September 29, 2009
Myrmecodia platytyreaThe genus name Myrmecodia is derived from the Greek myrmekodes, meaning ant-like or full of ants. Myrmecodia is native to Northwest coast of Borneo, East Malaysia, New Guinea, and North Australia, Myrmecodia platytyria grows in tree branches and on trunks. It develops a grotesque, somewhat spiny tuber at its base that helps it form a symbiotic relationship with ants. The tissue inside this specialized organ dies off in such a way as to form chambers and small airways for ventilation, providing an ideal habit to house ant colonies. But this is not a free ride for the ants; either by dying or defecating they bring nutrients to the plant, helping it to grow.
(top) Myrmecodia platytyria on display in the Tropical Greenhouse. (bottom) Cutaway view of a Myrmecodia tuber showing chambers
drawing courtesy of
It is thought that the established ant colony also helps to protect the plant from insects, but there are conflicting studies. One study looking at another type of ant plant in the Amazon found that after removing ants, the plant was 4.3 times more likely to have herbivorous (plant eating) insects on them compared to plants with ants; however a University of Connecticut study found that ant-plants are more susceptible to a number of common pests such as scale and mealy bugs because of the ants behavior of ‘farming’ these pests on the plants that host them. The Arboretum has a Myrmecodia platytyria on display in the Tropical Greenhouse.
September 18, 2009
Thank You Rosalind Creasy
by Susan C. Eubank, Arboretum Librarian
I’ve been enjoying a trip through the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder with my nine year old daughter. I read aloud to her every night before she goes to bed. Not that I’ve read the series in its entirety. My daughter leaps ahead by reading on her own, so I only get pieces of each story. She fills me in on the really big events that happen in the sections that she reads. What strikes me in volume after volume is Ms. Wilder’s ability to give such vibrancy and meaning to what my mother’s memory care facility (read ‘nursing home’) caregivers dryly refer to as the “activities of daily living.” There are glorious tales of cooking, eating, and gardening. Yes, gardening, too!
When Rosalind Creasy became one of the honorary chairpersons of the 2009 LA Garden Show, I was asked to ask her to write for the premier issue of our new magazine. I knew it would be tough to convince her to put another thing into her incredibly tight schedule of designing gardens and putting the final touches on her latest book. Indeed, when I made the telephone call she, told me she got a “touch of the vapors” just thinking about adding one more thing to her to-do list.
That’s my first “thank you” to Rosalind. I was moved by her response to switch into library researcher mode and felt I should work my way through her bibliography to get a better sense of who she is, even though I already knew her legendary status in our field. We are privileged here in the West to have online access to the Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture at San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum. Barbara Pitschel, head librarian, has been steadily accruing bibliographic citations to the magazine literature on subjects of interest to West Coast gardeners and plants-people for more than 25 years. This means that Rosalind Creasy’s bibliography is just fingertips away on the internet, because Rosalind’s home base is the Bay Area, and Barbara knew from the beginning that she should follow the trail of this writer. Here is a link to the Helen Crocker Russell Library online catalog. To search for articles include the word “citation” in your search. Here is Rosalind Creasy's search. Since the late 1970s to 2004, our former librarian, Joan DeFato, has carefully accrued and preserved the Arboretum Library collection, and her predecessors did the same. Consequently, all I had to do was take the citations from Barbara and gather the materials from our Library and then do my final piece of internet research to make sure I had Rosalind’s most current information. That afternoon I browsed and re-read much of her entire written oeuvre. I thank Rosalind for all that hard work. Her articles, books, garden designs and consultations with chefs have through the years carefully encouraged all of us to garden and eat the products of our gardens. Her work is a step-by-step guide on how to do that; how to bring that meaning back into our lives and how to take joy from the “activities of daily living”.
I was also struck by the fact that her early writing from the 1980s is just as relevant in 2009 as her current writing is. That was made clear in her current garden blog at Organictobe.org because some of the same sections that I was enjoying from her original Complete Book of Edible Landscaping (Sierra Books, 1982) are reprinted in their entirety there. That book, even in 1982, had a sense of the “effort level” each particular plant requires. She knew that gardeners need to know that gardening at your own home affects the planet as a whole; that it’s your contribution to your local ecology as well as the global ecology. She knew gardeners can enjoy sophisticated and easy recipes using the by-products of those gardens. She knew that as a result, gardeners can eat better-than-average. She also knew that gardening is economical. And, yes, I was salivating at the end, from reading her recipes from her latest book, Recipes from the Garden (Tuttle Publishing, 2008). I thank Rosalind Creasy for not being afraid of detail in her writing. These days we are all confronted with the shortened “blurb”, be it a “sound bite”, a “factoid”; everything long is considered too long for our “shortened attention span.” Thank you, Rosalind Creasy for articles such as your in-depth exploration of chives in the February/March 1997 issue of Herb Companion. I also want to thank her for being one of the women who make a difference in our lives. She is a role model for my daughter. One day when I was volunteering at my daughter’s library at her elementary school, I was disturbed at a book display about the U.S. presidents, one book on each president. I had asked the library manager there to consider revising the display to show some women politicians as well. But I didn’t need to do that. I can, instead, tell my daughter about Barbara Pitschel, Joan DeFato, Rosalind Creasy and Laura Ingalls Wilder, all of whom have spent their lives making our lives better through their work. Thank you, Rosalind Creasy, for your contribution to our lives, and thank you for helping me reach this epiphany.
Check out our entire Rosalind Creasy collection as well as other new books, articles and websites in the September new titles list of the online catalog.
Our current exhibition in the Library Reading Room is all about mushrooms. Come and visit, especially during our expanded weekend hours.The Arboretum Library hours are:Tuesday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.Sundays, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Remember we are circulating to Arboretum members. The circulation period for books is 3 weeks with 2 renewals if no one else wants the item. You can renew by e-mail, phone or in person, but not on the online catalog. The circulation period for current magazines is 3 days with 2 renewals if no one else wants the item.Our Botanical Information Consultants (for plant advice) are currently available seven days a week. David.Lofgren@Arboretum.org or Frank.McDonough@Arboretum.org or 626-821-3239.Happy reading!
September 14, 2009
In August, work was completed on the restoration of the Coach Barn Ramps and finials. Badly deteriorated with two finials missing from each side, the ramps were in a sad state and detracted from the charm of the structure. A very high style barn, the Arboretum's Coach Barn housed the horses that pulled Elias J. Baldwin's carriages and those of visiting guests. The barn is lined with strips of clear Port Orford Cedar and Redwood, fitted with decorative cast iron stalls for the horses and still houses Baldwin's Tally Ho carriage.
September 2, 2009
Spider lilies (Lycoris sp.)
Specimens of the genus Lycoris, commonly called 'Spider lilies' bloom amidst the mass plantings of Amaryllis belladonna that surrounds them just across from the Southwest corner of the African section. Crimson Lycoris radiata contrasts with white flowered Lycoris albiflora.
African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata)
Several specimens of the African tulip tree, Spathodea campanulata, are located at the top of Tallac Knoll. Spathodea has bright orange and yellow flowers that, in its much wetter West African native range, are an emergency source of fresh water for people and animals. Spathodea wood has been used for musical insturnments, and its flowers have been used in religious rituals. In tropical areas where it has been accidently introduced Spathodea is extreamly invasive, and is considered to be one of the top 100 invasive plants on earth; no need to worry about it becoming a pest here -Southern California is much to dry to support wild populations of Spathodea.
September 1, 2009
The Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden will host its Annual Members' Meeting on Saturday, September 26 from 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM in the heart of the historic section. This year's meeting will feature a special keynote address by new CEO Richard Schulhof, “A Look to the Future.”
The meeting begins with a continental breakfast, followed by a review of The Arboretum's accomplishments during the last fiscal year. Stay after the meeting for docent lead tours of the historic buildings.
For more information and to reserve your tickets click here.