October 13, 2009
News from the Library
Hello all and welcome newcomers:
Here is the new titles link to the online catalog. There are some interesting magazine articles. The Botanical Society of South Africa’s Veld & Flora comes through again with a wonderful story about a very dramatic looking plant that was thought to be extinct. Fire brought it back.
This month, library volunteer, Pamela Wolken reviews Amy Stewart’s first book:
"The whimsically provocative title The Earth Moved (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005) opens the door to about 1.5 centuries of earthworm scholarship. Amy Stewart does a superb job of framing a huge subject into a readable, informative, encouraging tale of an ancient creature perfectly suited for the 21st century. A vermicomposter for seven years (or so, at the time of her writing), Ms. Stewart is sparked to study by the story of Charles Darwin after the voyage of the Beagle. His uncle, Josiah Wedgwood, observed that objects left on the ground, would be covered in soil. He hypothesized that he was seeing the work of earthworms. The rest, as they say, has become “common knowledge” of an uncommon creature: worms are good for the Earth.
Modern oligochaetologists (from the worm’s taxonomic class: Oligochaeta) have continued the work of this ubiquitous and elusive subject that eschews light while busily digesting all manner of soil and toxins. Not all is rosy, and there are plenty of cautions against dumping left over live fishing bait willy-nilly in the environment. There are studies in Michigan of non-native worms destroying forests in ways unimagined, yet observed by Darwin.
Meanwhile, worms go on about their business whether on their own, in captivity for fertilizer, or in the service of scouring up the messes of people from DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and biosolids (human excrement). Worms are able to ingest environmental toxins with no harm to themselves, which can not be said of the worm’s predators. Birds dead of eating toxic worms helped lead to the banning of DDT and PCBs in the 1970s. Wetlands are being restored and rebuilt with the inestimable assistance of earthworms who, to date anyway, don’t seem to mind being exploited as long as they have adequate conditions for their own prosperity.
Read this book.”
Our current exhibition on mushrooms in the Library Reading Room will be here until the end of the year. Come and visit.
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. 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.
October 04, 2009
Chorisia speciosa seedling
Named after a German artist, Ludwig Choris, the Floss silk tree, Chorisia speciosa, is called ‘Palo barracho rosada’ (‘rosy drunken stick’) in its native Argentina because of its odd-angled branches and pink flowers. In the fall it produces a spectacular show of orchid-like pink blooms and then a large crop of avocado like green pods that eventually explode in the spring to produce cotton-like masses of seed impregnated fibers. Here at the Arboretum parrots swarm to the newly exploded fruit to consume the seeds and in the process cause the fibers to scatter in the warm spring breeze like snow. This fiber is resistant to insects and rotting and has been used for pillow stuffing and, because it floats, has been used in life vests and preservers as well. Probably the most interesting use of this fiber has been to acoustically deaden recording studios and radio broadcast rooms. Besides using its fiber Argentineans and Brazilians have used the wood for canoes (it’s almost as light as balsa) and the tree is planted extensively in its native range as an ornamental.
Chorisia speciosa 'September Splendor' is usually the first to bloom here at the Arboretum.
In its native, mostly frost-free range Chorisia endures dry seasons and droughts by losing its leaves; however unlike trees in temperate regions where a thick layer of bark is needed to insulate the sensitive layer of food and water transporting tissue known as the vascular cambium from the freezing cold, Chorisia's trunk has a very thin layer of protective tissue. This thin layer allows light to pass through photosynthetic cells containing chlorophyll. This is why Chorisia's trunk appears green. Because the trunk has no bark to protect it from animals that might eat it, large spines cover it and the larger branches of the tree -this is why you'll rarely see a Chorisia planted next to an athletic field!
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