Winter solstice and winterberries

I like celebrating the winter solstice, our shortest day of the year, on December 21st. I’m glad to think of the increased daylight that leads us toward spring and another growing season. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the brilliant red berries of our winterberry shrubs.

Winterberry shrubs with bright red berries
Winterberries (Ilex verticillata)

This poem by Diane Lee Moomey expresses my sentiments.


Again did the earth shift.
Again did the nights grow short
and the days long.

And the people
of the earth were glad
and celebrated each in their own ways.

Best wishes to all for the season and the coming year.

A monarch film I hope you’ll see

We thoroughly enjoyed The Flight of the Butterflies at the IMAX theater at the Kentucky Science Center in Louisville recently. The film tells the amazing story of monarchs’ (Danaus plexippus) migration from North America to Mexico and back. It also tells of Dr. Fred Urquhart’s lifelong quest to solve the mystery of the monarchs and how he engaged citizen scientists to learn more about monarchs and discover their wintering place in Mexico.

Click below to play the movie trailer. Then click in the bottom right corner to see it in full screen mode.

Chip Taylor, the Director of Monarch Watch, gives this film a rave review and reports that monarchs are in serious trouble. Their population is half of what it was in the 1990s. I’m glad to know that 40% of proceeds from this movie goes to Monarch Conservation in Mexico. I’m hoping the movie will inspire people to plant more milkweeds. They are essential for the survival of monarchs since milkweeds are the only plants the caterpillars can eat.

This film documents an amazing story and the photography is spectacular. I truly hope you can see it. The film is playing in Louisville until January 18, and is or will be showing soon in other IMAX theaters. If you go, I’d be glad to know what you think about it. I would also appreciate you sharing this information with anyone else who might be interested.

Mystery rainbow

When I looked out at the muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) on a recent morning, I first thought it was covered with frost. Then I realized it was much too warm for frost and instead was moisture as a result of our previous rainy day. I proceeded to take a few photos.

When I downloaded the images to my computer, I was shocked to see what looked like several rainbows in one of them. I did not see these colors when I looked at the plant.

Dew covered Muhly grass with rainblow like background

I have no idea why this image has these colors, and why the ones taken immediately before and after do not. At any rate, I thought it was worth sharing.

We’ve enjoyed the muhly grass since it bloomed pink in early September. It looks fragile, but it has lasted quite well. I’m glad it led to such an interesting photograph. Can anyone explain the rainbow effect?

Frost flowers on white crownbeard

On frosty mornings I’ve continued to enjoy frost flowers on our dittany (Cunila origanoides) and I recently saw them for the first time on white crownbeard (Verbesina virginica), also known as frostweed. I planted it last spring because it’s another host for frost flowers. Even so, I was taken by surprise at its first display of ice crystals.

Ice crystals on  verbesina virginica

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