Snowdrops early this winter


This 2015 video says about itself:

Snowdrops are perennial herbaceous flowering plants which grow from bulbs native to large parts of Europe. Found in many woodlands, churchyards, parks and gardens, snowdrops are some of the first bulbs of the year to bloom.

This early flowering plant, which carpets the ground between January and April, is aided by hardened leaf tips that can push through frozen soil. The downside to flowering in winter is that pollinating insects are scarce, so these little drops of snow spread mainly through bulb division.

The common snowdrop contains an alkaloid, which has been approved for use in the management of Alzheimer’s disease in a number of countries. It is also used in the treatment of traumatic injuries to the nervous system.

Snowdrop bulbs are poisonous if eaten, and contain their own anti-freeze. They were harvested during the First World War to make anti-freeze for tanks.

The Snowdrop is native to Europe and the Middle East, from Spain, France and Germany in the west through to Iran in the east. It has become naturalized in other parts of Europe including Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands – as well as in eastern Canada and the United States.

Some snowdrop species are threatened in their wild habitats, and in most countries it is now illegal to collect bulbs from the wild.

The Snowdrop is a small plant that can reach 2.7 to 12 inches in height and develops two to three narrow, dark green leaves from each bulb. On a sunny day, snowdrops are highly scented and give off a honey smell. If you have enough plants the perfume will fill the garden.

This morning, early snowdrop flowers near Rembrandt’s windmill.

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New Arctic fungi species discovered


This video is called 2008 Ellesmere Island Expedition: National Geographic Wild Chronicles.

From the Research Organization of Information and Systems in Japan:

Scientists identify two new species of fungi in retreating Arctic glacier

January 15, 2019

Two new species of fungi have made an appearance in a rapidly melting glacier on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic, just west of Greenland. A collaborative team of researchers from Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research, The Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Tokyo, Japan, and Laval University in Québec, Canada made the discovery.

The scientists published their results on DATE in two separate papers, one for each new species, in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

“The knowledge of fungi inhabiting the Arctic is still fragmentary. We set out to survey the fungal diversity in the Canadian High Arctic,” said Masaharu Tsuji, a project researcher at the National Institute of Polar Research in Japan and first author on both papers. “We found two new fungal species in the same investigation on Ellesmere Island.”

One species is the 10th to join the genus Mrakia, with the proposed name M. hoshinonis, in honor of Tamotsu Hoshino, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology in Japan. Hoshino has made significant contributions to the study of fungi in polar regions. The other species is the 12th to join the genus Vishniacozyma, with the proposed name V. ellesmerensis as a nod to the island where it was found. Both species are types of yeast that are well-adapted to the cold and can even grow below 0°C.

The samples of fungi were collected from the unofficially named Walker Glacier. The designation comes from Paul T. Walker, who installed the datum pole that measures the glacier’s growth and shrinkage, in 1959. At the time of sample collection in 2016, measurements showed that the glacier was receding at a rate two-and-a-half times faster than its retreat over the previous 50 years.

“Climate-related effects have been observed in this region over the last 20 years,” Tsuji said. “Soon, some of the glaciers may completely melt and disappear.”

Only about five percent of fungi species have been discovered, but their function across ecological climates is well understood — from the tropics to the Arctic, fungi decompose dead organic material. Each species operates a little differently, but their general role is to reintroduce nutrients from dead plant material back into the ecosystem. If the glaciers melt, the fungi lose their habitat. The results could have catastrophic knock-on effects throughout the ecosystem, according to Tsuji, although more research is needed to understand exactly how the changing climate is influencing fungi beyond destroying their habitat.

Next, Tsuji and his team plan to survey the fungi in Ward Hunt Lake, the northern most lake in the world. It is on Ward Hunt Island, just off the northern coast of Ellesmere Island, and less than 500 miles from the North Pole

“Normally, the lake’s ice doesn’t melt during the summer season. However, the ice melted completely in 2016. We plan to continuously check how the lake’s fungal diversity changes,” Tsuji said. The different species could evolve, or, potentially, go extinct. “Eventually, we plan to compile all of our studies to provide an overview of terrestrial ecosystems in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.”

Save rare lichens in Dutch Gelderland province


This 1 November 2016 Dutch video from Gelderland province ia about Thijs van Trigt who tries to save rare lichens on the dike south of the lake separating Gelderland province from Flevoland province.

Translated from Dutch Vroege Vogels radio, 4 January 2019:

It is quite a job that Thijs van Trigt has started: cleaning a piece of dike between Nijkerk and Putten. And all to preserve the rare lichens that grow on the stones.

Xanthoparmelia protomatrae and Brianaria lutulata

The lichens are now overgrown by plants and mosses. And that while some types of lichens only occur in Nijkerk, such as Xanthoparmelia protomatrae and Brianaria lutulata, Pertusaria lactea, Anaptychia runcinata and Pertusaria aspergilla are also extremely rare and have been found on the dikes near Nijkerk.

Lichen reserve

Thijs van Trigt has been visiting Nijkerk regularly since the discovery of the lichens on the dike in 2015 to clean a piece of dike. But getting rid of the vegetation is a big job. The cleaning action must actually have a periodical character if the effect is to be permanent.

It is therefore the wish of Thijs van Trigt to design parts of the dike as a lichen reserve, with a permanent information sign with explanations for the interested passers-by. By making a reservation, Thijs van Trigt hopes for a better protection of the lichens.

Plant survivors of Permian-Triassic mass extinction


This 26 February 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

The Permian-Triassic Boundary – The Rocks of Utah

The Great Dying! In this episode we head out to the Permian-Triassic boundary and try to discover what caused Earth’s Largest mass extinction event, 252 million years ago.

After 4-months of research, I’m excited to finally release this exciting video! A pre-print of the scientific paper is available here.

I’ve submitted this research to the journal “Global and Planetary Change” for peer review.

By Laurel Hamers, 2:12pm, December 20, 2018:

More plants survived the world’s greatest mass extinction than thought

Fossils in a Jordanian desert reveal plant lineages that didn’t perish in the Great Dying

Some ancient plants were survivors.

A collection of roughly 255-million-year-old fossils suggests that three major plant groups existed earlier than previously thought, and made it through a mass extinction that wiped out more than 90 percent of Earth’s marine species and roughly 70 percent of land vertebrates.

The fossils, described in the Dec. 21 Science, push back the earliest records of these plant groups by about 5 million years. “But it’s not just any 5 million years — it’s those 5 million years that span the Permian-Triassic boundary”, says study coauthor Benjamin Bomfleur, a paleobotanist at the University of Münster in Germany. The find adds to the growing list of land plants that survived the catastrophe known as the Great Dying, the world’s greatest mass extinction, which occurred about 252 million years ago at the end of the Permian Period.

Bomfleur and his colleagues found the new fossils in desert rock outcroppings near the Dead Sea in Jordan. Paleontologists have been searching those rock formations for decades. “Every time we go, we find new fossils”, he says.

At the time these fossils formed, the area had a tropical climate but with prolonged dry periods. Those conditions aren’t good for forming fossils. But surprisingly, these fossils are exceptionally well preserved, Bomfleur says. He and his colleagues were able to wash the rocks with an acid to extract waxy plant cuticles embedded within. The cuticle preserves a mold of microscopic features on the surfaces of fronds or leaves, and those details helped the scientists identify the plant species more accurately.

The team found fossils belonging to the Podocarpacae family, a large group of cone-bearing plants that now live in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s the oldest fossil evidence from any family of conifers that still exists today.

And the fossils showed that two other major seed plant lineages that are now extinct — Bennettitales and Corystospermales — were around during the Permian and survived the die-off. The Bennettitales are particularly noteworthy because they produce flowerlike reproductive structures and might have been distant cousins to flowering plants, which first showed up about 125 million years ago.

Today, the tropics are hot spots for biodiversity, and it’s thought that the ancient tropics were too. But there’s very little fossil evidence, says Fabiany Herrera, a paleobotanist at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Based on previous genetic analyses, it would make sense for some of these ancient tropical plant groups to have survived the mass extinction. “But we had no fossils”, Herrera says — and that’s the only way to know for sure. “Now we have them.”

Botanical garden birds and leaves


Moss, 4 November 2018

On 4 November 2018, we went to the botanical garden in Leiden. Where we saw this moss.

A jay flying.

Six ring-necked parakeets flying.

We went to the Japanese garden part.

Grass, 4 November 2018

Where we saw this grass.

Downy Japanese maple leaves

And these beautiful downy Japanese maple autumn leaves.

Downy Japanese maple, samara fruit, 4 November 2018

Among these leaves, samara fruits.

Downy Japanese maple, samara fruit, on 4 November 2018

As we passed the pond, a grey heron caught a quite big carp.

Birds, flowers in Japanese art, exhibition


This October 2018 video from Leiden in the Netherlands says about itself (translated):

Japan Museum SieboldHuis from 7 December 2018 to 3 March 2019 shows the exhibition ‘Kachō-ga. The poetry of Japanese nature’.

For the first time in the Netherlands there is an exhibition about kachō-ga, one of the most important genres in Japanese graphic art and painting. Special loans and masterpieces from the Netherlands and abroad such as woodcuts, folding screens, scroll paintings and photographs make this retrospective a must see for lovers of Japanese art.

I went to see that exhibition on 23 December 2018.

This 8 December 2018 video shows more extensive images of the exhibition.

The SieboldHuis museum writes about it (translated):

The Japanese word kachō-ga literally means ‘images of flowers and birds’.

Though sometimes other animals were depicted as well.

Colourful flowers and birds get all the attention in this exhibition which takes the visitor along the creation and development of this decorative genre. Artists can pre-eminently show their craftsmanship and poetic view of Japanese nature in this genre. The exhibition includes detailed, staged, lifelike, but also stylistic works by famous Japanese artists such as Hiroshige, Hokusai, Seitei, Koson and Hasui. In this exhibition, colourful plants and animals decorate folding screens, scroll paintings, albums, illustrated books, prints in the form of fans and graphic art from the late 18th to the 20th century. The photos by the Japanese top photographer Yoshinori Mizutani give a contemporary look at kachō-ga.

Mizutani’s photos at the exhibition depicted grey starlings and ring-necked parakeets. Both species have recently become numerous in Japanese cities.

You can also see several stuffed birds that were taken from Japan in the 19th century by Philipp Franz von Siebold. The namesake of the museum acquired a versatile natural history collection during his stay in Japan (1823-1829).

Japanese art has a rich tradition in the representation of flora and fauna. Until the 17th century powerful, fabulous animals such as dragons, phoenixes, lion-dogs, birds of prey and tigers were portrayed belligerently. This topic changed when the power of the samurai diminished and the urban culture developed. Rich traders sought refinement and a friendly style, and in the artistic imagination of nature lovely animals were portrayed in subtle and balanced compositions. Flowers and birds became a popular subject not only for aesthetic beauty, but also because of their symbolic function.

This is a folding screen depicting a Steller's sea eagle

This is a folding screen depicting a Steller’s sea eagle.

Mandarin ducks by Imao Keinen (1845-1924)

Also present was this 1891 double woodblock print by Imao Keinen (1845-1924). It depicts a mandarin duck couple in winter. It reminded me of mandarin ducks I have seen in winter in Hilversum harbour, and in spring in China.

This 8 December 2018 video is about the catalogue of the exhibition.

In the late 19th century, large-billed crows became a popular subject.