Posts Tagged ‘Downtown’

The Orchid Room at the United States Botanic Garden

During today’s lunchtime bike ride, I started off the month by once again stopping by the United States Botanic Garden, located near the U.S. Capitol Building at 1st Street & Maryland Avenue (MAP) in Downtown D.C.  In operation since 1850 and in its current location since 1933, the United States Botanic Gardens houses numerous themed rooms, and is home to almost 10,000 living specimens, some of them over 165 years old.  During this visit I stopped by to spend some time appreciating the flowering plants in The Orchid Room, which are presented annually in collaboration with the Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection.

With blooms that are often colorful and fragrant, orchids are easily distinguished from other plants based on some very evident, shared derived characteristics, know as apomorphies.  Among these are:  bilateral symmetry of the flower, also referred to as zygomorphism; many resupinate flowers; a nearly always highly modified petal  orlabellum; fused stamens and carpels, and; extremely small seeds.

Orchids showcase a wide spectrum of color, shape, size, habitat, and scent, and with approximately 30,000 species are one of the two largest and diverse families of flowering plants.  The other are daisies.  And over the past 80 million years, orchids have successfully colonized every continent except Antarctica, and almost every conceivable habitat, from remote Mediterranean mountaintops to living rooms around the world.

And one of the secrets to their success is unusual and highly specialized pollination methods.  Many orchids provide food for insects and birds and even more have symbiotic relationships with micro-organisms that assist with nutrient cycling in the ecosystem.  Butterflies and moths are enticed to pollinate orchids that resemble flowers they normally feed on or orchids that provide a landing area and sufficient nectar rewards. Moth-pollinated orchids tend to have strong nighttime fragrances to attract their pollinators from great distances.  And in higher-elevation cloud forests where there are fewer pollinators, some orchids have evolved to have brightly colored tubular flowers with large nectar rewards to entice hummingbirds.

But the most unusual method is employed by the Ophrys apifera, also known as the “bee” orchid.  The bee orchid, or the “prostitute” orchid as it is less politely called by some botanists, has what is probably the most unusual pollination method.  It can best be described as sex, or pseudo-sex.  Small but flamboyant, the bee orchid is one of nature’s great mimics. Perched within the large pink sepals are petals shaped and colored like a visiting bee. The pink sepals look like wings and there are furry, brown lips that have yellow markings just like a bee.  But the deception goes further than visual appearance alone.  The flower takes on the tactile experience, and even emits the scent, of a female bee.  But the orchid offers the bee no nectar reward or pollen meal.  Instead, it attracts amorous male bee pollinators with the promise of bee sex to ensure its pollination.

So the next time you are walking through The Orchid Room, or admiring the beauty of some orchids, keep in mind that there is often more to them than meets the eye.

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Advertisements

Edward R. Murrow Park

The late Edward R. Murrow was the first journalist to have Federal parkland named after him, when a tiny triangle of land on Pennsylvania Avenue just west of the White House was dedicated to him almost 40 years ago. And during today’s lunchtime bike ride I stopped by the park to see it.

Located on Pennsylvania Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown district, it is just opposite the former U.S. Information Agency (USIA), which Murrow headed from 1961 to 1963. The USIA’s successor, the International Communication Agency, is now headquartered in the same building at 1776 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Edward R. Murrow was born Egbert Roscoe Murrow at Polecat Creek, North Carolina in April of 1908. He was the youngest of three brothers born to Quaker parents. When Murrow was six years old, his family moved across the country to Skagit County in western Washington, just 30 miles south of the U.S.-Canada border. He attended high school in nearby Edison, excelled on the debate team, and was president of the student body in his senior year. After graduation from high school, Murrow enrolled at Washington State College, where he was also active in college politics. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1930, he moved back east to New York.

It was in New York that Murrow joined the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) as director of talks and education in 1935, and remained with the network for his entire career. He first gained prominence as a broadcast journalist and war correspondent during World War II with a series of live radio broadcasts from Europe for the news division of the CBS. During the war he recruited and worked closely with a team of war correspondents who came to be known as the Murrow Boys.

A pioneer of radio and television news broadcasting, Murrow produced a series of reports on his television program See It Now which helped lead to the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Fellow journalists Eric Sevareid, Ed Bliss, Bill Downs, Dan Rather, and Alexander Kendrick consider Murrow one of journalism’s greatest figures, noting his honesty and integrity in delivering the news.

Regardless of your political persuasion, most people can agree that we could use a lot more honesty and integrity in our current news reporting. I guess you could say that society needs another Edward R. Murrow. Unfortunately, there was only one.

         

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Photo Gallery of this Year’s Cherry Blossoms

The  much anticipated peak bloom for this year of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin has officially arrived.  The National Park Service originally predicted at a press conference on March 1, that D.C.’s iconic cherry blossoms would reach their peak bloom for 2018 between March 17th and 20th.  But after an unusually warm February, March was much cooler than normal.  In fact, March actually ended up being colder than February.  So although the cherry blossoms got off to an early start, their progress slowed considerably in the subsequent cooler temperatures.  So on March 12, the Park Service revised the prediction to between March 27th and 31st.  Then on March 23, they pushed it back again to between April 8th and the 12th.  Judging that 70 percent of the buds had reached the “puffy white” stage, the final development stage before peak bloom, on April 1st, the Park Service once again adjusted their prediction, and on April 3rd they moved it up to between April 5th and 8th.  And they were correct.  The blossoms are now in peak bloom.  But they will only be that way for a few more days.  And if the weather forecast of snow for Saturday is correct, they will be gone after tomorrow.  So hurry and get to D.C. if you want to see this natural spectacle.  But if you can’t, enjoy these photos that I took earlier this afternoon.

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Note:  Here are some links to past years’ posts about D.C.’s cherry blossoms:
•  Cherry Blossom Stages of Development (2018)
•  The Indicator Tree (2018)
•  This Year’s Cherry Blossoms Watch (2017)
•  The Amur Cork Tree (2017)
•  The Japanese Pagoda at the Tidal Basin (2017)
•  Sunrise with the Cherry Blossoms (2016)
•  The Peaking of the Cherry Blossoms (2016)
•  The Annual Cherry Blossoms (2015)
•  The Cherry Blossoms Around The Tidal Basin (2014)
•  The Cherry Trees Collection at the National Arboretum (2014)

This Morning’s Sunrise

Posted: February 9, 2018 in Events
Tags: , ,
27912995_10212750349806289_4129328291308666119_o

This Morning’s Sunrise

This morning, as the Congress and Senate were still inside the U.S. Capitol Building trying to reach an agreement to pass a continuing resolution which would reopen the Federal government and end the second government shutdown of the year, the rest of us on the outside were treated to a sunrise that was so beautiful that it made you temporarily forget about the political ugliness going on inside the building.

As the sun rose and the blackness of night seemed to change the entire sky to a deep red and then a pronounced pink, I decided to stop on the way to work and take some time to watch the spectacular show.  I can’t recall ever seeing such a red sky, and it reminded me of the saying, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.”  But with what was going on inside the Capitol, I think the politicians, more than sailors, should take warning.

The 45th Annual March for Life

This week has been an interesting one. The workweek began with a day off to commemorate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal holiday. Severe winter weather moved into the area during the week as well. With temperatures near 70 degrees during the preceding weekend, a weather front moved in that had the temperatures drop down into single digits. The weather front also brought snow with it, which caused areas schools to close on more than one day. Now at the end of a week in which Federal workers like myself are waiting to see if the lack of a budget will result in the government shutting down at the end of the day today, the temperature has risen back up to almost 50 degrees just in time for my lunchtime bike ride to this year’s March for Life.

The March for Life is an annual event which began as a small demonstration on the first anniversary of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1973 in cases known as Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton, which were landmark decisions on the issue of abortion. Over the years the March for Life has grown to include numerous other cities in the United States and throughout the world. The March in D.C., however, has become and remains the largest pro-life event in the world.

I have attended the March for Life each year for many years, as I did again today for the 45th annual march. This year’s events included a musical opening before the rally program began, which took place at noon on the National Mall at 12th Street, in between Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive. During the program there were a number of featured speakers, including President Donald Trump (via video satellite), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Pam Tebow, the mother of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Directly after the program there was a march up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court Building and the Capitol Building took place. After finishing marching there was then a time for “Silent No More” testimonies outside U.S. Supreme Court, as well as chances for some to meet with their Representative or Senator to advocate for life.

According to the latest statistics available on abortions worldwide, published by the World Health Organization (WHO), every year there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day.  Approximately 926,200 of these abortions were performed in the United States, which equates to approximately nineteen percent of all pregnancies in this country (excluding miscarriages) ending in abortion. Other available information from the WHO on abortion in the United States shows that nearly half (45%) of all pregnancies among U.S. women were unintended, and about four in 10 of these were terminated by abortion. This made the abortion rate 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged (15–44).  Among these women, 1.5% have had an abortion, with just under half of these women (45%) reported having a previous abortion.  Those who have abortions come primarily from the poorest among us (75 percent), women of color (61 percent), women pursuing post-secondary degrees that would lift them out of poverty (66 percent), and mothers who already have dependents (59 percent).  Overall, based on all available statistics, one in 20 women (5%) will have an abortion by age 20, about one in five (19%) by age 30 and about one in four (24%) by age 45.

The March for Life may not put an end to the tragedy of abortion, but it’s a good step (or steps).

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

More information about the annual March for Life can be found on one of my previous blog posts.

#WhyWeMarch  #MarchForLife  #MarchForLife2018

Chief Petty Officers’ Centennial Time Capsule

On a recent lunchtime bike ride I found myself at the United States Navy Memorial, located on Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, between 7th and 9th Streets in Downtown D.C. I have been to this memorial a number of times, but this was the first time I noticed a small brass plaque located on one of the masts that encircles the memorial.  So, naturally, I had to check it out and find out more about it.

It turned out that the plaque marks the spot where a time capsule was placed in the base of the mast nearest to the entrance to the Navy Memorial Heritage Center.  Created by and dedicated to the Navy’s chief petty officers (CPOs), the time capsule was placed there on October 13, 1993, the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Navy’s establishment of the CPO position.

The time capsule is scheduled to be opened on the bicentennial anniversary of the establishment of the CPO position, on October 19, 2093.   And I look forward to being there to see it opened.

The inscription on the plaque reads,

“The rank of chief petty officer – the senior position among naval enlisted ranks – was established by the Navy Department in 1893. A time capsule was placed within this foundation on 13 October 1993 to be opened in the chiefs’ bicentennial year 2093.

The chief petty officers serving in the 1993 centennial year are honored to pass on these items representative of our first 100 years of service to our country and navy to the chiefs serving in the 2003 bicentennial year. As we look to the future, we place our faith and trust in you to carry out the traditions of leadership, pride, and professionalism, and continue “Set the tone.”

Our salute affirms our trust in you – the future chief petty officers of the United States Navy.”

It just goes to show you that you should keep your eyes open and be aware of what is around you when you are in D.C.  because you never know what you’re going to see.

      
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

FBI-WFO (5)

The FBI’s Washington Field Office

In honor of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who would have turned 98 years old today, on this bike ride I rode to the FBI Headquarters building, and from there to the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which is located at 601 4th Street(MAP).  Mr. Zimbalist was an actor who is arguably most widely known for his starring role as Inspector Lewis Erskine in the television series “The F.B.I.”, which premiered on September 19, 1965 and closed with the last episode on September 8, 1974. The series was an authentic telling of fictionalized accounts of actual FBI cases, with fictitious main characters carrying the stories.

Mr. Zimbalist developed and maintained a strong personal relationship with J. Edgar Hoover, the real-life Director of the FBI at that time.  Although he was never seen in the series, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover actually served as series consultant. Mr. Hoover requested technical accuracy for the show, and that Agents be portrayed in the best possible light. Actors who played F.B.I. employees were required by Hoover to undergo a background check. Mr. Zimbalist passed his background check with ease. He subsequently spent a week in D.C., where he was interviewed by Hoover, and at the F.B.I. academy in Quantico, Virginia. Hoover and Zimbalist remained mutual admirers for the rest of Hoover’s life. Hoover would later hold Zimbalist up as an image role model for FBI employees to emulate in their personal appearance.

The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, Inc. honored the character of Lewis Erskine in 1985 with a set of retired credentials. On June 8, 2009, then FBI Director Robert Mueller, presented Mr. Zimbalist with a plaque AS an honorary Special Agent for his work on the TV series.

Other notable people with a connection to the FBI and also share today’s birthday with Mr. Zimbalist are: G. Gordon Liddy (former FBI Agent and Watergate conspirator), who turned 87 today; Dick Clark (host of American Bandstand known as America’s oldest teenager, on whom the FBI maintained a file and conducted investigations in 1962 and 1985 into threats of violence against him), who would have turned 87 today; Abbie Hoffman (political activist who was investigated by the FBI), who would have been 81 today; Richard Crenna (actor who performed on the “This Is Your FBI” radio program) would have turned 90 today, and; Mandy Patinkin (actor who played FBI Agent Jason Gideon on the TV series “Criminal Minds”), who turned 65 today.

         

         
[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

One of my very favorite gardens in D.C., and one which I stop by frequently during my lunchtime bike rides, is the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden. Conveniently located on the south side of the National Mall in the city’s Downtown neighborhood, the garden is tucked neatly in-between the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (MAP), in an area which had previously been slated to become a parking lot.

The half-acre curvilinear-shaped garden was designed by local architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen as a sensory garden, with raised planting beds and greater accessibility for handicapped and other visitors. Many of its original plants were brought in from the Litchfield, Connecticut home of Mary Livingston Ripley, an avid lifelong plant scholar-collector, active gardener, and wife of the S. Dillon Ripley, the Smithsonian Institution’s eighth Secretary.  The garden opened in 1978, and a decade later it was renamed in Mrs. Ripley’s honor by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, a philanthropic group she helped found.

The garden has evolved over the years, with more recent efforts focused on exposing visitors to the widest variety of plants and flowers possible, many of which are grown in the Smithsonian Gardens Greenhouse Complex in Maryland.  Currently there are more than 200 varieties of plants in hanging baskets, borders, raised serpentine and circular beds, and even growing vertically on plant walls.

The garden is also adorned with a number of 19th-century cast-iron furnishings. These furnishings are part of the historical collection belonging to Smithsonian Gardens, and include a large Acanthus fountain anchoring the middle of the garden, ornate light posts interspersed along the paths, and benches that are far away enough from each other that they provide a sense of intimacy with the person you’re sitting with rather than people on the next bench.

Another asset of the Ripley Garden is horticulturist Janet Draper and her staff.  They not only maintain this incredible garden, but are also friendly, helpful if you have a question or need assistance, and even offer an informal walking tour of the garden every Tuesday at 2 p.m. through October, weather permitting.

For anyone who hasn’t yet been there, I highly recommend it.  And I would encourage you to spend some time there and be attentive, unlike the commuters and other pedestrians who simply use the garden as a cut-through between Independence Avenue and the National Mall.  And if you’re able, I would suggest going several times, perhaps at different times during the year.  It is worth repeated visits not only for the quantity and variety of plants. but because the garden is ever changing.

         

         

         

         

The following are some of my favorite photos, mostly of of flowers and plants, that I took over the past year
or so in the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden.  Click on each to see the full-size version.  Viewing them on a
high definition screen is suggested in order to better see the complexity and intricate beauty of each.

         

         

         

         

         

         

          

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

          

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

Sign hanging in the Ripley Garden

Needle Tower

The destination of today’s lunchtime bike ride was Needle Tower, a public artwork by Kenneth Duane Snelson, an American contemporary sculptor and photographer.  The 60-foot abstract sculpture of steel wires and aluminum tubes is on display outside of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which is located just off the National Mall at Independence Avenue and 7th Street (MAP) in southwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood. 

At first glance it seems improbable that Needle Tower can even remain upright.  But the aluminum tubes of the slim and graceful piece act in compression, and held in tension by the stainless steel cables threaded through in the ends of the aluminum tubes.

Snelson’s works often center around or incorporate geometric shapes.  And this piece is a good example of that.  The tower itself is interesting.  But looking up from the inside of Needle Tower is where it really impresses.  I see Stars of David getting progressively smaller in a seemingly endless procession ascending into the sky, symbolizing the infinite nature of the universe.  According to Snelson, however, six-pointed stars are common, and the piece does not include the Star of David nor is it symbolic.  In Needle Tower the six pointedness comes from the natural geometry of the three compression struts that make up each layer.  Sets of three alternate with left and right helical modules, adding up to six when viewed upwards from the base of the tower.

The structure was built in 1968, and has been on continuous display since the museum’s namesake, Joseph Hirshhorn, donated it in 1974. It remains one of the museum’s most popular works of art.  Needle Tower is so popular, in fact, that it was placed in its central spot outside the museum so that when tourists pass by on their way to and from nearby museums and attractions, it draws their attention to both the piece and the Hirshhorn.

A second Needle Tower, Needle Tower II, was completed in 1968 and was acquired in 1971 by the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands. That piece resides in the museum’s sculpture garden.  And I look forward to seeing it on my next bike ride to the Netherlands.

         
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

View of the Folger Rose Garden from the Smithsonian Castle

As I was riding around near the National Mall on this lunchtime bike ride, the bright colors of flowers in a garden near the Smithsonian Castle caught my attention.  So, of course, I rode over for a closer look.  The flowers were roses, and I was surprised to see so many of them in bloom so late in the season.  So I decided to look into it and find out more about roses and the garden.

There are many different kinds of roses, and they have been around for a long time.  At last count, there were roughly 150 known species alone, and the garden hybrids of those currently number in the thousands.  And although they are over 35 million years old, every year new varieties are developed and tested, and some are eventually introduced.  And if what I saw on this ride is any indication, a great resource for viewing roses is the Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden, located downtown at 900 Jefferson Drive (MAP), in front of the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building and to the east of the iconic Smithsonian Castle.

The Folger Rose Garden embodies the best practices in modern rose care and culture. When planning for this project, Smithsonian Gardens staff spent months carefully selecting rose varieties that are fragrant, disease resistant, and–whenever possible–“own-root roses” meaning they are grown from cuttings rather than grafted onto another rootstalk. Good selection is critical to maintaining a beautiful and scented garden without constant disease pressure and pesticide application.

The Folger Rose Garden features a bed of roses in a rainbow of colors, along with selected companion plants, annuals, perennials, and groundcovers chosen for year-round interest.  Specimen conifers and evergreens also punctuate the garden and anchor it during the winter months.  Because of it’s prominent and conveniently accessible location, the garden provides an engaging space for visitors on their journey around the Smithsonian museums.  You often see people walking by stop to smell the various fragrant roses, read the plant name tags to gather ideas for their own gardens, and to enjoy the spectacular view.  And with educational signage interspersed throughout the garden, it also provides an opportunity for visitors to better understand roses as a part of a larger ecosystem.

The garden also includes a number of pieces of cast iron adornment, several of which are part of the Smithsonian Gardens’ garden artifact collection.  The cast iron pieces include four benches and a large urn, but the centerpiece is the cast iron original 19th century, three-tiered Keith Fountain at the western end of the garden.  The fountain, manufactured by the J. W. Fiske Iron Works Company in New York, formerly belonged to the Ellerslie Farm in Petersburg, Virginia.

The garden was made possible by a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Lee M. Folger, in honor of their mother, Kathrine Dulin Folger, and the widow of John Clifford Folger, a prominent Washington investment banker, civic leader, fund-raiser for the Republican Party and former U.S. ambassador to Belgium.  The restoration of the fountain was made possible by contributions of Narinder K. Keith and Rajinder K. Keith.

         

          

          

         

         

         

         
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]