Monday, October 27, 2014

Natural History in Rome...and Ultrarunning

I must confess that the notion of Ultrarunning seldom crossed my mind while on our Europe excursion.  But two events come to mind: first, in the fabled Black Forest of Germany where I saw a trail snaking suggestively and alluringly into, well, the black forest (lower case).

Next was in Amsterdam where we found ourselves in the city on the very day of the Amsterdam Marathon with 40,000 of our closest running comrades.  More on both of these points later in a separate post.

No, today I want to discuss natural history.  My first love is biology (I do have a MS in the field that I never used professionally) so whenever I run, I am always ion the lookout for unusual plants and animals.

In Rome I was absoutely dumbfounded by what I believe are called Umbrella Pines, ubiquitous in Rome.  It's a tree that looks deciduous up its trunk, to the branching crown...but then the branches end in needles, not leaves.  My only experience with coniferous trees is that they grow straight up with small, regular lateral branches.

So, couple photos. In the first we see the trees in daylight; if you enlarge it you can probably see the needles, but can't quite make out the branching structure.

Image credit Gary, near the Vatican

In this daybreak shot from the window of our apartment, scope out the Umbrella Pines on the left, where you will see the branching effect quite clearly:

Image credit Gary, looking north from Via Babuino

That crazy Mother Nature!

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