New Terrariums

Several new terrariums for bright light environment…

New Terrariums September 2012

Terrarium with three mushrooms

This is very temporary terrarium. It has three small mushrooms. I do not think they will live long, maybe other couple days. I plan to put something different as substitution, more permanent :]

Terrarium – 3 Small Mushrooms :]

Books: “The Jungle Book” and “The Second Jungle Book”

Well, because of some changing in my life situation right now I have to sell some of the books from my collection which is breaking my hart, sniiiffff… I decided to keep everything concerning botany, history of science (oh, well, more or less everything), and majority of botanical prints, but all other books should go.

I think the first one will be: the bundle of “The Jungle Book” and “The Second Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling, early edition, published in London by Macmillan & Co, 1898 & 1899. Each volume is an identical reprint from a first UK edition, (1854 & 1855). I LOVE these books: tiny engravings and full-page pictures with superb details. Blue boards with gold embossed vignette on front and spine and gold page edging. As of old books survived so long, spine ends show some wear and corners bumped. Some foxing on the inner pages (especially extensive in The Jungle Book); The Second Jungle Book is signed and have ex-libris. Inner hinges just starting in both books but holding firmly.

My favorite story is from The Jungle Book, and, I think, it is the most famous of the other stories – “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”, the story of a heroic mongoose.

“The Jungle Book” and “The Second Jungle Book”

More photos below.

BTW, a few words about mongoose. There over 30 known species in the family. Length of the body can be 7 to 25 inches (18 to 64 cm). Imagine 7 inches long mongoose! Tail – 6 to 21 inches (15 to 53 cm), weight 340 gm to 5 kg (12 oz to 11 lb). They live up to 20 years (just like dogs!). They are obligate carnivorous meaning they are eating a LOT of meat. Their diet includes insects, crabs, earthworms, lizards, snakes, chickens and even rodents. Usually mongooses are terrestrial, but there are some species semi-aquatic (most or at least half of the time spend in the water) or even arboreal (most of the time spend on the trees) ones. Though mongooses live in burrows, they seldom dig holes for themselves. Rather, they just move into the burrows left by other animals. A mongoose is fast enough to save itself from the strikes of a snake very easily plus a mongoose has a great tolerance towards the poison of a snake. Mongooses are social and use an alarm call to warn others of any bigger carnivores. As soon as the other mongooses hear the call, they rush to the nearest hole.

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi from The Book of Jungle (1898).

The hand colored lithograph of the mongoose. It is from an exceedingly rare set published by The Zoological Society of London in 1848-1849.

The Flora Universalis: Proof-Prints Study

Some of the scans from possible proof-prints of The Flora Universalis to support my point that they are indeed pre-pocessed botanical prints ‘in work’. I wish I could see the finals, but because the work is very rare I could not find any of my prints as final version.

Ficinia contexta whole [almost] print with drawings and legends. [The size of the prints is not standard, they are larger than A4 and Letter – that is why the bottom is cut off]

Hand writing with pencil and small additional drawings appear on quite a few of the prints. Another example:

Fragment from Fuirena coerulescens print. The picture drawn with pencil and hand colored plus hand writing are very remarkable on this piece.

Many of the prints are only partially colored which most probably indicates color study.

Passiflora print only half colored – probably color study.

Deceptive butterflies

Many butterflies we used to see as children at the meadows hide a [dirty] secret. One of the most beautiful and well known butterflies in Europe Large Blue or Arion Blue, scientific name Maculinea arion, is one of them.

The truth is all Maculinea butterflies (4 or 5 species according modern taxonomy) are deceptive creatures. It is hard not to notice the beautiful imago butterflies with navy blue or sky blue wings covered with tender black spots. Plus, Maculinea arion is fairly large species, the wing span of this species can rich 16-20 mm. Not surprising, Maculinea arion was in every naturalist collection of Victorian England. However, until late 70th little was known about their unique and fascinating life cycle. Their struggle for survival and the ways they took in their evolutionary history to turn the world around.

In  60th-70th scientist of Great Britain realized that Maculiena arion population is declining with deteriorating speed. At first collectors were to blame. In 1979 no Maculinea arion could be found on the Islands. By that time scientist already figured out that the main reason for extinction of this species is its exceptional sensitivity to the changing environment due to double specificity: the host plant which is very important for survival of the larvae during first three stages of the development and the ant host which ensures further development of the larvae in the ant nest. If either of these factors affected (plants due to early mowing before larvae left the plant; ants due to destruction of their habitat), the butterflies can not finish their cycle and population unavoidably will decline.

To be more specific, the adult Maculinea arion females lay their eggs only on specific plant, thyme, in the summer. The larvae stays on the flowers only three stages and while still very small eventually falls to the ground. The Maculinea larvae produce special chemicals and sounds to lure red ants and fool them into thinking the larvae is ant grub. The fooled ant following its instincts then carries the tiny larvae into its nest. The important point here is that Maculinea larvae can mimic only chemicals and sounds of certain red ant species, all other species will not be so easily fooled by these disguise, which means that only certain number of larvae has the chance for survival to adulthood – only those who ended up in the right nest of the right species. Ideally, the ants never discover that they have been fooled, and instead continue to protect the butterfly larvae for several months and feed them [or, in majority of cases, let the larvae to eat their own brood].

Maculine arion life cycle, from MacMan project.