Friday, September 23, 2011

Fields of Purple

Autum in Texas

New species of genuflecting plant buries its own seeds

A newly discovered plant species, appropriately named Spigelia genuflexa (Image: Alex Popovkin) Spigelia genuflexa bends over to release its seeds to the ground
A new plant that "bends down" to deposit its seeds has been discovered in the Atlantic forest in the state of Bahia, northeastern Brazil.
The new species has been named Spigelia genuflexa after its unusual adaptation.
After fruits are formed, the fruiting branches bend down, depositing the capsules of seeds on the ground and sometimes burying them in the soft cover of moss
The discovery is reported in the journal PhytoKeys.
S. genuflexa was described by Alex Popovkin, an amateur botanist who has catalogued and photographed over 800 species in his property in Bahia.
A friend of Mr Popovkin's noticed the unusual plant, and brought it to his attention.
In his efforts to identify it, Popovkin contacted experts in several countries. Finally, a botanist named Lena Struwe from Rutgers University in New Jersey, US, offered to help Popovkin study the new species.
'Short-lived' Dr Struwe told the BBC that the the plant could have evolved its remarkable seed-planting ability for several reasons.

New species are discovered every day, but so many more are not yet known.”
End Quote Lena Struwe Rutgers University
"In this species, it is most likely that because it is so short-lived (just a few months) and lives in small fragments of suitable environments, the mother plant is most successful if she deposits her seeds right next to herself, [rather than] spreading them around far into less suitable environments," Dr Struwe told the BBC.
"Since the plant only survives for one season, the mother plant will not compete with her daughter plants either, which can be a problem for more long-lived plants."
Dr Struwe explained that other plants have evolved this same ability in order to survive on cliff walls - to deposit their seeds safely into cracks - or to avoid seed predators.
Mr Popovkin, a Russian emigre who lived in the US before moving to Brazil, said the discovery was a dream come true.
"I went to Salvador, Bahia, for the first time on a vacation," he recalled.
"At that time, in 1985, I was living in New York, [but] I fell in love with the place, climate and nature, and started thinking of one day moving there to live."
He finally made the move in 1991, settling in a rural area of northeastern Bahia, 130 km from Salvador.
"I started serious collecting and photographing at about five years ago," he said.
"I have collected over 900 [specimens] so far, of about 800 different species, including some rare ones that have not been collected in Brazil for over 60 years.
"It's taken me 30 years, from my days as a volunteer at the greenhouses of the botanic garden of the University of St Petersburg, Russia, to realise my dream of living in the tropics and studying its plants up close."
Endangered forest Dr Struwe said: "This story shows that scientists need amateurs, naturalists, and citizen scientists to help discover and describe the amazing biodiversity that has evolved on Earth.
"New species are discovered every day, but so many more are not yet known."
The discovery also highlights the urgent need to protect the Atlantic Forest, which is under threat from deforestation.
"The Atlantic Forest has among the highest biodiversity in the world, with many species that are found only there," said Dr Struwe
"It is also one of the most endangered areas."
"Large areas have already been cut down and changed into agricultural land by humans, so the small remnants that are left need to be protected and preserved."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Exclusive Gardens of Kyoto

A Southern Plantation

The first plantations were usually built along a river. The river was used as a highway to transport crops to market, and goods to the plantation. Plantations on a river had their own dock for loading and unloading boats. Plantations that were not on a river were connected by roads to another plantation.

The main building of the plantation was the planter's house. Servants and
slaves lived near by in small buildings. Kitchens were usually in a separate building because of the danger of fire. Crops were stored in sheds, and the livestock were kept in barns. Plantations were self-sufficient. Each plantation had its own blacksmith's shop, and laundry.

Money was rarely used in the Southern Colonies. Instead, crops were traded. Crop buyers traveled up and down southern waterways with their boats filled with British made goods. Planters would trade their tobacco, rice and indigo for shoes, lace, thread, farm tools and dishes.

Very large plantations did not sell their own crops. Planters of very large
plantations sold their crops through a broker in Britain. A broker is a person who is paid to buy and sell for someone else. Planters sent their crops to Britain with a list of things they wanted the broker to buy for them. The broker sold the crops, bought what the planter wanted, and then sent the goods back to the colonies.


A Living Wall

A green wall is a wall, either free-standing or part of a building, that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and, in some cases, soil or an inorganic growing medium. The creator of a large green walls concept (vertical gardens) is the French botanist Patrick Blanc. The vegetation for a green façade is always attached on outside walls; with living walls this is also usually the case, although some living walls can also be green walls for interior use. For living walls there are many methods including attaching to the air return of the building to help with air filtration. They are also referred to as living walls, biowalls, vertical gardens or more scientifically VCWV Vertical Vegetated Complex Walls).

Green walls are found most often in urban environments where the plants reduce overall temperatures of the building. "The primary cause of heat build-up in cities is insolation, the absorption of solar radiation by roads and buildings in the city and the storage of this heat in the building material and its subsequent re-radiation. Plant surfaces however, as a result of transpiration, do not rise more than 4–5 °C above the ambient and are sometimes cooler."

Living walls may also be a means for water reuse. The plants may purify slightly polluted water (such as greywater) by absorbing the dissolved nutrients. Bacteria mineralize the organic components to make them available to the plants.

Living walls are particularly suitable for cities, as they allow good use of available vertical surface areas. They are also suitable in arid areas, as the circulating water on a vertical wall is less likely to evaporate than in horizontal gardens.

The living wall could also function for urban agriculture, urban gardening, or for its beauty as art. It is sometimes built indoors to help alleviate sick building syndrome.