Cross Pollination

Bananas

Banana Trees by Becky Jaffe

Bananas and humans have roughly 50% of our DNA in common, despite the fact that bananas are triploid (having three sets of genes) and humans are diploid (having two sets of genes). On the molecular level, on the level of DNA, we are intertwined.

The structure on the left is the banana flower, often called the “heart” of the banana.

only bloom

when night falls

The beauty of the world stubbornly persists. Some flowers only bloom in the dead of night.

what the papaya means

toucan in the papaya tree

This is the toucan that services the papaya tree. Enticed by the allure of sugar and survival, the toucan perches on the branch and dips down to dig a hole in the fruit, visible in this photo. This is the papaya tree that has lured not only the toucan but dozens of other species (including we human animals) into carrying its seeds and spreading its genes throughout the region. The seeds of the tree must be scattered far and wide, or they will fester in the shade of the parent plant. Each seed must find its own patch of sunlight, just as each toucan must seek its own sweetness. There is a perfection to this arrangement, the self-interest of each individual organism resulting in the unwitting cooperation of the entire interconnected ecosystem. What lessons lurk in each leaf?

Tapestry

tapestry

Psithurism

wind-in-the-palms

Photo by Becky Jaffe

Psithurism: the sound of the wind rustling the leaves

Investigations in Transmogrification

master of disguise-1

These are two of the many incarnations of what will become the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. The caterpillar in the upper right has suspended itself by silk threads onto the underside of the Dutchman’s Pipevine stem, preparing to transform into the sculpted chrysalis seen in the lower left. What are we to make of such mysteries as these?

Swarm

swarm-1

A swarm of bees in a Juniper tree masquerades as a pine cone. Who can fathom such wonders as these?

fully imagined

the book of fully imagined beings (1 of 1)

The caterpillar who suspended her chrysalis from the Book of Barely Imagined Beings has emerged as a fully imagined being.

orchid shadow

tendril

curvature

Sunday

Sunday-2

Flight of Fancy

Flight of Fancy

Web of Life

web of life

I was photographing the sunlight strreaming through my umbrella and thinking to myself, “This is beautiful, but it needs a focal point.” That’s when this butterfly flew into the scene, a volunteer protagonist.

the Monarch & the Milkweed: a Love Story

monarch and milkweed-2

Fly Rabbi

Hamsas-2 Hamsas

I raise butterflies in my home, but I don’t keep them in cages. I leave the windows open so they are free to come and go as they please. When the Monarch butterfly seen here took his first test flight after emerging from his chrysalis, he flew straight to the prayer flags my friends Ilana Schatz and David G. Lingren commissioned for their good work with Fair Trade Judaica. He landed on the Hamsas Justice and Honor just long enough for me to take two photos and then he sailed out the window. Justice and Honor. Sometimes the Gods speak to us in plain English and modern Hebrew, loud and clear, in languages even the daftest among us can understand.

Seussian

Seussian-2

House guest

Alice in Wonderland

I came home from work tonight and found butterflies on the bookshelf in my living room. I had been expecting them, hovering over their chrysalises for days, but that didn’t lessen the shock. When this one took her first flight, I heard the sound of her wings clicking as she made a bee-line for my glasses. The ones on my face. Alice in Wonderland is my patron saint.

Diapause too

Ladybugs 2-3

The ladybugs are migrating. Draped over the fenceposts and blackberry bushes alongside the creek in Redwood park, ladybird beetles are converging by the millions. The annual meeting is part collective nap (they are hibernating to conserve energy during the cold winter months) and part mass orgy. You can see the salacious scene yourself by tromping down to the blessedly muddy intersection of Stream and Prince trails.  Now through February.

Drifters

Milkweed fluff

These Milkweed seeds will hitch a ride on the wind to drift away from the parent plant, scattering DNA into a farflung future. If the seeds find hospitable environments and are able to digest enough sunlight to blossom, they will grow into beautiful and toxic adults. When they are injured, they bleed a caustic latex (the “milk” referenced in the name), which they use to defend themselves from predators. Evolution being a game of constant one-upsmanship, one species has adapted to not only become immune to the Milkweed’s chemical defense mechanism, but also to incorporate the plant’s toxins into its own defensive strategy. The Monarch caterpillar ingests the Milkweed’s toxins, becoming poisonous itself, then advertising its acquired chemical defenses via bright warning coloration. The bold black-and-yellow pattern of the caterpillar is an interspecies code which in turn deters would-be predators. A microcosm unfurls from a single seed. Every humble thing has a grand story to tell.

every humble thing

Milkweed seeds_

These Milkweed seeds will hitch a ride on the wind to drift away from the parent plant, scattering DNA into a farflung future. If the seeds find hospitable environments and are able to digest enough sunlight to blossom, they will grow into beautiful and toxic adults. When they are injured, they bleed a caustic latex (the “milk” referenced in the name), which they use to defend themselves from predators. Evolution being a game of constant one-upsmanship, one species has adapted to not only become immune to the Milkweed’s chemical defense mechanism, but also to incorporate the plant’s toxins into its own defensive strategy. The Monarch caterpillar ingests the Milkweed’s toxins, becoming poisonous itself, and advertising its acquired chemical defenses via bright warning coloration. The bold black-and-yellow pattern of the caterpillar is an interspecies code which in turn deters would-be predators. A microcosm unfurls from a single seed. Every humble thing has a grand story to tell.

I photographed the mighty Milkweed by focus-stacking 37 images with Michael Kawano and Tara Dobyns.

Ode to Gregor Mendel

Mendel

Photo by Becky Jaffe

Pray Tell

I couldn't help but notice that Life is strange and lovely

Photo by Becky Jaffe

 

Holding Sway

holding sway

Photo by Becky Jaffe

The redwoods are dripping butterflies

the redwoods are dripping butterflies

Photo by Becky Jaffe

Natural Selection

natural selectionPhoto by Becky Jaffe