- Author: Launa Herrmann
Posing center stage in my daughter's front yard in Vacaville is a large plant with frond-like leaves. The main attraction of this sago palm (Cycas revoluta) was its shiny dark green foliage. The sago palm is actually a cycad. True cycads comprise approximately 185 species in three families — Cycadaceae, Stangeriaceae and Zamiaceae. Cycas revoluta is the only genus recognized in the Cycadaceae family. Also called a living fossil, cycads stood their ground against the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic era and have remained unchanged through millions of years.
The stiff, narrow, feather-like leaves of sago palms are often used in funeral wreaths or floral arrangements. They remain green long after cutting. Its Latin name revolta means “curled back,” a specific reference to the leaves which grow outward in a circular pattern with new leaves emerging all at once periodically. As a sago palm grows, it naturally loses fronds that first turn yellow, then fade to light brown before dying back. This heat-tolerant plant can withstand temperatures up to 110 degrees.
Unfortunately, a combination of full sun, dry soil and this summer's continuous heat wave took its toll on this particular sago. As my daughter waits to see if new fronds will eventually emerge, the living fossil has become a convenient canopy offering shelter and shade for neighborhood cats.
- Author: JoEllen P Myslik
This past week I had to travel for work to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although it holds a certain type of beauty – wide open views of grand mesas – it's not really known for having lush landscape. Being an avid gardener and generally a lover of all things green, I wasn't exactly expecting to necessarily be impressed with such an arid landscape.
However, during some free time, my colleague and I decided to visit the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden. We decided this even after a local Albuquerqian told us that if we had ever been to any other botanic garden, we would surely not be impressed with theirs. Having seen quite a bit of sand and mesas, we decided it had to at least be different than that, so off we went with low expectations.
We were quite pleasantly surprised to find a lovely botanic garden, albeit small and not well-attended. There was even a small conservatory that could certainly have one believing there really IS greenery in a hot desert – an oasis! The best treat of all was the Children's Fantasy Garden which is straight off the pages of Alice in Wonderland, and is guarded by a big metal dragon entwined in vines at the entrance. Lots of fun for us adults that visited, so I imagine children would be quite enthralled!
All in all, the ABQ BioPark might not be the reason you travel to Albuquerque, but it is well worth the trip if you do find yourself in the middle of the desert and longing for lushness.
(as a side note, the BioPark also includes a small Aquarium and a Zoo)
- Author: Lowell Cooper
When I wake up, my first thought is what needs water today in my garden. My second thought, while I am busily not flushing my toilet, is that nothing will get much water, if any. But, true to my routine, I like to take a walk through the yard just to see what things look like. It is sort of like looking at old family pictures – it provokes memories of what things HAD been like. And so, off I go.
First, much to my surprise, our fig tree is just bursting with purple, very edible fruit. More than ever. Maybe liking being drier than usual? Maybe reaching a point of full maturity? Enough to provide a supplement to breakfast as I stroll.
Then I notice a dazzling display of morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor, Convolvulaceae, to be exact). This lovely guest seems to prefer the dry conditions and says so with full bloom every morning into the cold and (hopefully) wet weather. I fortunately put it in a prominent place so I can be awakened abruptly to life in what feels like apparent desert conditions.
Then the star of the brief stroll show: naked ladies (or for the more modest of us, Amaryllis belladonna, a wonderful Amarylidaceae). The foliage looks rather tired and at death's door for much of the summer – getting drier and browner on a daily basis. And then, just when I had forgotten to expect anything from them, up comes a barrage of stalks with clusters of large pink flowers. The picture hardly does them justice. Lots of them. Hard not to stare as they stand there in proud isolation from their apparently dead foliage. I used to feel sorry for them that they seemed so alone, but now I see them as a sign that sometimes the lack of water can and does produce unique wonders and surprises.
- Author: Riva Flexer
I know…it sounds horrible, and it's usually unintentional. You've all been a witness, one time or another, walking past a landscaped bed, or yard, or municipal parking lot or park…and there it is…a tree fastened firmly to a nursery stake that it outgrew a couple of years ago or a decade ago. Or maybe it's a label that is now embedded in tree bark…or even worse, it's a fastening that completely girdles the trunk or branch.
So why is this so bad? Why am I so indignant and upset, to the point of speaking to personnel at my car dealer about these horticultural faux pas (errors to those whose French is long forgotten)?
It's a couple of issues.
The first is that young trees, even those freshly planted in their new and permanent location, need to move a bit. I liken it to that broken arm or leg that eventually comes out of its cast or splint. If it stays supported forever, the muscles wither away. It's bad enough after six weeks of restraint (hurray for physiotherapy!)
When a sapling arrives in its five or fifteen-gallon pot, it is firmly attached to a nursery stake, usually with green nursery tape, from top to bottom. Often one sees that stake, coupled with two heavier stakes on either side, with the tree attached firmly in the middle up and down the trunk. And there it stays… I've seen thirty-year old ornamental crab apple trees with a stake stuck in the bark. I've seen tape stuck in the bark, and wiring, and other fasteners. That brings me to the “other issue”.
Tree bark is more than just a covering. Yes, it protects the wood below from insect and other damage, but what is it actually protecting? It's covering the tree's vascular system, its circulatory system. Just below that bark is the phloem and xylem, technical terms for the two types of veins, if you like, that help feed that tree. The phloem transports the sap, which contains sugars manufactured through photosynthesis by the leaves, down through the tree where it feeds the tree. The xylem carries water and minerals from the roots up through the tree.
When the bark is compressed, this compression damages or cuts through the phloem and xylem, impeding or preventing this essential circulation. It is particularly damaging if the pressure girdles (goes around) the entire branch or trunk. The tree begins to languish, and no amount of food or water will improve its health. A girdled tree will die.
So what can I do, you ask? Now you know that when you see trees with tight bindings, you now know it's not good for the tree. Check your garden, and inform your friends. It's a common mistake. A tree with unencumbered bark is a happy tree!
But what about staking, you ask? That's a topic for another time!
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
This summer, I have been fortunate to have traveled to Mendocino in July and Yosemite in October. Both trips involved driving and walking thru the incredible redwoods, and each trip was a different experience.
The coastal redwoods in Navarro (Mendocino County) are breathtaking. After winding over the rolling hills and valleys of the beautiful Anderson Valley on highway 128, you slow down to drive through this awesome redwood grove. Only 12 acres in size, the forest of trees appears to go on forever. This portion of the road is often called ‘the Tunnel of Redwoods-to-the-Sea'. Coastal redwoods are one of the tallest living things and nothing is more beautiful than to observe the sun shining through the top branches.
Second growth redwood groves stretch the length of the Navarro River Redwood State Park, which is the smallest state park in California. It is home to raccoons, coastal black tail deer and birds such as the ‘belted kingfisher', whose habitats are river-oriented. Unlike most coastal parks, the weather gets as warm as 85-90 degrees.
Coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), are native to the central and northern California coast. This area has moderate to heavy winter rain and summer fog that is vital to this tree. Another important redwood in California is the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), of the Sierra Nevada. We enjoyed this massive tree in Yosemite. Coastal redwoods are taller, thinner trees. The sequoias are shorter and massive in width.
Now only inhabiting a narrow belt along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, the giant sequoias were once found across much of the northern hemisphere. They are a member of the cypress family, (Cupressaceae), and survive in 75 isolated groves in California. They are home to the Black bear, Acorn woodpecker, and the Mule deer. The climate at 6,000 feet in elevation means heavy snows, sunny days, cold nights, frequent fire and sufficient moisture, which enable the giant sequoias to flourish. Through research and experimentation it was discovered that fire promotes reproduction of these giants. It clears away the competing fir and cedar trees, exposing bare mineral soil for the tiny sequoia seeds to root.
Mother nature is amazing and being in the redwoods is experiencing years of history! How small one feels when walking among these beautiful giants.