Saturday, April 28, 2007

Inconvenient question: Invasive species

Invasive species conversations start out simple, and quickly become complex. It is the nature of the wicked inconvenience that one cannot identify a linear solution. For every solution, which may be used to give definition to the problem, begets a complex decision tree which clearly shows that there are no right or wrong answers, but rather better or worse answers. Today I note a studied request for ideas and information gleaned from the Mid Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council listserv.

The first paragraph is the normal anguish which appears at first contact or realization of a problem with our natural areas. Gardeners will recognize this problem as the curse of the weed. A solution of aggressive removal gives rise to the standard definition of invasive species, for the author recognizes the harm, either economic or, in this case, aesthetic-environmental, and given the standard definition, seeks a linear solution.

Dear Plant enthusiasts,
Here in Oakton in Fairfax County my students and
I have spent many many man-hours at our campus
and the adjoining Oak Marr/Tattersall
Park(FCPA)removing invasive aliens and trying to
plant native species that are good for wildlife.
It has been a very difficult battle and as we
prune back and tear up russian olive, asiatic
bittersweet, wineberry, wisteria, japanese
honeysuckle, bush honeysuckle, and japanese
barberry year-after-year, several questions keep
coming to our minds.

Time and practical experience demonstrate another basic assertion of a wicked problem: no absolute end. And further, the seemingly simple problem of removal of all exotic aliens, as only exotic aliens are invasive, a surface definition paradox, for it is a native that would appear to be a major contributor to the system imbalance.

1. In places, such as this one, where the deer
are grazing the greenbrier and other shrubby-type
growth so it is unusable by things like towhees,
thrashers, ovenbirds, kentucky warblers, and wood
thrushes, is it better to allow some of the
invasive shrubs to continue to exist in small
patches for bird-use? I know that many of these
shrubs and vines are spread far and wide in bird
droppings, so they would continue to be a
nuisance-source of invasion, but it seems that
all the other sources that we cannot control
outside our management area will continue to
invade anyways, so why not leave a few patches
for the undergrowth-birds to nest in. By removing
the only shrubs that can grow where deer
populations are high, are we also removing the
only places come bird species can nest and forage
for food? Does anyone know of any studies done
on this?

Next the author trips over a horticultural marketing expediency which in this case is the famous “deer” proof pitch. I like to tell my customers that our deer have a preferred buffet of the following sort: 1st. 500 dollar exotic hostas, followed by most natives, immediately followed by anything purchased, minus a few poisonous plants such as daffodils, followed by pretty much anything else left behind, including car bumpers, in the first serving.

2. Most of the "deer-proof" plants that we have
planted have been decimated by the deer. We have
been cutting Wisteria off the forest trees
because of its death-grip which has killed
several, but the ground for at least an acre is
interlaced with the roots so it has been a losing
battle to try to control it in the undergrowth.
Is it possible to use a cover of invasives such
as shoulder-high wisteria understory, that the
deer don't eat, planting some of the other native
shrubs etc underneath and among them, using them
as a sheild? Similarly could some other native
herbacious plants be planted among the
ground-cover of japanese honeysuckle as a
protection against deer-grazing? HAve any studies
been done on this?

Now the interesting thing about this is that a native deer clan seems to have gotten a taste for a nasty exotic which is encouraging, and connecting the ideas of paragraph 2 with three allows one to try the idea of planting or leaving a few select, perhaps non native hors d’ oeuvres which can serve as a tasty first and, hopefully, only stop for the native species deer. I have heard about an idea of planting crab apples and euonymus as a border hedge to keep the deer satiated outside and the garden or woodland thriving.

3. IN our area the deer are eating the multiflora
rose, seeming to keep it under control. I have
seen some amazing thickets of this plant along
Difficult Run downstream from here that have been
totally eaten by the deer. For this reason we
have not bothered removing the rose, hoping that
the deer will fill up on it instead of eating
some of the other native plants. What do you all
think of this?

Paragraph four may have much to so with the terrifying and awe-inspiring non native earthworm, and the destruction of the natural layers of organic material. There is currently research underway which I think includes the mapping of the invasion and soil alteration which allows the invasive plants to follow. It is the interface between our modern human activities and the last refuges of self sustaining ecosystems which are the battleground, and this is what I think the author is recognizing.

4. We are also finding to our surprise that the
primary battles against invasives are closer to
the road in the pinewoods. The oak-hickory-woods,
perhaps because of its thick leaf litter(?) or
its distance from the road(?) or its shadier
summer interior (?) has far fewer invasives and
requires much less maintenance, especially in
areas away from trails and streams where the
japanese honeysuckle, japanese barberry, and
occasionally russian olive are most likely to
occur. As a result we still have some nice
patches of wind-flower, trout lily, toothwort,
violets, jack-in-the-pulpit, paw-paw and even a
little may-apple (unless the deer find it). Have
you all noticed similar things or are we just

Amazingly, ash seedlings, which if Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland cannot finish cutting down, will grow up to succumb to another invasive species the emerald ash borer. I hope to read the many thoughts and ideas that this letter should engender.

5. It is also fascinating to see that of the tree
saplings that are sprouting naturally in the pine
forest, the ones that seem to avoid the deer
grazing are the ashes.

Thanks for your input
Fred Atwood

Frederick D. Atwood
Flint Hill School, 10409 Academic Dr, Oakton, VA 22124

I would hope that if any of my readers have suggestion, that they would write and help; and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Planting a Tree; a Wicked Inconvenience

Invasive species continue to be a wicked inconvenience. The spectrum of stakeholders and their differing solutions are spread broadly across many disciplines and ideas. On Wednesday, April 25, 2007 on Bioblog, I ran across a posting entitled “Plant (non-invasive) trees this Arbor Day“. In keeping with a key tenant of a wicked problem: “The problem is not understood until after formulation of a solution. Stakeholders have radically different world views and different frames for understanding the problem,” the author’s solution involves a prescription on planting and therefore transferring any organism not indigenous to the local. I will assume that the arbitrary date of approximately 1500 is the time reference which is understood in a solution which requires a local native only approach.

There is much to be said for the idea of reconstructing the pre-European Colombian Exchange in attempt to return to Rousseau's natural state. The reconstruction and appropriate maintenance of a self sustaining system has much going for it. However, the article quietly faults the National Arbor Day Foundation for not adopting this world view. One may infer that the foundation’s solution is to do no immediate harm by limiting plantings to known “safe” species, and to encourage the planting of trees, even in areas which were treeless before 1500. This solution opens up its own set of complex possibilities, because we cannot know for sure if planting trees is the “right’ thing to do. “Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation"; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial-and-error, every attempt counts significantly” Once we plant the trees, we alter the matrix of the problem.

Another principle of a wicked problem is also at play here: “Every implemented solution to a wicked problem has consequences, and may cause additional problems.” The statement refers to Bioblog's ideal solution which may take to be the removal of trees in meadow and prairie settings, and concept which alone would qualify for causing unintended consequences to human society assuming there is the political will and resources to accomplish the landscape restoration. Because the foundation’s solution seems less aggressive, at first hearing, it finds itself in the position of being wrong. But this is a violation of the principles of a wicked problem, for there are no right or wrong answers, just varying degrees of good and bad.

One problem I find with Bioblog's comments is the assumption that the reconstruction of “natural” ecosystems can be returned to a idealized time and place. “Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem,” and invasive species are symptomatic at least in part with global climate change. To fault the foundation for using climate maps to help suggest tree species is to slightly confuse several issues. The climate map will be needed even if one were to go completely native, whatever that may mean.

These small points aside, I truly liked the Bioblog’s last point: “I argue only that these are minor points in the greater struggle to convince humanity, especially that small portion of humanity that has the time and money to support any sort of environmental ethic that it chooses, that ecology and biodiversity are not actually words that can describe numbers of species over an entire planet. They much more aptly describe the mosaic of species assemblages that found a way to evolve in every possible environment that is found on earth. If we lose that idea, then biodiversity itself is a meaningless concept.” These words get to the point. This is a solution clearly described; it is not the solution to which the foundation currently subscribes, I think. The conversation must continue. The stakeholders must not find fault with each other, but work to find small points of agreement. Remember that “Constraints and resources to solve the problem of invasive species change over time.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pruning: Nature Lends a Hand (Hints for pruning)

On Valentine’s eve in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C., I hoped for a snow storm in the knowledge that I would be able to have a romantic fire and reason to stay home the next day. What I got was thirty hours of no electricity, no water, no heat and no phone, as nature began the work of major tree pruning. The idea that beauty can be dangerous was made evident when my wife and I ventured forth to survey our winter wonderland. I note for the record, that today’s nor’easter in April has not inspired me to wish for two feet of snow, as I am a rather quick learn.

The 2007 Valentine Day’s tree limb massacre was an expensive lesson, and like the seventeen year locust, which also prunes, a needed part of gardening even if I could have done without the stoking of a fireplace every forty five minutes for more than a day. But I digress.

Let me share with you some pictures, first of the beauty and then of the work. The ice covered brilliance was awe-some; the sound of limbs breaking was fear-some; the thought of man hours, mine, or cost, someone else to clean up was burden-some. The debris is still scattered, but mostly removed now some five hundred dollars later, just in time to cut the field for the first time hoping that I have picked up all the mower- destroying branch remains.
No matter: pruning is a basic task of the well-tended, or not, garden. Her are a few tips:
· Broadleaf Evergreen and/or deciduous trees and a few shrubs such as Japanese maples, witch hazel, rose of Sharon are pruned now as needed. This is mostly an aesthetic pruning. Note: needle evergreen trees such as spruces and pines will not recover from a hard pruning. Leave them alone, or only pinch out 1/3 of the new growth (called a candle) while still soft.
· Deciduous shrubs which flower on last year’s stems and bloom in early spring to early summer. Forsythia, lilac and oak-leaved hydrangea are a few examples. With forsythia, for example, you would remove about one third of the older stems to the ground which will encourage new blooms and stronger stem growth. Do this pruning immediately after the plant blooms.
· Flowering shrubs which bloom later but on last year’s stems and growth such as the traditional hydrangea--either prune in early spring which is better for the health of the plant but may reduce some flowering, or wait until they are finished blooming, and at once remove the flower heads, and as with the early bloomers
remove about one third of the older branches.
· Flowering shrubs which bloom on new growth (current year’s growth). Some examples include butterfly bush and crape myrtle. Pruning maybe done when the leaf buds swell in the spring. Pruning will encourage new branch formation, and flowers will appear on new growth

· Evergreen shrubs such as junipers and yews may be pruned after any chance of freeze through spring but not after August. Best to aim for mid- spring, whenever that may be. This year, 2007, we may skip mid-spring and go directly to summer, so as soon as the weather warms up and the there is sign of life would be acceptable.

As with all things, before you whack and cut, and shear and shape do some winter ice storm research and know your plants’ needs.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Invasive species Japanese stiltgrass meets climate change

In gardening, surprise is part of the challenge and promise. Just when you think you have the climate and local environment down pat, nature steps in and erases the composition leaving you a partially blank canvas to complete, once again. This analogy extends to the great gardens of natural areas as observed in this piece plucked from the Mid Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council list serve.

“In early April the Microstegium in central West Virginia was emerging and was about 1/4" tall when the big freeze hit. We had several consecutive days of night time temperatures in the low 20's or colder. It now appears that a majority of the first germination Japanese stiltgrass is dead in much of the region and what did not get killed was severely damaged by the very cold temperatures.

It will be interesting to see how thick the second germination will be when the weather warms. Russ Richardson”

I have overheard a few hardy plant customers complaining about the lack of global warming this spring in the Washington metro area, and hesitate to explain the concept of averaging. I think we will go from spring to summer here in the southern mid Atlantic and the same gardeners will be wishing for the wet cool weather.

Meanwhile, for some of us, perhaps, a respite from the onslaught of this natural area invading weed.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nativeness & Invasive Species

Today, as I was working on some fundamental questions related to invasive species, I read the web log : Going native, one plant at a time. The author raised the question of a complex coevolving invasive species issue: nativeness. The where and how we will define a native species presume we have answered the question what. What is a native species? “The native plant species in any particular area of interest are those which arrived, established, and survived there without direct or indirect human assistance… that occur(s) naturally in a particular region, state, ecosystem, and habitat without direct or indirect human actions" (Federal Native Plant Conservation Committee, 1994). Most native plants have been in the same area for centuries or longer. However, natural spread and dispersal of species (without human intervention) continues to occur, occasionally leading to an expansion of a species' natural geographical range.”

The “how” definition requires the assessment of an arrival date, substantiation of establishment, and current inventory. Further, one must ascertain the extent or absence of human involvement. In addition, taxonomic classification must be verified. The creation of interlinked databases for each of the above would simplify access. From a purely argumentative point of view, the verification of the extent or absence of human interaction will be contentious. Most likely the standards should not aim to be comprehensive, but, rather, useful. Accordingly, database content would strive for current, widely accepted species inclusion.

With an accepted list of vetted, native species, “where” becomes an interesting challenge. A local domain of a species must be considered in four dimension: up, down out and “when”. The inclusion of a time coordinate is needed to track interface competition and wicked problems such as global warming. Where is a four dimension coordinate. One of the signal and, for some, controversial coordinates is X, Y, Z(North America), T -1500CE. The creation of a landscape is always considered within time; the attempt to create a 1490 landscape assumes a historical temperature gradient or range. And the delta of temperate today is compelling a migration of species. So we must ask not only “where:, but “when”.

I recently wrote about one proposed holistic solution: Conservation or Sustainable Landscape Principles. I also refer the reader to the below sited work: Roadside Use of Native Plants, Defining What is Native What Is A Native Plant?

Larry E. Morse, Jil M. Swearingen, and John M. Randall; The Nature Conservancy.

The native plant species in any particular area of interest are those which arrived, established, and survived there without direct or indirect human assistance. It is obvious that plants (or animals) accidentally or deliberately imported by people from faraway places are not native, but it is more difficult to determine whether plants in a general region or state are native to a particular site.
There are many definitions for native plants that differ in minor ways. We here adopt and discuss the definition recently developed for the Native Plant Conservation Initiative: A native plant species is one "that occurs naturally in a particular region, state, ecosystem, and habitat without direct or indirect human actions" (Federal Native Plant Conservation Committee, 1994). Most native plants have been in the same area for centuries or longer. However, natural spread and dispersal of species (without human intervention) continues to occur, occasionally leading to an expansion of a species' natural geographical range.
The distinction between native and non- native species is important because native species have generally adapted and evolved with the competing species, predators, and diseases of an area over many thousands of years. Native species are therefore generally in reasonable ecological balance with their associates and competitors, and have pests, predators, or diseases that limit their abundance. Many non- natives, on the other hand, lack these checks, and can quickly spread and dominate areas they invade, changing habitats and pushing out many native plants and animals there. Technological advances in transportation over the past few centuries have allowed humans to deliberately and accidentally move plant and animal species to new parts of the world at rates unprecedented in the history of our planet. This unnaturally high rate of exotics introductions places a burden on native plants and animals that are often unable to compete with these unrestrained interlopers. Nothing in our native plants' evolutionary heritage has prepared them to compete with large numbers of new species that arrive free of the predators and pests that kept their numbers in check in their original ranges. Plants that are not native at a site are variously called non- native, exotic, alien, adventive, or non- indigenous species. Well- established non- natives are sometimes said to be naturalized, but that does not make them native, no matter how long ago they were introduced. In the Americas, most exotic plants were spread through travel, trade, and commerce in the past few centuries, after European colonization and the major land- use changes that soon followed.
Several concepts are fundamental to this definition of a native plant.
1. Naturally occurring. The plants found growing in a particular area, either currently or in the historical past, are said to occur there. When there is no evidence that human activities brought them there, these plants are considered to occur naturally at that site. Put differently, they are part of the natural landscape of that area, either because they evolved there or because they arrived through natural means, such as dispersal by birds, other animals, the wind, or water.
2. Area of interest. A species may be classified as native to a particular nation, state, region, ecosystem or habitat. Obviously a species native to the U.S. may not be native to all 50 states and a species native to a given state, say California, may not be native to all regions, ecosystems or habitats in the state.
a. Native to nation. If a plant species is know to be native to at least one site in a nation it is said to be "native to that nation." Plants native only to other continents cannot be considered native in the U.S.
b. Native to state. If a plant is known to be native in at least one site in a particular state, it is considered "native to that state." However, it may or may not be native to a different site in the same state. Since numerous botanical references address the question of which plant species are considered to be native in which states, the state level is often a good starting point for determining whether a species is locally native. Many botanical manuals and horticultural references give generalized native ranges for thousands of commonly encountered plant species. c. Native to region. The ecological region which the site represents should also be considered. For example, the state of Maryland has several distinct natural regions, such as the Coastal Plain, Piedmont, Allegheny Mountains, and Appalachian Plateau. If a species is not native to a region of the state, then it is not native to any site in that portion of the state. Tamarack (Larix laricina), for instance, is native in Maryland only in the Appalachian Plateau, and therefore would not be considered native at any Maryland site near the Atlantic Ocean or Chesapeake Bay. Similarly, bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is native in Maryland only on the Coastal Plain, and would not be considered native at the Plateau sites where tamarack is found, nor in any of the other ecological regions of Maryland. Nevertheless, both species are considered native to Maryland.
d. Native to ecosystem and habitat. Many species are confined to particular ecosystems and habitats within a given state or ecological region, and would not be considered native in substantially different ecosystems or habitats, even within the same state and region. For example, tamarack in Maryland and nearby areas is known naturally only in swamp ecosystems; therefore, tamarack would not be expected to occur naturally on dry ridgetops in Maryland, even in the Appalachian Plateau. Ecosystems include interacting habitats, providing additional ecological resolution in considering whether a species is native at a particular site of interest. For example, a species may be known to be native only in tidal marshes (e.g., Spartina alterniflora). This statement gives two clues: it should be expected in the marsh habitat, but only in marshes that are part of tidal ecosystems. However, a different habitat in a tidal ecosystem, such as a densely shaded cypress swamp, would not be a place where this grass would be considered native, even if nearby to the tidal marsh.
3. Direct and indirect human actions. Human actions that move plants (or animals) to new places can be direct or indirect. Most obvious are deliberate introductions of plants to new areas, for example in gardening, forestry, or agriculture. Accidental, or unintentional, introductions of weeds to new paces also occur regularly. Once introduced to a new area, plants can spread and disperse further; these newly established populations are attributable to the earlier human- caused introduction, however, and are thus the indirect result of human actions. No matter how long a plant persists in an area, or how far it has subsequently spread, it does not become native to the area if its history there is traceable to a human introduction.
The above definition addresses the question of whether a particular plant species is native to a particular site, but not whether a given individual plant is native there. When plants from elsewhere are brought into an area where the same species already occurs naturally, the introduced plants are not considered native to that site. This distinction is important because we know that local populations are often genetically distinctive and adapted to conditions that prevail where they occur.
In determining whether a species can be considered native at a particular site, evidence of apparent natural, native occurrence should be balanced against evidence of introduction. While most cases are easily resolved, there are borderline cases. Expert assistance from botanists or plant conservationists should be sought in questionable cases before making irreversible management decisions, whether eradicating a species which is suspected to be non- native or planting a species at a site where it is thought to have once been native but does not presently grow. Careful study and consideration whether a plant species is native or non- native may prevent the unintended introduction of a species which is not truly native to a site or the elimination of a disjunct, local population of a species that might be an unusual and perhaps evolutionarily important natural stand.

Invasive Species Fuel Furor

When speaking to garden enthusiast and community interest groups, about botanical invasive species, I, in an attempt to quickly create an understanding point out that plants which are easy to propagate, easy to grow, need no watering, mowing, weeding, feeding or edging, are cheap, grow in many conditions, do not cost much money, are guaranteed for life and beyond, and are inexpensive usually are a indicating the possibility of invasiveness. I noted the flurry of blog posting last year over the idea of planting ten percent of the state of Illinois in Miscanthus to generate fifty per cent of the energy needs of the state. [Invasive Miscanthus; the Challenge of Use and Definition, Saturday, October 28, 2006]

This initial surface idea of invasiveness readily moves from horticulture to the bio-fuel discussion. “Most of the traits that are touted as great for biofuel crops – no known pests or diseases, rapid growth, high water-use efficiency – are red flags for invasion biologists,” Wiedenmann said. “We want to start a dialog and approach the question of bio fuels systematically.” [Bio fuels as Invasive Species?, September 21, 2006]. As the on going challenge of invasive species’ definition continues, the complexity of what exactly we speak comes inversely clearer as the actual issue becomes more obscure. Each attempt to precise define the problem is burdened by the multitude of solutions which are promulgated by differing stakeholders and interests groups.

As wicked problems go, the invasive species controversy teems with classic entanglements. A recent white paper noted that “Bio fuel crops can have economic benefits, but in some cases can also have the potential to escape cultivation and become invasive in natural ecosystems." [Biofuels and Invasive Plant Species, Joe DiTomaso, Jodie Holt, and Nelroy Jackson]

Backreaction: Global Warming, expands on the wicked inconvenience of having to make complex choices with mostly limited knowledge. One feature of a wicked problem is that solutions themselves alter the definition and change to contemplation matrix in unforeseen, irreversible and unexpected ways. I quote from Backreaction’s posting: “We have the power to cause significant effects on the equilibrium of our environment, and we should be very careful with what we do, or we risk consequences that might be irreversible (we can of course debate whether or not it would be a great loss if the human race vanishes from earth's surface).”

I am trying to create a list of stakeholders and, eventually, their proposed solutions, hoping to find common ground. Any additions to my list would be gladly accepted.

Gardeners, land managers, environmentalists, plant collectors, outdoor hobbyists, vacationers, drivers, home owners, transportation departments, schools(students), parks(users), departments of defense, interior, agriculture, commerce, energy, homeland security, grocery markets, clothing market, and fashion market, farmers – traditional & organic, tourists, ecologists, botanists, taxonomists, biologists, agronomists.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Invasive species: more inconveniences of a wicked nature

Plodding through the web logs of the day, I noticed the “Delmar Dustpan” posting. I too have noted the unspoken extension of invasive species to discussions of Home sapiens. Of course it is a wicked inconvenience that definitions are arrived at by the proposed solutions of the various stakeholders, one of which limits an invasive to a species introduced by man.

It is not a great reach to slightly alter the discussion of invasives and meander into the realm of politics and people. If we say that an area should be for natives only, it is not far fetched to arrive at Delaware for Delawareans; animals, plants and people. Out of this definition shell game come argumentative attacks with labels such as plant Nazis, and comments such as: “I am sure it will only be a short time until we have Delaware garden police with complete authority to walk on your property and fine you.” An interesting book, which touches on this thesis and well worth reading, is The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany , by David Blackbourn

As each stakeholder has his own solution in mind, and given that there is no right or wrong answer, the writer belongs to the “there is no problem” group and hence his natural reaction to the issue. If there is no problem, then the discussion held by those who see a problem is problematic at best. The author of the dustpan does not perceive destruction of natural areas as a actionable item and therefore is horrified by the perception of limits on personal freedom. In addition, there is the hint of a conspiracy which begets the idea that “Surprisingly Marijuana isn't on the list. I guess the growers paid off the right people.” This statement works because Dustpan’s solution is defined by a lack of a problem, and since his perception of the definition is limited and not part of “there is a problem” camp, the definite possibility of a grand economic conspiracy is reasonable.

Note also:
Invasive Notes: Invasive complexities
Invasive Species; Wicked Inconvenience: part two
Weeds: Defining Inconvenience, Wickedly
Invasive Species – A Wicked Inconvenience

Agricultural and Technology Leaders Establish New Consortium, National Agricultural Research Alliance – Beltsville

BELTSVILLE, Md. (April, 2007) – Leaders from Maryland’s technology, research and development, economic development and agricultural industries have joined together to establish a new consortium, the National Agricultural Research Alliance – Beltsville, Inc. (NARA-B).

The goal of the organization is to support and advance the agricultural, human nutrition and scientific research mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC). NARA-B will advocate for BARC and its agricultural and horticultural activities before legislative, executive, administrative and judicial bodies, and the public in general regarding the contributions to agricultural science, safe and healthful foods, environmental quality, national security and other benefits of BARC.

In addition, the group will also work to promote the maintenance and preservation of the natural and historic qualities of BARC, including open space, watershed protection and enhancement, and clean air and water.

“One of the first priorities for NARA-B is to champion for BARC to get ‘enhanced use lease’ authority, which will help the institution drive money that is currently used to maintain buildings on the BARC site into research and development,” said John Peter Thompson, president of NARA-B. “The more research and development that can be conducted by researchers at BARC, the greater number of opportunities there are to better society.”

The officers are:
· NARA-B President: John Peter Thompson, chairman of Behnke Nurseries, Co.
· NARA-B Secretary: RenĂ©e M. Winsky, executive director of the Maryland Technology Development Corp.
· NARA-B Treasurer: Wendi M. Williams, vice president of Old Line Bank
· NARA-B Board Member: Wanda L. Plumer, director of business development, retention and expansion for the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation
· NARA-B Board Member: Essex Finney, former director of BARC

About the National Agricultural Research Alliance – Beltsville, Inc.
The goal of the National Agricultural Research Alliance – Beltsville, Inc., (NARA-B) is to support and advance the agricultural, human nutrition and scientific research mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC). NARA will advocate the support of BARC and its agricultural and horticultural activities before legislative, executive, administrative and judicial bodies, and the public in general, regarding the contributions to agricultural science, safe and healthful foods, environmental quality, national security and other benefits of BARC; and consistent with BARC’s mission, promote BARC’s work regarding the maintenance and preservation of the natural and historic qualities of BARC, including open space, watershed protection and enhancement, clean air and water, and architecturally significant or historical structures.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

BARC: Funding for Research Continues to Fall

For update on the funding situation as of March 2008 please see:

BARC & NAL: Funding challenges continue

It has been a while since I wrote (Monday, October 09, 2006, Homeland security; E. coli, and diminished funding_ & BARC) about the Henry A. Wallace ”National” Agricultural Research Center at Beltsville, BARC. The funding season is in full swing, and the research is in full need of congressional support. Once again cuts are proposed which total over 5 million dollars. We cannot continue to make a thousand cuts quietly over decades and expect to keep the world class research.

Today work on E coli which I wrote about a few months ago is being recommended for budget reduction as are many other programs listed below. Along with several other interested parties, a new national stakeholders alliance has recently been formed to begin reversing the financial assault on research which directly affects our quality of life, The National Agricultural Research Alliance – Beltsville will begin the work of educating decision makers and the public on the benefits of food safety and other related agricultural needs .

The list below is taken from testimony supplied to Congress and gives a look into the trouble ahead. The first part is good news which consists of White House proposal for new research. However what one hand giveth, the other taketh away, as seen in part II below. I would be interested in any comments or opinions on continuing ARS research.

Part I. New Research Items Proposed in the FY08 Budget

Obesity Prevention Research, $1,150,000: Obesity is a growing health menace in the United States. Today, an estimated 64 percent of all Americans are overweight or obese. Obesity has been linked to heart disease, stroke and cancer, and thus to spiraling health problems and rapidly rising health care costs. These funds would provide critical support for BARC and its collaborators to pursue vital clinical and translational research on the efficacy of the Dietary Guidelines and to develop improved strategies for preventing unhealthy weight gain in the diverse American population. We urge support for this research.

Food Safety, $708,000: Maintaining consumer confidence in the safety of the U. S food supply is a primary goal for producers and marketing managers. Recent isolated food safety incidents highlight the need for research to identify points in the food chain where food can become contaminated by chemical residues, pathogenic bacteria or toxins that are capable of causing severe illness, even death in worst case situations. These funds provide the resources to examine production systems and pre-harvest crop management practices thoroughly, especially for leafy vegetables and organic produce. We endorse full funding for this work.

Research to Support the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS, Citrus Canker and Ralstonia, $850,000: APHIS needs effective diagnostic tools to identify emerging citrus and tree fruits diseases, to confirm infections in epidemiological studies, and to carry out regulatory programs. This research also strengthens the National Citrus Pathogen Collection, which is essential for effective citrus disease research. Some of this research may be directed to Ralstonia, a bacterial pathogen not known to occur in the United States. Ralstonia causes wilt in potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and other crop plants. APHIS and ARS need to design survey protocols to detect and track plant disease agents and to identify crop pathogen threats. Research on diseases of citrus, tree fruits, and other crops is extremely under funded. We strongly urge support for strengthening plant disease research and for supporting the action mission of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Emerging Diseases and Animal Health, $1,165,000: Globalization of trade and the growing movement of people and goods around the world steadily raise the threat of disease outbreaks in the United States. Diseases such as avian influenza, bovine diarrhea, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, and porcine reproductive and respiratory disease are among many such disease threats. Effective control strategies require a more complete understanding of not only the basic biology of pathogens and their mode of transmission but also of the animal's immune system for resisting infections. BARC has one of the country’s premiere groups of scientists engaged in livestock immunology research. This funding would strengthen their research effort to more fully unravel the complexity of the animal's immune system and protect the health of U.S. livestock. This research is vital to advancing our understanding of livestock immunology, and for protecting and improving animal health. We support full funding for these studies.

Emerging Diseases of Livestock, $195,000: This research is vital to further understanding genetics and genomics methods to improve disease resistance in livestock. We recommend full funding.

Emerging Diseases in Crops, $500,000: We confirm and support the proposal to develop diagnostics for rapid, practical, and specific identification of pathogens. This is an under funded research area, and we recommend full support.

Soybean and Wheat Stem Rust, $300, 000: This goal here is to identify and incorporate diverse sources of genetic resistance into new grain and soybean varieties and germplasm. We fully support this research.

Plant Introduction Stations and the National Plant Germplasm System, $500,000: These funds are necessary for making germplasm and associated information more readily available to research programs and user stakeholders. These funds are needed to support the activities of the Germplasm Resources Information Network, or GRIN, which provides germplasm information about plants, animals, microbes and invertebrates. We recommend full funding.

Specialty Crops Genetic Resources, $250,000: These funds will provide floral and nursery plant research to support the research mission of the U.S. National Arboretum. Full funding is recommended.

Part II. Now we turn to the urgent need to continue support for specific research areas that the Congress has mandated at BARC in previous fiscal years. These mandates address research that has enormous national impact. We list them here with brief descriptions and our recommendations for continued funding.

Dairy genetics: For over 75 years, the Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory has created statistical genetic predictions to aid the dairy industry in identifying the best bulls for dairy breeding. Genetic improvement in dairy cattle has steadily increased milk yield per cow and feed efficiency (milk produced per pound of feed) over many years. The result is lower milk prices for consumers and less animal waste to contaminate the environment because fewer cows are needed to produce the nation’s milk supply. We confirm that this mission critical research should continue.

Barley health food benefits: Barley contains soluble fiber compounds, called beta-glucans, that are beneficial for health. Beta-glucans can lower cholesterol and improve control of insulin and blood sugar. These funds support human-volunteer studies designed to help us better understand how barley could be used in a healthful diet to reduce the incidence of chronic disease. We recommend continued support.

Biomineral soil amendments for control of nematodes: Plant nematodes are microscopic worms that feed on the roots of plants. Nematodes can cause substantial losses in crop yields. This research focuses on using such industrial byproducts as environmentally benign soil additives for controlling nematodes. We recommend funding for these promising approaches.

Foundry Sand byproducts utilization: Waste sands from the metal-casting industry currently are dumped in landfills. This project is working with industry on guidelines for beneficial uses of these sands. We recommend continuation.

Poultry disease (avian coccidiosis): Coccidiosis, a parasitic poultry disease, costs the industry $2-3 billion per year. This research focuses on understanding the genetics of both the parasite and the host chicken to identify targets that will allow better disease control. We recommend this funding.

Biomedical materials in plants: Plants can be used as factories to manufacture vaccines and other pharmaceuticals for both animals and humans. This research focuses on development of tobacco as a crop with this beneficial use. This research should continue.

National Germplasm Resources Program: Sources of germplasm for all agricultural crops are maintained either as seed or live plant material at several locations across the country. Much of this germplasm is the result of plant exploration around the world. This group maintains the computer database that indexes all crop germplasm in our repositories with critical information as to where it was obtained, the specific scientific identification, and information on useful traits for plant breeding. We strongly support continued funding for this mission-critical program.

Bovine genetics: This research focuses on bovine functional genomics, especially for dairy cattle. Scientists are identifying specific genes for quality traits such as easier calving, higher milk production, and resistance to mastitis. We recommend this funding.

Minor-use pesticides (IR-4): “Minor-use” pesticides are those that are used on crops such as fruits and vegetables that are not one of the “big four” crops like corn, wheat, and soybeans, and cotton. Because markets are much smaller than for major crops, chemical manufacturers have little incentive to obtain all the safety data needed to obtain EPA registration for pesticides used on minor crops. Nevertheless, producers of minor crops find certain agrochemicals to be essential. This project produces the data needed for EPA registration of minor-use pesticides. We recommend continued funding.

National Nutrition Monitoring System: Scientists at BARC have the unique responsibility of carrying out the national surveys of food consumption by individuals. This is now done in collaboration with HHS’s health surveys. BARC scientists also maintain the National Nutrient Database, which includes information on 126 nutrients in thousands of foods. This work supports the school lunch program, WIC, Food Stamps, senior nutrition programs, food labeling, dietetic practices, and even the EPA. We urge continuation of this funding.

Coffee and Cocoa: Producers of chocolate candy are the single largest users of fluid milk, sugar, peanuts, and almonds in the United States. U.S. specialty coffee shop chains also are one of the major markets for fluid milk. Events that limit the availability of cocoa or coffee can have significant impacts on major U.S. commodity markets. Candy producers need a stable supply of cocoa, but smallholders in developing countries produce most cocoa. Several devastating diseases and insects threaten cocoa. This research is aimed at developing environmentally friendly ways to control pests and diseases. Some insects that threaten coffee are very similar to those that attack cacao, thus work on the two crops benefits from being together. We recommend continuation of this funding.

Johne’s disease: Johne’s disease is a contagious bacterial disease of the intestinal tract of ruminants. It occurs most often in dairy cattle, causing weight loss and diarrhea. Nearly one-fourth of dairy herds are infected. Producers lose $54 million annually from reduced milk production. The disease is spread in manure. This research focuses on disease control. We recommend continuation of this funding

Food safety—listeria, E.coli, and salmonella: Food-borne illness annually costs $3 billion in health-care costs, and annually costs the economy up to $40 billion in lost productivity. This research focuses on diagnostics for food-borne pathogens, and on ways to control pathogens in fruits and vegetables. We recommend continuation of this funding

Weed management research: All farmers must contend with weeds. For organic farmers, weeds are the single biggest challenge to crop production. This research, in collaboration with the Rodale Institute and Pennsylvania State University, focuses on developing systems for controlling weeds in organic production systems. Organic crop production was valued at $400 million per year in the 2002 Census of Agriculture. These research funds will improve non-chemical weed control.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Now for something completely different

I used to host a radio program in Washington, D. C. We featured conversations on native bees and responsible conservation and sustainable landscaping. Unfortunately, we spent so much time thinking about how fun the show was to do, that we forgot to line up sponsors, and in the end had to drop the show because of the expense of talking about our environment and interviewing guests with different points of view, instead of making money.

I have been thinking about resurrecting the show in some format and along comes NPR's contest. If I could figure out how to upload, I would share with you my first attempt. Meanwhile, over on the left in green, is what I hope is a connection for you to explore whether you are quite ready for prime time.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wicked Inconvenience: Invasive offences or Bamboo Fences

I just finished cherries and do not have the time today for an expose on bamboo. However, this little gem which I picked up from a Mid Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council thread quite nicely highlights the wicked problem nature of invasive species, plus the law of unintended consequences. A few months ago, I wrote about Miscanthus; there were a flurry of articles about the use of this species to generate bio-fuels. I seem to recall that one writer noted that we could generate half the state of Illinois’ electric power need if we planted ten percent of the states land acreage in Miscanthus. The story in April 9th Time Magazine is of the same ilk.

Somewhere buried in today's bamboo story, as a solution for your carbon habits, is some science, but as with all wicked problems, what we have here, are co-equal and co-evolving, wicked problems, unitary solutions for which will, have unexpected, unplanned, and unintended causal complications. I wish I had the time to to a cursory bamboo review; perhaps next time, until then, the story, and your thoughts?

26. Plant a bamboo fence
By Maryanne Murray Buechner
Article ToolsPrintEmail Bamboo makes a beautiful fence, and because it grows so quickly (as much as 1 ft. a day or more, depending on the species), it absorbs more CO2 than, say, a rosebush. Most homeowners have to restrict its growth, lest it get out of control. Do this, however, and you reduce bamboo's capacity as a carbon sink. Only large-scale plantings, which absorb CO2 faster than they release it, can favorably tip the scales. How big is your yard?

Invasive Cherries; "to be or not to be" that is the wicked inconvenience

Washington, the city in the District of Columbia, is awash in the colors of the cherry blossoms. There are so many visitors that the foot traffic maybe killing some of very trees people come to see. Into the mix comes the latest indictment and revelation: Japanese cherry trees are not native. The last time we were thus engaged was the controversy generated by the threat of a native species, Castor Canadensis, to Prunus yedoensis. Trying to explain why the “native” had to go was a indicator of the larger issues surrounding invasiveness and invasive species. For many natives of the city, the trees are an intrinsic part of their home, and therefore, native belonging.

For some people, any species, which is not native, is by definition invasive. For others, any species which reproduces freely and wanders, so to speak, without control, over-running backyards or forests, such as, Odocoileus virginianus, the white tailed deer, is invasive. This gives rise to the by now familiar misdirected, non-productive assaults on each groups perspective. Each stakeholder has defined the solution differently and thus the definition of the problem is completely unintelligible to each. We have, therefore, the wicked inconvenience of invasive species.

A search on line of invasive Prunus spp. gives, ironically, several native Prunus – americana, serotina, and virginiana, along with the famous tidal basin flowering cherry, Prunus yedoensis. Inherent contradictions abound in the definition of invasive making it difficult to identify those species that may be causing environmental or economic harm, as differentiated from native-only versus exotic anything-goes battle. The latter two of this list are the weeds, yet another term of art – weeds – ,black cherry and chokecherry.

I was able to find Prunus x incamp ‘Okame’, which is a cross between two species outlined below, the following note: “Invasive potential: little, if any, potential at this time”. Emboldened I plunged on finding the same "little potential note" for Prunus sargentii, serrulata, and the Washington favorite, yedoensis. As with politics, all things invasive, are local and though my search shows Prunus subhirtella, the autumn cherry with little potential for invasive habits, local reports from the Potomac gorge seem to suggest a possible problem species.

The tendency to unintentially confuse the initial discussion by using common names such as flowering cherry does nothing to further the discussion. If the solution is to protect natural areas and to encourage self sustaining eco-systems, then some standard of harm needs be applied. If the solution is to recreate to the best of our abilities and resources what we think things looked like a number of years ago, then the over-arching native only definition comes into play.

What are we trying to accomplish? This is the discussion that should be taking place. Are we trying to reintroduce the habitat of the beaver long the Tidal basin? What is the cost of attempting to mitigate the environment to a setting which we think might reflect an age gone by? Who among us believes that they control the group societal definition of beauty? Will this group attempt to legislate their ideals of beauty? Are we proposing to replace the well manicured, ordered, predictable, controlled landscapes of our modern received cultural imperatives with the perceived chaos and disorder against which we as a society have for so long contend?

Because we do not directly debate these, and more, questions, we find no opportunity for consensus, but close our ears to the multitude of stakeholder positions. The flowering cherry is a major economic force in Washington, D.C. Whether it can survive the mounting foot traffic, and perhaps the change in climate is yet to be seen. Watching it from the interface with our natural areas is a normal gardening function. Assessing the damage potential is a continuous part of land management. Establishing thresholds and indicators of invasive tendencies on a system destructive scale is encouraged, but reading on an internet list, and assuming the worse, solves nothing, as does, my search, for it lacks ground truthing. The internet is a great tool, but it is not science.

If we begin to focus in on the cherry tree as invasive, it helps to know of what we are speaking; in other words which cherry tree. When we issue blanket statements which claim a problem, we should at least know of what we speak. Below a list of new world cherries and relatives, copied from “FRUITS FROM AMERICA”. The list of ornamentals from outside of the United States is extensive, and thus cited directly from “Sakura: The Flowering Cherries of Japan” :

Prunus campanulata Maxim. 'Hikanzakura' - this is a small tree with dark black-brown bark and scarlet flowers. The flowers are relatively large and open with numerous, delicate stamens. The peduncles are pendulous, and before fully opening the flowers hang down and appear like bells. picture courtesy: ©

Prunus donarium Sieb. 'Kanzan' - this tree is actually a hybrid of Prunus donarium Sieb., P. Lannesiana Sieb., and P. serrulata Lindl. and is therefore sterile with the pistils to two, small, green, leaf-like bodies. It is sometimes classified as a cultivar of these species instead. It is the most common cherry in suburban landscapes with strong upright branches which spread out. It is an erect tree with large rose flowers with numerous petals numbering up to 50. picture courtesy:© 2003; University of Oregon, Eugene OR 97403; (541) 346-1000
Prunus incisa Thunb. picture (left)courtesy of: Botany Photo of the Day is a project of the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research, located in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada.
'Fujizakura' (or flowering cherry of Mt. Fuji) This is a delicate tree of medium size with slender branches and very pale pink flowers. The flowers are of medium size with small stamens.

Prunus jamasakura Sieb. picture (below right) courtesy of:
Giogi-gijozakura' A small tree with ascending branches, grayish bark with rather small, pale tawny to green leaves which are glabrous, obovate or eliptic, glaucescent beneath with long awned teeth and small glands. The flowers are pink with a corolla of 14 petals. The flowers bloom in the middle part of April and are planted at the Gioji Temple, Saga near Kyoto.
'Hiyoshizakura' An erect tree with brown-gray bark and reddish leaves which are tawny when young. The flowers are pink and double with a corolla of 28 petals. The flowers are of medium size with a diameter of 3.5 cm. They typically flower in early to mid April. This cultivar is the one planted in the grounds of the Hiyoshi Shrine in Sakamoto, near Otsu, Shiga Prefecture.
'Kotohira' An erect tree with gray-brown bark and green leaves. The flowers are pale pink passing to white with a corolla of 20-25 petals. The cultivar blooms in the middle part of April and is the one planted in the Kotohira Shrine in Kagawa Prefecture.
'Osawazakura' An erect tree with brownish bark and tawny, glabrous leaves which are brownish when unfolding. The flowers are pink with a corolla of 15-18 petals. The cultivar blooms in the latter part of April and was developed by Sano Nursery Garden which is a major center for the production of flowering cherries in Japan.
'Ouchiyama' - An erect tree with gray-brown bark and tawny to green in maturity, glabrous leaves, which are rather thin in texture, and somewhat glaucescent beneath. The flowers are very nearly white, pink when in bud, and have a corolla of 15-20 petals. It flowers in the latter part of April and is the cherry of the Ninnaji Temple near Kyoto.
'Sanozakura' This cultivar is a slightly smaller, erect tree with tawny leaves. The leaves are glabrous, rather small, minutely serrate and glaucescent beneath. The flowers are pale pink and double with 12-15 petals. This cultivar can also be found in the wild around the Sano area.
'Yamazakura' This cultivar is an erect tree with reddish green leaves. The flowers are variable in size with a diameter of 2.5 - 4.0 cm. The flowers have only 5 petals and are a light pink color. The corymbs are 2 flowered. The flowers usually bloom in the first or middle part of April. This is one of the more popular cultivars in Japan and is extensively cultivated in many cities.

Prunus lannesiana Sieb. picture courtesy of
An extremely common species and this list represents only a small proportion of important cultivars
'Eigenji' - an erect tree with grayish bark and tawny green leaves which are glabrous, oblong, and slightly glaucous beneath. The flowers are large with a diameter of 5.0 cm and a corolla of 7-11 petals which are a pink-tinged white. The peduncles are unusually elongated and glabrous. These cherries flower in the middle part of April and are planted at the Eigenji Temple in the Shiga Prefecture.
'Fudanzakura' - an erect tree with black brown bark and tawny leaves. The flowers are small to medium sized with a corolla of 5 petals which are pale pink and rather darker in bud. This cultivar is interesting because of the long length and unusual time of flowering. 'Fudanzakura' begins flowering in the latter part of October and continues flowering through the latter part of April of the next year.
'Gyoiko' - an erect tree with brownish bark and tawny leaves. This is one of the more unusual of the Sakura because of its flowers. The flowers are of medium size with 13 petals which reflex when in full flower. It is the color of these petals which is so unusual; the flowers are pale green and partially pale yellow, striated with green lines, and longitudinally striped with red when in full flower. These cherries are a hybrid of P. donarium and are infertile with the pistil reduced to a petaloid structure. These cherries bloom in the latter part of April.
'Kikuzakura' another very unusual cultivar sometimes known as 'Chrysanthemoides' in this country due to the chrysanthemum-like appearance of the flowers. This is an erect tree with dark-brown bark and true green leaves. The flowers are of medium size and with a corolla of 125 pink petals with the inner 80 much smaller and darker in color. The peduncles are elongate, nodding and glabrous. These cherries bloom in the latter part of April.
'Oshimazakura' - an erect rather delicate tree with grayish bark and tawny-green, minutely serrate leaves. The flowers are smaller for this species with a diameter of only 3.7 cm. The corolla consists of only 5 petals which are white with a subtle suffusion of pink. The flowers are more delicate in appearance than most and do not last as long. The peduncles are green and glabrous. The flowers have a distinct, extremely pronounced fragrance which is their most important feature. These cherries bloom in the latter part of April.
'Taoyame' - an erect tree with gray-brown bark and with red tawny, glabrous leaves which are slightly glaucous beneath. The flowers are large and pink in hue with a corolla consisting of 20-25 petals which are rounded, slightly rugose, and convex on the outside. These cherries bloom in the mid to latter part of April and are planted at the Hirano Shrine in Kyoto.

Prunus nipponica Matsum. picture courtesy of: Copyright © 1995-2007 UC Regents. All rights reserved.
'Chishima-zakura' a shrubby plant with grayish bark and reddish leaves. The corolla consists of 5 petals which are pink and rounded. The peduncles are short green and pilose. This cultivar flowers in the middle part of April.

Prunus pendula Maxim. picture couresy of: © Missouri Botanical Garden, 2001-2007
(Note-see P. subhirtella 'Pleno-rosea' on questions of classification) 'Edohigan' - an erect tree with grayish bark and tawny green leaves. The flowers are of medium size with a ameter of about 2.8 cm and a corolla of 5 pink petals. The branches are thinner than most and are covered by the blossoms when in bloom in the latter part of March.
'Shidarezakura' a tree with pendulous branches and grayish bark. The leaves are tawny green and serrate. The flowers are small with a diameter of only 2.0 cm and a corolla of 5 pink petals. This tree is very delicate in appearance with its down sweeping branches and simple, pale pink flowers. It blooms in the latter part of March to the first part of April.
'Yae-benishidare' (Pleno-Rosea)- a medium sized tree with pendulous branches and grayish bark. The leaves are tawny-green at first and develop after the flowers. The flowers are medium sized with a diameter of 3.0 cm. With a corolla of 20 deep pink flowers hanging from pendulous, slender, red peduncles. This tree blooms in the first to middle part of April.
'Yaehigan' - an erect tree of medium size with grayish bark. The leaves emerge tawny-green and are serrate. The flowers are of medium size with a diameter of 2.5-3.0 cm and a corolla of 8-10 pink petals. 'Yaehigan' blooms in the first part of April.

Prunus pseudo-cerasus Sieb. no picture
Mountain Cherry This is a wild species of cherry and hence there are no important cultivars. It is used however in breeding and was used in the hybrid in many species including 'Yamazakura' of Prunus Jamasakura. However there are some wild varieties including Higanzakura or equinox cherry, Takane-zakura or peak cherry, and Miyama zakura or deep mountain cherry.

Prunus Sargentii Rehder picture courtesy of: Copyright © 2007 BBG
'Ezoyamazakura' - an erect tree with brown bark and reddish bronze foliage. The flowers are single wit 5 very deep pink petals which are darker when in bud. Though a hybrid of Prunus pseudo-cerasus and P. serrulata, this tree is fertile.
Prunus serrulata Lindl. The 'Sato' Cherries
This group of cherries is the most prevalent in the United States and is the most familiar. Some sources in fact incorrectly classify all flowering cherries under this name. Many of the cultivars including most of those covered in this paper are in fact hybrids of this species, however.
'Amanogawa' ('Erecta') - This cherry which is strictly erect and columnar when young, but opens up with age, is ideal for very restricted spaces between buildings. In a garden it is better as a group than singly. The pale pink, large , frilled, semi-double, fragrant flowers open medium late among slightly bronzed leaves which in autumn turn pale yellow and pinkish red.
'Fugenzo' ('James Veitch') - a tree very similar to 'Kanzan' in appearance, but on a lower more spreading crown, with shorter stalked buds of similar flowers, but with redder buds and leaves
'Okiku' - considered by some to be the most beautiful of the flowering cherries, but still little known in the U.S. Strong upright growth is veiled in clusters of frilled, semi-double, green-eyed, pale pink flowers.
'Pink Perfection' - the only cherry not of Japanese origin, this is a cross between 'Shimidsu' and 'Kanzan' raised in 1935 and quite frequently seen in Surrey, its native country. Its flowers are in big hanging bunches and in good years they cover the tree. The flowers open a rich pink and fade to white which adds interest to this tree.
'Shimidsu' - a low crowned, flat topped tree of slow growth but with excellent flowers. Large bunches of flowers hang with a lilac tint beneath similarly colored leaves which become bright green as the flowers open. The flowers are very large, double and white, hanging on long stemmed branches.
'Shirofugen' a variation on 'Shimidsu', flowering at the same time, but lasting longer. It is a taller and more spreading tree and it displays three colors. The buds are a deep pink and beneath the red leaves they open pink for a few days until turning white for a week or more. Thenas the leaves turn green the flowers revert to a pale pink.
'Tai Haku' or Great White Cherry - This cherry was lost in Japan around 1700, but a single tree was found in 1923 planted in a Sussex garden. Collingwood Ingram, who discovered it, raised grafts and every 'Tai Haku' in the world is derived from this plant. Young plants have raised branches and long shoots covered in mid-season by large, single white flowers among red leaves. The leaves are well spaced and leathery and on some trees turning a bright red in autumn.
'Ukon' - the only flowering cherry cultivated which has , pale buff-yellow flowers. They are semi-double, long stalked and below pale brown or khaki leaves. At maturity the flowers turn a pure white with a red eye. The leaves are large and dark , like 'Tai Haku' in size and appearance but predominately oblong.

Prunus Sieboldii (Carr.) Wittm. in Gartenflora 'Naden' - and erect tree with grayish bark and semi-double pink flowers which are globose in bud and which have a corolla of 13 petals. Sometimes fragrant, these cherries bloom in the middle of April.
picture (left) courtesy:

Prunus subhirtella Miq. picture (right) courtesy of: Copyright 1996 - 2007 LC
'Jugatsuzakura' ('Autumnalis') - a small tree with dark with tawny leaves. Rather large for this species, the flowers have a diameter of 4.0 cm and a corolla of 10-15 pink or white petals. This tree is remarkable in that it flowers from October through the mid part of April if the winter is mild enough. This cultivar is also one of the few which has bright red, beautifully distinctive autumn foliage.
'Kumagai-zakura' - an erect tree of medium size with brownish bark and tawny green leaves which develop after the flowers and are rather small and glabrate which are thinly pilose and with shorter petioles. The flowers are small with a diameter of 2.0 cm and a corolla of 25 rose colored petals which are narrowed above. This cultivar flowers at the end of March.
'Pendula' ('Pleno-rosea I was unable to determine whether or not this is the same as Prunus pendula or not. They are classified in different places depending on the source. The descriptions of this tree and the species P. Pendula were contained in different sources from different periods of time. The volume in which 'Pendula' was classified as a cultivar rather than a species was newer, but less scientific, than the other.) - an erect tree with gray bark and tawny green young leaves with rather pendulous branches covered in pink flowers. This cultivar is more commonly known as the weeping cherry because of the graceful down sweeping branches which give it a similar appearance to weeping willow. It blooms in the first part of April.

Prunus tajimensis Makino no picture
'Shofukuji-shidare' - an erect tree of medium size with pendulous branches and serrate, red-brown leaves. The flowers are of medium size with a diameter of 3.0 cm and a corolla of 35 pink petals. It flowers in the first part of April and is the cultivar of the Shofukuji Temple, Yumara in Hyogo Prefecture.

'Kasumizakura' - an erect tree with grayish bark and tawny, serrate leaves. The flowers are small and have a corolla of 5 pink petals. The peduncles are about two cm in length green and sparsely pilose. These flowers bloom in the latter part of April.
'Nara-yaezakura' - an erect tree with dark-gray bark and red-tawny serrate leaves. The flowers are rather small and have a corolla of 30 - 40 petals which emerge pink but pale to white at the height of flowering. The peduncles are green and sparsely pilose. This cultivar blooms in the latter part of April through the beginning of May.
'Omuru-mikurumagaeshi' - a small glabrous, shrubby tree branching from near the base with green leaves which are rather thin in texture and paler beneath. The flowers are pink small and double with a corolla of 13 petals. It blooms in the latter part of April and is used as a stock for grafting for the cherry trees planted in the grounds of the Ninnaji Temple near Kyoto

Prunus yedoensis Matsum. picture courtesy of: Copyright 2007 iStock International Inc.
'Somei-yoshino' - an erect tree with grayish bark and green serrate leaves. The flowers are large with a diameter of 4.5 cm and have a corolla of 5 pink petals which fade to white in full bloom. It flowers in the first part of April.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Conservation or Sustainable Landscape Principles

As I read about the harvest (clear cutting) of Burmese and Russian forests to supply American, and I suppose, world demand for affordable furniture and near term quality of life accessories in today’s Washington Post, I see the wicked inconvenience to intertwined tentacles of co-evolving, related environmental challenges, My work with invasive species issues, which, alone, seem to encompass several lifetimes of work and commitment, I pause, wondering at the complexities of the woven fabric of short term consumerism that would seem to be one of the underlying factors contributing to invasive species problems.

Legislating and regulating the planting of species will not impede the changes coming to our eco-systems. The inconvenient truth or the simple cycle of global warming will alter the habitats of our familiarity destroying like a wildfire that which we seek to protect. But more importantly, our short term economic habits compel us to make personal choices short on information and long on self indulgence, We ant teak furniture now; we will worry later about the loss of forests relying on the capitalistic system to raise prices in the face of scarcity.

If we are truly serious about invasive species, then we must begin a major cultural shift to personal responsibility for our environment. A start would be to begin a discussion of an idea with several names: Conservation or Sustainable Landscaping Practices. I would like to reprint here eight principles outlined by the Chesapeake Conservation Landscape Council of Maryland. I should very much like to hear from you as to your opinions and critic of these ideas.

What is a conservation landscape? The Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council (CCLC) has undertaken the task of establishing some parameters to define conservation landscaping and guide the development of on-the-ground projects and other related initiatives. This document provides a brief summary of these “8 Essential Elements,” and more specific information is being prepared for distribution. These defining parameters are being referred to by the CCLC as “standards,” but they are currently more a set of guiding principles that can be used eventually to create standards of practice, and perhaps certification programs or other forms of recognition such as awards at varying levels of accomplishment. The aim is to encourage conservation landscaping and strive for high quality results. A great deal of thought and consideration for practicality has gone into the development of these factors. However, they are not yet finalized. CCLC will welcome discussion on the elements and their future use for positive initiatives. If you would like to review the full draft document, please contact CCLC.

The vision is to one day find conservation landscapes used routinely throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Ideally, these landscapes could be easily recognized because they would demonstrate the essential characteristics listed below. In practice, relatively few model landscapes currently could claim to meet the conditions set forth by every bullet in this list, but the closer you can bring your own landscape to the one described here, the more you will be helping all life in the Chesapeake watershed.

A conservation landscape:
1. is designed to benefit the environment and to function well for human use;
2. contains locally native plants that are appropriate for site conditions;
3. has an ongoing property management process to remove existing invasive plants and prevent future alien plant invasions;
4. provides wildlife habitat;
5. promotes good air quality and is not a source of air pollution;
6. conserves water and promotes good water quality;
7. promotes healthy soils, composts plant waste on site, and amends disturbed soils to encourage native plant communities;
8. works with nature to be more sustainable with less input.

Conservation landscaping works with nature to reduce pollution. Conservation landscaping incorporates environmentally sensitive design, low impact development, non-invasive native and beneficial plants, and integrated pest management to create diverse landscapes that help protect clean air and water, support wildlife, and provide a more beautiful, healthier human environment.

Some of the basic practices prescribed for each element:

1. Design:
Conservation landscape design occurs in the context of nature. It seeks to preserve, enhance and reduce impacts upon a site’s natural features. Design specifically to benefit the environment, while providing function for personal use and displaying the beauty of well-maintained, natural landscaping. This is done through site assessment, goal setting, and implementing strategies outlined in elements 2 through 8.
Preserve existing environmental features to the greatest possible degree.
Enhance environmental features where opportunities exist, e.g., add plants to increase diversity in an existing woodland or wetland; plant a naturalized buffer area surrounding habitat areas, create a transition zone between natural features and more formal landscaping.
Create new environmental features where none existed before. In both naturalistic and formal plantings, mirror patterns found in nature, such as layering of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, to provide structure important to wildlife and attractive to people.

2. Native plants:
Use a diversity of locally native plants that are appropriate for existing site conditions (soil, moisture, sunlight, etc.) and that provide a wide variety of environmental benefits. Properly-sited native plants, once established, require few inputs of water, fertilizer or pesticides.
Choose native plants that complement nearby natural areas by using similar species composition. Balanced communities of native plants contribute to biodiversity and express the character of our natural landscape.
Purchase plants from commercial sources, and always ask nurseries about the source of the native species sold. In general, native plants should not be taken directly from the wild, though occasional plant rescues or wild seed collection may be appropriate.
Links to locally native plant information from recognized authorities will be provided.

3. Invasive plants and site management:
Alien plants are those that occur in locations beyond their known historical natural ranges, most often brought by humans through horticulture. Invasive plants are those aliens that display rapid growth and spread, allowing them to establish over large areas, overwhelming and displacing existing vegetation and forming dense one-species stands.
Avoid planting invasive alien species, remove them where they exist, and work to manage properties to prevent their spread on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately, many commonly used landscaping plants are invasive species, so you may need to learn a new palette of native plants.
Links to accepted lists of invasives, and native alternatives, will be provided.

4. Wildlife habitat:
A conservation landscape encourages native wildlife species that may include birds, insects such as butterflies and bees, spiders, fish, frogs, salamanders, snakes, beneficial mammals, and more.
Provide a diverse plant environment which includes a variety of food sources year round, to help attract greater animal diversity and foster healthier ecological communities. Mimic natural plant groupings and incorporate features that provide as many habitat elements as possible, including water and nesting structures.
First and foremost, conserve and protect existing wildlife habitat, and restore habitat, on a large scale. Create migratory corridors of conjoined healthy ecological communities – striving for larger scale habitat areas, connected across the landscape, as opposed to isolated parcels. S mall “backyard” projects are helpful, and are made more valuable if they can eventually be linked to others.

5. Air quality:
Minimize activities that directly create air pollution. Eliminate or reduce the use of harmful products. Water pollution is increased by atmospheric deposition of nutrients (from the air into the water); help improve water quality by reducing sources of air pollution.
Landscape to improve air filtration and energy conservation. Select native tree and plant species that are efficient in removing pollutants from the air, including species with leaf sizes and shapes that will capture dust, gases, and fine particles. Plant additional native trees and shrubs near building structures for heating, cooling and wind-protection benefits.
Decrease the size of lawn areas to reduce mowing time and overall yard maintenance. Create diverse habitats in the landscape, using native plants, to reduce or eliminate the need to mow and spray. Plant and maintain your remaining lawn according to the Cooperative Extension recommendations for your area. Use low-maintenance turf mixes that grow slowly and turf types that are adapted to your climate and the growing conditions in your yard.
Reduce the use of gasoline-powered equipment such as lawn mowers, string trimmers, and leaf blowers, which contribute to air pollution. Traditional small engines are big polluters. Consider cleaner, environmentally friendly options such as new low or zero emission equipment, electric equipment, and manual tools wherever feasible. Maintain your equipment for best efficiency.

6. Water conservation and quality:
A conservation landscape preserves the natural water cycle and helps keep waterways clean in your local watershed. By using conservation landscaping techniques – which help to reduce pollutants in the landscape, reduce wastewater amounts, increase groundwater recharge and reduce water use – a homeowner can help keep waterways clean, and enjoy lower monthly water bills.
Rainwater running off of the land and percolating into the ground carries with it chemicals, soil, plant debris, and other pollutants. Reduce the amount of pollution entering local waterways by using plants that are adapted to local conditions and require less fertilizer and pesticides; using plants to stabilize soil to prevent erosion; using planted areas to help slow the flow of runoff, filter pollutants and use up excess nutrients.
Retain and re-use rainwater runoff through various stormwater management practices. Reduce impervious surfaces and encourage infiltration, e.g., prevent compaction for parking, driveways, and sidewalks by using alternative pavers which allow water to penetrate; replace a portion of lawn or pavement with landscaped areas; plant a green roof to help absorb and use rainwater. Redirect runoff to multiple collection points and trap stormwater onsite with rain barrels and rain gardens to ensure slow percolation and increased filtration of pollutants; and distribute the water judiciously into the landscape (e.g., directing downspouts and runoff from paved areas into landscaping onsite).
Significantly reduce the amount of water used to maintain a lawn or garden through practices that focus on key elements: timing, thoroughness, proper equipment, mulching, plant selection, water zoning, and reusing water onsite (e.g., from rain barrels).

7. Healthy soils:
Healthy plants begin with healthy soil, containing a complex balance of minerals, water, air and organic material (including living organisms). Soil composition varies considerably within a region and will support different plant and animal communities. Disturbances to soil can result in a breakdown of soil structure and an imbalance of plant and animal communities. These disturbances may include compaction by heavy equipment or foot traffic, changes in nutrient cycling and pH from runoff and air deposition, removal of topsoil, erosion, and plowing. Thus, a cornerstone of conservation landscaping is the proper protection and ongoing care of the soil. A suite of practices are offered to conserve soil before and during building construction (e.g., to minimize grading damage, prevent compaction, protect existing trees and their root zones, and prevent erosion); after construction or in an established yard (judicious use of amendments and other alterations, mulch, etc.); and for ongoing soil maintenance.

8. Sustainable landscapes:
· Conservation landscaping reduces human intervention and therefore can save time and resources. Traditional intensive maintenance practices tend to be environmentally damaging. Instead, develop a site management program that works with natural processes, recycles resources onsite, and achieves a self-sustaining landscape.
· Reduce your waste stream through measures such as selecting the right plant for the right place; pruning selectively to complement the natural form and strengthen the structure of plants; composting plant and grass trimmings, leaves and other organic material.
· Manage garden pests and diseases with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program.
· Control undesirable vegetation manually wherever possible, mechanically, or with organic alternatives as feasible where chemical intervention is necessary.
· Conserve energy through vegetative measures (e.g. for cooling buildings) and efficient yard equipment.

Visit the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council at