LIVING DINOSAURS - The Coelacanth




Of course, the Coelacanth is not a living dinosaur - more of a living fossil. Why? Because up until 1938, the only proof of the Coelacanths existence was from the fossil record! In fact its very existence continues to serve as a reminder of just how little we know about the natural world.

The coelacanth - a large primitive deep-dwelling fish - has managed to provide an immediate link to our dim evolutionary past. This is because of their striking resemblance to the lobe-finned fish which are believed to have been the first to leave the water and take to land, ultimately begetting the amphibians, reptiles and mammals - including the human race - we see today.

The fish’s discovery was a worldwide sensation, and the Coelacanth remains famous to this day. However, new research just published reveals, just how little we still know about this fish, despite it being the subject of intensive scrutiny and excitement for more than 70 years.

A team of scientists based in France and Germany has just summarised the results of a 21 year study into coelacanths living in the Comoros Islands, in the western Indian Ocean.

After its initial discovery in South African waters, no other coelacanths were sighted by western scientists for a further fourteen years, when a few fish were found swimming off the Comoros. The fish was not filmed alive until the BBC serendipitously took some footage of one for the programme 'Life on Earth' broadcast in 1979 and the first photos of the fish in its natural habitat were not taken until 1988!

The study was done on Colacanths species Latimeria chalumnae by Hans Fricke of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany and colleagues.It is a deep blue fish that has been sighted around Africa, off the coasts of South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar. It is one of two species of coelacanth; the other, Latimeria menadoensis, is a brown fish found much more recently in Indonesia.

The scientists used remote operated vehicles to descend into the sea and survey an 8 km-long stretch of coastline around Grand Comore inhabited by coelacanths. The ROVs followed the fish into the caves in which they live, filming and photographing individuals, which are recognisable by the pattern of white spots on their blue bodies.

What did they discover?

Coelacanths, it seems, are peaceful animals that do not act antagonistically to one another, even when groups of up to 16 fish share the same cave.


Females are markedly larger than males but there doesn't appear to be any sexual content to their gatherings.
During the day, the fish live at a depth of 170-240m along a steep volcanic landscape of caves, and at night they drift down to depths of 500m to feed, coming back to their caves in the morning to rest.


The survey reinforces the impression that perhaps just 300-400 coelacanths live at Grand Comore and that the fish do not tolerate waters above 22 degrees Centigrade particularly well, as many fish disappeared from the study area in 1994 when the water warmed, returning later.

Other research in this time has shown that coelacanth embryos develop for three years, the longest recorded for any vertebrate.

Coelacanths also appear to have the lowest metabolic rates among vertebrates.


But the study by Fricke’s team also gives away how much more we still don't know.

For example, during the entire survey period, the team did not record a single subadult, juvenile, or baby coelacanth. They didn't spot one in the Comoros, and have never spotted one in separate expeditions to study the fish off Indonesia, South Africa or Tanzania.

Only a single baby coelacanth has ever been sighted, filmed by different researchers in 2009 at a depth of 160m.

So we do not know where coelacanths give birth, where the young go, or why they don't live with the adults. Such information is vital to preserve species of such rarity.

We still have little idea about how long these ancient-looking fish live for. However the survey by Fricke’s team confirms that coelacanths can live for at least 21 years; they recorded the same fish at the start and end of the survey, while 17 fish were sighted 19 years apart. That confirms that it is unexceptional for a coelacanth to live for two decades at least – the first real evidence of a coelacanth minimum age.

The scientists’ survey also allowed them to calculate the mortality rate of the fish, based on how often the same fish were sighted over the following years.



Their best estimate is that coelacanths have a mortality rate of 0.044. That means that out of a cohort of 100 individuals, we would expect one to still be living 103 years later. Their data can be used to make another mathematical projection which suggests coelacanths can live for between 95 to 117 years old.

Other deep water fish have been found to live for around 100 years, so it’s plausible that coelacanths do indeed reach this epic age. But we still don't know for sure, nor what their average age might be.

One bit of positive news is that accidental catches of coelacanths around the Comoros are declining steeply.

Fishermen in the area used to fish using a long line and hook from motorless canoes called galawas, and would occasionally snare a coelacanth while fishing at night for oilfish.

Nowadays, the fishermen use motorized boats called vedettes to travel further out to sea – mostly avoiding the coelacanth habitat. Between 1954 and 1995 two to four coelacanths were taken each year. But after 2000, that has fallen to just 0.3 coelacanths on average.

These fishermen are the only known cause of mortality for coelacanths; Fricke’s team’s survey occasionally encountered large sand tiger sharks in the area but never witnessed any predation on coelacanths by larger fishes.



As ever, though, with extremely rare species, threats to their very existence never seem far away. In Tanzania, another home to coelacanths, fishermen once took edible small fish from shallow waters. But once these were wiped out, they took to using deep-water gill nets. Since 2003, when these nets were first used, more than 80 coelacanths have been caught, and the number is increasing each year.

That is of huge concern for this population of Latimeria and it also reinforces how similar might happen around the Comoros, one of the fish’s remaining known strongholds.

One answer, if it can be arranged with the people of the Comoros, is to set aside a protected area along the south-west coast of Grand Comore, a policy supported by Fricke’s team and other researchers.

We still know so little about this ancient fish. And perhaps we owe it: having thought it extinct for so long, it might be considered tragic to let it go extinct now.

This is a fish that has survived almost unaltered for millions of years. Yet we risk it becoming extinct in just a handful of years due to subtle shifts in the way we choose to fish, and treat our marine life.

For related articles click here for the following links:
DINOSAUR: Did Pterosaurs hang upside down?
LIVING DINOSAURS - The Coelacanth

WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST EAGLE?




There are a number of eagles vying for this accolade - the Australian Wedge-Tailed Eagle, the Berkut Golden Eagle, and the American Bald Eagle to name but a few. However, finding out exactly which of the world's eagles is the largest will all depend on how you decide to measure them ie. longest wingspan, heaviest body weight etc.

The general consensus is, that on average, the Steller's Sea Eagle is the heaviest eagle in the world therefore this makes it the world's largest eagle!

The Steller's Sea Eagle, Haliaeetus pelagicus, is a large bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. It lives in coastal northeastern Asia and mainly preys on fish. It is, on average, the heaviest eagle in the world, at about 4.9 to 9 kilograms (11 to 20 lb), but often lags behind the Harpy Eagle and Philippine Eagle in other measurements.This magnificent bird is named after the German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller.

Steller's Sea-eagle is the biggest bird in the genus Haliaeetus and is one of the largest raptors overall. The typical size range is 85 to 105 centimetres (33 to 41 in) long and the wingspan is 195 to 230 centimetres (77 to 91 in).

 Females typically weigh from 6.8 to 9 kilograms (15 to 20 lb) while males are considerably lighter with a weight range from 4.9 to 6 kilograms (11 to 13 lb). An unverified record exists of a huge female, who apparently gorged on salmon, having weighed 12.7 kilograms.

There are in fact two subspecies have of Steller's Sea-eagle. The relatively widespread Haliaeetus pelagicus and the virtually unknown H. p. niger. The latter name was given to the population which lacked white feathers except for the tail and supposedly was resident all year in Korea. Last seen in 1968 and long believed to be extinct, a female matching H. p. niger in appearance was born in captivity in 2001. Both its parent were "normal" in appearance, indicating that H. p. niger is an extremely rare morph rather than a valid subspecies, as had already been suggested earlier.

For related articles click onto the following links:
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S HEAVIEST FLYING BIRD?
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST AMPHIBIAN?
WHAT IS THE WORLDS LARGEST EAGLE?
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST FROG?
WHAT IS THE WORLDS LARGEST INSECT?

BLOGGER TUTORIAL - How to add another Page Element (Add a Gadget)



If you are intending to use blogger to run an adsense business, you will need to optimise your layout in order to maximise your adsense income. Now Google provide plenty of excellent help and information regarding this, and perhaps the most important piece of advice you can follow is to position you adsense adverts as per their adsense heat map.

This heat map is a simple approximation of your blog layout, but most importantly it shows which areas of your layout will return the most revenue. Of course, you should aim to place your adsense adverts in the red or dark orange areas, that what you are maximising the potential of your blog layout. However there are two problems.

1. Blogger will only allow you to place 3 x adsense adverts in your page elements.

2. If you are using an 'old' blogger layout - like I do  - then you are extremely limited on where your 'Add a Gadget' page elements are.

The question is, what can you do about it? Well, want you want to do is manipulate the blogger layout HTML code so that you can add another 'Add a Gadget' page element. That way it is possible to add an adsense advert slap bang on the red number 9 in the heat map.

So, how do you get an 'Add a Gadget' page element sat above your primary content?

To do this, go to LAYOUT, and click EDIT HTML. This will take you to the template editor. Now before you start, make sure you save a copy of your layout in case a mistake is made and the whole layout corrupts! It shouldn't as this is one of the easiest manipulations of the HTML code you could ever do!

Look for showaddelement. Change showaddelement='no' to showaddelement='yes'. If there is a maxwidgets='1' in front of the showaddelement. Change it to maxwidgets='2' or more or even leave it as maxwidgets='' (unlimited number). If you have problem looking for the above, press ctrl+F and search.

Once you have adjusted the template go back to the Design option and press page elements. You should now have a number of extra 'Add a Gadget' page elements at your disposal.

The above adsense ad unit was added using a HTML/Javascript gadget - yes it doesn't quite fit but I wanted the biggest one I could get. Whatever else you want to add - gadget wise - can be dragged to any sections of your blog using your mouse.

For related articles click onto the following links:
BLOGGER TUTORIAL - How to resize photos on blogger
How to add another Page Element (Add a Gadget)
How to add a live Traffic Feed to Blogger

BUY GIANT CABBAGE SEED



WANT TO BUY GIANT VEGETABLE SEEDS? THEN CLICK HERE FOR THE 'SEEDS OF EADEN' SEED SHOP

If you are looking to buy Giant Cabbage seed, you are in luck. The 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop now has Giant Cabbage seed in stock as part of its standard range. Just click on the links to be directed to the new and improved seed shop.

HOW TO TRAIN A DOG TO FIND TRUFFLES


Truffles are difficult to find and as such are very expensive as a result! To give you an example, white truffles cost from about £700 to over £1,500 a pound, and black truffles cost from £200 to over £400 a pound.

Truffle hunters in Italy and France use pigs and mixed-breed dogs to sniff out truffles. Dogs are preferred to pigs because pigs love to eat truffles. Notice the staff held by the truffle hunter in the picture with the pig. The hunter uses the staff to force the pig to back off, once the pig has located a truffle.

So, how do you train a dog to find truffles?

In Italy, truffle dogs are trained in several steps. First, the dog is taught to retrieve a rubber ball. Next, a small bit of smelly Gorgonzola cheese is substituted for the rubber ball. After the dog has learned to retrieve the cheese, the cheese is hidden, forcing the dog to sniff it out for a reward of food. Finally, a small truffle is substituted for the cheese. The dog is now trained to fetch, then dig up the truffle.

Dogs like other food better than truffles, so bread and other treats are used for rewards. The night before a truffle hunt the dog is not fed in order to make it more eager to find truffles for the treat. Just be aware that dogs generally do not find young truffles because the odour is too weak, but the odour does becomes stronger with age as the spores mature.

The value of commercial truffles means that there are laws controlling their collection. In Italy, for example, truffle collectors are tested and licensed. There, organizations of landowners called cooperatives control truffle hunting on their property. Unless you are a member of the cooperative, you can be arrested for collecting truffles from cooperative truffle beds.

In North America, truffle collectors use three major clues to find truffles. First, it must be warm and the soil moist. Truffles are often found 10 to 14 days after a heavy rain. The umbrella shaped mushrooms which pop up after a good rain can be used as a kind of clock. Look for truffles after these mushrooms have started to collapse.

Second, the right trees must be present. Truffles are formed by fungi that are partners (ectomycorrhizal) with certain trees. You will not find truffles under maples, for instance, because maples do not form ectomycorrhizae. Trees to use as clues include: pines, firs, Douglas-fir, oaks, hazel nuts, hickories, birches, beeches, and eucalyptus.

Third, truffles use animals for spore dispersal. In North America, squirrels and chipmunks are the major wild animals dispersing truffle spores. Search among the right trees for pits dug by rodents in their own hunt for truffles. Pits do not guarantee success, however! Rodents also dig pits searching for acorns, onion bulbs, and beetle grubs.

The best success results from raking around fresh pits. Look for pits not filled with leaves or other debris. I use a four-tine garden cultivator with the handle shortened to 30 inches to rake leaves off the surface and dig into the soil 3 or 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) . A good eye is required as many truffles are small and coloured red, brown, white, or even black.

Bring a supply of small paper bags for taking your truffles home. Write your collection notes on the bag before putting the truffles inside it. Information on fresh appearance and habitat is often needed to identify fungi. Note the colour and shape of the truffle, and what kind of trees are close by. The date and precise location are also useful information. These data can help you understand when and where to look next year.

Do not put truffles in sealed plastic bags. If you do they will mould, get slimy, and smell bad!

NEVER EAT ANY TRUFFLE, OR OTHER FUNGUS, UNLESS IT HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED BY AN EXPERT!

You might confuse the button stage of a poisonous mushroom with a truffle, or even be naturally allergic to it.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW MUSHROOMS AT HOME
HOW TO TRAIN A DOG TO FIND TRUFFLES
WHAT IS A TRUFFLE?

WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPIDER?



CLICK HERE FOR THE 'SEEDS OF EADEN' SEED SHOP

Let's face it, spiders are not the most popular of creatures, in fact - for most people - spiders are creepy and they are scary. Like disembodied hands they skulk along the floor just waiting to jump up and bite you. Why, because they are evil! Be that as it may, some people love them and the bigger the spider, the better it is.

So just for them , what is the world's biggest spider?

Well, if you are going by body weight, it is the Goliath Birdeating spider, otherwise known as Theraphosa blondi. Despite its name, the Goliath Birdeater predominantly eats invertebrates - such as crickets and mealworms, and small vertebrates - such as mice and lizards. Unsurprisingly, the Goliath Birdeating spider has been known to catch young birds, although this is very rare behavior. Even so, this spider received its name after Victorian explorer who witnessed one eating a hummingbird.

Native to the rain forest regions of northern South America, these giant spiders have up to a 12 inches long leg span when fully extended and can weigh over 120 grams. Wild Goliath birdeaters are a deep burrowing species, found commonly in marshy or swampy areas.

Not only are they horribly large (if you haven't already guessed, I don't like spiders) they can live and extraordinarily long time too. Female Birdeaters have an average life span of 6 to 14 years, however, males die soon after maturity, and have a lifespan of only 3 to 6 years - good!

The colours of Goliath Bird Eating spiders can range from dark to light brown, with faint markings on the legs. They have hair on the body, abdomen, and legs. The female can lay anywhere from 100 to 400 eggs, which will hatch within two months producing 'spiderlings'.

Wild Goliath Birdeaters are a deep burrowing species, found commonly in marshy or swampy areas. They may make a hissing noise when disturbed, and can defend themselves by biting, or by releasing their body hairs. The Goliath Birdeater, like all tarantulas, have fangs large enough to break the skin of a human. Luckily, its venom is relatively non-toxic, but a bite will still cause mild discomfort and swelling for a few hours. WARNING -problems will occur only if the victim is allergic to spiders, or if the wound becomes infected.

The Goliath Birdeating spider, like many tarantulas, can also release its hairs -which are barbed - by flicking at its body with its hind legs. These creates a cloud of fine hairs which can cause severe discomfort and irritation when they make contact with bare skin, or when they are inhaled.

Of course, some experts say we should judge the size of a spider by its leg length instead, in which case the largest spider is the Giant Huntsman spider.

For related articles click onto the following links:
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST AMPHIBIAN?
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST FROG?
WHAT IS THE WORLDS LARGEST INSECT?
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPIDER?

WHAT IS THE WORLD'S FASTEST FISH?




This is an excellent question specifically designed by children to make their parents look dumb. However I have an answer - in fact 'the' answer. So, just how fast is the fastest fish in the world?

The world’s fastest fish is the Indo-Pacific sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus. This sportfish can swim up to 68 miles per hour which is an incredible speed, especially when compared to the cheetah - the fastest living land animal - which can reach a top speed of between 70 and 75 mph!

What are Sailfish?

Sailfish are two species of fish in the genus Istiophorus, living in warmer sections of all the oceans of the world. They are predominately blue to grey in colour and have a characteristic erectile dorsal fin known as a sail, which often stretches the entire length of the back. Another notable characteristic is the elongated bill, resembling that of the swordfish and other marlins. They are therefore described as billfish in sport fishing circles.

Both species of sailfish grow quickly, reaching 1.2-1.5 m (4-5 ft) in length in a single year, and feed on the surface or at mid-depths on smaller pelagic forage fish and squid. Individuals have been clocked at speeds of up to 110 km/h (70 mph), which is the highest speed reliably reported in a fish.Generally, sailfish do not grow to more than 3 m (10 ft) in length and rarely weigh over 90 kg (200 lb).

The sail is normally kept folded down and to the side when swimming, but it may be raised when the sailfish feels threatened or excited, making the fish appear much larger than it actually is. This tactic has also been observed during feeding, when a group of sailfish use their sails to "herd" a school of fish or squid.

Sailfish are highly prized game fish and are known for their incredible jumps. They can appear in a startling array of colours, from subdued browns and grays to vibrant purples and even silver. Their body colours are often highlighted by stripes of iridescent blue and silver dots. Sailfish can change their colours almost instantly; a change controlled by their nervous system. The sailfish can rapidly turn its body light blue with yellowish stripes when excited, confusing its prey and making capture easier, while signalling its intentions to fellow sailfish.

For related articles click onto the following links:
CAN FLYING FISH REALLY FLY?
DO FISH SLEEP
ELECTRIC EEL - Electrophorus electricus
HOW FAST IS A SNAIL?
HOW LONG CAN A FLYING FISH FLY FOR?
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S FASTEST FISH?

IMPROVE YOUR SEX LIFE WITH FENUGREEK HERBS



For centuries, many herbs have been claimed to boost sex drive but most have failed in clinical trials. However researchers monitoring libidos and orgasms have found that one herb has managed to boost male sex drive by at least a quarter.

You might use this herb to flavour your curries, but this new research now suggests that Fenugreek has uses beyond the kitchen!

The Australian study showed that healthy men between the ages of 25 and 52 saw an average rise in libido of 28 percent after taking an extract of Fenugreek twice a day for six weeks. This was compared to a control group that saw no changes after taking a placebo.

The scientists at the Centre for Integrative Clinical and Molecular Medicine in Brisbane, where the study was conducted, suggested a compound called saponins that is found in Fenugreek could boost testosterone production.

The herb, found in most British supermarkets, has been hailed as an unlikely "fix-all elixir" thanks to its powerful antiviral properties.

Previous research has also found it may stave off viruses that cause runny noses and sore throats, as well as helping to relieve the symptoms.

Fenugreek has been used by mums for centuries to stimulate the production of breast milk during pregnancy and following childbirth.

Fenugreek, also called Greek hay and wild clover, is used both as a herb and as a spice, and grows widely in much of India, Pakistan and Asia.

Traditionally, it has been taken orally to rapidly increase milk supply in lactating women, and is commonly used in curries and Asian cookery.

They are a rich source of antioxidants, which promote good health by helping to cleanse the body of cell-damaging free-radicals. Furthermore, it has been claimed that the herb lessens the effect of hot flashes and mood fluctuations that are common symptoms of menopause and PMS.

Research has also suggested that it helps lower levels, and may be an effective treatment for both type 1 and 2 diabetes.

It can have some minor side effects so pregnant women are advised not to take it because it can induce labour.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT BY EATING FRUIT AND NUTS

HOW LONG CAN A FLYING FISH FLY FOR?




The ability for flying fish to escape their watery world and master true airborne flight is an incredible feat of evolutionary design. Getting into the air is one thing - if fact almost all fish can jump - but maintaining long periods of powered flight while unable to breath effectively in the air is truly outstanding.

So, how long can a flying fish fly for?

In May 2008, a Japanese television crew were filming flying fish off the coast of Yakushima Island, Japan. During one piece of film they managed to time a flying fish. The creature spent 45 seconds in flight. The previous record was 42 seconds.

Flying fish can use up-drafts at the leading edge of waves to cover distances of at least 400 m (1,300 ft). They can travel at speeds of more than 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph). Maximum altitude is 6 m (20 ft) above the surface of the sea.

Some accounts have even had them them landing on ships' decks! With a name like 'flying fish' it would be reasonable to expect that this specialist group of fish from the Exocoetidae family can actually actually achieve what their name implies. But how can that possibly be true? They are of course fish and therefore surely they are designed to swim - not fly?

For related articles click onto the following links:
CAN FLYING FISH REALLY FLY?
ELECTRIC EEL - Electrophorus electricus
HOW LONG CAN A FLYING FISH FLY FOR?
WHAT IS THE WORLDS FASTEST FISH?

CAN FLYING FISH REALLY FLY?




With a name like 'flying fish' it would be reasonable to expect that this specialist group of fish from the Exocoetidae family can actually actually achieve what their name implies. But how can that possibly be true? They are of course fish and therefore surely they are designed to swim - not fly?

So, do flying fish really fly?

No, flying fish don't really fly, but they do glide through the air. 

To glide upward out of the water, a flying fish will moves its tail up to 70 times per second. It then spreads its pectoral fins and tilts them slightly upward to provide lift. At the end of a glide, it folds its pectoral fins to re-enter the sea, or drops its tail into the water to push against the water to lift itself for another glide, or to change direction.

The curved profile of the "wing" is comparable to the aerodynamic shape of a bird wing. The fish is able to increase its time in the air by flying straight into or at an angle to the direction of updrafts created by a combination of air and ocean currents.

For related articles click onto the following links:
CAN FLYING FISH REALLY FLY?
DO FISH SLEEP
ELECTRIC EEL - Electrophorus electricus
HOW LONG CAN A FLYING FISH FLY FOR?
WHAT IS THE WORLDS FASTEST FISH?

BUY ALOE VERA SEED



If you are looking to buy Aloe vera seed, you are in luck. The 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop now has Aloe vera seed in stock as part of its standard range. Just click on the links to be directed to the new and improved seed shop.

Most people will propagate Aloe vera plants by taking a cutting from a mature plant. However, Aloe vera can also be cultivated from seed. Obviously, the process of reaching a mature plant will take longer when you start an Aloe vera from seed, but you can produce an awful lot more plats in the process.

So, how do you grow Aloe vera plants from seed?

Fill a modular seed tray with a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting'. Sow the Aloe vera seed on top of the compost at a rate of one seed per module. Give the seed a very light covering of horticultural grit as the presence of light is required to promote germination.

Water the seed in, by placing the tray in a larger container of water. Allow the water to rise through the compost naturally. The surface grit will normally change colour once it is wet .

Place a transparent cover on top of the tray and move the tray to a warm location at a temperatures of between 70 and 78 degrees Celsius.

Aloe vera seeds will take between one to four months to germinate. If the compost dries off during this period then remove the transparent cover and gently water.

As soon as the seedlings emerge, remove the cover so as not to encourage fungal infections.

Once the seedlings are large enough to handle they can be popped out of their module and transplanted into 3-inch pots filled with a free draining potting soil.

For related articles click onto the following links
Aloe vera
THE HARDY ALOE - Aloe striatula
THE SOMALI ALOE - Aloe somaliensis

HOW TO GROW ALOE VERA FROM SEED



If you are looking to purchase Aloe vera seeds then you are in luck as this fantastic ornamental and medicinal plant is now part of the range at the 'Seeds of Eaden' online seed shop.


All prices are in pounds Sterling (GBP), but all major currencies are accepted at the checkout including dollars and Euro's.

You can pay using Visa, Maestro, MasterCard or JCB cards or Paypal should you prefer.

There is a flat rate standard delivery charge of £1.99 for all international orders.

Be aware that some countries will have trade agreements which would prevent us from sending stock there.

So, how do you grow Aloe vera plants from seed?

Most people will propagate Aloe vera plants by taking a  cutting from a mature plant. However, Aloe vera can also be cultivated from seed. Obviously, the process of reaching a mature plant will take longer when you start an Aloe vera from seed, but you can produce an awful lot more plants in the process.

Firstly, fill a seed tray or modular tray a 50:50 mixture of moist peat and horticultural sand. After which, sow the Aloe vera seed on top of the peat and sand mixture giving each seed about a square inch of space - with the modular tray just use one seed per module.

Now give the seed a very light covering of horticultural grit.

Gentle water the seed in, probably the best way to do this so as to disturb the seed as little as possible is to place the tray in a larger container and water from the bottom.

Allow the water to rise through the compost naturally by capillary action. The surface grit will normally change colour once it is wet and this is a good indication that the compost is now properly watered.

Place a transparent cover on top of the tray - this can be a propagator lid, sheet of glass, cling-film etc and move the tray to a warm location where temperatures will remain between 70 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is important that the tray in which the Aloe vera seeds have been sown in are in a place where they can receive a decent amount of light.

This is because Aloe vera seeds will require light in order to germinate - hence the very light covering of grit!

Germination can start anywhere from one to four months. If the compost begins to dry off during this period you will need to remove the transparent cover and gently water once more.

As soon as the seedlings start to show, the cover will need to be removed immediately so as not to encourage fungal infections on the Aloe vera seedlings

Once the seedlings are large enough to handle they an be transplanted into 3-inch pots filled with a free draining potting soil. Allow to dry out between watering.

For related articles click onto the following links:
Aloe vera
DEVIL'S BACKBONE - Kalanchoe daigremontiana
THE HARDY ALOE - Aloe striatula
THE SOMALI ALOE - Aloe somaliensis

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST FLOWER IN THE WORLD?




Titan arums are true giants amongst all flowering plants. So big are they that the circumference of their huge flowers can be over three metres and they stand three metres high. In fact their single leaf can grow to the size of a small tree! Their smell - likened to rotting meat - is so bad that it led to it receiving the common name of 'corpse flower'. However there is good reason for this as both the 'fragrance' and the flower's meat-colouration is there to attract pollinators - in this case carrion flies and beetles. The common name of corpse flower was given to it by Sir David Attenborough during the filming of the Private Life of Plants series.

The huge flower consists of a bell-shaped spathe - up to 3 metres in circumference - with ribbed sides and a frilled edge which circles around a central spike-like spadix.

On the outside, the enveloping spathe is green speckled with cream, while its interior is rich crimson.

At its base, the spathe forms a chamber which encloses the true flowers which are carried at the lower end of the greyish-yellow spadix.

The body of the flower arises from an underground tuber, a swollen stem that had evolved to store food for the plant.

This tuber is more or less spherical in shape and can weigh in at 70 kg or more! This makes its the largest such structure known in the plant kingdom.

The plant was first discovered in Sumatra in 1878 by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari. He sent seeds to the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew where it first bloomed in 1889. For more information click onto http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/garden-attractions-A-Z/titan-arum.htm

However, the Titan Arum is technically a flowering organ partly made from clusters of many flowers so if you want to be pedantic about things, the largest 'true' flower is the Rafflesia arnoldii.

Again, it is noted for producing the largest individual flower on earth, and for producing a strong odour of decaying flesh. It is an endemic plant that occurs only in the rainforest of Bengkulu, Sumatra Island, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

The Rafflesia arnoldii plant is rare and fairly hard to locate. It is especially difficult to locate the flower in forests as the buds take many months to develop and the flower lasts for just a few days. The flowers are unisexual and thus proximity of male and female flowers is vital for successful pollination. These factors make successful pollination a rare event.

When Rafflesia is ready to reproduce, a tiny bud forms on the outside of the root or stem and develops over a period of a year. The cabbage like head that develops, eventually opens to reveal the flower. The stigma or stamen are attached to a spiked disk inside the flower. A foul smell of rotting meat attracts flies and beetles to pollinate. To pollinate successfully, the flies and/or beetles must visit both the male and female plants. The fruit produced are round lots filled with smooth flesh including many thousands of hard coated seeds that are eaten and spread by tree shrews.

For related articles click onto the following links:
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HOW TO GROW MUSHROOMS AT HOME



When it comes to growing your own mushrooms at home you have two choices. You can either buy a pre-made mushroom box (with instructions included)  from your local plant centre or you can be brave, start from scratch, and do it all yourself.

Button mushrooms are one of the most commonly consumed mushrooms in the entire world and probably the best variety to try and grow at home. While they are the easy to find in your local supermarket, home grown mushrooms will always taste better.

So if you are going to take the plunge and start growing mushrooms at home you will need:

1.  A 2ft x 3ft growing tray which is aproximately 6-8 inches deep.

2. Compost. Mushroom Compost is made from a mix of well rotted materials such as hay, straw, straw horse bedding, poultry litter, cottonseed meal, cocoa shells and gypsum. Sphagnum moss peat is then added to this so as to provide a consistent product. Be in mind that it may well be easier to buy some pre-made!

3. Mushroom spawn - this can be bought on-line or from good plant retailors.

4. Peat moss

5. A piece of wood or flat object

6. A water mister

7. Some old newspapers

To begin with, place the well-rotted compost into the growing tray and water. Be sure that the compost is completely wet - you want it moist not soggy.

Next, take 1 to 2 cups of the dry button mushroom spawn flakes and mix it into the compost. You’ll need to loosen the mixture and put it into loose piles in the tray. With a piece of wood or something flat press the compost and spawn mixture into the tray. Now let it set over night.

Keep the temperature between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 3 weeks, misting daily with your spray bottle.

Once you see white webbing on the surface of the soil you’ll need to apply a 1 ½ inch layer of moist peat moss and cover with a few layers of newspapers. The newspaper must be kept moist. Continue to evenly spray the newspaper twice daily. Maintain a temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

After 10 days remove the newspaper and continue to mist twice daily. In a few days you’ll see tiny white pinheads sprouting.

Once the button mushrooms reach your desired size you can pick them and new mushrooms will grow in 10 to 14 days. You’ll have an endless supply for 3 to 6 months using this method and then you’ll need to start the process again from step one.

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WHAT IS THE WORLD'S MOST POISONOUS SNAKE?


Yes, the title of this article is a little mmisleading Why? Well, strictly speaking, snakes are venomous - not poisonous. The guide for this is that if you bite it, and you get ill -  it is poisonous. If it bites you and you get ill - it's venomous.

So, what is the worlds most venomous snake?

Well, to answer this question fairly I am going to split the answer into two parts.

1. The most venomous snake on land

The most venomous snake on land is commonly called the 'Fierce Snake', otherwise known as the 'Inland Taipan'. Native to the semi-arid regions of central east Australia, the incredible Inland Taipan has the most toxic venom of any land snake in the world. The maximum yield recorded for one bite is 110mg, enough to kill about 100 humans, or 250,000 mice!

With an LD/50 of 0.03mg/kg, it is 10 times as venomous as the Mojave Rattlesnake, and 50 times more than the common Cobra. Fortunately, the Inland Taipan snake is not particularly aggressive and is rarely encountered by humans in the wild. No fatalities have ever been recorded, though it could potentially kill an adult human within 45 minutes.

2. The most venomous snake in the water

This carries two titles, the first is that it is the most venomous snake in the water, the second is that it is the most venomous snake in the world.

It is called the 'Belcher's Sea Snake' and a few milligrams is strong enough to kill 1000 people! Luckily, less than 1/4 of bites will contain venom, and they are relatively docile.

Fisherman are usually the victims of these bites, as they encounter the species when they pull nets from the ocean. The Belcher's Sea Snake can be found throughout waters off South East Asia and Northern Australia.

America's most poisonous snake

While not as venomous as the previous two title holders its is probably the most recognised of all snake, due in no small part to the countless number of cowboy movies that the United States has exported over the years.

The Rattlesnake is a member of the pit viper family and is easily identifiable by the tell tale 'rattle' on the end of its tail. The most widely accepted hypothesis for the evolution of the rattle is that it is a warning device to drive predatory animals away.

All rattlesnake species are capable of injecting large quantities of hemotoxic venom, but it is the Eastern Diamondback which is considered to be the most venomous species of all.

Surprisingly, juvenile rattlesnake are considered more dangerous than adults, as they are unable to control the amount of venom injected. Untreated rattlesnake bites, especially from larger species, are very often fatal. However, antivenin, when applied in time, reduces the death rate to less than 4%.

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WHAT IS A TRUFFLE?



Contrary to popular believe, truffles do not come from pigs! However it is true that pigs were once the animal of choice for hunting and digging them out. This is because pigs possess a natural desire - or perhaps obsession - to seek out and eat truffles. Why? Because truffles emit an aroma similar to male pig sexual hormones, to which female pigs are attracted. Unfortunately, this was sometimes problematical for the truffle hunter as they tried to remove any discovered truffles from within the the pigs mouth. In days gone by, this had resulted in many truffle hunters losing one or more of their fingers to the pig! As a result, the majority of truffle hunters now use dogs to sniff out their truffles - far safer!

So, what are truffles?

A truffle is a rare, edible mushroom that is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. Generally harvested in the wild, they are always expensive- sometimes outrageously so commanding 6 figure sums!

Typically roundish but lumpy in appearance, they have an intense flavor. They are used sparingly - either sliced or grated, due to their strong earthy flavor, but also because of their expense.

Note. Truffles are often confused with chocolate-covered truffles, a confectionery that has no relation to mushroom truffles.

Requiring climates with mild weather changes, truffles grow in a limited number of countries which including France, Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia. Truffles are also collected in the United States, in states like Oregon and Washington, and to a lesser extent, the Middle East and North Africa. They grow approximately 12 inches underground among the roots of oak, elm, chestnut, pine, and willow trees where they form a symbiotic relationship with the environment.

Prized truffles include the French black truffle, which is found in the PĂ©rigord region of southwest France, and the Italian white truffle, many of which are from the Piemonte and Umbria regions. The English black truffle is also sought after.

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HOW BIG IS THE BLUE WHALE?



CLICK HERE FOR THE 'SEEDS OF EADEN' SEED SHOP

The blue whale is arguably the most impressive creature to live or have ever lived on this planet! Be that as it may - just how big is a blue whale?

The blue whale - Balaenoptera musculus is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales called Mysticeti. At 30 metres (98 ft) in length and 180 metric tons  or more in weight, it is the largest animal ever known to have existed!

Long and slender, the blue whale's body can be various shades of bluish-grey dorsally and somewhat lighter underneath. There are at least three distinct subspecies: B. m. musculus of the North Atlantic and North Pacific, B. m. intermedia of the Southern Ocean and B. m. brevicauda (also known as the pygmy blue whale) found in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean. B. m. indica, found in the Indian Ocean, may be another subspecies. As with other baleen whales, its diet consists almost exclusively of small crustaceans known as krill.

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WHAT IS E.COLI?



Much has been in the news recently regarding the risk of catching a killer strain of E.Coli bacteria through eating salad crops such as bean sprouts, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. But what is E.coli and what can you do to stop yourself from catching it?

Escherichia coli is a commonly abbreviated E. coli and was named after German pediatrician and bacteriologist Theodor Escherich in 1885. It is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. While most E. coli strains are harmless, some can cause serious food poisoning in humans. The harmless strains are part of the normal flora of the gut, and can benefit their hosts by producing vitamin K2, and by preventing the establishment of pathogenic bacteria within the intestine.

E. coli bacteria are a major component of feces, and fecal-oral transmission is the major route through which pathogenic strains of E. coli cause disease. Cells are able to survive outside the body for a limited amount of time, which makes them ideal indicator organisms to test environmental samples for fecal contamination.

How do we get food poisoning through E.Coli?

The E. coli bacteria that is found in the guts of animals is transmitted to our food when faecal waste comes into contact with meat. Because of this transmission method, meat products can be made safe by thorough cooking.

Unfortunately, E. coli is normally on the surface of the meat and therefore items such as steaks are usually safe to eat as long as the outer surface of the meat has been cooked. With items such as hamburgers, where meat has been minced, it is important to ensure that the burger is well cooked throughout the hamburger patty, ensuring that no ground up surface meat containing the bacteria can cause infection.

Unfortunately there have been some E Coli outbreaks which have associated with contaminated vegetables and salads. In the case of salads, which are normally eaten raw, it is impossible to kill the E coli bacteria by just washing with water. The best way to prevent E coli infection in salads is to soak salad vegetables in a sterilising fluid solution (one that is normally used for sterilising babies’ bottles). Milton is one of the best know brands for producing sterilizing solutions, however generic brands can be found at supermarkets and pharmacies. Once you have made up your solution, soak your salad item for 15 – 20 mins (refer to the instructions on your packet) and then rinse. The sterilizing solution should ensure that any surface bacteria are killed, and there should be no unpleasant aftertaste.

There has also been some controversy over organic salad produce. Organic farmers often use animal waste fertilizer, as this is considered more natural for the environment. However, some would argue that animal waste increases the chance of vegetables being contaminated with E coli bacteria, and therefore extra care should be taken when preparing organic vegetables and salad.

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HOW TO GROW ROCKET FROM SEED




SOWING INDOORS OR UNDER GLASS

If you are without a heated greenhouse and you want to get off to an early start, you can sow your rocket seed indoors. They will grow quickly, so you may wish to skip sowing them into seed trays and plant them directly into small pots or compartmentalized packs. Just make sure that you use containers that are large enough for the young plants to reach garden size without the need for potting on.

Fill your tray or container with John Innes seed and potting mix to within a half-inch of the rim, tapping them on the side to help settle the mix. Top up as necessary. If using pots or cells, place a few rocket seeds into each one, then give a light covering of compost, firming it down gently over the seeds. If you are using a seed tray then give a light and even sprinkling of seeds across the whole tray at approximately 5 seeds per square inch.

Once done, give a light covering of compost and water in. Label with the variety and date of sowing, and place in into a covered propagator making sure the vents are fully open. Now leave in a bright, warm room, out of direct sunlight. The more light the rocket seed can receive the better germination you will get. Once the seedlings reach about 2 inches in height, thin out and discard any that look weak. Those in the seed tray can be pricked out and potted on into a standard potting mix. Those already in pots can be hardened off in preparation for moving outside.
.
If your rocket were grown under glass then they will also need to harden off before going outdoors. Place them into a cold-frame but keep the lid closed for a couple of weeks. Afterwards the lid can be opened on dry frost free days but remember to shut it again at night. After a further week or so, or when frosts are no longer expected, leave the lid open day and night for a week before planting outside.

To harden off rocket seedlings that have been grown indoors in a heated room, moved them to a bright unheated room, leaving them there for a couple of weeks before either putting them into a cold frame, or for leaving them outside during the day. Never leave them out overnight, and keep them in if there are strong cold winds of if temperatures drop below 6 degree Celsius. Keep this up for a week and if there is no immediate threat of further frosts they can be planted outside.

SOWING OUTDOORS

Rocket plants require a free draining, humus rich soil that will hold plenty of moisture in the summer. In preparation to sowing, dig over the soil and add plenty of compost (such as leaf mould or well rotted manure) during the autumn or early winter. Then a week or so before sowing your lettuce seeds, rake the soil over to produce a fine tilth. You may also wish to apply a general fertiliser at this time.

Although rocket plants like plenty of light they do not like extremes of heat. Although your early seeded plants should be fine it's advisable to plant your summer harvest in a lightly shaded site.

When sowing rocket seeds directly outside, wait until the worst of the frosts are over. Choose a sunny site but by sowing this early you may need to give them the protection of a small poly-tunnel. If you are starting them off into seed beds, sow the seeds very thinly in ½ inch deep drills but leave about 6 inches between each row. If you are sowing them directly into the open ground then leave between 10 and 12 inches between rows.

To avoid having a glut of rocket and to ensure that crops are regularly coming into harvest, make successive, smaller sowings of rocket seeds, at 1 or 2 week intervals depending on how much you intend on using.

Depending on the variety it can take any time between 6 and 14 weeks from sowings to become ready for harvest, so if you are growing from packet seeds - always read the label.

Once the seedlings get to about 2 inches high they can be thinned out to leave a gap of about 6 to 12 inches between each plant- depending on the overall size of the variety grown. If you are planning on transplanting seedlings grown indoors into open ground then this is an ideal time to do this.

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HOW TO AVOID E.COLI WHEN PREPARING SALADS



Much has been in the news recently regarding the risk of catching a killer strain of E.Coli bacterial through eating salad crops such as bean sprouts, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. But what is the truth behind the killer strain of E.coli and salads and what can you do to stop yourself from catching it?

E coli is a bacterium that can cause deadly food poisoning in humans. The E coli bacteria are found in the gut of animals and are most often transmitted by faecal waste coming into contact with meat. Because of the transmission method, meat products can be made safe by thorough cooking.

E coli is normally on the surface of the meat and therefore items such as steaks are usually safe to eat as long as the outer surface of the meat has been cooked. With items such as hamburgers, where meat has been minced, it is important to ensure that the burger is well cooked throughout the hamburger patty, ensuring that no ground up surface meat containing the bacteria can cause infection.

Unfortunately there have been some E Coli outbreaks which have associated with contaminated vegetables and salads. In the case of salads, which are normally eaten raw, it is impossible to kill the E coli bacteria by just washing with water. The best way to prevent E coli infection in salads is to soak salad vegetables in a sterilising fluid solution (one that is normally used for sterilising babies’ bottles). Milton is one of the best know brands for producing sterilizing solutions, however generic brands can be found at supermarkets and pharmacies. Once you have made up your solution, soak your salad item for 15 – 20 mins (refer to the instructions on your packet) and then rinse. The sterilizing solution should ensure that any surface bacteria are killed, and there should be no unpleasant aftertaste.

There has also been some controversy over organic salad produce. Organic farmers often use animal waste fertilizer, as this is considered more natural for the environment. However, some would argue that animal waste increases the chance of vegetables being contaminated with E coli bacteria, and therefore extra care should be taken when preparing organic vegetables and salad.

For related articles click onto the following links:
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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AFRICAN AND INDIAN ELEPHANTS?



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Elephants are truly one of the world's greatest animals. Majestic, incredibly powerful, and they already hold the title for the largest, living land animal.

However, you may be surprised to hear that there are more than just one species of elephant. In fact there are four! The African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, the Asian elephant - also known as the Indian elephant - and thanks to DNA testing, the Borneo pygmy elephant. All other species and genera of Elephantidae are now long extinct since the last ice age although some dwarf forms of mammoth are believed to have survived as late as 2,000 BC.

Be that is it may, the two most widely known species of elephant are the Asian and African elephants, but just what are the differences between them?

There are many differences between Asian and African elephants, some like the size of the ears are widely known. Both species of elephant are members of the same taxonomic family, elephantidae but are each from a different genus:

Elephas maximus - Asian elephants, and Loxodonta africana - African elephants. These two are further divided into different subspecies.

Size

The African elephant is significantly larger with adult bulls growing up to 4 m in height tall whereas the biggest Asian males reach no more than 3.5 m.

Weight

Adult African elephants weigh between 4,000-7,500 kg. Asian elephants are less at 3000-6,000 kg.

Head Shape

African elephants have a fuller more rounded head. The top of the head is a single dome whereas Asian elephants have a twin domed head with an indent in the middle. The lower lips of the two species also differ being long and tapered in Asian elephants and short and round in African elephants.

Size of the Ears

It is said that you can tell where an elephant comes from by looking at the size of his ears. African ears are like a map of Africa and Asian ears smaller like a map of India. African ears are much bigger and reach up and over the neck. The ears of an Asian elephant are much smaller and do not reach up and over the neck..

Skin

The skin of an African elephant is much more wrinkled

Ribs

In general African elephants have more ribs than the Asian though the number of ribs can vary in individual animals. African elephants have up to 21 pairs while Asian elephants can have up to 20.

Tusks

All African elephants, male and female have tusks, whereas only some male Asian elephants have tusks. Africans generally have the bigger tusks. About 50% of female Asian elephants and a small percentage of males have small tusk like teeth known as tushes.

Teeth

The lamella profile along the top of the molar teeth of the two species is different with the ridges on Asian’s teeth being more tightly compressed.

The Trunk

The African elephant’s trunk is visibly more heavily ringed and is not as hard as the Asian trunk.
The trunk tip is a major difference between the species. The African trunk has two distinct fingers which it uses to pick up and manipulate objects. The Asian elephant has only one ‘finger’. The Asian compensates for this by holding objects against the underside of the trunk and appears not to suffer from any lack of maneuverability.

Toenails

Toenails in the two different species of African elephants vary. As they do between the African and Asian elephants.

The African forest elephant has 5 nails on front feet and 4 on the back while the African bush elephant has 4 nails on front feet and 3 on the back. The Asian elephant has 5 nails on front feet, 4 on the back and on the very rare occasionally 5!

Diet

Although both species of elephant eat a wide variety of plant matter, in general term the Asian elephant’s diet is made up of a greater proportion of grass while the African elephants diet is made up of a greater proportion of leaves.

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