"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Leaf of the Day: Sample and Sniff in the Gardens and the Heliconia again

Blogs have their limitations don't they? There are some things about my experiences in the garden that I just can't share with you. The heady scents for one. Today it was the gorgeous White Champaca, the exquisite Chinese Perfume bush, and the Gingers. Crush the leaves of any of the Bay Rum trees between your finger and you will have a peppery nose clearing thrill. There are Camphor trees, the narcotic Angels Trumpets, fragrant Camelias and Frangipanis, Roses and the lovely Sweet Osmanthus. I have found a Star Anise tree whose little pods are still green at the moment and you can scratch, sniff and sample your way round the herb garden, with the Parsley, the Thymes, the Arugula and the amazingly sweet Sweetleaf herb which I had never seen before.
It may raise the odd eyebrow as you are casually grazing on the plants but those who don't are missing some interesting experiences. You have to go about this with caution though. As I have said before there are probably more things in the garden that will kill you than cure you. But today, furthering my unofficial research for the possible "Eat you way round the Garden" guide for Leu and with Pedro's expert help I sampled a few more "edibles". I tried the tiny Strawberry Guava Psidium cattleianum and the Natal plum Carissa macrocarpa. You have to be careful with the Strawberry Guava as the very red and tempting ones often contain little worms as demonstrated somewhat gleefully by Pedro..I was not quite so keen after that, but they do taste good. The Natal Plum was Ok, slightly bitter but a beautiful deep red colour inside. I have brought back a green regular guava which I hope will ripen at home and is currently scenting the whole house..just wonderful.
My work today was interrupted by an exciting 4 hour loss of power due to the failure of the transformer which sits outside our apartment. Three large trucks and six large men arrived to replace it encouraged by all the locals who, not having any television to watch, re-lived the old days of community spirit. However I did manage to finish the heliconia, which I had just sketched before. It's a bigger piece than usual 20 inches across, and has been sitting on a drawing board half done for over a week. I had to complete it without the plant, which is not at all ideal but it had finally given up the ghost in the fridge. This was another experiment with a different paper (this time NOT surface), because next week I have to start 7 coloured flower heads...as always there are some good and some not so good aspects to it .. but it's all about practice.

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Heliconia Clinophila


Leaf of the day : The Air Potato Vine

Todays drawing should really be accompanied by a wanted poster, as, despite its innocent appearance, this is a very bad plant and is high up on the invasive, to be dug out, to be got rid of at all costs and exterminated, plants in Florida. This is the Air-potato, Dioscorea bulbifera, also called potato-yam, air-yam, Chinese potato and is a member of the Yam family, Dioscoreaceae.
There are pages and pages of discussion about them on the Internet and I am now convinced that after drawing it I will have to destroy it (if I can). I must admit that when I first came to Florida I did notice that every upright structure, be it building, tree, or telegraph pole had some sort of vine either running up it, over it or hanging from it. Mostly it's something called kudzu but it seems the air potato is also a main suspect. ( 'plant of interest' to be PC).
The air potato was brought to Florida as a possible agricultural crop early in the 1900's from Africa where it is an important food source. However taking full advantage of the wet and fertile conditions this thing has multiplied alarmingly and is engulfing everything it comes across in a choking blanket, blotting out the light and scrambling 60 ft to the tops of the highest trees...It's a problem.

The little warty tubers which the plant produces can spout even if only the size of a pea. They can float, fly, bounce, or otherwise travel and set up colonies anywhere. Naughty gardening squirrels like them to plant them and birds may scatter them. It is currently found in 23 counties in Florida and by the time I have finished this post is probably in 25 and still going.
It is a shame it's such a nuisance, as the leaves are pretty and is a useful screening plant in areas where it is more controllable. (Think Russian Vine in UK)
Barry Rice, an Invasive Species Specialist's says .."Don’t plant it in your garden, don’t let your loved ones plant it, don’t let your friends plant it! "
One way of controlling them here is through organised potato vine roundups. Yee ha!

In nearby Gainsville, (and I quote from the the Gainsville Voice website here ),
"The previous eight Great Air Potato Roundups have been a tremendous success! To date, volunteers have removed more than 60 tons of air potato tubers from 30 nature parks, creeks and neighborhoods."
Similar roundups are going on all over Florida and I wish them luck. I will do my bit everytime I see one of these pesky things growing, but from the amount I have now seen running amok, even down at carefully tended Leu Gardens, there is some way to go.
Meanwhile I am pondering what to do with my other two tubers, already looking eager to sprout... I could try cooking them but the fridge isn't that empty yet, I could be artsy and make some potato prints, or I could just while away the afternoon making Mr Air Potato Heads...



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The Air Potato


Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Leaf of the Day: Black Bat Flower

Having thinned out the nature table last week, I cycled down to Leu this morning. It has been over a week since I have seen the gardens or the gardeners and of course things have galloped on apace. I came back bearing exotic gifts from Susan and Pedro, three luffahs, two pieces of potato vine, a passion flower flower, various pods, including another bigger ginger pod and bits and pieces of leaves. I have found two more aristolochias.. these I have to admit are quite cute not the fleshy monsters from before, and speaking of fleshy, the disgusting meat mimicking Carrion Cactus, the stapelia, is in bloom, complete with flies eggs. I will not be drawing it, but it does have a horrid fascination! I wrote about it here and drew a piece of the stem that Pedro gave me which is now happily growing on the balcony. Luckily no sign of a flower yet. We have netting over the balconies here and I have awful visions of waking up one morning to find it black with bluebottles clamouring to get at this fleshy stinking starfishy thing.

But on to something equally strange but also sinister, a few weeks ago I came across the dark and brooding Bat Flowers.


Tacca integrifolia, the White Bat Flower

Also called the Devil Flowers, and the Cats Whiskers, these are the exotic Taccas. Tacca chantrieri and Tacca integrifolia. There are several scattered about at Leu and I had seen the name tags before but never the flower. There is definitely something odd about it, mainly I think because we are so used to flowers being so brightly coloured, and you can understand why superstition has built up around it.


The Black Bat Flower

The tiny "eyes" of these beautiful and exotic plants peer out from the darkest deepest maroon flowers. It is considered by some to be a malevolent plant and in Malaya it is unlucky to look into these little glittering watchful eyes. Equally dark filaments ( filiform bracteoles) bristle out and hang down about 12 inches. Above the hanging flowers,(and there can be as many as 30)are the bat wing bracts, dark in the Black Bat Flower and white, veined with purple in the White Bat Flower. A real haunting beauty I think.

My drawing below is just of a couple of the flowers which had fallen from the now withering plants. They are wonderful things. Black flowers are very beautiful and you can understand the obsession that develops around breeding them, the inspiration of course for Alexander Dumas' classic story 'The Black Tulip' . .....tulips and obsession go hand in hand but that's another post.
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Black Bat Flower


Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Leaf of the Day: Pattipan Pepo

The pattipan squash, or patty pan, or flying saucer, or scallop squash, Curcubito pepo, whatever you want to call it, is a pretty and versatile thing, eat it, use it as a decoration or as a fancy container for serving other food. Here it is starring alongside Joan Taylor in the classic 1949 Harryhausen movie.



The curcubita family is extensive.. very, over 300 varieties of creeping, twining, scrambling, fruit bearing, plants. This is a squash, is edible and is a member of the gourd family but not all gourds are edible. I remember a few gourds in the UK from years ago, little stripy knobbly ornamental things but here in the USA, both the gourds themselves and gourd art are big. Gourd art ranges from the absolutely 100% dreadful and kitch to the exquisite. I am longing to have a go! The shapes alone are a designers delight.... just a little taster of joys to come. These fantastic charts come from Ozark Country Creations here.







Thereare an awful lot of sites about gourds on the Internet. "The Gourd Reserve" here is a site awash with masses of information about these strange, wonderful and useful things. There is, naturally, an American Gourd Society here ( and, joy, there is a Florida chapter) and many many books devoted to gourd art.

All this for another post, possibly tomorrow, but for now this is little Pepo squash deserves at least some passing notes.
The word "squash" is a shortened form of the word askutasquash meaning "a green thing eaten raw" from the Algonquin language. The interesting and sympathetic Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island and expelled minister of the Salem Church (?) spent much of his life trying to understand the Indians customs and language, and published some of his observations in his 1643 book " A Key into the Language of America ".
He mentions the "Askutasquash, their Vine fruit, which the English, from them, call Squashes about the bignesse of Apples of several colours, a sweet, light wholesome refreshing.”
Gourds on the other hand, called quonoasquash, were not grown for food, but dried and made into utensils and containers. You can see how useful they would be from the charts above.
These vegetables, (which are in fact a fruit, because they contain seeds, like tomoatoes) were a basic staple food for native Americans and early settler alike. Seeds, flesh, shoots, tendrils and flowers can be eaten.
Recipes abound on the Internet, but having a distinct aversion to the horrible slippery watery marrow that I was occasionally faced with as a child I haven't really investigated many. Shame on me really as, if nothing else, these are so pretty. However after reading about them I intend to be more adventurous!.

I made a pencil and watercolour sketch, then a rough sketch in acrylics. I haven't used acrylics for a while so it was a nice change. I think I was all watercoloured out from yesterday! I was sad not to find a couple of companions for Pepo but added a some blueberries that were languishing in the fridge.
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Curcubito Pepo and 3 Blueberries.




Monday, 28 July 2008

Leaf of the Day: Just Three Colours and a Flying Saucer Patti Pan.

There have been 2 little pattipan squash in the fruit bowl for ages. I had been meaning to draw them..then we ate one. So on Saturday, wanting a couple more to draw and use as a basis for the colour exercises. I went to Winter Park Farmer's market to buy one from Herbert who calls them UFO's ...only to find none at all. Maybe the season is over? But that was just typical of a weekend when many good intentions were thwarted by circumstances beyond our control.
However when I finally stopped searching for missing pattipans, I did get down to a few colour experiments. At last I have made a proper chart of transparent colours and started on the granulating ones which, to me add so much to the beautiful texture of loose watercolours. Making charts takes hours but is very good therapy and gives you the impression you are really doing something useful. Then I made some very simple colour experiments using just 3 colours, Permanent Rose, Phthalo Blue and Aureolin. This really follows on from Sue Archer's great class here. It's one of those "practising your scales" exercises, not of huge interest to anyone other than yourself. Important in that it keeps you disciplined and it reminds you of how beautiful transparent watercolours can be if you don't mess about with them too much. So the following are all from just those 3 colours nothing else. Firstly, using the colours as they are, then mixing and using the complementaries and, finally, mixing greys from the three and overlaying them. The transparency means the colours stay clearer and crisper even after several glazes.

Here are a few I thought were interesting. Tomorrow I shall be doing a drawing of the little pattipan. It is such a lovely shape and is creamy white tinged with the palest green.
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Three Colour Exercises












Friday, 25 July 2008

Leaf of the Day: The Ginger Pod Again.

I really wanted to draw this little pod in its new state. It has changed so much in the last week. It seems that the seeds inside have grown larger and are pushing outwards causing the pod to split in 3 places. Even since yesterday it has changed, the seeds are slightly bigger and less green. It is the pod of the shell ginger I had sketched a couple of times a few days ago here. The changes are interesting, the colour has gone from a brighter greeny orange to deeper orange and reds and of course the seeds pushing out have caused the shape to become more squashed. It's fascinating. Sadly it fell off its stem which was pushed into some oasis so it had definitely lost some elegance, but it's still lovely.

Another Friday has rushed round and I shall be taking some time off plants this weekend to return to some colour experiments and exercises. I have been trying to fit them in while doing everything else but as Fred Astaire said 'somethin's gotta give'. I enjoy colour and while the botanical illustration course is interesting it doesn't allow at all for anything messy or experimental. The colour challenge with botanics is about seeing and matching colour as exactly as you can, and frankly I am getting in need of a bit of freedom so I will be doing some experiments this weekend. If the results are pleasing or even interesting I will post them. Many are not but such is the nature of experiments. Of course there may be a plant, seed pod, or leaf theme in there somewhere.
However, even if it is just coloured squares, as an artist, as long as you are actually doing something you have hope of progress. Many, including myself, would really rather just 'imagine' those leaps and strides we will make on our way to becoming the great artist we are doubtless destined to be, and go for a beer instead. There may be some fine displacement activity taking place this weekend too as I have to admit I got a bit of a taste for it on our last lazy weekend. The pool, the bar, the books, the DVD 's, general mooching ... or the colour exercises. Hmmmm....right now the colour exercises are losing!
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Shell Ginger Pod 2




Leaf of the Day: The Curiously Beautiful Silky Hakea Pod and Some Firechasers

In my work room I have a long table that houses my paints and my ever growing collection of twigs, pods, bits of branches, bark, seeds and the like. They generally sit there until I get round to drawing them and I tend to assume there won't be much activity in that direction apart from the odd displaced ant wandering around. However, while I was away a few things were not so dormant as I had thought. Three seed pods have changed. The beautiful big green cone I had found has turned brown and is springing open from the bottom up and the little ginger seed head which I drew last week has split open to reveal pale green seeds and is now possibly even more lovely. But the biggest surprise is the woody pod of the Silky Hakea, Hakea sericea which has split in two, to reveal what is probably the most beautiful seed pod I have seen to date.
They are, of course, just doing what comes naturally, drying out and getting ready to shed their seeds.



I had seen these woody pods some time ago and thought they were some sort of gall, this one above looking like some strange perching bird. Last week I gathered one from the tree at Leu and taken a photo of the name tag. The Hakea is not a plant I am familiar with at all and, not having had time to look it up before we went away, I was totally unprepared for such an unprepossessing thing to open up and reveal something so beautiful. It has split along a sort of beaked ridge which runs down one side of this inch and a half long pod revealing two black winged seeds set into the sheer surfaces of two solid halves. When I say 'set in', it looks just as though the finest craftsman has set silky ebony shapes into a setting of two-tone creamy ivory. It is quite exquisite. The surface of each half is as smooth as smooth, a sharp contrast with the pods outer surface which is so rough and pitted. The pods are heavy and knobbly and, it would appear, impenetrable, but having read a bit about them now I realised why. This is one of those extraordinary plants that needs fire.

The whole subject of the ecology of the burnt landscape is fascinating. What we view with dismay as complete and utter devastation, will immediately be readjusting even before the last drifts of smoke have blown away and although it may seem an impossibility, some species of plants and animals are dependent on fire and do not thrive without it. Australian species of plants are particularly well adapted to fires, cypress cones and banksia seed pods open up with fire and so do the Hakea pods. Mallee eucalyptus trees have large underground roots known as lignotubers which enable them to regenerate after fires and many are able to grow new leaves and branches from burnt trunks.
There was not, mercifully, a fire in my work room but the Hakea also responds to " damage" by going onto emergency regeneration mode and opening up its seed pods.
Fires then can be very useful, releasing seeds, removing competing plants, open up areas to more light, enriching the soil with ash and creating ideal growing conditions for some plants.

There is also a curious wood boring beetle, the black fire beetle, Melanophila acuminata that actually flies to the fires. Like some little heat seeking missile, they are able to detect fires from many miles away either by smell or by infrared heat sensitive areas located under their wings.


Great photo from German site here

Alerted and hot to trot they zoom off to the charcoal forest to meet and mate. Researcher Nathan Schiff who has been studying these pyrophillic insects describes the smoking remains of the fire as a heady "nightclub for bugs".

They then lay their eggs under the bark of the burnt trees followed in hot pursuit by the little black backed woodpecker, another fire following creature, who will eat the beetles and grubs, camouflaged beautifully by its "charred" feathers.



Photo, bird call and head banging from the Cornell bird site here

My drawing has not really done this beautiful thing justice, and I will maybe try a colour version. You need to hold it in your hand to really appreciate the different surfaces textures and the subtle colours, in my eyes no jewellery designer could make anything more beautiful, give me a super Silky Hakea Pod over those gaudy Faberge eggs anyday.

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Silky Hakea Pod


Thursday, 24 July 2008

Leaf of the Day: Coral Bean and Bay Bean

Just the last couple of things from my weekend away, and it wouldn't be long before I got round to some more pods would it? Again, from near the railroad walk, I found a tatty old Bay Bean pod and a Coral Bean pod with its stunningly red beans inside.

The Bay Bean Canavalia rosea, exuberant, tough, hardy, salt tolerant and very vigorous..it runs, almost literally, along the sand dunes rooting its way along from nodes on the stem and can reach 20 feet in one stretch. The flower is small and a beautiful purple. It's good for anchoring unstable sandy places and is pretty too, although I am not sure you would want this galloping around a small garden. These beans float and so can be carried by the sea many miles along the coast to spring up in territories new.


The above image is from the excellent site on sea beans here

The beans are edible when very young, as are the pods and I think the flowers are too but as with other beans the old ones must be cooked well to remove toxins.
It would seem that Captain Cook ate bay beans during his Australian explorations and in 1788 the Australian Governor Phillip and his crew tried them too. The Surgeon General John White wrote that the beans "were well tasted", but evidently they had old raw beans for they were soon "seized with violent vomiting".
The Australian Aborigines cooked and ate the beans and used them medicinally but I cannot find any reference to their use by native Americans.

Coral Beans Erythrina herbaceacan also get carried along by the sea too. The seeds are such a brilliant orange red and so attractive. I love the way these grey black pods split open to show the seeds inside. They are often used in jewellery making in Central America, but they are definitely poisonous, so don't chew that Mexican necklace too often.
I can't remember seeing a flower myself but here is a picture from Wiki.



I am wondering what sort of seeds the coral trees will have at Leu. If I had a spare 5 minutes I would be making beautiful beaded things. Bead shops are some of my favourite places and seed jewellery deserves a few dedicated posts which is a very good excuse for going to some bead shops.

This is yet another prickly plant and those of you who get the email subscription will see I am posting Friday 18th (back dated) entry today, the Victoria Waterlily, another terrifyingly spiny plant.

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Bay Bean and Coral Bean




Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Leaf of the Day: Water Oak, John Muir and Spanish Bayonet

The Water Oak, Quercus nigra, is another tree I saw on the railway track walk on Sunday that was conveniently labelled. It's too early for the acorns to be developed to any degree but they are still a lovely shape. The other names for the Water Oak are Possom Oak, Duck Oak, Punk Oak. ( I am not entirely sure of the reason for these names, except in the duck oak case, the leaf is said to resemble a ducks foot..a bit.) It is a beautiful tree and would have provided firewood, building timber and shelter to native Americans and early settlers alike.

The railway line from Cedar Key Island ran across to the mainland and all that remains now are the broken stumps of the pilings.



We were the only ones on this little track and amongst several different species of oaks, laurels, the black mangroves and 5 million mosquitoes there was the Spanish Bayonet. A ferocious Yucca, (Yucca aloifolia) with long spiked leaves this just adds to my current run of armed and dangerous plants that can be a hazard to the careless walker in Florida.
John Muir the writer and early conservationist had time to contemplate this plant too. In 1868 he spent 3 months at Cedar Key recovering from a bad bout of malaria which had caused him to break his walk from Indiana to South America. In his account of that journey " A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf" he gives a grim description of malaria, but also tells of the kindness with which he was nursed at Cedar Key. Having now had a close encounter with a Spanish Bayonet I know his description is accurate.

"One of the characteristic plants of these keys is the Spanish bayonet, a species of yucca, about eight or ten feet in height, and with a trunk three or four inches in diameter when full grown. It belongs to the lily family and develops palmlike from terminal buds. The stout leaves are very rigid, sharp-pointed and bayonet-like. By one of these leaves a man might be as seriously stabbed as by an army bayonet, and woe to the luckless wanderer who dares to urge his way through these armed gardens after dark. Vegetable cats of many species will rob him of his clothes and claw his flesh, while dwarf palmettos will saw his bones, and the bayonets will glide to his joints and marrow without the smallest consideration for Lord Man. "


This lovely old photo of the Spanish Bayonet from a very interesting webpage about Texas plants here

Muir goes on to describe the beauty and the birds too

"During my long sojourn here as a convalescent I used to lie on my back for whole days beneath the ample arms of these great trees, listening to the winds and the birds. There is an extensive shallow on the coast, close by, which the receding tide exposes daily. This is the feeding-ground of thousands of waders of all sizes, plumage, and language, and they make a lively picture and noise when they gather at the great family board to eat their daily bread, so bountifully provided for them.
Their leisure in time of high tide they spend in various ways and places. Some go in large flocks to reedy margins about the islands and wade and stand about quarrelling or making sport, occasionally finding a stray mouthful to eat. Some stand on the mangroves of the solitary shore, now and then plunging into the water after a fish. Some go long journeys in-land, up creeks and inlets.

A few lonely old herons of solemn look and wing retire to favorite oaks. It was my delight to watch those old white sages of immaculate feather as they stood erect drowsing away the dull hours between tides, curtained by long skeins of tillandsia. White-bearded hermits gazing dreamily from dark caves could not appear more solemn or more becomingly shrouded from the rest of their fellow beings. "

We found it still much the same...

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Water Oak


Leaf of the Day: Greenbrier

I have spent most of the day catching up and trying to identify a few bits of leaves that I brought back with me. I was so pleased to learn about some new plants especially the medicinal ones.
Today's drawing is of the Greenbrier, part of the Smilax family. There are several species in the Cedar key area so I am not exactly sure which one this is. It forms a dense low growing twining scrambling prickly mass. The new shoot I have drawn has no thorns. The much older leaf has thorns on the edges of the leaf and along the underside of the central vein. Despite this, the tender young leaves are edible having a "nutty" flavour, and the tubers were a staple food for the native Americans in Florida.

"Smilax:
The young, tender roots were eaten after boiling or roasting. Starch was frequently extracted from older roots. They were chopped up, pounded, mixed with water and strained over a container. After a while the starch settled to the bottom. It was gathered by carefully pouring off the water and was then dried and ground into flour. Greenbrier starch is reddish in color. A small amount of it mixed with hot water produces a jelly to which honey can be added to improve taste. If more water is used, the mixture makes a pleasant drink. The starch can also be used a a soup thickener or mixed with cereal flour and made into cakes and breads.The roots themselves served to make the original root beer.
Greenbrier roots were called "contichatie" (red flour root) by Florida Indians, for whom it was an important food item.
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"The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America: Nature's Green Feast"
I have recently come across this useful book which, I will be taking with me everywhere.

A type of sarsaparilla,(root beer) that can be made from the tubers of some species was widely drank as a tonic and had a curious reputation, unfounded it seems, as being a good cure for syphillis, so was the favoured drink of the cowboys after a night on the town. But that has worried me now because I am sure that "Sugarfoot" (oh dear ..how old do you have to be to remember that on the TV!) always drank it, so my girlish illusions of that particular romantic young cowboy are now shattered. What do you think girls?



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Greenbrier Leaves




Monday, 21 July 2008

Leaf of the Day: Cedar Key Cedar and Sharp Green Pencils..again.

Sunday evening and we have returned, sun burnt and completely exhausted from 3 days on the Gulf coast. We dodged most of the rain, encountered some enormous sponges, learnt about scalloping, ate fabulous fish, saw some very interesting plants, met some very nice people, communed with some ancient spirits and our last day at Cedar Key was just heavenly. I will be retro posting blog entries with a few relevant details but we saw and did so much it would take me a week just to write it up.


Cedar Key Sunday morning

It's funny how things come around though. At the very start of the blog I wrote about my favorite pencils, Faber Castell my lovely, elegant, sharp, racing green pencils, here and when I go away there is usually one somewhere in my bag with a small sketchbook. While in Cedar Key we took the excellent Captain Doug's tour to see the outlying islands and some of the wonderful bird life. The boat trip took us to nearby Atsena Otie Key which was the site of the original town, called Cedar Key after the red cedar tree a type of juniper, which grew on the island. Captain Doug explained that the community was once much larger than the current 900 inhabitants, a thriving town and home in fact to one of Faber’s timber mills. I felt I should have jumped up brandishing the pencil I had in my bag but I didn’t.
In 1849, J. Eberhard Faber came to America looking for wood suitable for the booming pencil factory which his brother was running in Germany. This he found in abundance on Florida’s Gulf shores between the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers so he bought both land and timber, floated logs to the Keys, and initially shipped logs over to the factory in Germany.

Planning to expand his pencil empire into America, in 1858 Faber built a slat mill on Atsena Otie and started shipping wooden slats to the newly opened Faber pencil factory in New York. The Eagle Pencil Company followed with their own mill in 1876. Helped by the newly developed first railroad which ran across from Cedar Key to the Atlantic coast the little town became an important port but on September 29, 1896 a powerful hurricane and a 10 foot tidal wave crossed the island, destroying the mills and almost all of the town. A year later the remaining inhabitants left, Atsena Otie was abandoned and a new community built up where Cedar Key is today.
On a short walk just outside the town along the disused railway line we found one of the cedars along with many other, well labeled, native plants. (Very useful for this blog.) The Seminole name for this particular red cedar (Juniperis silicicola) is atcina which gave the island Atsena Otie its name. The red cedar has beautiful aromatic wood which as well as pencils was used for making chests and wardrobes as moths dislike the smell. Juniper oil is distilled from the wood, twigs and leaves and its pretty dusty blue cones are known as berries and the European junipers cones are used to flavour gin.


One of the constantly watchful pelicans


Early morning at Cedar Key from the hotel room, opposite is Coconuts Bar and the fishing deck...very handy.

Cedar Key is just so beautiful with many natural places to explore and when your feet hurt and the bites are itching what could be better than chilling out on the fishing deck at Coconuts with a cool beer listening to some zydeco and watching the pelicans, the magnificent frigate birds, the little terns wheeling overhead. We did all that and we will do it all again soon I am sure...and we saw dolphins too.
More about Cedar Key from their website here



I did a quick drawing of a tiny piece of the cedar and thought it would be appropriate to add a photo of the pencils, the drawing and the model. The sprig is tiny and the drawing is enlarged x 3.

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Red Cedar Sprig