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Spiky tree

On my last visit to the Botanic Garden in Oxford, the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) caught my eye, with its strange spiky branches.

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Resin was seeping from its bark.

 

Especially the dead one on the ground gave the impression of a branched snake covered with dragon scales.

 

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Orange clouds and red sun

It was the strangest of sights yesterday. From daybreak onwards, the clouds had an orange hue to them. As if a thunderstorm was continuously looming. Around midday, the sun was briefly visible and it was as red as you would expect it to be around sunset.

Apparently, the orange sky had to do with hurricane Ophelia raging over Ireland. In England, we had certainly no hurricane-like storm, but it was quite windy.

RedSky-3According to the BBC, dust particles in the air cause blue light to scatter, leaving longer-wavelength red light to shine through. The dust travelled a long way before it reached the West Midlands: it was brought in from the Sahara and the forest fires sweeping over Portugal and Northwest Spain.

RedSky-2Around 3 pm the clouds broke and the orange tint disappeared. But it returned in the clouds around sunset.

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Purple bells with black & green pods

On one of my last visits to the Oxford Botanic Garden, the Nicandra physalodes caught my eye. Apparently, the plant goes by a number of English names: shoo-fly plant, apple of Peru, apple of Sodom, and Peruvian bluebell.

I just like the way the plant grows: a single, bell-shaped flower followed by a row of pods. The pods – or calyces – reminded me of their better known, bright orange counterparts: Chinese lanterns.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows – Oxford’s Radcliffe Camera

The Radcliffe Camera is probably one of the most photographed buildings in Oxford. The ancient window panes of the surrounding buildings not only frame the famous round building with its iconic cupola, I think they also distort the view in an interesting way.

The image above shows the Radcliffe Camera, with behind it the church of Saint Mary the Virgin, viewed from the Old Bodleian Library’s Divinity School.

Below the view from St Mary’s church.

via Photo Challenge: Windows

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Sweet smelling roses

 

Rose-14The beauty of a rose can -with a bit of luck- be captured with a camera. Unfortunately, a photo can’t convey its sweet smell. But maybe you can imagine their scent looking at these pictures. These shots are from the Oxford Botanic Garden, and one or two from the Orto Botanico di Padova.

 

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Maybe you’re familiar with Cicely Mary Barkers painting that accompanies the poem of the Rose Fairy. If not, you’ll find it here. I bought the print years ago, had it framed and still admire it. The poem is lovely as well:

Best and dearest flower that grows,
Perfect both to see and smell;
Words can never, never tell
Half the beauty of a Rose —
Buds that open to disclose
Fold on fold of purest white,
Lovely pink, or red that glows
Deep, sweet-scented. What delight
To be Fairy of the Rose!

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Plants, animals, and scientists set in stone

As with the Natural History Museum in London, I like the building of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History just as much as the collections it contains. There is so much to be seen on the stonework: squirrels eating acorns, carved tulips, pineapples, irises, orchids, meat-eating plants, ferns unfurling, birds and a frog hiding between leaves, and a fair number of plants and animals I don’t recognise.

Not only are the stone pillars adorned with carvings of animals and plants, the iron pillars are beautifully decorated with leaves and branches as well. Whale skeletons seem to swim in this sea of pillars.

Statues of eminent men of science stand guard in the court on the ground floor.

Some like to have a picknick on the lawn in front of the museumNatHistMuseum-37