More nature, please? More trees? UK in 100 seconds

June 21, 2019

Still image from “UK in 100 Seconds.”

I wonder what a similar film of the U.S. would look like? Has anyone done it?

It would probably have to be 400 seconds, at least.

A Friends of the Earth video, UK in 100 seconds

Description of the film from Friends of the Earth:

It’s difficult to get a picture of what the United Kingdom really looks like. Imaginations and assumptions can distort decisions that affect our lives. We often hear the idea that there is simply no more room in the country. In reality, just six per cent of the UK is built on.

‘The UK in 100 Seconds’ is a provocative and thought provoking film that rearranges the United Kingdom’s land into 32 categories and divides them over 100 seconds. Each second equates to 1% of what the country looks like from the air.

Made by guerrilla geographer Daniel Raven-Ellison and filmmaker Jack Smith, the film was made by travelling from Tongue in the north of Scotland to the New Forest in the south of England. Each second of the film covers roughly one metre of Raven-Ellison’s walk through moorland and peat bogs, down a runway and over a dump.

Made in collaboration with Friends of the Earth, the film gives an honest reflection of what land looks like and how it is used in the United Kingdom and raises some challenging questions. A major inspiration for Raven-Ellison making the film is the amount of space that is used for feeding livestock and the question – what if we made more space for nature?

Angel Oak: Advertisement highlights a grand American resource

February 20, 2019

Angel Oak on Johns Island, South Carolina
Angel Oak is popular for wedding pictures, it appears — this one is featured in a local real estate advertisement. “This beautiful live oak tree, called The Angel Oak, is located in Angel Oak Park off Bohicket Road and is said to be the oldest living thing east of the Rockies. It is about 1,500 years old and stands 66.5 ft tall, measures 28 ft in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. From tip to tip its longest branch distance is 187 ft. From Picture Gallery Johns Island Real Estate by Greater Charleston Properties”


I love this ad from Allstate Insurance. “Still Standing.”

ISpot describes the ad:

Allstate tells the story of the Angel Oak on Johns Island, South Carolina (known as “The Tree” by locals). It’s rumored that it is the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi River and remains standing despite all the harsh weather and natural disasters it has faced over the past 500 years. Allstate likens its strength to the resilience that resides in us all and says it’s humbled by the courage shown by Hurricane Florence victims, offering up helping hands in partnership with the American Red Cross.

Dennis Haysbert narrates the ad, but without appearing himself, as he does in several other Allstate ads.

It’s not the oldest tree east of the Mississippi; there are cypress trees much older even in South Carolina. The name “Angel Oak” comes from the surname of a man who owned the land once, not from any angelic action or legend.

Even through corrections of the legends, the tree stands, a beautiful monument to endurance of living things, and trees. Allstate’s ad is a feel-good moment, and the feelings are worthwhile. Endurance through adversity is a virtue. The Angel Oak itself suffered great damage in a 1942 hurricane, but recovered.

Here’s a tourist video showing off more the tree, and the supports used to keep branches alive, similar to the supports we saw in China supporting 2,000-year-old trees.

Honoring trees is a worldwide tradition, and a great one. We don’t honor trees nearly enough, in my opinion.


Most of the limbs of Angel Oak run almost parallel to the ground. Over time, dust, seeds and spores settle along the branches. Ferns and other greenery now grow along the massive branches, making even the trunk appear green.
Photo by MadeYourReadThis – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Tree bark, a catalog of unexpected beauty

June 23, 2015

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

There you’ll learn of this marvelous book:

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

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


Look at some of the photos. Wow.

Pollet’s view of the lowly ocotillo:

Cedric Pollet, Ocotillo tree bark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Fallen Monarch: A Yosemite tree that dwarfs an entire mounted cavalry

August 13, 2014

Yosemite National Park, Facebook site:    About forty members of U.S. 6th Cavalry, Troop F, shown mounted on, or standing beside their horses, and lined up atop and beside the Fallen Monarch tree in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Yosemite, 1899.

Yosemite National Park, Facebook site: About forty members of U.S. 6th Cavalry, Troop F, shown mounted on, or standing beside their horses, and lined up atop and beside the Fallen Monarch tree in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Yosemite, 1899.

Giant sequoia trees can be found only in the United States, and only in or near the Sierra Mountains in California. 

How massive are they?  The tree above, with the 6th Cavalry’s F Troop posing on and around it with their horses, is 26 feet in diameter at its base, where it fell, and 285 feet long,   Redwood doesn’t rot like other woods.  The tree is still there, today, looking much like it did 115 years ago (Comments on Yosemite NP photo).

The Fallen Monarch, in Mariposa Grove, in 1907:

Fallen Monarch, Mariposa Grove of Yosemite NP, in 1907, with a stage coach and team of six horses posing on top.

Fallen Monarch, Mariposa Grove of Yosemite NP, in 1907, with a stage coach and team of six horses posing on top.

When did the tree fall?  Hundreds of years ago, perhaps?


Yosemite NP Nature Notes 11: Big Trees

Arbor Day sunset in Redwood National Park

April 25, 2014

Another stunner from our public lands, from the Department of Interior’s Great American Outdoors Tumblr:

Department of Interior:  Let's end #ArborDay with this great shot from Redwood National Park in #California.

Department of Interior: Let’s end #ArborDay with this great shot from Redwood National Park in #California.

Today is Arbor Day, too?


Sunset over Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee (more ways than one?)

March 4, 2014

Nice photo from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

Sunset over Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.  Photo: Austin Leih (

Caption from the Tumblr of the Department of Interior: Sunset over Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Photo: Austin Leih (

Beautiful place, nice photographic capture.

Then I look, and I see a lot of necrotic tree tops.  Acid Rain?  Warming?  Pine borers or some other insect?

Sometimes, Mark Twain’s lament is right.  Sometimes you know too much to just sit back in awe.  Feynman was right, too.


You didn’t believe in Ents, and then you met the redwoods

June 19, 2013

Giant redwoods in Sequoia-Kings National Parks

US Department of Interior, May 30, 2013 – Sometimes you have to look up to appreciate the beauty of America’s great outdoors. @SequoiaKingsNPS

Endangered western forests: The Yellowstone

October 10, 2012

Additional CO2 and warmer weather will help plants, the climate change denialists say.  That’s not what we see, however.  Turns out CO2 helps weeds, and warmer weather helps destructive species, more than it helps the stuff we need and want in the wild.

For example, the white-bark pine, Pinus albicaulis:


From American Forests:

With increasingly warm winters at high elevations in the West, a predator that has stalked forests for decades has gained the upper hand. It is mountain pine blister rust, an invasive fungus. Combined with mountain pine beetles, which kill hundreds of thousands of trees per year in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA), the environmental health of the Rocky Mountains and neighboring regions is in danger. To make matters worse, the species most susceptible to these two threats, the whitebark pine, is also the most vital to ecosystem stability, essential to the survival of more than 190 plant and animal species in Yellowstone alone.

First debuted at SXSW Eco, this video tells the story of our endangered western forests and how American Forests and the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee are working toward their restoration and protection for future generations.

Learn more:


Whitebark Pine

Whitebark Pine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whitebark Pine. Français : Tige et cônes de Pi...

Whitebark Pine, cones and needle cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whitebark Pine Français : Un cône de Pin à éco...

Whitebark pine’s distinctive, almost-black cone. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Plan to save the spotted owls

August 2, 2011

A lawyer complains in the Wall Street Journal that the plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) intended to help the endangered spotted owl should be dismissed because, well, the spotted owl is still endangered, and after all, didn’t the spotted owl personally shut down the entire lumber industry in the Northwest?

Well, no, the owl didn’t shut down the mills.

But before we discuss, can we at least read the shorthand version of what USFWS has to say?  Here’s the press release on the plan:

Plan Marks New Route for Recovering Northern Spotted Owl and Promoting Healthy Northwest Forests

Janet Lebson

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a final revised recovery plan for the threatened northern spotted owl, stepping up actions that so far have helped stem but not reverse the old-growth forest raptor’s decline. The revised plan identifies three main priorities for achieving spotted owl recovery:  protecting the best of its remaining habitat, actively managing forests to improve forest health, and reducing competition from barred owls, a native of eastern North America that has progressively moved into the spotted owl’s range in Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

“For more than 20 years, northern spotted owl recovery has been a focal point of broader forest conservation efforts in the Pacific Northwest,” said Robyn Thorson, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Northwest Regional Director. “This revised recovery plan is based on sound science and affirms that the best things we can do to help the spotted owl turn the corner are conserving its habitat, managing the barred owl, and restoring vitality to our forests.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will use the recovery plan to work with land managers in the Pacific Northwest such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, as well as other federal and non-federal landowners, to advise them on habitat management activities that can benefit the spotted owl and contribute to improved forest health.

Because about 20 million acres of U.S. Forest Service lands and about 2 million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands are potentially affected by recovery plan recommendations, the three agencies worked together on key recommendations related to forest management. Both agencies provided formal letters of support for the plan’s recovery goals.

“This recovery plan is a welcome update to the state of the science surrounding the northern spotted owl,” said Cal Joyner, Deputy Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service. “The plan will help us implement a mix of actively managing and protecting habitat to best contribute to conservation and recovery.”

“The recovery plan provides space to develop ecological forestry principles and to actively manage our public forests to achieve the twin goals of improving ecological conditions and supplying timber,” said Ed Shepard, Oregon/Washington State Director for the Bureau of Land Management. “We look forward to continuing our close cooperation with the Fish and Wildlife Service as we put the science from the recovery plan to work in our planning, in evaluating proposed timber projects, and in improving forest health.”

Overarching recommendations in the revised plan include:

  • Conservation of spotted owl sites and high-value spotted owl habitat across the landscape. This means the habitat protections provided under land use plans on federal land will continue to be a focus of recovery, but protection of other areas is likely needed to achieve full success (including some of the lands previously slated for potential timber harvest on federal lands, and possibly non-federal lands in certain parts of the owl’s range where federal lands are limited).
  • Active management of forests to make forest ecosystems healthier and more resilient to the effects of climate change and catastrophic wildfire, disease, and insect outbreaks. This involves an “ecological forestry” approach in certain areas that will restore ecosystem functioning and resiliency. This may include carefully applied prescriptions such as fuels treatment to reduce the threat of severe fires, thinning, and restoration to enhance habitat and return the natural dynamics of a healthy forest landscape. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends this approach in areas where it promotes ecosystem function and is in the best long-term interest of spotted owl recovery. The agency also strongly affirms adaptive management principles to continually evaluate and refine active forest management techniques.
  • Management of the encroaching barred owl to reduce harm to spotted owls. Most of the recovery actions the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has carried out since finalizing the spotted owl’s 2008 recovery plan deal with the barred owl threat. A major part of this is developing a proposal for experimental removal of barred owls in certain areas to see what effect that would have on spotted owls, and then to evaluate whether or not broad scale removal should be considered. This portion of the 2008 plan was not significantly revised.

“While the new recovery plan has been refined and improved from the 2008 version, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to implement the most important recommendations,” said Acting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Rowan Gould. “We have begun to address the barred owl threat, improved survey protocols, and developed incentives for private landowners to voluntarily participate in recovery actions. We look forward to expanding conservation partnerships to contribute to the spotted owl’s recovery.”

Since the northern spotted owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 21 years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and recovery partners are benefitting from far more information on what factors most affect its survival and productivity. This includes a broader body of scientific knowledge on the species itself and forest ecosystem dynamics — including variables such as climate change and the role of natural disturbances such as wildfire. Recovery partners also are taking advantage of new science and technology to develop more precise tools for analyzing how different strategies can contribute to recovery.

In addition, land managers have made significant strides in advancing active forest management techniques to promote the health and resilience of forest ecosystems. The recovery plan emphasizes the concept of adaptive management to apply new knowledge and science to those techniques on an ongoing basis. This is a more mainstream approach today than in 1994 when the Northwest Forest Plan was created to address the needs of several forest-dependent species, including the spotted owl, and the region’s timber industry.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a final recovery plan specific to the spotted owl for the first time in 2008. As the agency and recovery partners moved forward in implementing many recommendations in the 2008 plan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a targeted scientific revision to some portions of that plan after facing legal challenges and critical reviews from leading scientific organizations in the conservation community.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tapped the knowledge and perspectives of public and private sector experts over the last two years in developing this revised plan, the draft of which was released in September 2010. The agency held more than 30 workshops and meetings with public and private partners throughout the spotted owl’s range to share information, evaluate options, and incorporate valuable input during the revised plan’s development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepted public comments on the draft revised plan for a 90-day period and received more than 11,700 comments. In April 2011, the agency released an updated Appendix C, relating to a new habitat modeling tool, for an additional 30-day public comment period and received about 20 public comments.

The revised recovery plan does not include recommendations from the 2008 plan for a new habitat conservation network of “Managed Owl Conservation Areas.” Rather than creating a potentially confusing new land classification, the plan identifies the scientific rationale and parameters for habitat protection and will revise the spotted owl’s designated critical habitat to reflect the latest scientific information about areas essential for the owl’s recovery. Identifying this habitat through the critical habitat process — as the ESA intended — will be more efficient and provide land managers and the public with additional opportunities for review and comment.

For a recovery timeline, Frequently Asked Questions, related information, and the recovery plan itself, visit

America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Service’s Endangered Species program, go to

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit Connect with our Facebook page at, follow our tweets at, watch our YouTube Channel at and download photos from our Flickr page at


Stay tuned for the response, and my response to the response.


Oooooh, bonus!  Story in the Daily Astorian says saving the spotted owl habitat also ties up carbon, helping out with the fight against global warming.

Caucasian wingnuts

April 7, 2010

I’m stealing this one completely from P. Z. Myers’ Pharyngula. It’s just too good.

The daffodils are lovely — I recall when they’d bloom just about Easter in Utah, and Washington, D.C.  Here in Dallas, our daffies depart before March 15, often not bothering to stick around until Easter.

But the real treat is the tree in the background.  It’s just another tree early in the spring, not yet leafed out.  But this one is special.

Pterocarya fraxifolia (tree in the background) - common name, "caucasian wingnut"

Caucasian Wingnut Tree (Pterocarya fraxinifolia ) and native daffodils in Warley place Nature reserve. © Copyright Glyn Baker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Pterocarya fraxinifolia (tree in the background) – common name, “caucasian wingnut” – in the Warley Place Nature Preserve, in Essex, England. Photo by Glyn Baker.

Its common name is “caucasian wingnut.”  You can’t make this stuff up. Reality is always much more entertaining than fiction.

Wikipedia’s entry is primed for comedy:


There are six species of wingnut.

Another species from China, the Wheel Wingnut with similar foliage but an unusual circular wing right round the nut (instead of two wings at the sides), previously listed as Pterocarya paliurus, has now been transferred to a new genus, as Cyclocarya paliurus.


Wingnuts are very attractive, large and fast-growing trees, occasionally planted in parks and large gardens. The most common in general cultivation outside Asia is P. fraxinifolia, but the most attractive is probably P. rhoifolia. The hybrid P. x rehderiana, a cross between P. fraxinifolia and P. stenoptera, is even faster-growing and has occasionally been planted for timber production. The wood is of good quality, similar to walnut, though not quite so dense and strong.

Japanese wingnuts?  Chinese wingnuts?  Tonkin wingnuts (for all you Vietnam war historians out there)?

Wow.  Just wow.

More, if you care:

Festival of the Trees #43 features Dallas

January 11, 2010

Festival of the Trees #43 is up at Jason Hogle’s Xenogere.  It’s usually a great blog carnival — but I recommend this one also because Jason uses a walk through Dallas’s Celebration Tree Grove as the theme for the carnival.

Particularly apt in this International Year of Biodiversity, as Jason reminds us.

Engraving at Dallas's Celebration Tree Grove - photo by Jason Hogle, Xenogere

The Greeks got it right. Engraving at Dallas's Celebration Tree Grove - photo by Jason Hogle, Xenogere

Plant a seed:  Tell somebody else.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

White House Christmas tree, and another hoax about Obama

October 21, 2009

First, the press release from the National Christmas Tree Association:

White House Christmas Tree: 2009
White House Staff Select Blue Room Christmas Tree

Chesterfield, MO (October 20, 2009) — A beautiful Douglas-fir from Shepherdstown, W.V., will be the official White House Christmas Tree this year.

Douglas-fir Selected= The Blue Room Christmas Tree will be officially presented to First Lady Michelle Obama by Christmas Tree growers Eric and Gloria Sundback. The Sundbacks earned this honor by winning the National Christmas Tree Association’s (NCTA) national Christmas Tree contest held in August 2009 in Chattanooga, Tenn., and becoming Grand Champion.

The Blue Room Christmas Tree was handpicked by Director of the Executive Residence and White House Chief Usher Stephen Rochon and Superintendent of Grounds Dale Haney on Oct. 20, 2009. The tree, which was planted by the Sundbacks in 1996, will be cut in late November and sent to Washington, D.C.

Eric and Gloria are no strangers to the White House Christmas experience. This will be the fourth time that the couple has won the contest and presented a tree to the First Lady. “It is always an exciting time and it is interesting to meet all the First Ladies,” Gloria says.

The couple first began growing Christmas Trees in 1956 in western Pennsylvania. In 1959, Eric’s work as a landscape architect took them to the Washington, D.C., area where they began a search for land to continue their Christmas Tree farming on the best soil possible, settling near Shepherdstown, W.V. In 1967, Eric and Gloria started retail lots in Bethesda, Md. and Washington, D.C., which they operated for 40 years before passing the retail side of their business to two veteran employees. Both in their 80s, Eric and Gloria continue development of the seed orchard part of their farm. Sundbacks Named Grand Champions

The presentation to the White House is tentatively scheduled to take place on Nov. 27, 2009. The tree will be set up in the Blue Room later that day, where the White House Floral Department staff and volunteers will decorate it.

Members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented the official White House Christmas Tree for display in the Blue Room since 1966.

I post the press release here because — you just knew this was going to happen, didn’t you? — someone is passing around a hoax letter claiming President Obama has banned the mention of Christmas.


I caught the word from Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars; he got the word from Politico.

The White House Historical Association has been receiving calls and emails about an alleged Obama decree that the Christmas trees in the White House would now be known as “holiday trees.” And artists submitting designs for ornaments on the Blue Room tree were not allowed to depict Christian themes.

“It’s strange,” said Maria Downs, the historical association’s spokeswoman. “They’re almost saying, ‘Are you aware of this?'”

One of the chain emails circulating around in-boxes claims that “a friend at church who is a very talented artist” got a letter from the White House saying not to send any ornaments painted with a religious theme.

“Just thought you should know what the new residents in the WH plan for the future of America,” concludes the email hoax. “If you missed his statement that ‘we do not consider ourselves a Christian Nation’ this should confirm that he plans to take us away from our religious foundation as quickly as possible.”

The truth is the White House has already made plans to celebrate Christmas this year. In August the National Christmas Tree Association announced that a couple from West Virginia will “present the official White House Christmas Tree to First Lady Michelle Obama for the 2009 Christmas season.”

Never mind that historical association sells the official White House ornament, not the actual ornaments that go on the White House tree. How does it respond to concerned citizens? “We just tell them no,” said Downs.

So if somebody sends you an e-mail asking you to get steamed up over this issue, send them the press release from the tree growers, and invite them to buy an ornament from the White House Historical Association.

Maybe Larry T. Doughty could be persuaded to buy an ornament, instead of spreading false rumors.  How many other bloggers fell for this hoax?  (Both and Urban Legends have posts debunking the hoax; also see Media Matters Action Network.)

Native American tree

Douglas Fir needles and the unique, identifying cone

Douglas Fir needles and the unique, identifying cone - USDA Forest Service image, courtesy the Hunt Institute

Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) does not grow natively in West Virginia — it’s a western tree famous for growing to massive size, and famous for providing timber from western forests.  We found it in stands throughout Utah and New Mexico in our air pollution studies, but the biggest ones grow along the Pacific Coast from northern California, through Oregon and Washington into Canada.  It’s not a true fir.  Classifying the tree was problematic for years.  The name it was mostly known by when we worked on them was Pseudotsuga taxifolia, which is “false hemlock with yew-like leaves. ”  It’s still classed as a false hemlock.  I see on some sites that there are five different species in the genus recognized around the world.  Douglas fir has a unique cone that usually will identify the tree dispositively.

So the White House Christmas Tree to be displayed in the Blue Room this year is a native American tree, important to the lumber industry, raised by a prize-winning Christmas tree farmer in West Virginia.

Who says we don’t have culture?

USDA Forest Service photo of Douglas Firs in a U.S. National Forest -- via UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO); FAO notes that trees of this species this large are unlikely to be found outside of National Parks today.

USDA Forest Service photo of Douglas Firs in a U.S. National Forest -- via UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO); FAO notes that trees of this species this large are unlikely to be found outside of National Parks today.

Update:  See more America-disrespecting crabbiness from here — and see my response belowEven more information on the crabbiness, here. Can you imagine how ticked off Mao would be to have known he’d be adorning an American Christmas Tree, in the Andy Warhol portrait?  The problem now is whether the Chinese Embassy will lodge a protest — way to go,

Waiting for the New President: Doctoring data on global warming

December 16, 2008 map showing changes in hardiness zones between 1990 and 2006 map showing changes in hardiness zones between 1990 and 2006, a map climate change denialists wish did not exist.

We need a new category of urban myth or urban legend.  Jan Brunvand’s inventions and development of the study of folk stories that people claim to be true long enough that they become legends, needs to be updated to include internet stupidity that just won’t die.  Especially, we need a good, two-word label for politically-motivated propaganda that should go away, but won’t.

Perhaps I digress.

One might be filled with hope at the prospect of the administration of President Obama. Science issues that have been ignored for too long may once again rise to due consideration.  Friends in health care worry that it will take four or eight terms of diligent work to undo the damage done to medical science by neglect of spending and budgeting during the last eight years.

I take a little hope in this:  Maybe we can get an update of the planting zones maps relied on by farmers, horticulturists, and backyard gardeners.

New maps were delayed through the Bush administration.  The last serious update, officially, was 1990.  Perhaps much has changed in climate in the last generation, and perhaps that is why the new maps were delayed, though they had been painstakingly prepared by the American Horticulture Society.


Plants cannot be fooled by newspaper reports.  Plants are not partisan in political issues. Plants both respond to and clearly demonstrate climate change.  To those who wished to suppress or deny climate change, suppressing the hardiness zone maps may have seemed like a good way to win a political debate.

Robust discussion based on the facts, a casualty of the past eight years, ready to be resurrected.


The $7 million dogwood blossom

April 29, 2008

Not perfect — there is a brown spot on it; but beautiful, surpassingly rare, a creature of the serendipity of nature, it is a natural dogwood blossom in Dallas County, Texas:

Dogwood blossom in Dogwood Canyon, Texas


What we came to see – the magical dogwood blossoms.

On April 5 Kathryn and I joined David Hurt and a jovial band of hikers for a trip into Dogwood Canyon in Cedar Hill, Texas. The physical formation of Cedar Hill upon which the city of the same name and several others stand, is one of the highest spots between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. It is an outcropping of chalk, a formation known as the Austin Chalk, that runs from Austin, north nearly to the Oklahoma border.

This rock formation creates a clear physical marker of the boundary between East and West. Dallas is east of the line, Fort Worth, Gateway to the Old West, is 30 miles farther west. On this outcropping is married the plains of the west with the oaks and forests of the east. Within a few miles of the line, the botanical landscape changes, cowboy prairie lands one way, forest lands the other.

On the chalk itself, the soil is thin and alkaline. The alkalinity is a function of the chemical composition of the chalk underneath it.

Dogwoods love the forests of East Texas with their acidic soils. Early spring produces fireworks-like bursts of white dogwood blossoms in the understory of East Texas forests. Dogwoods die out well east of Dallas as the soil changes acidity; driving from Dallas one can count on 30 to 60 miles before finding a dogwood.

Except in Dogwood Canyon. There, where entrepreneur David Hurt originally planned to build a family hideout and getaway, he found a stand of dogwoods defying botanists and the Department of Agriculture’s plant zone maps, blooming furiously in thin alkaline soil atop the Austin Chalk.

(continued below the fold)

Read the rest of this entry »

March 27, 1912: Cherry trees for Washington, D.C.

March 27, 2008

From the Library of Congress:

Potomac Blossoms

Japanese cherry blossoms
View of Washington Monument, Cherry Blossoms and Tidal Basin
Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-1950.
Washington as It Was, 1923-1959

On March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted two Yoshino cherry trees on the northern bank of the Potomac River Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The event celebrated the Japanese government’s gift of 3,000 trees to the United States. Trees were planted along the Potomac Tidal Basin near the site of the future Jefferson Memorial, in East Potomac Park, and on the White House grounds.

The text of First Lady Taft’s letter, along with the story of the cherry trees, is available from the National Park Service’s official Cherry Blossom Festival Web site. From the opening screen, scroll down to the paragraph beginning, “The history of the cherry trees.”

A lot more, with good links, at the Library of Congress “Today in History” site.

%d bloggers like this: