Sunday, 12 January 2014

Erythrina crista-galli

"Erythrina crista-galli, Cockspur Coral Tree", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Erythrina crista-galli is a flowering tree in the family Fabaceae, native to Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil and Paraguay. It is widely planted as a street or garden tree in other countries, most notably in California although it is also widely naturalized in the south-eastern USA (i.e. Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia). 

It is known by several common names within South America: 
ceibo (in Argentina), seíbo (Spanish), corticeira (Portuguese) and the more ambiguous bucaré, to name a few. In English it is often known as the Cockspur Coral Tree. There are, as well, as whole host of other common names used for this tree.  These include: Brazilian coral tree, cockscomb coral tree, cockspur coral tree, common coral tree, cry-baby tree and fireman's cap tree.

The ceibo is the national tree of Argentina, and its flower the national flower of Argentina and Uruguay. I couldn't help but think about our current Pope while working on this drawing as he is undoubtedly familiar with this beautiful tree.

Erythrina crista-galli characteristically grows wild in forest ecosystems along watercourses, as well as in swamps and wetlands. In urban settings, it is often planted in parks for its bright coral/red flowers. It is a small tree, the girth of its trunk measuring 50 cm (20 in). Normally it grows 5–8 m (16–26 ft) tall, although some individuals, such as those found in some of the provinces of Argentina, can grow up to 10 m (33 ft). 

The tree flowers in the summer, from October to April in its native South America and from April to October in the northern hemisphere. The manner in which each of the coral/red flowers is arranged makes it obvious that the plant has similarities to other legumes like common beans/peas which explains why this plant was placed in the Family, Fabaceae. The genus name, "Erythrina" is derived from the Greek word ερυθρóς (erythros), meaning red. The words: "crista galli" (Latin: "crest of the cock") refer to the shape and folds of the flower.

Sadly, it seems that in may of the areas where the Cockspur coral tree (Erythrina crista-galli) has been naturalized, it is now sometimes listed as an emerging environmental weed.  As so often is the case, when plants, animals and birds are taken from their natural habitat and placed in an "unnatural" setting, they can indeed become a nuisance and worse!

I was first attracted to this flowering tree when I saw the colour of its blossoms.  As usual, colour came first for me and then the desire grew to try to capture the plant in a drawing.  As I stated previously, the blossoms vary from coral to various shades of red. I, personally, prefer the coral colour.

Many of the botanical details were taken from Wikipedia.



I just can't resist showing you a couple of new photos of my favourite little boy.  As always, he is adorable whether awake or sleeping!

Here you see Braden working on his skills as a train engineer!

Braden asleep -- could there be anything sweeter than a sleeping child...



Suki pondering what mischief she should get
into next!
I am sure that many of you are aware of the famous quote attributed to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt: "speak softly, and carry a big stick."
Well, I have also recently adopted the "big stick" policy!

No, I am not beating poor Suki with a big stick; however, I have started keeping my cane (walking stick) close by my bed at night in order to remind Suki that I need my sleep more than she needs to be fed!  Please allow me to explain before the Humane Society starts investigating on my treatment of Suki.

As I have told you previously, Miss Suki strongly believes that when she is feeling hungry, she should be fed, right then, right there.  Suki demonstrates this belief by finding ways to makes repetitive noises that awaken me in the expectation that I will meekly get up and give her the kind of food she prefers.  These noises, by the way, are not loud but since they are created by using something close to where I am sleeping, they never fail to awaken me.

So, I realized recently that if I had a stick of some sort nearby when Suki starts making these noises, then I would be able to point the stick towards her which would cause her to stop and go elsewhere for a while (Suki, like most of us, doesn't feel quite safe when someone is pointing a big stick in her face!).  

When I first started this "big stick diplomacy" last weekend, I really wasn't sure if it would be effective or not -- and, truth be told, at first it did not work very well.  All that would happen was that Suki would stop the annoying noise for a short time, but just as soon as I drifted off to sleep again, she would resume the noise making.

Finally, however, after a week of practice, I have developed a technique that seems to be working relatively well.  Suki is actually stopping this behaviour for up to 20 minutes at a time after I have pointed the cane at her and told her authoritatively to cease and desist!  I mean, 20 minutes may not seem very long to you, but the 20 minute segments mount up until I have gotten quite a bit more sleep before my normal wake-up time of 6 a.m.

Suki doesn't seem any the worse for waiting an extra hour or so to get fed (remember, she has her dry food available all the time anyway).  This seems to me to be a much better plan than locking her in the bathroom when she begins her shenanigans each morning. When I close the bathroom door, she cries so piteously that I can't get back to sleep and finally have to get up and let her out.  I know, I know, I am just an old softy and Suki knows very well how to use this "softiness" to her own advantage!  

Of course, no matter what she does, all is forgiven when she climbs up in my lap and starts purring.

As for myself, I actually have some good news this week -- when I visited the doctor this past Thursday, I was told that my potassium levels are now back within the normal range!  My doctor was very pleased.  

Of course, when I told him that I was continuing to feel unusually fatigued, he was no longer pleased.  I will never understand why doctors seem to dislike being told that there are still problems right after they announce that they, through the miracles of modern medicine, have fixed everything.  I mean, they really shouldn't take things so personally!

Otherwise, I guess I would have to say that things are not too bad at the moment.  I still do not feel well enough to return to the gym, but maybe in another month or two I will feel stronger again.

Thankfully, I continue to be able to do my art although not for such long periods as previously.  Of course, working on a drawing for 4 or 5 hours straight isn't really good for me anyway.  

I have actually been experimenting lately with drawings that involve much more difficult perspectives than previously.  As you will see when I post these new drawings, my skills in this area are rather diminished -- I seem to have forgotten everything I ever learned about creating perspective on a flat surface.  I am re-learning many things, however, and enjoying the challenge.

"Baptism of Our Lord"
by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

Today is the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.  This is the feast that ends the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany season and so the Church returns to the week days of Ordinary Time tomorrow, Monday.  

These coming days will lead us to Ash Wednesday (March 5th this year) and the season of Lent.  How quickly the time passes.  A month ago today, I was thinking of a young friend whose birthday is on December 12th and looking forward to the celebration of my own birthday on December 14th.  Christmas and New Year's were still to come.  Now here we are ready to return to Ordinary Time.

So, let me wish you all many blessings on this feast day.  Whatever your individual beliefs may be, I pray that we all may experience that peace which is beyond human understanding -- that peace which God alone can give.

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