Cacti.

 

 

Arizona-Utah 2001
Crested saguaro cactus, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Bananas are described on a separate page, see Plants: Bananas.

 

 

Taiwan 2012
Patterns on a withering banana leaf, Lugu, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018
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), including black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), grizzly bear (Ursus arctos ssp. horribilis), and pronghorn (Antilocapra americana).

Read more about the Lewis and Clark expedition, and about prairie dogs, at Animals: Squirrels of North America. The pronghorn is dealt with on the page Nature: Rain.

 

 

USA 1998-99
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 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.

In his book Flora Danica, from 1648, Danish physician and herbalist Simon Paulli (1603-1680) says: ”Galenus [Claudius Galenus (130-210 A.D.), Greek-Roman physician and philosopher] praises the fruits of sweet chestnut above all other kinds of acorns, which are good to eat. We must point out that we do not agree with Johan Bodæo à Stapel, who, with beautiful and learned comments, has illustrated Theophrastum Eresium [a work by Greek scholar and botanist Theophrastos (c. 371 – c. 287 B.C.), called ‘The Father of Botany’]; because he claims that sweet chestnuts are a kind of nuts. However, to us it seems more appropriate to regard them as a kind of acorns, but we do not want to go into detail here. (…)

Those, who hold their health in high esteem, should take care that they do not eat too many sweet chestnuts, because the above-mentioned Galenus also says this about them: (…) Sweet chestnuts, cooked or fried or dried over a fire, are always evil, but above all when they are eaten raw.”

 

 

Alperne 2017
Fallen inflorescences of a sweet chestnut tree create patterns at a roadside, Bühlertal, Schwarzwald, southern Germany. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Stevns Klint, eastern Zealand, Denmark, is a white cliff, 17 km long and a maximum of 41 m high. This cliff is of great importance due to a 5 to 20 cm thick layer of so-called fiskeler, a 65 million-year-old layer on the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. This ash layer marks the time, when an enormous meteor impact in Mexico caused widespread disasters across the globe and probably was the cause of mass extinction, including the dinosaurs. The reason that this layer of fiskeler is proof of the meteor impact is that it has a high content of a rare metal, iridium, which occurs in meteors.

 

 

Part of Stevns Klint with black layers of flint. (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 domestication of the dog is described on the page Animals: Animals as servants of Man.

 

 

Taiwan 2017b
Hair pattern on the rump of a Taiwan dog. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Sverige 2016-18
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)

 

 

 

 

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 on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

 

LFM 1987-2016
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)

 

 

 

 

Kirgisien 1999
Glacier with patterns, created by deposited moraine, Yrdyk Valley, Kyrgyzstan. (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.

 

 

Sjælland 2012-16
Fyn 2005-09
A close view of seeds of common goat’s-beard, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Bali 2009
Leaves of a tree fern, seen from below, Bedugul Botanical Garden, Bali, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Jylland 2013-15
Brightly coloured buildings, reflected in Lake Birksø, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2003-05
Eroded Nanya Sandstone with layers of oxidized iron, northern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Californien 2013
Washed-up bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) creates patterns on a stony beach, Salt Point State Park, California, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2012
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 on the page Travel episodes – Costa Rica 2012: Coastal hike to Corcovado. Two pictures from beaches in this park is shown below.

 

 

Costa Rica
Small gullies on a sandy beach, created by receding water at low tide, Parque Nacional Corcovado. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Costa Rica
Tracks of numerous hermit crabs create patterns around a fallen fruit on a sandy beach, Parque Nacional Corcovado. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rime-covered leaf rosette of a bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare), Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

USA 2016
The shadow of a conifer creates patterns on a barn, Portland, Maine, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Jylland 2013-15
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)

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Vorsø 2016-20
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. The greyish plants are sea wormwood (Artemisia maritima). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Spruces (Picea) are a genus of about 35 species of conifers, native to temperate areas of the northern hemisphere. Some species grow to a very large size, up to 60 m tall.

 

The Norway spruce (Picea abies) is native from Scandinavia and the Alps, south to the Balkans and eastwards to somewhere in Russia. Its eastern limit is very difficult to define, as it hybridizes freely with the Siberian spruce (P. obovata), which is distributed from western Russia and eastern Finland eastwards across Siberia. Norway spruce is widely planted elsewhere for its wood. The specific name abies is the Latin generic name of firs. This name was given in allusion to the fact that Norway spruce, at some distance, often resembles the common fir (Abies alba).

 

 

Sjælland 2012-16
Stacked trunks of Norway spruce, Zealand, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Schrenk’s spruce (Picea schrenkiana) is restricted to the Tien Shan Mountains in Sinkiang, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, usually forming pure forests at altitudes of 1,200-3,500 m. Its name was given in honour of Baltic-German naturalist Alexander von Schrenk (1816-1876), who was known for his expeditions to Central Asia and northern Russia, author of Reise nach dem Nordosten des europäischen Rußlands, durch die Tundren der Samojeden, zum arktischen Uralgebirge.

Schrenk’s spruce is a large tree, growing to 50 m tall, and with a trunk diameter up to 2 m. It comes in two subspecies, the type ssp. schrenkiana, found in Kazakhstan and Xinjiang, and the Tien Shan spruce, ssp. tianshanica, found in Kyrgyzstan.

 

 

Early morning light on tall and slender Tien Shan spruces, Arashan Valley, Kyrgyzstan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Feather clouds above a growth of Tien Shan spruces, Arashan Valley, Kyrgyzstan. (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.

 

 

Sydlige Afrika 1996-97
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)

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Sydlige Afrika 1993
Feeding in a river in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, this wood sandpiper creates concentric rings on the surface. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Lesser duckweed (Lemna aequinoctialis) is a tiny water plant, whose floating leaves are pale green, up to 6 mm long. This species is very widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, often covering the surface of quiet waters.

 

 

Flowing water, making its way through a carpet of lesser duckweed, which covers a stream in Tunghai University Park, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2014c
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.

 

 

Tanzania 1989
Patterns on the underside of a wing of a grey-headed kingfisher, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica-2
Multi-coloured leaf of a member of the arum family (Araceae), Parque Nacional de Cahuita, Limón, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Tyrkiet 2018
Dead stems of a vine create patterns on a wall, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Palms constitute a huge family, Arecaceae, of trees (some almost stemless), shrubs, and climbers, numbering around 180 genera with altogether c. 2,600 species, most of which are restricted to tropical and subtropical areas. Their compound leaves are often very large and decorative.

 

The areca palm, or betel palm (Areca catechu), is the type species of the entire palm family. The generic name is derived from a local South Indian name of this palm, either from the Tamil areec, or from the Malayalam atekka. The specific name catechu is from a Malayan name of the species, caccu.

The areca palm is believed to have originated in the Philippines, but is widely cultivated elsewhere in Tropical and Subtropical Asia, New Guinea, the West Indies, and on many Pacific Ocean islands. Its nut, called betel nut, is an ingredient in betel, a mild intoxicant, consisting of a leaf from the betel bush (Piper betle), which is wrapped around bits of areca nut and, according to your taste, tobacco or spices, taken with a small amount of lime. Chewing this mixture increases your spit production, and your saliva turns brick-red. Blotches of betel spit are ubiquitous in many Asian countries – on streets, stairs, and elsewhere.

 

 

Taiwan 2018b
In Taiwan, where this picture was taken, areca palms are cultivated by the millions, as about every other man is chewing the intoxicant. (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 palms, standing out against a bluish mountain slope, Kotubaru, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Leaves of a coconut palm, waving in the wind, Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Cambodia 2009
Close-up of a coconut palm leaf, Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Tanzania 1990
Detail of a withering coconut palm leaf, northern Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

As early as c. 3000 B.C., the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) was cultivated in Mesopotamia, between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, and it was sacred in Ancient Egypt. This is not very odd, its overwhelming production of dates taken into consideration. Not only the fruits are edible – the young and tender leaves are eaten as cabbage. Juice is extracted from the young shoots at the top of the trunk to produce alcohol, and when the tree dies, the trunk is utilized as excellent timber.

 

 

Tunesien 1987
The bases of chopped-off leaves create patterns on the trunk of this date palm in the Nefta Oasis, Tunisia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Costa Rica-2
Young leaf of a species of bamboo palm (Chamaedorea), in Spanish pacaya, Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal, Cordillera de Tilarán, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Guatemala 1998
Detail of a palm leaf, Tikal National Park, Guatemala. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Leaves of Manicaria saccifera, in Spanish called palma real (‘the royal palm’), reflected in water, Tortuguero National Park, Limón, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Fanø 2001-12
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)

 

 

 

Tanzania 1988
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 presented on the page Plants: Ancient and giant trees. You may also read more on the page Plants: Pipal and banyan – two sacred fig trees.

 

 

Bali 2009
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)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2014d
Planted trees create an intricate pattern, Huoyan Mountains (’99 Peaks’), Pinglin, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2010
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 m. Its flowers are hidden among long, hairy bracts, giving the plant an extremely hairy appearance. They are pollinated by birds, especially the scarlet-tufted sunbird (Nectarinia johnstoni).

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.

 

 

Kenya 1988-89
This picture of Lobelia telekii, from Makinder Valley, Mount Kenya, shows the hairy bracts of this species. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Kenya 1988-89
Morning light on a leaf rosette of Lobelia telekii, Makinder Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

USA 2002-10
Fallen branches create patterns in a vernal pool, Parker River Wildlife Refuge, Massachusetts, United States. (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.

 

 

Kenya 1988-89
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 m 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.

Vision quests are described in detail on the page Books: Seed of Knowledge, Stone of Plenty, Chapter 3.

 

 

USA-Canada 1992
Devil’s Tower, north-eastern Wyoming, United States, rises dramatically above the surrounding landscape. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

USA-Canada 1992
Devil’s Tower is popular among rock climbers. In this picture, climbers scale some of the columns. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2012
Branches and needles of Taiwan red pine (Pinus taiwanensis), Shei-pa National Park, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2014b
Eroded coastal rocks, Sandiao Cape, north-eastern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

A jumble of stems of common honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

This tuft of purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea), growing among a species of sedge (Carex), spreads its stems fan-like. – Central Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

USA 2012a
Beautiful patterns on a rock wall after heavy rain, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Bali 2009
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)

 

 

 

 

Jylland 2017b
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 on the pages Plants: Ancient and huge trees, and Plants – Mountain plants: Plants of the Sierra Nevada.

 

 

Californien 2011
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.

 

 

Kenya 1988-89
Pattern on the coat of a spotted genet, Kenya. (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.

 

 

USA 1998-99
Feeding American black ducks, creating ripples in Mill Neck Creek, Long Island, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Malaysia 1984-85
Wet rainforest leaf, seen from below, Sepilok, Sabah, Borneo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Island-Færøerne 1999
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.

 

 

Bali 2009
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.

 

 

Bornholm 2008
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)

 

 

Norden 1967-86
These lichens form concentric rings on a rock near Lake Tunnhovd, Norway. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2014b
Patterns on a rock face, Shakadang River, Taroko National Park, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Sydindien 2008
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.

 

 

Sydafrika-Namibia 1993
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.

 

 

Tyrkiet 2018
Resting feral pigeons create patterns on the base of The Column of Constantine, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica-2
Driftwood with numerous holes, made by shipworms, Tortuguero National Park, Limón, Costa Rica. (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 may be seen on the page In praise of the colour blue.

 

 

USA 1998-99
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)

 

 

 

 

Bornholm 1999-2005
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)

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica-2
Young leaflet of a fern, unfolding, Parque Nacional Volcán Poás, Cordillera Central, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2014b
Patterns in coastal rocks, Jialeshuei, Kenting National Park, southern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Puerto Rico 2000
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.

 

 

USA 1992
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)

 

 

 

 

USA 2012
Pine pollen create patterns on the surface of a rainwater puddle, Pine Barrens, New Jersey, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

In the Namib Desert, western Namibia, an area around Sossusvlei displays a large number of reddish sand dunes, the highest of which are around 275 m. These dunes and other natural phenomena in Namibia are dealt with in detail on the page Countries and places: Namibia – a desert country.

 

 

Sydafrika-Namibia 1993
Ripples on a sand dune, caused by wind, Sossusvlei. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Tunesien 1987
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.

 

 

Fyn 2010-16
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.

 

 

USA 1992
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.

Dutch elm disease is dealt with in detail on the page Vorsø on my mind: Dutch elm disease on Vorsø.

 

 

Vorsø 2000-15
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)

 

 

 

 

Malaysia 1984-85
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)

 

 

 

 

Californien 2013
Green algae, growing on eroded coastal rocks, Montaña de Oro State Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Indonesien 1985
Knot on the trunk of a dead tree, Gunung Rinjani, Lombok, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Hvideklint, on the island of Møn, Denmark, is a cliff, consisting of white chalk, with deposits of brown soil above. Rain has caused mud to run down the white chalk, creating a streaked pattern. The deposit of rust to the right indicates the presence of iron ore in the cliff. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiwan 2012
Slender grass stems, Shei-pa National Park, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

(Uploaded June 2017)

 

(Latest update July 2019)