In praise of the colour yellow
The Montezuma oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma), of the New World blackbird family (Icteridae), is distributed in Central America, from southern Mexico eastwards to Panama. These birds live in colonies, easily identified by the long, pendent nests, attached to branches.
This Montezuma oropendola in Tortuguero National Park, Limón, Costa Rica, is preening its bright yellow tail feathers. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tulips, genus Tulipa, comprising about 75 species, are found from southern Europe eastwards to Central Asia, growing naturally in temperate areas on steppes and in mountains. Early in spring, the leaves emerge, sprouting from the underground bulb, and the gorgeous flowers emerge later in the spring. During the summer, flowers and leaves wither.
It is assumed that the Persians acquired bulbs from nearby Turkestan about two thousand years ago. Cultivation of tulips spread slowly westwards, and it is known that they were cultivated in Constantinople as early as 1055, and in Vienna from 1554.
The name tulip is derived from Ancient Persian tauleban (‘turban’), alluding to the flower shape of most species.
The pretty woodland tulip (Tulipa sylvestris) is indigenous from southern Europe eastwards to Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang, southwards to North Africa and Iran. It is widely cultivated and has become naturalized many places in central and northern Europe, as well as in North America.
The woodland tulip has become widely naturalized on the Danish island Bornholm, where these pictures were taken. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Leaf mustard (Brassica juncea), also known as brown mustard, Chinese mustard, Indian mustard, Oriental mustard, or vegetable mustard, is widely cultivated, especially in Asia, where it constitutes a very important vegetable, divided into the main groups leaf mustard, curled-leaf mustard, cut-leaf mustard, large-petiole mustard, head mustard, oil-seed mustard, root mustard, multishoot mustard, and big-stem mustard. (Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassica_juncea)
Terraced fields with leaf mustard, near Chovar, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Mustard fields, poplars and mountains, Anshun, Guizhou Province, China. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Women, carrying firewood through a mustard field near the village of Sauraha, southern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The picture below shows another mustard field near Sauraha. When the crop is ripe, village men spend several nights in the watchtower, shooing away wild boar (Sus scrofa), rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis), spotted deer (Axis axis), and other grazers from the field, using burning torches. The tree to the left is a silk-cotton tree (Bombax ceiba), whose branches have been lopped for fodder.
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Fried chickens, dyed with turmeric, are displayed for sale at a market of the Hakka people, Sanyi, Taiwan. The stick through their head keeps the head in this position, which is required, in case people want to present the chicken as an offering in a Daoist temple. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Buttercups (Ranunculus) constitute a huge genus of about 500 species, some of which are known as spearworts or water crowfoots. These plants are found worldwide, with the exception of some areas of West Africa, and Antarctica. In the Tropics, they are mainly restricted to montane areas. A large number of species are presented on the page Plants: Flora of the Alps and the Pyrenees.
The etymology behind the names is explained on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.
The tall buttercup (Ranunculus acris), also known as meadow buttercup, is native to temperate Eurasia, Greenland, and Alaska, but has been accidentally introduced by humans to many other parts of the world. In North America (other than Alaska) it is regarded as an invasive. The specific name is derived from the Latin acer (’sharp’), referring to its bitter taste.
Tall buttercup, Bornholm, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Looming over the town of Jaisalmer, western Rajasthan, India, the gigantic yellow sandstone fort Sonar Qila, or Trikuta, is a testimony to a period of war and rivalry in the Tahr Desert. Founded around 1155 by a Rajput prince, Roa Rawal Jaisal, it was originally surrounded by an outer wall, 4.5 km long.
In the old days, the walls were fortified by 99 ramparts, constructed to defend the king and his people. From these ramparts, soldiers would roll large stone balls and long stone cylinders over the edge, crushing many enemies, who were trying to scale the walls of the fort. Still today, many of these balls remain on the walls.
Early in the 18th Century, people began building houses within the outer fort walls, and today most of the town is situated here. Inside the fort proper, most of the area is also occupied by residential houses.
The fierce Rajputs are described on the page Travel episodes – India 1986: “His name is Muhammed!”
Yellow morning light on the gigantic Rajput fort Sonar Qila, Jaisalmer. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Indian laburnum (Cassia fistula) is a smallish tree, belonging to Caesalpinioideae, a subfamily of the large pea family (Fabaceae). This species is native to the Indian Subcontinent and the northern part of Indochina. Due to its gorgeous display of large clusters of bright yellow flowers, which gave rise to the popular name golden shower, it is widely planted as an ornamental. It is the national tree of Thailand and the state flower of the South Indian state of Kerala.
The wood is very strong and durable, utilized for many items, including agricultural tools, carts, and rice pounders. In Bengal, the pulp of the fruits is mixed with native tobacco to add flavour. The flowers were once eaten by the Santal tribal people. Medicinally, the pulp is used as a laxative, and externally for gout and rheumatism. The root is given for fever and heart problems, and as a tonic. Juice of the young leaves is used for ringworm, and a poultice made from the leaves is applied to parts affected by rheumatism, and also to the face in case of paralysis.
In Sinhalese, this tree is called ehela. Due to its durable wood, it was once used to construct a sacred post, Ehela Kanuwa, at the peak of Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak, a mountain in south-western Sri Lanka, which is sacred to followers of three religions, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. Buddhists claim that an impression in a rock at the peak is a footprint, left by Buddha Sakyamuni himself, whereas Christians and Muslims regard it as a footprint left by Adam, when he was expelled from the Garden of Eden.
On this post, pilgrims used to register vows, marking them with chunam (a fine lime, used in betelnut-chewing) on the post. The post is long gone, and today pilgrims mark the vows on a rock instead. (Source: W. Skeen 1870. Adam’s Peak. Legendary Traditional and Historic Notices of the Samanala and Sri Pada. Colombo)
Cassia fistula is very commonly planted in Taiwan. These pictures are from the city of Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In this picture from Taichung, flowers of Cassia fistula have fallen as a ‘golden shower’ onto a parked car. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Senna is a large genus of herbs, shrubs, or trees in Caesalpinioideae, a subfamily of the large pea family (Fabaceae). These plants comprise 260-350 species, native to tropical and subtropical areas, with a few species in temperate regions. Leaves are pinnate. The flower has 5 sepals and 5 usually yellow petals.
The generic name is derived from Arabic sana, a term covering plants with catharitic and laxative properties.
Initially, in 1753, these plants were included in the genus Cassia (above) by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus, or Carl von Linné (1707-78), but already the following year, in his fourth edition of The Gardeners Dictionary, Scottish botanist Philip Miller (c. 1691-1771) placed a number of Cassia species in the genus Senna. For many years, most botanists did not recognize this genus, and only recently has it been re-established.
These plants are widely cultivated as ornamentals, or as green manure, as they are able to obtain nitrogen from the air via bacteria in the roots.
African senna (Senna didymobotrya), also known as popcorn senna or peanut butter cassia, is native to Africa, where it is widely distributed in several types of habitat. However, it has been introduced to many other parts of the world and has become naturalized in the wild, including parts of Indonesia, Australia, Mexico, and the United States, especially in California, Florida, and Hawaii.
It is a hairy, aromatic shrub, usually below 5 m tall, sometimes taller. It is easily identified by the conspicuous blackish bracts. The plant has a strong scent, which has been variously described as being reminiscent of mice, wet dog, peanut butter, and burnt popcorn. (Source: G.H. Schmelzer & A. Gurib-Fakim 2008. Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 1: Medicinal Plants. PROTA)
African senna, Lalibela, Ethiopia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
African senna, escaped near Munnar, Kerala, South India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The swamp senna (Senna reticulata) is a pioneer plant, growing on floodplains, from Mexico southwards to the Amazon Basin. Farmers consider it a noxious weed, named matapasto (‘meadow killer’) due to its ability to grow fast and outshade other plants. It is used in local folk medicine for liver problems and rheumatism.
Swamp senna, Puerto Jiménez, Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Senna alata, popularly known by many names, including emperor’s candlesticks, candelabra bush, Christmas candles, and ringworm bush, is native from the Caribbean and Mexico southwards to Paraguay, growing in a variety of habitats. It is widely cultivated elsewhere as an ornamental and medicinal plant and has become naturalized in many places.
The name ringworm bush relates to its very effective fungicidal properties, for treating ringworm and other fungal infections of the skin.
Senna alata, Tunghai University Park, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Senna alata, growing in a dry riverbed, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
As its name implies, the coast hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) is mainly coastal, but it may be found up to an altitude of 300 m. It is native to islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, coastal Australia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, southern China, and Taiwan, but has also become naturalized elsewhere in tropical parts of the world.
The specific name was given in allusion to its leaves, which resemble leaves of linden species (Tilia).
This species and many other Hibiscus species are described on the page Plants: Malvoideae.
Gorgeous flower of coast hibiscus, Hu-tou Shan (‘Tiger Head Hill’), Tungxiao, western Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Clouded yellows (Colias) are colourful butterflies, often called sulphurs or yellows, comprising about 85 species. They constitute a subfamily, Coliadinae, within the huge family Pieridae, with the common name whites. They are distributed on all continents, except Australia and Antarctica, with the main concentration in subarctic and temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The caterpillars feed on members of the pea family (Fabaceae).
The common clouded yellow (C. croceus), which has an orange patch on the underwing, is widely distributed, from southern Europe and North Africa across the Middle East to northern India.
Common clouded yellow, feeding on a red star-thistle (Centaurea calcitrapa), Navarra, Spain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The pale clouded yellow (C. erate) is another widely distributed species, found from south-eastern Europe across temperate areas of Asia to Japan and Taiwan, and also in north-eastern Africa, southwards to Somalia. It is very variable, the male having bright sulphur-yellow underwings, whereas those of the female are pale yellow, with a large whitish patch on the forewing. The male may be told from similar species by the darker outer third of the underside of the forewing.
This species was described as early as 1805 by German zoologist Eugenius Johann Christoph Esper (1742-1810).
Female pale clouded yellow, ssp. lativitta, sucking moisture from soil, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The dark clouded yellow (C. fieldii) is found from southern Iran eastwards across northern India and the Tibetan Plateau to northern Indochina and the major part of China. The nominate race is quite common in the Himalaya, found at elevations between 1,000 and 2,500 m.
Dark clouded yellow on a fern leaf, Kimrong Khola, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Mating pair of dark clouded yellow, Ghora Tabela, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a small tree of the rose family (Rosaceae). It is native to cooler mountain regions of southern China, but was introduced to Japan at a very early stage. It was initially described by German physician and botanist Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716), who lived in Japan 1690-92. Later, in 1712, Swedish botanist and physician Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), a pupil of the famous Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), provided a more elaborate description.
Formerly, it was thought that loquat was closely related to the common medlar (Mespilus germanica), reflected in the alternative name Japanese medlar. It is also sometimes called Japanese plum. Today, this species is cultivated for its delicious orange-yellow fruits, and also as an ornamental plant, in most warmer regions of the world.
Loquat tree with fruits, Andalusia, Spain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Snacks in the province of Guizhou, China: loquats and peanuts (Arachis hypogaea). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Parts of this leaf, observed near Pokhara, Nepal, have turned orange and yellow, presumably due to a fungus attack. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) is native to the Indian Subcontinent, eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia and Indonesia to northern Australia, and eastwards to some of the Pacific islands. When small, it is a very popular house plant, but in the wild it grows to enormous dimensions, with numerous aerial roots.
Pictures, depicting large specimens, may be seen on the page Plants: Ancient and huge trees.
Fallen leaves of weeping fig, forming a golden carpet on a street in Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Buddhist pagodas of various size and form abound in Myanmar, and Bagan, in the central part of the country, is home to c. 2,200 ruined Theravada pagodas and temples. During the height of the Bagan Kingdom, between the 11th and 13th Centuries, more than 10,000 temples, pagodas, and monasteries were built in this area.
Theravada Buddhism, pagodas, and many other aspects of Buddhism are described on the page Religion: Buddhism.
Glorious morning sky behind Buddhist pagodas, Bagan, Myanmar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Especially in the evening, many local Buddhists come to the gorgeous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon to pray, give offerings, or participate in cleaning the platform, which surrounds the pagoda. In this picture, the platform is illuminated by the evening sun. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
When this picture was taken, one of the lesser Shwedagon pagodas was undergoing renovation, and a bamboo scaffold had been erected around it. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Yellow or golden-yellow algae often cover the surface of ponds, rocks, or trunks of old trees and other plants. Several examples are shown below.
In the humid and mineral-rich air, which surrounds the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Area, New Zealand, numerous trees and branches are covered by orange-yellow algae. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The trunk of this Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) in Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Area is partly covered by an orange-yellow alga. This tree is presented on the page Silhouettes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This rock wall in Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe, is covered in yellow algae. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Baishuei Terraces in the Yunnan Province, south-western China, are an area consisting of snow-white calcium bicarbonate, which has been deposited by water, seeping down a slope. Over the millennia, terraces have been formed, which are sacred to the local Nakhi-people, described on the page People: Chinese minorities.
This pool on the Baishuei Terraces is brimming with yellow algae. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Horsechestnuts and buckeyes, genus Aesculus, are native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with one species in Europe, which originally stems from the Balkans, c. 10 in Asia, and 7 in North America. The European horsechestnut (A. hippocastanum) is presented on the page Plants: Ancient and huge trees, whereas an American species, the California buckeye (A. californica), is dealt with on the page Plants: Plants of Sierra Nevada.
Indian, or Himalayan, horsechestnut (Aesculus indica) is common in the western parts of the Himalaya at elevations between 900 and 3,000 m, from Kashmir eastwards to western Nepal. In parts of northern India, the leaves are used as cattle fodder, and the seeds are dried and ground into a bitter flour, called tattawakher. The bitterness is removed by thoroughly rinsing the flour, which is often mixed with wheat flour to make chapatis, and also halwa (sweet cakes). During hunger periods, a type of porridge, called dalia, is made from it. This species is also utilized in traditional medicine for a number of ailments, including skin problems, rheumatism, and headache. (Source: N.P. Manandhar 2002. Plants and People of Nepal. Timber Press)
The trunk of this Indian horsechestnut in Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, is partly covered by a bright yellow alga. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In the humid air in the Mangapohue River Gorge, New Zealand, these yellow algae have managed to fasten themselves on a wire netting. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
German physician and botanist Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716) lived in Japan 1690-1692, working for the Dutch East India Company. During his stay, he noticed a tree with distinct bilobed leaves, which was commonly planted at temples and palaces, and along roads. When he returned to Holland, Kaempfer brought seeds of this tree with him. In 1771, it was named Ginkgo biloba by Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), after its Japanese name, gin-kyo, which was used by Kaempfer. Thus, the last ’g’ must be a reading error, but because of the rules of botanical nomenclature we must carry on with Linnaeus’s mistake.
The ginkgo, also known as temple tree, is the sole surviving member of a plant division, Ginkgophyta, with a single class, Ginkgoopsida, order Ginkgoales, family Ginkgoaceae, genus Ginkgo, and species biloba. Its nearest living relatives are the cycads (Cycadales).
This remarkable tree only survived in China. For more than 2,000 years, it was planted at Chinese temples, and this custom spread to Japan about a thousand years ago. Until the late 20th Century, it was only known in cultivation, and it caused a great stir among botanists when larger populations were found on mountain slopes in eastern and south-western China. It is still discussed whether the eastern population was originally planted by monks, but the western population is generally regarded as being genuinely wild.
Ginkgo is easily cultivated, and today it is grown as an ornamental tree in many countries around the world.
Autumn foliage of ginkgo is a pretty yellow. – Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This picture shows fallen leaves, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Artocarpus, popularly called breadfruit, is a genus of c. 60 trees and shrubs of the fig family (Moraceae). Most species are indigenous to Southeast Asia, a few to the Pacific. The numerous flowers grow into a so-called syncarpous fruit, i.e. a fruit with numerous carpels, packed closely together. In many species, the fruit can grow to a very large size.
The generic name is derived from the Greek artos (‘bread’) and karpos (‘fruit’), a name applied by Scottish-German botanist Johann Reinhold Forster (1729-1798) and his son Johann Georg Forster (1754-1794), who participated as botanists during the second voyage of James Cook (1728-1779), which took place 1772-1775.
Some species are widely cultivated, especially common breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) and jackfruit (A. heterophyllus). The latter is described in detail on the pages Nature: Nature’s patterns, and Travel episodes – Sri Lanka 1976: Among alcohol brewers.
Yellow leaves of a common breadfruit tree, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Angled castor (Ariadne ariadne) is a butterfly of the brushfoot family (Nymphalidae), distributed from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia. It lives in disturbed habitats, including roadsides, abandoned fields, and forest glades, where its most common host plant, the castor oil plant (Ricinus communis), is growing. Other host plants include Tragia species, likewise of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae).
Caterpillars of this butterfly are very spiny indeed, deterring birds from eating them. They may also be poisonous, due to the toxic leaves they eat.
This caterpillar of angled castor has eaten most of a leaf of castor oil plant, Fazi River, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Comprising about 230 species of herbs, Alpinia is the largest genus in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), native to tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, Australia, and some Pacific islands. Their popular name is galangal or shell ginger, the latter referring to the flower buds, which resemble sea shells. These plants lack true stems, instead having pseudostems, which consist of overlapping leaf sheaths.
The genus is named for Prospero Alpini, an Italian botanist in the 17th Century, who specialized in exotic plants.
The showy galangal (Alpinia zerumbet, previously named A. speciosa) is native to Japan, Taiwan, southern China, Indochina, and India, but is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas.
Flower of showy galangal, Sandiao Cape, north-eastern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Forsythia is a genus of about 11 species in the olive family (Oleaceae), the majority of which are native to eastern Asia, and one species, F. europaea, to the Balkans.
A commonly cultivated hybrid is F. x intermedia, a cross between F. suspensa and F. viridissima, which displays a profusion of yellow flowers in spring, before foliation. The genus was named in honour of Scottish botanist William Forsyth (1737-1804), who was a founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society.
Cultivated Forsythia x intermedia, Funen, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Spiny-backed orb-weavers (Gasteracantha) are a genus of at least 60 species of spiders, found worldwide in warmer areas. The generic name is derived from the Greek gaster (‘belly’) and acantha (‘thorn’), referring to a number of spines, usually 6, protruding from the abdomen. These spines, as well as a shield-like carapace, covering almost the entire animal, are means of defense against enemies.
These spiders only live a few months after hatching. Females die after laying eggs, whereas the male dies a few days after inducing his sperm into the female.
Many other spiders are described on the page Animals: Cobwebs.
Gasteracantha cancriformis is widespread in the Americas. This female was encountered on Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica. The spines of the male are stubby. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The wild daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), or Lent lily, is native to western Europe, from Spain and Portugal north to Britain, and thence east to Germany. It is widely cultivated elsewhere and is a common escape from gardens.
The generic name Narcissus is often linked to the Greek myth of the youth Narkissos, who was known for his beauty. However, he admired his own reflection in a pond so much that he fell into the water and drowned. A relative of the daffodil, the narcissus (N. poeticus), sprouted where he died. According to Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.), the plant was not named for the youth, but for its powerful fragrance, from the Greek narkao (‘I grow numb’).
The name daffodil is derived from the Greek asphodelos, a genus of plants in the family Asphodelaceae. When and why the initial ‘d’ was introduced, is not known. According to Greek mythology, daffodils grow commonly in Hades, and they are a favorite food of the dead. The name Lent lily refers to the early flowering of this species, Lent being the preparatory week before Easter.
Daffodils, escaped from a garden, Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Conifers, outlined against a black and yellowish evening sky, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), of the composite family (Asteraceae), is a native of eastern and central United States and southern Canada. Among several indigenous peoples, the leaves were formerly harvested and cooked as a vegetable.
This species has been introduced elsewhere around the world as an ornamental. It produces a large number of seeds, which can remain viable for at least three years, and it is also able to sprout from rhizome fragments. In many places, it has become invasive, including Japan, Taiwan, and some European countries.
The specific name is from the Latin lacer (‘torn’), in allusion to the deeply cut leaves, as is the first part of the common name. The generic name was applied by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), also called Carl von Linné, in honour of Olof Rudbeck (1630-1702), also known by the Latinized name Olaus Rudbeckius, who was professor of medicine, and periodically rector magnificus, at Uppsala University.
In Taiwan, where these pictures were taken, cutleaf coneflower is very common, often forming large growths in open places. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This steaming, bubbling pool in the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Area, New Zealand, is known as Champagne Pool. The yellow colour of the water stems from a content of sulfur. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Corn daisy (Glebionis segetum, formerly Chrysanthemum segetum) is a gorgeous composite, which is probably native to the Mediterranean region, but is today found as a weed in most of Europe, in eastern North America, in China, and elsewhere. It is also cultivated in several countries.
Thousands of corn daisies almost cover a fallow field, Vendsyssel, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Wheat field with many corn daisies and cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus), central Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Corn daisy with a drone fly (Eristalis tenax), Nature Reserve Vorsø, Horsens Fjord, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A near relative of corn daisy is crown daisy (Glebionis coronarium), which is distributed around the Mediterranean, eastwards to Iran, and also on the Canary Islands. A yellow-flowered form resembles corn daisy, but can be identified by its deeply divided leaves. Another form has whitish ray-florets with a yellow base.
On the Greek island of Crete, where these pictures were taken, crown daisy is extremely common, often forming large growths. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Daisies come in a bewildering array of cultivated sorts, called chrysanthemums.
At the edge of a street in Hanoi, Vietnam, this woman is selling yellow chrysanthemums from her bicycle. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bicycles for rent in the city of Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rough horsetail (Equisetum hyemale), also called scouring rush, has an enormous distribution, found in North America, Europe, and northern Asia, south to Tibet, Korea, and Japan. It has also been introduced to other countries, including South Africa and Australia, where it is regarded as an invasive.
This species grows in wet areas in forests, often on slopes along streams. In Japan, it is often cultivated in ponds in ornamental gardens. Certain indigenous American tribes used a decoction of the stems for venereal diseases and as a diuretic.
The name scouring rush stems from its former usage as a scouring remedy, and as sandpaper, due to its high content of silica. 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.
Other species of this genus are presented on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.
This picture from Kings Canyon National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, shows the American subspecies of rough horsetail, ssp. affine, which is often yellow above each sheath. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Golden-rain tree (Koelreuteria elegans), also called flamegold, is a smallish tree of the soapberry family (Sapindaceae), to 17 m tall. It was named for its gorgeous inflorescences of countless small, yellow flowers, which, at a distance, may resemble ‘golden rain’. This species is endemic to Taiwan, but is wide planted elsewhere in the tropics and subtropics as a city tree.
Pictures, depicting the yellow winter foliage, as well as its colourful fruits, are shown on the page Autumn.
Golden-rain tree is widely planted as a city tree in Taiwan, here in Taichung. A clearwing moth, probably of the family Sesiidae, is seen in the lower picture. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Emberiza is a large genus of c. 41 extant species of passerines, distributed in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Males of many species are bright yellow or yellowish.
The yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) breeds all over Europe, eastwards to Lake Baikal and northern Mongolia, with isolated populations in Ukraine and the Caucasus Mountains. The name yellowhammer is derived from Old English geolu (‘yellow’) and hama (‘covering’), in allusion to the yellow plumage of this bird.
Male yellowhammer, sitting in a white spruce (Picea glauca), Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The black-headed bunting (Emberiza melanocephala) is distributed from Italy eastwards across Turkey and the Caucasus to Iran and western Pakistan.
Singing male black-headed bunting, Pergamon, western Turkey. (Photo copyright© by Kaj Halberg)
The black-faced bunting (Emberiza spodocephala) breeds in southern Siberia, Mongolia, and north-eastern and south-western China.
Singing male black-faced bunting, Lashe Hai Lake, Yunnan Province, China. (Photo copyright© by Kaj Halberg)
In Ancient Greek mythology, three sisters, Stheno, Euryale and Medusa, were Gorgons – winged monsters with living venomous snakes on the head instead of hair. It was said that if you happened to look at any of them, you would be turned into stone. Of these sisters, Stheno and Euryale were immortal, whereas Medusa was not. She was killed by the hero Perseus, son of Zeus and Danaë, the daughter of Acrisius, who was the king of Argos.
Acrisius was dismayed that he didn’t have a son and consulted the oracle at Delphi for help. The oracle, however, warned him that he would one day be killed by his daughter’s son. To avoid her having a son, he imprisoned her in his palace, in a chamber without a roof. However, she was made pregnant by Zeus who appeared in the form of a shower of gold. Acrisius dared not invoke the wrath of Zeus by killing his offspring, but when the child was born, he placed mother and child in a wooden chest, which he sent out to sea, expecting them to perish. However, the chest washed ashore on the island of Serifos, where a fisherman named Dictys took mother and child to his home. Here, they stayed for many years, until Perseus, as the boy was named, was grown.
The king of Serifos was Polydectes, brother of Dictys. When the king saw the beautiful Danaë, he fell in love with her. Perseus, who was now an adolescent, disliked Polydectes and protected his mother from him. The king now plotted to have Perseus killed. He held a large banquet, and each guest was requested to bring a horse as a gift to the king. Perseus had no horses, so he asked Polydectes to name another gift, which he would not refuse to bring. The cunning Polydectes then demanded the head of Medusa, the only mortal Gorgon.
Perseus begged the gods for help, and they equipped him with a polished shield, a sword, winged boots, and a helm of invisibility. By viewing Medusa’s reflection in his shield, he avoided being turned into stone, and he could now safely approach the sleeping gorgon and cut off her head. Wearing his helm of invisibility, he managed to escape from the fearsome sisters of Medusa, carrying her head in a sack.
On his way to Argos, Perseus learned about the prophecy of the oracle, and as he did not want to kill his grandfather, he instead went to Larissa, where sports games were being held. Acrisius happened to be present, and Perseus accidentally hit him with his spear and killed him. Thus, the prophecy came true.
Artificial light illuminates heads of Medusa, re-used as the base of columns in the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı – ‘Cistern Sinking Into the Ground’), the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns beneath Istanbul, c. 138 m long and 65 m wide. It was built during the reign of Emperor Justinian I (c. 482-565). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus) constitute a large genus of the pea family (Fabaceae), comprising at least 130 species. It is widespread in temperate and subtropical areas of Eurasia, Africa, Australia, and some western Pacific islands. Some species have been introduced and become naturalized elsewhere, including the Americas and New Zealand.
The generic name is of Semitic origin, in Ancient Greek lotos, denoting a type of clover or trefoil, described by Homer as food for horses. The trefoil part of the popular name was given in allusion to the seemingly tripartite leaves of the common bird’s-foot trefoil (in reality 5 leaflets), whereas bird’s-foot refers to the often triple pods, which spread out from a common point, thus resembling a bird’s foot.
Four species of this genus are native to northern Europe, all presented below. They often grow in profusion in areas of low vegetation, their bright yellow flowers forming brilliant ‘carpets’.
Common bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is widely distributed in Temperate Eurasia, growing in drier habitats with low vegetation. In the Himalaya, it is found between 1,500 and 4,000 m altitude, from Pakistan east to central Nepal.
Other photos, depicting this species, are found on the page Plants: Himalayan flora.
Common bird’s-foot trefoil, photographed on the island of Bornholm, Denmark. Red campion (Silene dioica) and a local variety of sea-mayweed (Matricaria maritima var. retzii) are seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Common bird’s-foot trefoil, Fanø, Denmark. In the lower picture, five seed pods spread out from a common point, not three, as is often the case, and which has given rise to the common name of these plants. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Common bird’s-foot trefoil, Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Greater bird’s-foot trefoil, or marsh bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus, formerly L. uliginosus), grows in marshes and wet meadows. It can be identified by its broad leaflets. This species is native to Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, and has been introduced to Australia, North and South America, and elsewhere.
Greater bird’s-foot trefoil, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Narrow-leaved bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus tenuis, also called L. glaber) is native to Europe, Russia, Siberia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. This species is salt-tolerant, mainly growing in littoral meadows, inland in saline grasslands and lake shores. As its name implies, it has very narrow leaflets.
Narrow-leaved bird’s-foot trefoil, forming a wonderful carpet of flowers in a littoral meadow on the island of Amager, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dragon’s teeth (Lotus maritimus, by many authorities called Tetragonolobus maritimus) is native to Europe, North Africa, and Temperate Asia. Its common name stems from its sharply pointed calyx lobes. The generic name Tetragonolobus is from the Greek, tetragonus (‘square’) and lobos (‘pod’), referring to its angular pods, which are edible when young. The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘growing at the sea’.
In Denmark, dragon’s teeth is quite rare, mainly found on the island of Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea, where these pictures were taken. The orange lichen on the rock is Xanthoria aureola. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Yellow everlasting (Helichrysum arenarium) is widely distributed, from western Europe eastwards to Xinjiang and Mongolia, southwards to the Mediterranean and northern Iran. Formerly, in Russia, it was called ‘immortality herb’ due to its medicinal properties. Its leaves were also used as flavouring in meat dishes.
Yellow everlasting, photographed on the Karaburun Peninsula, near Izmir, Turkey (top), in southern Sweden (centre), and in Mols Bjerge, Jutland, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Running frogs (Kassina) are a genus of brightly coloured frogs of the family Hyperoliidae, living in the entire sub-Saharan Africa. They are called running frogs, as they prefer to walk instead of hopping, like most other frogs do.
The Senegal running frog (Kassina senegalensis), also called bubbling kassina, is a common and widespread species, found from the Sahel zone of Africa, southwards to South Africa, living in a wide range of habitats, including forests, shrubland, savanna, fields, and gardens. Each male emits a popping sound, and the name bubbling kassina was given in allusion to the continuous bubbling sound, stemming from many male frogs, responding to each other’s calls.
Senegal running frog, sitting on a bulrush stem, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Although the lion has never lived in Taiwan, it occurs abundantly as sculptures in Daoist temples, in the form of a mythological creature, which protects the temple. Such sculptures are also abundant on Daoist graves, guarding them against evil forces.
Lion sculptures on Daoist graves, Taichung. Other examples of such sculptures may be seen on the page Culture: Graves. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The lion also occurs during the so-called lion dances, which are performed in front of the temples. As a rule, this dance is performed by two men, hidden under a gaily coloured cloth, which acts as the body of the lion, whereas a lion mask is held by the man in front. During a more acrobatic form of lion dance, two men, hidden beneath a lion cloth, jump between small metal plates, placed on poles, which are often up to 2 m high.
Acrobatic lion dance on poles, Kaohsiung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Yellow barleria (Barleria oenotheroides), also called giant yellow shrimp plant, belongs to the acanthus family (Acanthaceae). Of the nearly 300 types of Barleria, it is the only indigenous species in the New World, found in Mexico, Central America, and Colombia.
Yellow barleria, observed in Parque Nacional Palo Verde, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The first acacia species to be dealt with scientifically was the Egyptian acacia (Vachellia nilotica), described as Acacia nilotica in 1758 by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), also called Carl von Linné. Acacia is a Latinized version of the Greek word akakia, from akis (‘thorn’), referring to the prominent thorns of A. nilotica. The specific name refers to the Nile, where this species was first found.
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. (Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia)
Genus Acacia, comprising c. 980 species, is mainly restricted to Australasia.
Vachellia is a genus of c. 193 tropical and subtropical species, most of which (c. 83) are found in Africa and on Madagascar
Senegalia, comprising about 220 species, is distributed worldwide in tropical and subtropical areas (except Australia), with the majority in Africa.
Acaciella is a small Neotropical genus of 15 species, most of which are found along the Mexican Pacific coast.
Mariosousa, comprising 13 species, are found mainly in Mexico and Central America, with a few species extending into the United States.
The pictures below show four acacia species, three with yellow flowers, and one with yellow bark.
The Philippine acacia (Acacia confusa), also called Taiwan acacia or Formosan koa, is a small tree, growing to a height of c. 15 m. It is native to northern Philippines, south-eastern China, and Taiwan, but has been planted extensively elsewhere, including Southeast Asia and many Pacific islands. In Hawaii, it is considered invasive.
This plant is very common in the lowlands of Taiwan, growing up to an altitude of c. 2,000 m. On the mountains slopes it is often protected, as it helps prevent landslides and soil erosion.
Philippine acacia has no true leaves, but phyllodes – winged leaf stalks, which function as leaves. They are scimitar-shaped, up to 11 cm long and 2 cm wide, with 3-5 parallel veins. The wood is very hard and was formerly used as beams in Taiwanese underground mines. Today, it is used to make floors, and to produce charcoal. The plant is also utilized in traditional folk medicine in Taiwan.
This Philippine acacia, displaying an abundance of flowers, was photographed near the city of Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Egyptian acacia (Vachellia nilotica), also known as gum arabic tree or babul, is native to Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian Subcontinent. It has escaped cultivation in Australia, where it is regarded as an invasive.
Flowers of an Egyptian acacia have fallen into a pond in Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan, India. This species, which was introduced to this reserve as breeding trees for birds, has become extremely invasive here. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Flowering acacia with wattled starlings (Creatophora cinereal), Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, South Africa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The yellow-barked acacia (Vachellia xanthophloea) is common in eastern Africa, from Somalia south to South Africa. A popular name of this tree is fever tree, so named by early European travellers in Africa, who noticed that you would often get fever when camping beneath these trees. The reason for this is that yellow-barked acacias mainly thrive in swampy areas, where also malarial mosquitos thrive.
This picture from Lake Naivasha, Kenya, shows a close-up of the trunk of a yellow-barked acacia, on which a grey-backed fiscal shrike (Lanius excubitoroides) is sitting. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The African wattled lapwing (Vanellus senegallus) is named after the yellow wattles at the base of its bill. On its wings, it has a tiny, blackish spur. This species is quite common in sub-Saharan Africa, except in areas with rainforest.
African wattled lapwing, Lochinvar National Park, Zambia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cochlospermum is a genus of 13 smaller trees, variously placed in the families Cochlospermaceae or Bixaceae. They are found in tropical regions, particularly in Latin America, Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and Australia.
The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek kokhlias (‘spiralled’), ultimately from kokhlos (‘spiral-shelled mollusk’), referring to the curved seeds, on which numerous long hairs are arranged in a spiral. A common name is buttercup trees, alluding to the bright yellow flowers, of the same hue as buttercup flowers (Ranunculus).
The yellow silk-cotton tree (C. religiosum) is a small tree, growing to a height of about 7.5 m. It is native to tropical areas of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, usually growing in dry deciduous forests.
Yellow silk-cotton tree is often planted around Buddhist temples in southern India and Sri Lanka, reflected in the specific name, from the Latin religiosus (‘pious’, ‘devout’). The common name refers to the fruits, which contain fluffy, cotton-like hairs, similar to kapok.
In some offshoots of Theravada Buddhism, this plant is said to have been the Bodhi tree, under which the Buddha achieved enlightenment. (A more common belief is that this tree was pipal (Ficus religiosus), described on the page Plants: Pipal and banyan – two sacred fig trees.)
Another member of the genus is Cochlospermum vitifolium, locally called poro-poro. This species is native to Central America and northern South America. Its gorgeous flowers appear after the leaves have been shed.
Yellow silk-cotton tree, Kolkata Botanical Garden, West Bengal, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cochlospermum vitifolium, photographed in the Guanacaste Region, Costa Rica. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Yellowish morning light on high-rise buildings (top), and on shops and restaurants along a street, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Most smaller herons of the genus Egretta have black legs with bright yellow toes. The generic name is from a French word, aigrette, meaning ‘little heron’.
The little egret (Egretta garzetta) has a very wide distribution, found in most tropical and subtropical areas of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. In 1994, it also colonized the Caribbean island of Barbados, from where it has spread to several surrounding islands.
Other pictures, depicting this bird, and many other heron species, may be seen on the pages Animals – Birds: Birds in Taiwan, and Fishing.
This little egret is landing in the Han River, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In the New World, a near-identical relative of the little egret is the snowy egret (Egretta thula), which is distributed in South and Central America, and also in parts of North America, where some populations are migratory, wintering further south.
In 1782, the specific name of the snowy egret was applied to this bird by a mistake by Chilean Jesuit priest and naturalist Juan Ignacio Molina (1740-1829), who didn’t realize, that in fact thula was the local Mapuduncun name for the black-necked swan (Cygnus melancoryphus).
Snowy egret, photographed in J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. It is an immature bird, identified by the yellow line running down the back of its legs. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Stinging loasa (Loasa acerifolia), of the family Loasaceae, is found in the Andes Mountains. It has very pretty flowers – but do not touch this plant, as it is equipped with stinging hairs, similar to the familiar stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).
Stinging loasa, Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay, Chile. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Angled luffa (Luffa acutangula), also called ridged gourd, sponge gourd and many other names, is a native of Tropical Asia, where it is also widely cultivated. Young fruits are cooked as a vegetable, or pickled, and the fibres inside mature fruits are used as a sponge or for making hats. The species is also utilized in traditional folk medicine. The seeds are emetic and purgative, and they are eaten to expel intestinal worms. Fruit and seeds are also used in treatment of venereal diseases, especially gonorrhea.
Other photos, depicting this species, may be seen on the page Plants: Urban plant life.
Angled luffa has beautiful flowers. – Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The prevailing religion in Taiwan is a unique blend of Buddhism and Daoism, described in detail on the page Religion: Daoism in Taiwan.
During Daoist festivals, various rituals are performed, often by men dressed in yellow garments. The pictures below show rituals from three Daoist festivals.
In certain fishing communities in southern Taiwan, people still celebrate the so-called Boat Burning Festival, during which a complete wooden boat is built, only to be burned as an offering to the god of diseases, Wang-yeh, hoping that he will spare the people of the plague and other dreadful diseases. In former times, the burning boat was pushed out to sea, ceremonially carrying the diseases away, but this practice has now been abandoned, and the boat is burned on land.
During the Boat Burning Festival, men carry a small copy of the boat, dedicated to the God of Plague, Wang-yeh, Siao Liouchou Island. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During the Boat Burning Festival, men perform a mock battle in front of Samlong Temple, Siao Liouchou. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During the Boat Burning Festival, this man performs a dance in front of Samlong Temple, in honour of Wang-yeh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
One of the most important Daoist festivals in Taiwan is the Mazu Festival, dedicated to the Mother Goddess Mazu. The story behind this goddess is related on the page Religion: Daoism in Taiwan.
Yellow banners, carried in procession during the Mazu Festival. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During the Mazu Festival, men, dressed in yellow, make preparations to ignite fireworks around a palanquin with the Tiger God and his generals (see below). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Another important festival is dedicated to the Tiger God.
During the Tiger God Festival, celebrated in the town of Shinggang, fireworks explode beneath a palanquin with the Tiger God, carried by men dressed in yellow. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Upright prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) is distributed in much of North America, especially in grassy areas. The shape of its flower heads has given it the popular name ‘Mexican hat’.
Upright prairie coneflower, Badlands National Park, South Dakota. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The squawroot genus, Conopholis, has only two members, both found in North America. These plants, belonging to the broomrape family (Orobanchaceae), lack chlorophyll, obtaining nutrients by being parasitic on roots of trees.
The alpine squawroot (C. alpina), also called alpine cancer-root, is native to Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico. Despite the common name cancer-root, there is no evidence that it has any anti-cancer properties. A variety of this species, var. mexicana, called Mexican squawroot, is parasitic on roots of various species of pine (Pinus) and oak (Quercus). It was formerly used by indigenous tribes against tuberculosis.
Mexican squawroot, Lake Powell, Arizona. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These women in the city of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India, are wearing shawls, which have been dyed various shades of yellow. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Choughs, of the genus Pyrrhocorax, are two jet-black members of the crow family (Corvidae), identified by their brightly coloured bill and feet, and by their calls, which have given them their English name. The Alpine, or yellow-billed, chough (P. graculus) is a bit smaller than the red-billed (P. pyrrhocorax), with a shorter, bright yellow bill. Both are widely distributed in Europe, northern Africa, and Asia, the yellow-billed found in Morocco, the Pyrenees, the Alps and other Central European mountains, on Crete, and in Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, and the Himalaya.
Both species are presented in depth on the page Animals: Himalayan animals.
Yellow-billed choughs are often very confiding. After being drenched during a heavy rain shower, this bird is now searching for food on a restaurant table near Grossglockner, Austria. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A flock of yellow-billed choughs, searching for food in the Jarsang Valley, Annapurna, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Yellow-billed chough, taking off from a rock in Annapurna Sancturary, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Turkish warty-cabbage (Bunias orientalis) is a member of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae), named after its warty siliques (fruits). This species is probably native to the Caucasus, central and southern Russia, western Siberia, and south-eastern Europe, north to Slovakia and Hungary. Today, however, it is very widespread in Asia, Europe, and North America, in some places regarded as an invasive.
On the island of Bornholm, Denmark, Turkish warty-cabbage is a very common escape, especially in the harbor area of the town of Gudhjem. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Araguaney (Handroanthus chrysanthus, formerly named Tabebuia chrysantha), is a moderately sized tree of the family Bignoniaceae, native to Central America and northern South America, but widely cultivated elsewhere for its abundance of bright yellow flowers, which emerge before the leaves. It is the national tree of Venezuela, chosen because of the flower colour, which resembles one of the colours on the Venezuelan flag.
The specific name is derived from the Greek chrysos (‘gold’) and anthos (‘flower’). The popular name araguaney may stem from aravenei, a word that the Caribbean Kalina people supposedly used for this tree. In Brazil, it is known as ipê-amarelo (‘yellow ipê’).
Araguaney is a very commonly planted ornamental tree in warmer parts of the world. These pictures are from the city of Taichung, Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In this picture, school children are sweeping fallen araguaney flowers in front of their school in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
As its name implies, giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is of huge dimensions, up to 50 m long. The specimen in the picture below, several stories high, is displayed in the Monterey Aquarium, California. Other pictures from this gorgeous aquarium may be seen on the pages In praise of the colour red, and In praise of the colour blue.
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The yellow-headed blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) belongs to the New World blackbird family (Icteridae). The male is black with a bright yellow head and breast, whereas the female is brown with a yellowish breast. This bird is found in western United States, breeding in cattail marshes (Typha).
The generic and specific names are derived from the Greek xanthos (’yellow’) and kephalos (’head’).
This male yellow-headed blackbird marks his territory by singing from a fence post near Bridgeport, eastern California. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The giant fennel (Ferula communis), of the carrot family (Apiaceae), is distributed around the Mediterranean, on the Arabian Peninsula, and in eastern Africa, southwards to Tanzania. It is one of the plants, which in Ancient Greece and Rome was utilized for production of a resin, known as silphium, silphion, or laser, used in perfume and medicine, and also as an aphrodisiac and a contraceptive. It was an essential trade item from the ancient North African city of Cyrene, and it was so important to the Cyrenian economy that most of their coins bore a picture of the plant. The gum is still produced in Morocco today.
The young stems and inflorescences of giant fennel are edible, albeit perhaps slightly poisonous. They were a food item in Ancient Rome, and are still eaten in Morocco.
In Ancient Greek mythology, Prometheus, the god of fire, presented fire to humans by hiding it in the hollow stalk of giant fennel.
Giant fennel, Gibraltar. In the upper picture, a ruined Maurian castle is seen in the background. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Andricus is a genus of gall wasps in the family Cynipidae, comprising about 100 species, distributed in Europe and Asia. A. quercustozae is common around the Mediterranean. Its larvae live inside large galls, measuring up to 4 cm across, which are initially green, soft, fleshy, and very sticky, later deep purple and woody on the outside. Old galls may remain on the tree for several years.
Galls of Andricus quercustozae on a twig of downy oak (Quercus pubescens), Marmande, France. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The king coconut is a variety of the common coconut (Cocos nucifera), which is much cultivated in Sri Lanka, where it is known as thambili. It contains more and sweeter juice than regular coconuts and is a very popular drink.
This Sinhalese woman is cutting open a king coconut, Minuwangoda, near Negombo, Sri Lanka. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Yellow fairy cups (Bisporella citrina), also called lemon discos, is a sac fungus, belonging to the family Helotiaceae. It has an almost worldwide distribution, being very common on dead tree trunks.
Yellow fairy cups is especially conspicuous in autumn, here photographed in Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Fiddlenecks (Amsinckia), comprising about 13 species of the borage family (Boraginaceae), are named for the inflorescence, which is curled like the head of a fiddle. The generic name was given as a tribute to German businessman and politician Wilhelm Amsinck (1752-1831), who was a benefactor of the Hamburg Botanical Garden.
The common fiddleneck (A. menziesii, formerly known as A. micrantha) is native to western North America, distributed from Alaska southwards to northern Mexico, but has been accidentally introduced to most of the eastern states, and to many other places around the world. The entire plant, which grows to about 60 cm tall, is bristly-hairy and easily sticks to animals, hay, agricultural tools etc.
Its seeds contain an alkaloid that is toxic to humans, but they are a favourite food of a Californian bird, Lawrence’s goldfinch (Spinus lawrencei), during the nesting season.
Common fiddleneck as a field weed, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lemon (Citrus limon) and other citrus fruits are dealt with in depth on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.
Lemon tree, Wadi Feiran, Sinai, Egypt. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The bladderpod (Peritoma arborea, formerly named Isomeris arborea or Cleome isomeris) is a bush in the spider-flower family (Cleomaceae), growing in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts of southern California and Baja California Peninsula. It has a foul smell, which discourages insects from eating it. Another common name of this plant is burro-fat, presumably in allusion to its butter-yellow flowers. (In Spanish, burro can mean butter, as well as donkey.)
This picture is from Joshua Tree National Park, California, where bladderpod is very common. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
An abundance of butterflies, of the genus Dixeia, family Pieridae, sucking moist from wet sand on a dirt road, Meru National Park, Kenya. Note that one butterfly in the left part of the picture is flying upside down. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Yellowheads, or fleabanes (Inula), comprising about 100 species of the composite family (Asteraceae), are distributed in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
British yellowhead (I. britannica), also called meadow fleabane, is indigenous to parts of Europe and northern Asia, and is also locally naturalized in North America.
A peacock (Aglais io) is feeding in flowers of British yellowhead, Öland, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The desert spiny lizard (Sceloporus magister) is native to the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts of North America. It is easily identified by its rough scales and the yellow spots on its sides.
Desert spiny lizard, Grand Canyon, Arizona. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Evening-primroses (Oenothera) constitute a genus of about 155 species, distributed in the entire Americas, only absent from Arctic regions and rainforest. An abundance of flowers are produced during the growth season. Most species bloom at night and in the morning, after which the flowers wither.
As its name implies, the giant evening-primrose (O. glazioviana) is a large plant, growing to 1.5 m tall, with wrinkled leaves up to 15 cm long, and many large, bright yellow flowers with petals up to 5 cm long. This spectacular plant is native to Brazil, but is widely cultivated as an ornamental and has become naturalized in many countries around the world.
Giant evening-primrose, cultivated in Funen, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In the late 1800s, in an area around the mouth of the Elbe River, northern Germany, a powerful mutation took place in an introduced evening-primrose species, which, in 1905, was described as a new species, named O. ammophila (’sand-loving’), later re-named O. oakesiana. This new species quickly spread northwards to Denmark, and today it is found along the entire west coast of peninsula Jutland.
Oenothera oakesiana, photographed on the island of Fanø, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In autumn, the foliage of quaking aspens (Populus tremuloides) adds vivid splashes of yellow to numerous areas in western North America. This species, also known by many other names, including golden aspen and trembling poplar, is the most widely distributed tree in North America, found from Alaska southwards through western Canada and the United States to central Mexico, and in a broad belt across Canada and northern U.S. to Newfoundland and New England.
Quaking aspens on a mountain slope near Conway Summit, Sierra Nevada, California. The lower two pictures show the snow-white trunk of this iconic species. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Yellow pond-lilies (Nuphar) are a genus of about 10 species of water plants with pretty flowers and floating leaves, widespread in temperate and subtropical areas in the Northern Hemisphere.
Taiwan yellow pond-lily (Nuphar shimadai) is a Taiwan endemic, growing in marshes and ponds.
Taiwan yellow pond-lily, photographed in Guantian Jacana Reserve, near Madou, southern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Tyrant flycatchers, family Tyrannidae, occur throughout the Americas. Comprising more than 400 species, these birds constitute the largest bird family.
The picture below, from Monterico, Guatemala, shows three members of the this family, two of which are bright yellow, the great kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) (lower part of the picture) and tropical kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) (upper part, right). The birds with long tails are scissor-tailed flycatchers (Tyrannus forficatus).
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Members of the stonecrop, or orpine, family (Crassulaceae) are characterized by plants with succulent leaves – an adaptation to growing in dry areas with little water. This family, which includes c. 35 genera with about 1,400 species, is found worldwide, with the greatest diversity in the Northern Hemisphere and in southern Africa.
Stonecrops (Sedum) are creeping plants, which grow in dry areas, in sand, among scree, or on rocks. This genus, counting about 470 species, is mainly distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, but is also found in southern Africa and in South America.
The widespread biting stonecrop (Sedum acre) is named after the bitter, peppery taste of its leaves, caused by their content of slightly toxic alkaloids.
Biting stonecrop, growing among coastal rocks on the island of Bornholm, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The poppy family (Papaveraceae) is dealt with in depth on the page In praise of the colour red. Below, a number of species with yellow flowers are presented.
The wonderful genus Meconopsis, comprising c. 43 species, is mainly restricted to China and the Himalaya. Many species are cultivated as ornamentals in the West. The generic name is from the Greek mekon (‘moon’) and opsis (‘resembling’), referring to the round, yellow petals of the Welsh poppy, which French botanist Louis Viguier (1790-1867) separated from the genus Papaver in 1814, mainly due to the structure of its style, calling it Meconopsis cambrica.
However, a phylogenetic study from 2011 suggests that the Welsh poppy is more closely related to Papaver species than to Meconopsis species, and the former name of the species, Papaver cambricum, which was published in 1753 by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), also called Carl von Linné, has been restored. (Source: J.W. Kadereit, C.D. Preston & F.J. Valtueña. Is Welsh Poppy, Meconopsis cambrica (L.) Vig. (Papaveraceae), truly a Meconopsis? New Journal of Botany, Vol. 1, 2011, pp. 80-88)
The gorgeous Meconopsis paniculata, which may grow to a height of almost 2 m, is found in the Himalaya, from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-eastern Tibet. It is very common, especially on nutritious soils, such as cattle grazing grounds.
This picture shows a very lush mountain meadow in the Rolwaling Valley, central Nepal. Meconopsis paniculata is blooming next to my guide Ganga Thapa, and also in the background. Other plants include a tall umbellifer, Pleurospermum benthamii, a red lousewort, Pedicularis megalantha, and various ferns. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Much hybridization takes place among Himalayan poppies. It is not clear, whether Meconopsis dhwojii, here photographed in Langtang National Park, central Nepal, is to be considered a hybrid or a full species. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
As described above, the Welsh poppy (Papaver cambricum) was formerly regarded as belonging to the Himalayan poppies (Meconopsis). This species is restricted to montane areas of the Iberian Peninsula, southern France, south-western England, Wales, and Ireland.
Welsh poppy, photographed at Col d’Aubisque in the French Pyrenees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The ice poppy (Papaver croceum), which was formerly regarded as a subspecies of the Siberian poppy (P. nudicaule), is a Central Asian plant, distributed from southern Siberia southwards to the northern outskirts of the Himalaya, and from Kyrgyzstan eastwards to northern China.
Ice poppy, growing on a mountain pass above the Yrdyk Valley, Kyrgyzstan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Alpine poppy (Papaver alpinum) is divided into at least 8 subspecies, some of which are sometimes treated as full species. It is widespread in Europe, found in the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Balkan Mountains, the Carpathians, and the Tatra Mountains. Most subspecies have yellow or orange flowers, whereas some have white.
The Rhaetian poppy (P. alpinum ssp. rhaeticum) is native to eastern Switzerland, Austria, and northern Italy. Some authorities regard it as a full species, named P. aurantiacum.
Rhaetian poppy, photographed at Passo di Valparola, Dolomites. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Horned poppies (Glaucium) are named after their horn-shaped fruits. This genus, comprising 20-25 species, has its stronghold in the Mediterranean region, and is also found in temperate Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. These plants have attractive red, orange, or yellow petals. An orange-red species may be seen on the page In praise of the colour orange.
As its name implies, the yellow horned poppy (Glaucium flavum) has yellow flowers. This species, which often grows on seashores, is native to Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Caucasus.
Yellow horned poppy is rare in Denmark, mainly growing along the west coast of Jutland, here on the island of Fanø, where it is quite common. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
About 32 species of prickly poppies, genus Argemone, are distributed in North America and the West Indies, with a single species endemic to Hawaii.
As its name implies, the Mexican prickly poppy (A. mexicana) is a native of Mexico, but has been widely naturalized in many parts of the world.
Mexican prickly poppy, naturalized in Gujarat, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Californian bush-poppy (Dendromecon rigida) occurs along the North American west coast, from northern California south to Baja California. This species is one of the few shrubby members of the poppy family, found on drier mountain slopes up to an altitude of c. 1,800 m. It is partial to newly burned areas.
Californian bush-poppy, photographed in Pinnacles National Park (top), and in Torrey Pines State Park. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Plants of the genus Calochortus can be divided into three distinct groups: mariposa tulips, or mariposa lilies, which have open, wedge-shaped petals; globe lilies with globe-shaped flowers; and cat’s ears and star tulips, which have erect, pointed petals. These gorgeous lilies are almost exclusively found in the western United States.
The generic name is from the Greek kalos (‘beautiful’) and chortos (‘grass’).
Other pictures, depicting these lilies, may be seen on the page Quotes on nature.
Yellow form of Kennedy’s mariposa tulip (Calochortus kennedyi), Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Arizona. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Canary bird (Serinus canaria) is a native of the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores. In the 1600s, sailors brought the first specimens to Europe, where they quickly became popular as cage birds due to their beautiful song. Through mutations, a number of colour varieties have evolved, including yellow, white, red, brown, and bronze. The wild form is yellowish-green with grey parts on the sides and wings.
Many people think that the Canary Islands were named after this bird. However, this is not the case. Roman historian Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) relates that these islands were populated by large wild dogs, for which reason they were referred to as the Canaria Islands, from the Latin canis (‘dog’). Thus, the bird is actually named after the islands – not the other way around!
Wild Canary bird, photographed on the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Yellow, or coastal, sand-verbena (Abronia latifolia) is a member of the four o’clock family (Nyctaginaceae), growing along the North American west coast. Its roots are edible and were formerly eaten by members of the Chinook tribe. The name four o’clock family stems from another member of the family, the Marvel-of-Peru (Mirabilis jalapa), whose flowers do not open until late in the afternoon.
Yellow sand-verbena, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The red-and-yellow barbet (Trachyphonus erythrocephalus) is aptly named, as its plumage is predominantly red and yellow. This gorgeous bird is found in East Africa, from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, south to northern Tanzania. Its feathers are used ornamentally by several tribal peoples, including the Masai.
Red-and-yellow barbet, Shaba National Park, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
European hazel (Corylus avellana) is found in the major part of Europe, eastwards to the Ural Mountains, Caucasus, and the Alborz Mountains of northern Iran. Usually, this species is a large shrub to about 10 m tall, sometimes to 15 m. It prefers sunny places, and specimens in forests are often low and stunted. The oval nut, to 2 cm long, is partly covered by a leafy involucre, called the husk.
The scientific name avellana was applied by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus, also known as Carl von Linné (1707-1778), who took this name from De historia stirpium commentarii insignes, published by German physician and botanist Leonhard Fuchs (1501-1566) in 1542, in which it was described as Avellana nux sylvestris (‘forest nut of Avella’, a town in southern Italy). In turn, that appellation was taken from Naturalis Historia, by Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.).
The succession of a wild growth of hazel is described on the page Nature Reserve Vorsø: Expanding wilderness.
The yellow catkins of European hazel emerge early in spring, in mild winters already in February. This picture is from central Jutland, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In the Greek, rhododendron means ‘rose tree’. However, these trees and shrubs are not at all related to roses, but belong to the heath family (Ericaceae). From a distance, however, the flower clusters of certain species somewhat resemble roses.
Rhododendron is a very large genus, comprising c. 1,025 species worldwide, the largest concentrations encountered in China, the Himalaya, Malaysia, Borneo, and New Guinea.
Many species of rhododendron are presented on the page Plants: Rhododendrons.
Rhododendron campylocarpum, identified by its pale-yellow flowers, is very common in the Khumbu region of eastern Nepal, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The golden crocus (Crocus chrysanthus) is native to the Balkans and Turkey, but is widely cultivated due of its gorgeous flowers.
Golden crocus, naturalized at a roadside, Møn, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Violets (Viola) are a huge genus, comprising maybe 600 species, found in most parts of the world, with the largest concentration in the northern temperate zone. Most violet flowers are white or various shades of blue, but some species have bright yellow flowers. Five examples are shown below.
Arctic yellow violet (Viola biflora) has a very wide distribution, found in Europe, Siberia, Central Asia, the Himalaya, China, Korea, Japan, and western North America.
Arctic yellow violet, photographed in the Dolomites, northern Italy. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
California golden violet (Viola pedunculata) grows in grasslands, chaparral and woodlands along the Californian coast, and in the coastal ranges up to an altitude of c. 1,000 m, south to northern Baja California.
California golden violet, Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Viola wallichiana is fairly common in humid forests of the Himalaya, from central Nepal east to Bhutan and south-eastern Tibet.
Viola wallichiana, photographed in the Khumbu area, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Viola maculata grows in forests of the Andes, from south of Santiago, Chile, and the Neuquén Province, Argentina, south to Tierra del Fuego. It is also found in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). Formerly, this species was used by the Mapuche tribe as a stimulant, for skin problems, and as a lavage in eye diseases.
Viola maculata, observed in Parque Nacional Conguillio, Chile. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Redwood violet (Viola sempervirens) is a native of coniferous forests along the American west coast, north to British Columbia. It can be identified by its leathery leaves. As its name implies, it often grows in forests of Californian redwood (Sequoia sempervirens).
Redwood violet, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Pitcher-plants are carnivorous plants of five different genera, which have one character in common: their leaves are highly modified, creating tube-shaped traps, called pitchers, which contain fluid. These plants emit fragrance, luring insects and other tiny animals into the trap. If these animals do not drown in the fluid, they are prevented from escaping by various means. Glands produce enzymes which can extract nutrients from the prey.
One genus of pitcher-plants is Sarracenia, comprising 11 species, which are distributed in eastern North America, from Newfoundland and Labrador in the north to Florida in the south, and westwards to the Great Lake area.
Sarracenia species and many other flesh-eating plants are described on the page Plants: Carnivorous plants.
Yellow pitcher-plant (Sarracenia flava), Carolina Beach State Park, North Carolina. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Great yellow gentian (Gentiana lutea) is a native of montane areas of central, southern, and eastern Europe. Its root contains one of the most bitter-tasting substances known. A few drops of gentian-root tincture will stimulate the function of liver and pancreas, and also increase the appetite.
The name gentian derives from King Gentius, who ruled in Ancient Illyria 181-168 B.C., and who allegedly discovered the medicinal value of the yellow gentian. This usage is described on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.
Many other gentian species are presented on the pages Plants: Himalayan flora, and Plants: Flora of the Alps and the Pyrenees.
Great yellow gentian is very common in Switzerland. This picture is from the Lauterbrunnen Valley, Berner Oberland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Close-up of the flowers, Säntis Mountain, Sankt Gallen, Switzerland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rabbitbrush, or chamisa (Chrysothamnus), are 9 shrubs in the composite family (Asteraceae), found in western parts of Canada and the United States, eastwards to South Dakota and Nebraska.
The most widespread species is the yellow, or sticky, rabbitbrush (C. viscidiflorus), which occurs from British Columbia and Montana southwards to California and New Mexico. This species is a typical colonizer of disturbed habitats, such as burned land, landslides, and areas prone to flooding.
The generic name is from the Greek chrysos (‘golden’) and thamnos (‘bush’), referring to the golden-yellow flowers of these plants, whereas the specific name is from the Latin viscum (birdlime, made from mistletoe), and floro (‘flower’), thus ‘sticky-flowered’.
Yellow rabbitbrush was utilized medicinally by a variety of indigenous peoples, among the Paiute to treat colds and cough, and among the Hopi for skin problems. Gosiute and Paiute produced chewing gum from latex of the roots, while Hopi and Navajo made orange and yellow dyes from the flowers.
Yellow rabbitbrush, Sequoia National Forest, Sierra Nevada, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The greater yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) is a common breeding bird in subarctic areas of Alaska and Canada, wintering in southern United States, Central America, and all of South America. It is a rare visitor to Europe. Apart from the leg colour, it is very similar to the Old World greenshank (T. nebularia), which, however, has greenish legs.
Greater yellowlegs, feeding in the Salt River, near Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The lesser yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) resembles the greater yellowlegs, but is smaller. It tends to breed a little further north than its larger cousin, wintering in the same areas. It is likewise a rare visitor to Europe.
Lesser yellowlegs, Salinas Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Southern dodder (Cuscuta australis) is a parasitic plant with a very wide distribution, found from Africa across the Middle East to India and the Far East, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia and Indonesia to New Guinea and Australia.
The genus Cuscuta and many other parasitic plants are described on the page Plants: Parasitic plants.
Numerous yellow stems of southern dodder, entwining a Japanese hop (Humulus japonicus), Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) is a vine of the acanthus family (Acanthaceae). It is native to East Africa, but is widely cultivated as an ornamental, and it has escaped and become naturalized in most warmer regions of the world. This species is included in the Global Compendium of Weeds and is regarded as an aggressive invasive plant in a number of countries, including the United States, Costa Rica, Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Australia, Japan, and Taiwan, besides numerous islands in the Pacific.
The name Black-eyed Susan is thought to stem from a character, who figures in many traditional ballads and songs. In Ballad of Black-eyed Susan, by John Gay (1685-1732), Susan goes aboard a ship in-dock to ask the sailors, where her lover William has gone. She says:
O! where shall I my true-love find?
Tell me, ye jovial sailors, tell me true,
If my sweet William sails among the crew.
Incidentally, the name Sweet William was given to another plant, Dianthus barbatus, a species of pink, or carnation.
The generic name was given in honour of Swedish botanist and physician Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), a pupil of the famous Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), also called Carl von Linné. Thunberg is mainly known for his botanical work in South Africa and Japan.
A near relative of black-eyed Susan, the blue trumpet-vine (T. grandiflora), is described on the page In praise of the colour blue.
These pictures of black-eyed Susan are from Taiwan, where this species is extremely common. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lupines (Lupinus) is a large genus of the pea family (Fabaceae), comprising more than 200 species, mainly distributed in the Americas, but also some species around the Mediterranean and in North Africa. According to Collins English Dictionary, the common, as well as the generic name of these plants, stems from the Latin lupinus (‘wolfish’), referring to an old belief that these plants would ravenously exhaust the soil.
Yellow bush-lupine, or tree-lupine (Lupinus arboreus), is endemic to California, but is widely cultivated elsewhere as an ornamental, and also to curb the sand in wandering dunes. In many places, it has escaped and become a noxious weed, including western Europe, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, and southern South America.
Yellow bush-lupine, Andrew Molera State Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Stink bug, Pugu Forest, near Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The attractive yellow trumpetbush (Tecoma stans) has many other names, including yellow bells, yellow elder, and Ginger Thomas. It is widely distributed in the Americas, from south-western United States southwards through the Caribbean and Central America to the northern half of South America. As it is widely cultivated as an ornamental, it is today found in most tropical and subtropical countries. It is the official flower of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and also the floral emblem of the Bahamas.
This species was first described as Bignonia stans by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), also called Carl von Linné, but was moved to the genus Tecoma in 1819 by French botanist Antoine Laurent de Jussieu (1748-1836). It seems that he made a mistake, as he named it after what he thought was the Aztec name of the plant, tecomaxochitl, which, however, is the name of another member of the bignonia family, the calabash tree (Crescentia cujete).
Yellow trumpetbush, Bagan, Myanmar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Seeking shelter under an umbrella, this Buddhist monk in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, is waiting for the rain to stop. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Hornbills, of the family Bucerotidae, got their name from a strange protuberance, or casque, on the bill of the larger species. These large species are very noisy, and the casque probably increases the volume of their call. The smaller species do not have this casque.
These remarkable birds are presented in detail on the page Animals – Birds: Hornbills.
The southern yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas) is distributed from Angola and Namibia eastwards across Botswana and northern South Africa to extreme southern Zambia and Mozambique. Besides its bright yellow bill, it may be identified by the pinkish skin around the eye and beneath the bill.
Southern yellow-billed hornbill, Etosha National Park, Namibia. – Etosha and other fantastic natural areas in Namibia are presented on the page Countries and places: Namibia – a desert country. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Southern yellow-billed hornbills, feeding on insects in elephant dung, Kruger National Park, South Africa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The eastern yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus flavirostris), also known as northern yellow-billed hornbill, is similar to southern yellow-billed hornbill, but has blackish skin around the eyes. This species is found in eastern Africa, from Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia southwards to extreme south-eastern South Sudan, eastern Uganda, Kenya, and extreme northern Tanzania.
Eastern yellow-billed hornbills, Samburu National Park, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Irises are a genus of wonderful plants of the family Iridaceae, comprising 250-300 species. They are named after Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow, presumably because of the colourful flowers of many of the species.
The yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus) is native to Europe, western Asia, and north-western Africa, and is also a common escape in North America. The specific name, meaning ‘false acorus’, refers to the similarity of its leaves to those of sweet flag (Acorus calamus).
In former days, the root was boiled together with ferrous sulphate, producing a black liquid, which was used as ink. In his book Utkast till svenska växternas naturhistoria (1867-1868), Swedish botanist C.F. Nymann (1820-1893) writes, ”It is said that the root is effective against rabies, caused by the bite of a mad dog.”
Yellow iris, growing in the Avon Canal, Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire, England. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Close-up of yellow iris, Bornholm, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Caucasian iris (Iris caucasia) is distributed from the eastern Mediterranean across Turkey to the Caucasus and northern Iran.
This blooming Caucasian iris adds a splash of colour to the otherwise drab steppe in north-western Iran. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The western yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) is found in the Mediterranean Sea. This species resembles the widespread herring gull (L. argentatus), but can be identified by its yellow legs and very powerful beak. It often breeds on house roofs, and if a window is left open, it may enter to search for edibles.
This species and other gulls are presented on the page Animals: Urban animal life.
Western yellow-legged gull is extremely common in Istanbul, Turkey. This one has just killed a domestic pigeon and is now eating it on a roof top. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The arrow-leaved balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), or Oregon sunflower, is widespread in western North America, from British Columbia and Alberta, south to California and Wyoming. It was first collected by Colonel Meriwether Lewis, on the Lewis & Clark Expedition, at the mouth of White Salmon River, Washington, in 1806.
Many Native American peoples, including the Nez Perce, Kootenai, Cheyenne, and Salish, utilized this plant as food and medicine. The root can be eaten, raw or cooked, with a balsam-like taste. The Salish people claimed that its taste was best after being baked in a fire pit for three days. Young shoots were also cooked or added to salads. Seeds were ground and formed into cakes, which could be eaten raw. As a medicinal herb, this species was mainly used for stomach problems. (Source: pfaf.org/User/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Balsamorhiza+sagittata)
Arrow-leaved balsamroot, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Evening clouds, Taichung, Taiwan. (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.
In the picture below, taken in 1988, an abandoned field in Nature Reserve Vorsø, Jutland, Denmark, is full of blooming dandelion. Today, however, the dandelions have long since disappeared, and the field has been taken over by other plants. The interesting vegetation succession in this reserve is described in depth on the page Nature Reserve Vorsø: Expanding wilderness.
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The common grass yellow (Eurema hecabe, formerly known as Terias hecabe) is a member of the huge butterfly family whites (Pieridae). This species is widely distributed in Asia, Africa, and Australia, living in shrubland and open grassy areas.
This newly hatched common grass yellow is still sitting on its cocoon. It was observed near Pokhara, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Golden dewdrop (Duranta erecta) is a small shrub of the vervain family (Verbenaceae), which is native from Mexico and the Caribbean southwards to Paraguay and Argentina. Elsewhere in warmer countries, it is widely cultivated as an ornamental and has become naturalized in many places. It is regarded as an invasive species in a number of countries, including Australia, China, and South Africa, and on several islands in the Pacific.
Other common names of this plant include pigeon berry and Brazilian skyflower, and in Tonga it is known as mavaetangi (‘tears of departure’), alluding to the fruit, which is a small, globose, yellow or orange berry, to 1 cm across. Unripe berries are toxic and are known to have killed children, dogs and cats. Birds, however, are not harmed by the berries.
The generic name was given in honour of Italian physician, botanist, and poet Gualdo Tadino (1529-1590), better known as Castore Durante da Gualdo.
A picture, depicting the flowers, is shown on the page In praise of the colour blue.
Berries of golden dewdrop, Taichung Metropolitan Park, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
As its name implies, the Taiwan lily (Lilium formosanum) is endemic to Taiwan. Some authorities regard it as a subspecies of Lilium longiflorum, which is also found in Taiwan, and on the Japanese Ryukyu Islands.
Among the aborigines of Taiwan, the Rukai people regard this gorgeous species as an extremely noble plant. According to legend, in order to protect her people, Rukai princess Barem married the incarnation of the King of a Hundred Paces. In the past, only high-ranking leaders could wear this flower on special occasions, for instance at marriages, or when men succeeded in killing more than five wild boars during a hunt.
Taiwan lily, Longdongwan Cape Trail, north-eastern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
For some strange reason, plastic rain boots are popular in Taiwan. To me, it seems that they must be extremely uncomfortable to wear in the hot climate of this island.
Plastic boots and other implements, used for gardening, Wufong, western Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This woman in Puerto Galera, Mindoro, Philippines, is spreading out the leaf of a young fan palm to let it dry in the sun. Later, it will be woven into a basket or another item. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Pseudobombax septenatum is a deciduous tree, growing to about 25 m tall. It is found in rainforests with a definite dry season, from El Salvador southwards to Bolivia and northern Brazil.
The bark of Pseudobombax septenatum has bright yellow vertical streaks. – Puerto Jiménez, Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Yellow-billed blue magpie (Urocissa flavirostris) is a gorgeous member of the crow family (Corvidae), distributed in the Himalaya, south-western China, and northernmost Thailand and Vietnam. It feeds mainly on large insects and other invertebrates, but is also a notorious plunderer of eggs and young from smaller birds’ nests.
It is presented in depth on the page Animals: Himalayan animals.
Yellow-billed blue magpie, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The evergreen pincushion gorse (Genista hirsuta) is an extremely spiny member of the pea family (Fabaceae), often dome-shaped. It is native around the western part of the Mediterranean. The flowers are fragrant.
Pincushion gorse, Casares, Andalusia, Spain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
(Uploaded March 2017)
(Latest update February 2022)