Golly! Gollum jade plant

February 19, 2017

Yeah, like that Gollum.

In the sun, it’s a pleasant meditation on green luminescence.

Gollum jade plant

Gollum jade plant, Crassula ovata ‘Gollum,’ one of our indoor collection.

I know way too little about this thing, where it grows wild, why it evolved such unique leaves. But the sunlight passes over and through it as if they are old friends, and that gives me peace.

A single branch of Gollum jade. Photo by Ed Darrell, please share with attribution.

A single branch of Gollum jade. Photo by Ed Darrell, please share with attribution.

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Annals of Global Warming: Mexican plums blooming early in Dallas

February 17, 2017

Spring comes a few hours earlier every year as the planet warms; plants that used to blossom in March and April, now blossom in February. Mexican plum blossoms in Dallas, Texas, February 17, 2017. Photo by Ed Darrell, please share with attribution

Spring comes a few hours earlier every year as the planet warms; plants that used to blossom in March and April, now blossom in February. Mexican plum blossoms in Dallas, Texas, February 17, 2017. Photo by Ed Darrell, iPhone 6; please share with attribution.

Spring comes earlier every year in Dallas. Our Mexican plums used to blossom in March and April; for the past three years, we’ve had blossoms well before spring even comes. Last year we had a cold snap that took the young fruit out, after a premature blossoming.

It’s a sign of creeping global warming. Every year I marvel at Al Gore’s powers to convince our Mexican plum to blossom early, part of the “global warming conspiracy” so many fear.

That is, this is a symptom of global warming that cannot be faked, that is from observation, and not from models.

With flowers on fruit trees come hopes of a bountiful harvest. Dreading the underlying meaning of such an early blossom does not change our hopes, nor the birds’ hopes, for a good plum harvest.

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Tree bark, a catalog of unexpected beauty

June 23, 2015

You really should be following Maria Popova’s Tweets, and Brainpicker.

There you’ll learn of this marvelous book:

Brain Pickings: "French photographer Cedric Pollet travels the world to capture this beauty and has documented it in his gorgeous new book, Bark: An Intimate Look at the World’s Trees."

Brain Pickings: “French photographer Cedric Pollet travels the world to capture this beauty and has documented it in his gorgeous new book, Bark: An Intimate Look at the World’s Trees.”

 

Look at some of the photos. Wow.

Pollet’s view of the lowly ocotillo:

Cedric Pollet, Ocotillo tree bark

“Ocotillo tree, a shrub-like plant found in the Southeast United States”

Does one need to have a background in botany to think tree bark is interesting, and even beautiful?

Ms. Popova said Cedric Pollet traveled the world to find these great subjects to photograph.  One could do well trying to duplicate his tour.

What trees in your yard have outstanding bark?  Where are your photographs?

Cedric Pollet's photo, Mindanoan gum (or rainbow eucalyptus) found in the Philippines, where the bark is used as a traditional remedy against fatigue

“Mindanoan gum (or rainbow eucalyptus) found in the Philippines, where the bark is used as a traditional remedy against fatigue”

How often do we see the forest, but miss the details of the trees?

 

 


New Appalachian Wildlife Refuge protects very rare species: Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge

May 15, 2015

A 39-acre donation from The Nature Conservancy and a lot of work by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy joined to birth a new National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.

Welcome the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge.

Jack-in-the-pulpit, one of the less rare of the rare plants protected by the creation of the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. USFWS photo

Jack-in-the-pulpit, one of the less rare of the rare plants protected by the creation of the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. USFWS photo

The April 22, 2015, press release from USFWS:

New National Wildlife Refuge Established to Protect Some of Appalachia’s Rarest Places

April 22, 2015

Trout lily blooming at Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Trout lily blooming at Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Asheville, N.C. – The Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge became America’s 563rd refuge today.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Jim Kurth visited Western North Carolina to announce the establishment of a new national wildlife refuge devoted to the conservation of southern Appalachian mountain bogs, one of the rarest and most imperiled habitats in the United States.  North Carolina is home to 11 refuges; Mountain Bogs Refuge is the first one west of Charlotte.

“The establishment of Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge marks a turning point in the efforts of a number of dedicated partners in preserving this unique and threatened habitat,” said Kurth. “It will provide a focal point for mountain bog conservation in the area, and highlights the importance of our National Wildlife Refuge System in preserving our nation’s spectacular biodiversity for future generations of Americans.”

“While western North Carolina has beautiful swaths of conserved public lands, mountain bogs, which are home to several endangered species, are largely unprotected,” said Mike Oetker, Deputy Regional Director for the Service’s Southeast Region.  “People have worked for decades to conserve these bogs, and creating this refuge was an opportunity to build on that effort in a significant way.”

The Nature Conservancy donated an easement on a 39-acre parcel in Ashe County, the site of Kurth’s visit, which formally establishes the refuge.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work by conservation partners at the local, state and national level,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Fred Annand, who coordinates the Conservancy’s acquisition work. “Many people have worked together for years to make today a reality. Successful conservation depends on partnership, and that’s certainly the case today.”

Mountain bogs are typically small and widely scattered across the landscape, often isolated from other wetlands. Important to wildlife and plants, mountain bogs are home to five endangered species – bog turtles, green pitcher plant, mountain sweet pitcher plant, swamp pink (a lily), and bunched arrowhead. They also provide habitat for migratory birds and game animals, including mink, woodcock, ruffed grouse, turkey, and wood duck. Bogs are breeding habitat for many species of amphibians, especially salamanders, of which the Southern Appalachians have the greatest diversity in the nation. Bogs also provide key benefits to humans. They have a natural capacity for regulating water flow, holding floodwaters like giant sponges and slowly releasing water to nearby streams decreasing the impacts of floods and droughts.

In addition to The Nature Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy has long been active in bog conservation and has been supportive of establishing the new refuge.

“Southern Appalachian bogs are biodiversity hotspots,” said Kieran Roe, Executive Director at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “But they are disappearing from our region at a rapid rate. Less than 20 percent of the mountain bogs that once existed still remain, so their protection is critical.”

The refuge may eventually grow to 23,000 acres, depending on the willingness of landowners to sell and the availability of funds to purchase those lands. To guide acquisition, and bog conservation in general, the Service has identified 30 sites, or Conservation Partnership Areas, containing bogs and surrounding lands. These sites are scattered across Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Clay, Graham, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Transylvania, Wilkes and Watauga counties in North Carolina, and Carter and Johnson counties in Tennessee. The Service will look primarily within these Conservation Partnership Areas to acquire land and/or easements. For those acres that won’t be acquired, the Service will work to support private landowners in their stewardship activities. Funding to acquire land and easements would likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, funded by fees collected from the sale of publicly-owned offshore oil and gas drilling leases.

While some parts of the refuge would likely be too fragile for recreation, the Service anticipates other parts could be open for wildlife-based recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, education, and interpretation.

The Service manages national wildlife refuges for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants. In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt created the first national wildlife refuge to protect brown pelican breeding grounds on the east coast of Florida. The Refuge System now includes 563 refuges across the nation, protecting more than 150 million acres. It’s the only system of federally-managed lands dedicated to wildlife. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/mountainbogs.

The National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska. Refuges also improve human health, provide outdoor recreation and support local economies. Visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov/refuges. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Our Dallas area trout lilies have all blossomed, weeks ago. Interesting that bog-bound trout lilies share so much in common with their drier land cousins a few thousand miles away.

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Identifying poison ivy

May 22, 2014

This may become a series.

Found a good infographic today, on how to identify poison ivy — the bane of every Boy Scout and Scouter west of the Mississippi, and east of the Mississippi, too.

From TreksInTheWild.com, via Daily Infographic

From TreksInTheWild.com, via Daily Infographic

Poison ivy leaves turn a beautiful scarlet in the fall.  This beauty prompted English ship captains dropping off colonists in New England to take the potted vines back to England.

It is my experience that, while everyone can become allergic and react to poison ivy, no one reacts on first serious exposure. If you’re in the woods, it’s good to know what this stuff is, and avoid it.

If you’re exposed, wash it off.  Wash your clothes with some sort of oxidant (oxygen bleach for colors, or chlorine bleach if you don’t care); I use a 3:1 solution, water to chlorine bleach, to shower with after serious exposure.  The active chemical, urushiol, remains active until it is reacted chemically or by ultraviolet light — and so a young Scout who gets some ivy sap under his fingernails can continue to spread the exposure everywhere he scratches, until his hands are really washed clean.

Study the poster, learn to identify the stuff.  There’s a lot more to say.


Remembering Lindheimer’s muhly grass from last year’s garden

April 23, 2013

It’s spring.  The grasses are sprouting.

Texas is a good place for grasses.

Lindheimer's muhly grass, in the afternoon sun

Lindheimer’s muhly grass, Dallas, Texas, January 2013. Photo by Ed Darrell; horticultural adventures by Kathryn Knowles

Spring sunlight is spectacular on the new flowers; winter sunlight, in the afternoon, shows a different kind of spectacular.

Lindheimer’s muhly grass, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri, shows beauty from soon after it sprouts until long after it’s gone dormant.  A garden is a year-around project, and joy.

History lives in those grasses, too.  You can find some at the Native Plant Society of Texas’s website, and its description of Lindheimer’s muhly.

This seems pretty dumb now, but many years ago when I first heard about so many grasses called “muley,” I was puzzled about that name. I’d heard of muley cattle such as polled Herefords, but not hornless grass! Needless to say, as soon as I looked up Lindheimer muhly, I could see it is in a genus named after a Mr. Muhlenberg.

Gotthilf Hunrich Ernst Muhlenberg lived from 1753 to 1815. He was born into a prominent Pennsylvania family, and his father and brothers were influential patriots during the Revolutionary War. Because of his family’s involvement in the Revolution, Muhlenberg was on the British hit list.

While he was hiding out in a rural area away from Philadelphia during the Revolution, Muhlenberg became interested in botany. Through his extensive collections, Muhlenberg made major contributions to botany, and many plants have been named in his honor. For example, among our local flora are several species of muhly grass (Muhlenbergia) and Chinquapin oak (Quercus muhlenbergii).

Lindheimer muhly was named in honor of Ferdinand Lindheimer, the “Father of Texas Botany.” Many other plants native to the Texas Hill Country also bear the name “Lindheimer” or “Lindheimer’s.” Most of these plants were first collected by Lindheimer, who settled on the banks of the Comal River in New Braunfels in 1845.

Another entry in the Blackland Prairie Almanac, perhaps.

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Annals of global warming: NASA finds amplified greenhouse effects shift northern growing seasons

March 11, 2013

Global warming affects plants in northern hemisphere, NASA chart

From NASA: Of the 10 million square miles (26 million square kilometers) of northern vegetated lands, 34 to 41 percent showed increases in plant growth (green and blue), 3 to 5 percent showed decreases in plant growth (orange and red), and 51 to 62 percent showed no changes (yellow) over the past 30 years. Satellite data in this visualization are from the AVHRR and MODIS instruments, which contribute to a vegetation index that allows researchers to track changes in plant growth over large areas. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio; click image for original view; click here for greater detail

Press release from NASA, March 10, 2013 (links in text added here):

RELEASE : 13-069

 

Amplified Greenhouse Effect Shifts North’s Growing Seasons

WASHINGTON — Vegetation growth at Earth’s northern latitudes increasingly resembles lusher latitudes to the south, according to a NASA-funded study based on a 30-year record of land surface and newly improved satellite data sets.

An international team of university and NASA scientists examined the relationship between changes in surface temperature and vegetation growth from 45 degrees north latitude to the Arctic Ocean. Results show temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982.

“Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more,” said Ranga Myneni of Boston University’s Department of Earth and Environment. “In the north’s Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems.”

The study was published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Myneni and colleagues used satellite data to quantify vegetation changes at different latitudes from 1982 to 2011. Data used in this study came from NOAA’s Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometers (AVHRR) onboard a series of polar-orbiting satellites and NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the Terra and Aqua satellites.

As a result of enhanced warming and a longer growing season, large patches of vigorously productive vegetation now span a third of the northern landscape, or more than 3.5 million square miles (9 million square kilometers). That is an area about equal to the contiguous United States. This landscape resembles what was found 250 to 430 miles (400 to 700 kilometers) to the south in 1982.

“It’s like Winnipeg, Manitoba, moving to Minneapolis-Saint Paul in only 30 years,” said co-author Compton Tucker of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The Arctic’s greenness is visible on the ground as an increasing abundance of tall shrubs and trees in locations all over the circumpolar Arctic. Greening in the adjacent boreal areas is more pronounced in Eurasia than in North America.

An amplified greenhouse effect is driving the changes, according to Myneni. Increased concentrations of heat-trapping gasses, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane, cause Earth’s surface, ocean and lower atmosphere to warm. Warming reduces the extent of polar sea ice and snow cover, and, in turn, the darker ocean and land surfaces absorb more solar energy, thus further heating the air above them.

“This sets in motion a cycle of positive reinforcement between warming and loss of sea ice and snow cover, which we call the amplified greenhouse effect,” Myneni said. “The greenhouse effect could be further amplified in the future as soils in the north thaw, releasing potentially significant amounts of carbon dioxide and methane.”

To find out what is in store for future decades, the team analyzed 17 climate models. These models show that increased temperatures in Arctic and boreal regions would be the equivalent of a 20-degree latitude shift by the end of this century relative to a period of comparison from 1951-1980.

However, researchers say plant growth in the north may not continue on its current trajectory. The ramifications of an amplified greenhouse effect, such as frequent forest fires, outbreak of pest infestations and summertime droughts, may slow plant growth.

Also, warmer temperatures alone in the boreal zone do not guarantee more plant growth, which also depends on the availability of water and sunlight.

“Satellite data identify areas in the boreal zone that are warmer and dryer and ¬¬other areas that are warmer and wetter,” said co-author Ramakrishna Nemani of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “Only the warmer and wetter areas support more growth.”

Researchers did find found more plant growth in the boreal zone from 1982 to 1992 than from 1992 to 2011, because water limitations were encountered in the latter two decades.

Data, results and computer codes from this study will be made available on NASA Earth Exchange (NEX), a collaborative supercomputing facility at Ames. NEX is designed to bring scientists together with data, models and computing resources to accelerate research and innovation and provide transparency.

For more information and images associated with this release, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/12Amv2s

– end –


text-only version of this release

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