Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Pride of Madeira

A Bugloss known as Pride of Madeira

Pride of Madeira in Sintra (Photo: Steve Andrews)

The Pride of Madeira is the common name for a spectacular looking shrub in the Echium genus of plants, many species of which are known as types of Viper’s Bugloss or “Taginaste” in Spain. Known to botanists as Echium candicans, the Pride of Madeira comes, as its name suggests, from Madeira, but it is often grown in gardens and parks throughout Iberia and in many other parts of the world. Its popularity is hardly surprising because it forms a very large bush that is covered in spring and early summer in magnificent flowering spikes of purplish-blue flowers with red stamens. The Pride of Madeira will definitely catch your eye and is very attractive to bees and other pollinating insects too, as are the other species in the Echium genus.

Red Bugloss or Mt Teide Bugloss

Red Bugloss on Tenerife (Photo: Pixabay/Public Domain)

The Canary Islands are home to very many endemic types of Echium and the Mt Teide Bugloss or Red Bugloss (E. wildpretti) is a plant symbolic of Tenerife where it grows high on the mountain it is named after. This unusual plant is a biennial that produces a large rosette of leaves in its first year which is followed by a tall flowering spike in its second year. The tiny flowers are a pinkish-red but there are many thousands of them and its flower spikes can grow to as much as three metres in height. They stand out like weird red wands above the otherworldly and barren terrain on Mt Teide, which is the highest mountain, not only in Tenerife but in all of Spain.

The Red Bugloss is a very rare plant in the wild, and only found on Mt Teide and around the village of Vilaflor which is also high in the Tenerife mountains. The plant has evolved to be adapted to the cold nights and bright sunlight by day of the habitats it is found in, though it is also grown at lower levels of the island in parks and gardens. Because of its tall flowering spikes it is one of the bugloss species often called “Tower of Jewels.”

Giant Viper's Bugloss

The Giant Viper’s Bugloss or Tree Echium (E. pininana) is the best-known Tower of Jewels bugloss. It reaches four metres in height in good conditions, and like the Mt Teide Bugloss is very rare in the wild. It is only found in the laurel forested mountains of La Palma in the Canary Islands, however, it has been commonly grown for some years as an unusual garden flower in the UK and Ireland, where sometimes it gets featured in news stories because it grows so tall.

Wild Viper’s Bugloss species found in Iberia

Viper's Bugloss (Photo: Pixabay)

There are many types of Echium found growing in the countryside of Iberia, including the type species Viper’s Bugloss (E. vulgare), which is found throughout Europe and has become naturalised in North America. It has pinkish flowers which turn rapidly blue and it is also known as Blueweed. It likes to grow in sand dunes and waste places but will often do better in cultivation in the garden where it will get larger. The Viper’s Bugloss, by the way, takes its name from the tiny forked nutlets that it produces that were thought to resemble the heads of snakes, and because it was once regarded as an antidote for the bite of an adder. The herbalist Coles tells us in his Art of Simples: 'Viper's Bugloss hath its stalks all to be speckled like a snake or viper, and is a most singular remedy against poyson and the sting of scorpions.”

One species of Echium that is very common, not only in Iberia but elsewhere in the world is known as Patterson’s Curse (E. plantagineum). Its name gives a clue to how it has become regarded, because although this small species looks pretty when it creates a small sea of purple flowers, it is an invasive weed of arable land that spreads rapidly. Isn’t it interesting to consider how some bugloss types are very rare plants while others are common weeds?

Grow a Tower of Jewels and Feed the Bees and Butterflies

Most species of Echium have a lot of nectar-filled flowers making them very attractive, not only to our eyes, but, as already noted, to bees and pollinating insects. Butterflies too love to find their food in the flowers of a Tower of Jewels. It is easy to find seeds of the various species that are easy to grow in our gardens by searching on the Internet for “Echium seeds” or “Tower of Jewels seeds”.

Growing these amazing plants can not only really beautify our gardens but be a real help to the bees and pollinators that are often struggling in the world today. Cultivating a Viper’s Bugloss provides eye candy and aids conservation!

NB: Text originally published in Mediterranean Gardening and OutDoor Living magazine, Issue 25, May 2016.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Western Spadefoot Toad or Iberian Spadefoot rescued in a garden in Portugal

A Near Threatened Species

Western Spadefoot Toad (Photo: Steve Andrews)

The Western Spadefoot or Iberian Spadefoot (Pelobates cultripes) is an endangered species of amphibian. In fact its IUCN Red List Conservation Status is Near Threatened, so I was really surprised to find one living in the front garden of the house in Portugal where I rent the ground floor. One of my pet cats was digging, and I thought she was about to go to the toilet, but instead, and suddenly, she had grabbed something and tossed it onto the ground. I could see it was a large frog or toad and immediately went to the rescue. I was amazed to find that it was a female Iberian Spadefoot. I have only seen these in photos in books and on sites on the Internet, and knowing how rare they are now, the last place I thought I would see one was caught by my cat in the garden of where I live!

Caught by a Cat

Clearly where the toad had been living, even though it was buried in the sandy soil, was not a safe place to be. My cat could hear it or smell it, and could catch it again if I put it back, I could end up harming or killing it by accident if I was digging, or the toad could get run over on the road, just yards from where it had been buried. So I resolved to move it to some local woodland just five minutes away.
Woodlands on sand (Photo: Steve Andrews)

There is an area where there is a stream and marshy section that has temporary pools after autumn and winter rains, though they are already drying up now. I took it there, thinking it would be safer. I know there are Iberian Water Frogs there, though haven’t seen any this year. I think last year’s terrible drought affected them badly in many places like this that dried out completely. Fortunately, this winter and early spring brought plenty of very welcome heavy rains. These local woodlands near where I live are very interesting because the cork oak and pine trees are mainly growing in sand. Sand martins nest in holes in the sand banks.

Pelobates cultripes tadpole about to become a toadlet (Photo: Franco Andreone)

This amphibian gets its name from its habit of digging burrows. It does this with the aid of its back feet that are specially adapted for the purpose with a black hardened projection like a spade on each one. This behaviour works well in the sandy soil so much of Portugal has, and I would never have known about the one in the garden here if my cat hadn’t detected it and dug it up. She used to be a feral cat so is excellent at hunting, and can even find toads hidden underground.

My Calico Cat (Photo: Steve Andrews)

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Where Does All The Plastic Go? is now a song

Where Does All The Plastic Go? is now a song

Where Does All The Plastic Go? started life as a poem I blogged about here, back in December 2015. Since then I have been watching the situation getting worse with plastic pollution continuing, and it appears from news reports that plastic is now found in every environment on the planet, from the frozen Arctic to the highest mountains, and even at the deepest parts of the ocean. This is insane! This is an ongoing tragedy!

I have been waiting in vain to hear protest songs being written about this subject, which affects us all and is a great danger to life on Earth. I say, “in vain” because as far as I know there are no well-known singer-songwriters or rock bands talking about plastic pollution in their lyrics. This motivated me to create a song from my poem. I recorded Where Does All The Plastic Go? at Northstone Studios in Bridgend, with the help of Jayce Lewis as my producer. I knew I would get a really professional recording by working with Jayce, who has recently been touring with Gary Numan, and who has worked with Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen, as well as the late great Steve Strange (Visage).

I am happy to say that Where Does All The Plastic Go? has been trending on Reverb Nation, and you can stream and download the song here: Where Does All The Plastic Go?  I want my song to get heard as widely as possible. Please share it any way you can!

The Problem's Been Getting Worse

Plastic is constantly entering our oceans via rivers and streams and drains. Our cities and countryside are littered with plastic trash, landfills are full of the stuff and it is everywhere! Most disturbingly, plastic is in the food chain, and as micro particles has even been detected in bottled water. The number of marine creatures that have eaten plastic is truly alarming, and they get eaten in turn by other predators, including humans! Plastic is often in the seafood and fish we eat.

Turtles, whales and seabirds are swallowing floating plastic rubbish. They cannot digest it, they cannot excrete it, and it builds up inside, eventually killing many of them. Albatross parent birds mistakenly feed the trash to their chicks, which then die as their bellies fill with the toxic garbage.

And it isn’t going to go away unless we do something to solve this. Plastic does not breakdown like other forms of rubbish. It does not decompose and go back into the natural environment. Animals cannot digest it. Plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. It can be here for 500 years or more. Most of the plastic ever made is still on this planet somewhere! Plastic also has another hidden danger because it absorbs toxins and then carries them, so it is also poisonous if ingested. Plastic itself becomes hidden. Tiny particles of hard plastic get mixed with the sand of beaches. In some places the number of particles of plastic to the number of natural sand is truly alarming. Same goes for floating plastic particles that outnumber plankton in many parts of the sea. Marine creatures that feed on plankton are feeding on plastic as well now.

Sir David Attenborough

Fortunately for us all, Sir David Attenborough, in his TV broadcasts, has captured the world’s attention with regard to the dangers of plastic pollution, and at last the problem is getting widely reported in the media. Many organisations and people worldwide are trying to stop the pollution getting worse and there are many efforts being made to clean up the oceans. One of the most important is The Ocean Cleanup, which has come about due to the pioneering ideas and determination of Dutch inventor and entrepreneur Boyan Slat. Check out his Ocean Cleanup website to see what is happening!

Ocean Aid

We need as many people as possible to do whatever they can to help stop plastic pollution getting any worse and to clean up the worldwide mess we have. Everybody can do something by applying any or all of the four Rs: ReUSE, ReDUCE, ReCYCLE and ReFUSE! A worldwide effort is needed and needed NOW! 

I have had an idea to help raise even more awareness and get more people and organisations on board. My idea is for a massive concert to be held and called OCEAN AID. It will be following in the musical footsteps of Band Aid and Live Aid. I can see big name acts wanting to be involved if such an event can happen.

Mick Jagger

By the way, a shout-out to Mick Jagger, who is a rock star who has spoken out about plastic pollution in a recent tweet. Mick @MickJagger tweeted: "I've pledged to reduce single-use plastic in my life & support @weareproject0 & @skyoceanrescue.  Refuse plastic straws & cutlery, use refillable water bottles coffee cups, & bring your own bag to the store. Together we can do this! Join me & take the challenge to #PassOnPlastic"

I am thinking BIG but it is a very BIG problem! Please help in any way you can!

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Ancient Herbalists Assigned Herbs to Planetary Rulers

Why the Ancient Herbalists Assigned Herbs to Astrological Rulers

Nicholas Culpeper (Photo: Public Domain)

As far as we know, there are no more planets in this Solar System that have plants growing on them, though some people have suggested there may be vegetation of some sort on Mars. Ancient herbalists, however, had a system of assigning herbs to planetary rulers; in other words, they claimed that deities linked with the heavenly bodies held dominion over herbs that grow on Earth. Let us take a look at a selection of herbs that were placed under the astrological ruling of other planets, and see why it might have been that herbalists, like Culpeper, decided to assign them to specific heavenly rulers.

Herbs of Mars

Dragon Tree (Photo: Public Domain)

Nicholas Culpeper was one of the most famous herbalists who believed that medicinal and culinary plants could be grouped in this way, according to their various characteristics that were linked to those of a specific god or goddess. For example, because Mars was regarded as the god of war, herbs that had something aggressive about their physical appearance or something that resembled blood, were candidates for being ruled by this planet. The strange Dragon Tree (Dracaena draco) is a perfect example of a herb ruled by Mars because it has sword-shaped leaves, reddish-coloured berries and it bleeds a resinous sap that goes a dark red when dry and is known as dragon’s blood. The Dragon Tree comes from the Canary Islands, and a specimen in the town of Icod de los Vinos is thought to be 1,000-years-old or more. It is known as the "Drago Milenario," has its own park, and is a tourist attraction nowadays.

Steve Andrews explains why the Dragon Tree is a herb of Mars

Mistletoe (Photo: Public Domain)

Herbs of the Sun

Herbs of the Sun include the Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and the Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis). These two plants have petals that radiate out from a central disk like the rays of the Sun, and the Sunflower is, of course, a bright yellow, which is a colour linked with the central star of our Solar System. The St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is another herb in this group. It has yellow star-shaped flowers and is harvested in midsummer when the Sun is at its strongest and the days are at their longest. St John’s Wort has become well-known as a herbal antidepressant, and one of its alternative names is Sunshine Herb. Mistletoe (Viscum album) is an herb of the Sun because it was traditionally harvested by Druids at the time of the Winter Solstice. It was cut down from an oak tree using a golden sickle.

White Water Lily (Photo: Public Domain)

Herbs of the Moon

Herbs ruled by the Moon were often ones that are associated with water, because the Moon is linked with the oceans because it causes the tides. White flowers or a silvery colour on the foliage are other characteristics linked with the Moon, and plants that have something to do with the night might also be thought of as herbs of the Moon. The White Water Lily (Nymphaea alba) is a herb ruled by the Moon. This is because of its white flowers, rounded leaves, like full Moons, and because it grows in lakes and ponds. The Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) has white blooms and its perfume is strongest at night. The White Willow (Salix alba) is another herb under the dominion of the Moon. Willows, of course, like to grow by water. The Lettuce species (Lactuca spp.) are ruled by the Moon too. This is because they have a white milky sap if cut. This sap is known as "Lettuce opium" and has similar sedative effects.

Fennel (Photo: Public Domain)

Herbs of Mercury

Mercury was thought of as the messenger of the gods, so herbs ruled by this planet have to really communicate to us in some way. Strongly aromatic herbs were often chosen as herbs of Mercury. The Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a great example of a herb in this group. It communicates to our senses with the visual appeal of its tall graceful stems and ferny foliage, to our tastes with its sweet and spicy flavour like aniseed, and with its scent like anise when crushed. It is used both as a culinary herb and in herbal medicine.

Periwinkle (Photo: Public Domain)

Herbs of Venus

Herbs ruled by Venus, not surprisingly include the Rose, which is a symbol of love and passion, and, of course, Venus is the Goddess of Love. The pretty blue-flowered Periwinkle (Vinca spp.) is another herb in this group, and this is because it has been used in love potions and spells. It was thought that merely sprinkling this herb under the bed of a couple of lovers would increase their passion. In fact, the Periwinkle is a poisonous plant but that never stopped it being linked with love.

Lime Tree (Photo: Public Domain)

Herbs of Jupiter

Jupiter is a giant planet and expansion is one of the characteristics associated with it as a planetary ruler. Various trees come under its dominion because of their spreading branches. One of them is the Lime Tree (Tilia spp.), a tree which gives us lime flower tea, which is known to help relaxation and is very popular in many parts of Europe. It was once thought that anyone suffering from epilepsy would be healed by merely sitting under a Lime's branches. The Oak (Quercus) is a very important and sacred tree for Druids, and it too comes under the rulership of Jupiter.

Deadly Nightshade (Photo: Public Domain)

Herbs of Saturn

Saturn is another gigantic planet and famous for its rings. To the Ancient Herbalists it was associated with the passing of time and with old age and death. It symbolises the “Grim Reaper.” Many poisonous herbs come under its dominion. The Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), the Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), Hemlock (Conium maculatum) and Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) are all very dangerous herbs that were once used by witches as ingredients for their “flying ointments.” The Morning Glory (Ipomoea violacea) is another herb under the dominion of Saturn. Its flower has a circular mouth to a funnel-shape and could remind us of the Rings of Saturn. Its seeds, especially in varieties like "Heavenly Blue," contain lysergic acid amide, which as hallucinogenic effects and has often been used by hippies and shamans because of this. This flower looks so beautiful it could be from another world, and its psychoactive effects could make you feel like you were on one.

Morning Glory (Photo: Steve Andrews)

In Conclusion

Thinking about how the herbalists assigned various herbs to the rulership of planetary deities, according to their characteristics, certainly makes for a fascinating study and something for us to think about. My new book Herbs of the Sun, Moon and Planets (Moon Books) explores this subject in greater detail.

Herbs of the Sun, Moon and Planets explained by author Steve Andrews

Friday, 1 December 2017

A day out in London exploring nature

A day out in London exploring nature
Magpie in tree in Regent's Park  (Photo: Ashley Coates)

London is a massive and bustling city in the UK, but surprisingly, despite all its shops and streets, and traffic and buildings, it is a good place for exploring nature if you know where to go. As a matter of fact, as much as 47% of London is actually green space, though this may not be evident if you are just looking at all its building developments, housing and roads.
If you are a naturalist with a special interest in a particular area of study, you can come to London and spend an interesting time there seeing what you can find. For example, a botanist can see how many wildflowers they can find growing in the urban environment, and see what trees they can discover in the city’s streets, parks and gardens. If you are a bird-spotter, you can be on the lookout for different species, and it is possible to get some surprises.

The very rare bittern is a species that has been seen in wetlands just a few km from the city centre. The American robin made national news and excited twitchers when it was seen in London in the Peckham Rye station area back in 2006.

American Robin (Photo: Tim Sackton)

Regent’s Park
It is the parks that are the obvious place to look for nature and the city of London has a wonderful selection of parklands, which are home to all sorts of incredible wildlife. Regent’s Park not only supports an interesting flora and fauna in the wild, including frogs, toads, common newts, herons, cormorants, bats, hedgehogs, foxes, and as many as 21 species of British butterfly, but is also home to London Zoo, which is worth a visit to see many exotic species.

Urban fox (Photo: brett jordan)

Where to stay on a Day Trip to London
Perhaps you have already heard about what a great place the big city can be for connecting with nature, and have decided to make a day trip to London? Perhaps you are planning to take a look at some of its parks but fancy somewhere to be able to rest between morning and afternoon explorations. There are plenty of hotels by the hour on DayBreakHotels site, where you can book a room for your use just for the day. Having such a hotel room can be convenient as a place to leave any baggage you brought with you and also for any shopping you may have done while in London. Even though your day trip is to discover nature and urban wildlife you may well be tempted by the incredible range of shops on offer in London. Convenience is important for you to get the most out of your day in the big city and Hyde Park is in convenient distance to Regent's Park.

Hyde Park
Heron and spring flowers in Hyde Park (Photo: Sarah Castillo)

Hyde Park is a popular park in the heart of London that is a great place for spotting wildlife, and on a day trip to the city perhaps you could visit this park in the second half of your day.  Hyde Park has plenty of wildflowers in its meadow and the these plants attract lots of butterflies and pollinators in summer. The Serpentine Lake attracts many waterbirds including great crested grebes. The park has a great variety of birds, including long-tailed tits, dunnocks and robins, and buzzards have been sighted here too.

Go Wild In the City
There are also organisations in London that provide services that help introduce residents and visitors. Wildinthecity is one such non-profit organisation that provides guided walks in the green spaces and natural areas of the London area, and includes foraging, bushcraft and camping in the wild as skills you can learn. Wildinthecity shows people how to connect with nature and teaches about the pleasures to be gained outdoors, as well as how to identify edible fruits and plants, for example.

Foraging for berries (Photo: Simon James)

London may be a busy metropolis but is still a wonderful place for discovering the natural world.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Ponds in 750 words

PONDS (in 750 words in 3-word sentences only)

Ponds are wet. Ponds are deep. Pondwater is cold. Edges are shallow. Marginal plants grow. Willows grow poolside. Ponds house frogs. Ponds house newts. Ponds house sticklebacks. Fish need ponds. Water lily floats. Frogbit floats too. Duckweed floats too. Dragonflies hunt insects. Damselfly is graceful. Damselfly is smaller. Damselfly looks exotic. Dragonfly looks prehistoric. Dragonfly is prehistoric. Mud is deep. Mud is stinking. Mud is mucky.

Ducks swim together. Ducks can dabble. Drakes are attractive. Ducks attract humans. Humans feed ducks. Humans hunt ducks. Ducklings are cute. Waterfowl need ponds. Grebes like ponds. Grebes are divers.

Swans like ponds. Swans are beautiful. Swans build nests. Water weeds choke. Parrot’s feather invades. Pond weeds invade. Canadian pondweed invades. Watercress is edible. Pondskaters surface walk. Water crickets skate. Water measurers walk. Pond surface fascinates. Flowering rush flowers.

Tadpoles form shoals. Frogs spawn annually. Male frogs croak. Toads gather too. Males grab females. Males kick males. Ponds are source. Spawn is jelly. Amphibians need freshwater. Dragonfly nymphs hunt. Nymphs eat tadpoles. Nymphs are masked. Camouflage works well. Nymph transforms magically. Caddisfly larva hides. Herons hunt frogs. Herons eat fish. Herons stand tall. Herons stay still. Herons seek ponds.

Water boatmen sing. Water bug predates. Water bugs bite. Water beetle hunts. Water beetle flies. Water boatmen fly. Reedmace is edible. Summer evaporates water. Newts all leave. Water snails feed. Water scorpions hunt. Leeches sometimes swim. Pondwater is home. Ponds are stagnant. Flatworms are weird. Moths need reeds. Waterfowl need reeds.  Bats like ponds.

Ponds are fascinating. Ponds smell natural. Ponds are ornamental. Winter ponds freeze. Water is icy. Pond surface freezes. Spring returns life. Ponds attract kids. Kids catch tadpoles. Ponds are dangerous. Deep water drowns. Humans drain ponds. Ponds are needed. Rare pondlife exists. Ponds have parasites. Humans destroy pondlife. Humans destroy ponds. Wildlife find ponds. Wildlife seek ponds.

Snakes need ponds. They hunt frogs. Snakes eat newts. Human ponds help. Ponds get fewer. Ponds were childhood. Ponds were traditional. Village ponds existed. Farms had duckponds. Parks had ponds. Parks use ponds.

Ponds supported wildlife. Ponds give life. Ponds are natural. Humans need ponds. Ponds form habitats. Ponds are worlds. Ponds are wetlands. We explore ponds. Pondlife is amazing. Pondlife must adapt. Microscopic pondlife lives. Microscopes view rotifers. Cyclops are crustaceans. Water fleas swarm. Water mites vary. Amoebas can divide. Ponds appeal aesthetically. Lily pool appeals. Ponds inspire artists. Ponds are photogenic. Ponds were youth. Ponds were upbringing. Ponds are missing. Pond explorations excite. Ponds can stimulate. Ponds inspire poetry. Ponds inspire art. Some pondlife float. Some pondlife swim.

Some are mud-dwellers. Some pondlife arrive. Some pondlife depart. Ponds are fun. Ponds are intricate. Ponds delight naturalists. Ponds delight botanists.

Ponds delight people. Ponds are visual. Ponds are seasonal. Ponds dry up. Ponds fill up. Ponds are fleeting. Ponds are alive. Ponds are memorable. Ponds look ancient. Ponds look new. Ponds form connections. Ponds are green. Ponds reflect sunlight. Ponds reflect moonlight. Ponds show seasons. Ponds can drown. A pond protects. Ponds get cold. Ponds can endure. Ponds are leafy. Ponds absorb death. Ponds cause death. Ponds engender life. Ponds use decomposition. Ponds feed animals. Ponds feed birds. Ponds feed amphibians.

Ponds feed insects. Ponds feed invertebrates. Ponds feed mammals. Ponds provide water. Ponds can shine. Ponds can sparkle. Ponds go dark. Ponds fool us. Ponds scare people. Ponds are joy. Each pond differs. Ponds age well. Ponds change quickly. Ponds process life. Ponds are polluted. Ponds are clean. Ponds show cycles. Ponds show signs. Ponds give clues. Ponds take water. Ponds need water. Ponds are temporary. Ponds inspire thinking. Ponds can flood. Ponds can lessen. Ponds can disappear. Ponds can return. People make ponds. People desire ponds. People sell ponds. Plastic ponds work. Ponds are artificial. Concrete ponds endure. Ponds need protection.

Ponds beautify parkland. Ponds beautify gardens. Ponds need attention. Ponds are returning. Ponds were common. Pond mud sets. Pond mud cracks. Clay ponds exist. Marshes surround ponds. Bogs surround ponds. Streams form ponds. Trees overlook ponds. Reeds surround ponds. Ponds warm up. Ponds can chill. Ponds are environments. Ponds support vegetation. Ponds need conservation. Ponds feed us. Ponds are worldwide. Ponds need rain. Ponds collect water. Ponds drain land. Ponds provide sustenance. Ponds nourish lifeforms. Ponds are calm. Ponds are peaceful. Ponds are balanced. Ponds show harmony. Ponds are mirrors.

Ponds reflect faces. Ponds are dreams. Ponds inspire introspection. Pond snail sticks. Ramshorn snail spirals. Kingfishers like ponds. Ponds fill depressions. Ponds swallow excess. Ponds fill fast. Vernal ponds expire.