Thursday, April 17, 2014


Clerodendrum bungei
Clerodendrum bungei

For Throwback Thursday, I'm looking back at some of the photos I've taken over the years.  I've been using Flickr to post and share my photos online since September 2007 and I've just passed 400,000 views on my DC Tropics Flickr account.  That's a pretty random milestone and I should note that I only checked it after a friend and fellow Flickr user announced that he had reached 10 million views.

So far I've posted almost 3,800 photos.  Many Flickr users have posted far more photos than that (my friend has over 62,000 photos posted) but like many of those users I'm not very happy with Flickr lately (suffice to say their ugly and clunky "new and improved" version sucks) but there are still some things I like about Flickr.

For example, Flickr allows us to see our photos ranked by popularity.  Now, how does Flickr decide what's "popular"?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Flickr opaquely explains, "This is a view of your 200 most popular bits, ordered by interestingness."  It's clearly not based (solely) on number of views; my two most-viewed photos are not even among the top 10 most interesting, so there's some other algorithm at work, presumably including things like number of comments, or how many people have tagged a photo as a favorite.  Here are my 2 most-viewed photos; there must be something "interesting" about them to get so many more views than any of my other photos! 

Malanga and Yautia
Malanga and yautia (about 4,300 views).  I picked these up at a neighborhood grocery store a few years ago and grew some handsome elephant ears (Xanthosoma sp.) from them.  This photo comes up in a lot of Google searches, in part because of a post I made on Gardenweb several years ago.

Tetrapanax papyrifer
Tetrapanax papyrifer (about 2,500 views); this photo was taken at the United States National Arboretum quite a few years ago.  I'm not entirely certain why it has so many views.

To see all 200 of my most "interesting" photos click here (for an alternate view with captions but smaller photos click here).  Here are the top 10:

Seemannia purpurascens
1. Seemannia purpurascens, my number one most "interesting" photo according to Flickr, is also one of my own personal favorites.  The plant in the photo is one of my own hybrids, a sibling of (and very similar to) S. purpurascens 'Purple Prince'.  With only about 300 views this photo (loaded in April 2009 but taken a couple of years earlier) would seem less popular than many of my others, but more people have flagged it as a favorite than my other "interesting" photos, which probably gives some clue as to the Flickr "interestingness" algorithm.

Begonia Little Brother Montgomery
2. Begonia 'Little Brother Montgomery': this is another of my own personal favorites, both the photo and the plant.  I've been growing this begonia for about 4 years now, after another grower suggested it might be hardy.  Sure enough, it has survived 3 winters (albeit mild ones) in my garden with only a light mulch.  Will it return after this past winter?  I'm still waiting to see.

Begonia palmata
3. Begonia palmata: this plant has long since gone to the great begonia graveyard in the sky.  It would grow and look fabulous for a few weeks, then collapse for no apparent reason.  This plant fell apart about a week after I took this photo, and I eventually gave up on it.  Life is too short.  (Interestingly, this species is one of the parents of 'Little Brother Montgomery' but the two couldn't be more different in ease of culture.)

Hemiboea subcapitata
4. Hemiboea subcapitata: one of the hardiest of the hardy gesneriads and already coming back this spring.  Too bad the plant is ungainly, slugs love it, and it only flowers for a couple of weeks.  Why this particular photo is ranked as more "interesting" than this one showing a closeup of its flowers (and with more views!), I don't know.

begonia bed
5. Begonia bed: this photo showing some of my begonia hybrids after planting them outdoors is a bit of a mystery to me.  I haven't linked to it on very many websites, and I don't think it's very interesting myself, but it has gotten more views (around 1100, my third most-viewed photo ever) than any other in the top 10.  That might explain why it ranks so highly, but not why so many people are looking at it in the first place.

Chilopsis linearis
6. Chilopsis linearis: I photographed this plant at the U.S. National Arboretum several years ago.

Begonia seedlings
7. Begonia seedlings: this photo of some of my hybrid seedlings, taken just a few weeks ago, demonstrates how quickly a recent photo can climb the rankings.  People just love seeing baby begonias.  Flickr loves recent photos.

begonia bed
8. Begonia bed: this is the same begonia bed as in no. 5, but taken a few weeks later when the plants were a big bigger.  I suppose it's "interesting" for much the same mysterious reasons no. 5 is interesting.

Seemannia 'Little Red'
9. Seemannia 'Little Red': this and the next photo, two shots of the same plant taken a few days apart, show one of my more recent seemannia hybrids. This plant, with glowing red flowers that stand out well against the dark foliage, may have commercial potential.

Seemannia 'Little Red'
10. Seemannia 'Little Red': yes, just another view of the same plant.

Clerodendrum bungei, at the top of this blog post, is my 11th most "interesting" photo.  Here are a few of my other photos that I think should rank more highly in the "interesting" list; will your clicks help bring them into the top 10?

Begonia sizemoreae flower closeup
This photo showing female flowers of Begonia sizemoreae was featured in November 2010 as a UBC Botanical Garden Botany Photo of the Day.  More views than many in my top 10, but currently ranking only number 27.  Flickr apparently doesn't like old photos.

Plant haul
This photo is just fun.  It shows some of the plants that two plant geek friends and I had picked up on a visit to Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina last summer.  That was such a great trip!  Ranked no. 22.

January sunset
Finally, I just realized that each and every photo above shows a plant.  Now what does that say about me?  (Good things, I hope!)  But here's a non-plant photo, showing a glorious sunset from our rooftop deck just this past January.  Ranking no. 25.


  1. Those dormant trees in the sunset photo aren't plants?

  2. Love the retrospective, John.

    1. Thanks Steve! It was fun to go back through some of my old photos and reminisce a bit...