Rain and dew
Silent rain, falling on a red ginger (Alpinia purpurata), Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. This plant is native to the archipelago east of New Guinea. It is widely cultivated in the Tropics due to its showy red bracts. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass.
– Second verse of a poem, Morning has broken, by English poet and children’s author Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965). The text, which was written to a traditional Scottish Bunessan hymn, first appeared in the second edition of Songs of Praise, 1931. The editor, Percy Dearmer, had asked Farjeon “to make a poem to fit the lovely Scottish tune.” – First verse may be seen on the page Dawn.
In 1971, the song was popularized by British singer Steven Demetre Georgiou (born 1948), who performed under the name Cat Stevens. Today, he calls himself Yusuf Islam.
Bunessan hymns are named for the village of Bunessan, situated on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. In this village lived Màiri Dhòmhnallach (1789-1872), in English called Mary Macdonald, who spoke only Gaelic. She wrote her hymn Leanabh an àigh to a traditional melody.
The picture above, and the following four pictures, show silent rain and dew.
Raindrops cling to a common burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga), near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, southern Germany. – You may read about this species elsewhere on this page. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During a silent rain shower, this man and his two children are strolling in Tunghai University Park, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning dew in grass and spider’s web, Jughandle State Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Landscape, reflected upside down in a droplet, which seems to defy the law of gravity, clinging to a grass blade, Phnom Krom, Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A rainbow is a multi-coloured circular arc, appearing in the sky, caused by reflection and dispersion of light in water droplets. Rainbows, which are caused by sunlight, always appear directly opposite the position of the sun.
Following a heavy downpour, a perfect double rainbow stands like an arc over an oak forest near Bhaniakund, Uttarakhand, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
As rain clouds move away behind limestone mountains near Yangshuo, Guangxi Province, China, a double rainbow is formed over houseboats in the Li River. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rainbow and black rain cloud above Ho Bugt, south-western Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Victoria Falls, located on the Zambezi River, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is one of the largest waterfalls in the world, having a width of 1,708 m. In the local Lozi language, its name is Mosi-oa-Tunya (‘The Smoke That Thunders’), so named due to the smoke-like water vapours that always fill the air around the fall, and the roaring sound of the falling water.
Zambezi River with a rainbow and water vapours above Victoria Falls. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Regnbue foran Victoria Falls. (Foto copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
At 4,094 m, Gunung Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Borneo, situated in the northern province Sabah. The interesting flora and fauna of this mountain is described on the page Travel episodes – Borneo 1985: A hike up Gunung Kinabalu.
In a pallid morning light, a double rainbow stands above Gunung Kinabalu. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Some authorities place the buttercup tree (Cochlospermum vitifolium), also called poro-poro, in the family Cochlospermaceae, others in Bixaceae. This tree is native to Central America and northern South America. Its gorgeous flowers appear after the leaves have been shed.
Rain clouds and a rainbow cover the sky behind a flowering buttercup tree, Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The common baobab (Adansonia digitata) is the most widespread among the nine species in this genus, of which six are native to Madagascar, two to mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and one to Australia. This majestic tree often dominates large areas of savanna in sub-Saharan Africa.
Common names of this species include dead-rat tree (from the sausage-like fruit, hanging in a long stalk – the rat’s tail), monkey-bread tree (the fruit is edible), and upside-down tree (the sparse branches resemble roots). The name baobab is derived from the Arabic būħibāb, meaning ‘the father of many seeds’. The generic name refers to French botanist and explorer Michel Adanson (1727-1806), who was the first European to observe the species during an expedition to Senegal.
Rainbow behind giant baobabs, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
An umbrella is a piece of canvas, plastic, or other rainproof material, which can be folded together around a central axis, supplied with a handle. It is designed to protect a person against rain. If it is used as protection against sunlight, it is usually called a parasol.
The word umbrella is probably a corruption of the Latin umbra (‘shaded’ or ‘shadow’), whereas the word parasol is from the French para (‘to stop’ or ‘to shield’), and sol (‘sun’).
Seeking shelter from the rain under a huge umbrella, these three school girls are on their way home, Valparai, West Ghats, Tamil Nadu, South India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Usually, Taiwanese people bring an umbrella along, as you can expect rain any time of the year. This picture is from the town of Toucheng, in the north-eastern part of the island. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This Buddhist monk in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, has taken shelter under an umbrella, waiting for the rain to stop. – The various branches of Buddhism are described in depth on the page Religion: Buddhism. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Protected from the rain under umbrellas, people walk down a wet street in the town of Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A rainforest is defined as a forest, characterized by high and continuous rainfall. In tropical rainforests, the annual rainfall typically is 2.5-4.5 m, whereas in cooler rainforests, usually called temperate rainforests, the typical average annual rainfall is about 2 m, although in warmer areas it may exceed 3 m.
Rainforests constitute the oldest ecosystems on Earth, some of which have survived in their present form for at least 70 million years. They are found on all continents, except Europe and Antarctica. The largest areas of rainforests are the Amazon Basin in South America and the Congo Basin in Africa.
The forest floor in a virgin rainforest is rather open due to the dense leaf cover of tall trees, which prevents the sunlight from reaching ground level. If a large tree falls, the forest floor below is soon covered in a dense tangle of vines, shrubs and small trees. In montane rainforests, the trees are much lower, and the forest floor is usually hidden by a dense cover of other plants, often including huge moss cushions.
Rainforests, as well as their incredibly varied flora and fauna, with countless endemic species, are rapidly disappearing due to deforestation, as vast tracts of these forests are cleared by the lumber industry, or to create farmland. Rainforests once covered 14% of the Earth’s surface, but during the last 200 years, this number has dropped to a mere 6%, and biologists have warned that the major part of the remaining rainforests will disappear in the next 40 years.
The pictures below show various types of rainforest around the world.
Tropical rainforest, seen from the mouth of a limestone cave, Niah National Park, Sarawak, Borneo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rain clouds gather above montane rainforest, Arusha National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Montane rainforest, Santa Elena Cloud Forest, Cordillera de Tilarán, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Low temperate rainforest with dense vegetation, including the palm-like mountain cabbage tree (Cordyline indivisa), Mount Taranaki National Park, New Zealand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Hikers, negotiating a trail through temperate rainforest with forest of tree heath (Erica arborea), covered in large moss cushions, and draped with old-man’s-beard lichens (Usnea), Ruwenzori National Park, eastern Zaire. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A bluish-black rain cloud is building up over the Swedish mainland, seen from the island Öland. Note the old wooden windmill. In the 1800s, about 2,000 of these mills were found on Öland, of which about 355 have been preserved. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The sad fate of elephants is described on the page Animals: Rise and fall of the mighty elephants.
Black rain clouds cover the sky on the horizon, as late afternoon sunshine illuminates African elephants (Loxodonta africana), crossing a road near a lodge in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Counting about 25 species, rampions (Phyteuma), of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae), are distributed in most of Europe, eastwards to Ukraine, southwards to Morocco. The flowers of almost all species are various shades of dark blue.
The popular German name of rampions is Teufelskralle (‘Devil’s claw’), referring to the bent-in flowers of this genus. Another German name is Rapunzel, featuring in the fairy tale Rapunzel, published by the Grimm Brothers in 1812. This tale is a German version of a story, which can be traced back to an Italian tale from 1634, Petrosinella, by Giambattista Basile. A young woman is imprisoned in a tower by a witch, but is freed by a prince, who can enter the tower by reciting the words he has heard the witch use: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” – whereupon he climbs up her long, braided hair.
Round-headed rampion (Phyteuma orbiculare) is named after its almost globular flowerheads. This species is widespread in Europe. In the northern and western part of this area, including the Baltic states, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Belgium, and England, it grows in the lowlands, whereas further south it is restricted to mountains, found from the Pyrenees eastwards through the Alps to the Balkans. In England, it is also known by the name The Pride of Sussex, as it is most common in that area.
Round-headed rampion grows in grasslands and open forests, restricted to sunny places on calcareous soil. In the Alps, it is found at altitudes between 600 and 2,400 m.
Other rampion species are presented on the page Plants: Flora of the Alps.
Silent rain has left countless drops on this round-headed rampion, Rossfeld, near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, southern Germany. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During the Daoist festival Tzuoh Jiaw, which takes place in the village of Dalinpo, near Kaohshiung, southern Taiwan, men with painted faces, wearing decorated traditional straw hats and rain capes made from fibres, perform a dance to worship local gods, and to prevent bad events in the future.
Daoism is described in detail on the page Religion: Daoism in Taiwan.
Tzuoh Jiaw, Dalinpo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Despite its name, the Taiwanese cherry (Prunus campanulata) is also found in Japan, southern and eastern China, and Vietnam. It is a small tree, growing to 8 m tall. Due to its gorgeous bell-shaped flowers, this species is widely cultivated. When flowering, its nectar is a very popular food source for many bird species. A selection of pictures, showing birds feeding in these flowers, may be seen on the page Animals: Birds in Taiwan.
Flowers of Taiwanese cherry with rain drops, Taipingshan National Forest, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Even prior to the monsoon period in the Himalaya, which falls between mid-June and late September, the Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal, receives quite heavy rainfall. The pictures below were taken in March.
Dark clouds gather above the Modi Khola Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Children in the village of Landrung, watching a heavy downpour. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga) is neither a burnet (Sanguisorba minor), which its leaves resemble, nor a saxifrage (Saxifraga), but is an umbellifer of the family Apiaceae. The word saxifrage is from the Latin saxum (‘rock’) and frangere (‘to break’), presumably alluding to the ability of some saxifrage species to dissolve kidney stones. The name was probably applied to burnet-saxifrage due to its diuretic properties, similar to certain saxifrage species.
In his booklet Chrut und Uchrut (in English called Herbs and Weeds – a useful booklet on medicinal herbs), from 1911, Swiss priest and herbalist Johann Künzle (1857-1945) writes: “(…) the root smells like a billy-goat. For this reason it is also called goat’s root or boucage in French.” (This word is derived from bouc (‘billy-goat’).
In his Great Herball, English herbalist John Gerard (c. 1545-1612) writes about burnet-saxifrage: “A speciall helpe to defend the heart from noysome vapours and from the infection of the plague or pestilence, and all other contagious diseases, for which purpose it is of great effect, the juice thereof being taken in some drink. (…) It is a capital wound herb for all sorts of wounds, both of the head and body, either inward or outward, used either in juice or decoction of the herb, or by the powder of the herb or root.”
This plant, which is native to temperate areas of Europe and western Asia, was formerly cultivated, as it is of high nutritious value.
Burnet-saxifrage with dew drops, central Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tarangire is a beautiful national park in northern Tanzania, harbouring a wonderfully diverse wildlife, and also great stands of huge baobab trees (Adansonia digitata). Our adventures in this park are related on the pages Travel episodes – Tanzania 1989: Memorable nights in the Ngorongoro Crater, and Tanzania 1990: Lions in the camp.
Mount Lolkisale stands out as a silhouette on the horizon, as rain clouds darken the sky over Tarangire National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lotus is a huge genus of the pea family (Fabaceae), comprising at least 130 species. The popular name of these plants is bird’s-foot trefoil, the trefoil part referring to the tripartite leaves, while bird’s-foot refers to their triple pods, which spread out from a common point, hereby resembling a bird’s foot.
Four species of this genus are native to northern Europe, all presented on the page In praise of the colour yellow. The most abundant of these species is common bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), which is widely distributed in Temperate Eurasia.
The flowers of common bird’s-foot trefoil are usually yellow, but red or orange flowers are sometimes seen, as on this individual from Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh, India. In the Himalaya, this species is found up to 4,000 m altitude. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A gargoyle is a carved monster with an elongated spout, designed to lead away water from walls of buildings, hereby preventing rainwater from eroding the mortar between the stones or bricks. The word gargoyle is from the Latin gar, meaning ‘to swallow’, referring to the gurgling sound of running water.
According to a French legend, St. Romanus of Rouen (died c. 640 A.D.) saved the country around Rouen from a monster, named La Gargouille, a dragon-like creature with wings, a long neck, and the ability to breathe fire from its mouth. According to one version of the legend, St. Romanus subdued the creature with a crucifix, leading it to Rouen, where it was burned. However, its head and neck would not burn due to being tempered by its own fire breath, so head and neck were mounted on the wall of a newly built church to scare off evil spirits.
In the 12th century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) spoke out against gargoyles, saying: “What are these fantastic monsters doing in the cloisters before the eyes of the brothers as they read? What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys, these strange savage lions, and monsters? To what purpose are here placed these creatures, half beast, half man, or these spotted tigers? I see several bodies with one head and several heads with one body. Here is a quadruped with a serpent’s head, there a fish with a quadruped’s head, then again an animal, half horse, half goat… Surely if we do not blush for such absurdities, we should at least regret what we have spent on them.”
A list of sources may be found on the following website: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gargoyle.
These pictures depict various gargoyles on the Notre Dame Basilica in Paris. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This gargoyle, depicting a mythic creature, half dragon, half fish, was seen on the Shueisian Daoist Temple, Xingang, Taiwan. This temple, which was erected in 1780, is dedicated to Da Yu (‘Yu the Great’), who, during the Xia Dynasty (c. 2700-1600 B.C.), managed to stop the great annual flooding of the Yellow River by building canals. Daoists later regarded him as a god. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This sculpture in the Hindu temple Brihadisvara, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, South India, shows a fat-bellied being, blowing into a bag-pipe. It acts as support for a drainage pipe for rain water. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This lion on the wall of Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, England, is still called a gargoyle, although it is not designed to lead away rainwater. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Another name of the pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) is American antelope, which is somewhat misleading, as it is not a true antelope, but forms a separate family, Antilocapridae – a name constructed from the Greek words for antelope and goat. The name pronghorn refers to the short, straight horns, which are forked. When the Europeans came to America, this species was unbelievably abundant in the West. However, uncontrolled hunting caused this iconic animal to have been almost eradicated by around 1900. Following conservation efforts in later years, it is now common again many places in the West.
A rain shower has drenched this pronghorn, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The pretty nettle-leaved strobilanthes (Strobilanthes attenuata) is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal, at altitudes between 2,000 and 3,500 m. Formerly, this plant was called Pteracanthus urticifolius, the name urticifolius referring to the nettle-like leaves.
The genus Strobilanthes is presented in depth on the page Plants: Himalayan flora.
Flowers of nettle-leaved strobilanthes, covered in raindrops from a recent shower, Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The morning-glory, or bindweed, family (Convolvulaceae) contains c. 55 genera, comprising more than 1,650 species. Read more about these plants on the page Plants: Morning-glories and bindweeds.
The blue dawn-flower, or Indian morning-glory (Ipomoea indica), is extremely variable, its leaves being heart-shaped or tri-lobed, and the flower colour varying from purple to blue to pink. Despite its specific name, and also one of its common names, indicating that it is from India, the place of origin of this species is unknown. Today, its distribution is pan-tropical, and it is also found in some subtropical areas.
Indian morning-glory, photographed in Taiwan, where this species is quite common. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The purple morning-glory (Ipomoea purpurea) is a native to Central America, but is widely cultivated as an ornamental, and has escaped in many places. In Nepal, its seeds are used medicinally for constipation and phlegm, and also to expel parasites.
Raindrops cling to a purple morning-glory flower, Guatemala. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During a heavy rain shower in the town of Siem Reap, Cambodia, the driver of a tuk-tuk motorcycle taxi seeks shelter in his vehicle, whereas a motorcyclist is getting drenched. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Coastal fetterbush (Eubotrys racemosa, also called Leucothoe racemosa) is a shrub of the heath family (Ericaceae), growing to 4 m tall. It is found in coastal plains in the eastern United States, from Massachusetts south to Florida, and thence west to Texas, growing in various habitats, including pine forest, oak forest, grasslands, and swamps.
Coastal fetterbush, covered in raindrops, encountered in the vast pine forests of the Pine Barrens, New Jersey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A lone spruce, growing at the edge of a pond, is blurred by a rain shower, central Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
As rain starts pouring, these girls in the city of Moroni, Grande Comore, Comoro Islands, run to seek shelter. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Raindrops adorn these Monochaetum flowers, of the melastoma family (Melastomataceae), Cordillera de Talamanca, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The area around the Rinjani Volcano, Lombok, Indonesia, receives quite heavy rainfall. For this reason, covered platforms have been constructed as shelters for trekkers. During a heavy rain shower, visitors have pitched their tents on one of these platforms. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Hypericum revolutum is a species of St. John’s wort. This shrub – occasionally a small tree – is distributed in montane areas, from south-western Arabia southwards through eastern Africa to the southern tip of the African Continent, and also in Cameroun, and on the islands of Fernando Po, Madagascar, Comoro Islands, and Reunion.
Countless raindrops adorn this Hypericum revolutum, growing in Arusha National Park, northern Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This little Danish boy enjoys splashing in a puddle, left by a heavy rain shower. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The crescent-leaved sundew (Drosera peltata) is distributed in montane areas from the western Himalaya east to Southeast Asia, and thence south through Indonesia to Australia. – Sundew and other carnivorous plants are described in depth on the page Plants: Flesh-eating plants.
The leaves of this crescent-leaved sundew, growing in Langtang National Park, central Nepal, are heavy with monsoon rain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Acacias belong to the huge pea family (Fabaceae), subfamily Mimosoideae, which is characterized by flowers with very small petals and numerous stamens. Formerly, the genus Acacia comprised no less than c. 1500 species, but according to the latest update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group’s classification for flowering plants, the APG IV, this genus is polyphyletic, today being divided into five genera.
A number of acacia species are presented on the page In praise of the colour yellow.
While rain is falling in the distance, an umbrella acacia (Vachellia tortilis, left) and yellow-barked acacias (V. xanthophloea) are illuminated by late afternoon sunshine, Konso, southern Ethiopia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The bellflower genus (Campanula) includes more than 500 species, found in temperate and subtropical areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with the highest diversity around the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. The common and generic names, as well as the name of the entire family, Campanulaceae, is due to the bell-shaped flowers of this genus, from the Latin campanula (’little bell’).
The bearded bellflower (Campanula barbata) is named after the long hairs on the petals. This species is common throughout the Alps, and in some eastern European mountains. There are also a few small, vulnerable populations in Norway.
Silent rain has left countless drops on this bearded bellflower, Rossfeld, near Berchtesgaden, southern Germany. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rain or dew, which has fallen on spiders’ webs, often create very beautiful sceneries. A few examples are shown below. – Various families of spiders are dealt with on the page Animals: Cobwebs.
Following a night with heavy dew fall, it is clearly revealed, how many cobwebs are present in this rapeseed field in Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Raindrops create a beautiful pattern in a spider’s web, Luzon, Philippines. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Hundreds of common hammock-weaver webs adorn this common box (Buxus sempervirens), Jutland, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dew drops in another web of a hammock-weaver, Dasyueshan National Forest, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Araneid cobweb, covered in dew drops, woven between wires in a fence, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cobwebs in a marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre), heavy with dew, Nature Reserve Vorsø, Horsens Fjord, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rock-jasmines (Androsace) are closely related to primroses (Primula), but can be told from that genus by their very short corolla-tube (a tube, formed by the fused petals).
As a means of protection against cold and evaporation, many high-altitude rock-jasmine species are mat-forming, among these Androsace muscoidea, here photographed in the Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Heavy monsoon rain has washed away part of this house, situated on the shore of the Langtang River, central Nepal. – Read more about the ‘blessings’ of the monsoon on the page Plants – Plant hunting in the Himalaya: Rainy season in Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Heavy rain is falling in the town of Senggigi, Lombok, Indonesia. Despite getting drenched, these motorcyclists continue their journey (top). Rain, running down the roof of a restaurant (bottom). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bustards, korhaans, and floricans constitute the family Otididae, counting 26 species of medium-sized to large birds, distributed in southern and eastern Europe, Africa, parts of western and central Asia, and a single species in Australia and New Guinea. By far the greatest diversity is in Africa, with 18 species. Many of the species are highly endangered due to hunting and habitat destruction.
One species that is still rather common is the black-bellied bustard (Lissotis melanogaster), which is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of rainforest and desert areas. In the picture below, from the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, a male is still displaying, although a silent rain is falling. He bends back his long neck, filling his lungs with air, while emitting a humming sound. He then stretches his neck as far into the sky as possible, ending the whole séance with a loud ‘pop’.
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) is a deciduous shrub, usually 2-3 m tall, occasionally up to 6 m. It is native to the major part of Europe, from Ireland, Scotland, and southern Norway southwards to Spain, southern Italy and Greece, eastwards to western Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the Caucasus. Elsewhere, it is widely cultivated as an ornamental due to its reddish stems, which are quite showy, when the leaves have been shed.
The prefix dog may imply that the fruits are of little value, having a bitter taste. Alternatively, it may refer to the former usage of dogwood shoots, which were sharpened and used by farmers as cattle prods, called dags. Skewers were also made from the tough and durable wood.
In 1991, the well-preserved body of a Stone Age hunter was discovered in a glacier in the Alps. Ötzi the Iceman, as he was dubbed, died about 5,300 years ago, presumably caught in a snowstorm. His arrow shafts were made from dogwood and viburnum wood. (Source: K. Spindler 1994. The Man in the Ice)
In former days, oil from the berries was used as lamp fuel. Medicinally, they were utilized as an emetic, whereas the astringent bark was used as a febrifuge.
Raindrops hang like pearls on autumn leaves and fruits of common dogwood, Valle Tena, Aragon, Spain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A relative of common dogwood is the Canadian dwarf cornel (Cornus canadensis), also called Canadian bunchberry, quatre-temps, crackerberry, and creeping dogwood. The French-Canadian name quatre-temps was given in allusion to its leaves, which are arranged cross-wise. This plant is sometimes placed in other genera, named Chamaepericlymenum canadense or Cornella canadensis.
This dwarf shrub is native to Canada, Greenland, northern United States, eastern Siberia, Japan, Korea, and north-eastern China. It is closely related to the Eurasian dwarf cornel (Cornus suecica), which is also found in Alaska, British Columbia, north-eastern Canada, and Greenland. Where the two species grow together, they form hybrids.
This Canadian dwarf cornel, growing in Pawtuckaway State Park, New Hampshire, was photographed after a rain shower. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Balsams (Impatiens) are a large genus of plants with attractive flowers of a unique structure, having 3 or 5 sepals, of which the lower one is greatly enlarged to form a pouch with a spur, while the other 2 or 4 are small and greenish. There are 5 petals, of which the upper one is often helmet-like, while the 4 lateral ones are fused in pairs, the upper pair forming the wings, the lower pair the lip.
The generic name, as well as a popular name of these plants, touch-me-not, was given in allusion to their way of spreading their seeds. As the fruit reaches maturity, a tension builds up inside the pod, causing it to ‘explode’ when touched, hereby spreading the seeds a considerable distance.
Balsam species are ubiquitous in the Himalaya, comprising at least 50 species, most of which bloom during the monsoon, between mid-June and late September. As if the monsoon rain is not enough, many balsam species prefer to grow beneath waterfalls to benefit from the humid air.
Impatiens falcifer is a pretty, yellow-flowered balsam, identified by its brown-dotted upper petal and the broad, sickle-shaped wings. This species has a rather restricted distribution, from central Nepal east to Sikkim, growing in forests between 2,500 and 3,600 m altitude. It is common in Nepal.
Impatiens falcifer, covered in raindrops after a heavy monsoon shower, Thangshyap, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Another yellow-flowered balsam is Impatiens racemosa, whose small flowers have a long and slender spur. This species is common in damp forests, from Kashmir east to south-eastern Tibet, at altitudes between 1,300 and 3,900 m.
Impatiens racemosa, photographed after a monsoon shower, Gul Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Impatiens sulcata, also called I. gigantea, is a large species, growing to 3 m tall. Its flower colour is very variable, pink, bright red, or purple. This species is widespread and common, growing in a variety of habitats, such as forests, shrubberies, and cultivated areas. It is distributed from Kashmir east to Bhutan, between 1,800 and 4,000 m altitude.
During a heavy shower, a drenched bumble bee (Bombus) clings to a flower of Impatiens sulcata, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Alpine, or yellow-billed, chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus) is a close relative of the red-billed chough (P. pyrrhocorax), but is a bit smaller, with a shorter, bright yellow bill. It is presented in depth on the page In praise of the colour yellow, whereas the red-billed is dealt with at In praise of the colour red.
Alpine choughs are often quite confiding, like this bird, which has been drenched during a heavy rain shower and is now searching for food on a restaurant table, near Grossglockner, Austria. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In November 1998, hurricane ‘Mitch’ created havoc in Guatemala and other Central American countries. Unofficial reports claimed that about 1,900 mm of rain was dumped by this hurricane. Unfortunately, its occurrence coincided with the Catholic Festival of the Dead, which takes place on November 1st and 2nd. However, this did not deter people from performing their usual ceremonies during this festival, including visits to cemeteries to honour deceased relatives, and an annual horse race in the town of Todos Santos, western Guatemala. Below, a number of pictures show scenes from this hurricane.
You may read more about my adventures during this hurricane on the page Travel episodes – Guatemala 1998: Country of the Mayans.
Even though it was raining heavily during the ‘Festival of the Dead’ in 1998, hundreds of people nevertheless gathered in cemeteries to decorate the graves of their relatives, and to burn candles or incense, as in this picture from the city of Chichicastenango. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This family seek shelter under plastic sheets while crossing a street in Chichicastenango. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During the ‘Festival of the Dead’, an annual horse race takes place in the town of Todos Santos, here illuminated by a patch of sunshine. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
All day, rain was pouring, but this did not deter the riders from performing the horse race in Todos Santos. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During the hurricane, this dog in Todos Santos has been thoroughly smeared in mud. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Heavy rain clouds darken the sky above Lake Atitlan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bull elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica) is a species of lousewort, distributed in Arctic Canada and Greenland, and in high mountains of western North America. It grows in wet areas, especially along riverbanks. The flower of this species has a long, pointed beak, which curves upward, resembling an elephant’s lifted trunk, while the lateral lobes resemble an elephant’s ears.
The generic name Pedicularis is derived from the Latin pediculus (‘louse’). According to an old superstition, louseworts could transfer lice to people and cattle, or, according to another belief, the exact opposite was the case, namely that they were able to rid people and cattle of lice!
Other lousewort species are shown on the pages Plants: Flora of the Alps, and Himalayan flora.
Bull elephant’s head, photographed during a heavy rain shower, Olympic National Park, Washington, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The yellow-billed stork (Mycteria ibis) is distributed in sub-Saharan Africa and western Madagascar, with the largest concentration in East Africa, where it is very common locally.
Rain clouds darken the sky behind yellow-billed storks, as they are about to land near the shore of Lake Manyara, Tanzania. Egyptian geese (Alopochen aegyptiacus) are seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Larkspurs (Delphinium) are a genus in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), identified by their irregular flowers with five coloured sepals, the upper one with a large, back-pointing spur, and four inner petals, of which the upper two have nectar-producing spurs that are enclosed in the larger spur.
Delphinium kamaonense, dotted with raindrops after a monsoon shower, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. This species is found in the Himalaya, south-eastern Tibet, and south-western China, growing at altitudes between 2,500 and 4,500 m. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A heavy monsoon shower has flooded this street in Delhi, India, where boys are having great fun, while the taxi in the background is facing problems. In the lower picture, the driver and his customer are pushing the vehicle through the water. They seem to bear their mishap good-naturedly. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Giant taro (Alocasia macrorrhizos), also called giant elephant’s ear due to its huge leaves, is an herb that may grow to 5 m tall. It is native from Malaysia southwards 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.
Following a rain shower, a puddle has gathered in this giant taro leaf, Sheding Nature Park, Kenting National Park, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This narrow lane in the town of Berdun, Aragon, Spain, is wet and shining, following a heavy rain shower. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Black rain clouds darken the sky behind house roofs with numerous chimneys, Dublin, Ireland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Falling rain partly blurs smoke from chimneys of a power plant, Esbjerg, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A tiny puddle of rain water has gathered in a leaf rosette of Lobelia deckenii ssp. keniensis, a species of giant lobelia, which only grows in the alpine zone on Mount Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Heavy rain has left puddles on a village road in southern Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A very important Vishnu temple is situated at Muktinath, Mustang, central Nepal. During the peak of the monsoon rains, an annual festival takes place at this temple. Prior to the building of a road up the Kali Gandaki Valley, this pilgrimage took place on foot, lasting several days. The Muktinath Temple is presented in detail on the page Religion: Hinduism.
Hindu pilgrims, who have paid a visit to the Vishnu temple at Muktinath, are now on their way on foot down the Kali Gandaki Valley. Here they are crossing a dangerous landslide, caused by heavy monsoon rain, which has washed the trail into the river. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Seeking shelter from the monsoon rain under a plastic poncho, this porter is crossing a stream, swollen with rain, in the Kali Gandaki Valley. Before the introduction of plastic items in the Himalaya, banana leaves, or other large leaves, would serve the same purpose. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Downy bur-marigold (Bidens pilosa) is a pan-tropical and -subtropical weed of unknown origin, which has become a pest in many places, expelling native species. One isolated plant can produce over 30,000 hooked seeds, which are readily spread by sticking to animals’ furs, socks, trousers, etc.
This plant is presented in detail on the page Nature: Invasive species.
Raindrops cling to flowerheads of downy bur-marigold, Taipingshan National Forest, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tall buttercup (Ranunculus acris), which is native to temperate Eurasia, Greenland and Alaska, has been accidentally introduced by humans to many other parts of the world, and in North America (other than Alaska) it is regarded as an invasive. The specific name is from the Latin acer (’sharp’), referring to its bitter taste. All buttercup species are poisonous, for which reason they are avoided by grazing animals.
Raindrops cling to a flower of meadow buttercup, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Himalayan cranesbill (Geranium himalayense) is quite similar to the Eurasian meadow cranesbill (Geranium pratense), which also grows in the Himalaya, but as a rule it is a larger plant, with petals up to 3 cm long, versus 2 cm in meadow cranesbill. This species is found from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal, growing between 2,100 and 4,400 m altitude.
The majority of Himalayan flowers bloom during the monsoon, from mid-June to late September. This picture shows the rear side of a flower of Himalayan cranesbill, dotted with raindrops from a recent downpour, photographed at Cholang Pati, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The lesser flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) breeds mainly in the Rift Valley Lakes of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, while three smaller breeding populations occur in West Africa, Namibia, and Gujarat, India. When not breeding, this species occurs in virtually every sub-Saharan country, across the Arabian Peninsula to India and Sri Lanka. The global population has been estimated at between 2.2 and 3.2 million. (Source: iucnredlist.org/details/22697369/0)
Rain clouds darken the sky, as the last sunshine of the day illuminates a large flock of feeding lesser flamingos, Lake Nakuru, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lesser flamingos, feeding in Lake Abietta, Ethiopia, contrast sharply with a jet-black rain cloud. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rain clouds greatly enhance the beauty of the otherwise rather flat landscape in Serengeti National Park, northern Tanzania. In the upper picture, a shower streaks the sky above rocky outcrops, named Simba Kopjes, while in the lower one, clouds are gathering at sunset. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rhododendron arboreum, which can grow up to 15 m tall, is the national plant of Nepal, called lali guras. This species is very common in the Himalaya, and when it is blooming in March-April, parts of the forest in many places show a reddish or pinkish tinge, stemming from millions of flowers. The intensity of the red colour of the flowers decreases, as you move higher, and near the upper limit of its distribution you sometimes encounter trees with white flowers.
Rhododendrons are dealt with in detail on the page Plants: Rhododendrons.
Flowers of Rhododendron arboreum, covered in raindrops after a monsoon shower, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rainfall creates beautiful patterns on a rock wall, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The main square in the town of Laruns, Pyrenees, southern France, is glistening after a heavy downpour. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Honeysuckles (Lonicera) are a genus of c. 180 species of shrubs or climbers of the family Caprifoliaceae, native to the Northern Hemisphere. Of these, no less than about a hundred are found in China. The generic name was given in honour of German botanist Adam Lonicer (1528-1586), while the name honeysuckle stems from the sweet nectar in the flowers of this genus. Some species are indeed fragrant, and several are cultivated as ornamentals.
Pictures, depicting Central Asian honeysuckle species, may be seen on the page Plants: Himalayan flora, and the invasive Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is described on the page Nature: Invasive species.
The fly honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum) is distributed in Europe, Turkey, and the European part of Russia. This picture is from the island of Öland, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Gompas are monasteries in areas dominated by Tibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism. These buildings and other aspects of Lamaism are described on the page Religion: Buddhism.
Black rain clouds darken the sky behind buildings in Leh, Ladakh, northern India: the red Tsemo Gompa, erected 1430, the ruins of King Tashi Namgyal’s old fort, built in the 1500s (left), and a white Maitreya temple. The title ‘Maitreya’ indicates that this temple was built in honour of Maitreya (‘The Future Buddha’), who, in due time, will return to Earth to save humanity. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Viburnum is a huge genus, comprising about 150-175 species of shrubs or small trees, native to the Temperate Northern Hemisphere, with a few species in montane areas of North Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. Previously, this genus was classified as belonging to the elder family (Sambucaceae), but was then moved to the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae). However, recent DNA analyses have revealed that, in fact, it belongs to the moschatel family (Adoxaceae).
The Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) is native to parts of western Central Asia, the Caucasus, and most of Europe, excepting the northernmost and southernmost parts, and it has also been introduced to North America and elsewhere. The name Guelder rose relates to the Dutch province of Gelderland, where a popular cultivar, the snowball tree, supposedly originated.
In Ukraine, this species is a national symbol, and also an emblem for the concept of a young girl’s love and tenderness. (Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viburnum)
Raindrops adorn these autumn leaves and berries of Guelder rose, Zealand, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Annual meadow-grass (Poa annua), in America more commonly called annual bluegrass, is native to a huge area, found from western Europe and northern Africa across Temperate Asia to the Pacific. It has also been spread to most other temperate and subtropical areas of the world, deliberately as a fodder plant, or accidentally. According to some authorities, this species may have originated as a hybrid between Poa supina and Poa infirma.
The generic name is from the Greek poa (‘fodder’).
Raindrops cling to the inflorescence of this annual meadow-grass, photographed in the city of Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rain clouds behind eroded bluffs, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, United States. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
At dusk, rain clouds are moving in to cover the sky above the city of Taichung, Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Anvil cloud, building up over the Indian Ocean, near Boydu, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Raindrops dot flowers of a Taiwan hibiscus (Hibiscus taiwanensis). This attractive species is endemic to Taiwan, where it is very common in the lowlands and lower mountains. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Although very dry most of the year, the Tibetan Plateau receives some rain during the summer months. This vast plateau is described in depth on the page Plants – Plant hunting in the Himalaya: The dry Tibetan Plateau, and you may also read about our adventures in this area on the page Travel episodes – Tibet 1987: Tibetan summer.
In this picture, dark rain clouds gather behind the town of Gyantse. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This road near Lhatze, Tibet, has been destroyed by heavy rain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A dark and rainy day in the town of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These road workers are repairing a road near Kodari, central Nepal, which has been destroyed by heavy monsoon rain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rain clouds darken the sky above Glyder Fawr Mountain, Snowdon National Park, Gwynedd, Wales. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lions (Panthera leo) live in prides, consisting of females and young, and a single or several males. If there is more than one male, they are brothers or half-brothers. Even if they often don’t participate in a hunt, the stronger males will chase away lionesses and cubs from a prey, if it is not large enough to feed the entire pride.
The lion is unique among cats due to the male’s mane, a large growth of hair around the neck and down the chest, and often a little way down the back. The mane makes a male lion look larger than he actually is, without the disadvantage of a larger weight, which would require more food. A large mane is a signal to other males that here comes a powerful animal that shouldn’t be challenged, even if the challenging male is in fact larger than his opponent, but has a smaller mane. The mane also gives some protection during fights among males, for instance when stray males attempt to take over a pride.
The lion is described in detail on the page Animals: Lion – king of the savanna, and you may also read about an unusual nightly encounter with lions on the page Travel episodes – Tanzania 1990: Lions in the camp.
Male lion, quenching his thirst in a rainwater puddle, Ngorongoro Crater, northern Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), of the heath family (Ericaceae), forms large growths in acidic marshy areas. This species has a wide distribution, found in Japan and the Siberian taiga zone, westwards to Finland, and also in Alaska, Canada, and eastern United States, south to Georgia.
Leatherleaf, photographed in the Pine Barrens, New Jersey, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Pacific Islands silvergrass (Miscanthus floridulus) is distributed in Japan and Taiwan, and on several islands in the Pacific Ocean. In Taiwan, it is very common in the lowlands, at higher altitudes being replaced by M. transmorrisonensis.
Stem of Pacific Islands silvergrass, weighed down by rain, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bog bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), of the heath family (Ericaceae), has an enormous distribution, found in temperate and arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, besides isolated populations in montane areas, including the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Caucasus in Europe, the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains in North America, and mountains in Mongolia, China, Korea, and Japan.
A recent shower has adorned the red autumn foliage of this bog bilberry, growing on the mountain Fornastaðafjall, near Akureyri, northern Iceland, with countless ‘pearls.’ (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Vorsø is a small island in Horsens Fjord, Denmark, which has been left largely untouched by humans since 1928. This interesting nature reserve is described in depth on the page Nature Reserve Vorsø.
Black rain cloud, passing over Vorsø. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Miombo woodland is a very open East African forest type, dominated by trees of the genera Julbernardia and Brachystegia.
Rain clouds gather at dusk over miombo woodland at Kalasa Mukoso, northern Zambia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Following continuous rainy weather, petals of a Chinese hydrangea (Hydrangea chinensis) have fallen onto a wooden bench, Taipingshan National Forest, Taiwan. This species is distributed in eastern China, Taiwan, and Japan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sun rays penetrate dark rainclouds above the Nuwara Wewa Lake, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Ruins of ancient stupas are seen in the background. – You may read about stupas and many other aspects of Buddhism on the page Religion: Buddhism. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Pitch pine (Pinus rigida) is a native of eastern North America, found from extreme southern Ontario and Quebec, south through New England to Kentucky and the northern tip of Georgia. The name pitch pine refers to the resin, which is extracted from it.
Water drops on needles of pitch pine are reflected in the sunshine. This species is the dominant tree in the vast forests of the Pine Barrens, New Jersey, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
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