Thursday, September 27, 2012

AgriLife Research expert: Salt Cedar beetle damage widespread after warm summer

(Texas A & M Agrilife Research photo by Dr Jerry Michels)
Salt Cedar (Tamarisks) Beetles came out and rapidly multiplied this summer, defoliating Salt Cedar Trees along waterways in the eastern and southern parts of the Texas Panhandle
A couple days ago I wrote a piece on Mesquite Dune construction as a Agricultural replacement for Tamarisk wind/sand breaks which had unintended consequences when they were first brought over by early pioneers for use as tough plants which would create the perfect windscreen for crops in dry hot southwestern Deserts. Unfortunately they easily naturalized in the wild dryland areas of the western and southern United States and exploded into wild riparian ecosystems where they have for the most part taken over and replaced most of the Native Riparian (Lakes, Rivers, Streams, etc) Vegetation.

Mesquite Dunes: Practical Solution to Tamarisk Removal & Replacement

Tamarisk bloom in Göteborg Sweden
No doubt that this tree/shrub is a tough survivor. People here in Sweden also plant a certain variety of it as an ornamental to their urban landscape. It does fine, but the climatic conditions here do not allow it to explode in population and spread out into the wild. The natural control of course is this regions frigid weather here. Being from the southwest myself I know exactly how the tree feels about cold. But I also admired it's toughness for survival.

photo by Kay Ledbetter
Dr Jerry Michels Texas A&M AgriLife Research entomologist in Amarillo, inspects damage to Salt Cedar along a waterway in the southwestern Panhandle.
Here is the full article from the online Texas A&M AgriLife magazine:

"The High Plains regions is experiencing a dramatic increase in defoliation caused by Salt Cedar Beetle, which has researchers excited about their work from previous years."
Photo Credit: Tom Paine
Notice on both sides of the "New River" which flows out from Mexico how overtaken the river  banks are with the non-native Salt Cedar or Tamarisk. There is absolutely no native southwestern native riparian vegetation what so ever. With the successes of this Salt Cedar beetle being introduced, then maybe there may be a slight chance of getting the upper hand and replanting Mesquite, Willows, Cottonwoods, perhaps Arizona Sycamores and other native vegetation which would be a plus for the native wildlife to this region.

Image - Desert Ecology
Extensive stand of Tamarisks along the Colorado River and its floodplains, near Yuma, Arizona. Note the irrigation canal in the lower part of this image. Tamarisks rapidly invade the margins of water courses when the fine, silty soils are cleared of native vegetation during construction work of this type.
Photo: Tom Dudley
Salt Cedar Beetles rapidly eating and defoliating Tamarisks along the Colorado River near Moab Utah. Untouched and green native willows are seen in the distant background along the Colorado River.
All in all this is great news in a world that gives us very little Good News. Of course not everyone is happy. The infamous Center For Biological Diversity & Maricopa Audubon Society has filed a lawsuit to save an endangered songbird called the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. The claim is Songbirds use the Tamarisk as nesting and the invasive beetle would destroy all the habitat. This is more political than environmental. 
UPDATE - 2013 

Date Palm Juice: A Greener Anti-corrosion Cleaning Agents ????? 
The search for a “greener” way to prevent corrosion on the kind of aluminum used in jetliners, cars and other products has led scientists to an unlikely source, the common Date Palm.
Date palm juice: A potential new “green” anti-corrosion agent for aerospace industry

These are the types of stories I love reading about. I'd love to see the already existing Date Palm growers get yet another beneficial product out from their Date Palm Groves. Industrial solvents and other cleaners are unfortunately over used. Your average employee working on a project which requires cleaning will reason to themselves, "If a little bit of product works, then more must be better". This couldn't be further from the truth. This flawed thinking is very common even with the average human being utilizing cleaning products for private home uses view most manufacturer's instructions on the back of a product label are never conscientiously followed to the letter. Product is wasted and more bad chemicals end up some where in the environment whether it be land, water or our atmosphere. 

Citrus Oil Extraction from the peel
Florida Oranges were always the best
I remember when working for Coors-Biotech in Golden Colorado, we had a product called Bio-T Max which was pure distilled Limonene which was used as an natural industrial solvent replacement. I found it could be cut as much as a 50 parts water to one part Bio-T Max for use against insect pests. It also attracted countless members of the bee and wasp families, so it's potential at inviting beneficial predatory insects was huge. Unfortunately I don't think that division of Adolf Coors company exists any longer or it's gone under another name. We were associated with the same group that developed Coors own strain of Barley which it contracts farmers in the high mountain states to grow for them. Still, there are many uses of many plants out there waiting to be discovered, even if only by some organics enthusiast. There is one former distributor I ran across in San Luis Obispo California area in the year 2002 and he still has a wealth of that product left in his warehouse. I think I'll pay him a visit next year when I go back. 

Hmmmmmm???? The possibilities!

Extraction of Juice From Date Palm Trees in Bangladesh & other uses

The gachhis extract juice from date palm trees by first scraping the soft part of the tree just below the cluster of   leaves with a da (chopper) and then inserting a short   BAMBOO pipe into it to allow the flow of juice in drops into a vessel fixed to the tree. The incision is made every evening and the juice is collected every morning. The juice is sweet and refreshing only at the early morning. But if after collection in the morning, it is stored for some two hours or more, it gradually ferments and becomes an intoxicating drink popularly known as tari."
"The juice of the date palms is largely turned into molasses   (gur ) by being boiled in a vat. A special variety is the patali, a hardened circular cake of molasses generally consumed with rice and milk. Sugar candy is also made from molasses. The small amount of juice extracted by gachhis  from the palmyra palm trees has the same use as the juice   of the date palms. The hardened sugar mould prepared  from the juice of the palmyra palm is locally called talmisri. The fermented juice of palmyra palm is more intoxicating and is a more favoured tari to many, especially in urban slums. 

Here is an interesting link from the "Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) site where uses for the Date Palm Juice are explored. Very interesting read.
Produced by: Agriculture and Consumer Protection Title: DATE PALM PRODUCTS 

Interesting. There are new er and newer things to learn about every day. I'm sure now that some western kids will learn about the intoxicating effects of the fermented juice and find creative ways of obtaining the product. You know how it is in the west ?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Swedish Coastal Seascapes Reminiscent of San Diego California

Photo: Mine
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from the  Torrey Pines State Reserve Sandstone Cliffs (2008)
Wild Southern California coast
When I tell people I'm from San Diego California, they often ask me if I go down to those wonderful beaches they always hear about. I tell them no or well maybe once in awhile. They next come back with, "Don't you like the beaches there?" I respond by saying, "Sure, if it weren't for all those other 10 godzillion people who like to go there too." Actually I'm not much of a coastal person. I'm a desert rat by nature who likes the peace and quiet of such locales.

Del Mar & other over built cities surround this area
First there is all that traffic congestion and commercial & bedroom district development. I think more importantly I don't like all that fog and low clouds marine layer, never have. You know ? June Gloom - May Gray !!! I not only dislike cold, but I hate it even when there is an annoying chill in the air. Okay I know, why do I live in Svenskland ? Off hand I'd say I got married. But give me Mountains or High/Low Deserts anytime and I'm a happy Kamper. But when I do go to the beach, we head out for Torrey Pines State Beach. It's one of the last wild beaches of sorts that Southern California has. Favourite thing to do is walk for a few miles south towards La Jolla CA to Scripts Pier along some almost wild coastline, short pants and barefoot, exploring tidal pools along the way. Typical windswept appearance of the Torrey pines for which this State Park and the very tree itself is famous for. Constant westward winds from the Pacific Ocean create what most of the experts call twisted Grotesque shapes and picturesque form. 

Photo: Mine

Last time I went to Torrey Pines State Beach it was last year June 2011. I never get tired of that place. I love the wind sculptured trees and chaparral. And as you can see from the above photo, there are still some genuine Coastal Cholla Cactus to be found. Actually this specimen was right close to the bottom of the cliffs near the seashore. It was a bit sheltered from the salty winds behind a sandstone wall of sorts. But it's those windswept trees you see on the hikes that intrigue and give ideas for urban landscape designs. 

Photo: Mine

It's amazing how different the growth habit is away from the Sea. Trees are usually very tall with a wide crown. Trunks are straight and tall after an early life of being adolescent, leggy and awkward.

Swedish town of Mölle
Okay, let's fast forward to this to Svenskland (Sverige - Schweden  Sweden). There is an area along the south & western coast of Sweden which has a Nature Preserve with cliffs and sea influence like that of Torrey Pines. We visited there back in 2005. It is just northwest of a large Swedish city called Helsingborg which itself is across the channel from the Danish island where the capital of Copenhagen Dänemark is located. The closest town is called to this Park or Nature Preserve is Mölle as you can see above. The nature preserve is to the left of the photo. Below is a scene of the town from a Highway Viewpoint overlook.

Highway Scenic View Overlook of Swedish town of Mölle

Windswept Pinus sylvestris and Quercus robur
But it's the wind swept trees that brought back the memories of my Torrey Pines State Reserve. The pines here are however  Scots Pine (Pinus sylvertris). Of course the common name is different in it's numerous locations of it's natural range which I call the Vodka Belt of the world. Norway, Sweden, Dänemark, Finland, Russia, Siberia, Alaska, Canada etc. The other windswept tree is the native Oak (Quercus Robur) which itself is native to most of Europe and parts of North Africa. It's common names are many as you can imagine. But here at the park it is rather stunted looking more like some Chaparral Scrub Oak. This particular Park location is on a rather narrow peninsula in Southern Sweden. 

Photo: Mine
Clearly the stunted windswept & picturesque patterns can be seen in this seacoast habitat.

Photo: Mine

Photo: Mine

Photo: Mine
This is the actual coastline, but you won't find any crashing waves existing here. This inland waterway does not have the energy of the larger oceans. Although it can have it's moments during storms. About the only time you'll see waves here is five minutes after a Stena-Line Ferry passes by offshore and even then they are only knee high. Water is beautiful and crystal clear but frigid. 

Kullen Lighthouse Viewpoint

Kullen Lighthouse
We didn't have much time to explore and walk around, but I'd love to go back and explore deeper inside those stunted tangled forests. I hate the word grotesque as a description of the growth patterns because for me it always has a negative sound about it. Picturesque is more like it. This area is one of the very few places I have liked over here and trust me that has been a huge mental challenge for almost seven years here. Interestingly we saw very few Swedes here. Mostly German Tourists. It had a feeling of Germany which of course is further south from here. Anyways, that's my comparison. I'm sure there are countless other areas around the globe like or similar to Torrey Pines State Reserve. I just happen to find another one. And yet there are some evidences that others in different parts of the globe have had similar pondering and creative ideas from such experiences.

Japanese Black Pine - Bonsai
I can imagine other places like over somewhere over in Japan where the well known Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii) of Bonsai fame must have inspired someone there way back when who meditated on things observed in Japan's Natural world. Somewhere a Japanese individual was pondering what he/she saw at a place where these pines grew from a crack in a granite face and the lights came on. Restricted growth could be replicated if one creates the correct habitat conditions. There is an incredible amount of information to be gleaned from such an experience if an intelligent person can focus their mind and have the ability to be able to unlock it's potential practical applications. That is if such  information is not abused or misused in any way, shape or form. A big part of developing such ability for creativity is dumping the television set and at least setting aside once in a while some of your other electronic devises for which you have been sold (conned) into believing life is almost impossible to live without.
Some Interesting Links:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Woodland Berries in Swedish Forests & Gardens

Just when I thought there were no berries this year, I find exceptions to the rule. While the common traditional ones for human consumption were scare this year with a terrible No Show Summer which was mostly rained out (and is continuing to the present), there were some surprises today.

Photo: Mine
Viburnum opulus  Woodland Shrub-like tree. Common name examples  Olvon (Swedish) - Guelder-rose (Dutch) - European Cranberry (British) 
Olvon Bär - Viburnum opulus
This shrub-like tree which I've never seen more than six or seven foot tall here with multiple suckering or spreading clones forming small thickets near my Trolley stop has always been an eye catcher not only this time of year with fruit, but even in spring when in flowers. It's foliage is beautiful and somewhat Maple-like in shape and appearance. I tasted it last year and this year, but it's a bit tart and sour. I didn't die so it's not poisonous. Apparently here it is used for flavouring and some make jelly from it. It is spread by bird usage as food source. I definitely want to collect some berries and propagate, but more likely will get some root cuttings and make some clones which will be faster in spreading it. It would be a perfect background plant along my back fence.

European Elderberry Tree along the
Önskevädersgatan Trolley Stop

This is one of those more familiar trees to many people. These clusters to the left in the photo were not quite ripe. People here are crazy about the Elderberry juice(Saft) here, the Elderberry Jelly or Jam(Sylt) and just general fresh eating of these berry clusters. I never experienced this in all my years of growing up in Southern California where Mexican Elderberry is everywhere and very productive. A drink is also made from the flowers in springtime. This tree is found in the wild everywhere here where the the forest opens up along the fringes of meadows.

Photo by Gabi Mclean

Mexican Elderberry (Sambacus mexicana)

by Gabi McLean
The folks in Southern California pay no attention to the varieties of Elderberry which are native there. Yet I know they see it almost everywhere. But development has taken a bit of a toll. The above picture shows it in association with chaparral. I use to spot it looking for Native American Village sites in San Diego Co. That and Prickly Pear Cactus were a give away as no doubt much of both these plant's abundance was no doubt the result of spread by humans. Both plants most always will be found around Metate grinding holes in granite slab rocks. I have always found the fruit productivity of both the Mexican and European Elderberry to be very much equal. In fact I believe the Mexican Elderberry to be more productive as a result of being out in the open as opposed to many here which are shaped more leggy by forest competition for light. Didn't mean to veer off track here, but I'm determined to get people to know what gems there are in the southwest for their garden. (* See Footnote Bottom of page)

Photo: Mine
I have to admit I'm not sure what this small tree in the woods is, but there were two separate ones which every year have different coloured berries as seen below.

Notice the difference in colour, 
Every year has been the same.

Northern European Hawthorn Tree

Many will recognize this plant. There are many native varieties to North America and Europe. It is often used to make Hedgerows which bloom white flowers in spring and these deep red berries in fall. Incredibly it is a well known plant used by Herbalists who create a gentle heart tonic that can nurture a person's entire circulatory system. There are countless other uses with this particular plant. It is said for someone with heart trouble, that a ounce of Hawthorn is worth a pound of cure. It's incredible how much knowledge about these wonderful plants has been gained over the centuries and at the same time lost as people put their confidence and trust into some of the very technology which is causing the Earth so many health problem issues. There is a Vietnamese store here which sells many Asian food stuffs here in Gothenburg. One of my flavourites is a fruit leather made of Hawthorn berries.

Honeysuckle Flowers Still Blooming

Honeysuckle vine loaded with Berries

Honeysuckle Berries
These bottom flowers were at a neighbour's place where we live and the top one further on down in another development's gardens. The further on down plant was mostly loaded with berries while the other plant was mostly flowers with no berries. These are another one of those edible flowers and berry plants. The berries taste exactly like the flowers if you've ever plucked one and pulled on the stem to reveal the sweet drop of nectar. As an interesting aside educational point, the Audubon Society article posted some research about how an invasive honeysuckle has changed the colour of bird feathers who feed on these wonderful berries. It has helped us to understand the importance of diet and how great variety in various creatures worldwide is accomplished by epigenetic mechanisms as opposed to long help belief in dumb luck and random mutations in creating species variety.
Audubon: "Mystery Solved: Invasive Berries to Blame for Turning Flickers’ Feathers Pink"

Photo: Mine

I don't really know what this shrub is but it is used as an Ornamental in the commercial landscapes here. This is at the Eketregatan  (Oak Tree Drive) Trolley Stop. I once saw a young lady in a hurry to catch a Bus and she stopped long enough to pick a cluster of these and put one in her mouth. That caught my attention so I did the same and they weren't bad. Now she wasn't exactly Swedish and I find many immigrants will eat the berries here. Near my house in the forest you'll see African Immigrant kids playing with Swedish kids and showing them what Bush foods are safe to eat and what are not. Leave to Africans to know their Bush foods, even in another country. *smile*

Cottoneaster Plant showing off it's Berries
I know this was a berry themed page but I have to show off some beautiful flowers that are blooming with a vengeance despite the lousy weather over here. I couldn't pass these up.
Photo: Mine

Photo: Mine

Healthy example of a Jackdaw
These last two shots are of a Magpie and a Jackdaw birds. Both of these birds were much smaller than normal larger specimens of their respective breeds. They both looked undernourished somehow and feather color not the brightest and sharpest I've ever seen. But they stuck together like friends helping one another scratch the ground and find food. Both bird groups have fairly large plump well fed looking members within their clans.

Both kept close together and followed one another around, almost touching one another. The pictures really don't do the behavior justice. I really needed a film as this was odd and yet entertaining. I felt sorry for them in a way because no doubt they may had been rejected by their own kind, but they found one another for companionship who had what appeared to be the same similar circumstances. Many animal species will have a cooperative behaviour at times for survival. Especially in things such as hunting and gathering food where each one has a unique set of skills the other lacks. Perhaps this is what was going on here. In any event, I wished I had had at the time a video camera to capture and document this spectacle.

Photo: Mine

Neither picture really does justice for what I saw and observed. In fact when I stopped at first having their togetherness presence catch my eye, neither were really afraid of me. They were only 3 feet away going about their business. I just came back from Grocery shopping walking back from the Trolley on a pathway and had to take my camera out again. By that time they moved on. On a last minute note here for western Gardeners. I've got to go back to the Mexican Elderberry as a great landscape and wildlife plant, even IF you don't want to eat them. Here's an example of a great southwestern styled landscape where the Mexican Elderberry fits in nicely.
* Footnote from top
Photo from Dave's Gardens
The normally shrubby to the ground tree can be nicely shaped into a small tree with typical umbrella style pattern. Not bad for a Native Organic Garden or Landscape Theme.