Michelle and I tend our backyard garden every summer, and one of our joys is seeing the first produce of the year slowly ripen on the plants. Just this week our first cherry tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) are finally ripening, and so yesterday I took a few pictures of the glorious first fruits:
The tomatoes were in some nice diffusely-lit shade, and that’s what you see above – I used a tripod to stabilize the camera, but otherwise didn’t need anything else.
But since I’ve been having fun experimenting with off camera lighting recently, I decided to pull out my lighting gear and try some “studio” style lighting on the fruits.
What a difference lighting makes! The black background makes the fruits pop out visually, thanks to less visual clutter, but I think it also makes the scene look more artificial (or as though it was taken at night). My favorite comment so far comes from my dad, who said that the fruit look like two “hot Jupiters”. Little tomato planets floating in space; I like it.
1 Two snooted flashes were setup, one on either side of the fruit, and I used my gray card to shade the background from the primary flash’s illumination. Both flashes also had great natural gobos: the branches of the plant itself.
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:
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:
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
Orange Coast College’sOrnamental 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:
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.
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:
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.
A few weeks ago I went backpacking with a couple of friends in Crystal Cove State Park’s inland section. We camped overnight at the Lower Moro Campground, and were the only ones there. It was wonderfully peaceful.
Fog rolled in a few hours before the sun went down, so sunset, moon, and starry night shots were all out. But the fog hung around until well after dawn, leaving everything covered in a beautiful shroud of dew the next morning. It made for perfect macro photography, and my companions were patient enough to let me spend some time trying to capture the beauty.
The same plant was also covered in tiny flower buds, which the dew accentuated gorgeously: