Friday, September 20, 2013

Challenge of Ecosystem Conservation and Sustainability Rests with Relatively Affluent People

            What if the challenge of ecosystem conservation and sustainability actually rest with the relatively affluent people who already live here that are ruining the Chesapeake Bay, and not the world's masses fleeing oppression and seeking a better life (v. Immigration is an environmental issue September 03, 2013| By Tom Horton) ?


            Fred Tutman, the Patuxent Riverkeeper asks, "Isn't it the technologically advanced nations that contribute most to the loss of greenhouse gasses and create climate effects that give rise to drought, famine and floods? Aren't some immigrants refugees of ecological catastrophes in their own homelands?"


            Tutman has given me permission to post his comments in full.


            "I think that if the Bay were populated primarily by immigrant populations it would possible be better off than than under the current population and regime that seeks to preserve a certain social status qou (albeit while cleaning up the trash and saving turtles) instead of seeking ways to share our natural resource wealth with those humans less fortunate than ourselves.

            When we speak of "population" in abstract terms it gives rise to why some detractors see environmentalists as lacking in compassion. We appear to be all about protecting the earth without much stomach for addressing the plight of its human population--aside from assessing how surplus populations threaten our 1st world incumbency.

            So not only is population a tough subject, it is one potentially laden with classist significance depending on who is doing the finger pointing and making the policy recommendations. That's all I was trying to convey. That the Chesapeake Bay is perhaps not the best illustrator of forum for population concerns.

            The troubling thing that I have learned after ten years of Riverkeeping is that the movement to address this problem (i.e poverty, population etc), has almost nothing at all to do with the "Save the Bay" cause movement as currently configured. In fact "Baysavers" will for the most part struggle to keep the focus on natural resources rather than on human impacts and problems. So, the aim to save crabs and oysters has managed cheerfully (and sadly) to isolate itself from much striving to restore justice and fairness to actual people and communities. The more I travel and interact with other environmentalists outside of the Bay States, the more I realize how ideologically parochial our regional movement has become.  

            Moreover, because of who generally funds and controls environmental movements in our society, there is far more interest in saving nature than in protecting the oppressed and those with few hopes of environmental decency or dignity-- or for that matter very little bandwidth for expanding our potential as humans who live in a natural world. We'll "educate" folks before we will use our powers of activism to help them acquire a living in a decent environment.  The mere mention of the term "environmental justice" conjures up visions of minorities or civil rights which many in our movement see as way "off message" for "the Bay" or at least a separate and far less fundable movement. Actually these themes are much more  fundamental and complex and really hard to control. In fact, they are problems way bigger in scope than the primary focus of Tom Horton's article (the Bay).

            My overall point is, changing the dialogue or its frame of reference generally alters who gets to control the messaging and who reaps the benefits of our efforts. So for me at least, this is ultimately just as much about freeing the minds of those with the most influence over what we regard as "environmentalism" and challenging entitlements. By the way, I have noted that while 1% funders do not always directly tell us what we can and cannot work on, nonetheless funding considerations often severely limit the range of ideas and themes many of us are willing to consider.

            While my ideas are not at all fixed on any of these points, I am always eager to find ways to look at environmental problems with a different lens. The old one hasn't work as well as I might like."

            Environmental justice is a major issue that rarely comes up in ecosystem discussions, a fact about which I have commented in 2008 in a blog post on this site: Minority involvement in environmental conversations.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Beefsteak plant, (Perilla frutescens), a Growing Control Problem

Beefsteak plant flower
               Natural areas, parks and woods of the Lower Chesapeake Bay have yet another early detection of a non indigenous, alien species.  Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton 1894, [synonyms: Ocimum frutescens L.; Perilla ocymoides L.] beefsteak plant, has been found to be spreading beyond Maryland's cultivated, managed gardens and landscapes. Escaped from gardens in New York as early as 1898, it was reported as a weed of wastelands.[1]  Bernard McMahon, the great American horticulturalist, was selling Perilla seed as early as 1804.[2] Marc Imlay, the great weed warrior, has been weeding Perilla from parks in Maryland since 1998.[3]

               Beefsteak plant also known as Chinese basil; purple or perilla mint, is described on the Missori Botanical Garden website as

"an upright, bushy annual that is native from the Himalayas to Southeast Asia. It is related to coleus and basil. It has become a very popular foliage annual and salad herb plant. It grows to 1-3’ (less frequently to 4’) tall. Wrinkled, serrate, broad ovate, medium green leaves (to 4” long) are sometimes tinged with purple. Leaves are aromatic. Two-lipped nettle-like white flowers in spike-like inflorescences (to 4”) bloom at the stem tips in late summer and fall (August – October). Flowers are not particularly showy. This plant has escaped gardens and naturalized throughout many areas of the eastern and central U. S., including central and southern Missouri. Fresh leaves are used in Oriental cooking, salads, soups and as garnishes. Deep red leaves of some perilla varieties purportedly resemble the color of uncooked beef, hence the common name."

USDA Plants - spread of Purilla frutescens
               Perilla frutescens is reported as invasive in DC, IL, MD, MO, PA, TN, VA,
and WV and occurring in all states east of Colorado, parts of Canada, as well as the State of Washington on the west coast (excluding, for now, the Dakotas). The Forest Service (USDA) is aware that beefsteak plant is often planted as showy ornamentals,  that

"may readily escape cultivation, spreading to disturbed areas where they disrupt native ecosystems. The species has toxic characteristics and very few predators. It is ordinarily avoided by cattle and has been implicated in cattle poisoning. Plants are most toxic if cut and dried for hay late in the summer, during seed production. One reason for beefsteak plants’ survival in pastures is that cattle avoid it. Sold as a salad plant for its dark purple foliage, this member of the mint family is extremely invasive by wind-borne seeds."[4]

Chinese basil or perilla mint - Perilla frutescens
               Purdue Extension Service website control recommendations include "...pulling or digging it up, mowing it, or using herbicides. 2,4-D, Milestone®, Forefront®, Weedmaster®, and glyphosate."  Dr. Imlay, however, notes an ominous sign that control of Perilla frutescens, as well as control of Japanese stiltgrass, Microsteigum virineum Camus 1921[1922], is becoming much more difficult. Imlay told me that he and his volunteers removed 100% of the beefsteak plants by hand pulling until 2010 when many newly emergent patches in open space and lightly shaded areas emerged. He also noted that  existing patches of Perilla frutescens  no longer declined by ~80 % each year in 'weeded'  sections of the park as they had in previous years. 

               "In 2010," Imlay said, " I switched to herbicide treatment and sprayed 20 gallons. A great reduction occurred in 2011 and I only had to spray 2.2 gallons along with modest hand pulling. However, in 2012 many new patches appeared, all of which were treated or hand pulled. But this year many, many new and expanded patches have appeared increasing the coverage of beefsteak plant from about 1/10 th acre to about 1/2 acre.  As of September 6 we have already sprayed 60 gallons and only sprayed about half of the beefsteak plant."

         While preventing and introduction is the first line of defense, even the best prevention efforts will not stop all harmful invasive species. In the case of beefsteak plant, however, preventing its introduction has been off the table for over 200 years. However using the tools of IPM (Integrated Pest Management), such as early detection and rapid response (EDRR), at a local level can greatly support effective management and even in some cases elimination. EDRR efforts increase the likelihood that invasions that can lead to establishment and spread of harmful species will be halted and eradicated. Once a species becomes widely established in an ecosystem, the only action possible is the partial mitigation of negative impacts. Based on the work of the ISAC/NISC EDRR Subcommittee, NISC has approved Guidelines for Early Detection and Rapid Response. 

Additional References
Ali, S.I., Raven, P.H. & Hoch, P., 2012. Flora of Pakistan Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton. Flora of Pakistan. Available at: [Accessed April 2, 2012].
Brenner, D.M., 1993. Perilla: Botany, uses and genetic resources. In J. Janick & J. E. Simon, eds. New Crops. New York, NY USA: John. Wiley & sons, inc., pp. 322–328. Available at:
Britton, N.L., 1894. List of Pteridophyta and Spermatophyta growing without Cultivation in Northeastern North America. Committee of the Botanical Club American Association for the Advancement of Science, ed. Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club, 5(18), p.277. Available at: [Accessed April 2, 2012].
Britton, N.L. & Brown, A., 1898. An illustrated flora of the northern United States: Canada and the British possessions from Newfoundland to the parallel of the southern boundary of Virginia, and from the Atlantic ocean westward to the 102d meridian, C. Scribner’s Sons. Available at:
Brouillet, L., Coursol;, F. & Favreau, M., 2012. VASCAN. Database of Vascular Plants of Canada (VASCAN). Available at: [Accessed April 3, 2012].
Burton, R.H., 1933. Perilla frutescens; North America; USA; Connecticut; Middlesex County. Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Available at: 1385009&SU=0 [Accessed April 2, 2012].
Chen, J. et al., 1997. Plant Distribution and Diversity Across an Ozark Landscape, Available at:
Douce, G.K. et al., 2005. a Web-based Image Archive and Database System Focused on North American Exotic and Invasive Species. In K. W. Gottschalk, ed. Proceedings, XV U.S. Department of Agriculture interagency research forum on gypsy moth and other invasive species 2004. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station.
Dӧnmez, A.A., 2002. Perilla: a New Genus for Turkey. Turk J Bot, 26, pp.281–283. Available at:
Eames, E.H., 1916. Perilla frutescens; North America; USA; Connecticut; Fairfield County. Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Available at: 1385010&SU=0 [Accessed April 2, 2012].
Everest, J.W., Powe Jr., T.A. & Freeman, J.D., 2006. Poisonous Plants of the Southeastern United States, Available at:
Forest Health Staff, 2005. Beefsteak Plant: Perilla frutescens (L.) Britt.
GBIF ed., 2012. GBIF. In Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Available at: [Accessed April 4, 2012].
Harger, E.B., 1901. Perilla frutescens; North America; USA; Connecticut; New Haven County. Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Available at: 1379606&SU=0 [Accessed April 2, 2012].
Honda, G. et al., 1994. Genetic control of geranial formation in Perilla frutescens. Biochemical Genetics, 32(5-6), pp.155–159.
Hwang, L.S., 1997. Anthocyanins from Perilla. In H.-C. Yu, K. Kosuna, & M. Haga, eds. Perilla; the genus Perilla. Harwood Academy Publishers, p. 171.
Kim, K.-H. et al., 2004. Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation of Perilla frutescens. Plant Cell Reports, 23(6), pp.386–390.
Kral, R. et al., 2012. Perilla frutescens. Alabama Plant Atlas. Available at: [Accessed April 2, 2012].
Lee, H.R. et al., 1995. Foraging activities and pollination efficacies of the pollinators on the hot pepper (Capsicum annuum), the perilla (Perilla frutescens var. japonica) and the sesame (Sesamum orientale). Korean Journal of Agriculture, 10(2), pp.117–122.
Li, X. & Hedge, I.C., 2008. Flora of China Perilla frutescens (Linnaeus) Britton., 7. Available at: [Accessed April 2, 2012].
Masumoto, N. & Ito, M., 2010. Germination rates of perilla (Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton) mericarps stored at 4 degrees C for 1-20 years. Journal of natural medicines, 64(3), pp.378–382.
Negi, V.S. et al., 2011. Perilla frutescens in Transition: a medicinal and oil yielding plant need instant conservation, a case study from Central Himalaya, India. Environ. We Int. J. Sci. Tech., 6, pp.193–200. Available at:
Press, J.R., Shrestha, K.K. & Sutton, D.A., 2000. Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton. Annotated Checklist of the Flowering Plants of Nepal. Available at: [Accessed April 2, 2012].
Ragazinskiene, O. et al., 2006. The influence of meteorological factors on growth and vegetation process of Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton in Lithuania. Medicina Kaunas Lithuania, 42(8), pp.667–672.
Roecklein, J.C. & Leung, P., 1987. A Profile of Economic Plants, New Brunswixk, New Jersey, USA: Transaction Publishers.
Schnitzler, Schirrmacher, W.H.G. & Grassmann, J., 2006. Perilla frutescens: A vegetable and herb for a healthy diet M. L. Chadha, G. Kuo, & C. L. L. Gowda, eds. 1st International Conference on Indigenous Vegetables and Legumes Prospectus for Fighting Poverty Hunger and Malnutrition, (752), pp.143–146.
Steckel, L. & Rhodes, N., Perilla Mint. Available at:
UMass Extension, Growing Tips 22: Annuals for the Shade. Available at:
USDA ARS, 2012. GRIN. National Genetic Resources Program. Available at: [Accessed April 2, 2012].
USDA ARS GRIN, 2013. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Germplasm Resources Information Network, National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Available at: [Accessed March 5, 2012].
USDA ARS National Genetic Resources Program, National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, M., USDA ARS GRIN & USDA ARS, 2012. Taxon: Phyllostachys aurea Rivière & C. Rivière. Germplasm Resources Information Network, National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Available at: [Accessed March 5, 2012].
USDA NRCS, 2013. The PLANTS Database National Plant Data Team, ed. USDA National Plant Data Team; Available at: [Accessed December 1, 2011].
Wada, K.C., Kondo, H. & Takeno, K., 2010. Obligatory short-day plant, Perilla frutescens var. crispa can flower in response to low-intensity light stress under long-day conditions. Physiologia Plantarum, 138(3), pp.339–345.
Yu, H.-C., Kosuna, K. & Haga, M. eds., 1997. Perilla: the genus Perilla, Harwood Academic Publishers.
Zheng, H. et al., 2006. Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team Invasive Plants of Asian Origin Established in the United States and Their Natural Enemies. Biological Control, 1(March), p.160. Available at:

Perilla frutescens Photographer: John D. Byrd
Source: Mississippi State University

ppi State University


[1] Britton, N. L. & Brown, A., 1898. An illustrated flora of the northern United States: Canada and the British possessions from Newfoundland to the parallel of the southern boundary of Virginia, and from the Atlantic ocean westward to the 102d meridian, C. Scribner’s Sons.  

[2] M'Mahon, B., 1804. Seed Catalogue. in:  Special Collections of USDA ARS NAL, Beltsville, Maryland.

[3] Imlay, M., 2013. 'Spray log: Swann Park, Maryland October 1998'. personal communication with John Peter Thompson
               see also
Kobell, R., April 30, 2012. Weed warrior Marc Imlay leads the battle to conquer invading plants. Bay Journal. accessed Sept 18, 2013 ]

[4]"Weed of the Week"  Produced by the USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Staff, Newtown Square, PA. WOW 01-23-05 Invasive Plants website:

Monday, September 09, 2013

M'Mahon's "Bad Landscape Design" Description from 1806 (and today)

                              In gardening, nothing is really new. Yes, tools are invented to ease the aches and pains, and new discoveries allow us to add just the right something to make the flower grow or bloom a little longer, a little shorter, or a little more. Even our ideas about design are well-rooted in the past. Design concepts that worked in colonial America  continue to enhance our landscape enjoyment and use. The tools of the landscape design trade and the insider-tricks that are sure to get results are well founded in the historis of horticulture.

                An amazing description, for example,  of our modern suburban, cookie cutter, absent-of-any-sense-of-design developer driven landscapes was published in 1806.  Can you read this and not picture  the usual  21st century McMansion subdivision landscape or urban park installed under pressure by a developer eager to move on with maximum profit.

            "But some modern Pleasure-grounds, in which rural design is copied to an extreme, are often very barren of variety and entertainment as they frequently consist only of a grass lawn like a great field; having a running plantation of trees and shrubs all round it, just broad enough, to admit a gravel-walk winding through it, in the serpentine way, in many short twists and turns, and bordering at every turn alternately, upon the outward fence and the lawn; which are continually obtruded upon the sight, exhibiting the same prospect over and over, without the least variation; so as that after having traversed the walks all round this sort of pleasure-ground, we find no more variety or entertainment than at our first entrance, the whole having presented itself at the first view."[1]   

               If you are interested in any aspect of gardening from fruits and berries to vegetables, annuals to perennials, as well as houseplants, and are looking for an in-depth calendar of work;  and you want this to be completely organic as in no use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, then the work for you is The American Gardener’s Calendar by Bernard McMahon.

               M'Mahon was born in Ireland in 1775 and came to the United States in 1796 because of political instability in his native country. He settled in Philadelphia and established a seed and nursery business. Very shortly thereafter he began to collect and export seeds of American plants. Because of his work, many native American plants became established in Europe. The History of Horticulture web site continues:

"In 1804 his catalogue of seeds included 1,000 "species." He became acquainted with Thomas Jefferson as well as other distinguished men of his time. It is said that the famous Lewis and Clark expedition was planned in his home. His horticultural interests were very broad and his seed store became a meeting place for botanists and horticulturists. M'Mahon and Landreth, a noted Philadelphia nurseryman, distributed the seeds collected in the Lewis and Clark expedition. He published in 1806 the first really important horticultural book which was entitled, American Gardeners Calendar. This was a standard encyclopedia for many years. The 11th edition was published in 1857. M'Mahon was born in Ireland but came to America in 1796 because of political instability in that country. He settled in Philadelphia and established a seed and nursery business. Very shortly thereafter he began to collect and export seeds of American plants. By this means many nature plants became established in Europe. In 1804 his catalogue of seeds included 1,000 "species".

[1]  McMahon, B., 1806. The American Gardener’s Calendar; Adapted to the Climates and Seasons of the United States: Containing a Complete Account of All the Work Necessary to be Done ... for Every Month in the Year; with Ample Practical Directions for Performing the Same ..., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: B. Graves,.