Sunday, 19 February 2017

Almond Tree - Prunus dulcis

"Prunus dulcis -- Almond Tree in Bloom", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Almond Seeds showing both outer hull and
the hard shell covering the almond "nut"
The almond (Prunus dulcis) is a species of tree native to the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and North Africa. "Almond" is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated "nut" of this tree.  I placed the word "nut" in quote marks because the fruit of the almond is not a true nut but is, instead, a seed. This type of seed, which is known as a drupe, consists of an outer hull and a hard shell holding the seed within. (see photo above.)

The almond tree is a deciduous tree, growing 4–10 m (13–33 ft.) in height, with a trunk of up to 30 cm (12 in.) in diameter. The young twigs are green at first, becoming purplish where exposed to sunlight, then grey in their second year. The leaves are 3–5 inches long, with a serrated margin. The flowers are white to pale pink, 3–5 cm (1–2 in.) in diameter with five petals, produced singly or in pairs. 

There are still wild almond trees to be found growing in their native region. The fruit of the wild forms of the almond tree contains glycoside amygdalin, "which becomes transformed into deadly prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) after crushing, chewing, or any other injury to the seed." So, while wild almond species are toxic, domesticated almonds are not. 

Almond trees were domesticated well over 3500 years ago. In fact, domesticated almonds appeared in the Early Bronze Age (3000–2000 BC). A well-known archaeological example of the almond is the fruit found in Tutankhamen's tomb in Egypt (c. 1325 BC), probably imported from domesticated trees in the eastern Mediterranean region. 

The word "almond" comes from Old French almande or allemande which came from the Late Latin amandula, which was derived from the Greek word amygdala (ἀμυγδαλή), meaning almonds. As for the botanical name for this tree, Prunis dulcis, the genus name, Prunus, comes from the Latin, Prunun, meaning Plum Tree and is used to refer to all members of the Plum family which includes the almond tree. The species name, dulcis, comes from the Latin and means “sweet” or “tender”. 

The almond is highly revered in some cultures. The tree originated in the Middle East and is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. In the Hebrew Bible, for example, the almond was a symbol of watchfulness and promise due to its early flowering. 

The most notable mention of the almond is found in Numbers 17 where Levi is chosen from the other tribes of Israel by Aaron's rod, which brought forth almond flowers. According to tradition, the rod of Aaron bore sweet almonds on one side and bitter on the other; if the Israelites followed the Lord, the sweet almonds would be ripe and edible, but if they were to forsake the path of the Lord, the bitter almonds would predominate. 

Almond Blossom Menorah
The almond blossom supplied a model for the menorah which stood in the Holy Temple, "Three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on one branch, with a knob and a flower; and three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on the other...on the candlestick itself were four cups, shaped like almond blossoms, with its knobs and flowers" (Exodus 25:33–34; 37:19–20). 

Holy card showing
Jesus and Mary with
almond blossoms.

Similarly, Christian symbolism has used almond blossoms as a symbol of the Virgin Birth of Jesus and many paintings often include almond blossoms encircling the baby Jesus.

Portions of the above text were taken from various Internet sources.


Suki observing the world from her chair!
(photo by A.P., 2017)
Well, here we are once again -- Suki taking her after-breakfast nap and me trying to finalize another blog posting.

Suki seems as healthy as usual while I have, sadly, been struck down by another flu-type virus which has left me almost voiceless!

Feeling as I do at the moment, this is probably not a good time to make any long-term decisions regarding my blog.  However, I had been giving it much thought prior to getting ill again and so my mind was pretty well made up before I started getting sick on Thursday.

I have decided, at least for the foreseeable future, that I will only post when I have a new drawing which I want to share. I will, as usual, also share with you the results of my research on the item I have chosen to exhibit -- research which is part of my own particular creative process. The posting may or may not include any comments or stories about Suki or myself -- it will simply depend on how I am feeling at the time I get ready to publish the post.  

Meanwhile, I wish you all the very best -- and I will be in touch again before too long.


Sunday, 5 February 2017

Hedychium coronarium Butterfly Ginger

"Hedychium coronarium -- Butterfly Ginger", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Hedychium coronarium, commonly called white ginger lily or white garland flower, is a perennial flowering plant and a member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to China, Laos, Myanmar and to the Himalayas region of Nepal and India. Over time, Hedychium coronarium was introduced to other locations such as Brazil and Hawaii. Unfortunately, as is so often the result of mankind's meddling with Nature, in these locations it is now listed as an invasive species. 

The white ginger lily produces pure white, showy flowers which emerge from one large bud sometime in late spring or early summer at the tip of each unbranched stem. Each flower lasts about one day. Several hundred flowers can appear from each bud during a typical 6-week blooming period. Each stem grows to about five feet tall.

These herbaceous perennials spread by underground rhizomes, often forming dense clumps of multiple stems. Large, simple leaves are borne on either side of the thick green stems. The flowers eventually give way to showy seed pods full of bright red seeds. 

The genus name, Hedychium, comes from the Greek words “hedys” meaning sweet and “chion” meaning snow. The species name, coronarium, is from the Latin and means crown, wreath or garland. The white ginger lily has been used in wreaths, garlands and leis for centuries. 

Another way in which these flowers have been used over the centuries is as a fragrance for perfumes, pomades and soaps using a process known as enfleurage. [Enfleurage is a process that uses odorless fats that are solid at room temperature to capture the fragrant compounds exuded by plants.

I was attracted to the idea of drawing this particular plant because of the butterfly shape of the flower petals.  It is interesting how quickly our brains try to find patterns or similarities to familiar objects whenever we see something new.  Of course, as we are all aware, many plants, insects, reptiles and animals have evolved in such a way as to appear to be some other thing or creature at first glance.  It is certainly a good way to hide in plain sight or to appear to be something unpalatable or inedible.  However, this flower just happens to remind us of the shape of butterflies and that is a shape that most of us find both easily recognizable as well as pleasing.

Portions of the above text were taken from various Internet sources.


Suki settling down in her "after-lunch,
favourite chair"!
Suki had a difficult week.  

For some reason, she ended up getting sick to her stomach early in the week (after gobbling down her lunch) and, as a consequence, she has been allowed only a very small serving of her turkey with gravy a couple of times a day since. Otherwise, she has been on a steady diet of dry food and water!  

Every day, I have had to listen to Suki complain about the situation. I am sure that if I could understand "cat-speak", I would hear Suki saying something like: "Honest, I am feeling fine again so there is no reason not to give me a big dish of the good stuff..."

Thus far, on her restricted diet, she hasn't gotten sick again. Slowly, now, I intend to begin increasing the amount of wet food I give her daily while decreasing the amount of dry food until we are back to her regular feeding schedule.  Whatever happens, I do not want Miss Suki gaining back the weight which she has, with my patient assistance, lost during these past months -- especially because I know that I have to take her for an appointment with the vet before too much longer!

As for me, I continue to try and regain the strength and energy I lost while recently sick with the "flu".  Actually, because of the way I am feeling these days, I am considering ending the regular posting of my blog, salliesART. While I continue to do my art work whenever I feel well enough, I, too often these days, don't feel well enough to even write my name!  So, as you can imagine, the pressure to have a new drawing ready each week is putting me under more stress these days than I need or like.  As well, I often feel forced to push myself to keep working on a drawing even when I don't really have the energy to do so.

I could, perhaps, try posting every two weeks or even once a month and it is possible that I may choose one of these two options. I haven't come to a final decision yet and I would certainly welcome your comments or suggestions about the matter.

It has been almost ten years now since I started this blog and so maybe it is time I closed it down -- or at least took a bit of a break from regular postings.  

So, I may be posting something next Sunday or I may wait until Sunday, the 19th, before posting again.  At this point, it all depends on how I am feeling in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, I wish all of you much happiness and peaceful joy in the days ahead.