Cedric The Crocodile

I remember the cedar tree that stood on this spot. As it says in the notice that the woman with the hat is reading, the tree started to fail in 2020 and had to be felled. I was sad to see it go, but now we have Cedric.

This is what the notice that the woman is reading says.

Cedric was created from a section of trunk from the old Cedar tree (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’) that used to stand in this very spot.

Cedrus atlantica is a coniferous evergreen tree which grows naturally in the mountains of Morocco and Algeria. The species is endangered and under threat from logging, fire and goat grazing. Unfortunately, one in three tree species are threatened with extinction globally.

The tree that was used to make this crocodile was one of the oldest trees in the Garden. Sadly, when the tree started to fail in 2020, it needed to be removed. Another tree of this species can be found growing on the Main Walk, currently 10m tall and 16 years old.

The wood from the tree has been resurrected in crocodile form by local artist Lisa Langley from Cambridge Chainsaw Carving.

During our 175th anniversary celebrations, we asked staff and visitors to suggest names for our crocodile and Cedric came out tops. We are thrilled with our new addition which will be moved to its permanent home in the Dell in due course.

I have passed Cedric many times and never went to look closer. I was there for ‘Nature’ and not for a sculpture! Then it so happened that I was sitting on a bench looking towards Cedric, still not interested to see him closer or at all. I was interested in stopping a moment to see the Garden from a different angle, to look past the two thin larches, and over to the pines on the right in the distance.

Then these people turned up and I could feel the push and pull as my interest in the crocodile was piqued. And then I though how silly it was of me to deny that my interest was piqued, and how standoffish and superior I was being just because I was a real nature lover, not just a casual visitor. So now I know about Cedric, and being of very slow wits I am only now seeing the Cedar-Cedric connection in the name.

Carya Laciniosa

Carya laciniosa

Kew Gardens in London covers 300 acres (120 hectares), and it’s home to a huge number of tree species. This tree caught my eye because it was just shimmering with golden leaves in the sun.

What I didn’t do was catch the name of the tree. Name tags are usually pinned to the trunk, or sometimes hanging from a branch.

So I emailed Kew and told them where I had seen the tree. I said that the leaf arrangement looked somewhat like a Horse chestnut or a Buckeye, which are Aesculus species.

The answer came back that it is in the walnut family (Juglandaceae) and they identified it as Carya laciniosa, which has a similar leaf arrangement to Horse chestnuts.

According to Wikipedia, it’s an American native, with a range that extends from the Great Lakes south to about the latitude of Washington D.C. And it has many names – shagbark hickory, bigleaf shagbark hickory, kingnut, big shellbark, bottom shellbark, thick shellbark, or western shellbark.

Some of the photos of the bark online make it clear which it is called a shagbark, with great vertical strips hanging off. No idea why it is also called a shellbark, though.

The Strange Story Of Fig Fertilisation

Not everything needs to be fertilised in order to make fruiting bodies. Figs – at least the kind that we eat – are parthenocarpic, meaning they can product fruit without fertilisation.

Fig leaves
Fig leaves

If a plant has the right genetic structure, as with figs, then breeders can raise plants that do not need to be fertilised. 

Some other plants that are raised to produce seeds, nuts, drupes, berries, or whatever without fertilisation are bananas, pineapples, cucumbers, tomatoes, oranges, grapes, kiwis, blackberries, and peppers. 

Fig Fertilisation

Figs that are fertilised have a specific companion, the Fig wasp. And the story of the fertilisation is very different from the normal story of buzzing bees and insects.. 

Figs and their companion wasp have been around for a long time – 90 million years – with the two made for each other.

The flowers of the fig are encased in a bulb-like stem. A female wasp burrows into the flowers via a hole at the top of the stem. She carries with her the pollen she collected from another fig tree earlier in her life cycle. Once inside and in among the tightly bundled flowers, she lays her eggs there and then dies.

When the eggs hatch, they eat the flowers, grow to adulthood and mate. Then the wingless males burrow to the surface and die there. The females emerge via the escape routes the males have made, and fly off to pollinate other figs.

Now for the killer fact. That bulb-like system that encases the flowers – that’s the fig that we know and eat. Except as I said, the ones we normally eat are bred to produce figs without being fertilised.

It’s strange to think that the flowers of the fig never see the light of day. Their whole existence is inside the covering that we know as the skin of a fig.

Ginkgo Biloba

This is one of a line of Ginkgo biloba trees in the grounds of one of the Cambridge University colleges. I photographed it today, and the weather was pretty miserable. You can probably tell that from the photo. Same for this next photo.

Gingko biloba leaves

These are the leaves, fallen onto the steps the lead between the College buildings.

Besides the trees at this College, there are two Ginkgo trees in the park at Christ’s Pieces, a few more in the Botanic Gardens, and one in the Fellows’ Garden of Christ’s College.

They may be more Ginkgo biloba trees in Cambridge, and the city may have more specimens than any other place in England.

The tree is native to Japan, and there are streets and streets of them in Japanese towns and cities. And the squashy, slippy, seed that smell of ripe cheese that litter the pavements there make walking treacherous.

Ginkgo trees are dioecious, which means that the male and female reproductive organs are found on different trees. The pollen is wind-blown, and if all the trees near one another are all the same sex, that would account for why there were no squishy seeds underfoot today.

It makes one think, looking at a Ginkgo biloba tree that it is the earliest tree in the evolutionary arc. The first Ginkgo emerged 240 million years ago, passing seed from one to another in an unbroken chain through to today.

23mm Versus 27mm Lens Comparison

Come on, there’s only 4mm difference between them. Surely it can’t make that much of a difference when you are shooting?

Actually it does.

I bought a Fuji X100s in 2014. It is a fixed lens camera with a 23mm focal length lens. And it was my only ‘walkabout’ camera for six years.

As you can see, the lens on the X100s is nice and sharp, even on the crop from the full frame.

Then a few months ago I bought a little secondhand Fuji X-E3 and 27mm lens, and sold the X100s to offset the cost of the new camera and lens combination.

And that is how we get to the 23mm versus 27mm lens comparison.

The thing is that after shooting with the X100s for six years, I really got to understand what the angle of view of the lens really meant when looking at a scene. And until I started to shoot with a different but similar focal length lens, I didn’t really know how much I like the slightly wider lens.

Often when I look at a scene with the 27mm lens on the new camera I think it is too tight. I want a bit more either side in the view.

For years I have been reading and listening to photographers saying that one should learn one’s camera inside out and know exactly what it does.

Look at my post about the fox, and you will see that I mentioned that the scene was happening so rapidly in front of me that I couldn’t change the settings on the X-E3 fast enough because I didn’t know the camera well enough.

Now I know the camera a bit better, and I know I like a slightly wider lens. But to ask the question – why did I get a 27mm lens and not a 23mm lens for the X-E3?

Simple, I wanted something really tiny – and the X-E3 and 27mm lens is a tiny package, as you can see in this photo. The lens hardly sticks out at all, and that’s with a Hoya UV filter on it.

And I thought, what’s 4mm in focal length? Nothing, eh? And the 23mm is bigger front to back, bigger than I wanted.

Here are the numbers for the lengths of the two lenses, front to back.

The 27mm f2.8 sticks out just 23mm (0.91″) from the flange. Compare that to the 23mm f2, which sticks out 51.9mm (2.014″) from the flange.

For now I am going to keep using the 27mm and see whether I can accommodate to it and be happy with the focal length. Watch this space.

One last thing – the 27mm lens is sharp! Look at this and the crop from the full frame.

%d bloggers like this: