Posts Tagged ‘plant’

Forest gardens: Trunk call

Forest gardens: Trunk call

They are the latest horticultural must-haves. But how to get one? Anna Pavord drops in on an expert

Martin Crawford in front of his Szechuan pepper tree at the Agroforestry Research Trust. Click the image to be taken to a photo gallery associated with this article.

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Posted 24 September 2011, by Mark Passmore, The Independent, independent.co.uk

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The forest garden is an attractive prospect, an edible landscape where the gardener can roam, collecting spiritual refreshment along with dinner. Those two strands were equally important to Robert Hart, whose smallholding at Wenlock Edge in Shropshire became a place of pilgrimage for his disciples. His book Forest Gardening (1996), written four years before he died, explored different and more holistic methods of producing crops. Why labour at digging the earth, planting fresh seed each year, when you could copy nature’s way of providing a harvest?

Working in his own orchard, Hart developed a forest-garden model built up from seven different layers of planting. At the top is the canopy provided by mature fruit trees and under that a lower layer of smaller fruit and nut trees. Shrubs such as currants make up a third layer, with a herbaceous layer of perennial vegetables under that. Any remaining bare earth is covered with horizontal mats of herbs, or sprawling crops such as cranberry (if the soil is sufficiently acid). Hart built into his system an underground dimension of edible tubers and rhizomes and a final flurry of vines and other climbers that could pull their way up into the trees. It’s the kind of mix you find in many English woodlands, though the plants there will not necessarily be edible.

Now, if you want to learn about the forest garden, your pilgrimage will take you west, to Martin Crawford and the Agroforestry Research Trust, based in a two-acre plot at Dartington in Devon. In fact, Crawford has plots scattered in several places round here, because he can scarcely keep up with demand for the plants he grows and the courses he runs each year. What is the draw, I asked, as we cowered in a polytunnel, waiting for the worst of the rain to pass. “A bit of it is the back-to-nature stuff,” he replied. “And a lot of people now lead very busy lives. They think of the forest garden as a low input system.”

Which it is. But only up to a point. “There’s no such thing as a do-nothing garden,” says Crawford robustly. “You can’t just plant up a forest garden and walk away.” Shelter is critically important, particularly if you aim to grow the more unusual plants that for some devotees is the whole point of the forest garden: blue honeysuckle, Szechuan pepper, tuberous nasturtium, plum yew. Most new converts want to get straight on with planting their crops. But, says Crawford, the shelter belt must come first.

Hart made his forest garden within an already established orchard. Crawford thinks it’s simpler to begin with open ground, as he did at Dartington where he took over a piece of unused pasture. Getting the trees in is the easy bit, he says. It’s the underlayers that need some thought. He used thick plastic sheets (Terram) to kill off the grass between the trees, gradually planting up one area at a time. Shade lovers will be more at home than plants that need sun. In Crawford’s plot, apple mint romps away very successfully in what Hart might have called the fifth dimension, with Solomon’s seal spearing up between.

I’ve never eaten Solomon’s seal, but Crawford says the young shoots are excellent, gathered and cooked like asparagus. I’ve never eaten lime leaves either, but Crawford coppices his limes hard to get plenty of young growth and uses the leaves in salads. It’s one of his best crops, he says, though it’d be a brave greengrocer who tried to sell them. Raspberries are a great success, because they can wander where they want, rather than being constrained to grow in the strip of ground to which we gardeners usually confine them. Crawford’s canes were enormous. And his Solomon’s seal hadn’t been stripped by caterpillars, as mine always are.

Diversity, said Crawford. That’s the secret. He reckons he’s got at least 500 different kinds of plant growing in his Dartington plot. And because one plant muddles into the next in an amiable way, it’s not so obvious which is what to a pest such as the Solomon’s seal sawfly (Phymatocera aterrima). But if self-sufficiency is your aim, you’d be hard-pressed, even with these 500 plants, to feed yourself adequately. Hart was a vegan and lived mostly on raw food. But on a cold winter’s evening, I’d be looking for something a little more comforting.

And a forest garden can’t provide much carbohydrate, apart from sweet chestnuts which make a superb flour. I always buy it when we go to see my brother in France as, over here, it’s absurdly expensive (£6.99 for 500g). Crawford mills his own which he gathers from the trees he planted when he first took on this plot, 20 years ago. This year there’s a heavy crop and the squirrels leave them alone because they don’t like the prickles.

Hart saw the sustainable forest garden as the ideal way to transform city wastelands, reconnecting the urban with the natural. Would I plant a forest garden, if I were starting afresh in our plot? No, but that’s chiefly because I live surrounded by the spiritual refreshment of the real thing. There are hazelnuts in every hedgerow. Sweet chestnuts, too. Sloes and bullaces are abundant; so are elders and nettles and we use them all. This year, there’s been an astonishing crop of parasol mushrooms in the fields around. And the irony is that, while people queue up to learn about the forest garden, I’ve not seen a single person out brambling, though luscious blackberries are bursting out all over.

Agroforestry Research Trust, 46 Hunters Moon, Dartington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6JT. Send 4 x 1st class stamps (or visit agroforestry.co.uk) for a copy of Martin Crawford’s excellent catalogue of fruit and nut trees as well as unusual vegetables and spices. Weekend (non-residential) courses in forest gardening cost £160. 2012 dates will be announced on the website. Meanwhile you can subscribe to ‘Agroforestry News’ for £21 a year (4 issues). Look out for Martin Crawford’s book ‘Unusual Vegetables’, to be published next spring by Green Books (£14.95)

Five fabulous plants for a forest garden

Szechuan pepper (Zanthoxylum schinifolium) An intensely aromatic small tree or large shrub growing to 3m (10ft) with bunches of small, hard, red fruit that provide the pepper. The leaves can be used as flavouring. Hardy to -20C. £8.

Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) A scrambling plant with very pretty, slightly glaucous leaves, peppery in taste like the garden nasturtium. Grown for its tubers, a staple in the Andes, unstarchy but nutritious. Two tubers for £4.

Turkish rocket (Bunias orientalis) A deep-rooted perennial brassica that comes into growth early in the year. Cook young new leaves like cabbage and the flowerheads – they come later – like broccoli. They have a mustardy flavour. £6.

Umbrella pine (Pinus pinea) All pines produce pine nuts but some are easier to get at than others. This is the best species to plant for nuts, eventually growing to 15m (50ft). £12.

Chinese mountain yam (Dioscorea batatas) The Crawford children’s favourite vegetable, the yams produced like little potatoes all the way up a twining stem that can get to 3-4m. They do best in fertile soil. £5.

 

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http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/house-and-home/gardening/forest-gardens-trunk-call-2359124.html

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Hump hypothesis loses ground in biomass research

 

Hump hypothesis loses ground in biomass research

For decades, scientists have believed that a relationship exists between how much biomass plant species produce and how many species can coexist.

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Posted 22 September 2011, by Staff (Iowa State University), Western Farm Press, westernfarmpress.com

 

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For decades, scientists have believed that a relationship exists between how much biomass plant species produce and how many species can coexist.

This idea comes from a 1970s study that showed as plant biomass produced – called plant productivity – in a system increased, so did the number of plant species – referred to as plant richness – to a point. After that point, the number of plant species is thought to decline.

When plotted on a graph, the resulting line forms a hump shape, with maximum species richness occurring at the point of intermediate productivity.

Now it’s time to get over the hump, according to new research in the current issue of the journal Science.

Stanley Harpole, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology at Iowa State University, was part of the team researching productivity and richness, and he says the research doesn’t support that relationship.

“This hump pattern that everyone thought was true . . . it just isn’t there,” said Harpole. “This hump was the hypothesis for a long time, but it just isn’t supportable.”

Harpole says that the amount of biomass is one of the more important components of an ecosystem, so there will be worldwide interest in this research.

“Ecologists have long been interested in this relationship between how many plants there are and how much they produce,” said Harpole. “For years they [scientists] have been plotting correlations looking at the relationship of biomass to species richness.”

There was no ‘hump’ shape, according to Harpole. In fact, after plotting the data from all the sites, only one of the 65 sites showed a hump-shaped pattern.

“And that is supposed to be the ‘true’ pattern?” said Harpole.

Harpole believes the original work that led to the predictions for a hump shape was good research, and it showed a correlation between richness and productivity. But it didn’t show cause-and-effect relationships.

“Hundreds of papers have talked about this and it has become fixed in researchers’ heads that this is a true pattern,” said Harpole.

The lead author of the paper is Peter Adler from Utah State University who is part of a Nutrient Network (NutNet) team that he, Harpole and others established.

The study is the first major paper produced by NutNet, a worldwide, ecological research group of more than 70 scientists on five continents that works cooperatively on studies of this kind.

Previous studies with global implications were often limited because disparate groups used different methods to collect data, leading to sometimes different conclusions.

NutNet’s standardized methods eliminate those inconsistencies.

“We use the same experiment, the same design, the same measurements were taken, the species were counted in the same way, and the biomass was clipped in the same way,” said Harpole. “It is important that you do everything in the same way.”

When the results from NutNet’s 65 research sites came in, the results were clear.

Harpole said the NutNet group wasn’t trying to prove anyone wrong, but just hoped for clearer understanding.

“This is exciting science to me,” he said. “We are just trying to figure out what is going on. How the world works. That is what we really wanted to know.”

Other Iowa State University contributors to the research include Lori Biederman, associate scientist; Paul Frater, master’s student; Wei Li, post-doctoral researcher; Brent Mortensen, doctoral student; and Lauren Sullivan, doctoral student. Many members of this group are currently leading their own NutNet projects.

 

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http://westernfarmpress.com/management/hump-hypothesis-loses-ground-biomass-research

This month in ecological science

This month in ecological science

Evolutionary traps, invasive yellow starthistle’s favorable response to carbon dioxide and plant breeding for harmony between agriculture and the environment

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Posted 22 September 2011, by Nadine Lymn (Ecological Society of America) , EurekAlert! eurekalert.org

 

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Evolutionary traps in human-dominated landscapes

A study published in the September issue of Ecology looks at how human activities can diminish the usefulness of an ornamental trait, such as colorful feathers, as a signal of fitness. Cardinals, for example, need carotenoids in their diet to produce their red plumage; brilliant red plumage can signal an individual’s health and fitness. Researcher Amanda Rodewald (Ohio State University) and colleagues looked at the socially monogamous Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) in 14 forests in Ohio between 2006-2008, measuring plumage color, reproduction, and quantifying habitat. They found that the non-native Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) altered the selective environments for coloration by creating an evolutionary trap for the cardinals in rural landscapes and possibly relaxing selection in cities. Evolutionary traps occur when behavior that was once beneficial is a drawback in an altered environment.

The non-native honeysuckle is appealing to cardinals because it provides dense vegetation for nesting. Honeysuckle fruits are also a source of carotenoid pigments the birds need for their red plumage. Previous studies suggest that plumage brightness or hue signal a bird that is in good condition, has a good territory, and will put energy into raising its offspring. But the non-native honeysuckle’s appeal to cardinals comes with a price: a nest in this shrub is more vulnerable to predators. Rodewald and colleagues found that in rural areas the mostly brightly colored male cardinals were in best condition, bred earliest in the season, and secured the more preferred territories that included the non-native shrub. But their annual reproductive success was lower than that of duller males. The authors did not see these results in urban forests, where color was not related to any reproductive indicators, likely because the abundant honeysuckle and birdseed reduce the usefulness of color as a signal of quality. This scenario might lead to relaxed selection for bright color in urban forests and selection against bright color in rural forests.

“Our study provides evidence that human –induced changes to ecosystems can both create evolutionary traps that alter relationships between sexual and natural selection (i.e., via exotic shrubs in rural landscapes) and facilitate escape from evolutionary traps (i.e., via anthropogenic resources in urban landscapes),” write the authors. Read more at:http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/11-0022.1

Noxious and invasive yellow starthistle responds favorably to increased carbon dioxide

Yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitaialis) is a highly invasive plant species in the grasslands of western North America. Native to the lands northeast of the Mediterranean Sea and highly poisonous to horses, yellow starthistle is considered one of California’s most problematic non-native plants. Jeffrey Dukes (Purdue University) and colleagues conducted field experiments in California and found that Centaurea grew more than six times larger in response to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration and also responded favorably to nitrogen (N) deposition. In contrast, the surrounding grasses and wildflowers responded less strongly or not at all to increased CO2 and nitrogen levels. The researchers report their findings in the September issue of Ecological Applications.

“Given these results, we add Centaurea to a short but growing list of noxious and invasive plants demonstrated to dramatically benefit from CO2 in community settings, and to the longer list of invasives that benefit from increased N availability,” write the authors. “Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are increasing by 2 ppm/yr around the globe. Nitrogen deposition rates vary spatially, but are already higher than our treatment levels at one sampling station in California, and are expected to increase globally. Unless biocontrol agents become more effective at controlling Centaurea, the weed’s response to environmental changes is likely to heighten the challenge facing many North American land managers over the course of this century.” Read more at: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/11-0111.1

Plant breeding for harmony between agriculture and the environment

Meeting basic human needs while also preserving the natural resources to do so is a major challenge of the coming century. Earth’s human inhabitants need more food, animal feed, fiber, fuel and forest products, all while facing shrinking vital resources such as land, water and nutrients. A new eView review paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment asserts that plant breeding is a critical tool to bring about a more positive relationship between agriculture and the environment on which it depends.

In their review, E. Charles Brummer (Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation) and colleagues note that plant breeders are working to improve crop hardiness to withstand various environmental conditions, such as those associated with climate change. Many breeders are also interested in reducing agriculture’s negative impacts on the environment, such as contributing to oxygen-deprived dead zones in water bodies or soil erosion. Since the 1950s, crop improvements—together with inputs including fertilizers, pesticides and water—have enabled agricultural production to keep up with human demands. Now, say the authors, “partnerships between ecologists, urban planners, and policy makers with public and private plant breeders will be essential for addressing future challenges.” Co-author Seth Murray (Texas A&M University) adds that: “We tend to think that solutions are technological and can be put in place quickly. But new crop cultivars and species take decades or more to develop and there is no shortcut so we really need to start thinking now about what we will need in 10-20 years.” Read more at: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/100225

 

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http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-09/esoa-tmi092211.php

Respublika passes a bill on Issyk-Kul ecology protection


Respublika passes a bill on Issyk-Kul ecology protection

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Posted 21 September 2011, by Tolgonai Osmongazieva, 24.kg” News Agency, eng.24.kg

 

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Respublika parliamentary faction has passed a bill on amending the law on the sustainable development of eco-economic system of Issyk-Kul Lake. The decision was made today at its meeting.

According to the MP Maksat Sabirov, the document is aimed at improving and protecting the ecology of the lake that is now in danger. “The provision of the law that the capital construction is possible at a distance of 100 meters is necessary to change to 300 meters should be changed. The owners of boarding houses construct the houses disorderly near the water wishing to earn more money during the season. However, there are no treatment facilities in many buildings and the available are not answerable to the requirements. In theory beach areas belong to the state. But the owners of boarding houses have assigned the plots. They destroy the sea-buckthorn that is a natural filter of the Lake,” he said.

Maksat Sabirov said that according to the draft law, the restriction applies to boarding houses located in a resort area – from Korumdu village to Cholpon-Ata town. “We need to stop the chaotic construction of buildings otherwise we will lose the unique lake. We sent the bill to the government. The State Agency of Environment and Forestry has approved it,” added the people’s deputy.

His colleague Cholpon Sultanbekova stressed that they are to make the owners of boarding houses to install treatment facilities.

Several MPs noted the need to coordinate the amendments to the State Agency for Construction and Architecture.

The leader of the faction Kanatbek Isaev to review the work of scooters and motor boats that cause great harm to the lake in his opinion. “If it’s a tourist area then we can not prohibit scooters and boats. But it is necessary that all water appliances annually to be held passportization, the taxes to be paid to the local or state budget,” he added.

Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan - September 1992, Photo: NASA, Retrieved from Wikipedia Commons by Only Ed

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Plant RNAs Found in Mammals

Plant RNAs Found in Mammals

MicroRNAs from plants accumulate in mammalian blood and tissues, where they can regulate gene expression.

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Posted 20 September 2011, by Cristina Luiggi, The Scientist, the-scientist.com

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MicroRNAs from common plant crops such as rice and cabbage can be found in the blood and tissues of humans and other plant-eating mammals, according to a study published today in Cell Research. One microRNA in particular, MIR168a, which is highly enriched in rice, was found to inhibit a protein that helps removes low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from the blood, suggesting that microRNAs can influence gene expression across kingdoms.

“This is a very exciting piece of work that suggests that the food we eat may directly regulate gene expression in our bodies,” said Clay Marsh, Director of the Center for Personalized Health Care at the Ohio State University College of Medicine who researches microRNA expression in human blood but who was not involved in the study.

MicroRNAs are, as the name implies, very short RNA sequences (approximately 22 nucleotides in length) discovered in the early 1990s. They are known to modulate gene expression by binding to mRNA, often resulting in inhibition. With the recent discovery that microRNAs circulate the blood by hitching a ride in small membrane-encased particles known as microvesicles (see our July 2011 feature on microvesicles, “Exosome Explosion”), there has been a surge of interest in microRNAs as a novel class of biomarkers for a variety of diseases.

Chen-Yu Zhang, a molecular biologist at Nanjing University in China, was studying the role of circulating microRNAs in health and disease when he discovered that microRNAs are present in other bodily fluids such as milk. This gave him the “crazy idea” that exogenous microRNAs, such as those ingested through the consumption of milk, could also be found circulating in the serum of mammals, he recalled.

To test his hypothesis, Zhang and his team of researchers sequenced the blood microRNAs of 31 healthy Chinese subjects and searched for the presence of plant microRNAs. Because plant microRNAs are structurally different from those of mammals, they react differently to oxidizing agents, and the researchers were able to differentiate the two by treating them with sodium periodate, which oxidizes mammal but not plant microRNAs.

To their surprise, they found about 40 types of plant microRNAs circulating in the subjects’ blood—some of which were found in concentrations that were comparable to major endogenous human microRNAs.

The plant microRNAs with the highest concentrations were MIR156a and MIR168a, both of which are known to be enriched in rice and cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli. Furthermore, the researchers detected the two microRNAs in the blood, lungs, small intestine, and livers of mice, in variable concentrations that significantly increased after the mice were fed raw rice (although cooked rice was also shown to contain intact MIR168a).

Next, the researchers scoured sequence databases for putative target genes of MIR156a and MIR168a and found that MIR168a shared sequence complementarity with approximately 50 mammalian genes. The most highly conserved of these sequences across the animal kingdom was the exon 4 of the low-density lipoprotein receptor adapter protein 1 gene (LDLRAP1).

LDLRAP1 is highly expressed in the liver, where it interacts with the low-density lipoprotein receptor to help remove low-density lipoprotein (LDL), aka “bad” cholesterol, from the blood.

The researchers hypothesized that MIR168a could be taken up by the epithelial cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, packaged into microvesicles, and secreted into the blood stream, where they can make their way to target organs. Once in the liver, MIR168a binds to LDLRAP1 mRNA, reducing the protein levels and ultimately impairing the removal of LDL from the blood.

To test this hypothesis in vitro, the researchers transfected synthetic MIR168a into a human epithelial cell line and collected the secreted microvesicles. When they added these microvesicles to a liver cell line called HepG2, they found that while it did not change the levels of LDLRAP1 mRNA, it did decrease the levels of the actual LDLRAP1 protein.

Likewise, the LDLRAP1 protein level decreased in the livers of live mice 3 to 7 days after eating fresh rice or being injected with synthetic MIR168a—significantly increasing LDL in the blood. When the researchers injected the mice with an RNA sequence that bound to and neutralized MIR168a, the protein and LDL levels returned to normal.

“This microRNA inhibits this protein and increased the plasma LDL levels,” Zhang said. With higher levels of circulating cholesterol, “it can possibly increase the risk of metabolic syndrome,” he added. But more importantly, this research points to a “new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of diseases,” based on the enhancement or inhibition of exogenous microRNAs.

Although the team has still a long way to go in elucidating the mechanisms by which plant microRNAs can regulate gene expression in humans, these initial results promise to increase the understanding of how specific ingredients in food can mediate health and disease, Marsh said.

Indeed, Zhang suspects that this is just one example of many. With time, “I’m confident other people will find more exogenous plant microRNAs that can pass through the GI tract and also have effects on the host physiology,” Zhang said.

L. Zhang, et. al., “Exogenous plant MIR168a specifically targets mammalian LDLRAP1: evidence of cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA,” Cell Research, doi:10.1038/cr.2011.158, 2011.

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1918 Flu Spread Before Peak By Tia Ghose

The 1918 influenza was circulating silently before it began killing millions of people in just a year and a half.

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http://the-scientist.com/2011/09/20/plant-rnas-found-in-mammals/

I BELIEVE: ‘The beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows’

 

I BELIEVE: ‘The beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows’

George Petty who blazed a new wildflower trail soon to open in Jonathan's Woods. He ID'd all the wildflowers and which needed to be planted and he'll be leading wildflower hikes there. He also writes poetry about wildflowers. George is 82 and used to go on scout trips in Jonathan's Woods as a boy. (note: wildflowers were not in bloom)_BOB KARP/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER / Staff Photo/staff photo

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Posted 14 September 2011, by George Petty, The Daily Record (Gannett), dailyrecord.com

 

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I believe the beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows, those quiet green sanctuaries where we can recover ourselves without having to buy gas or turn on a light.

Scientists tell us that even in land that has been farmed, logged, lived on, or burned over, the seeds of old native wildflowers, shrubs and trees lie buried, waiting for the trouble to pass so they can grow again. Even if science didn’t think so, I’d believe it.

Mostly because I’ve seen it happen.

Twenty-five years ago a group of my neighbors in Denville banded together to prevent developers from building condominiums in the forest around Bald Hill. They called their group POWWW, Preserve Our Wetlands, Water and Woods. Today, after a long patient struggle, 650 acres of the Beaver Brook watershed have become Morris County’s newest forest park, Jonathan’s Woods, named for Denville’s last native American.

I roamed these woods when I was a youngster. I loved the freedom to delay and discover. Flowers, trees and animals were my companions, and I could drink safely from cool woodland springs and brooks. But every year new houses consumed the edge of the forest, detergent chemicals bubbled through the water, and one by one the flowers decided not to risk the air.

The preservation of Jonathan’s Woods has given me another chance, right here near my back door. In the very same curve of the brook where I walked with my high school sweetheart, I am building a wildflower trail. With the help of friends in POWWW, we cut and drag away blowdowns, and pull out invasive species. We buy plants from specialized growers, who propagate them from wild seeds. We believe we can encourage our own seeds, that have survived under the leaves during history’s turmoil, and are waiting there for the chance to bloom again.

It’s not that we think the past was somehow more noble than we are. We know the early settlers struggled for survival, for wealth, for influence; they fought over land, a few owned slaves, in hard times they sold their woodlands to loggers.

But it inspires awe to see physical evidence in the woods of what they accomplished with hand tools and animal power; long stone fences to contain cattle, a test shaft dug in hard bedrock for iron ore, wagon roads over steep rocky hills, large old trees that once stood alone in an open field now surrounded by younger growth. Their lives were hard, and usually short; they cultivated simple homespun pleasures. We feel how easier and more convenient, how longer, safer and healthier are our gas and electric powered lives, all covered by medical and hazard insurance.

And yet we are so much the same; our heart beats, our breaths, our hungers and ambitions. When we walk through the quiet woods, the soft sounds of the rustling leaves are what those early settlers heard in the twilight of their day, whispering of our common humanity.

George Petty of Denville has been an insurance underwriter, airplane mechanic, airline flight engineer, union president, newspaper reporter, college teacher, tennis coach and a racing sailor. He is also the author of ‘Hiking the Jersey Highlands,’ published by the New York New Jersey Trail Conference.Through his varied career he has always thought of himself as a poet, even when the world required him to appear otherwise. His poems have been prize-winners in national contests and have been aired on National Public Radio, appearing in Water-Stone, Two-Rivers Review and “Boulder Field,” a chapbook from Finishing Line Press, 2004.His work has taken him all over the world, but he has always come back to Denville, where he lives and writes today.

 

The Fringed Gentian

Walking into the October woods I look
for the fringed gentian my grandfather loved
by the spring the years have covered over,
though I remember where it was. My wistful
mother said they survive even frost, blood blue
against the dead brown in high hidden meadows,
where she and my father tramped so painfully
toward their griefs, taking almost a century to leave me,
a grizzled child searching for a small joy in the leaves.
But, of course, it’s not there, wasn’t last year either,
though my cousin says he saw one near the swamp,
the seeds are tiny and easily wash that way;
and I push through thickets and blow-downs,
relishing the knocks and scratches, the stiffening gusts
and the crackle of coming frost that remind me I’m alive,
till standing in the muck, the cool fire of age
creeping slowly over my ankles, my fingers numb
like leaves dying back from the edges,
I believe my cousin never saw a gentian here,
and only I care that it might – must – have ever been.
It’s not that I doubt there is one in these woods,
but that I know surely there is not,
and every year, following the old steps, I try to find it.
— George Petty

 

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http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20110915/GRASSROOTS/309150009/I-BELIEVE-beauties-our-past-still-alive-unspoiled-woods-hills-meadows-?odyssey=mod_sectionstories

Plant data helps map potential ‘bio-cultural diversity’ hotspots

Plant data helps map potential ‘bio-cultural diversity’ hotspots

Potential ‘hotspots’ across Australia for finding plants used in Aboriginal traditional medicine have been identified through a partnership between an international biodiversity information facility and Macquarie University.

The study produced a map of potential ‘bio-cultural diversity’ hotspots – areas suitable for the occurrence of multiple species known to be used in traditional medicine. Credit: (From Gaikwad J, Wilson PD & Ranganathana S (2011) Ecological niche modeling of customary medicinal plant species used by Australian Aborigines to identify species-rich and culturally valuable areas for conservation. Ecological Modelling, in press, doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2011.07.005)

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Posted 12 September 2011, by Staff, ECOS Magazine (Csiro Publishing), ecosmagazine.com

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The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is an international, government-funded initiative focused on making biodiversity data freely available for scientific research and sustainable development. The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) hosts the GBIF national node in Australia.

The modelling study brings together the ALA and the Customary Medicinal Knowledgebase (CMKb) research group, based at Macquarie University. Researchers used data accessed through the GBIF portal and Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (AVH) along with the latest modelling technology to identify suitable ecological niches for 414 plant species of medicinal importance.

The research, led by Macquarie University’s Professor Shoba Ranganathan, with Dr Jitendra Gaikwad as the first author, was recently published in the journal Ecological Modelling. The main outcome was a map of potential ‘bio-cultural diversity’ hotspots – areas suitable for the occurrence of multiple species known to be used in traditional medicine.

‘Many plants brought into Australia by early settlers have become an integral part of Aboriginal traditional knowledge. Global data on these plants is essential, and we obtained this from the GBIF,’ said Dr Gaikwad.

‘For Aboriginal people, their connection with the land is a matter of survival, emotion and culture – it is not just a piece of land for them.

‘So let’s say a mining industry identifies an area that is inhabited by an Aboriginal community. This methodology allows us to evaluate the cultural value of the land.

‘We have used medicinal value, but we can use other socio-economic, traditional knowledge and biodiversity conservation aspects as well.

‘The next logical step would be to select an area and validate the distribution of the species and the cultural value in the field. But before that, we need to have active participation of Aboriginal communities to validate the results.’

According to the Director of ALA, Donald Hobern, study represents ‘an exciting and novel use of multiple heterogeneous datasets to explore the linkages between phylogeny – the study of the evolutionary relatedness of life forms – ecology, chemistry and human use of biodiversity’.

Source: ALA/GBIF

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http://www.ecosmagazine.com/?paper=EC11039