Saturday, October 22, 2016

El Yunque National Forest

Luquillo Mountains from the Yokahu Observation Tower

The El Yunque National Forest encompasses 28,000 acres in Northeast Puerto Rico. It is one of the smallest in the National Forest system, the only tropical forest, and the most biodiverse. In 1876 the Luquillo Forest was decreed a forest resrve of 10,000 acres by the Spanish Crown. It was proclaimed a S.S. forest reserve in 1907, by Theodore Roosevelt.

Yokahu Tower, easily reachable by car.

Another view from the tower, this time of the cloud forest..
Since I was traveling with my elderly husband, I was fairly restricted in my hiking/viewing opportunites. However, there is much beauty to be seen along the very narrow, winding road and on shorter, well marked trails.

There are many waterfalls in El Yunque.
Cocoa Falls is right along the road..
As was this lovely scene.
 There was also a Banaquit building a nest, right
 over the road, but too shadowed to get good pictures.

Flowers were everywhere

The Hibiscus (Thespia grandiflora) is the state flower

Red Ginger , Alpina purpurata

Can also be pink 

The flowers are inconspicuous among the bracts.
Ginger is native to Maylasia.

A field of Heliconia

Heliconia psittacorum

Firespike, Odontonema strictum. Native to Central America, it has escaped cultivation

A gecko explores a Purple Spike Bromeliad.
Aechmea genus. Aichme in Greek means spear.


                                                               Palm Flowers

I prefer not posting pictures with out ID's. These were too beautiful to pass up...

                                                   Trees and other Plants

There are over 240 endemic, introduced, and exotic species of trees and other plants in the Luquillo Forest.  There are four forest types: Tabonuco, Colorado, Palm and Dwarf. I met only a hapgazrad few of the trees.        

A Sierra Palm forest, overtaking the The Bano De Oro,
 built in the 1930's by the CCC

My favorite Tree is a is a Fern
(Fern Class, Polypoidiopsida, Order Dicksonia).

Tree Fern frond unfurling.
They do a delicate dance in the wind.

A Pearly Eyed Thrasher (Maragatus fuscatus) perches in a legume tree (Family Fabaceae).
I must confess, this was taken in a parking lot...

Cercopia schreberiana, a native tree with distinctive leaves.

This Magnolia relative forms dense stands in the Luquillo Forest.

Cercropia schreberiana is a pioneer species
and  takes advantage of disturbances.
Those are it's finger-like fruits.  
Big Tree Trail

This 300 year old Asubo tree may have been planted by a bat.
Asubo was a prized wood for Spanish ship building.

The Laurel Sabino (Magnolia splendens) is found only in El Yunque.
This one  supports a diverse community of vines, ferns, epiphytes and other plants.

Many trees provide support for Epiphytes, here Bromeliads.
Lizards like it too!

I didn't see this lizard when I took the picture/

Philodendron vine

Philodendrons can also be trees.
 (Philodendron bipinnatifidm(?)

Tree snails (Caracolus caracola) make their homes in the forest.

A Ceiba pantandra tree, native to Mexico.

It is not easy to eat

Eucalyptus, a long way from home (Australia)

Tree of the Tabebuia genus,
native to American tropics and subtropics
as well as Mexico and Argentina(wikipedia).

The leaves.
It is found in the Dwarf Forest.

A Red-Legged Thrush (Turdus plumbeus) enjoys the trees.
Zenaida Dove (Zenaida autra) at the Visitors Center

The Visitors Center is worth a visit

I hope nature will prevail!

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness~ John Muir

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Flora of Iceland

Heather, Calluna vulgaris in bloom
Iceland is famous for stunning landscapes: waterfallls, glaciers and volcanoes. It's plant life however, also deserves attention. While low in species numbers, Iceland flora is jewel like and fascinating. It aptly illustrates the tenacity of life in a diversity of unlikely conditions.

Caluna vulgaris
Pleistocene glaciations wiped out Icelandic Boreal Forests. Succeeding glaciations left fewer and fewer species of flora. Iceland is far from Europe and North America, so species were not easily reintroduced onto the island. The only forest forming tree to return to the present interglacial was the downy birch.
Betula pubescens

Downy Birch leaves
 Other tree species native to Iceland are the uncommon Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), the extremely rare aspen (populus tremula) and abundant shrubby willows. 

Wooly Willow

Salix lanata
Human settlement, begining about 1140, served to decimate the remaining birch forests. The grazing of sheep, an important source of wool and food for Icelanders, prevented the regeneration of the birchwoods, even after human clearing had begun to decline.

Nearly a million sheep roam Iceland freely in the summer.
They are rounded up come fall.

Munch, Munch

Horses also graze, and they always face the way the wind is blowing.

The dominate plants are groundcovers and mosses, they form a colorful tapestry.

Thymus praecox

Wooly Moss colonizes the Lava.

It is gray or green, depending upon conditions.
 It gradually producing soil for the next line of succesion.

Racomitrium lanuginosum 

Marsh Grass, Parnassus palustrus, nestled in moss.

Fluorescent green algae thrives in moist areas.

And in hot springs.

Lichens also help to make soil. Mary's Falls.

Eventually grasses take hold. 
Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe, is in the background.

 Many areas of Iceland have desert conditions, 
and poor soils, such as lava fields.

Sea Campion, (Silene uniflora), growing on lava. Flowers are fading here.

Armeria maritima. 
Another strangely named plant that survives desert conditions. 
This time, mountain scree.

Saxifraga aizoides, growing on glacial deposits.

There are also meadows. Here, with Wooly Willow and Cotton Plant

Eriophoum scheuzeri

Whooper Swans in a meadow.

A common plant in iceland is Angelica archangelica.
 "Angels Herb" in late summer.
Seen growing on the right, along the water in the Gjain Valley.

Because of it's lack of vegetation and its windswept nature in the middle of the Atlantic, Iceland has an erosion problem. Spruce and Aspen have been imported and planted as windbreaks. Lupine and Lyme Grass are also being planted for erosion control. Introducing non-indigenous species may not be a good idea.

Lupine, Lupine nootkatensis.

Lyme Grass, Leymus arenarius.

Goodbye Iceland! Harlequin Ducks in non-breeding plummage.
Histrionicus histrionicus

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle