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Antirrhinum

The Antirrhinum, commonly known as the Snapdragon has been a popular garden plant for many years. The plants are easy to grow as they can thrive in the cold seasons, and do not require much water, being able to germinate and grow in drained soil. Because of their dry preference, they are native to the rocky areas of Europe, United States, and northern Africa.

Antirrhinum derives its name from the Greek “anti”–“like”, “rhis”–“nose”, and “inus”–“of” or “pertaining to.” Therefore, its name translates “like a nose” referring to nose-like flower capsule in its mature state. In its mature state, the flower seems to resemble a dragon with its mouth opening and closing when laterally squeezed. The flower can have a variety of flower colors including lavender, yellow, red, orange, pink, or white a genetic rarity among most of the plant kingdom. Another factor that makes this plant so interesting is that it is able to grow in the most parched conditions, sometimes out of concrete itself, giving the most unnatural habitats a beautiful presence of nature.

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One of the most naturalistic anomalies that the plant possesses is its seed pod after it has wilted away and died. Although the plant was named Snapdragon for its flowering resemblance of dragon’s mouth opening and closing, the seed pod also takes on a form of something rather macabre. The seed pod looks like a skull. It is as if the flower (skin) of the dragon has wilted away exposing its seed pod (skull) of the dragon itself. It is a rather eerie image of how appropriately named this flower is, as its name applies to flower in its mature state and after death as well.

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This phenomenon of nature is truly one of the most interesting and eerie products of the plant kingdom. Alive, it is one of the most beautiful flowers and can thrive in a virtually unlivable environment (as far as plants go), and after death, it takes on a suiting skull shaped seed pod that resembles the very dragon it once lived as. A natural beauty in every essence.

Kermode Bears

Located in British Columbia is ‘The Great Bear Rainforest’ which is one of the largest coastal temperate rain forests in all of the world. This twenty-five-thousand mile rain forest is filled with densely misted fjords and neighboring islands that are home to one of the most interesting and rare animals in current existence–the Kermode Bear. The Kermode Bear is neither a polar bear nor albino, but rather a rare genetic mutation of a black bear that causes its fur to be fair-colored, seemingly white. There are fewer than 500 hundred of these bears in the world today.

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The first inhabitants to live in this nation called the bear mooksgm’ol, meaning the spirit bear. It was highly prized to the natives as one of the rarest and most respected animals to grace the land. The spirit bear was so highly admired by the natives, that they never once spoke of the animal’s existence to the European visitors who hunted the black bears for their fur trade. Even today, it is taboo to mention them to outsiders, let alone hunt them for their fur value.

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The rare  mutation is cause by a recessive gene in the bear’s genome, which causes their fur to produce a white tone, similar to the red-haired/fair-skinned recessive gene in humans. This rare gene has proved to be vital in the bear’s evolutionary survival. It allows the bear to be at an advantage during daytime fishing as opposed to the cousin black bears. Mixed with the mist of the forrest and the clear water of the rivers, the spirit bear can easily wade in the water and catch fish without difficulty during certain hours of the day. Although during the night, the black bear and Kermode bear have equal odds of catching native salmon, the spirit bears have a 30% greater success rate of catching the fish during the early hours of the day.

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These bears are a product of evolution as they have proved to benefit from their surround environment: the mist of the forrest, the clarity of the water, and the disposition of their color opposed to their black bear cousin. The spirit bear is one of the most prized possession of British Columbia and its neighboring coastal islands. I respect how closely monitored and rarely spoke of the bears were to the native inhabitants which is why this natural beauty is deemed appropriate for this blog.

 

Natural Remedies

Thyme:

Thyme is an herb with culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. The flowers of a Thyme plant have been commonly used for people with chronic diarrhea, bedwetting, stomaches, arthritis, sore throat, whooping cough, bronchitis, flatulence, and as a diuretic to increase urination frequency. The essential oil of Thyme leaf contains 20-54% thymol–which can be used to reduce bacterial resistance to common drugs such as penicillin. Thyme has been known to reduce hypertension (high blood pressure), protect against foodborne bacterial infections, colon and breast cancers, and common dermatological problems–generally in poorer areas of the world.

Mint:

Mint is the advocate of digestive problems. Mint is commonly known to promote irritable bowl syndrome and Crohn’s disease. This herb is known to flavor drinks, foods, toothpaste, soaps, and medicines. Mint was often used by monks in medieval times for its culinary and medicinal properties. This plant has been used as a tonic, cough mixture, bronchial troubles, and asthma.

Sage:

Sage is used as a rich antioxidant and to lower bad cholesterol. Sage comes from the latin word salvere, meaning ‘to be saved’, as its health benefits have been known to promote the longevity of life by a significant amount. Specifically, sage has been commonly used as an anti-inflammatory–as flavanoids, phenolic acids, and oxygen-handling enzymes give it a unique capacity for stabilizing oxygen-related metabolism and preventing oxygen-based damage to cells. Interestingly, sage has been known to significantly improve brain function and immediate knowledge recall.

Rosemary:

One of the most versatile and powerful herbs of the plant kingdom. Rosemary infused oil prevents foods from going rancid and protects it from oxidation. This wonder-herb has been known to prevent the formation of carcinogenic amines in meat cooked over high heat. Like many other natural herbs, rosemary is known to actively promote antioxidants in the body to help advance metabolic breakdown in the human body. Rosemary also contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may make it useful for reducing the severity of asthma attacks.

Oregano:

Oregano is one of the few herbs that give a stronger taste when dried. Its antioxidant properties have some of the most powerful characteristics of any natural remedies. Oregano oil contains broad-spectrum antibacterial agents, which makes it ideal for fighting against bodily infections. Taking a few drops of oregano oil at the first signs of a cold can help avoid the sickness significantly. This herb has been used by ancient civilizations to help treat a number of skin conditions, such as acne and dandruff.

Scarabaeidae

The Dung Beetle. Despite the bad reputation the Dung Beetle receives, mostly from its unappealing name, is an organism which deserves much more appraisal. Its generally unrecognized intelligence is what makes this creature suitable for my nature blog. Its innate capability of navigation is remarkably unique nor has not been seen anywhere else in the animal kingdom.

The Dung Beetle can thrive on any continent (besides Antarctica) and can live in a wide variety of habitats including grasslands, deserts, forests, wetlands, or farmlands. These beetles are known for searching for nearby dung with their acute sense of smell, and then rolling the feces into a ball to roll away. The Dung Beetles want to secure their fragment of the feces thereby rolling it into a ball and pushing it miles away–always in a straight line despite oncoming obstacles. Depending on the species of the Dung Beetle, the insect will either feed on the feces, live inside of it, or bury it into the ground. This insect plays a vital role in propagating dead matter for detrivores to feed off of. Some unique species of Dung Beetle can push up to 1414 times their own body weight, the equivalent to a human pushing six double-decker buses full of people. Despite all these astounding facts, these are not the reasons why I picked this insect for my blog.

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As stated early, the Dung Beetle is known to roll a ball out of feces and push it in a straight line for miles, even if obstacles stand in the way. After selecting their fecal matter and rolling it into a seemingly perfect sphere, the beetles are known to dance around the dung with their head and legs pointed into the sky. It has been very recently proven that this ritualistic dance is not a performance but reconnaissance. The beetle is looking up at the sky, specifically the light emitted by the Milky Way, sun and moon, to gain a grasp of their geographic/cosmic location. This beetle is the only known insect and, besides birds, seals, and humans, to use the stars as an internal navigation system.

The Dung Beetle is an extraordinary creature, with extreme importance in the animal kingdom. The insects utilize intellectual navigation skills to aid in the propagation of fertilizing the earth and detrivores with dead organic matter. Through years of evolutionary benefit, these celestial cartographers were somehow able to recognize the cosmic bodies and use them as road map.

Skógafoss

Located in Southern Iceland, the Skogafoss waterfall has been one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in all of Iceland. The name comes from ‘skogur’ meaning forest and ‘foss’ meaing falls. This waterfall is one of the biggest in the country with a width of 82 feet, and a 200-foot drop-off. Because of its broad width and large amounts of falling water, the spray from the base of the waterfall consistently creates a double or single rainbow on sunny days. This is also one of the few handful of waterfalls in the world where you can walk behind it, due to mountain formation and shifting glaciers. This humbling waterfall is quietly nestled in a town near the southern coast of Iceland in between two snow-capped mountains.

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According to legend, the first viking to ever settle near Skogafoss waterfall, named Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried a treasure behind the waterfall, likely due to the fact that there’s always a treasure at the end of a rainbow. Years later locals attempted to pull the chest out of the spray of the waterfall, yet the handle of the chest broke off, dropping the chest. The treasure chest has never been found since, yet the handle was allegedly given to the local church. The ancient church door ring is now in a museum. Whether the folklore holds true is debatable, though.

The river below the falls is home to many salmon and char, a great fishing destination for many locals. This stretch of beautifully flowing water hosts one of the most alluring hiking trails in all of the world. The path follows the river upstream as it is said to have  dramatically extravagant waterfalls parallel to the hiking trails. Apparently, the farther and higher you ascend up the hiking trail, the more beautiful and humbling the view becomes.

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Iceland has always been an intriguing nation for me. With such a rich history, beautiful landscape, complex language, and overall peaceful economic and political procedures, this is one of the most unique countries in the world. Iceland is home to countless natural beauties as the nation takes pride in preserving the natural landscape that has taken millions of years to form. Skogafoss waterfall is only one example of the countless natural wonders the lay within the Icelandic borders.

Kelimutu

Located on the central Flores Island of Indonesia, about 50 km east of the Indonesian capital of Ende, is a volcano. This volcano is called Kelimutu, towering over the local surrounding villages of this generally unindustrialized region of Indonesia. Yet, the volcanic focal point of this national park is quickly gaining recognition as one of the most beautiful natural phenomena throughout the south Pacific.

Kelimutu is one of the few volcanoes of Indonesia classified as ‘ribu’—meaning it is taller than 1000 meters—measuring around 1600 meters; yet this is not why I have chosen it for my blog. Rather, close to the summit of the volcano lies three crater lakes with outstandingly dynamic characteristics. Each of the three lakes are known to change colors, alternating between various shades of reds, blues, whites, blacks, and greens. The local villages believe that the lakes are the resting place of the souls of their ancestors, and therefore manifesting their anger, happiness, nostalgia, or love through the variety of magnificent colors they unknowingly cast.

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Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of the Old People) is the westernmost lake, slightly alienated from the other two, and usually emits a dark blue/black tint. This is where the spirits of the old go when they have lived a fully righteous life. The other two adjacent lakes, Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) and Tiwu Ata Polo (Enchanted/Bewitched Lake), share one crater but are separated by a midway crater wall. Both of these bipolar lakes are usually blood-red, fluorescent green, shades of an aquatic blue, or olive-black.  Any young soul, male or female, if they have lived an unexpectedly short life, experiencing death at too soon of an age, will forever reside in the Lake of Young Men and Maidens. On the other hand, anyone young, old, male, female, if they have lived an amoral life, they will seek the Enchanted blood-red Lake. It is an anticipatory trek up the volcano, especially for the neighboring village members, who await to see the current mood of the spirits.

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The change in water color is due to volcanic activation underneath the cratered lakes, triggered by fumaroles. Fumaroles are literally openings of the planet’s surface from which various gases leak. Hydrogen chloride, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide all spontaneously seep out of the Earth’s crust, revealing the present gaseous emotions of the planet itself. Interestingly, the rim of the craters is loosely made up of unsteady rocks and minerals, occasionally resulting in people slipping into the volcanically steaming waters and boiling to death—physically joining the eternally restless souls who dynamically shape this natural beauty.

Sloths!

The Three-Toed Sloth has one of the most intricately fascinating and self-sustaining ecosystems seen throughout the animal kingdom. Until recently Sloths were not extensively researched because of their lackadaisical lifestyle and therefore time-consuming zoological research. Yet after 35 years of scientific observation dedicated to the three-toed sloth, it is now becoming clear that the mammal is literally a walking ecosystem of biological mutualism.

Three-toed sloths are native to Central and Southern America as they reside in the treetops of highly predatory jungles. Because of the sloths slow-paced lifestyle and long armed/toed anatomical structures, they have adjusted to a life high up in the chocolate-producing cacao trees to avoid animals such as coyotes, jaguars, and aerial predators such as the eagle. For 35 years scientists have discovered that the sloth has a strange weekly ritual of leaving their treetop homes, descending to the ground, digging a hole, defecating inside of it, covering it with leaves, and then, if it has not yet been eaten, slowly climbing up to its home among the canopies. Zoologists have recently concluded that half of the sloth deaths that occur are when they are exposed on the ground. Then the age old question is, why do three-toed sloths perform this oddly species-specific task of risking their lives on a weekly basis?

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The answer is within their fur. The three-toed sloths harbor an extraordinary ecosystem among their fur consisting of a three-way mutualistic relationship between the sloth itself, hundreds of moths that live within the thick fleece of a single sloth, and a species of algae that grow in the grooved hairs of the sloth. At first the algae and moths were thought to give the sloth a protective camouflage while vulnerable on the ground, yet it has been recently understood that there is a much more complex networking at play.

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The sloth’s slow-paced movements make it ideal for the moths to live within the sloth’s fur without any trouble . It provides a mating site for the moths, a prospective source of hatching their larvae safely, and increases the amount of nitrogen in the sloth-fur environment, allowing the algae to thrive. When the sloth makes its weekly trek down the tree to deficate, the pregnant moths take this opportunity to lay their eggs within the feces. The future moths then fly up the canopy to find other mates hiding within other sloths. Moths increase the amount of nitrogen, allowing algae to thrive and therefore creates a food source for the sloth among its own body. Sloths cannot live solely off of the leaves of the trees in which they live, yet if it can conserve as much energy as possible by sleeping and moving at a snail-like pace, it can survive off of the leaves and algae which are always within reach. The three-toed sloth may seem as if it lives one of the most boring lives possible, yet it harbors an intricate relationship of biological mutualism.                       sloth-artboard_1

Cuevas de Mármol

 

Shared by both Chile and Argentina is a lake which borders both countries in a region of South America known as Patagonia. Chile calls the lake ‘General Carrera Lake’ while the Argentines call their portion of the water ‘Lake Buenos Aires’—both are internationally accepted. Two-thirds of this 1,700 square-mile lake belongs to Chile as the waters can reach a maximum depth of 1,920 ft. Now although these waters are filled with clear, glacial waters produced by the runoff of the neighboring Andes Mountains, this is not why I have chosen it to feature in my phenomenologically natural beauties blog. Where the real beauty lies is what’s in and on the water, or more specifically, what the water has created.

Located at the geographic nucleus of the lake are marvelous Marble Caves created by 6,200 years of wave erosion. These monoliths of rock form caverns, columns, and tunnels naturally constructed of marble and calcium carbonate. The marble has been smoothed and uninterrupted by the swirling currents of glacial waters to produce a spiraling formation on the cave walls. The carved marble arches are truly a wonder of nature produced by the synchronicity of the currents and the constantly re-smoothing of the cave walls.

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Interestingly the waters’ tides are always changing, depending upon the outside temperature, affecting the amount of snowmelt from the bordering Andes Mountains. Therefore the caves appear to renovate themselves every day, accounting for a novel experience on each arrival.

The lake is also home to an abundantly thriving population of healthy salmon and trout.

The jointly shared Chilean-Argentine lake is home to some of the most beautiful caverns known throughout the world. These smooth marble walls have taken millennia to intricately carve the smoothed cavern barriers. With the altering tide levels, combined with the hourly changing sunlit rays piercing through the cave walls, this cathedral of natural beauty is certainly a cherished spectacle of the patience of natural construction.

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Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Located in Waitomo on the North Island of New Zealand are magnificently illuminated caves. These caves are illuminated by millions of Glowworms, only indigenous to the nation of New Zealand. Within these caves is a river that flows through entirely through it, and a central Glowworm Grotto where the majority of the luminescent worms live.

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About 30 million years ago, these caves existed under the ocean, being constructed, formed, and carved by immense amounts of pressure and the water of the ocean. The cave walls, stalagmites, and stalactites are formed by millions of year old limestone deposits, fossilized sea corals, sea shells, and fish fossils. After millions of years of tectonic plate movement, the caves started to bend and fold over on itself, eventually rising above the surface of the water forming closed off caves of what now exists today.

More incredibly, the cave’s ceiling has millions of bioluminescent Glowworms, also known as Arachnocampa luminosa. The Glowworms are born as larvae in nests of about 100 per per birth and grow up to about the size of a mosquito. The worms spindle down from their nests from the ceiling with about 70 threads of silk reaching about 30-40 cm long.

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The worms’ bioluminescence is a result of a chemical reaction involving an enzyme,  Luciferin, that the worms produce reacting with energy (food) and oxygen, it creates a dazzling, bright blue/white color. The worms prey on moths, millipedes, or even small snails, yet interestingly, the hungrier the worms are, the brighter they will shine. Early 1800s tribesmans’ chief owned the area of the cave, offering it to visitors to tour. The caves are now currently still owned by the first owner’s decedents as they still offer tours for the public of New Zealand.

These Glowworms are a majesty of science and nature. They’ve adapted to thrive in millions in these dark, wet cave walls. These starlike worms are a natural beauty.

Kerepakupai Vená

Kerepakupai Vená, or more commonly known as Angel Falls, is located in Canaima National Park, Venezuela. This immensely large waterfall flows from the mesa mountain tops, pouring into the dense jungles of the Venezuelan national park. “Now Nate, why is this waterfall so important to you?!” you might be asking. Well, I’m obviously going to tell you.

Not only is this waterfall located in one of the most beautiful national parks in South America (and the world for that matter), but it is also the largest waterfall in the world. The world’s largest uninterrupted waterfall plunges water 3,212 feet, almost 2/3 of a mile in height. The water falls over the edge of the Auyantepui Mountain (“tepuy” is flat mountain top ending in a vertical drop off, translating “house of gods”) into the Gauja River, inevitably flowing into the Carrao River at the southeast corner of the nation. From afar the waterfall appears as one great fall, but after a closer examination, the water flows through a maze of canyons, tunnels, and caves before finally ending in a below water run-off.

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Although Angel Falls seems like a fitting name given to this monstrous natural phenomenon, it was actually named for the American aviator, Jimmie Angel, who flew through the Venezuelan fog for miles in search of a valuable ore bed until finally coming across this beautiful panoramic spectacle in the 1930s. The falls accurately adopted Angel’s name, yet Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez found this disrespectful to the natives who named this waterfall hundreds of years before any American laid eyes on it. Because of the mountain’s vast height, the only source of water the falls receive is from rainfall, therefore in the dry season (December-March) the waterfall may consist of only trickles of water dropping thousands of feet, when in the wet seasons the waterfall will blasts thousands of gallons of water a day from its peak. This colossal waterfall is a monument of nature’s enormity of beauty.

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