Monday, January 31, 2011

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” - Robert McCloskey

Gasparilla Island State Park on Boca Grande by the old Lighthouse
My mother has the same tone of  voice for "Publix has 2-4-1 Breyer's" & "Mrs. So-In-So is dead!". She's been my mother for 53 years so I have learned to just roll with it. I have a very busy job so when she calls me at work I have to speed up the process. "Okay Mom, who died?" "No Honey I just wanted to tell you Breyer's is on sale at Publix". Gotta love your momma.

 Since there are no shells to be found on Sanibel I cancelled my plans to go shelling there today. Plan B - take GeeGee (my mom) to Michael's Craft Store to get a magnifying glass that lights up so she can do her crossword puzzles without her eyes watering. For anyone that chauffeur's their senior-citizen mom, aunt, or grandmother to any store - You know you have to have a plan. I do. I have the drop-off point nailed, I know where the bathroom is, & you have to feed them. In this case it was a Steak & Shake Orange Creamsicle Milkshake. 
Not many shells but GeeGee is looking anyway
We took a little detour on the way home.  Since we were so close to Boca Grande we took a nice drive out to the beach by the Lighthouse. GeeGee loves to look at the neat old beach houses & all the tropical landscaping.  She ooo'd & awed at every banyan tree & bougainvillea we passed.There were some shells on the beach but nothing to take home. The cool wind on the beach was the perfect weather for GeeGee.

 When we finally did get back home,  GeeGee hollers for me from her bedroom. "Who died?" I answer. Nobody. She didn't find any shells at the beach but she finds a junonia in the bottom of a 20 year old bag of shells she had in her closet.
The junonia is soaking in some oil to try to bring back some color
(top left) pried off Great Annabelle's vase (bottom left) found at a Tennessee yard sale (middle) gift from Cousin Joan - found on Honeymoon Island (right) bought on Sanibel

What's wrong with this picture? I'm out at that beach before sunrise and take home a few lousy calico scallops. GeeGee goes into her closet for her pajamas and comes out holding a junonia. My mother also has a junonia that was glued to a vase from her aunt's estate. This talent is not exclusive to my mother. My sister mailed me a junonia that she bought at a yard sale in Knoxville. I have 6 junonias - none of which I have found. They are either bought from a shell shop, pried off of an old vase, or from a red-neck garage sale. 

So, another day and the quest continues for the elusive junonia. But I have learned the beach is not the only place one washes up.  There are vases, garage sales, & the bottom of my mother's closet.
GeeGee found this junonia years ago on Honeymoon Island and didn't even know what it was until a few years ago

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Step junonia ab illo nemo nocere Faciam

Semele bellastriata (Conrad, 1837) cancellate semele
Shweekie on Tigertail Beach, Marco Island

Isn't that a gorgeous shell. My niece Shweekie found it on Marco Island during our shelling trip last week. It is definitely her prize find of the day. We just couldn't figure out what it was. I looked in all my shell ID books & at all the online sites I use - nothing conclusive.  So I did what any social networker in the 21st Century would do. I posed the question to my homies on Facebook.

Karen Blackford My niece found this on Tigertail Beach. Can anyone ID it for me?

January 22 at 11:11pm ·  · 

  • Alice Treest likes this.

    • Tana Houston looking at 1 of my books & it may be a small false donax
      January 22 at 11:18pm ·  · 

    • Karen Blackford I checked the B-M site & my books and can't find anything
      January 22 at 11:19pm · 

    • Nancy Eckert I'm curious, too, what this type of shell is called. I just finished making a seashell wreath and added one of these.
      Sunday at 6:57am ·  · 

    • i Love Shelling hmmmm. is it ribbed? or are those color stripes that are paralleling the outside shape?
      Sunday at 2:03pm ·  · 

    • Karen Blackford Yepper
      Sunday at 3:14pm · 

    • Tana Houston I am looking in my book "national Audubon society field guide to n american shells". The sci. Name they have listed is Heterodonax bimavulatus. to me it looks just like your shell.
      Sunday at 8:16pm ·  · 

    • Jose Henrique Leal Actually, it looks more like a cancellate semele, Semele bellastriata; check the Shell Museum web site at
      Monday at 9:20am ·  · 

    • Karen Blackford Is there a common name?
      Monday at 11:37am · 

    • Tana Houston I was looking in another book & came across the Cancellate Semele, and thought it may be your shell as well.
      Monday at 4:38pm ·  · 

    • Nancy Eckert This website: the scientific name as Semele bellastriata and the commone name as Cancellate Semele. Not a very easy to remember common name!
      Monday at 6:48pm ·  · 

    • Karen Blackford Hey look!!! I found a cancellate Semele !! Does't just roll off the tongue. It remains cool purple shell for now.
      Monday at 9:44pm · 

    • Karen Blackford wow I love the pics on that JaxShells site. I just need to brush up on my Latin
      Yesterday at 10:06am · 

In a classification system begun by  Swedish botanist Carl von Linne in the 18th century, every known animal and plant (living and fossil) has a Latin name. The classification system begins at the widest level (Kingdom = animal or plant) and moves down through Phyllum, Class, Order, Family, and finally Genus and Species, which make up the two-part (binomial) name of each plant or animal. 

You can remember these levels this way with a mnemonic - Kings Play Chess On Friday Generally Speaking. Or you could use Kings Play Chess On Fuzzy Green Stools. How about Kiss Pigs Carefully Or Face Grimy Smiles.Well, you get the idea.

Kings (Kingdom) =animal
Play (Phyllum) =Mollusca
Chess (Class) =Bivalve
On (Order) =Veneroida
Friday, (Family) =Semelidae
Generally (Genus) =Semele
Speaking(Species) =semele bellastriata (Turton, 1819)  cancellate semele

So, mystery solved. This is the scientific or Latin name for Shweekie's Marco Island find. No longer to be known as "pretty little purple shell".  It is now Semele bellastriata (Conrad, 1837) cancellate semele.

Since I am planning a trip to a few shell shows this year I have decided that maybe it is time for me to try to learn the Latin names for the most common shells.  Depending on the locale, a shell can have several common  names. Take a moon snail for instance.  I've heard it called a shark's eye. In the UK they call it a necklace snail. They are actually 2 similar shells from the same family but different genus.  

I figure if the Hubbs can spot a football team by their helmet logo & colors and give me their stats for the last 50 years.  I can learn a few Latin shell names.
Tellina linata Turton, 1819
Rose petal Tellin
Tigertail Beach, Marco Island
So I used the guidelines from the rules to enter the scientific class of the Sanibel Shell Show and started labeling my shells like this :

Genus (capitalized) species (not-capitalized)
Author & date 
Common name
Other pertinent data (optional)

The Author & date refer to the  person who first described and named the species and the year of authorship.
When author and date are in parenthesis, it means that the species has been reclassified into a
genus different from the one in which the author originally placed it.

It figures when I finally decide to learn a new language, it's a dead language that no one speaks anymore. I can see me now on Sanibel "Woo Hoo I just found a 

Scaphella junonia!!!! Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

“You can't have everything. Where would you put it?” Stephen Wright - comedian

"What do you do with all those shells?' is usually the question I get after I go on & on about my latest shelling excursion to a non-sheller. Usually their eyes are glazed over and they stopped listening to me after my first junonia story. (That's the brown spotty shell, right?)

This is actually an on-going conversation I have been having with a particular bil from Pennsylvania. To answer his "What do I do with all those shells" question - I send him emails from time to time with pictures of toilet seats made with shells, clothing embelished with shells, & the last time we were together I gave he & my sil a little shell craft I made myself from Sanibel shells as a token of affection and to remind him that there is no end to a shell's usefulness.  It is just not right to leave a nice shell behind on the beach unless of course it is occupied. 

For the really serious shell artists & collectors the social event of the Shelling season is The Sanibel Shell Show. Malacologists, Shell collectors, enthusiasts, & artists gather at the Sanibel Community Center for 3 days of conchology revelry & fun. This year the Sanibel Captiva Shell Club is celebrating a new exhibit at the Baileys-Matthews Shell Museum called "World's Record Size Shells". I'm going for the first time and you can bet I'll be taking lots of pictures. Take a look at last year's show featured on the Fine Shell Art Blog.
The Sanibel Shell Show is a juried event for the artistic & scientific. 
The Sanibel Captiva Shell Club has lots of shells for sale
 There are lots of awards & trophies to win

For the rest of us mere shell mortals we're just happy to surround ourselves with shells any way we can. The possibilities are as endless as our creativity, imaginations, & square footage of our homes.

We put them in jars

Put them on plant stands

Make lamps out of them

Put them in a shadow box
Spruce up a coffee table - This was made by Sheller Carla from Bonita Springs, FL

Cover the path outside your door with shells
I love to commit a random act of shelling kindness. Visit Rhonda @ Blue Creek Home to see how.

Rose Petal Tellin - They are just darn pretty to look at.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My life is like a stroll on the beach... as near to the edge as I can go. - Thoreau

The shells stretch for miles on Tigertail Beach

As an avid sheller I have a bucket list of places I would like to visit. Some of my shelling dreams like Costa Rica or Belize will require some planning but closer to home I can now cross Marco Island off my bucket list of places to go  shelling. 

The shelling epicenter of Florida is Sanibel Island.  One of the fault lines runs about about 40 miles south to Marco Island.  Tuesday morning about 4am I loaded up the truck and my niece Shweekie & I headed to Tigertail Beach on Marco Island. 

We intentionally arrived on Marco Island before dawn to go shelling on the beach with our flashlights. It was an early minus 1.10 foot low tide. That is a good thing for those of you that don't know.  What we discovered is that there are 2 beaches  open to the public on Marco Island but parking is limited. You can frequent any beach you like after they open the gates at 8am.  Until the park opens there is no where to park unless you stay in a hotel or risk a pricey parking ticket.

 The nice lady at the 7/11 let me park in their lot.  We walked across the road to the Hilton which is smack dab on the beach. Back in the day I had a knack for sneaking into hotel pools on Clearwater Beach so I have some skills.  No go. No way to sneak through to the beach anywhere. Dang elitist condo owners with their fences.

 We drove to the north end of Marco Island to Tigertail Beach which to my surprise had opened the entrance gate early.  I stopped at the parking meter and paid my $8.00 for the entire days parking and got the first spot in the parking lot.  We loaded up my new beach cart for her maiden voyage and off Shweekie & I went to experience the joys of Marco Island shelling.
I love my new beach cart

 I knew from my online scouting of Tigertail Beach that before you got to the beach there is a little lagoon that has to be crossed.  So we made a final pitstop at the facilities because there are no potties on the beach and headed for the lagoon. After donning our aqua shoes and securing our gear in the beach cart Shweekie got the front of the cart and I got the back and we hoisted that baby over our heads and started the 100 foot slog through the muddy lagoon.  The water was cold and we were laughing. Surely this amount of effort will be rewarded.
Following the buoys will keep you in about 3 feet of water

Perfect way to start a good shelling day with a stunningly beautiful sunrise
The sunrise has the beach glowing pink

So over the lagoon and through the woods to Tigertail Beach we go. It is worth the effort to get out there. The beach is about as good as it gets with pearly white sand and long expanse of beach running north & south. We stood catching our breath and scoping out the terrain to decide which way to go. The vote was unanimous to head north. Of course we immediately started looking down for shells.  There was a smattering of shells here & there but not the shell mountains I had envisioned.
Shweekie attacking her first shell pile of the day

 As Shweekie dug through a piddly shell pile I looked along the surf line.  Lots of common arks & cockles - all pretty shells but where are the goodies? I noticed a couple walking past that were obviously serious shellers - at least they were decked out with the net and bags of people who have shelled before.  They were not looking down but walking fast toward the north  end of the beach. OK, we're following them. And that's where the shells were.  2 miles at the very north of Tigertail is where we finally ended up and we were not disappointed.
Low tide at it's finest

Lots of sand dollars to be found and whelks too.

Using her Susick Sea Shell Sifter - the official sifter of all Shell Sistahs 
The sweet smile of a great shelling day

Sea Stars were everywhere
The prize of the day - Rose Petal Tellin - I found a dozen
It was a long walk out and back - about 4 miles total but Tigertail is all that and a bag of shells.  The walk although long was filled with beautiful scenery full of sea birds of every kind, the lagoon to one side and the beautiful gulf the the other, & and lots of native Florida plant life.  

Shells do grow on trees at Tigertail Beach
The lagoon side  is a bird sanctuary