Pam’s Begonia Basket

small, unloved, on clearance

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this image I used a handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR with the Canon lens EF 50mm f 1.2L USM. This is the fifth post of this series. Click me for the first series post, “Begonia Grandis” from my photography gallery.

Click photograph for a larger view.

Pam’s gorgeous Begonia Grandis hanging baskets had a humble beginning. Not quite born in a log cabin, our local Aldi was the beginning where Pam saw sad little $3.00 potted begonia’s, on clearance, that needed a home. Cherished through the late frosts of May, carefully watered, placed in the perfect light, it was no accident these are so……perfect.

One strange fact, I have not witnessed a single honey bee harvesting these blooms.

I used three Canon lenses in the course of these five posts. This lens is a portrait lens. I used a large format image for this post, enjoy!!

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Iridescence and Impostors

“Here I Am”

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this fourth image of the begonia series I used the same handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR but with the Canon lens EF 100 mm f 2.8L IS USM variable lens. Click me for the first post, “Begonia Grandis.”

Click photograph for a larger view.

Tiny Mirrors

Begonia flowers have no petals. The colorful structures surrounding the male and female parts are the structure in many flowers, such as roses, that lay beneath the flower petals and are green are called the sepal. These are the cover protecting the flower as a bud and, when open, can provide support. In begonias it is the entire flower and it glows.

The angle of morning light in today’s macro captures the reflections of thousands of tiny mirrors in the flowers, more noticeable in the darker undersides. Also present is a subtle iridescence, a shiny surface imparting, in this begonia, slight color changes. These are signals to the pollinators, “Here I am — this is delicious.” Also, in low light tropical environments iridescence can enhance light gathering of leaves.

Hoverfly

Woodland sunbeams are special places where I first noticed hoverflies, they have a behavior of staying motionless, beating wings a blur, in sunlight making its way to the forest floor. It was only after the fact, in the virtual darkroom of Lightroom, I noticed the tiny creature in today’s photograph.

On a quick look, it appears to be a yellow jacket, a type of wasp. Look closely and you will see the eyes are on the top of the head and touch in places. The wings stand perpendicular to the thorax, wasp wings fold along the thorax and abdomen and there are differences in the veining of the wings. The identify of this creature is a beneficial fly, a hoverfly, genus Episyrphus. The shiny black shield on the upper thorax suggests to me this is a Episyrphus viridaureus.

This fly is beneficial to humans in two ways. One we observe in the photograph, as flower pollination. It is one of the few flies with mandibles capable of crushing pollen grains and, in the course of feeding, some pollen clings to the fly to be transported flower to flower. The second benefit is less obvious. The larval form is a predator of aphids. After feeding, it transforms into a resting state, called diapause and survives the winter this way.

Human beings suppose the benefit of looking like a wasp is protection against predators who fear being stung, increasing survival of the individual.

The lens is designed for macro work and is a fixed focus, it can capture small details without needed to be close to the subject. I decided to crop the image down to emphasize the hoverfly. It was in writing this post I noticed the sepal iridescence.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Begonia Flowers and a Sweat Bee

shiny, bright green tiny bee

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this third image of the begonia series I used the same handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR but with the Canon lens EF 100 mm f 2.8L IS USM variable lens. Click me for the first post, “Begonia Grandis.”

Click photograph for a larger view.

Sweat Bee!!

The bee on the right, in sharp focus, was a puzzle to me. I am familiar with it, they are very common around here, and striking with a bright green shiny thorax. For this post I decided to identify it.

After thirty minutes of poking around I found a list of New York Wild bees on the Cornell CALS (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) site. It is in the form of an excel spreadsheet and very helpful. There are over 400 species listed. Using the “filter” feature I found the six families and, for each, did a web search. I am 98% sure this bee is in the family Halictidae, known as “sweat bees,” being attracted to the salt of perspiration they use for nutrition.

Next I looked as the first name in the species designation within the family Halictidae. Tjhis is the genus. There were not many, in a few minutes singling out Agapostemon, known as the “metallic green sweat bee.” I did not find it necessary to hone in on the exact species as members of the genus Agapostemon have defining characteristics.

There are four species listed on the Cornell CALS spreadsheet, all are ground nesting and solitary. Sweat bees are useful as crop pollinators. In Texas they can replace honeybees for pollination of cotton.

Agapostemon sericeus
Agapostemon splendens
Agapostemon texanus
Agapostemon virescens

The lens is designed for macro work and is a fixed focus, it can capture small details without needed to be close to the subject. I decided to crop the image down to emphasize the bees. The sharper focus is on the sweat bee

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Bumblebees and Begonia Flowers

Fertile land

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this second image of the begonia I used the same handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR but with the Canon lens EF 70-300 f 4-5.6L ISM variable lens. This is the second post of this series. Click me for the first post, “Begonia Grandis.”

Click photograph for a larger view.

Bumblebees numbers will tell you if local mouse populations are under control. Mice will invade bumblebee burrows to eat the eggs and young. If the bees are plentiful, it means more are escaping mouse predation and only because mouse numbers are low.

This morning, bees of all kinds filled the begonia flowers. Bumblebees were amusing to watch enthusiastically roll around the many stamen of the male flowers, gathering as much pollen as possible.

The lens focal length is set to 84 mm to capture the entire plant, on reviewing the proofs I decided to crop the image down to emphasize the bee.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Begonia Grandis

Fertile land

Once a year when Pam’s gardens are at a summer peak I venture out to capture her work in early morning light. For this image I used a handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III SLR with the Canon lens EF 100 f 2.8L Macro. This is the first post of this series. Click me for “Water Lily Flower with hornet,” from my photography gallery.

Click photograph for a larger view.

Begonia is a large genus of flowering plants, sub-tropical and tropical natives, adapted her to a hanging basket put out after the last frost, the end of May, Memorial Day, in these parts. The flowers are monoecious, both male and female unisex flowers bloom on a single plant.

Pictured are double male flowers composed entirely of stamens. This plant has a sour flavor enjoyed in parts of its range. Over consumption will produce ill effects as the tissues are high in oxalic acid, a poison to humans.

The leaves and flowers glow in the gentle light of early morning.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Solved: Flowering Bush Mystery

from Asia by way of Germany

Thank you to the readers whose thoughtful responses appeared these past two days. Pam and I were caring for two grandchildren and, last evening after their Mom picked them up, I sat down with “The Botanical Garden” by Phillips and Rix, Volume I (2002, Firefly Books, Buffalo, New York and Willowdale, Ontario) and a sprig of the leaves and flowers and narrowed the choices to the genus Weigela of the family Caprifoliaceae.


Native to Asia (China, Korea, northeastern Siberia, and Japan), it was cultivated in France in the late 19th Century and is popular in cold climates, where it does well. These plants have been outside the kitchen window of our home for as long a Pam can remember (back to the 1960s).

I don’t know the exact species, it may be a hybrid of several. What identifies it is the overall growth pattern (tall, though we prune it down so the kitchen window view is not obstructed), the leaves (shape, come in pairs on opposite sides of the branch, tip is pointed and edges have teeth), the flower (tubular, 5 petals, 5 stamen shorter than the petals, 1 simple style with a capitate stigma). “Capitate” means it is round and on top of the style like a head. “Style” is an extension of the ovary though which fertilization by pollen happens. Ours is not fragrant, though some are.

Weigela is the family name of a early professor of Botany (and Chemistry, Pharmacy, Mineralogy) for the university town of Greifswald on the Baltic Sea. There is a botanic garden and arboretum associated with the university and, I suppose, a specimen of the plant was collected for the garden where it is scientifically characterized by the professor.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Flowering Bush Mystery

Request for Assistance

I need your help this morning. This year each of these bushes in front of our kitchen window has profuse blooms after Pam pruned and fertilized them early spring. I am coming up blank with identifying them.

The two bushes are over six feet tall and lose leaves each autumn (deciduous).

Here are some photographs. Can any readers identify these bushes? The common name or scientific will be much appreciated.

Thanks so much.




Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Rose of Castlemaine

Beauty and History on the Maine River

A chapter of our day on the Dingle Peninsula. 
Click any photograph to open a new window/tab of my Online Gallery.

The temperate oceanic climate of Ireland is perfect for roses. On R561 near Castlemaine we stopped to admire these dark red blooms growing on long stems. From the form and deep color I say these are a hybrid of the China Rose, a variety with color that deepens in sunlight.

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

Castlemaine of County Kerry, is on the southeastern coast. Here prevailing winds from the North Atlantic current moderate temperatures; winters are warmer, summers cooler than elsewhere on the island. Just across the road is a yard aburst with blooms on this June day in 2013. Castlemain is named for a castle built on a bridge over the river Maine. The river flows into Dingle Bay.

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

This is a small, quiet town, yet due to the river crossing this is a strategic location.  During the Irish War of Independance, the IRA ambushed and killed security forces near Castlemaine.
Rose of Castlemain– CLICK ME!!!!

The ballad of defiance, “The Wild Colonial Boy”, tells the story of a Jack Duggan born and bred in Castlemaine. The tale is based on the life of Jack Donahue, an orphan of Dublin. In his short life Jack was convicted under English law, shipped to Australia where he escaped to the bush and a career as a bush ranger. He escaped a death sentence only to die in a shootout. Jack lived to be about 26.
Attempts to ban “The Wild Colonial Boy” in Australia failed. Generations of Australians have sung and will sing this tale, now a part of folk lore. Here are the lyrics:

There was a wild colonial boy,
Jack Duggan was his name
He was born and raised in Ireland,
in a place called Castlemaine
He was his father’s only son,
his mother’s pride and joy
And dearly did his parents love
the wild colonial boy
At the early age of sixteen years,
he left his native home
And to Australia’s sunny shore,
he was inclined to roam
He robbed the rich, he helped the poor,
he shot James MacEvoy
A terror to Australia was
the wild colonial boy

One morning on the prairie,
as Jack he rode along
A-listening to the mocking bird,
a-singing a cheerful song
Up stepped a band of troopers:
Kelly, Davis and Fitzroy
They all set out to capture him,
the wild colonial boy
Surrender now, Jack Duggan,
for you see we’re three to one.
Surrender in the Queen’s high name,
you are a plundering son
Jack drew two pistols from his belt,
he proudly waved them high.
“I’ll fight, but not surrender,”
said the wild colonial boy

He fired a shot at Kelly,
which brought him to the ground
And turning round to Davis,
he received a fatal wound
A bullet pierced his proud young heart,
from the pistol of Fitzroy
And that was how they captured him,
the wild colonial boy

Click this link for the previous chapter of our day on the Dingle Peninsula

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Blooms: Hosta and Echinacea

Hosta and Echinacea Blooms in a summer dawn

My wife, Pam, requested photographs of her hosta taken in the first sun of a summer day. Just after the sun broke the clouds this morning I had the Manfrotto tripod set up, the Canon mounted with my new EF 50 mm 1:1.2 L, and this is the result.

Overview of the hosta and blooms. These are also called Plaintain Lilies. Over the years, Pam has propagated three plants by splitting them and replanting. Last year we invested in a fence to prevent the deer from browsing them to the ground.

Study of hosta flowers.

Purple cone flowers, aka Echinacea.
HostaEchinacea-0093

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved