Sweetgum Balls

The American Sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) is the second most common tree in Louisiana forests (the most common is the Loblolly Pine). Sweetgums are also plentiful in our local suburban landscape despite a significant drawback, the spiny seed-carrying balls that fall from their branches by the hundreds this time of year.

Sweetgum balls yet to fall on my yard
A small sample of the sweetgum balls raked up today

The sweetgum is a fast-growing tree that can reach heights up to 100 feet. In summer its plentiful maple-like leaves make it a very effective shade tree. In the 1940’s several cities promoted planting sweetgums as replacements for elms killed by Dutch elm disease. However it has fallen out of favor in landscaping. Because of its leaves and gumballs it is now recognized as one of the messiest trees.

The gumballs are a particular nuisance to large dogs like our greyhound. They are just the right size to be lodged between the pads of his paws. Many times gumballs jammed between his pads have fooled us into thinking he had badly hurt his foot.

Japanese Camellia

The Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica), is one of two camellias commonly used as ornamental shrubs in the southern United States. The other common camellia is the Sasanqua camellia, which has smaller blooms and leaves. In SE Louisiana the Japanese camellia has recently begun blooming in early January, just as the earlier-blooming Sasanquas are finishing flowering.

Japanese camellias originated in east Asia, and were introduced to the southern United States in the early 1800’s. Now there are thousands of Japanese camellia cultivars available to provide color to winter landscapes. Some have been developed that are hardy as far north as Zone 6.

Full Cold Moon

According to the Farmer’s Almanac the full moon in December is known in North America as the Full Cold Moon. Tuesday, December 29 was the day that the Full Cold Moon was at its fullest, but it was still very impressive yesterday (December 30) when these pictures were taken.

The weather was unseasonably warm in SE Louisiana yesterday, so it was comfortable to be outside experimenting with iPhone settings in attempts to get photos that do the scene justice.

Sasanqua Camellia

Camellias are evergreen shrubs native to south and eastern Asia. The most economically important species of camellia is Camellia sinensis, the tea plant. Dried leaves of this camelia are very familiar because of their use to brew tea.

Two other species of camelia are common ornamental bushes in warmer regions of the United States. Camellia japonica produces large showy flowers and typically blooms in winter. Camellia sasanqua is similar, blooming with slightly smaller flowers in the fall and winter. In Japan leaves from the sasanqua camellia are used to brew tea, while its seeds are used to make tea seed oil.

In Louisiana this is the time of year that Sasanqua Camellias are in full flower. The pictures below show three sasanqua camellia bushes that are currently blooming in our yard.

Dark Pink

Light Pink / White

White

Clear Water

We are fortunate to live beside a lake with very clear water. Effectively capturing its clarity in a photo is difficult.

Real estate ads for properties on lakes in the area with clear water commonly include photos like this, taken looking down on the water from our dock. Plants on the lake bottom, under about 3 feet of water, are clearly evident — but it does not provide a good perspective.

The short video above shows how you can watch fish in the lake from your kayak. I think they are bluegills.

Pictures of lily pads in the lake taken from the kayak give a better perspective of the water’s clarity.

This Painted Turtle was also enjoying a day on the lake. It is easy to see these turtles swimming under the water, but getting a photo of this is tough.