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Archive for the ‘Flora’ Category

When the rains come and the three African Tulip trees (Spathodea campanulata, Tulipán africano, Flame trees, Flame of the Forest) in my apartment complex begin blooming, even grey days are brightened.

As the name suggests, Tulipán africano are native to Africa and I was first captivated by them in the early 1980s when I watched the PBS series, The Flame Trees of Thika, based on the Elspeth Huxley memoir about her early years in Kenya.

Beginning the late 1800s, these ornamental beauties were introduced to other parts of the world — thriving and even becoming invasive in many areas of the tropics.

Bursting with brilliance and providing food and shelter to a multitude of hummingbirds battling for territory and mates, these creations of Mother Nature always beckon me to stop, gaze, and marvel.

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When the outings are few and far between and limited to walking distance, I’m appreciating the views from and around Casita Colibrí even more.

June 3, 2020 – Templo de San Felipe Neri in early morning

June 3, 2020 – Jasmine in the afternoon

June 4, 2020 –  Wind chimes in the late afternoon

June 5, 2020 – Crocosmia around noon

June 5, 2020 – Looking southeast over the city in early evening

Be safe and well and look for the beauty.

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It was early morning in the garden and the clock was ticking. She isn’t called a Night Blooming Cereus for nothing.

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First one approached.

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It was followed by others. However, these weren’t friends and this wasn’t a party, it was seriously cereus work.

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That is about as exciting as it gets at Casita Colibrí during these days of Covid-19 under the “semáforo rojo” — the red stoplight — as contrasted with orange, yellow, and the much longed for green. Stay safe!

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Given the barrage of bad, sad, depressing, and infuriating news these days, I’m finding it difficult to string together more than a few words. However, who needs words when Mother Nature is speaking from my terrace — succulents and cactus to the rescue.

Quaqua

 

Monadenium

 

Cleistocactus

 

Gymnocalycium

 

Jatropha podagrica

Wishing all health, safety, and a bounty of beauty!

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Remember my Pitahaya (Dragon fruit)? In just a few years, five stalks, picked up from the field of a friend in San Martín Tilcajete in 2012 and planted in my garden, became a year-round green wall along the chain link fence that separates the terrace of Casita Colibrí from the neighboring property. Its perfumed massive white glow-in-the-dark flowers beckoned bats and bees and the resulting luscious red fruit were garden highlights.

Do you also remember that a taproot grew into the wall and down into the apartment below? Alas, the result, in the fall of 2016, was having to cut down the entire wall of Pitahaya. However, some the stalks were saved and planted along the wall adjacent to the apartment’s garbage can/recycling collection area. Lucky us, last night into early morning, the Pitahaya put on quite a show and put the bees to work!

A win win for all concerned!

 

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Sunday morning’s walk found empty streets…

Looking south on Calle Macedonio Alcalá.

Looking north on Calle Macedonio Alcalá.

Closed parks…

Jardín Conzatti.

“Parque Cerrado” – Parque Juarez El Llano.

And, beauty.

Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo seen from the atrium of Templo Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

Flamboyant trees from the atrium of Templo Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

Yesterday, there were 25 new Covid-19 cases in the state of Oaxaca, including the first two in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

 

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Spring morning marvel
lovely nameless little hill
on a sea of mist

–Basho

night blooming cereus

Spring in Oaxaca brings high temperatures, dry hazy skies, the shrill sound of cicadas, and ethereal beauty of these flowers. Whether you call them by their common name, Night Blooming Cereus, or call them by their scientific name, Epiphyllum hookeri, upon waking, their twelve hours of temporal exquisiteness is a spring morning marvel.

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More from Sunday morning social distance strolling in this time of Covid-19…

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Calle Manuel Garcia Vigil, Oaxaca de Juárez

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Barrio de Jalatlaco, Oaxaca de Juárez

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Barrio de Jalatlaco, Oaxaca de Juárez

There is life and there is beauty.

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We couldn’t put it off any longer, non-perishables were needed! Thus, instead of another long leisurely Sunday stroll like last week, my neighbor and I walked (keeping two meters apart) down to Soriana, our local supermarket. We went early in the morning and the streets were mostly empty — making it a piece of cake crossing a particularly dicey intersection. Ready to do battle with the virus, we came armed with alcohol wipes and shopping, paying, and bagging strategies. However, Soriana also was on emergency preparedness alert. Once inside the door, hand-sanitizer was pumped into our hands and the handles of our carts were wiped down with disinfectant.

As we had hoped, there were very few other customers and most seemed very conscious of maintaining social distancing protocol, — the workers stocking the shelves, not so much. There were signs posted limiting the quantities one could purchase of certain items and there were taped lines on the floor in front of the check stands indicating how far apart to stand. Though, one guy didn’t get the message and cut in front of me. I snapped, “sana distancia” at him, he glanced back at the crazy gringa and went to a different line.

My route to Soriana, usually consists of cutting a diagonal across the Plaza de la Danza, walking down the ramp to Jardín Sócrates, and crossing the atrium of the Basilica de la Soledad before tackling the steep stairs down to Av. de la Independencia. Alas, this trip, it wasn’t to be — the atrium doors facing the Jardín were locked up tight, as were the ones at the top of the stairs on Independencia.

Signs were tacked to the massive doors indicating all masses had been suspended until further notice. It was all quiet on the church front and the realization hit me that I hadn’t heard a single church bell in days, if not a week — which sounds about right because, on March 21, the Archdiocese of Oaxaca announced the suspension of all Eucharistic celebrations, including Easter. In addition, the Archbishop has called on Catholics to stay home during Holy Week, in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 between people and communities.

Health officials have been running public service announcements on the TV telling people to stay home and advising them, if they must go out, on methods to avoiding catching and spreading the virus. And, yesterday the Mexican government declared a state of health emergency and ordered a suspension of all non-essential businesses and activities until April 30th. For businesses, the restrictions are mandatory, however for people it is an “emphatic invitation.” President Andrés Manuel López Orbrador’s gradual approach to the pandemic has been highly criticized in some quarters, though the strategy has been praised by representatives of the World Health Organization. However, most agree that stricter measures will have to be implemented once the pandemic really hits.

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Sunday mornings have always been my favorite time to wander through the neighborhoods of Oaxaca. Traffic is light, sidewalks are mostly empty, and the city seems nestled under a blanket of tranquility. Thus, in these days of an abundance of alone-at-home time, a long peaceful walk with my neighbor (maintaining sana distancia/social distancing, of course) was just what the doctor ordered.

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Out the door and up the hill, we went.

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“Hola, buenos días” greetings were exchanged with the few people we encountered — many walking their dogs.

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Though we weren’t planning to eat, we stumbled on a lovely garden restaurant – Ancestral Cocina Tradicional — and couldn’t resist sitting down in their sun-dappled courtyard for a quesillo and huitlacoche quesadilla, washed down with a healthy jugo verde. Everything about the restaurant was done with care and attention — including being mindful of COVID-19 concerns.

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Emerging from the restaurant, we continued our ramble, admiring architecture, street art, and the beauty of dry season flowers.

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This Dama de Noche (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) stopped us in our tracks!

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After three hours, we returned to our homes feeling refreshed, appreciative of Oaxaca’s many gifts, and feeling like we can get through this — despite the puppet masters.

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Are we having fun yet? As much as I hate it, I’ve been glued to TV news (BBC and CNN International) since last night’s nationalistic, confusing, and not even accurate pronouncements by the US president. As I began writing this post, I finally made myself turn it off and began listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s, Obrigado Brazil. Ahhh… much better.

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Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifloia)

A best friend (since age twelve) and I are having to cancel a long-planned trip to Barcelona and Paris in April. Besides being incredibly disappointed, I’m not looking forward to trying to get refunds on flights, etc.

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Clavellina (Bombax palmeri)

As for COVID-19 (aka, Coronavirus), Mexico’s low coronavirus cases draws skepticism — should travellers worry? In addition, there doesn’t seem to be any movement toward canceling large gatherings or educating the public to refrain from the ubiquitous handshaking and cheek kissing. Perhaps someone in the Secretary of Health’s office should read this data-driven article, Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now, and then take action. It’s one of the most informative I have read. However, this video from 2016 of three Oaxaca nurses teaching proper hand washing technique has been making the rounds and adding a little levity to these anxiety producing days.

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Primavera rosa / Amapa rosa / Palo de rosa (Tabebuia rosea)

On the other hand, if one has to forego foreign travel, Oaxaca isn’t a bad place to be. And, looking up at the clear blue skies and the explosion of flowering trees that marks this time of year, I give thanks to Mother Nature for the beauty she brings to this world filled with war, poverty, and pestilence.

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What a difference two months make.

The Pochote pods on the previously blogged Kapok (aka, Ceiba) tree have opened.

And, cottony fluff occasionally floats in the air…

… even from the Ceiba that soars above the courtyard of La Biznaga.

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It was only recently that I learned that Oaxaca’s ubiquitous and beloved Ceiba tree was also known as the Kapok tree. Yikes, kapok was the stuff that stuffed the overstuffed furniture in my grandparents’ living room.

Those avocado-like pods (also known as pochote) contain a fluffy cotton-like fiber that is difficult to spin but is light and-water resistant — thus its use in mattresses, pillows, upholstery, stuffed animals, and life jackets. All hail and much respect to the “the mother tree of humankind.

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Who knew that there was an amazing garden, built on a former garbage dump, and open to the public in Xoxocotlán? Not me, until a friend mentioned it and invited me on a field trip to visit.

Thus, a few days ago, I found myself at Vives Verdes — a delightful labor of love — a marriage of plants, recycling, art, education, and the environment.

Nine years ago architect, Francisco Martínez began a project of landscaping a healing, artistic, and environmental garden — not only utilizing plants, but also converting found objects into planters and whimsical art.

Vives Verdes incorporates more than 200 species and 2000 plants — mostly from Oaxaca, but also from other arid climates throughout the world.

A water catchment system utilizing paths, beds, and ponds irrigate the garden and no chemicals are used.

Vives Verde is open to the public and school groups. It is located in the Las Culturas neighborhood of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca.

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Sunday, I headed up into the clouds for the 19th Feria Regional de Hongos Silvestres (Regional Wild Mushroom Fair) in San Antonio Cuajimoloyas. Friends had hired a van and driver to take us on the steep winding climb into the Sierra Norte. An hour and a half after we left the city, we arrived at our destination, 10,433 feet above sea level. Cuajimoloyas has an ethereal feel and seems like a world apart from the valley below.
       
Baskets of fresh mushrooms with shiny orange caps and mushrooms resembling coral, trumpets, cauliflower, and flower petals beckoned. And the aroma of grilled mushrooms, mushroom tamales, mushroom empanadas, and chile relleno stuffed with mushrooms stimulated the appetite.
There were dried mushrooms in bulk and in little cellophane baggies for purchase.
Mushrooms aren’t the only produce the region is known for — delicious apples and new potatoes are grown in these chilly mountains.
And, there there were local crafts for sale and a couple of kinds of mezcal to taste (and buy).
I came home with apples, potatoes, a bottle of the lovely A Medios Chiles mezcal made from the wild Jabalí agave, and 30 grams of dried mushrooms. While the mushrooms weren’t of the “magic” variety, the experience certainly was!
“Mushrooms were the roses in the garden of that unseen world, because the real mushroom plant was underground. The parts you could see – what most people called a mushroom – was just a brief apparition. A cloud flower.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood

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