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Common and Oregon ash species profiles

17 Oct

Let’s take a break from all the issues and events for a long-absent species profile.

For reasons that you’d have to extract from me over drinks, I’d have to say that the ash is my absolute favorite tree. I feel a very personal connection to them — particularly the common ash, Fraxinus excelsior. (Incidentally, this would have been the species of Yggdrasil, the World Ash of Norse mythology.) The only native ash in the Pacific Northwest is Fraxinus latifolia, the Oregon ash, so I feel obliged to look at that, too. In fact, I’d like to take more of a class approach in this particular “species” profile.

It is pretty easy to identify a true ash, which is to say, any member of the genus Fraxinus. They are unique in having opposite branching and compound leaves, meaning all buds and twigs arise directly opposite from one another, and each leaf is composed of several leaflets.

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Current issues roundup: You’re not going crazy edition

3 Oct

It’s common enough to hear people jokingly refer to vegetarians as plant murderers. But today I present you with a study that may cast this notion in a strange new light. That’s right: plants can communicate using sound — and I’m not just talking about the Botanicals Twitter Kit.

Researchers from Britain, Italy and Australia recently found that plants not only respond to sound, but likely use clicking sounds to communicate with one another. The report, published in Trends in Plant Science, details experiments that used powerful acoustic equipment to record clicking sounds coming from the roots of corn plants. A simulated noise produced at the same frequency also caused young roots to grow in the direction of the sound.

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Current events roundup: Super old-school plants edition

16 Jul

We’re due up for a current events post, and this week’s theme is crazy ancient plants. Specifically, let’s talk about the intense gardening jealousy I feel toward the researcher who germinated a 32,000-year-old plant, and how in the world scientists discovered a 298-million-year-old forest underneath a coal mine in China.

So, the recipient of my botanical stink-eye is researcher Svetlana Yashina, who extracted the placenta (photo below) from the frozen seeds of a long leafed campion plant, Silene stenophylla, and grew them into flowers. While the flowers aren’t particularly dazzling (or envy-inspiring), it’s incredible that this plant sprang from a seed that lay frozen in the tundra of northeastern Siberia for 31,800 years.

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Better botany by (book) design

14 Jun

The first week of any new job can be a little slow, and arriving at your first federal posting is certainly no exception. There’s a stack of field guides on a nearby desk, so I’ve decided to flip through and do some comparing while I wait for my colleague to finish getting set up on all our various computer profiles. So, especially if you’re looking to pick up a Pacific Northwest field guide, here’s my summation.

The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees, Western Region, Elbert L. Little, ed.

Grade: C

The book provides a very cursory discussion of botany basics (plant parts, leaf shapes, etc.), some of which is illustrated, and details on major habitats and proper usage of the book itself.

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Upcoming changes & projects

8 Jun

Faithful readers! I have begun my new job on the Lower Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California. All is well in the world of silviculture, save for one thing: I do not have phone service or reliable Internet. So, I’m moving to a two-week schedule since that will be easier to swing in between evething else.

Look for upcoming posts on sudden oak death, tree physiology and maybe even the chemistry of paper milling, as well as a book review comparing various floras for the Northwest. Hooray! You know you are going to love it!

Pacific dogwood species profile

29 Mar

People often ask me what my favorite tree is. It’s tough to say, but if I had to name a favorite genus, it would be Cornus — the dogwoods. I am not alone in loving these trees; they are grown far and wide as ornamentals. They are cosmopolitan, meaning they are found all over the world in similar climate bands. Oregon has two native species, one shrub and one tree. This profile will focus on the tree, which is Cornus nuttallii, or Pacific dogwood.

This species is small, generally staying under 25 meters in height. It is also a bit of a fragile beauty, as it is very susceptible to dogwood anthracnose; this disease is caused by the fungus Discula destructiva. It has killed many older trees in the wild and makes this particular species less favorable as an ornamental tree.

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From a plant’s perspective

23 Mar

I haven’t made a current issues post in a while, and something from 2007 may not qualify as ‘current.’ But the idea that “looking at the world from other species’ points of view [can be] a cure for the disease of human self-importance,” seems as relevant as ever.

This is a TED talk about looking at the world from a plant’s perspective, which close friends know is a subject that is dear to me. The speaker, Michael Pollan, is the author of books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire (which I hope to review at some point). I first saw this link posted by a friend/coworker of my husband‘s. The two of them cook for a fabulous Japanese restaurant here in Portland, so I’d imagine they approach this talk from a foodie angle, while I approach it from — spoiler alert! — a botanical perspective. I want to make some comments after the video:

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