Monday, April 27, 2015

Leopoldia Comosa at Rafal Vell.

I've been fruitlessly trying to find a deposit of fossil echinoids. I read a while ago it was near a farm called Rafal Vell. But I couldn't found a trace of it. No matter. It was a nice walk and I found many specimens of this pretty flower instead.

Acording to Wikipedia, Leopoldia comosa (syn. Muscari comosum) is a perennial bulbous plant. Usually called the Tassel Hyacinth, it is one of a number of species and genera also known as Grape Hyacinths. It is found in rocky ground and cultivated areas, such as cornfields and vineyards, in south-east Europe to Turkey and Iran, but has naturalized elsewhere. Other common names include Tufted Grape Hyacinth, Hairy Muscari and Edible Muscari.  

Described by Polunin as "a striking plant", it has a tuft of bright blue to violet-blue sterile flowers above brownish-green fertile flowers, which open from dark blue buds. It is this tuft which gives rise to the name "Tassel Hyacinth". The flower stem is 20–60 cm tall; individual flowers are borne on long stalks, purple in the case of the sterile upper flowers. Mature fertile flowers are 5–10 mm long with stalks of this length or more and are bell-shaped, opening at the mouth, where there are paler lobes. The linear leaves are 5–15 mm wide, with a central channel.

Illustration by Jacob Sturm. (1771-1848)

L. comosa naturalizes easily and may become invasive. It has spread northwards from its original distribution, for example appearing in the British Isles in the sixteenth century. The edible bulb is eaten in some Mediterranean countries, and under the name lampascioni inApulia and Basilicata, where it is grown for this purpose. In Greece and especially on Crete it is considered a real delicacy and collected in the wild. The cleaned bulbs are boiled several times, pickled and then kept in olive oil. I've never heard that anybody eat those bulbs in Menorca, but might try it one day.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Reseda Alba in a gray morning.

After having had a warm and sunny April and now when we are a few days to start the season today the morning has started gray and the temperatures have dropped eight degrees. Fortunately, it seems that only last a couple of days.

Reseda Alba. Its English name is White Mignonette, it is a medium to tall, branched, bushy, hairless plant. Leaves are mostly small, pinnately lobed with one or two pairs of lobes on each side. Flowers are white  with 6 sepals and petals borne in terminal spikes.

It grows in both waste and cultivated land, usually on calcareous soils.

Mignonette flowers are extremely fragrant. It is grown for the sweet ambrosial scent of its flowers. It is used in flower arrangements, perfumes and potpourri. A Victorian favourite, it was commonly grown in pots and in window-boxes to scent the city air. It was used as a sedative and a treatment for bruises in Roman times. The volatile oil is used in perfumery. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Sant Jordi. Roses & Books.

"La Diada de Sant Jordi" is on 23rd April. It is also called the Feast or Festival of St George. Sant Jordi is the Catalan name of Saint George, who is the patron saint of Catalonia.

Traditionally, on Sant Jordi's day the men in Catalunya and also in most of the catalan language & culture regions, give their sweetheart a red rose, and in recent years a new Sant Jordi tradition is that the ladies give the men a book.  There are bookstalls and book markets all over the towns and cities.

Sant Jordi Festival started yesterday in Mahon and it will continue throughout the entire weekend.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Royal Leicestershire. 17th. Regiment of Foot.

The troublous days that marked the closing period of the reign of King James II saw the birth of The Royal Leicestershire Regiment.

 On July 11, 1725, the regiment embarked for Minorca, arriving by the 14th of August. The regiment remained on duty at the island until 1749, lending aid to the garrison of Gibraltar during its siege in 1727. 

Richard Montgomery irish-born soldier who served in the British Army. When the American Revolutionary War broke out, Montgomery took up the Revolutionary cause, and was elected to the New York Provincial Congress in May 1775

In 1732, Whightman’s mustered 19 officers, 4 staff, 30 sergeants, 30 corporals, 20 drummers and 441 private men. By virtue of a Royal Warrant for June 12th, 1739, the regiment was augmented by ten men per company, bringing the establishment strength up by one hundred. Each company then consisted of three sergeants, three corporals, two drummers, and 70 privates. The regiment sailed for Ireland in 1749, landing at Cork on October 5th. From then until 1757, the regiment served at various duty posts throughout Ireland. On 1st July, 1757, a Royal Warrant officially assigned the numerical designation “17” to the regiment.

 St. George Chapel at Leicester Cathedral
The chapel, enclosed by a carved wooden screen, was reconstructed in 1921 and contains memorials to the men of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment. All recorded and all remembered. 

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Small beauty among the rocks.

Centranthus Calcitrapae is a Mediterranean annual cycle plant, that lives in dry wasteland, but can also be found in walls or rock faces.

 The arrangement of the small, pink flowers, which look like an umbel, is quite characteristic; the leaves on the stalk are greatly divided, but the ones at the base are only dentate; there is not much chance of mistaking it for other plants. 


In 1816, this plant was published in Curtis's Botanical Magazine with a list of various other Valeriana species.  The plant pictured here, identified as Valeriana montana rotundifolia, is now known as Centranthus calcitrapa.  It is a hardy perennial, native to southern Europe.

It is not a proper Valeriana and so it has no known sedative effects or medicinal uses.

I found this specimen in a location near Mahon that has such a peculiar name as Dalt Gibraltar.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

the deceiving Mirror Orchid.

Ophrys speculum is a very beautiful and very rare flower which is hard to spot but worth looking for. It is also called Ophrys ciliata (BIVONA-BERNARDI, 1806.)

Lateral sepals bear brown reddish streaks and petals are brown, short and winded onto themselves backward. The lip is characteristic with a shiny blue mirror surrounded by a yellow margin and bordered with long brown reddish hairs. 

The unusual shape and colours are a successful attempt by this orchid to fool the male of a species of scoliid wasp into mistaking it for a female. Both the insect and orchid have brown hairs while the mauve spot looks like the sky being reflected on the wasp’s wing.

The flower also produces a chemical similar to pheromone that is produced by the female wasp. The deception is so complete that the male scoliid wasp lands excitedly on to the flower and attempts to mate with it.

Mimicking female insects is a strategy used by insect orchids to attract male insects. In most species, the insects mimicked are bees and wasps. 

Blooming from March to May. The mirror orchid is found across the Mediterranean region, from Portugal to Lebanon but is absent from Cyprus and northern Italy. On the other hand, it is protected on the whole Spanish territory.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Coprinus Comatus

It has been the rainiest March on Menorca's  records since 1911.

And after a particularly wet winter, which seems to been over by now the sunny days have make nature reborn. In a stroll around the middle of the island some new flowers and mushrooms can be found.

Coprinus comatus, the shaggy ink cap, lawyer's wig, or shaggy mane, is a common fungus often seen growing on lawns, along gravel roads and waste areas. The young fuit bodies first appear as white cylinders emerging from the ground.

In Menorca is called Barbuda and it is edible. The taste is mild; cooking produces a large quantity of liquid. It can sometimes be used in mushroom soup. Large quantities of microwaved-then-frozen shaggy manes are delicious when used as the liquid component of risotto, replacing the usual chicken stock.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holly Week in Mahon.

Holly Week commemorates the Passion and Resurrection of Christ in the Catholic countries.

Mahon has its own devote processions, specially the Good Friday one that took place yesterday.

The processions are organized by hermandades and cofradías, religious brotherhoods. Members precede the pasos dressed in penitential robes with curucutxus, (tall, pointed hoods with eye-holes).

The curucutxus were designed so the faithful could repent in anonymity, without being recognised as self-confessed sinners .

At the centre of each procession are the pasos, an image or set of images set atop a moveable float of wood. The sculptures themselves are carved and painted, and often lifesize or larger. All of the principal images of the Semana Santa are on display for veneration in their home churches all year round.

Some of the different churches brotherhoods in Mahon:

 Confraternidad de Centuriones de San Cornelio

Cofradia de la Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen.