A hard nut!

Argan (Argania spinosa) fruits
Argan (Argania spinosa) fruits

Argan oil is amazing stuff. You can eat it eat or rub it on your body! It is said to have a whole range of beneficial effects, both for beauty (as a moisturizer, conditioner, toner and so on) and for health (for acne, dry skin, burns and so on). There are many more uses and benefits, which derive from the naturally occurring molecules in the argan oil, particularly unsaturated fatty acids (c. 80% oleic and linoleic acids) and a long list of other compounds.

Argan nuts growing on a tree in Morocco
Argan nuts growing on a tree in Morocco

I had not heard of it until I visited southern Morocco, but what impressed me most was how beautiful the Argan trees were. They never get more than about 10m high, and most are smaller than this; they can live for up to 200 years and the seeds apparently take over a year to mature. So it’s just as well that the product is so valuable!

Argan tree (Argania spinosa) in Morocco
Argan tree (Argania spinosa) in Morocco

Argan trees (Argania spinosa) are endemic to  SW Morocco and Algeria and the natural arganeraie forests are quite restricted, so the annual production is small (a few thousand tonnes of oil). Argan oil is produced by removing the soft outer pulp of the argan fruit and then cracking the hard inner nut by hand, between two stones, to obtain the oil-filled seeds. This is traditionally women’s work in SW Morocco (below), but it has reportedly enabled them to achieve some financial independence, benefiting themselves and their children.

Moroccan ladies crushing argan nuts
Moroccan ladies crushing argan nuts

The Argan tree has evolved in a harsh environment and their deep roots prevent soil erosion and desertification. The Argan tree canopy also provides shade which encourages the growth of grasses and its leaves and fruit provide food for animals such as goats (although feeding by goats can stunt the growth of the trees).

What a wonderful tree!

A bunch of pansies!

Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana almana)  (Linnaeus, 1758)
Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana almana) (Linnaeus, 1758)

Pansies are butterflies in the genus Junonia, although not all Junonia species are pansies!  There are at least 30 species in this genus – and a much larger number of subspecies –  with the common names: buckeyes, pansies, or commodores (1, 2, 3).  The genus includes a number of very attractive butterflies – often displaying colourfly spots (orange, blue, red and pink) on the wings – and they are found on all continents (other than Africa). The name Junonia comes from the Latin, meaning peacock. There are at least 15 different species named pansies, but I only have photographed a handful of them, all from south-east Asia.

The genus Junonia was first described by Jacob Hübner – a German entomologist (1761 –1826) – in 1819, although many of the butterflies were known already, albeit by other names; i.e. they were placed in the genus Papilio (3, 4).  For example, Linneaus had got there first with many of them and had already named the Peacock pansy (1758) the Lemon pansy (1758), the Grey pansy (1763), and the Brown pansy (1764) (3). Three species are shown below.

Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana) (Linnaeus, 1758) in northern Thailand
Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana) (Linnaeus, 1758) in northern Thailand
Lemon Pansy (Junonia lemonias)   (Linnaeus, 1758) Chon Buri
Lemon Pansy (Junonia lemonias) (Linnaeus, 1758) Chon Buri
Brown pansy ( Junonia hedonia)  (Linnaeus, 1764) from N. Sulawesi, Indonesia
Brown pansy ( Junonia hedonia) (Linnaeus, 1764) from N. Sulawesi, Indonesia

The Yellow Pansy, Junonia hierta (Fabricius, 1798) had been named by the great Danish entomologist, Johan Christian Fabricius (1745 – 1808), who is credited with naming over 10,000 organisms, many of them arthropods.

Yellow Pansy (Junonia hierta) (Fabricius, 1798) in northern Thailand
Yellow Pansy (Junonia hierta) (Fabricius, 1798) in northern Thailand

Other entomologists added to the list.  Alfred Russel Wallace discovered a new species – named after him as Junonia timorensis Wallace, 1869 – on the island of Timor (Indonesia) (5).

Hübner himself added the Common buckeye, Junonia coenia, in 1822; a beautiful butterfly from North America which is illustrated on Plate 32 of a 1806 text entitled ‘Sammlung exotischer Schmetterlinge’, which was Hübner’s complete works on exotic butterflies (6). It is thought that Hübner was himself responsible for drawing and engraved all the illustrations in this magnificent book (below).

Junonia coenia Hübner, [1822]; Samml. exot. Schmett. 2 : pl. 32. https://openlibrary.org/
Junonia coenia Hübner, [1822]; Samml. exot. Schmett. 2 : pl. 32. https://openlibrary.org/
References.

1. http://lepidoptera.pro/taxonomy/13756

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junonia

3.http://ftp.funet.fi/pub/sci/bio/life/insecta/lepidoptera/ditrysia/papilionoidea/nymphalidae/nymphalinae/junonia/

4.  Hübner, J. Verzeichniss bekannter Schmettlinge, 17-176, 1819. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/89180

5.  Trans. ent. Soc. Lond. 1869 (4): 346http://www.archive.org/stream/transactionsofen1869roya#page/346/mode/1up

6.  Sammlung exotischer Schmetterlinge errichtet von Jacob Hübner, 1806 … ; mit zweihundert fünf und zwangzig illum. Kupfertafeln. https://openlibrary.org/books/OL23331255M/Sammlung_exotischer_Schmetterlinge