Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mullein and other beautiful sights

Verbascum (galilaeum? or similar) Mullein.

Weather today: Range 18.5-26.5 degrees C, quite a drop since yesterday. Sky mostly clear. We went out about 6 p.m. temp 23.5 degrees C, humidity: already 80%, wind: westerly 13-18 kt.

No luck on gazelles, there was a pack of feral dogs I had not seen before toward the north end of gazelle field just beyond the almonds. One was the biggest I'd seen and seemed to have some mastiff blood, heavy square head though his tail was curled up, Canaani style, tawny yellow/brown. Two were patched brown and white and the fourth mostly dark on the back and flanks, brown and white face and legs. Husband pointed out the big one which was standing, the others were resting on the ground.. he said there was something to see over there, jokingly, a lion. I looked at that big hound and my first reaction was 'what the f**!' because from a distance it really did have quite a lion look about him! We had quite a laugh over that! I guess why that would explain no gazelles in sight over that way!

However there were still plenty birds. Stone curlews very vocal and a few seen over north gazelle field. A group of at least 15 bee-eaters hawking above canopy level, moving up and down north valley. Eurasian jays active and foraging everywhere, some Syrian woodpecker calls, Hoopoe down near north dry watercourse, hoodies about as usual, Collared doves cooing and flight calling and generally active. Blackbird calls, great tit calls, and around the houses, house sparrows, laughing doves and feral pigeons.

The xerophytic plant by valley road finally decided to bloom and this was interesting since it forced me to completely revise my I.D. of a plant that I'd been calling Eremostachys. (desert spike) This looked similar but matched most closely Verbascum galilaeum, a mullein that normally grows farther north. It may have been artificially introduced or another similar plant in the same genus. As I scanned flowers in that genus it struck me that my 'Eremostachys' looked similar to some of the others, in particular V. fruticosum Common desert mullein. This forced me back to the books (and websites) to reassess my earlier I.D. and to see that the flower form of Eremostachys is really quite different, much more like that of Phlomis, whereas the mullein has a more simple 5 petal arrangement.

I was amazed I hadn't seen that before but other aspects of the plant had attracted my attention and the form was not so obvious in the pictures I had. Also obviously different now was the location of the deep red colouring on the flower (centre rather than petal tips. I'd goofed, they weren't even in the same family! (Mulleins are in Scrophularaceae
, the figwort family, whereas Eremostachys is in Lamiaceae with Phlomis and others) It was plain now that *both* were Verbascum (mulleins) though different species. Some of the darker centred mulleins were still blooming over by the pumping station and it was clear that this later flowering Verbascum (in photo above) was similar but markedly different, lacking that red/black centre.
Live and learn. I was glad to get THAT sorted out as I had never been completely settled in my mind about that one. Now I have to go back and add a note on our pic of the other at the quarry!

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