Thursday, June 30, 2011

Phyllotaxis Spirals

In botany, phyllotaxis or phyllotaxy is the arrangement of leaves on a plant stem (from Ancient Greek phýllon "leaf" and táxis "arrangement".) Supposedly, plants "know" how to grow optimally in order to excel and to survive while minimizing the energy needed and space in which to grow. While spying on the growth of the jackfruits on this tree, I can't help but to talk about the bumps on their skins. Look and you can discern the ubiquitous spiraling patterns. Similar to the spirals seen on many plants, the most famous of which is the seed pattern on the sun flowers, the jackfruits also exhibit phyllotaxis spirals. There are many scientific studies that investigate about the nature of these growths. One theory states that the spirals that develop according to the mathematical golden ratio (closely related to the Fibonacci sequence) achieve the most efficient packing of material in the most economical space. If you ever open a jackfruit, you will know what I mean. The pulps are tightly packed inside in a manner that is better than sardines in a can. So the skins cooperate and grow in wonderfully intriguing and beautiful patterns. You can see them on the upper part of the biggest fruit in this photo I took today. Ain't nature amazing?
Phyllotaxis Spirals

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Orange Jasmine

During the hurricane season in Miami beginning June, it is almost impossible to forget this wonderful orange jasmine that grows uninhibited in hedges if left alone. Throughout the night to linger until early morning, its scent is something you can never get enough of. This morning, it attracted my attention resulting in this shot. Meet Ms. Murraya paniculata in profuse bloom.
Orange Jasmine

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Too Complicated

I found this sundial today. This photo was taken at 12:02PM, and I assumed (wrongly) that I can easily read it as such afterwards, but that turns out not to be the case. We all would expect the shadow to be at the noon mark, but it was not.

The installation of many sundials requires knowing the local latitude, the precise vertical direction (e.g., by a level or plumb-bob), and the direction to true North. I am fairly confident that was done correctly for this sundial because it was a sophisticated scientific gift of many years ago.

Sundials indicate the local solar time, unless corrected for some other time. To obtain the official clock time, three types of corrections need to be made:

1. The orbit of the Earth is not perfectly circular and its rotational axis not perfectly perpendicular to its orbit. The sundial's indicates solar time thus varies from clock time by small amounts that change throughout the year. This correction — which may be as great as 15 minutes — is described by the equation of time.

2. The solar time must be corrected for the longitude of the sundial relative to the longitude of the official time zone. This correction is often made by rotating the hour-lines by an angle equal to the difference in longitudes.

3. To adjust for daylight saving time, the sundial must shift the time away from solar time by some amount, usually an hour. This correction may be made in the adjustment plaque, or by numbering the hour-lines with two sets of numbers.

If you click on the photo, you will notice that there is a very intricate set of lines engraved on the plane that receives the light and the shadow of the gnomon which is the ornate shadow-casting object.

So, do I do all these corrections to read this clock, or do I look in the metadata of the original photo to read the time this photo was taken? Hhhmmm...? Oh, behave... it's 12:02 PM.
Sun Dial

Monday, June 27, 2011

Juvenile Mango

This is the sight that you see everywhere in Miami these days: mango trees with dropped mangos a gogo. Unfortunately, if asked, the majority of the owners does not know the name of their mango trees. This is a young tree planted only three years ago but it began to produce a copious amount of fruits since last year. I took a sample of half a dozen fruits and will try to guess its name. I doubt I will come up with the right answer but judging from the shape, the size and the yellow color, this could be a Baptiste, origin of Haiti, virtually unknown outside of that island nation.
Young Tree

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Car Washed, Finally!

I was so ashamed driving around town in a "o so dirty" car so I decided to get off my cheap skate mentality and give my car a good wash today. Wow! It feels so good... that's not me talking... that's my car expressing its gratitude. You're welcome! Let's not do this too often, please!
Car Washed

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Where's The Smoke?

There is something very wrong with this picture! Where is the smoke? There is no flame... This is "modern" grilling, and I start not to like this too much. It's, after all, the lazy man's (me) way to have an imitation of a sinfully smoke filled BBQ. The grill marks are great... unfortunately, it's only all talk, and no walk! I need to recover my old charcoal grill from the dumpster. Why did I do this? Aaarrrggghhh...
No Smoke?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Where Is Everybody?

This is "Betty's Best" in Miami, where Fuddrucker used to be. Business has been quite slow lately, today and other days, including the weekends as well... Given that the economy of the US is still in neutral, and looking at this picture, if I were the owner, I would start to worry.
No Show

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I had a late lunch today at this Ichiban Japanese Buffet in Doral, just West of NW 107th avenue and South of 58th Street. I begin to suspect that something is wrong with me, because all my friends love Japanese sushi, and I do not! Should I consult a psychotherapist? I still like the Shinju better than this one. Help!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Keitt Revisited

Here is another look at the Keitt mango tree. The fruits begin to show red blushes kissed by the sun. June is almost gone and they are expected to grow larger during the month of July.
Keitt Revisited

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rain Tree

Native of Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, this is a rain tree (Samanea saman) of the Mimosaceae (Leguminoceae) family. Commonly known as rain tree, coco tamarind, acacia preta, french tamarind (because its seed pods look very similar to tamarind fruit pods,) saman, monkey pod, this is a large tropical tree that potentially can grow up to 180 ft tall with a crown up to 240 ft broad although they are smaller in the subtropics such as here in Miami.

Rain tree is a wide-canopied tree with a large and beautiful symmetrical crown, not like this one here. I suspect this tree was toppled during some of our very strong hurricanes, and it grew back the best it could, tilted to one side.

The folkloric uses of this tree is amazingly varied. In Venezuela, the roots are used against stomach cancer and in the West Indies, the seeds are chewed for sore throat. It is named rain tree because of the moisture that collects on the ground under the tree, largely the honeydew-like discharge of cicadas feeding on the leaves. The rain trees are champions for absorbing Co2. A large tree is able to recycle tens of tons of Co2 each year.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Aspergillus niger

As a consolation for those of you who crave mangos and may get jealous seeing my unlimited supply of mangos this season, let me show you a dark side of this story. Life is not always as rosy as one would think it is. In this warm weather of subtropical Miami, we have all sorts of disease breeding insects and nasty microorganisms. They attack everything, including mangos, of course.

The two main diseases of mangoes are anthracnose and bacterial black spot.

Let's talk first about the milder form, bacterial infection, commonly known as the black rot (Ceratocystis paradoxa and Chalara paradoxa.) The bacterial black spot is often called bacterial canker (Xanthomonas campestris pv. mangiferaeindicae.) The spots have water soaked margins and fruit lesions consist of individual or multiple star shaped cracks, often appearing with anthracnose lesions in a tear stain pattern. Unlike anthracnose, bacterial lesions do not expand and spread as the fruits ripen.

The nasty one is anthracnose (Aspergillus niger, a filamentous fungus) which is a fungal disease caused by Colletotrichum gloeosporioides. It is known as black rot , but it should really be called black mold rot, a fungal disease, to differentiate this from its bacterial cousin above.

Anthracnose is usually only a problem in fruits that are ripening, as the fungus remains dormant in green fruits during the growing season. Little people know that when they eat a green mango, they may be ingesting entire colonies of fungi.Now that I am writing this, I am having second thought about my blog of the other day! When the fruits ripen, small dark spots form at first and then enlarge rapidly under favorable conditions, which are plentiful in Miami. Pink spore masses grow on the infected tissue. Such fruit has no market value. You are telling me? The spread is so rapid, all you can do is to get rid of them fast. Most of the time, it's not fast enough for me!

Now, you don't like mangos so much any more, right?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sentinel Standing Guard

I really, really like this photo. It can keep me talking for hours... or write here ad infinitum... but do not be afraid, I will try to keep this short. Please remember that I kind of having a scientific background and not really believe in ghosts... although I am afraid of them, just like I am afraid of snakes and other scary things, too many to enumerate here. This photo was taken with my iPhone 4 at native resolution 2592 x 1936. It has been resized to 1296 x 968 for the web and was not edited at all except that this smart phone's camera processed three consecutive samples to improve the background contrast.

The main subject of today's blog is this tree, which is a stunningly beautiful fig tree. I was looking at it for an optimum angle to capture the aerial roots that help this tree anchor firmly and spread out. It is fascinating to look closely and observe the many new slender strings originating from the high branches to reach the ground where new roots develop to take hold and grow from there to make new trunks. Click on this image and you will be able to see how this system works.

Information about this species of fig is plentiful on the internet... such as this...

"The Banyan tree is the National Tree of India. This huge tree has the widest reaching roots of all known trees. It sends off new shoots from its roots, so that one tree is really a tangle of branches, roots, and trunks. The banyan tree regenerates and lives for an incredible length of time-thus it is thought of as the immortal tree. India has a long history of honoring this tree & it figures prominently in many of the oldest stories of the nation."

I am not sure about the US or other so called developed nations on earth, but in many nations in the continent of Asia, it is widely believed that many more stories can be told about the banyan trees. Notably, this kind of tree is always haunted in some way, and ghost stories abound.

With that in mind, someone, looking at this photo, may accuse me of doctoring it to hint at a "sentinel" figure standing right there at the center. Let me tell you that when I shot this picture, I was looking high up to frame the aerial root structures, so I did not see "him."

What do you think? Was he looking at me? Will he punish me because I took this photo without asking for permission? It does look like he is holding some kind of a long and sharp thing in his left hand! Mamma mia!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

$4.25 Mocha Coconut

I came back to this Starbuck today and ordered a newly introduced small Mocha Coconut for US $4.25. With some eye strain, you can see this listed on the top left of the menu, under Frappucino. It was quite good, but a bit too rich and thick for my taste. It was just about ready to go in this snapshot when the man was about to squeeze some yummy dark chocolate and put a cap on top. It was good for an already scorching hot summer early afternoon.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Stroll In The Park

Look closely and you can see the two little peachicks following their mom the peahen. Baby peafowls are born in the early spring, hatching from their eggs after a month of incubating. Female peachicks mature to become peahens and ready to lay their own eggs when they turn two.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mango Madness

I don't really want to overindulge, but I need to show you a new load of mangos that I just got. There are at least four kinds of mango here. The largest ones are Haden. I have not the faintest idea what the other ones are. I know of about 60 varieties of mangos with names from A to Z. But I am saving you from the nuisance of reading through them, and saving myself from typing them here. Suffice to say I love them all, and I can eat these fruits all day in lieu of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Come on, don't feel so bad because you live so far from Miami. If you want free mangos, come down here. End June is the peak of mango season.
Mangos, Again

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lychees Here

This year does seem to have a surplus of all sorts of fruits. On Sunset Drive, there is a family that sets up an improvised sale location in a van to sell lychees. Quite aggressive, they put up a large number of signs to attract motorists. Their signs say "Lychees Here." This sale has been going on for over a week and I think they must get the lychees from the groves further South in the Redland area North of Homestead. This enterprise seems to be thriving judging from the many cars that stopped to visit.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chez Lan

I was treated to a free lunch today and I did not have the luxury to select the restaurant. We ended up in Lan Pan Asian cafe at the Dadeland N metro rail station. I always wanted to try this restaurant and finally got my wish. It's kind of Japaneseish so I did not really like any item from the menu. But I survived. This place is quite popular and it was quite crowded at lunch today.
Sushi and Such

Monday, June 13, 2011


In the US, at this time every year, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is in its final days and the final games (there are seven) are played. Fans like to display their enthusiasm to support their teams. This year, the Miami Heat is one of the two final teams trying to become national champion. Yesterday, the Miami Heat lost its 6th game and the championship now belongs to Dallas's Maverick. The Heat was beat soundly and Miami is still recovering from the shock. This die hard fan has not given up and still driving around town with his banners flying high. I am sure he is not a happy camper today.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Aerial Roots

Here is a beautiful ficus tree with an impressive system of aerial roots. These trees send new roots from their tree trunk to help them firmly anchor in the ground for nutrition but mostly for support.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


This year, the mango trees are going wild and everybody who has them can't give them away fast enough. Needless to say, I am in heaven and every day trying not to OD'd on them. On the right are the Haden, and on the left, I am not quite sure. They could be Glenn, Kent, Irwin or even Jewel or Julie. But who cares?
Mango Mango

Friday, June 10, 2011

Not For Me

I really do not understand this at all. There must be a good financial incentive for this kind of advertising. I see many reasons why this is not a good idea unless a real patient is not the subject in display. The billboard says "Live lung cancer surgery." I really do not see the need to witness such serious surgical procedure. It is such a tragically private matter! Not for me!

The irony of it all is that red storefront sign underneath! This is near the Datran center in South Miami.
Not For Me

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jackfruit Maturing... Slowly...

This is how this jackfruit tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus) looks today, as compared to a couple months ago. The fruits will grow much larger and it may take up to 8 months for them to mature. In Miami, these ripen end Summer, beginning Fall. When ripened, they emit a strong odor that may not be agreeable to those who are unaccustomed, but the same odor will make connoisseurs salivate. The seeds are edible simply by boiling them. They have the same laxative power as the feared western beans so if you do eat them, take it easy!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Scent of Green Papaya

I consider myself very fortunate to live here in Miami. This is my steady supply of the main ingredient for one of my very favorite salad: green papaya. If I feel like making a "oh so good and crunchy" salad, it takes nothing to start with one of these fellows by a friendly raid to this tree. During mango season like now, I also raid my neighbor's Keitt for a green mango. I can assure you that there is no way you can tell the mango from the papaya. They look and taste identically to each other, and both are truly out of this world. The hard work is in julienning the papaya and the mango but that's fun. Want to see that dish? Or do you want my super secret recipe? Drop in!
Green Papaya

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Not Round

Usually pizzas come in circles, meaning they are round in shape. Not the ones from this pizza place. In May 1996, Pizza Rustica opened its doors on the corner of 9th Street and Washington in Miami Beach, Florida. The people had never seen these Roman-style rectangular pans of pizza so it became a new sensation. It goes to say Italian Moms know best when it comes to pizzas. You guessed it, the owner of this chain learned to make pizzas from his Mom. Currently with 2 dozens locations in Florida, Arkansas, California, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, France and the Dominican Republic, this chain seems to be doing quite well even though I think they are still running under the radar as the round pizzas are still dominant here. This one is on Red Road just where it meets US-1.
Roman Pizzas

Monday, June 6, 2011

Limo for King Kong

Look at what I see today, a monster limo truck/SUV/whatever you want to call it. It is huge and possibly could take King Kong to the airport. This is the flagship limousine belonging to Royal Limousines service operating in North West Miami.

This is what they call their Stretch GMC Kodiac Top Kick that can sit 25 passengers. Their web says it has 4 flat screen TVs, DVD player, CD, fiber optic multi-color lighting, strobe light, ice bin, rock glasses, champagne flutes. cabin partition, hardwood floors and luxurious leather/ostrich interior. Whatever it has inside and for which purposes, its name is certainly a mouthful.
King Kong Limo

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Heliconia rostrata

I did not post any photos of this beautiful tropical flower for quite some time so I think it's about time to say a few words about these Heliconia rostrata. Again, this year, everything is about a month late. Usually, these flowers come in late April, early May but this year, they begin just about now.

Heliconia rostrata (Lobster claw, False-bird-of-paradise) is an herbaceous perennial native to the north western region of South America. Other Heliconias grow in the upright position and their cup-shaped flowers serve as water containers for birds and insects. This plant, however, has pendant flowers and they contain nectar. In the wild, Heliconias provide an important food source for forest hummingbirds. This Heliconia (named after Mount Helicon, the seat of the Muses, the nine goddesses of the arts and sciences in Greek mythology) rostrata (rostrata is a Latin adjective meaning beaked, curved, hooked, with a crooked point,) known as patujú, is the national flower of Bolivia. Their brightly colorful parts are not flowers. They are bracts designed to protect the tiny flowers with nectar so that only some special species of birds can access them: the humming birds.
Lobster Claws

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fibonacci Cuts

Remember my recent Cycad blog? Someone asked me an innocent question: is this related to the pineapple? I'm glad that was asked... because I did not know the answer so I had to do some homework for myself. In another seemingly unrelated vein, take a look at today's photo. My backyard got a... pineapple! Of course, that is just a joke on you, because this plant is not a cycad, nor that this pineapple sprouted out of it. This pineapple came from Publix supermarket. I bought it, thinking first that it looks and smells fantastic; and second that I would know what to do with it. Not even close! I have no idea how to cut this guy open, and it looks so forbidden, I am pretty sure I need help from someone more capable. A friend gave me a piece of advice: You'll need a sharp knife... a very sharp knife. But that is not my problem! My problem is how does one proceed. Then it dawned upon me that I had dealt with something similar before. Look here! Fibonacci!

This is the link that gives some sort of answer to the question above: Yes and No. Pineapple is not related to cycad, but both share the same passion: they love Fibonacci. What's that, you ask? Let's first talk about cycad. They reproduce by making seed cones that look pretty much like pineapples. These cones have spiral patterns. In some slender cones, one may notice 3 spirals veering to the left and 5 spirals moving oppositely, or vice versa. In larger ones, 5 and 8 spirals can be noticed, and some still larger cones may display 8 and 13 spirals: each set moving opposite to the other. Giant cones may have as many as 21 spirals. These numbers (3, 5, 8, 13 & 21) form part of a numerical sequence known as Fibonacci numbers which came from the work of a 13th century Italian mathematician, Leonardo da Pisa. The sequence begins with these terms: 1, 1,2,3,5,8, 13,21,34,.. and so on. Except the first two numbers, any term in the sequence is obtained by adding the two preceding numbers. The sequence is thus non-ending. We call it an infinite series.

Pineapple scales are also Fibonacci-patterned into spirals and because they are roughly hexagonal in shape, three distinct sets of spirals may be observed. One set of 5 parallel spirals ascends at a shallow angle to the right, a second set of 8 parallel spirals ascends more steeply to the left and possibly a third set of 13 parallel spirals ascends very steeply to the right. To have 13 spirals, you would have to get a very large pineapple. Mine has either 5 or 8. So I need to know if I should cut this following the 5 or the 8 spirals. See? Not so trivial! I probably will make a plant out of this baby instead of trying to perform surgery on it with a ceramic knife with which I am sure I will cut my fingers to pieces.
Fibonacci Cut

Friday, June 3, 2011


This is another blog that may give a feeling that all I do is to go around Miami stuffing myself with food. Hey, since I've got to eat, and only can cook so often, please bear with me. Today, let me show you an "all-you-can-eat" place: the Shinju Japanese Buffet located at 87 Avenue and Sunset Drive inside the Winn-Dixie Shopping Plaza. Here, you can find sushi, sashimi (dinner), seafood, hibachi (I don't really care for those,) and oriental hot food (I like them much better.) This cook... not sure if he is the chief and only cook here, but he works extremely hard to make sizzlingly hot and delicious dish. That's my entree: beef, shrimp and chicken, garnished with mushroom, zucchini, onion and etc... That is really all "you-can-eat" but you can never resist not to get more because there are tons of other things to gorge yourself with, which I gladly did. The bottom line is I think this is BAD, and I should not come here too often. You see the plastic jar with green backs? You feel real bad if you did not offer him a tip for the constant work that he does. I was here for lunch so they did not have fish and crab. Rats! I need to return for dinner. Shoudl I? If I do, you'll know.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lonesome Valencia Pride

This is a Valencia Pride mango tree. The original tree was reportedly grown from a Haden mango seed planted in 1937 that fruited the first time in 1941. Later, a 2005 pedigree analysis confirmed that 'Haden' was indeed the parent of 'Valencia Pride'. The flesh is sweet, aromatic, firm, and fiberless. The tree is a vigorous large grower and is an excellent shade tree that produces very desirable fruits. It has one of the finest flavors of all of the late season varieties. The fruit ripens July to August. I should have tried to pick this one. Now I look back with immense regret!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


There was a house in this lot that was demolished quite a few years ago. The lot stayed empty for a long time and finally, it was sold and a new house is going to rise out of thin air. Judging from the foundation that is being laid, this house is going to be quite big. It will bear the number 6625. In case you didn't know, Miami has a clever house numbering system. In the SW section of town, odd numbers are on the East side of the avenue that goes North-South; and on the North side of the street that goes East-West. I think that you may have no idea of what I am talking about... but if you knew the system, you can find an address faster by looking in the right direction.