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)



During a silent rain shower, this man and his two children are strolling in Tunghai University Park, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



This araneid cobweb, woven between wires in a fence, is covered in dew drops, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



During a heavy shower, a drenched bumble bee (Bombus) clings to a flower of the balsam species Impatiens sulcata, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh, India. This species and other balsams are described on the page Plants: Himalayan flora 1. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



The landscape is reflected upside down in this droplet, which seems to defy the law of gravity, clinging to a grass blade, Phnom Krom, Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




This page also shows pictures, depicting evaporation drops on plants, as these resemble rain or dew drops.




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, written by English poet and children’s author Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965) to a traditional Scottish Bunessan hymn. It 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 is presented 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 pictures above show silent rain and dew.




I’m singin’ in the rain,
Just singin’ in the rain.
What a glorious feeling,
I’m happy again.
I’m laughing at clouds,
So dark up above.
The sun’s in my heart,
And I’m ready for love.


Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place.
Come on with the rain,
I’ve a smile on my face.
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain,
Just singing, singing in the rain,
Dancing in the rain.
La ri la la ri la.
I’m happy again,
I’m singin’ and dancing in the rain,
I’m dancing and singin’ in the rain.


Song from 1927 or 1929, with lyrics by American lyricist and film producer Arthur Freed (1894-1973), and music by American songwriter Ignacio Herb Brown (1896-1964). It appeared in the comedy film Singin’ in the Rain, from 1952, directed by American actor, dancer, and singer Gene Kelly (1912-1996), who was also the singer in the film.




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)




On 16 November 1855, Scottish physician and missionary David Livingstone (1813-1873) was exploring the Zambezi River in what is today Zambia. He encountered a huge waterfall on the river, which he named Victoria Falls in honour of Queen Victoria (1819-1901). The local Sotho name of the falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya (‘The Smoke That Thunders’), referring to the roaring sound of the waterfall, and to the mist that rises from evaporation of the water.

Today, Victoria Falls is situated on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, as the Zambezi river constitutes the border between the two countries. Although it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is nevertheless the largest, with a combined width of 1,708 m and a maximum height of 108 m.



Zambezi River with a rainbow and water vapours above Victoria Falls. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Rainbow, created in the spray from Victoria Falls. (Photo 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)




A dark and rainy day in the town of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. (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 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)




Among East Asian women, it is regarded as low class to be sunburned. Therefore, umbrellas are often used to protect their skin from the sun. This picture shows Chinese women among the Khmer ruins of Banteay Srey, Angkor, Cambodia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




This boy also uses an umbrella to protect himself from the sun, Shigatse, Tibet. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




American umbrella, decorated with drawings of elephants and horses. (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.



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)




Following heavy rain, many African roads become a hopeless mire, in which smaller cars, and sometimes even trucks, get stuck.

During a trip across Africa in 1980, we experienced horrible road conditions, especially in Zaire. This trip is related on the page Travel episodes – Africa 1980: An arduous journey across Africa.

In 1989, 1990, and 1993, I participated in expeditions to Tanzania, the aim of which was to investigate bird life in coastal forests. During these expeditions, our car sometimes got stuck on the roads.



A scene from our trip across Africa in 1980: The Deutz truck of our German companions is stuck in a mudhole in western Zaire. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




During our expedition in 1989, we encountered this petrol truck, stuck on a muddy road between Namtumbo and Tunduru, southern Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




In this picture from 1993, our Landcruizer is stuck on a muddy road between Lindi and Kilwa, southern Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a very popular garden plant, used as a vegetable and as garnish. It probably originates in countries around the Mediterranean, but is widely cultivated around the world in areas with suitable climate, and it has become naturalized in many countries.



Raindrops cling to these fruiting parsley plants, cultivated in Denmark. (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)





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)




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 origin of the popular German name of these plants, Rapunzel, is rather obscure. The name was taken from a fairy tale, Rapunzel, published by the Grimm Brothers in 1812, which can be traced back to an Italian tale from 1634, Petrosinella, by Giambattista Basile.

A couple live next to a large vegetable garden, which belongs to a sorceress. When the wife gets pregnant, she notices a vegetable, called rapunzel, in the garden and starts craving for it. She refuses to eat anything else, so her husband climbs the wall around the garden to get some for her. However, during his next visit to the garden, he is caught by the sorceress. She agrees to let him take all the rapunzel he wants, but on the condition that the newborn baby is given to her. Desperate, he agrees.

The sorceress names the newborn girl Rapunzel after the plant that her mother craved. The girl grows up to be a beautiful child with long golden hair, and the sorceress locks her up inside a tower with no door and no stairs, and only one room with one window. When she visits Rapunzel, the sorceress stands beneath the tower, calling out: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” – whereupon she climbs up her long, braided hair.

One day, a prince, who is riding in the forest, hears Rapunzel singing from the tower. As he approaches, he hears the sorceress calling Rapunzel to let down her hair. When the sorceress has left, he calls the same words, and climbs up her hair. Naturally, the two fall in love, and after many adventures they live happily ever after.

So, what exactly has this magical vegetable to do with the genus Phyteuma? Not much, it seems. In the Italian fairy tale Petrosinella, it is parsley (Petroselinum). In the German version, it may be either Campanula rapunculus, which has edible leaves, or lamb’s lettuce (Valerianella locusta), which was commonly used in salads in former days. So why the name Rapunzel has been applied to rampions, is not clear. Although some species have edible roots, the wife in the fairy tale was craving for a salad.

Another German name is Teufelskralle (‘Devil’s claw’), referring to the bent-in flowers of some members of this genus.


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 and the Pyrenees.



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, celebrated 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. – Other Daoist festivals are described on the page Religion: Daoism in 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)




From the stone porch of a house in the village of Landrung, these children are watching a heavy downpour. (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. On the page Animals – Birds: Birds in Taiwan, numerous pictures depict birds feeding in these flowers.



Flowers of Taiwanese cherry with rain drops, Taipingshan National Forest, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





Falling rain partly blurs smoke from chimneys of a power plant, Esbjerg, Denmark. (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 an unusual nightly encounter with lions is related 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, southwards to Georgia.



Leatherleaf, photographed in the Pine Barrens, New Jersey, United States. (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)




Mugworts (Artemisia), also known as wormwood or sagebrush, constitute a huge, worldwide genus, comprising between 200 and 400 species. The genus is named for Artemis, the Greek goddess of wilderness and wild animals, hunting, childbirth and virginity, protector of young girls, and also bringer and reliever of disease in women. In his Herbarium, Roman philosopher and scholar Lucius Apuleius (c. 124-170 A.D.) writes: “Of these worts that we name Artemisia, it is said that Diana found them and delivered their powers and leechdom to Chiron the Centaur, who first from these worts set forth a leechdom, and he named these worts from the Greek name of Diana, Artemis.”

The role of Artemisia species in folklore and traditional medicine is described on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.



About 25 species of Artemisia are found in the Himalaya. This unidentified species, full of raindrops, was photographed on a foggy morning at Gopte, Langtang National Park, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The alpine salamander (Salamandra atra) is found in the Alps, from France eastwards to the Dinaric Alps, and thence southwards through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Hercegovina to Kosovo and Montenegro, living at elevations between 700 and 2,000 m. It is often observed just after rain.

This species produces toxic compounds from its skin, presumably as a means of defence against predators, and possibly also microbial parasites. Unlike other salamanders, it is not depending on water holes for breeding, but gives birth to live young, which are terrestrial right from the beginning.



Alpine salamander, Engstlenalp, Switzerland (top), and Stubach Valley, Hohe Tauern, Austria. (Photos 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)




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)





Leaves with evaporation drops, Malabang National Forest, Taiwan. (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)





Fisherman, paddling his dugout canoe towards the shore of the Nuwara Wewa Lake, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Above the ruins of ancient stupas in the background, sun rays penetrate dark rainclouds. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The pitch pine (Pinus rigida) is native to eastern North America, found from extreme southern Ontario and Quebec southwards through New England to Kentucky and the northern tip of Georgia. It is irregular in shape, with twisted branches, but may occasionally grow to 30 m tall. It has been known to reach an age of more than 200 years.

The common name 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)




Rain drops on needles of either lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) or mountain pine (P. mugo), Thy, Denmark. These two species are difficult to tell apart as young trees. Lodgepole pine is described on the page Plants: Plants of Sierra Nevada, mountain pine on the page Plants: Ancient and huge trees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The common 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.

This plant, which is native to temperate areas of Europe and western Asia, was formerly cultivated, as it is of high nutritious value.

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.” – The word boucage 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.”



Raindrops cling to a common burnet-saxifrage, near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, southern Germany. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



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), a picture of which is shown above, under caption Rainbows.

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)




Sonchus leptocephalus is a species of sow’s thistle, which is endemic to Gran Canaria and Tenerife, where it mostly grows on exposed rocks. This herb, growing to about 1.5 m tall, is unique among sow’s thistles by having finely dissected leaves. The small, bright yellow flowerheads are arranged in terminal clusters.



Sonchus leptocephalus, adorned by raindrops, Los Tilos de Moya laurel forest, Gran Canaria. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




In the Himalaya and other places in Asia, torrential monsoon rain causes numerous landslides, which often wash away trails and roads, and occasionally bridges and houses. My own experiences with the ‘blessings’ of the monsoon are described on the page Plants – Plant hunting in the Himalaya: Rainy season in Nepal.



Heavy monsoon rain has washed away part of this house, situated along the bank of the Langtang River, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




In autumn 1978, a huge tidal wave washed away a few villages and several bridges along the Dudh Kosi River, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. This porter, carrying a heavy load of planks, is crossing a simple bridge, constructed shortly after the disaster. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




In this picture, a tourist is balancing across rather thin logs, leading across the Langmoché Khola River, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. Following heavy monsoon rain, the original bridge had been washed away, but in less than half an hour, our porters had constructed this provisional ‘bridge’. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Road workers, repairing a road near Kodari, central Nepal, which has been destroyed by heavy monsoon rain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




A very important Vishnu temple is situated at Muktinath, Mustang, central Nepal, presented in depth on the page Religion: Hinduism. 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, a pilgrimage to the temple was carried out on foot, lasting several days.



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. In this picture, they are crossing a dangerous landslide, caused by heavy monsoon rain, which has washed the trail into the river. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Travelling on foot towards the sacred city Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India, these Hindu pilgrims must cross a huge landslide. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Before the introduction of umbrellas and plastic sheets in the Himalaya, ‘umbrellas’ were made from woven bamboo strips and grass, or people would simple protect themselves from rain using banana leaves or other large leaves.



This Nepalese farmer is wearing an old-fashioned ‘umbrella’, made from bamboo strips and grass, Begnas Tal, central Nepal. It has been improved by using a plastic sheet as outer cover. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Seeking shelter from the monsoon rain under plastic ponchos, these women are walking up the road towards the village of Besisahar, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Covered by a plastic poncho, this porter is crossing a stream, swollen with rain, Kali Gandaki Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Horsetails (Equisetum) are a genus of about 20 species of spore-bearing plants, found on all continents, except Australia and Antarctica. In former days, horsetail stems were used to polish pewter and wood, which gave rise to the popular name pewterwort, and also to strengthen fingernails. Due to their high content of silica, they can be used as an abrasive. The medicinal usage of these plants is described on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

The generic name is from the Latin equus (‘horse’), and seta, which has several meanings, including ‘rough’, ‘brush’, or ‘hair’. The latter word 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 resembles a horsetail.


Northern great horsetail (E. telmateia) grows in damp places, preferably springs in open woodlands, where it often forms large clones. It is easily identified by the ebony-white stems of the sterile summer shoots. It is native to Europe, eastwards almost to the Ural Mountains, southwards to northern Africa and Iran.



Sterile summer shoots of northern great horsetail with evaporation drops, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Branched horsetail (E. ramosissimum) is a very widespread species, found from western Europe eastwards to central Siberia and Japan, southwards to South Africa, Madagascar, Indonesia, and New Guinea. It is the largest member of the genus, often to 2 m tall, subspecies debile sometimes reaching a height of 9 m.



Evaporation drops on stems of branched horsetail, Wuling National Forest, eastern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





Black rain clouds darken the sky behind house roofs with numerous chimneys, Dublin, Ireland. (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, 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)




Divided into 4 subspecies, the brown shrike (Lanius cristatus) breeds in much of eastern Asia, including the major part of Siberia, Mongolia, China, Korea, and Japan, spending the winter in warmer parts of Asia.

Further west, it is replaced by two sister species, the red-backed shrike (L. collurio) and the isabelline shrike (L. isabellinus).

The generic name is derived from the Latin lanio (‘butcher’), derived from laniare (‘tearing to pieces’). Shrikes were formerly known as ‘butcher-birds’, referring to their habit of storing prey by impaling it on thorns and sharp twigs, thus resembling a butcher’s slaughterhouse. The name shrike stems from Old English scric, alluding to their call.



During silent rain, this immature brown shrike is resting on a wire, Tunghai University Park, Taichung, Taiwan. Subspecies lucionensis is a common migrant and winter visitor in Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The tree heliotrope (Heliotropium arboreum) is a shrub or small tree of the family Boraginaceae, usually up to 6 m tall, occasionally to 12 m. The leaves are arranged in spirals at the tips of branches, pale green with a silvery sheen, obovate or oblanceolate, slightly fleshy, to 30 cm long and 12 cm wide. Old leaves are not shed, over time forming a leathery cover. Inflorescences are clusters of numerous white flowers, to 6 mm across, corolla 5-lobed. The fruit is globular, light green or brownish, to 8 mm long, containing several nuts, surface covered with small spines.

It is distributed in a vast area, growing in the littoral zone, from eastern Africa eastwards across islands in the Indian Ocean to Sri Lanka, southern Indochina, southern China, Taiwan, and Japan, and thence southwards to New Guinea and Australia, and also found on most islands in the Pacific.

The wood of is used to make handicrafts, tools, and, in Polynesia, frames for swim goggles. It is also utilized as firewood, but the species has become rare in some areas due to over-collecting.

Previously, it was known under the names Tournefortia argentea, Argusia argentea, and Heliotropium foertherianum.



Leaves of tree heliotrope with raindrops, Eluanbi, Kenting National Park, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




A gargoyle is a carved monster with an elongated spout, designed to lead away water from walls of buildings, thus preventing rainwater from eroding the mortar between the stones or bricks. The word gargoyle is derived 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. In one version of the legend, St. Romanus subdued the creature with a crucifix, then leading it to Rouen, where it was burned. However, its head and neck would not burn, as it had been 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.



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Various gargoyles on the Notre Dame Basilica in Paris. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




This gargoyle on the wall of the Shueisian Daoist Temple, Xingang, Taiwan, depicts a mythic creature, half dragon, half fish. 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 deity. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




This sculpture in the Hindu temple Brihadisvara, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, South India, is gargoyle-like, as it acts as support for a drainage pipe. It depicts a person, blowing into a bag-pipe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




This sculpture, depicting an emaciated lion, is found on the wall of Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, England. It is still called a gargoyle, although it is not designed to lead away rainwater. (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, where urticifolius referring to the leaves, which resemble those of nettles (Urtica).

The genus Strobilanthes is presented in depth on the page Plants: Himalayan flora 1.



The flowers of this nettle-leaved strobilanthes are covered in raindrops from a recent shower, Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





Traffic in rainy weather, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





An eruption of the volcano Mayon, combined with torrential rain, have caused a mixture of mud and volcanic ashes to flood streets, buildings, and an abandoned bus, Legazpi, Luzon, Philippines. (Photos 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, forked horns.

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 powerful rain shower has drenched this pronghorn in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The morning-glory, or bindweed, family (Convolvulaceae) contains c. 55 genera, comprising more than 1,650 species. This family is presented in depth on the page Plants: Morning-glories and bindweeds.


The Indian morning-glory (Ipomoea indica), also known as blue dawn-flower, is extremely variable. The leaves are heart-shaped or tri-lobed, and the flower colour varies from purple to blue to pink. Despite the specific name, meaning ‘from India’, the place of origin of this species is unknown. Today, it is distributed worldwide in tropical and 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.



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Raindrops cling to a purple morning-glory flower, Guatemala. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Two species of morning-glory with rain drops, beach morning-glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae, top), and Ipomoea imperati, Tortuguero National Park, Limón, Costa Rica. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





During a downpour, a guide gives a lecture, Taipingshan National Forest, eastern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





Bluish-black rain clouds behind eroded rocky outcrops, north of Songea, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Wavy hair-grass (Avenella flexuosa, previously known as Deschampsia flexuosa) is widely distributed across the world. The leaves are gathered in tussocks, and the stems grow to 30 cm tall, bearing panicles of silvery or purplish-brown flowers. It was named due to the thin, wavy flower stalks.



Inflorescences of wavy hair-grass, covered in tiny dew drops, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Wavy hair-grass with rain drops, Thy, Denmark. (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.



This coastal fetterbush, which is covered in raindrops, was 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)




Joro golden orb-weaver (Trichonephila clavata) is a spider, found in Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan. Since 2014, or probably earlier, it has also been present in the United States, presumably introduced by humans. As of 2022, it has been reported from Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, Maryland, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

The female has a very colourful abdomen, with yellow and reddish-brown patterns. In Japan, it is known as jorogumo, derived from joro (‘prostitute’) and gumo (‘spider’). In Japanese folklore, jorogumo is a legendary creature, known for its allure and deadly nature. It is often depicted as a spider, which is capable of transforming into a seductive woman to lure unsuspecting victims. (Source: jorospider.com/jorogumo-legend)



Female joro golden orb-weaver in its web, which is full of dew drops, Lugu, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





As rain starts pouring, these girls, living at the outskirts of 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, or 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)





Following a heavy downpour, the road through Bahawalpur, Sind, Pakistan, is a muddy mess. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Blechnopsis orientalis, by some authorities called Blechum orientale, is a terrestrial fern, sometimes to 2 m tall, with upright, narrowly elliptic, pinnate leaves, to 60 cm long, each with up to 70 pairs of linear leaflets, which gradually narrow to a long tip. The sori (spore clusters) are on the underside of the leaves, linear, about 1 mm wide, stretching from the midrib almost to the edge of the leaflet, creating a pattern of parallel streaks.

It grows in a wide variety of habitats, usually in wet areas, such as river banks, along canals, near waterfalls, in swamps and humid forests, from the lowland to elevations around 1,500 m, distributed from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards to Indonesia, New Guinea, and northern Australia, and also some Pacific Islands.

In Nepal, young leaves are cooked as a vegetable, and they are also used as pickles.



Blechnopsis orientalis in rainy weather, Walami Trail, Yushan National Park, eastern Taiwan. (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 southwards 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)





Heavy rain, falling on a restaurant in the town of Senggigi, Lombok, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Despite getting drenched, these motorcyclists in Senggigi continue their journey. (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. 1,500 species, but genetic research has had the effect that the genus has been divided into five separate genera. This division is described 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 main square in the town of Laruns, Pyrenees, southern France, is glistening after a heavy downpour. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The pinkshell azalea (Rhododendron vaseyi) is a deciduous shrub, growing to 5 m tall, but usually much lower. Young twigs are covered with hairs and glandular hairs, leaves are elliptic or obovate, to 17 cm long and 5.5 cm wide, underside hairy along the veins and with scattered gland-tipped hairs. The fragrant flowers appear before the leaves, 5-15 together in an umbel-like raceme, calyx to 8.5 mm long, corolla broadly funnel-shaped, to 3.5 cm across, usually pink, occasionally white, with brown or red dots on the upper 3 lobes.

This plant has an extremely limited distribution, found only in the eastern United States, on several locations in the Appalachian Mountains, North Carolina, growing on slopes in open forest, at elevations between 900 and 1,830 m.

The specific name was given in honour of two botanists, George Vasey (1822-1893) and his son George Richard Vasey (1851-1921), the latter collecting the plant in 1878. The elder George Vasey collected many plants in Illinois before joining the United States Department of Agriculture, where he became chief botanist and curator of the National Herbarium.



Following a heavy shower, these pinkshell azalea flowers in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina, are covered in rain drops. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Rain or dew, falling on spiders’ webs, often create very beautiful sceneries. Various spider families are dealt with on the page Animals: Cobwebs.



Following a night with heavy dew fall, it is 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 webs of common hammock-weaver (Linyphia triangularis) 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)




Cobwebs in a marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre), heavy with dew, Nature Reserve Vorsø, Horsens Fjord, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina), of the dayflower family (Commelinaceae), is native to Mexico, Central America, and Colombia. It was named for John Tradescant, a Royal British horticulturist in the 17th Century. It is a popular garden plant, which, however, has a tendency to spread, mostly in disturbed forests, but also in native forests of St. Lucia in the West Indies, and in Hawaii. Stems, which have broken off, are able to take root, and, over the years, create veritable carpets on the forest floor.

Today, it is regarded as an invasive in many places, including South Africa, Brazil, Galapagos Islands, St. Lucia, Hawaii, and Taiwan. In South Africa, all trade in seeds and cuttings of the species is prohibited.



Wandering Jew with evaporation drops, Malabang National Forest, Taiwan. (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, including this Androsace muscoidea, photographed in the Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The gloxinia family (Gesneriaceae) is a huge, almost worldwide family with about 150 genera and c. 3,200 species of herbs, shrubs, or climbers, rarely trees. The name of the family commemorates Swiss physician, naturalist, and philologist Conrad Gessner (1516-1565), who wrote two comprehensive volumes, Bibliotheca universalis (1545-49), which deals with bibliography, and Historia animalium (1551-58), which deals with zoology. He was compiling a major botanical work, when he died from plague, only 49 years old.

One member of this family is the colourful Rhynchoglossum notonianum, a shrubby herb found in the Western Ghats of southern India, from Maharashtra southwards to Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and also in Sri Lanka. It is easily identified by the bright blue flowers with a yellow base, and the highly assymmetric leaves.



Rhynchoglossum notonianum, photographed in rainy weather, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





This landslide, caused by heavy rain, has destroyed houses and a truck, Jiali Shan, Lion’s Head Mountain, northern Taiwan. (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 these birds are highly endangered due to hunting and habitat destruction.

One still rather common species is the black-bellied bustard (Lissotis melanogaster), which is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of rainforest and desert areas.



In this picture, from the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, a male is displaying, despite silently falling rain. He bends back the 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 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 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.

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)



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 the leaves, which are arranged cross-wise. Some authorities call it 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.



Canadian dwarf cornel, photographed after a rain shower, Pawtuckaway State Park, New Hampshire. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





Run-off of rain water from a highway during a heavy shower, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The Alpine, or yellow-billed, chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus) is a small jet-black corvid with a bright yellow bill and reddish feet. It is closely related to the red-billed chough (P. pyrrhocorax). Both species are presented on the page Animals – Birds: Corvids.



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)




Semele androgyna, sole member of the genus, is a climber of the asparagus family (Asparagaceae), endemic to laurel forests of the Canary Islands and Madeira. At first glance, it appears to have rows of broad, shiny leaves on either side of the stem. However, closer inspection shows that the ‘leaves’ are flattened stems, called cladodes. The true leaves are tiny, brown, papery scales at the base of the cladodes. The creamy-white flowers are arranged along the margins of the cladodes. This is the reason that botanists are convinced that they are cladodes, as leaves very rarely bear flowers. (Source: herbaria.plants.ox.ac.uk/bol/plants400/Profiles/ST/Semele)



The shiny cladodes of Semele androgyna are even more shiny in rainy weather. – Los Tilos de Moya laurel forest, Gran Canaria. (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.

The pictures below were taken during this hurricane, which is further described on the page Travel episodes – Guatemala 1998: Country of the Mayans.



Heavy rain clouds darken the sky above Lake Atitlan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Despite heavy rain, people gather in a cemetery in the city of Chichicastenango to decorate the graves of their relatives, and to burn candles or incense. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



This family is seeking 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)




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.

Flowers of this species have a long, pointed beak, which curves upward, resembling an elephant’s lifted trunk, and the lateral lobes resemble an elephant’s ears.

The generic name 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 described on the pages Plants: Flora of the Alps and the Pyrenees, and Plants: Himalayan flora 2.



Bull elephant’s head, photographed during a 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 locally common. Several pictures, depicting this species, are shown on the page Animals – Birds: Birds in Africa.



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 is a striking species, distributed in the Himalaya, south-eastern Tibet, and south-western China, growing at altitudes between 2,500 and 4,500 m.



Delphinium kamaonense, dotted with raindrops after a monsoon shower, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (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)





Raindrops cling to withered branches of a Norway spruce (Picea abies), Store Hjøllund Plantation, Jutland, Denmark. This species is described on the page Plants: Ancient and huge trees. (Photo 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.

The gigantic leaves of this plant are often used as umbrellas. Its rhizome is edible when cooked for a long time, but the sap irritates the skin in your mouth, as it contains needle-like calcium oxalate crystals. In Hawaii, this plant is called ʻape, and they have a saying, Ai no i ka ʻape he maneʻo no ka nuku. (’The one who eats ʻape, will have an itchy mouth’), meaning ’There will be consequences for partaking of something bad.’ (Sources: S. Scott & T. Craig, 2009. Poisonous Plants of Paradise: First Aid and Medical Treatment of Injuries from Hawaii’s Plants. University of Hawaii Press; and M.K. Pukui, 1986. Ōlelo No’eau, Hawaiian Proverbs and Sayings. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu)



Rain, falling on a large growth of giant taro on a rock, Walami Trail, Yushan National Park, eastern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



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)




A close relative, the fragrant taro, or lesser elephant-ear (Alocasia odora), is native from north-eastern India eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards to Borneo. This species also contains needle-sharp calcium oxalate crystals in its cells. It is inedible when raw, and in Japan, several cases of food poisoning through consumption of this herb have been reported.

In Vietnam, a decoction of the plant is used for treatment of colds.



Wet leaf of fragrant taro with fallen leaves of other plants, Lion’s Head Mountain, northern 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)




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)





As rain starts pouring, this man runs to seek shelter, Lindi, southern Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Following the downpour, puddles have formed on a village road near Lindi. (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)




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 depth on the page Nature: Invasive species.



Raindrops cling to flowerheads of downy bur-marigold, Taipingshan National Forest, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris), also known as tall 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 from the Latin acer (’sharp’), referring to its bitter taste. All buttercup species are poisonous, for which reason they are avoided by grazing animals.

Other buttercup species are presented on the page Plants: Flora of the Alps and the Pyrenees.



Raindrops cling to a meadow buttercup flower, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The lesser flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) breeds mainly in the Rift Valley Lakes of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, and three smaller breeding populations are found 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)



As rain clouds darken the sky, the last sunshine of the day illuminates a large flock of 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)




The Himalayan cranesbill (Geranium himalayense) is quite similar to the meadow cranesbill (G. 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.



This picture shows the rear side of a flower of Himalayan cranesbill, dotted with raindrops from a recent downpour, Cholang Pati, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (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. In the lower picture, clouds are gathering at sunset. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





Banana leaf with raindrops, Hanoi, Vietnam. Banana plants are described on the page Plants: Bananas. (Photo 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 blooming in March-April, it adds a reddish or pinkish tinge to parts of the forest in many places, stemming from millions of flowers.

The intensity of the red colour of the flowers diminishes, as you move higher, and trees with white flowers are sometimes encountered near the upper limit of its distribution.

This species and other rhododendrons are described in depth on the pages Plants: Rhododendrons, and Plants: Himalayan flora 1.



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)




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 1, and the invasive Japanese honeysuckle (L. 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)




Monasteries in areas dominated by Tibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism, are called gompas. 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 was constructed in 1430. To the left are the remains of King Tashi Namgyal’s old fort, built in the 1500s, to the right 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. Several species are described on the page Plants: Himalayan flora 1.

The Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) is native to parts of western Central Asia, the Caucasus, and most of Europe, except the northernmost and southernmost parts. It has also been introduced to North America and elsewhere.

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)

The name Guelder rose relates to the Dutch province of Gelderland, where a popular cultivar, the snowball tree, supposedly originated.



Raindrops adorn autumn leaves and berries of Guelder rose, photographed in Zealand, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





Rain clouds behind eroded bluffs, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, United States. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Annual meadow-grass (Poa annua), in America commonly known as 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 the Ancient Greek word for fodder.



Raindrops cling to the inflorescence of this annual meadow-grass, photographed in the city of Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo 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 my adventures in the area are related 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)




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, are derived from the Latin campanula (’little bell’), alluding to the bell-shaped flowers of this genus.

The bearded bellflower (Campanula barbata) is named for 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 clouds darken the sky above Glyder Fawr Mountain, Snowdon National Park, Gwynedd, Wales. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





Raindrops cling to the purple fruits of an unidentified bush, Los Tilos de Moya laurel forest, Gran Canaria. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





During a heavy downpour, this young man has taken shelter at a street stall, Moroni, Grande Comore, Comoro Islands. (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)




(Uploaded September 2016)


(Latest update April 2024)