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Sun, 30 Jan 2011 17:06:50 GMT

Pinus jeffreyi

Pinus jeffreyi
Today"s entry was supposed to be posted yesterday, but we"re still trying to determine the optimal settings for the new server, so it ended up crashing again last night. It shouldn"t be too much longer before things are back to being stable, though.

I briefly spoke to the Vancouver Rhododendron Society last night about some of my trips to the Siskiyous, so while working through the images for that presentation, I pulled this one for BPotD today.

My inclination is to call this Jeffrey pine, but other common names are also in use, including bull pine and sapwood pine. This is primarily a California species, but it can also be found in the Siskiyous area of southwest Oregon and northern Baja California. As noted in the link, "Jeffrey pine often dominates and is almost entirely restricted to soils derived from ultramafic rocks- peridotites and their alteration products, serpentinites", and this is indeed the case in the Siskiyous, where the presence of Jeffrey pine indicates serpentine soils. In non-serpentine soils nearby, the similar Pinus ponderosa grows instead.

Commercially, the two species of pine are treated as indistinct, but there are biological differences. Some of these are summarized in the Wikipedia article on Pinus jeffreyi, such as Pinus jeffreyi having overall larger cones with inward-pointing barbs and needles that are glaucous (having a whitish to bluish waxy or powdery coating, such that the colour appears muted). Naturally-occurring hybrids between the two species are rare, in part because of the different times of pollen production and reception: in areas where the two species overlap, Pinus ponderosa releases/receives pollen 4-6 (-8?) weeks prior to Pinus jeffreyi. Wood chemistry is also different with respect to presence / absence of certain monoterpenes; n-heptane, n-nonane, and n-undecane are present in Pinus jeffreyi and seemingly absent in ponderosa pine (see: Anderson, AB, et al.. 1969. Monoterpenes, fatty and resin acids of Pinus ponderosa and Pinus jeffreyi. Phytochemistry. 8(5): 873-875.)., as always, has excellent additional reading about conifer species: Pinus jeffreyi, and Calphotos has additional images: Pinus jeffreyi.

A note for local readers: I"ll be speaking on Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia on Monday @ noon -- one of my favourite visual presentations.

Botany / gardening resource link: Florida"s Native Wildflowers from the Florida Wildflower Foundation was recently launched, containing a weblog, a bloom map, a section on growing Florida wildflowers and much more. Definitely worth a peek and the bloom map is something to keep in mind if you plan to travel around the state.

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Mon, 10 Jan 2011 03:30:13 GMT

Dodecatheon clevelandii

Dodecatheon clevelandii
With the change in the calendar, my thoughts turn to springtime flowers, so I thought I"d share something from last spring that reminded me of motion / change / fireworks.

Padre"s shooting-star is a native to much of lower northern and central California, from valleys to foothill elevations. Today"s photograph is from a plant growing near the entrance to Pinnacles National Monument; to view photographs of the plants, I suggest looking at this photograph by Miguel Vieira or Coke Smith"s photo gallery of animals and plants from the monument (the latter set taken a few days before I visited).

The subspecific epithet patulum means spreading, and my inclination is to believe this is with respect to the magenta corolla (an extreme example with a white-flowered variant here), but I suppose it could also be a reference to the pollen sacs as the flowers senesce (example. Very few photographs of senescing flowers to compare with, unfortunately. Three other subspecific taxa of Dodecatheon clevelandii are recognized, with the species being named after the San Diego lawyer and natural historian Daniel Cleveland.

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

December 29, 2010, 6:22 AM CT

Paper mulches for commercial vegetable production

Paper mulches for commercial vegetable production
olyethylene mulches, used widely in commercial vegetable production to improve crop yields and produce quality, have distinct disadvantages. Disposal options are limited, and plastic mulches often end up in landfills, being burned, or disposed of illegally. Recycling polyethylene mulches is also a challenge; the mulches used in large-scale vegetable production are contaminated with too much dirt and debris to be recycled directly from the field in most power plants and incinerators. Timothy Coolong from the University of Kentucky's Department of Horticulture published a report on paper mulches in HortTechnology that may give vegetable producers viable alternatives to polyethylene.

The recent trend toward eco-friendly production techniques has resulted in a second look at biodegradable paper mulches, which are manufactured from renewable resources and do not have to be removed from the field after harvest. Paper-based mulches have been used in agriculture since 1914, but some paper mulches deteriorate rapidly under field conditions, reducing their effectiveness. Paper mulches have other limitations; since they are heavier than polyethylene, transportation costs are higher, and paper mulches are inherently more expensive than polyethylene.

Coolong's research reviewed the performance of four readily obtainable papers compared with traditional black plastic using conventional plastic laying equipment and a water wheel transplanter. The experiments were conducted in Lexington, Kentucky, over two growing seasons using yellow squash. Crop yield and quality, weed biomass, soil temperatures under the mulch, and mulch degradation were reviewed. Four paper mulches�50-lb kraft paper, 50-lb polyethylene-coated kraft paper, 40-lb white butcher paper, and 30-lb waxed paper�were compared with 1-mil black polyethylene mulch in two weeding therapys (bare-ground hand-weeded and bare-ground nonweeded).........

Posted by: Jessica      Read more         Source

Wed, 10 Nov 2010 12:55:18 GMT

Random garden images

Random garden images
Long time no blog…it’s summer after all. Garden updates abound. I usually hate photo-heavy posts. In fact I don’t recall making a post before with this many photos but in this case the pics are worth a whole bunch of words. First, a before/after view of my plot. Below taken June 20:

And from a different angle, taken today. For reference, see the poppies in the right upper corner of the garden? See if you can find them in the above picture. Two very small ones in the top left corner, towards the center.

Crazy how tall the tomatoes got huh? They’re totally out of control–they’ve busted out of their puny tomato cages and have moved out of the garden into the surrounding areas.  I harvested the first tomatoes today! a couple of grape-sized ones that were SO sweet, and a few of an early variety called Glacier that’s supposed to do well in the northeast. The tomatoes were good, not too sweet but so fresh tasting.

In all fairness, everyone’s gardens at Fox Pt. look fabulous:

Another angle (my plot is at the very end of this path):

OK, now check out the before/after of my basil. June 20:

Here it is today. Notice it’s already started to bolt. I spent a lot of time today harvesting and snipping flower heads to stop the bolting.

We’re going to be eating pesto all summer. This is not a bad thing–there are worse dishes we could be eating I suppose! (If I do say so myself, I make a mean pesto.)

More pics tomorrow: Poppies, friendly insects, and a mystery vegetable.

Posted by: Caroline Brown      Read more     Source

Sat, 28 Aug 2010 05:07:48 GMT

Saxifraga bronchialis

Saxifraga bronchialis
Two people to thank for the photographs today. The first image is from Anne Elliott, aka annkelliott@Flickr (original image via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool), while the second image is from Anna Kadlec@UBC Botanical Garden forums: (original via the Botany Photo of the Day Submissions Forum). Thanks to both of you!

Spotted or matted saxifrage has a western North American - eastern Eurasian distribution, where it preferentially grows in rocky areas of mid- to high elevations. It is perennial, typically reaching 20cm (8in.) in height. The word Saxifraga means "stone-breaker", a characteristic well-illustrated in Anna"s other photograph. Webb and Gornall in A Manual of Saxifrages explain the epithet bronchialis was thought by Gmelin (in 1769) to be derived "from information given to Linnaeus that the plant was used by the natives of Siberia as a cure for respiratory complaints".

The authors also note that this was likely one of the last species to be named by Linnaeus for his Species Plantarum, as there are no herbarium specimens in the Linnean herbarium, London bearing this species name. The likeliest explanation is that the specimen LINN 575.37, named as Saxifraga aspera on the sheet, was recognized by Linnaeus as being a different species (and he named it Saxifraga bronchialis in the book). However, upon assertion that it was a different species, Linnaeus should also have annotated (written a note on) the sheet with the new name, and it appears he neglected to do so. In other words, Linnaeus published the name Saxifraga bronchialis without a physical specimen to back it up (generally a naming no-no), unless one makes the positive assumption that he intended to add the name to that specimen but forgot.

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Mon, 09 Aug 2010 03:24:45 GMT

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

Chlorogalum pomeridianum
Thank you to maljo@UBC Botanical Garden forums for sharing today"s photograph with us (original via the Botany Photo of the Day Submissions Forum). Appreciated!

Wavy-leafed soap plant or California soaproot was well-used by First Nations of California and southwest Oregon. Daniel Moerman"s Native American Ethnobotany has over a half page documenting its utility. Some examples, in the format of "First Nation | Type of Use | Summary":

  • Cahuilla | Dermatological Aid | Saponaceous material used as a dandruff shampoo
  • Pomo | Dermatological Aid | Plant juice rubbed on area affected by poison oak
  • Wailaki | Gastrointestinal Aid | Decoction of bulbs taken for stomachaches
  • Miwok | Winter Use Food | Stored, dried bulbs used for food
  • Costanoan | Brushes & Brooms | Fibrous bulb covers tied in bundles to make brushes
  • Luisenõ | Brushes & Brooms | Bulb fiber made into small brushes used for sweeping up scattered meal after pounding acorns
  • Mewuk | Caulking Material | Made into a white mucilaginous paste and used to coat baskets
  • Cahuilla | Hunting & Fishing Item | Saponaceous material used as a stupefying ageny and placed into streams to catch fish
  • Karok | Soap | Bulbs pounded, mixed with water, and used as a detergent for washing clothes and buckskin blankets
  • Mendocino Indian | Decorations | Green leaves formerly pricked into the skin to form tattoo marks
  • Mendocino Indian | Fasteners | Bulbs roasted and the juice used as a substitute for glue in attaching feathers to arrows
Or, if you prefer a written narrative: you can either visit Wikipedia"s entry on Chlorogalum pomeridianum or visit Wayne Armstrong"s page on soap lilies in California. I recommend the latter because it contains additional photographs of the flowers and plants, as well as an image of the fibre-covered bulbs of Chlorogalum pomeridianum. Wayne also explains the physical chemistry and biochemistry of saponins, responsible for the soap-like properties associated with this species and its relatives.

Botany resource link: I updated the science weblogs listing yesterday (bottom right of the main Botany Photo of the Day page). Most were deletions, but I also added Kew Blogs, so I thought I might point out the link here as well. On that note, if you have suggestions for science weblogs I should add (particularly plant-related ones), post a comment with a link and I"ll consider adding it to the list in early August.

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Wed, 10 Mar 2010 09:45:20 GMT

Oryza sativa

Oryza sativa
Returning to the series for UBC Celebrate Research Week, Lindsay introduces Dr. Rick Barichello:

Dr. Richard Barichello is an Associate Professor in UBC"s Faculty of Land and Food Systems and focuses on issues of agricultural economic policy with particular emphasis on policy reform in southeast Asian countries.

Dr. Barichello writes (excerpted from the article, "Agriculture in Indonesia: Lagging Performance and Difficult Choices"):

Poverty remains a major social issue in Indonesia, by any measure. Because most poverty is still located in rural areas, many agricultural policies embrace the rhetoric of poverty alleviation as one of their objectives. In the first two decades of the Suharto period, to the mid-1980s, agricultural policies that supported rice production contributed to pro-poor economic growth and reduced rural poverty. Poverty declined from 1990 to the Asian financial crisis of 1997/98, rose sharply with the crisis but declined again steadily from 1999 to 2008.

But over the past two decades, the contribution of these policies to economic growth has been reduced; government priorities shifted away from productivity-enhancing policies and flowed to rice price protection policies whose costs were growing. In addition, the leverage of agricultural price policies on rural poverty has been reduced. Raising the price of rice no longer reduces poverty because the poorest Indonesians are net rice consumers, wage rates now appear to be influenced most heavily by the non-farm labor market, and the benefits of price policies have been strongly tilted toward farmland owners. There have been efforts to soften the impact of higher rice and cooking oil prices for the poorest consumers through targeted consumer subsidies ("rice for the poor" targeted 19 million poor households in 2008), and expenditures on these programs increased in response to the 2008 price increases. The current price is roughly 10% above the world price for medium quality rice, but a 50% margin has been a good guide overall from 2000 to 2007. There is a longstanding political demand for protection of rice in Indonesia. That protection takes the form of preventing decreases in its price through the use of trade policy instruments, namely a tariff plus exclusive import rights granted to a well-known state enterprise, the Bureau of Logistics (BULOG).

Overall, rural poverty has been reduced since 1999 (figure from article), but this has been due to strong nonfarm economic growth and a dynamic rural labor market that features substantial off-farm employment and rural-urban migration. Among rice farmers, the supposed beneficiaries of higher rice prices, land owners are likely to capture most of the gains, while wage earners in rice farming (the landless) capture little if any. So, although the alleviation of poverty is still promoted as an important issue for agricultural policy, this is now largely political rhetoric. Much more could be done.

Daniel adds: Today"s photographs are part of the image collection of the International Rice Research Institute (original image 1 | original image 2).

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 05:35:36 GMT

Cypripedium candidum

Cypripedium candidum
Lindsay is responsible for organizing today"s entry. Lindsay writes:

Thank you to Kathleen Garness for submitting today"s photograph and write-up to help continue the Botany Photo of the Day series on biodiversity success stories. Kathleen is part of Chicago Botanic Garden"s Plants of Concern program, and Cypripedium candidum is one of the species she monitors. Kathleen writes:

Commonly known as white lady"s slipper, Cypripedium candidum is a species of mesic calcareous prairies and fens, preferring a soil pH of 7.2 to 7.8. In the US Midwest, bloom time ranges from early May to mid-June. Most remaining populations (with a few notable exceptions) are very small, and it is a rare sight to visit a rich prairie in May and marvel at the sight of hundreds of these tiny orchids with their dazzling white pouches like little elven shoes dancing in the sunlight. The plants range in size from 10cm to 42cm in height. The greenish-yellow, tan-striped sepals range from 15mm to 46mm in length, with a white lip, from 17mm to 35mm in length, occasionally veined in purple and/or spotted on the interior rim with purple.

In Illinois (and other states as well), most of those prairies have long been plowed under, but a few remnant areas used for grazing, too wet to plow, or adjoining railroad right-of-ways, had survived development"s relentless spread. Since 1970, with the establishment of the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, a few dozen populations in 21 counties have been documented and monitored in Illinois. It has also been recorded from Manitoba, Ontario (where it is protected under Ontario"s Endangered Species Act), Saskatchewan, Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North and South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In Illinois, Cypripedium candidum is state-listed as "threatened", downlisted from endangered several years ago.

A long-lived perennial, it can establish clumps of up to 80 blooming stems under good conditions (no invasive shrubs to shade it, little disturbance from mechanical, biological or human impacts, sufficient seasonal water to sustain the mycorrhizal associates essential for recruitment). But unlike other, less conservative species, it shows no tendency to invade disturbed areas, so it is threatened with extinction in Illinois and elsewhere unless conservation efforts succeed. This species has the highest light requirements of any of North America"s native cypripediums, so intensive volunteer resources have been devoted to preserving it in its remaining habitats, removing aggressive or invasive brush (primarily dogwood (Cornus sp.), buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), as well as tall aggressive or invasive forbs and grasses such as tall goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus), common reed (Phragmites australis) and reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea).

Daniel adds: two points of BPotD interest: first of all, BPotD reader Patrick Gracewood on his sculpture blog Shadows on Stone made mention of the Guaiacum sanctum featured on BPotD a few days ago in a blog posting: Sculpture and Lignum Vitae.

Secondly, I think we have enough contributions now for this series. However, we"d really welcome contributions for February"s thematic series, "Biodiversity and Sports". If you have photographs in the BPotD Flickr Pool that might work, please tag them with "iybfeb". Or send them along to me -- I suspect there will be a lot of wood and fibre species used in sports equipment, but if you can put on your lateral thinking caps, I"d be interested in tangential possibilities as well.

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Mon, 18 Jan 2010 05:40:23 GMT

Couroupita guianensis

Couroupita guianensis
Another set of photographs and write-up from UBC Botanical Garden"s Eric La Fountaine today, featuring a species previously on BPotD (but in flower): Couroupita guainensis. Eric writes:

The cannonball tree has one of the most appropriate common names of any plant I know. Not often seen outside its native range, northern South America and southern Central America, it is grown as a sacred plant in Hindu temples in India and as an oddity in tropical botanical gardens.

The large, sweetly fragrant flowers (and later the fruit) are borne directly from the trunk and main branches (cauliflory) in large clusters on woody stalks that can be a few metres long. The heavy fruits drop from the tree with great force and may crack open upon landing, revealing a foul smelling pulp with many seeds. Wild peccaries and other animals eat the pulp and disperse the seeds in their waste.

For further reading and a description of the pollination and the unusual flower structure unique to Couroupita guianensis and other members of the Brazil nut family, the Encyclopedia of Earth has an excellent article: Couroupita guianensis.

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Fri, 27 Feb 2009 04:34:06 GMT

Weird wounds

Weird wounds

This is a healed wound. Many years ago, one of the oaks on the ridgetop at Fallen Timbers lost a limb. It wasn’t a clean break. In fact, I suspect that much of the limb remained connected to the trunk, but it was dead. The bark, however, continued to grow, and it grew around the remains of the branch.

As I understand it, this is how trees can seal wounds. Unfortunately for the tree, this is a slow process involving many years (at least for a project this size). In that time, fungus can get into the heart of the tree and begin the premature decay.

There are lots of oddities like this on the ridgetop trees at Fallen Timbers. We have some gnarly trees there. I guess being elevated as they are on top of the hill makes them easy targets for the weather.

Missouri calendar:

  • Opossum young are born and climb into the female’s pouch.
  • River otter litters are born now through late March.

Posted by: Roundrockjournal      Read more     Source

Sun, 23 Nov 2008 22:31:10 GMT

Ceraria namaquensis

Ceraria namaquensis
Update: I''ve been so distracted, I forgot to credit Jackie Chambers for both the photographs and write-up. Thank you, Jackie!

Ceraria namaquensis, or Namaqua porkbush, is native to South Africa and Namibia. This particular specimen was found in Augrabies Falls National Park. Due to its geographic location, with the Kalahari Desert to the north and Namaqualand to the south, the vegetation in the park is a fascinating combination of desert plants, fynbos, subtropical plants, and even some tropical plant species. All of these inhabit different niches within the landscape. The Augrabies Falls National Park website contains more information on the park''s vegetation.

Ceraria namaquensis tends to be grow as solitary individuals in sandy hollows or rocky crevices. This ensures they catch water run-off in a habitat where there is competition for the small amount of water available. Other adaptations to the hot, dry conditions are the swollen stems and succulent leaves. The short and almost cylindrical-shaped unusual leaves are found in clusters along the stem. While the plant can be evergreen, it is drought-deciduous, which means it may drop leaves in extreme drought conditions.

A rather large succulent shrub, or small tree, Ceraria namaquensis can reach 3m in height, and has small pink flowers produced in the early summer (October to November in the southern hemisphere). A small botanical diagram of flowers is available from Aluka: Ceraria namaquensis.

Ceraria namaquensis is collected by succulent enthusiasts and can be trained as bonsai.

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Tue, 07 Oct 2008 03:19:57 GMT

Wollemia nobilis

Wollemia nobilis
Thanks again to Ruth for today''s write-up:

A living fossil found in Australia! The genus Wollemia was only known to scientists as a fossil until 1994, when David Noble, a hiker and officer of Wollemi National Park, discovered a grove of Wollemi pines nestled in a sandstone gorge in the Blue Mountains of eastern Australia. Amazingly, this gorge is only 150 km from Sydney, Australia! Fewer than 100 individuals were discovered.

Since the discovery of Wollemia nobilis, seeds have been collected and plants grown with the intent to release the plant into cultivation and thus distribute it widely to ensure the survival of the species. You too can be a part of this extraordinary conservation project (if interested just type "Wollemi pine" into any search engine to find vendors).

As a member of the Auracariaceae, the Wollemi pine is not actually a pine at all, but rather a close relative of the monkey-puzzle (Araucaria araucana) and kauri (Agathis spp.). Wollemia, Agathis and Araucaria are the only three remaining genera of this ancient family (unless a new discovery changes things again!). The fossil record dates the Araucariaceae back to the Jurassic period (approximately 200 Ma ago) where it reached its peak diversity and existed nearly worldwide. The Wollemi pine is dated back to the Cretaceous period (approximately 140 Ma ago) from the fossil record. Along with the passing of the dinosaurs, the Araucariaceae vanished from the northern hemisphere and members of the family are now found in only the southern hemisphere unless cultivated. Wollemi pines have a wild habit of growth. They often have multiple trunks making them bushy but will grow to 40 meters (130 feet) in the wild. In cultivation, one can expect a much shorter height.

The photo accompanying this article is of the male cone from a Wollemi nobilis in the UBC Botanical Garden collections. This plant is under quarantine until mid-2009 as it was imported with soil. UBC Botanical Garden received this plant via Dr. Susan Murch -- it is grown from one of the original cuttings of the oldest living Wollemi pine, "King Billy". Daniel Mosquin took this exquisite photograph, Thanks Daniel!

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Wed, 17 Sep 2008 03:56:47 GMT

Indoor Plant Sale Medley

Indoor Plant Sale Medley
Today''s photograph and write-up were both done by Ruth Sanborn:

Drum roll please....It''s about time I formally introduce myself as the newest member of the photo of the day team. I will be submitting articles as well as the occasional photo and look forward to your comments and questions. I am originally from New Hampshire and have spent the last 5 years in California completing my undergraduate studies in Horticulture. I have recently moved to BC to fall in love -- with a research laboratory at the Center for Plant Research, that is. I will be applying to the Faculty of Graduate Studies next autumn assuming I find that certain special research topic. In the meantime, please keep your gorgeous photos as well as your dialogue coming. I look forward to a fun year with Photo of the Day. Cheers!

As Daniel wrote yesterday, the Friends of the Garden are hosting their annual indoor plant sale at the Botanical Garden, until Friday to 6pm (doors open at 11am). I went shopping for a thing or two today, and came home with a car packed full of projects. With the helpful volunteers staffing the sale, I selected a handful of succulents with which to build a container garden. I also found some gorgeous Rex begonias and a basket that I filled with gourds for an autumn table arrangement. There was a steady stream of people browsing and purchasing plants, but there are still many choice plants left! Don''t miss this inspirational event!

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Fri, 04 Jul 2008 03:48:36 GMT

Cypripedium californicum

Cypripedium californicum
Thanks again to Ron Long for sharing one of his photographs with us through Botany Photo of the Day. Ron went to the Siskiyou Mountains area of Oregon a couple weeks after we had returned from the area. I gave him directions to some of the areas we investigated that had an incredible diversity of plants, and he was not disappointed (and, in fact, found many different plants that had not yet bloomed when we traveled there). As an example, the Cypripedium californicum was just starting to bloom when Ron visited the area, and we hadn''t identified any plants from leaves alone.

California lady''s slipper, like so very many plants in the Siskiyous area, is native only to northern California and southwest Oregon. It was first discovered in California, hence the dibs on the name. Named in 1868 by Asa Gray, it has the most restricted distribution of any Cypripedium species in North America. The genus Cypripedium is restricted to arctic and temperate climates of the northern hemisphere.

Often growing in association with Darlingtonia californica, California lady''s slipper is found along shady mountain streams and springs.

Much of today''s information is gleaned from Carlyle Luer''s The Native Orchids of the United States and Canada excluding Florida. I''m compelled to quote this passage from the book (page 62): "....The surprisingly long, leafy stems curved gracefully out from the banks....Each stem bore in its upper half and orderly row of little slippers, each accompanied by a leaf. What they lacked in individual beauty was amply compensated by numbers. The long rows of flowers seemed to dangle like lanterns in the checkered sunlight, each facing in precisely the same direction away from the embankment...."

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Mon, 19 May 2008 00:08:54 GMT

Musa textilis

Musa textilis
Connor is responsible this series:

Musa textilis is the third of three plants from the GFU for Underutilized Species series. Many thanks to Hannes Dempewolf and Paul Bordoni. Photo courtesy of Botanische Bilddatenbank.

Abacá is a species of banana (Musaceae) with inedible fruits, native to the Philippines. It is also grown widely in Borneo and Sumatra. Sometimes it is referred to as "BacBac". The plant is harvested for its fibre, called Manila hemp. The fibre is extracted from the sheaths, i.e., the bottom part of the leaves forming the pseudo-stem. Other common names for Manila hemp include "Cebu hemp" and "Davao hemp".

The fibre made from Abacá is very durable and flexible. It is relatively cheap to produce and completely biodegradable. It can be made into many hard-wearing products and has a beautiful texture when made into hats and other products.

Until the advent of the first synthetic fibres, Manila hemp was the premiere material for marine ropes where its strength, lightness and water-resistance were appreciated. Today, although marine and other ropes are still important, it is mainly used in the paper-making industry. Because of its relatively long staple length, strength, and cellulose content, it is used to manufacture a range of specialized papers, including tea and coffee bags, sausage-casing paper, electrolytic papers, currency notes, cigarette filter papers, medical / disposal papers and some high-quality writing paper. There is also a thriving Abacá fibre handicraft industry operating in the Philippines, exporting worldwide.

At the start of the rainy season, well-developed suckers are transplanted in well-drained loamy soils. New leaves emerge in succession from the centre of the pseudo-stem. At first, they are rolled up, then gradually unfurl. The petiole of each new leaf is slightly staggered in relation to the previous one resulting in an upward spiral. The pseudo-stem can reach a height of more than 3 meters and the whole plant can become 6 meters tall.

At the beginning of the flowering stage, the plant is cut at the base of the pseudo-stem. Growers harvest Abacá fields every three to eight months after an initial growth period of 18-25 months for a total lifespan of up to 25 years (the rhizome continuously produces new suckers). The sheaths contain the valuable fibre, composed primarily of cellulose, lignin and pectin. The fibre is extracted from the leaf sheath by hand-stripping or via a machine. The strips are then scraped to remove the pulp, sometimes washed, and then sun-dried. The fibres can then be spun into twines or cordage.

Out of the world''s total estimated annual production of 82,000 tons, the Philippines produce 67,000 tons, by far the largest producer. Over the past 40 years, production has been developed in Ecuador (today producing some 14,000 tons). Production in the Philippines is based on a "smallholder" system of agriculture, with most farms being between 3 and 5 hectares in size. Abacá grows on marginal lands and requires no external inputs, thus making it a suitable crop for resource-poor small scale farmers. The Ecuadorian system is more reminiscent of the African sisal industry and is essentially a large estate-based industry (although there is also a substantial smallholder co-operative movement). The traditional Abacá industry contributes to improving the livelihood of rural people and gender empowerment through providing employment opportunities for farmers, strippers, traders and processors.

Some Producers / Retailers / Distributors:

  • Sosan Industries Inc.
  • Philippines Nature Products
  • Wigglesworth Fibres

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Fri, 09 May 2008 02:10:57 GMT

Epimedium grandiflorum

Epimedium grandiflorum
For local readers, just a reminder that the Perennial Plant Sale at UBC BG is coming up on Sunday. This particular Epimedium won''t be there, but I noticed there were several others on the list of plants for sale in 2008.

Thank you to Connor for both today''s photograph and write-up!

Epimedium grandiflorum is a member of the Berberidaceae and is native to China, Korea, and parts of Japan. Its silky white petals and sepals with a retreating border of purple give this flower a particular elegance. On a breezy day the entire inflorescence stirs in unanimous agitation. Common names for this plant are barrenwort and yin yang huo.

This genus has been featured twice before - Epimedium × versicolor ''Sulphureum'' and Epimedium acuminatum -- but I''m pleased to be able to add something not previously mentioned. A quick search of Epimedium yields a number or results using the common name horny goatweed. A small stretch of the imagination provides the requisite myth behind this common name, involving goats and an observant farmer (see Epimedium via Wikipedia).

Epimedium grandiflorum has been used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine for many purposes the most prominent, and probably suspect, as an aphrodisiac (Plants For A Future lists 8 uses of this plant). Despite innumerable websites selling Epimedium grandiflorum extracts in the form of pills, sprays, and ointments, I was unable to find any real evidence for this alleged use. Research with rats, however, indicates that barrenwort may be a possible preventative medicine for osteoporosis, as a complement or alternative to hormone treatment in older women. In The osteoprotective effect of Herba epimedii (HEP) extract in vivo and in vitro (PDF), Xie et al. look at the mechanism by which Epimedium extracts could possibly help reduce bone loss.

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 00:59:36 GMT

Corymbia 'Summer Beauty'

Corymbia 'Summer Beauty'
Connor is responsible for today''s write-up:

Thanks to kjbeath@Flickr (and Ken''s photo site) for this wonderful shot (original via UBCBG Botany Photo of the Day pool).

Corymbia ''Summer Beauty'' is a hybrid between Corymbia ficifolia, commonly known as the red-flower gum and, Corymbia ptychocarpa, commonly known as the swamp bloodwood. These two species are native to northwestern Australia.

As kjbeath noted, prior to 1995 these two (along with 113 other species) were classified as belonging to Eucalyptus. This genus of the eucalypt group in the Myrtaceae used to be divided into seven subgenera (from Microsatellites retain phylogenetic signals across genera in eucalypts (Myrtaceae) - PDF). Following a taxonomic revision based on morphology characters two of these subgenera Corymbia (the bloodwoods), and, Blakearia (the ghost gums) were included in the new genus Corymbia. What''s a Corymbia from the Australian Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research provides a clarifying summary.

Since this revision, it has been suggested that another closely related eucalypt genus, Angophora, should be included in Corymbia. According to chloroplast DNA, Corymbia is paraphyletic with respect to Angophora. In the first article cited, Ochieng et al. have used more genetic sequence data and found that Corymbia indeed forms its own clade.

Here is an interesting article: Radiation of the Australian flora: what can comparisons of molecular phylogenies across multiple taxa tell us about the evolution of diversity in present-day communities? (PDF) outlining plant speciation in Australia.

For those inclined towards other aspects of botany, Susan K. Martin provides an account of the ''gums'' in literature in The Wood from the Trees: Taxonomy and the Eucalypt as the New National Hero in Recent Australian Writing (PDF).

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 00:48:06 GMT

Laurus nobilis

Laurus nobilis
Connor Fitzpatrick continues his work on this series:

The second of four entries featuring underutilized species from the Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized species is Laurus nobilis. Thanks Hannes and Paul!

Laurel is an extremely resilient evergreen forest tree that grows in all Mediterranean areas. In Syria, laurel grows wild above 200 meters over sea level along the coastal area. It is resistant to extreme temperatures and to coastal conditions. Its fruits are very dark, small, round berries that ripen between October and December.

In Syria, age-old methods handed down from generation-to-generation are used to produce unique products that are then sold in local markets. Although the local demand has remained stable for decades, export demand has grown recently, creating new income-generating opportunities for the local population. Laurel has been used for centuries in traditional cosmetic products such as laurel oil and laurel soap. Known for its unique perfume, it nourishes, softens, refreshes, and cleanses skin while acting as an antiseptic. It is especially recommended for sensitive and damaged skin. The oil is also used extensively in cosmetics and moisturizing products. In addition, dried laurel leaves are an important ingredient in Syrian and Mediterranean cooking. The leaves are also used in traditional medicine; dried leaves are brewed as an herbal tea and used to treat rheumatism, joint pains, schizophrenia, stress, to stimulate the appetite and as a sedative. The oil extracted from the berries is used as a cure for irritated skin, earache, asthma and urinary ailments.

For generations in Syria, the livelihoods of the community members in two coastal and mountain areas and of the traders in major Syrian cities have depended heavily on the production and marketing of traditional laurel products. Traditional collection and processing of wild laurel leaves and berries accounts for about one-third of their total yearly income. The market chain is made up of collectors, traders, soap producers and consumers. The collectors dry leaves and/or process the berries into oil; the traders buy the oil from the collector/processor and sell it to the soap makers who then produce traditional soap for the local market and for export.

In Syrian mountain communities, villagers collect laurel berries and manually extract the oil using traditional, multi-staged methods. The whole berries are boiled in water for six to eight hours in a metal container over a wood fire. As the oil rises to the surface, it is skimmed off with a wooden spoon then filtered and bottled. Sixteen kilograms of laurel berries produce about one litre of laurel oil. The quality of laurel oil depends on the fatty acid content which varies according to the variety of laurel used.

Laurel soap is believed to have been developed in Syria some 2,000 years ago. There are about 50 privately owned small-scale soap factories that use traditional soap-making methods. Most of the factories are located in the Aleppo Province. The soap is made with laurel oil, olive oil, and caustic soda using a process called saponification. The oil mixture is blended with an aqueous solution containing the soda in large cauldrons. This mixture is then heated to over 200 degree C and stirred until the oil is reduced to glycerine and sodium salts. The caustic soda solution is drained from the cauldron and the soap mixture is left overnight to cool slightly; the excess water is then drained off. Once a solid block has formed, the soap is cut manually into square bars, stamped and stored in a dry place for at least six months. The process of making soap is carried out from November to April. From May to November, soap storage and trading activities are carried out.

A few retailers/producers/distributors include:

  • Ugarit
  • Syriangate
  • Kessab Herbs
  • Compagnie Generale de Cosmetique

Posted by: Daniel Mosquin      Read more     Source

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