Category Archives: OCC

OCC Ornamental Horticulture Club’s First Place Garden

South Coast Plaza has a Spring Garden Show every year, and every year they have a contest for local landscape designers and schools to build judged gardens inside the mall. This year’s garden theme was “Healing Gardens”, and Orange Coast College’s Ornamental Horticulture Department Club built a garden for the visually impaired; OCC’s garden won first place in the competition!

A head-on view of Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  The garden's centerpiece is a 1957 restored globe for the blind, with the world geography in exaggerated height to be sensed by the touch of blind people; the locations of plants in the garden was indicated in braille on the globe.  This picture was taken Thursday April 27, 2012 at ~9pm, less than 48 hours after my in-progress pictures. (Marc C. Perkins)
A head-on view of the garden.

The team had only three days to build the entire garden on site. I took in-progress pictures of the team building the garden less than 48 hours before, and was amazed when I returned and saw the finished product. It’s a gorgeous work, and it also seems very functional for the visually impaired. The plants were chosen for texture and scent, and many are labeled in Braille:

A small portion of Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  This image shows how many of the plants were described in braille. (Marc C. Perkins)But the centerpiece of the garden is a restored 1957 braille world globe, one of only 500 made.

A view of the braille world globe in Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  The garden's centerpiece is a 1957 restored globe for the blind, with the world geography in exaggerated height to be sensed by the touch of blind people; the locations of plants in the garden was indicated in braille on the globe. (Marc C. Perkins)
The Braille world globe seen in front of the waterfall.

The globe was contributed to the project by the club advisor, OCC Ornamental Horticulture Professor Rick Harlow. It features the world geography in exaggerated relief, so all the land on the globe can be sensed by touch. The club added Braille markers to the globe indicating where all the Braille-labeled plants are from.

A closeup view of the braille world globe in Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  The garden's centerpiece is a 1957 restored globe for the blind, with the world geography in exaggerated height to be sensed by the touch of blind people; the locations of plants in the garden was indicated in braille on the globe. (Marc C. Perkins)
A closeup view of the braille world globe.

The garden has other features to help the visually impaired, including wind chimes and a waterfall to provide auditory cues to direction, easy to use railings, easily sensible floor textures, and a speaking weather meter. The bottom of the waterfall grabbed my attention:

A closeup of the water feature installed in Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  This is a long exposure image, so the water blurred into nice streams. (Marc C. Perkins)The garden is just plain beautiful; it’s amazing what the club was able to do with such a limited space in just a few days.

A view of the braille world globe and one of the garden benches of Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  The garden's centerpiece is a 1957 restored globe for the blind, with the world geography in exaggerated height to be sensed by the touch of blind people; the locations of plants in the garden was indicated in braille on the globe. (Marc C. Perkins)Doesn’t it call out to you to relax in it?

The garden will be on display for this weekend only (April 27-29, 2012), so if you want to see it come quick!

More pictures

To see more pictures of the garden, head to my two galleries below:

Ute Smith works to artfully wrap a vine around a post at Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's in-progress installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for this year's show is "healing gardens", and the OCC team is installing a "garden for the blind," which will be complete with a braille world globe and braille labels.  This picture was taken Tuesday April 25, 2012 at ~11pm, as the team was working frantically to meet their Thursday-morning deadline.  This image was taken at a high ISO using the ambient light in the dim mall, so it's noisier than my typical images (and thus I'd recommend against printing it large). (Marc C. Perkins)
Garden Installation

A 3/4 view (with award ribbon visible!) of Orange Coast College's Ornamental Horticulture Club's first-place winning garden installation at the 2012 South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show in Costa Mesa, CA.  The theme for the show was "healing gardens", and the OCC team installed a "garden for the visually impaired."  The garden's centerpiece is a 1957 restored globe for the blind, with the world geography in exaggerated height to be sensed by the touch of blind people; the locations of plants in the garden was indicated in braille on the globe.  This picture was taken Thursday April 27, 2012 at ~9pm, less than 48 hours after my in-progress pictures. (Marc C. Perkins)
Completed Garden

OCC’s team also won first place in the 2011 competition, and I have a few pictures of that garden in my 2011 Horticulture Garden Gallery.

Getting There

South Coast Plaza is at the intersection of the 405 Freeway and Bristol St. in Costa Mesa, CA. The garden show is located in the portion of the mall that houses the Crate and Barrel and Apple stores. Parking and admission are free.

Philipp Rittermann’s “Emperor’s River” Gallery Opening at Orange Coast College

Hutong Neighborhood and Huaneng Coal Fired Power Plant, Dezhou, Shandong Province, China. ©2010 Philipp Scholz Rittermann - Image reproduced by permission from the author.

This past Saturday I went to a lecture and gallery opening celebration for Philipp Scholz Rittermann’s “Emperor’s River” project at Orange Coast College’s Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion. The talk and photographs were focused on Rittermann’s work from more than two months spent traveling along China’s Grand Canal, a millennia-old canal that runs 1,100 miles from Bejing to Hangzhou.

Emperor’s River focuses on telling the story of the people and places behind the recent massive expansion of China’s economy. He traveled the entire length of the Grand Canal, getting images of places that most western photographers ignore. There’s no Great Wall, few bright city lights, and no gorgeous mountain landscapes. But there are construction workers toiling, families working barges that follow the same routes people have have traveled for centuries, old buildings being torn down to be replaced with high-rises, and all the contrasts that come with quick industrialization.

Overview, Night Fish Market, Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China. ©2010 Philipp Scholz Rittermann - Image reproduced by permission from the author.

I’ll be honest: during the talk I found the photographs to be good, but not addictive (except for the one at the top of this post, which grabbed me instantly). The images were being projected onto a large screen, but said projector wasn’t particularly detail-capable. The same goes for his website’s page on Emperor’s River – the pictures look good, but you might wonder “why should I go to a gallery for these, if I can just see them on the web?”

The reason you should go is that Mr. Rittermann’s speciality is to capture scenes that have many individual stories in them, and then to create giant prints that call out to the viewer to go over them inch by inch, revealing a bit more with every inch traveled.  He does this by photographing each scene as a panorama, stitching together the individual images1 to create a cohesive whole that is insanely high resolution, and so can be printed gigantic.

When I say gigantic, I mean it: some of the prints in the gallery are ten feet wide, and most are at least five or six feet wide. And these aren’t intended to be viewed from five or six feet away (as many large photographic prints are); there’s almost no noise visible in any of the prints, and they call out to you to stand with your nose touching the glass, peering into the scene absorbing all the minute details.

This construction site image is probably the best example:

High-rise apartment blocks under construction. Wuxi, Hangsu Province, China. ©2010 Philipp Scholz Rittermann - Image reproduced by permission from the author.

On the web, you’re probably looking at that and going “Okay, it’s a construction site. Um, yay?”  It’s well composed and gorgeously stitched, but at this resolution it’s basically just a construction site.  That’s essentially what I thought when I saw the image in the talk.

But when I saw the image in person, printed at more than six feet wide, I was able to see all the little details in precise, sharp focus. I could examine the stacking of individual bricks in each of the dozens of piles of them, I could look at how people were living in the lower floors of the mostly-completed buildings, I could look at the workers wandering the construction site, I could see the methodology of the construction in the background buildings, and as I spent more time I kept seeing more and more.  And the same thing happened with all the other prints (another excellent example is the second image I included, “Overview, Night Fish Market”; it’s just amazing in person).

This isn’t your typical splashy modern photography. The images aren’t over saturated (so refreshing!), and they don’t necessarily have a single element that pulls your eye in and makes you click “like” right away.  But each image has dozens of different scenes in it, and dozens of different stories to tell. These are images that need to be seen large, and when you do see them I guarantee that you’ll stand in front of each one for a good long time absorbing all the detail.

If you have the time, head over to the gallery and take a look (it’s free!). There are a few dozen prints of his up, and they’re all gorgeous.  Just be sure to get your nose right up to the glass, and look at them in depth.  You’ll be glad you did.

Getting There

Orange Coast College’s Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion: Mr. Rittermann’s show runs from April 7 through April 28, 2012.  The gallery is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11-7pm, and Saturday from 11-4pm; it is entirely free.  The gallery is located next to the Starbucks on OCC’s campus; the base address for the campus is 2701 Fairview Rd. in Costa Mesa, CA. The college has a map and directions page to get you to the campus, and the gallery’s website has a map locating the gallery on OCC’s rather large (and confusing) campus; I’d suggest printing the map if you’re unfamiliar with the campus.  Parking is free on Saturdays in any campus lot, but during the week all spaces on campus require a permit except for those with coin-operated meters.

1 Mr. Rittermann freely admits that he combines these individual images for artistic effect – choosing each image of the panorama to tell the story, not necessarily choosing images that are taken at the exact same moment.  So this isn’t single-frame, capture-a-moment-in-time photography; it’s different, in a good way.  And Mr. Rittermann is a master of panora stitching: horizontal lines, diagonal lines, rippling water, moving people, and parallax-inducing situations are everywhere (literally every single print is a stitched-together panorama), yet I didn’t see a single blending flaw other than a few ghost people and duplicate people in the prints.  And at 10-feet wide, blending flaws would be obvious (at least if I did the blending).

Support a good cause, if you so desire

I’ve just entered two pictures into the Humane Society’s World Spay Day photo contest.

Kira, a brown tabby, relaxing on a shelf next to a brick wall.  I love how she looks mildly inquirous while also looking serenly peaceful and comfortable.  She's also got her paws cutely folded up underneath her.  How cat like! (Marc C. Perkins)
Listening Cat is Happy to Hear About Your Problems
Lucca looking decidedly unimpressed.  This picture reminds me of a typical LOLCat image (e.g., http://icanhascheezburger.com); I think the caption would be something like "Unimpressed cat is unimpressed", "Meh", or "Is it really Monday already?".  But, sadly, I won't be submitting it to that website, as their terms of service for uploaded images give them way too many rights for free (http://corp.cheezburger.com/legal/terms-of-service/). (Marc C. Perkins)
Unimpressed Cat is Unimpressed

I personally donate to the Humane Society, and am happy to help a good cause. As such, in addition to entering my images into their judged category, I’ve also entered them into their “fundraiser” competition. In this competition the entries compete for votes, which can be obtained by donating to the Humane Society:

“Kira”

Vote

“Lucca”

Vote

There’s no way I can win the fundraiser category, and I don’t want to try1. Instead, I want to use this as an opportunity to give you an excuse to donate a little something to a worthy cause. And, just to reinforce the idea that I’m not in this for the fundraiser competition prize, if I do somehow win I’ll donate the prize (an iPad 2 and iPod) to the Orange Coast College Disabled Students Center.

The contest ends February 29 at 10:00pm EST, so donate before then if you desire (by following the links above).

1 Votes are tallied per individual picture, not per photographer. So, by posting two pictures I’m possibly splitting any votes I get. But this way you get to vote for your favorite of my two cats!

More pictures

To see more of my cat pictures, head to my Cats Gallery, my Cat Closeups Gallery, or my Cat Tongue Closeups Gallery.

My 11 favorite pictures of 2011

It’s the end of the year, and that means that it’s time to make “best of 2011” lists.  This blog will be no exception.

This year was a year of exploration for me, thanks mainly to my good friend Greg (of Alpenglow Images; he just posted his own top 12 of 2011), who inspired me to push my boundaries photographically, as well as to start sharing my photography online.  But it’s far too easy to ramble on in posts like this. So, here are my 11 favorite images from 2011 (with many thanks to Michael Russell and Mike Cavaroc for inspiring this with their own posts earlier this week).

First, my top three:

Closeup of flower buds on the Agave vilmoriniana inflorescence. (Marc Perkins)
The Future, from my Agave and Aloe series (1 | 2).

I woke up to a foggy morning at Lower Moro campground in Crystal Cove, and found this beautiful little purple and white flower covered in dew.  I love the few strands of spider silk connecting the flower to its stalk, also covered in water droplets.  A botanist friend of mine identified this as _Stephanomeria sp._, a plant in Asteraceae. (Thanks Jeremy!) (Marc C. Perkins)
Foggy Morning Sunshine, from my Crystal Cove State Park series (1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6).

Kira, a brown tabby, relaxing on a shelf next to a brick wall.  I love how she looks mildly inquirous while also looking serenly peaceful and comfortable.  She's also got her paws cutely folded up underneath her.  How cat like! (Marc C. Perkins)
Listening Cat is Happy to Hear About Your Problems – 2 (aka: Kira relaxing), from my cat galleries (1 | 2).

And now for the rest:

Sunset at Corona Del Mar State Beach, seen from a lookout above the beach at Inspiration Point.  I love how the wet beach sand looks golden / silver in color.  Three silhouetted figures stand in the foreground (a photographer, lighting assistant, and girl having quinceanera pictures taken of her in a fancy dress). (Marc C. Perkins)
Metallic Beach, from my Inspiration Point and Corona Del Mar gallery; taken at Inspiration Point in Newport Beach, CA.

Nauset Light at dusk on a cloudy winter night shortly after Christmas.  The light streams out to sea, visible thanks to a light mist in the air.  This image is far better viewed on a solid black background, so the glow of the sky is more visible.  Nauset light is in Eastham, MA on Cape Cod. (Marc Perkins)
A Light in the Dark (aka: Nauset Light at dusk), from an unpublished gallery. Taken in Eastham, MA shortly after Christmas 2010.

Mohammed (Marc C. Perkins)
Mohammed, from my 24 Faces of Occupy Irvine series.

Lucca looking decidedly unimpressed.  This picture reminds me of a typical LOLCat image (e.g., http://icanhascheezburger.com); I think the caption would be something like "Unimpressed cat is unimpressed", "Meh", or "Is it really Monday already?".  But, sadly, I won't be submitting it to that website, as their terms of service for uploaded images give them way too many rights for free (http://corp.cheezburger.com/legal/terms-of-service/). (Marc C. Perkins)
Unimpressed Cat is Unimpressed, from my cat galleries (1 | 2).

Nobska Lighthouse in Woods Hole, MA on Cape Cod.  The red-roofed keeper's house and white and black lighthouse are both visible, as the wind blows the flags in front of a clear blue sky. I love how the lighthouse feels like it standing proud; a little bit of Americana.  This image is cropped to be printed at 12x18". (Marc Perkins)
Nobska Light: Classic Americana, from an unpublished gallery. Taken in Woods Hole, MA.

A closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from the side.  Many people confuse the bracts (red leaves) with the actual flowers; they're quite different.   This macro shot shows multiple pseudanthia  (flowering structures) surrounded by a sea of red bracts (colored leaves associated with a flower; mostly out of focus in this picture).  The flowers themselves are called cyanthia; the green tissue surrounding each flower is an involucre, a cluster of bracts (leaves) fused into a cup-shaped structure that contains multiple male flowers and one female flower within it.  Emerging from the involucre you can see red filaments supporting yellow anthers on the male flowers, and you can even see some of the pollen grains.  Also emerging from each involucre you can see a number of dark-purple structures supported by short stalks (that are about a tenth of the height of the filaments).   The bright yellow, liquid-filled structures attached to the involucre are nectar glands filled with nectar to attract pollinators. (Marc C. Perkins)
Poinsettia Inflorescence Extreme Closeup, from my poinsettia series (1 | 2). Taken at Orange Coast College’s Ornamental Horticulture Department.

A large agave inflorescence that's still growing seen at the entrance to Little Corona beach in Corona Del Mar (Newport Beach), CA just before sunset.  The distinctive arch rock of Little Corona is visible in the ocean in the background. (Marc C. Perkins)
Agave Inflorescence at the Beach 2, from my Little Corona Agave post. Taken in Corona Del Mar (Newport Beach), CA.

A vertical view of the arch rock offshore at Little Corona after sunset, in black and white using a long exposure to make the ocean water silky smooth.  I love the soft curves of the clouds drifting overhead. (Marc C. Perkins)
Vertical Arch Rock and Clouds, from my Little Corona long exposure series (1 | 2). Taken at Robert E Badham Marine Life Refuge in Corona Del Mar (Newport Beach), CA.

Those are my top 11 pictures of the year!

As an encore I’m going to include one more image. While this didn’t make the cut artistically, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and thus seems to belong here.

I'm pretty sure these are two southern pacific rattlesnakes (_Crotalus oreganus_ helleri) mating.  I first noticed the pair when I was only a foot or two away from them on a trail; after moving a bit away I captured this shot of the two snakes wrapped around each other.  Sadly, I think my presence may have interrupted them. (Marc C. Perkins)
Two Rattlesnakes Mating, from my Crystal Cove State Park series (1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6).  Taken in Crystal Cove State Park, CA.

Poinsettia flower closeups take two: getting even closer

[This is the second in a series of three posts; the first post is: Poinsettias up close: where are the flowers? and the third is Poinsettia flowers part three: the female parts.]

A closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from directly above it. Many people confuse the bracts (red leaves) with the petals of flowers; they're quite different.   This macro shot shows a number of bracts (colored leaves associated with a flower) surrounding the flowers (green, red, and yellow structures) and extending out of the frame.  The flowers themselves are called cyanthia; the green tissue surrounding each flower is an involucre, a cluster of bracts (leaves) fused into a cup-shaped structure that contains multiple male flowers and one female flower within it.  Emerging from the involucre you can see red filaments supporting yellow anthers on the male flowers; a single female flower should be emerging from the center of each flower.  The bright yellow, liquid-filled structures attached to the involucre are nectar glands filled with yummy sweet nectar to attract pollinators; on less-developed flowers they look like little light-green lips. (Marc C. Perkins)
A closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from directly above. This macro image shows a number of inflorescences (green, red, and yellow structures) surrounded by bracts (colored leaves associated with a flower) extending out of the frame.

Earlier this week I posted about finding the flowers in poinsettias (spoiler: the petals aren’t the big red structures!).  After writing that post, though, I realized it was missing a good closeup of the flower clusters themselves.  So, yesterday afternoon I took a quick break from my end-of-the-semester piles of grading and headed back to Orange Coast College’s Ornamental Horticulture Department to get a few more pictures.

The flowers of poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are actually cyanthia: flowering structures composed of many individual male or female flowers surrounded by modified leaves.  Here’s what they look like:

A closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from the side.  Many people confuse the bracts (red leaves) with the actual flowers; they're quite different.   This macro shot shows multiple pseudanthia surrounded by a sea of red bracts (colored leaves associated with a flower).  The flowers themselves are called cyanthia; the green tissue surrounding each flower is an involucre, a cluster of bracts (leaves) fused into a cup-shaped structure that contains multiple male flowers and one female flower within it.  Emerging from the involucre you can see red filaments supporting yellow anthers on the male flowers, and you can even see some of the pollen grains.  Also emerging from each involucre you can see a number of dark-purple structures supported by short stalks (that are about a tenth of the height of the filaments; I'm not sure what these are).   The bright yellow, liquid-filled structures attached to the involucre are nectar glands filled with nectar to attract pollinators. (Marc C. Perkins)
A closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from the side, showing how the cyanthia branch off of the tip of a stem and are surrounded by red bracts.

To see that image larger, follow this link to see it as a large, high-resolution image.

That picture shows multiple cyanthia (flower clusters) at the end of a stem surrounded by a sea of red bracts (colored leaves associated with a flower). Each green ball tipped with red is an involucre, a cluster of bracts (leaves) fused into a cup-shaped structure that contains multiple male flowers and one female flower within it.

Let’s look at the involucres and their flowers even closer:

A closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from the side.  Many people confuse the bracts (red leaves) with the actual flowers; they're quite different.   This macro shot shows multiple pseudanthia surrounded by a sea of red bracts (colored leaves associated with a flower; mostly out of focus in this picture).  The flowers themselves are called cyanthia; the green tissue surrounding each flower is an involucre, a cluster of bracts (leaves) fused into a cup-shaped structure that contains multiple male flowers and supposedly one female flower within it, though I see multiple stigma in each involucre.  Emerging from the involucre you can see red filaments supporting yellow anthers on the male flowers, and you can even see some of the pollen grains.  Also emerging from each involucre you can see a number of dark-purple stigmas supported by short styles (that are about a tenth of the height of the filaments).   The bright yellow, liquid-filled structures attached to the involucre are nectar glands filled with nectar to attract pollinators. (Marc C. Perkins)
A closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from the side. Follow the link below to see the image at twice the size.

To see that image in all its glory, follow this link to see it as a large, high-resolution image.

Emerging from each involucre you can see red filaments supporting yellow anthers that are dusty with individual pollen grains.  The filaments are emerging from the multiple male flowers growing within each involucre.   Also emerging from each involucre you can see a number of dark-purple structures supported by short stalks; I believe these may be the stigmas and styles of the flowers (though this species is supposed to have only a single female flower per involucre with a stigma divided into three sections, so I’m not certain what those dark-purple structures are).

[edited 1/20/2012: the dark purple structures are indeed not the female flowers, as I write about in this post. I’m not at all sure what these small structures are. Anyone have any ideas?]

The bright yellow, liquid-filled structures attached to the involucre are nectar glands filled with nectar (to attract pollinators).  A few individual pollen grains are stuck to the surface of the left-most nectar gland.

I’ll leave you with a crop of that last image showing two cyanthia in more detail

A sample of the detail visibile in my "Poinsettia inflorescence extreme closeup".  To see the full image or purchase a copy, go to that image.  That picture is a closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from the side.  Many people confuse the bracts (red leaves) with the actual flowers; they're quite different.   This macro shot shows multiple pseudanthia surrounded by a sea of red bracts (colored leaves associated with a flower; mostly out of focus in this picture).  The flowers themselves are called cyanthia; the green tissue surrounding each flower is an involucre, a cluster of bracts (leaves) fused into a cup-shaped structure that contains multiple male flowers and supposedly one female flower within it, though I see multiple stigma in each involucre.  Emerging from the involucre you can see red filaments supporting yellow anthers on the male flowers, and you can even see some of the pollen grains.  Also emerging from each involucre you can see a number of dark-purple stigmas supported by short styles (that are about a tenth of the height of the filaments).   The bright yellow, liquid-filled structures attached to the involucre are nectar glands filled with nectar to attract pollinators. (Marc C. Perkins)
Two cyanthia of a poinsettia flower cluster, with anthers and associated structures easily visible.  This is a sample of the detail visibile in the image posted above.

And, if you want your own poinsettias to admire, head to Orange Coast College this Friday: they’re having their annual poinsettia sale, which is open to the public.  See my first post in this series for more information.

More pictures

To see more of my poinsettia pictures, head to my Poinsettia Gallery.

Poinsettias up close: where are the flowers?

[This is the first in a series of three posts; the second post is: Poinsettia flower closeups take two: getting even closer and the third is Poinsettia flowers part three: the female parts.]

Orange Coast College’s Ornamental Horticulture Department is just plain awesome. The department’s landscaped gardens are easily the most beautiful spot on campus, they teach a wide array of neat classes (landscape design, plant propagation, cacti and succulents, etc.), and they’ve got the nicest faculty and staff around.

To help fund their department, and provide a lab opportunity for their plant propagation class, every fall the department rears thousands of poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) in their greenhouses for sale to the public. This year’s sale is this Friday (December 9), and their greenhouses are currently full of beautiful poinsettias.

I just had to take a look at the plants last week:

A small portion of one of five greenhouses in Orange Coast College's Horticulture Department that are filled with poinsettias being grown for their annual 2011 poinsettia sale.  This image focuses on a single ice punch poinsettia, highlighting how the red and white leaves are nothing more than bracts - colored leaves grown near a flower.  The actual flowers are the green, red, and yellow structures at the top of the plant (end of the stem). (Marc C. Perkins)
A small portion of one of five greenhouses in Orange Coast College's Horticulture Department that are filled with poinsettias being grown for their annual 2011 poinsettia sale. The plants in the foreground are the "Ice Punch" variety.

Many people think that the big red (or red and white, in the picture above) structures are the flower petals of poinsettias; they’re not.  The big red structures are bracts: specialized leaves associated with a flower that are typically brightly colored (usually to help attract pollinators to inconspicuous flowers).  The actual flowers of the plant are located at the ends of the stems, and are significantly smaller and less noticeable.  Look closely at the picture above, though, and you’ll see little green, red, and yellow clusters at the top of the plant; those are the flowers.

A closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from the side. Many people confuse the bracts (red and white leaves on this "Ice Punch" poinsettia) with the petals of flowers; they're quite different.   This macro shot shows a number of bracts (colored leaves associated with a flower) surrounding the flowers (green, red, and yellow structures) and extending out of the frame.  The flowers themselves are called cyanthia; the green tissue surrounding each flower is an involucre, a cluster of bracts (leaves) fused into a cup-shaped structure that contains multiple male flowers and one female flower within it.  Emerging from the involucre you can see red filaments supporting yellow anthers on the male flowers; a single female flower should be emerging from the center of each flower.  The bright yellow structures attached to the involucre are nectar glands filled with yummy sweet nectar to attract pollinators; on less-developed flowers they look like little light-green lips. (Marc C. Perkins)
A closeup of an Ice Punch poinsettia flower cluster from the side.

In the picture above we can see that the true flowers of the poinsettia are not the brightly colored leaves, but instead are these small green and red structures. The yellow things that look like lips are nectar glands, and the green balls with red filaments are the flowers (which are more appropriately termed pseudanthia or inflorescences, since they’re actually multiple flowers in a single structure). Let’s look at them closer:

A closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from directly above it. Many people confuse the bracts (red leaves) with the petals of flowers; they're quite different.   This macro shot shows a number of bracts (colored leaves associated with a flower) surrounding the flowers (green, red, and yellow structures) and extending out of the frame.  The inflorescences are called cyanthia; the green tissue surrounding each one is an involucre, a cluster of bracts (leaves) fused into a cup-shaped structure that contains multiple male flowers and one female flower within it.  Emerging from the involucre you can see red filaments supporting yellow anthers on the male flowers; a single female flower should be emerging from the center of each flower.  The bright yellow, liquid-filled structures attached to the involucre are nectar glands filled with yummy sweet nectar to attract pollinators; on less-developed flowers they look like little light-green lips. (Marc C. Perkins)
A closeup of a poinsettia flower cluster from directly above. Many people confuse the bracts (red leaves) with the petals of flowers; they're quite different.

This macro shot shows a number of red bracts surrounding the flowers and extending out of the frame. The green balls tipped with red are individual inflorescences called cyanthia, which are composed of multiple flowers surrounded by modified leaves1. The green tissue surrounding each inflorescence is an involucre, a cluster of bracts (modified leaves) fused into a cup-shaped structure that contains multiple male flowers and one female flower within it.

Emerging from each involucre are red filaments supporting yellow anthers that are being grown by the male flowers (the anthers produce and release pollen).  A single female flower should be emerging from the center of each involucre, but isn’t easily visible in the picture.

The yellow liquid-filled structures attached to each involucre are nectar glands filled with nectar to attract pollinators.  On less-developed inflorescences the nectar glands look like little light-green lips.

If you’re in the Orange County area and want your own poinsettias to observe the flowers of, head to OCC this Friday and pick some up for yourself!  You’ll get a cool botanical specimen, and will be supporting a great program in the process. Oh yeah, and you’ll have a nice pretty plant for the holiday season.

[This is the first in a series of three posts; the second post is: Poinsettia flower closeups take two: getting even closer and the third is Poinsettia flowers part three: the female parts.]

1 Yes, the plant works hard to hide its flowers. First there are dozens of large colorful bracts, and then smaller green ones. Sheesh!

OCC Graduation

I’m a full-time faculty member at Orange Coast College, and part of my duties are to attend graduation at the end of the spring semester. The first time I attended graduation as a faculty member was very odd; I had been used to being the student, the one walking across the stage and getting the diploma, but now I was one of those oddly dressed professors walking in first.

My role is to be a shiny prop who walks in and out of the arena all seriously and academically, but does nothing else other than be quiet and add a hint of retro medieval fashion to the day. It’s an easy job, and sometimes the speeches are even decent. But I’m really there for the students: they’ve worked hard to get where they are, so the least I can do is show up and add a touch of formality to their big day. And it’s always fun, as the students’ excitement is highly contagious.  This year I knew more than a dozen students walking across the stage, and I had a great time chatting with them after the event.


Bob Mendoza, Tom Garrison, and myself (right to left) at OCC’s Spring 2011 graduation; picture by Bob Mendoza.

Continue reading OCC Graduation