Over the Thanksgiving break, my young friend Bob and I set out for an adventure at Pinnacle Mountain (Penuchle Mountain, as I like to call it). Bob and I were heading down one of the roads that leads to the East Summit Trail. Just at the opening of the road, as you look to the right into a ditch, there was a beautiful Red Tail Hawk. This hawk seemed to have had a successful rabbit hunt. As quickly as I could, I stopped my truck and snapped some shots of this beautiful creature. Bob then said, "Well, this is weird. I've never done this before." Bob and I slowly and calmly approached the bird until we were no more than 10 feet away. Just amazing.

Afterwards, we made it to the park. We began fishing at first, no luck. Bob then decided that we would walk around the base of Pinnacle, hike up the east side and descend on the west side. Bob and I were like two friendly mountain goats jumping and bounding from one boulder to the next. In less than two hours, we completed the entire mountain and claimed it as our own. Lewis and Clark, that's a laugh. Bob and John, now those guys should be taken seriously!

Arkansas Wetlands

Grassy Lake, near McNab, has to be one of the most beautiful and fragile naturally formed bodies of water in Arkansas. I will post more on the flora of this swamp during the spring of 2009. These are some photos I shot this weekend. It is a shame that this habitat is being threatened by a local coal plant being built near the area. If nothing is done to protect Grassy Lake, its fate is sure to be grim.

Lake Sequoyah
Photo by Silvia T.

This past Saturday, Silvia and I headed to Lake Sequoyah for an exciting and cold day of fishing. As we walked the trails around Lake Sequoyah, our ears and noses numb from the cold breeze through the tall Gleditsia triacanthos tress, I spotted a Botrychium dissectum at my feet! It was bronzed with touches of green. What a great sight to see. This isn't a protected species in Arkansas, but it is nice to see some diversity around all the Lonicera maackii. The Amur Honeysuckle is an invasive species in Arkansas. Just walk around Lake Sequoyah during the fall, you will see nothing but those horrible plants choking out the rest of the native species.

Botrychium dissectum

Botrychium dissectum

Botrychium dissectum

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I left for Artist Point in Mountainburg, Arkansas. I was there last year and discovered a unique plant. However, it was not flowering. My plan was to catch the plant in flower so that I would be able to identify it. But once again, the plant had already flowered nor was any fruit attached to the plant. One difference from last year, there seems to be many more of these plants than last year! I wont miss it another year! Ha!

After studying the foliage and the fruit of the plant from last year. I think this plant is Galearis spectabilis. It flowers from April - July (I was totally wrong about going out there this time of year). Anyway, I will be looking for this plant next year! Wish me luck!

Silvia and I were at the end of the trail near the small waterfall. Very wet area, great place for strange creatures! As I was digging through the dead leaves and turning over logs, we discovered a beautiful spotted salamander.

Hiking through the Ozark Natural Forest is always a pleasurable experience. I was accompanied by a team of artists, gardeners and photographers as we explored the beautiful wilderness. After passing through a wonderful grouping of beech trees, one of my team members discovered a beautiful millipede!

When we arrived at our first lookout point, I first discovered a beautiful colony of Spiranthes species. I have attempted to identify the species; however, I am not confident enough to clarify the name of these flowers.

Next to the Spiranthes, another flower caught my eye. This is something that is unknown to me. Polygala sanguinea, commonly known as Milkwort. This plant is commonly found in fields. It also has some kind of medicinal value.

As the sun dropped below the horizon, it seems that the hills caught fire. A great way to end the day, I say!

It's a Cruel World!

There is nothing more depressing than having food poisoning my last weekend in Edinburgh. Help.

Houses Made of Glass?

This week I will be working in the glasshouses at the RBGE. As one would say in the Arkansas native tongue, "Damn, shure is hot up in thur." I didn't think it was possible to break a sweat in Scotland.

Since I began my work indoors, I have come across some beautiful little orchids.

Dendrobium hellwigianum

Dendrochilum filiforme
[Photo1] [Photo2] [Photo3]

Dracula bella
[Photo1] [Photo2]

Masdevallia nycterina
[Photo1] [Photo2]

[Photo1] [Photo2] [Photo3]

Poroglossum echidnum
[Photo1] [Photo2]

Scaphosepalum punctatum
[Photo1] [Photo2] [Photo3]

I've also been recording daily weather from the garden's weather stations. A record of temperature must be taken in the air, at ground surface and below ground. Other things that are recorded are wind speed and direction, state of ground, cloud density, visibility and hours of sunlight. To make these observations, I am required to climb the ladders to the top of the largest glasshouse. Don't worry, I promise I wont fall and be shredded by falling through panes of glass. I will post some pictures soon.

After a week of cutting down huge hedges and feeding them through a chipper, I feel a bit physically tuckered out. However, I must admit that work like this makes me feel like a real man! Arrrrrrggg!

Above: This is my very good friend Audrey III. I have named the chipper after the large singing/talking carnivorous plant in Little Shop of Horrors. When I push a large log into its gnashing teeth, I say to myself "FEED ME, SEYMOUR!"

This is only the second row of hedges that we destroyed. You might be asking yourself, "Hey John! Why the heck are you being so destructive?!" I would tell you that we are expanding the nursery at the Botanic Garden. We're adding two more quonset polyethylene grow houses. YAY! And while we're at it, doing a bit of landscaping!

I noticed a photo opportunity! This is the result.

That's all I'm going to report at the moment. I've got a few more photographs from the day I traveled to Fife. Oh, there are so many beautiful gardens in this country! I hope you all miss me terribly! Ha. Let's party when I return!

Not so much to report from this past week at the garden. I worked with the herbaceous plant team. We mostly weeded and edged the entire week. I can tell you, we sure made the garden look nice and neat. There was one day this week that was loads of fun. Monday, we grabbed some shovels, an ax, saws and our brute strength! We walked out to a bed full of shrubs and ripped them out of the ground like the rabid beasts we were! We ended the lives of 40 shrubs that day. I remember their cries. It was horrible.

So.... Saturday....

Sunday was a nice relaxing day in the city. Laura Fowler and I visited the castle. I had seen the castle before; however, I get in for free and she wanted to check it out.

After visiting the castle, we walked down to the market on Prince's street and purchased a hot and delicious paella.

Then we jumped a bus and headed towards Portobello for the rest of the afternoon. Ah, I am really beginning to love the beach. People were swimming (in the freezing cold water), lots of cute little doggies playing, pints, frisbees, fish and chips and no tourists! ha. good fun.

Oh, listen... I was invited to a BBQ Friday. This BBQ was a party for a man who has retired from the Royal Botanic Garden after 41 years! 41 YEARS! Anyway, my friend Martyn (the one who drove me up to Glencoe and Kinlochleven) baked a cake in the form of a lighthouse! Wow! I asked him if he followed a recipe. He replied, "No, I just kind of did it."

Hi Yeh! Things are going better for me now. I still have a very slight cough. Other than that, I feel great! Hopefully, I will not have to worry about being sick for awhile.

This past week, I have been working with the Alpine Team! If you are interested in learning exactly what "alpine" means, just click here. While I was working with these impressive gardeners, I was introduced to a few special plants.

Meet my new friend Philadelphus madrensis. [Photo1] [Photo2] This scrappy little shrub may not look like much, but it packs a smell that you will never forget! EVER! I was just minding my own business when suddenly, SPLASH! My nose was filled with a sweet sugary scent that made my tummy say, "Hi, how ya doing?"

I would also like you to meet Leucogenes leontopodium. [Photo1] [Photo2] This little silver caught my eye and wouldn't let go. The flowers looked like they were made from cloth and the arrangement of the foliage on the stem was a bit psychedelic. The plant was collected in New Zealand. Beautiful, wouldn't you agree?

Last but not least, Scotland's own Primula scotica! [Photo1] [Photo2] This little sweetheart is very modest, only with very specific environmental conditions will it then let you view it's beautiful bloom. The scotica is an endemic species. Sadly, I may never see one flower again.

Ah... I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Well, at the moment I am going to take a nap. I had a long night last night (considering that I lost my key and couldn't get back to my flat). I ended up going out on the town with a few of my pals. What else could I do?


Glencoe and Kinlochleven

I walked a few hills Saturday with Martyn and his boy, Stewart. I've marked these places on the map (there is a link to the map to the right). What a beautiful country! Pictures cannot capture the beauty of this place. I have had dreams that couldn't compare.

Ah, Weekend.

What a day! All this hard work has paid off. I've received many pats-on-the-back for my hard work. Everyone that I work with has been more than helpful. For instance, Thomas gave me a cell phone. Felicity invited me out for lunch at the park with her family (and perhaps some sheep shearing!). Martyn is going to drive me out to the highlands tomorrow for a day hike. And tonight it's off for pints and pool with Florian. It seems like I'm fitting in well here.

Even though things are going so well here, I'm beginning to feel ill. I pray I don't catch a cold. But, I am in a new place... and new places have new germs. It wouldn't be uncommon for me to have a little bug about now. It's a good thing I packed my vitamins and ibuprofen.

Alright, I'm the middle of cooking dinner, mashed taters and chicken jalfrezi! Sounds yummy huh? Well, I'm making my own taters (just how I like 'em), as for the chicken, it's a frozen dish. Ha.



Well, last night my friend Lynn quickly toured me around the coastal area of Edinburgh, known as Portobello. I was surprised to see sandy beaches and sea shells. I expected rocks, stones, cliffs and lots of garbage. However, it was so cold and windy. So much so, that my ears were in pain when I finally found shelter.

Weeds, Weeds and Weeds

The gardeners at the botanics have been preparing for an event that is to take place this Friday. To prepare for such an event, everyone must participate in the lovely task of pulling weeds. I've been weeding so much that when I close my eyes I see nothing but weeds.

One of these delicious weeds is called Cymbalaria muralis. This weed spreads via underground rhizome and consumes everything in its path. If you were to divide the little white rhizome into a small portion, that would sprout and spread. This weed is such a problem that the management of the gardens have decided to eradicate the weed from a few of their beds. To accomplish this, everything much be taken out: trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and anything else that is living. Then the soil will be fumigated. This process will take about two years per bed. WHOA!

Cymbalaria muralis. See the white rhizomes?

Just a taste of the destruction!

Cheers Mate

I am now using my roommate's computer to upload some photos.

the bedroom of my flat

the living room

Edinburgh Castle (just a few steps away)

near the royal mile

So far, I feel like I've been wandering around like a blubbering American idiot. Well, today things have definitely changed. I'm running around the streets without a map, making a few friends and I can even do a pretty good Scottish accent (so I'm told). Ha.

Work has been going very well. This past week I've been working with the aboriculturists. They are called "Arbor Team." They remind me of Arkansas auto mechanics... you know, "good ol' boys." The sad thing about working with them, is that I haven't gotten to do any real tree climbing. All we've done is do some tree surveying. But mostly we've been weeding the entire garden. My roommate Drew is a bit disappointed. I really couldn't give a rats ass... hell, I'm in Scotland!

It is sad that I cannot share my pictures with you just yet. The computer lab here isn't exactally digital camera friendly. But as soon as I find a machine that will allow me to upload photos, I'll post them for you all to see.

Anyway, as they say in the UK...

Cheers, mate!

Edinburgh Map

Thanks to Google Maps, I am able to keep track of some points of interest while I am working and studying in Edinburgh.

Click here to view the map.

The Ball Begins To Roll

On March 7th, I received an e-mail from Dr. Barclay in Scotland assuring me that I have been accepted for the internship at the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh. He also mentioned something about a garden study tour in York. The internship alone will be from June 2nd to August 8 (the day of my father's birthday).