Monday, October 5, 2015

Adenostoma fasciculatum (chamise or greasewood): Worthless Brush or potential Nurse Plant ???

My subject here, Chamise or Greasewood is a much demonized shrub in the Chaparral Plant Community. Quite often it is blamed for most of the catastrophic wildfires in Southern California and often accused of being an invasive take over of habitat from more desirable shrubs and trees in it's very own native habitat. So much of what is misunderstood by the public has likely been the fault of  Journalists, Politicians, the very Departments and Agencies in charge of  land management oversight and those bought and paid for Scientists who back the business interests of corporate agencies who should know better.

(Image: Mine)

Adenstoma fasciculatum Chamise & Cuyamaca Cypress
Inspiration Point off Hwy 79 south of Julian California

These are simply some pictures I took from last weekend on our trip once again to Julian California. Admittedly in my past, I too had negative feelings or impressions about this plant and others, but most of it was based on the ignorance I also learned in School. What I love looking for when hiking and exploring outdoors are specific nurse plant examples [older well known ones and newer yet to be discovered ones] when I'm out in the bush. Always looking for which plants may be the best parent plants for use in practical application in habitat restoration or in community planting of the urban landscape. This poor shrub in the photograph above is also called by a purposeful derogatory name as Greasewood because it has a high content of volatile organic compounds, but then so do most other plants. But it conveys the idea that Chamise is worthless for nothing else than burning. A reality check here should reveal to you that all plants made of organic matter will burn. Just look at those colder Boreal Forests locations near the Arctic circle, even those of Temperate and Tropical rainforests. They all burn with great ferocity given the right circumstances. But this chaparral plant's mere presence will invoke the usual hatred by many an fire ecology expert and landowner determined to eradicate it in favour of what many humans consider plants with more eye-candy appeal. Often blamed for the reasons and causes of catastrophic wildfires and chocking out the more desirable plants, this in reality couldn't be further from the truth. 

image: Mine

Inspiration Point, Hwy 79 south of Julian
The reality is that this plant will grow where many others won't or can't. It most often will be one of the last holdouts in drought, holding down the soil erosion where others fail and disappear. In fact, during wetter times the Chamise allows itself to be colonized by many ectomycorrhizas which actually facilitate the higher succession plants like Pines and Oaks to grab a foothold in pioneer territory, even other chaparral like California Holly or Toyon as seen in the photo here to the right. Below the high country town of Idyllwild California in the San Jacinto Mountains while driving east along Hwy 74 through the San Jacinto River Canyon, you can see on the lefthand side of the road which would be the south facing slopes on the north side, numerous Toyon shrubs within the Chamise. Without the presence of Chamise, such srubs would never make a foothold by pioneering out into virgin territory without Chamise. Eventually if times are favourable and long enough, the Chamise itself will become the victim of succession through the chocking action of competition of the very seedling in it's care as will eventually happen with the Cuyamaca Cypress in the photograph at the top and below. 
image: Mine (2015)
This young Cuyamaca Cypress above is sandwiched between Chamise and Mountain Mahogany chaparral which clearly are helping support this immature cypress to adulthood. These Saplings were everywhere in the chaparral. Conventional practice by forestry and Timber agencies would have stripped the land bare prior to planting believe that such chaparral actually kills rather than nurse along such important forest species. 

image: Mine (2015)
This one appeared all by itself in an opening in the chaparral, but that doesn't mean there were no underground connections going on as far as a mycorrhizal grid network for them to tap into. In this photo, take a look in the background just above the Sapling central tip in the photo and slightly to the left of another sapling emerging through the Chamise. Clearly Chamise has been a mother tree success story here for Cuyamaca Cypress. In fact underneath and inside the canopies of the Chamise were several broken truffles of the Mycorrhizal fungi Pisolithus tinctorius from the crop of truffles which appeared this past Spring. A special note on Southern California's Ectomycorrhizal Fungal Diversity on surprising hosts came from the US Forest Service. Under a subheading with the same name, comment on observation of Ectomycorrhizal colonization on Chamise (Greasewood) was noted to occur in particularly wet years such as El Nino events. If true, then this coming year's El Nino event predictions for SoCal could be a window of opportunity for habitat restoration if anyone is actually paying any attention to this. This is an opportunity that has not really presented itself in almost two decades.
Ectomycorrhizal Fungal Diversity
Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) normally forms arbuscular mycorrhizae with all genera found in the region. However, during wet years (El NiƱo), we found EM associated with its roots and EM fungi in the stands (Allen and others 1999b). There was a high diversity of fungi ranging from Cenococcum and Balsamia spp. (ascomycetes) to a variety of basidiomycetes such as Pisolithus sp., Cortinarius spp., and Hysterangium separabile. We also found a new species of Rhizopogon: R. mengei (Allen and others 1999a). This is an important finding, since all other known species of Rhizopogon are associated with conifers. In addition, we sequenced the dominant fungus found on the root tips of chamise, and this fungus was an unknown species of ascomycete, most closely related to Sarcocypha emarginata (97 percent similarity in the sequence alignment of the 5.8S region, 63 percent similarity in ITS1, and 59 percent similarity in ITS2), a common fire-following fungus."
This last line in this research article's paragraph about Adenostoma fasticulatum and the other possible or potential yet to be  discovered plant host to Mycorrhizal colonization relationships is really an understatement. Just think, what if the world's Scientific community had actually been pursuing such responsible biomimetic research these past decades as opposed to the obsession with an artificial version of plant care concerned only with Patents for product, manufacturing product, slapping a label on product and charging outrageous prices for artificial product which is not nearly as effective as the real deal found in Nature ? Quite possibly we wouldn't be living in the present wrecked world we all are forced to endure as a result of the misuses and abuses of Industrial Science. 
"There are clearly plant/fungal symbiotic combinations that we do not understand and have yet to explore."
USFS: "Biodiversity of Mycorrhizal Fungi in Southern California" 
Prior to the trip to Inspiration Point south of Julian, it had rained fairly heavy from recent Monsoonal Thunderstorms the week before this week's visit, but it hadn't been long enough and soaking enough to trigger any summer emergence of truffles this time. But at the very least I did find numerous broken dried out truffles with mature chocolate brown spores easily dislodged when rubbed from their compartmentalized interior casings. At least this was proof the system was still functioning in this spot. This cannot be said for my former collecting grounds on the outskirts of Anza a year ago.

image: Mine

Pisolithus tinctorius or Tom Volk's Dog Turd Fungus
The photograph below is of the actual single living parent tree for which all these seedlings originated that the 2003 Cedar Fire did not take completely down, although the old scars are still present. I collected one cypress cone this time to see if I can germinate some seeds and out plant the seedlings as an experiment on the hillside near my home here in Sweden. I'd love to see if they will take this climate's prolonged dark winter and long cold periods. In the photo's background of course you can clearly view Scissor's Crossing of Hwy 78 and San Felipe Road in the desert below. 

Image: Mine (2014)

Mostly I wanted to expose here the importance of Chamise and it's value to land managers and large land owner's who otherwise are prone to stripping such plants from their landscape mistakenly believing they are making an improvement. I have no problem with creating defensible space around their homes and other dwellings or even wishing to create what they consider more desirable trees and shrubs, but the Chamise is an asset in this area and not the enemy. Old school bigoted ideas and biased assumptions promoted for decades by ignorant land managers have got to be rejected. I'll provide a few more links, although I appreciate many will find such boring. Not the fault of the subject matter, but mostly the researchers who by nature never have been great communicators to the public as a whole. That in itself is one of the biggest problems of most of this world's leadership in general. As a final note, the use of Chamise in the urban landscape would be limited or none at all. Most of this post was to direct attention away from the negatives about this chaparral plant and it's important purpose within the Southern California Chaparral landscape. It's importance in covering the land quickly after fire and important role as a nurse plant or mother tree for other ecosystem succession plant life. The decades of conventional land management wisdom have been a failure, now perhaps acknowledging the reality of how the programmed mechanisms in Nature really work is the only hope left for humankind. To illustrate how an ecological succession of a climax forest progresses, here is an animation video provided by Buck and Sons Landscape Services.

Ecological Succession of the Climax Forest 

 There is something extremely important to remember here. The Cedar Fire (2003) tore through massive amounts of both  old growth Chaparral and Forested regions of San Diego County mountains. Many of these beautiful pristine places of ecological climax succession took hundreds of years of long term gradual development to reach such an old growth state. But it took one unfortunate irresponsible act which triggered a massive catastrophic event over a mere couple weeks to almost completely destroy it all. To help illustrate in human terms, most of this world's Sports Stars, Hollywood Film & TV  Celebrities, Popular Political Personalities, Nobel Prize Winners, all manner of other world renowned Heroes etc spend decades building up their careers and reputations to attain what most people would consider a celebrity climax status of sorts later in life. Many times these stars crash and burn their reputations through one senseless act which becomes public. Often times most never recover. If they do it takes many more decades if they have the luxury of that kind of time and even then their celebrity fame never mirrors their former glory. We now live in a time like that where ecological circumstances have changed drastically where recovery may not heal as programmed over and over for thousands of years with no problem. Understanding the biological mechanical components for recovery are more important than ever because life on earth no longer has the luxury of time on their side anymore.

Further Reading References
Ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity separating the wheat from the chaff
USDA Forest Service: "Biodiversity of Mycorrhizal Fungi in Southern California"
When Mycorrhizae debunks the Scientific Orthodoxy on what & who they'll colonize
And finally, what motivates human hatred of specific organisms in the Natural World ?
Human mistreatment of the Natural World is a mirror of the way they treat each other

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera) growth explosion with Mycorrhizal Fungi

A California Fan Palm planted into a front yard landscape from a one gallon container out performs 3  five gallon Mexican Fan Palms which not only had a more massive root system, but also three times the height. So what happened ??? - "Mycorrhizal Fungi"

(image: Mine July 2014)

Last year at the start of July 2014, I purchased four more Palms for my mothers front yard to create the appearance of an Oasis among plants of the Pea family like Red Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), Baja Fairyduster (Calliandra californica) & Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens). There was already an existing Mexican Fan Palm which had volunteered on my mother's property and my brother had moved it back in 2005 to where you see it in the photograph above. I'm still blown away by the fact that since 2006, that palm has grown very slowly from from a foot tall plant to what you see here above in last year's photograph. But what blew me away on this year's (2015) return is to see what has happened with the one gallon California Fan Palm I purchased from Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery in relation to 3 other purchased five gallon Mexican Fan Palms I purchased from Lowes on the last week of July 2014 when I planted them. 
The major difference maker was inoculating the California Fan Palm heavily within the soil at planting time with the as opposed to simply planting the Mexican Fan Palms without the beneficial fungi. The reason is I thought the Mexican Fan Palms would explode with fast growth on their own because as a natural rule they are much faster growing than Washingtonia filifera. Wow was I ever wrong. The California Fan Palm grew another three feet, while 2 of the five gallon Mexican Fan Palms put on only a foot of growth. The third Mexican Fan Palm actually died. I seriously should have inoculated everything. But after all these years of successes and positives which have greatly exceeded all expectations, I'm still excited by amazing changes almost before my very eyes. We're talking just exactly a year and two months. This is why documenting such things is so important, because those who are behind the Industrial Agriculture business model are not at all in favour of such practices and their successes. But take a look at last year's (2014) W. filifera to this year's (2015) results below.
Over four foot of growth between the period of July 2014 to August 2015. So why is it again that home owners and professional landscapers have preferred using the faster growing Washingtonia robusta over the so-called slower growing native Southern California - Washingtonia filifera ???
(image: Mine Sept 2015)

(image: Mine July 3, 2014)
The photograph above of the California Fan Palm is little over four foot tall as I did measure it at the frond tips. At the time of planting, this one gallon tree was barely one foot tall. The big difference maker was inoculation with Mycorrhizal Applications Inc's product called MycoApply. I should also note however that I also bored holes in the ground around the base of the large 11 year old Mexican Fan Palm (why I don't know) and again with the Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii) on the opposite side of that largest and oldest Mexican Fan Palm as well. In any event, you can also notice the drastic difference in growth with that 11 year old Mexican Fan Palm in the same landscape Oasis photo at the very bottom of this post if you scroll on down. But also take a look at the 2013 one gallon Engelmann Oak (again purchased from Las Pilitas) which was planted in the front yard Oasis on April 2013 and the contrast of where it is today 2015. 

(image: Mine September 2015)

(image: Mine June 2013)
This one gallon Engelmann Oak was purchased and planted in late May of 2013. The first photo on the right side here  was actually taken on June 30th 2013 where you can see how that year's Spring branch buds which sprouted after planting grew another few more inches. So technically this small tree was less than a foot of growth from the Nursery. The top photograph above shows the tree actually well over six foot tall. I'm 6.3 foot tall, so it was a nice surprise also to see the growth of this tree slightly towering over me. I also imagine that the mycorrhizal fungi from the Oak has  moved underground towards that largest Mexican Fan Palm you see to the left in the Oak photograph above. Once again, compare the height of that Palm today (2015) compared to last year (2014). Big difference. Still the slow growth of the five gallon planted Mexican Fan Palms was a surprise to me, but I'll inoculate them this year before I go back to Sweden. During yesterday's monsoonal rainstorm, the curb on the opposite side of my mother's street rain had flood water reaching 5 foot out from the curb towards the center of the street. I grabbed a five gallon orange Home Depot bucket and placing it in the deepest part of the runoff against the curb, the bucket filled up in a matter of seconds. I then proceeded to walk back to my Mother's front yard and dump the contents under various shrubs. It just kills me to see such as waste of city storm runoff which ends up downstream into the ocean. This runoff develops from all the concrete and asphalt surfaces of a housing development called Sky Ranch built on top of Rattlesnake Mountain above Pepper Drive Elementary School. I made more than 50+ trips right about the time School let out at 3:00 pm. I got soaking wet, but it felt wonderful. The kids parents were parked up and down the street. Some snickered, others complimented me.  Some day these municipal flood control infrastructures within city limits are going to be designed or redesigned to be better at rainwater harvesting and infusing such water into the city park landscapes and road medians. It just makes logical sense. Anyway, the rainfall totals over my mother's landscape artificially increased by a couple more inches, especially around the Manzanitas. 

(image: Mine September 2015)

(image: Mine Sept 2015)

Mexican Red Bird of Paradise 
Seed germination after one rainstorm
This is a contrasting view of the same photo at the top of this post which was taken last year. Notice in this year's photo above how much growth and taller the largest 11 year old Mexican Fan Palm has gotten when you look at it's height as seen behind the Baja Fairyduster ? And too me there is not a whole lot of noticeable difference in the smaller Mexican Fan Palm here than the photo at top. The California Fan Palm is hidden behind this largest Palm and out of view. Also take special note of the photo here at the right. We had a wonderful long soaking monsoonal type rain which lasted most of the day and tapering off during the night with mist through this morning. These seeds on the concrete driveway are from the Mexican Red Bird of Paradise and they are some of the easiest things I have ever germinated and grown. We have no weeds, but the seedlings would almost qualify as they are very prolific in germinating. Seriously, I don't know why anyone would ever purchase one of these plants at a retail nursery. One of the greatest compliments I've gotten over the last few days working out in the yard and trimming is people walking past the house wondering what I feed the landscape to make everything so lush and intense as far as flowering. My response of course is nothing. I have never once used either synthetic nor organic fertilizers to accomplish anything. All plants are inoculated generally at time of planting and the only other addition is mulch. 

(image: Mine 2015)

Can you find the Spider ?
Sometimes in the beginning after the original installation and inoculation, I'll inoculate further the next year and perhaps a couple years after that to build up soil microbial community and build up the soil carbon. My only yearly addition into the landscape is a thin layer of decorative pine or cedar mulch which will break down slowly by the mycorrhizae and other beneficial bacteria which will release nutrients back into the system ever so slowly. Under the the synthetic industrial science-based method, most of the fertilizer is lost to percolation and runoff. The point is once you create a natural healthy ecosystem within your own urban landscape, the health of the entire plant community increases negating the need for all the other industrial science-based synthetic chemicals such as insecticides and herbicides. The use of insecticides destroys every single beneficial predator insects such as the Spider shown above left. She was a surprise to find. I only noticed her because of the long trail of dired flower petals caught or woven into her foot long nest. Interesting I wondered what exactly she was catching, possibly bees. However my mother has a motion censor nightlight on the corner of the garage and when walking out the front door at night it is triggered to come on. Several nights I walked out and notice in the Red Bird of Paradise bush the blooms were being visited by numerous little white Moths with black speckles on their  wings. That was interesting since many types of garden and farm pest moths fly at night in desert agricultural areas. Hence such checks & balances critters are imperative. But the synthetic chemicals target them as well as pests and in their absence, the pest populations rise despite the chemicals. Once this type of industrial scenario is created, then you become shackled and prisoner into following the industrial maintenance program. And the sad fact is you cannot win. The only winner is the industrial agro-chemical company. Much of the synthetic fertilizers cause excessive growth which attracts insect pests and many pathogenic diseases in the form of powdery mildew etc. This is the same program or system used to grow your food found at the local grocery store produce aisles. The need for synthetic chemical herbicides also radically decreases as the mycorrhizal networks outcompete the weeds (ruderals) for available soil phosphorus. Weeds thrive in a bacterial soil system, not a mycorrhizal one. Any weeds that do make the occasional appearance are greatly stunted. Generally my mother's landscape has 4 or 5 within the mycorrhizal landscape's sphere of influence and generally stunted with no effect on the trees, shrubs and other plants. 
(image: Mine 2014)
BTW, last year when planting the other palms, this palm root from the largest tree was 14 foot away from the Mexican Fan Palm. It reveals just how far palms will go in search of water. It's extremely imperative that people reading here do not simply take my word for all this, but make practical application within their own landscape or gardening projects. By all means challenge my methods, please.  This is what burns knowledge of such methods into your mind's personal experience. The majority of people have been indoctrinated into the industrial conventional business model through millions of dollars of annual advertising and also the infusing of massive amounts of funding within this world's Academia to maintain the industrial status quo. The earth simply cannot afford this type of irresponsible behaviour any longer. This isn't about pseudoscience or anti-science, this is about horrible irresponsible science versus good healthy holistic biomimetic science.

(Caesalpinia pulcherrima and caesalpinia mexicana)
The plant above on the right in the photo is Mexican Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana). It would make a nice contrast in the landscape. While I love the Red Bird of Paradise, it can be overwhelming with too much of the same colour. I already have several of the native South American native Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii - native to Argentina & Bolivia) planted throughout, but they flower very early in Spring season where the others are mainly in full summer blooming. These of course naturalize very easily and we also have to pull up seedlings as they appear, but not hard to keep a handle on. Below I'll post some links of previous articles on planting members of the Pea family (Legume) and I'll also provide the post of where the Oasis landscape was planted in the dead heat of summer during 100+ Fahrenheit (40 celsius) intense heat. It really can be done and while mycorrhizal fungi inoculum is a must, the timing of the day is everything. I'm not sure how many will read this post or take it seriously, but at the very least I've been further able to document something I should have recorded years ago. People are going to have to start viewing nature as a sophisticated biological machines with various fascinating complex components. By far the most amazing thing about this subject was something that I didn't expect from the California Fan Palm and that was extremely rapid growth. Even with the mycorrhizae colonized on the root system, I fully expected little change from when I planted that little one gallon Fan Palm. I never cease to be amazed by these successes.
Some of my recent posts on Mexican and California Fan Palms, this year and last year in 2014.  The first follows the incredible lengths Washingtonia filifera roots will go to in search of water. The second is about the invasive nature of Washingtonia robusta in the coastal canyons around urban areas of San Diego California and the further wildfire spreading threat potential they create
 Getting to the Root of why Natives rule & Exotics struggle or outright fail
"Day of the Triffids" or "Monolith Monsters" ? (Mexican Fan Palm - Washingtonia robusta)
Further Important Reading References
Is it safe to plant & water California Natives Plants in Summer ?
Water provides a Hydropatterning Blueprint for Rooting Architecture & "Infrastructure" 
Creating Chaparral Alcoves in your Landscape for personal regeneration & meditation retreats
Using Nature's Mycorrhizal Tool-Kit to compete with Weeds vrs killing them with Glyphosate
Deep Irrigation Methods for Training Deeper Rooting networks
Utilizing Ornamentals of the Legume Family in Southwest Landscapes

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Customizing Gardens for Native Bees (Pollinators & Predators)

image: Mine

Predatory small wasp on my apartment balcony inside a large pot container with my Avocado tree digging a hole and burying what looked like a wood lice grub for it's young.

This past year there is a young 12 year old boy of African descent from parents who immigrated from Uganda who I've been spending time with discussing particular things about how nature really works. Here is Sweden because of this cool wet climate, there is not a whole lot of opportune days for being outdoors and exploring out in the wild. Especially when you live in an industrial city like Gothenburg. The Parks are not exactly representative of wild things, but once in a while there are some surprising exceptions. Other than school and the rare occasion where his dad will take him for a walk, he spends most of his time at home in a concrete social housing high-rise Project. However, there are many Saturdays we spend time out in volunteer work and as we walk through some gardens, one in particular stood out as unique from the rest over in an area on Hissingen called Baron Rogers. What I noticed immediately is that there were many different plants were  flowering plants. But also the area was loaded with all sorts of pollinators, not just bees and wasps, but also butterflies. On a picnic table was a wasp exactly like the one in the photo above. It was stalking a wood lice on the table and I pointed it out to the young man and explained that this is how things work in nature as a balance to keep pests in check. I also explained that when people carelessly use chemical pesticides to do the job, these chemicals which may be manufactured for killing certain specific pest are also toxic to the good predators which should be doing that job if the garden was managed properly. Rarely do you see such a garden in healthy holistic shape as this one was and we actually met the groundskeeper who had specifically designed this landscape with those reasons in mind. But this brings me to an excellent recent article which encourages citizen participation in creating a landscape environment which is managed as a natural native habitat for all the beneficial critters through eco-friendly practices. Here is the article below and it concludes with an extremely irresponsible negative quote from a Biotech Scientist who says nature is dangerous and should not be encouraged within urban areas. Seriously, she said this.
(Image: Jim Cane ARS)
A native Andrena bee species gathers nectar
 and pollen from a pear flower
"Dogged by pests, pathogens, poor nutrition, and other problems, the European honey bee is having a rough time these days. The bee pollinates over 90 different kinds of fruit, vegetable and nut crops. These same crops are also pollinated by native bees, particularly on smaller or diversified farms and especially in home gardens. Together, their pollination services are an $18 billion annual asset to U.S. agriculture, and concern over their welfare prompted the White House in May to issue a directive aimed at bolstering their numbers and health through a series of initiatives including improving and expanding pollinator habitat."

"Citizen involvement is another component. Among the actions citizens can take is growing nectar- and pollen-rich flowering plants; another is “customizing” garden or landscaping areas to make them more hospitable to these pollinators—especially native bees, says entomologist Jim Cane, with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS)  Pollinating Insect–Biology, Management, Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah."

"In a three-year outdoor experiment conducted on the campus of Utah State University, Cane found that the common, widespread social bee species Halictus rubicundus (H. rubicundus) prefers digging its subterranean burrows next to small surface stones rather than in areas of bare soil. The next generation of queens, who mature in the fall and hibernate away from the cluster, return in the spring to use those same sites to establish nests of their own. Indeed, when Cane created a thin mulch of flat stream pebbles along the edges of a landscaped sidewalk area, he observed 66 to 78 percent more burrows there the following spring than in adjacent areas of bare soil."

(Image: Jim Cane ARS)

Burrow dug by female Halictus rubicundus bee amid pebbles and cobblestones

"Together with Utah State University Extension, Cane turned his research findings into practical guidelines the findings into practical guidelines that gardeners and landscapers can follow to create habitat areas that will serve other ground-nesting bees, which comprise about three-fourths of the 4,000 described native species in North America."

"“Bees have two primary needs in life: pollen and nectar to feed themselves and their offspring, and a suitable place to nest,” writes Cane in his guide, Gardening and Landscaping Practices for Nesting Native Bees. While lists of bee-friendly plants are available, most practical advice focuses on practices to avoid, like using buried landscaping fabric or sprinkler-irrigation systems during daytime, which can disrupt a female bee’s orientation to familiar landmarks.

"For ground-nesters, like H. rubicundus, Cane suggests creating a single surface layer of small, streambed-type pebbles along the perimeter of a flower garden or landscape area. It’s important that these pebbles remain undisturbed by foot traffic, because female bees will burrow into the ground near them and rely on the pebbles’ positions as landmarks to return to their nests after foraging for nectar and pollen. When pruning plants with woody stems that have pithy or hollow cores, Cane advises, leaving a few foot-long dead sprigs in place. This will attract species that prefer to nest above ground, like small orchard bees."

"Urbanization, loss of habitat, and other events have taken a toll on managed and wild bees. But they’re resilient insects, and even a few simple steps to help these important pollinators can go a long ways."

“Watching them forage and nest can be great fun as well as educational for curious homeowners—they’ll quickly appreciate the truth in that old saw, ‘busy as a bee!’” says Jim Cane.
(Source: USDA Blogs)

(Image: Jim Cane ARS)

Two female Peponapis squash bees pollinating a zucchini flower. These bees are key pollinators of squashes across much of the United States.
I loved this rare article from of all sources the USDA which normally is promoting and supporting the agro-chemical business model, but here actually encourages the average citizen to participate in helping native bees/wasps thrive into the urban landscape setting. Of course the focus was on pollinators, but don't forget many of them have a major play in keeping plant pests in check. The role of flowering plants of course is to attract the pollinators and in so doing your garden plants are pollinated. However, though they all dine on pollen and nectar, their developing young for whom they dig those burrows in the soil or carve out holes in dead wood do not feed on pollen. They need more protein diet to develop and the adult native bees and wasps provide this food by finding an insect plant pest, paralyze it with a sting and shove it down the nesting cavity which they have previously created. They lay their egg on the victim and as it grows it feeds on the insect pest their parent have provided for them. This is what the little wasp was in my plant container on the balcony and at the garden landscape within the apartment complex of Barron Rogers in Hissingen were doing. They play such major roles in balance in nature and provide an opportunity for all of us to never again use chemical pesticides ever again. Same with the chemical fertilizers which are often so rich and potent, they attract the very pests to the plants that feed on the synthetic chemical diet. Yesterday I had a neighbour down the street ask me what I fed my mothers shrubs and trees because everything looked so green and healthy and they've noticed the plants appear to flower all year long. She said she hasn't been able to get her Mexican Red Bird of Paradise shrubs to flower at all the way my mother's shrubs do and when they have flowered, there were very few blooms and their appearance was momentary. She was blown away when I revealed to her that I have never ever fertilized them with any chemicals. Mycorrhizal inoculation the first couple of years to build initial plants health and long term soil benefits are all I've done aside from adding just a thin layer once a year of decorative mulch on the surface which will gradually get broken down by the natural fungi and  bacterial elements. All of this is really fun for me, but this is also the kind of basic things never taught in schools where it should be at a very early age. Wait till High School and most youth are lost into the virtual world of electronics and turned off to anything regarding outdoor activity. The Biotech and Agro-chemical Industrial world have the say and influence on what is taught in academia from the conventional textbooks. Take for example this negative sewery comment below by a well know Biotech proponent demonizing the USDA article because in her worldview, it was sending a dangerous message because Nature is so unsafe.

"As an agricultural scientist I fully appreciate the importance of our pollinators to the farming community, but encouraging bees in urban areas places a higher concentration of people in contact with insects than in the coutryside, insects which can sting and even occasionally, cause anaphalactic shock. Yet urban bee keepers are on the rise, and while people are exhorted to change their gardening practices and use of pesticides to protect the bees, little consideration is being given to harm this can cause – Up to 100 people a year die from insect bites, not including mosquito and tick borne disease such as West Nile Virus or Lyme Disease. I wish there was more balance to the “save the bees” call to action, and some recognition that people don’t only have pollinators to protect but also themselves, their children and pets."
Source: Dr Clare Thorp PhD, Croplife America, Managing Director at Biotechnology Industries Organisation (BIO), Washington DC

So what is there really here for me to critique about the  irresponsible comment above ? Absolutely nothing since I believe they speak for themselves. This woman is shackled to promoting a business model and nothing more. If people all got together and actually got on board with what the USDA article was encouraging, can you imagine the dollar value big business losses in retail sales of all their chemical cocktails sold at numerous home improvement stores ? This is a multi-billion dollar a year business for these people and their investors. Count on more negative publicity in the years to come as these people will go down to their grave fighting these issues. Walk up and down any aisle with countless agro-chemicals for fertilization, insecticide and herbicide solutions and it's quite literally all about death and keeping your garden and landscape on permanent life-support for a cost. And with that I'll simply close and post a few beneficial links for improving your garden and landscape for your personal health and benefit. I'll also post some links of organizations for furthering your education on how native plant ecosystems actually work and how and why they should be replicated. The Agro-Chemical giants have had this "Us against Nature" mentality for decades, so Clare Thorp's comment was nothing new or isn't something that hasn't been pimped before.

"But if we want to protect ourselves from the rampages of Nature (such as fire, famine and disease) we'll have to use chemicals"

Monsanto advertisement 1977 ) 
Past Articles from my blogs on this very subject of Pollinators and Predators
Diversity of Flowering Plants Imperative to Pollinator & Predator Health
How to Construct the best Insurance Policy for your Agricultural Business Venture
Attracting Wild Bees & Wasps to Landscapes & Farms is the best Insurance Policy
Sources of Native Plant Ecosystem Education and the practical applications into the Landscape
California's Own: Native Landscape Design by Greg Rubin

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Human mistreatment of the Natural World is a mirror of the way they treat each other

Credit: Xiann Melegrito

The collage above I found by accident accurately illustrates what humans have done to each other throughout history. Often in the name of championing a cause and almost always for power over others. World empire after world empire from the beginning have spread their own personal version of what the Romans later coined, "Pax Romana" which is the Latin for "Roman Peace." Although clearly it didn't always work that way for those whom the Romans  forced into subjection. Still, the human usage of mutilated language [words/terms/phrases/slogans] has served humans throughout history who were ambitious with obtaining power and dominance over their fellow man by any means possible. Fast forward to the beginning of the 20th Century just after the industrial revolution and especially since the year 1914, mankind has indeed "dominated his fellow man to his injury." The Germans used mutilated language like the sign over the Concentration Camp gate entrances saying, "Arbeit Macht Frei" which was used to obtain power and dominance over other human beings by the most heinous means possible. Believe it or not, they used the prevailing consensus science of that time to justify their right to world domination ideology which in their minds gave them a sense of moral [though perverted] justification. 

Today the same exact strategic usage of word mutilation is used to justify industrial business models and all cloaked under the imaginary protective umbrella of none other than "scientific consensus." The most notorious of examples today are the attempts by the industrial biotechnology people to mutilate the meaning and definition of an actual real legitimate term called Genetic Modification. Their version goes something like this: "Mankind has been genetically modifying plants and animals for thousands of years", which is nothing more than a lame cowardly attempt to equate gene manipulation in a Lab by bought and paid for industrial scientists with farmers and ranchers breeding plants and animals for thousands of years. Even the original dictionary definition meaning understands the true original meaning behind the terminology:
"Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct manipulation of an organism's genome using biotechnology."
But somehow such industrial public relations marketeers believe if they say their definition version of "genetic modification" long and loud enough in the echo chamber, that somehow it will just get sucked into people's brains and later be accepted as fact. Admittedly I'm not a real fan of the Biotech Corporate industry, especially since I once worked for one such company and found major flaws in their safety data sheets one of their major flagship products and after reporting my findings, was told two weeks later my contract for working for them would not be renewed. Well, neither did their product work out, which BTW was an excellent  one, but neither did it stay very long on the market. Must be why I enjoy interviewing doctors on possible side effects of manufactured  drugs by pharmaceuticals at the work I do now. The Nazi ideology did this public relations word mutilation for over a period of almost 20 years prior to the justification for War. Had they come clean in the beginning, they never would have acquired the power to carry out their plans.

Credit: Fred A. Bernstein of New York Times
I recently read an article from Michigan State University which spoke about using what it called Marginal Lands [lands considered worthless for conventional science-based agriculture] for the bio-fuel business ventures. The photograph at left appeared in a New York Times real Estate section that had the title: "High hopes and Worthless Land". The New York Times article's author, Fred Bernstein, was relating a story of how his father had been conned by some real estate huckster back in the early 1960s to invest in land that would one day be worth far more than it's present value as the city of Albuqueque in New Mexico would be expanding to the north in the future. In the past, other such landscapes with wetlands, rocks and boulders, woodlands with what many considered valueless trees etc were all considered marginal and not fit for anything of commercial value. That's all changed now. For a couple decades there has been another assault on the Natural World cloaked under the guise of Alternative Energy. Deserts have been used for such Industrial Solar and Wind projects because they are deemed worthless [no doubt in monetary terms] because this world's leadership finds no other uses for them from a business standpoint. Over the past couple of years we have heard of a new term called, "Green Grabs" which is the 'business as usual'  of taking land from poor people in poorer developing countries for the business interests of nations in the industrial world. Never mind that countless poor farmers have been displaced and land is taken out of food production only to be converted into Eco-Biofuels for Industrial countries. For example take the first line in that article's title I alluded to above which starts off using the expression, 'MARGINAL LANDS'  and a quote from the first paragraph of that piece really says it all:
"Marginal Lands -- those unsuited for food crops -- can serve as prime real estate for meeting the Nation's energy production goals."
Somehow the term or phrase 'Marginal Lands' struck a nerve in me. I'm finding lately that the use of many terms and phrases are being used in a negative context when describing any living organism on Earth that impedes human materialistic pursuit or perceived comfort zones where such living things need to be either subdued or totally eliminated. In other words, a specific landscape could be labeled as 'waste' or a 'worthless' piece of real estate with no real attached economic value. Again, keep in mind, people have also  been doing this for centuries to each other, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that nature itself also takes the hit. If they don't respect each other, how in the world can anyone expect them to show respect and proper custodianship for the natural world ???
Prime Examples of Misleading Terminology used for Justification of Irresponsible Land Management Models

photo by Cody Sheehy

 Burrows Ranch near Redding Northern California
"This valley has a high fuel load of decadent brush. It is an ideal place to remove this brush to create fire breaks. If done correctly, this valley could return to a more natural fire regime that supports greater biodiversity and protects property"
Cody Sheehy (Video Coordinator at The University of Arizona)
Now seriously, when I look at Cody's photograph, I'm not seeing what he sees. There is nothing decadent here and I can see that there is indeed great biodiversity. The authoritative champions of land management who are major proponents of prescribed or controlled burns within the chaparral environment often cite reasons for such prescribed fires as the landscape desperately needs a mosaic pattern to allow for biodiversity. Does anyone else besides me see the lack of any ecological mosaic pattern which is preventing biodiversity from happening in Cody's photograph ???  If he is in fact referring to the appearance of brown colouration in the shrubbery as justification for his flawed landscape worldview, he apparently is ignorant of the fact that this is summer and the brown colour is only dried flowers of Chamise chaparral. It's what is known as NORMAL. His photograph is actually one of my favourite examples of landscape biodiversity where trees making up small woodland pockets in the chaparral make sort of biodiverse islands of life within chaparral. These trees are Foothill Pines (Pinus sabiniana) which like other trees like Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii) and Big Cone Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa) thrive and prefer such ecological niches. The surrounding landscape in the hills west and south of Temecula California where I originally come from have many areas like this. I actually went to Cody's YouTube page and found many of his videos interesting, but why and where did he come up with such terminology and misunderstanding of chaparral wildlands ? Once again, the photograph he referenced in his comments shows none of the imaginary problems he was describing. Human constructed firebreaks on mountain ridgelines are not natural and serve only to waste money, time, effort and divert attention away from the real issues involving wildfires. They also make certain special interests lots of money. But no doubt Cody's misunderstanding comes from inexperience of youth and probably from reading what others have written who label themselves as the fire ecology experts. Take a look:
"The fire ..... decadent chaparral fuelbeds" (Minnich 1983, Byrne 1979)
 Source: US Forest Service - Cost-Effective Fire Management for Southern California's Chaparral Wilderness: An Analytical Procedure
The inciweb site this year, 2015, has reported about state fires of  Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California, especially in the northern part of the state which has had a terrible time with countless lightning and human caused fires. In comments on one of the fires burning in northern California, the Cal Fire website also said this about the conditions.
"The Fire is burning in heavy decadent brush . . "
Cal-Fire: Details on the Jerusalem fire Aug 2015
This next usage example of the word/term "decadent" actually comes from a resident biologist, Anne Poopatangapong, assigned to the US Forest Service in Idyllwild California who oversees the San Bernardino National Forest in the San Jacinto Mountains and commenting on the July 2013 Mountain Fire which also had a human cause.
“Some of the fuels out there are really, old and really decadent, and have changed the forest” said Anne Poopatanapong, district biologist for the Forest Service. “So what you’re seeing is not necessarily the way the fire would naturally occur.”
Tarleton University in Texas, on a page describing California Chaparral had this to say about why the word decadent chaparral is used. While commenting on a mosaic pattern of Manzanita, Ceanothus, Chamise and Digger Pine shown in a photograph, they had this comment.
"Note the so-called “decadent” (meaning high proportion of dead plant material) characteristic of this fire-type. These scene illustrates why California chaparral burns so readily during the long, hot, dry summer of the Mediterranean climate.Mt. Diablo State Park."
Source: Tarleton University - California Chaparral and Related Shrublands
"So it is a carpet of gasoline, and it should be viewed as such, and people should think if it in those terms" 
Richard Minnich (University California Riverside Fire Scientist)
Frankly, I strongly disagree and find it highly irresponsible for so-called fire ecology experts to be using such purposeful derogatory terminology and definition shell gaming to demonize any plant or any other plant community on Earth in the promotion of some less than accurate management agenda. When I was a kid in the middle 1960s, at elementary school we learned through documentary films about how Brazil was constructing a new capitol carved out of the rainforests called Brasilia because that ecosystem was considered worthless Amazon swampland which they were going to educate others on how to reclaim such land for productive human purposes. My how that opinion has changed. Now let me just focusing here on California's native chaparral system when it's in a healthy old growth stage. I personally have never seen first hand the type of description as they are attempting to lay on the public by the usage of the words/terms "decadent" or any other vulgar adjective. Now I have seen such areas of heavy deadwood, but more often than not, it was the result of terrible ignorance on how the plant community's ecosystem really functions which resulted from previous land mismanagement in the first place. The word decadent is more traditionally and appropriately applied only to human beings and that's how most of us historically have understand it. To illustrate, here is the dictionary definition usage of the word and how and why it is normally applied:
"Adjective - characterized by decadence, especially culturally or morally: a decadent life of excessive money and no sense of responsibility."
"Noun - a person who is decadent - characterized by a marked tendency toward the artificial and abnormal in content."
Synonyms: corrupt, immoral, degenerate, debased, debauched, self-indulgent 
(Source -
I know there are those out there who recently attempt to say plants are sentient beings, but seriously, do you really think and believe plants are schemers, corrupt, immoral etc etc etc ??? The deliberate irresponsible usage of the words/terms like "decadent" for Southern California's chaparral plant community doesn't even come close to illustrating what the chaparral plant community is all about. The usage is not so much to educate humans, but rather to provide a negative connotation in justification of it's removal [no doubt for profit by a number of special interests] and championing terrible land management policies [again, no doubt for profit] which actually offer no value whatsoever in any long term fire suppression goals [real or imaginary]. The other derogatory words/terms, "fuel loads" & "gasoline", are meant to assign blame on why we have these later day mega wildfires in the first place. By their very own cherished definition, should we not also be considering things like homes in housing tracts as "fuel loads" since they also burn as well ??? I mean, they always seem to be in the way and allow fire to pass on through ? Take a look at this example and Union Tribune newspaper comment below.

Union-Tribune; photo John Gibbins

Cedar Fire: Scripps Ranch subdivision, San Diego,

California, October 25, 2003
"Almost 3,000 homes were lost in the Cedar Fire, leading to improved access to fire insurance; increased focus on firefighter training; and better warning, communications, and evacuation plans. San Diego County homeowners are now required by law to maintain 100 feet of defensible space around their houses."
Does it at all seem reasonable to blame the vegetation in this photograph for this home's demise ? Is there some type of forest crown fire going on here or hundred foot high wall of flames within  the shrubs which are causing this house to catch on fire ? Why is the house the only main thing burning while the vegetation seems so untouched ? While there appears to be some small mulch and weeds burning a foot high as undergrowth, the only time this vegetation will burn or even get singed is if it's too close to the burning house. Here's another example. Recently there was a wild fire along the Interstate 15 Freeway in the notorious Cajon Pass area of Southern California in which the fire burned 20+ cars and large trucks. Should we also now be assigning Cars and Trucks blame as "fuel-loads" utilizing their own cherished definition ? 

Image: ABC News
Cajon Pass @ Interstate 15 Freeway - July 19, 2015

Well, they were after all on a concrete freeway which acts as a sort of fire break barrier. Could it now be argued that the mere presence of these cars and trucks be seriously considered as a "fuel load" [even containing gasoline] allowing the fire to breach that concrete barrier which allowed the wildfire to advance farther up the mountainside and therefore they shouldn't be allowed on the freeways anymore ??? Of course not, that's ridiculous, but it's the same exact argument given by the usage of other such flammable materials, but which are merely biological. Truth is, anything organic will burn, especially these days with climate change and more severe weather conditions. Look at wet Boreal, Temperate and Tropical Rainforests for example ???

As I previously alluded to before, deserts are considered worthless and waste, but not for alternative energy schemes which are parked in nobody's backyard. Well, nobody deemed important. The picture below is of a flawed scheme to manufacture giant CO2 eating machines to vacuum the air and *cough-cough* save the planet. Such industrial projects are already in many places across the deserts southwest, so why not use fake artificial trees to do what real trees, the ones humans have mostly destroyed, use to do ??? True, real trees not only eat up CO2s and provide oxygen, but there's no money in them like these artificial schemes which will provide jobs and help the economy. Any time some leader or business interest wants something approved, they always through in jobs and economy into the plan. Below is one man's opinion of the Mojave Desert, but he's not alone.

'Carbon Trees' Would Suck CO2 Out of Air

"A solar panel 100 miles by 100 miles in the Mojave Desert (USA) could replace all the coal burned to generate electricity in the entire U.S." 
Louis A. Del Monta, Physicist, Author and CEO 
To view further my opinions and thoughts on alternative energy schemes, please click the following link I recently posted:
The World's Catch 22 with Alternative Energy Schemes


Chaparral Broom (Baccharis sarthroidea)
A final example comes from  the Chaparral Biologist, Richard Halsey who not long ago exposed a government release of a Forest Land Management Report, for it's usage of the words/terms like 'boring and mundane' as applied to the native chaparral plant community of Southern California. These descriptive derogatory terms were being purposefully applied to the most productive and prolific native flora of California to justify land management policies which favour big business interests such as those of the construction/development and Timber industries. Such policies have destroyed perhaps millions of acres of chaparral habitat deemed rangy looking and worthless as well as promoting  the very idea that it's very existence is specifically responsible for the latest decades round of Mega-Fires. Of course these are all lies. On the other side of the argument made by the opposition is that  there are certain other plants like Pines, Firs, Cedars, Oaks and others being considered as having far more value and worth as to an economic benefit. Quite often however from a human viewpoint, those plants are also considered as having far more value and worth for no other reason than they were judged by mere appearance and in doing so, they are reflecting how human beings have judged each other since their first appearance on Earth. One thing is for a certainty, such flawed judgement is not the result of good responsible scientific study and research. Even demonizing plants and animals as invasives doesn't solve what went wrong. As a rule, humans are mostly unwilling to admit flaws and imperfections they themselves engaged in which brought about the imbalance in nature which opened the door for the demonized invasiveness. Here is an excellent article just published from Harper's magazine on attitudes towards invasive species and the flawed science they promote and allow in dealing with it. Mostly, everything is done for a price tag, not because it's the right or correct thing to do. People tend to forget that is what got the world in trouble in the first place:
“David Theodoropoulos, a California naturalist, seed merchant, and the author of Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience, is blunt about what he sees as a deadly inversion of environmental priorities."
‘Thirty years ago,’ he told me, ‘the greatest threats to nature were chain saws, bulldozers, and poisons. Now the greatest threats are wild plants and animals. And what do we use to fight them? Chain saws, bulldozers, and poisons. Who does this serve?’” 
… I asked Peter Raven whether his efforts to protect the natural world didn’t clash in some way with his support for something very unnatural: GMO technology. ‘What’s natural anymore?’ he replied. ‘If we’re going to play God, we might as well be good at it.’” 
Harper's magazine: "Weed Whackers Monsanto, glyphosate, and the war on invasive species" 

Credit: Marsha Elliott
Many today will insist that such irresponsible conduct is all in the past, we've moved on. We're more socially responsible now and we are now living in  the enlightened age. Seriously ??? Things on Earth are far worse ecologically, politically, economically and socially than at any time in history. Many of the latest social experiments here in Europe have turned into a joke. Here in Sweden they have a social program called "dagis" which is a type of preschool for all kids and their working parents. The rule of law here is that teachers can not use the pronouns "hon" (she) or "han" (he), they can only use "hen" (gender neutral pronoun). One parent had a boy come home confused wondering whether he was a boy or girl, he was told he was neither. I understand their socialist indoctrination, but 3 and 4 year old kids ??? (I won't even go into what else they have been feeding these 3 and 4 year old kids as far as sexual matters) I can understand the need to introduce people of a conventional religious background into an atheistic secular society because when I went to SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) classes here, a big part of assimilating immigrants [my classmates were all Muslim] into secular culture was to show movies where sex was being acted out on the screen. The first movie I put my head down on the desk so as not to watch, the second one I walked out and said I was only interested in learning the language, not the politics of a free spirit ideology. Over in the USA I often follow news articles from SF Gate. San Francisco has always been at the forefront of social experiments. I remember back in 1999 when the city of S.F. were going to show the rest of the country how to take care of homeless people properly. One of the things they did was purchase shopping carts for homeless so that they wouldn't have to steal one. It was said this would dignify them. Seriously, these folks need a hand up not a hand out. Homeless people have come from many places across the USA to be in San Francisco, but now the SF leadership  want those same homeless people gone while the Super Bowl is in town as there appears to be a major problem with urination and defecation in public. It's so bad that even the street lamp posts are falling down from corrosion. If things like that are not bad enough, New York city is thinking of actually decriminalizing public urination. So how does all this happen in our modern times ??? What's changed ??? Apparently the new science has a majority of people believing that we are all nothing more than animals anyway, so if dogs do it, and the pigeons do it on the outside of a building's window, why not human beings ??? If we really are just nothing more than some other species of animal, offered up by an evolutionary process that attaches no significance to what makes us different and exceptional, then the reasoning is that animal behavior on the part of human beings should hardly be something to be censored. Collectively speaking, humans have spent more time playing World of Warcraft, than they have at responsible custodianship of Earth. Don't ever expect the natural world, the earth and human society as a whole to ever improve for the better with a worldview like this. You know what the really scary or spooky thing is here, if evolution is true, it means that well meaning efforts at helping nature, one's fellow man and this so-called sustainable living cannot even be considered the right thing to do. But even more so, it also means that the bad abusive animal behaviour on the part of human beings over the centuries that has screwed everything up is not even wrong. It really question begs here beyond "What is natural ?", but seriously: "What is Truth ???"