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What This Scientist Discovered in an Insect and Why It Matters

A fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, feeding on a banana. (Photo by Sanjay Acharya, courtesy of Wikipedia)

What this scientist discovered in an insect and why it matters... Naoki Yamanaka, an assistant professor at UC Riverside (UCR), is known for his...

A fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, feeding on a banana. (Photo by Sanjay Acharya, courtesy of Wikipedia)
A fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, feeding on a banana. (Photo by Sanjay Acharya, courtesy of Wikipedia)

A fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, feeding on a banana. (Photo by Sanjay Acharya, courtesy of Wikipedia)

Posted on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 4:36 PM

Blue Waves Echeveria

As I've noted before in this blog, I haven't been entirely convinced about the appeal of succulents.  Maybe, however, it was a matter of finding the right one!

I absolutely adore the charming ‘Blue Waves' echeveria.  This summer I picked one up from the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek as a birthday “bouquet” for myself.  (I often justify my impulse purchases that way to myself, “it's cheaper than a bouquet and it might last longer . . . .”)

‘Blue Waves' is a small succulent with frilly-edged leaves that are blue-green at the center of the rosette and pink on the edges.  The frilly blue leaves first caught my attention and prompted my impulse buy.  I had no idea at the time, however, that the flowers would be so beautiful and last so long.   Plant descriptions on the internet dryly describe the flowers as “pink.”  The flowers are so much more than that!  They look like vibrant pink tulips with a bright orange interior.  When the plant first bloomed, the flower stalks curved in a manner that formed an enchanting, loose heart shape (see photo).  Ultimately, the flower stalks have reached approximately 21” and have bloomed for several months. 

Echeveria species and hybrids display a variety of leaf shapes and colors in a rosette form.  These tender succulents, which are in the Crassulaceae family, are drought tolerant but not frost hardy.  All echeveria are evergreen with flowers appearing in the spring, summer, and fall.  Plant them in a location that receives at least 3-4 hours of direct sunlight.  They do well in part shade to full sun in coastal areas but should be protected from the full midday sun in the hotter inland areas.  Plant them in at least 6” (or up to 12” if you can) of light, fast-draining soil.

‘Blue Waves' has a mature spread of about 12-18″ tall by 9-12″ wide.  It requires low to medium water. It is suitable for containers and, so far, mine is doing well in its outdoor pot. It sits on my front steps and so far, I've not been able to walk past it without taking a moment to admire it.  I've been delighted with my long-lasting birthday bouquet!

 

 

photos by Erin Mahaney
photos by Erin Mahaney

echiv plant
echiv plant

leaf closeup
leaf closeup

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW thumb 27377
UNADJUSTEDNONRAW thumb 27377

Posted on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 10:55 AM

Pollinators on the Beach? Fancy Meeting You Here

A syrphid or hover fly, Eristalis tenax, nectaring on a sea rocket plant, Cakile maritima, on Oct. 18 at Doran Regional Park Beach, Sonoma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

So you're walking along Doran Regional Park Beach in Sonoma County on Tuesday, Oct. 16 and thinking about the pollinators in your back yard....

A syrphid or hover fly, Eristalis tenax, nectaring on a sea rocket plant, Cakile maritima, on Oct. 18 at Doran Regional Park Beach, Sonoma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A syrphid or hover fly, Eristalis tenax, nectaring on a sea rocket plant, Cakile maritima, on Oct. 18 at Doran Regional Park Beach, Sonoma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A syrphid or hover fly, Eristalis tenax, nectaring on a sea rocket plant, Cakile maritima, on Oct. 18 at Doran Regional Park Beach, Sonoma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Along with sand castles and beach balls and beach umbrellas, look for pollinators nectaring on  sea rocket plants at the beach. Note the honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Along with sand castles and beach balls and beach umbrellas, look for pollinators nectaring on sea rocket plants at the beach. Note the honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Along with sand castles and beach balls and beach umbrellas, look for pollinators nectaring on sea rocket plants at the beach. Note the honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Footprints in the sand? Yes, and bees and other pollinators  nectaring on sea rocket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Footprints in the sand? Yes, and bees and other pollinators nectaring on sea rocket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Footprints in the sand? Yes, and bees and other pollinators nectaring on sea rocket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

European sea rocket grows in clumps or mounds on sandy beaches along the coastlines of North Africa, western Asia, and North America. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
European sea rocket grows in clumps or mounds on sandy beaches along the coastlines of North Africa, western Asia, and North America. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

European sea rocket grows in clumps or mounds on sandy beaches along the coastlines of North Africa, western Asia, and North America. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 4:31 PM
Focus Area Tags: Environment Natural Resources

Ride to UCD Arboretum Teaching Nursery

Hitched a ride with a friend last week to a plant sale at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery. I trust the plants they sell will be “true to form” and live up to the size, use, water, care, and feeding regime stated on the plant labels.  
 
I managed to stay focused as I perused their healthy selection of plants. This time I put together a selection of plants to replace a small bed at the entrance to my back garden. The bed is bordered on both sides by narrow concrete paths used as walkways to haul out our trash bins. I carefully gathered plants that should not venture outside the bed boundary as they mature.
 
I have high hopes for a Lavendula allardii ‘Meerlo' PP25559 according to the label provided by the Sunset Western Garden Collection. This lavender is a compact  24-36” high by 24-30” wide liking full sun to part shade useful in borders and containers. The leaves are variegated and fragrant with deep violet-blue flowers in late spring. It also attracts butterflies and has little need for fertilizer. It will be drought-tolerant once established. It is also deer-resistant.
 
Also chosen were a couple of variegated sage, an ornamental grass, Festuca idahoeensis ‘Clearwater Blue', and a California fuchsia, Epilobium canum ‘Bowman's #1'. All drought-tolerant with complimentary coloring. 
 
With this plant grouping I really spent time selecting plants that will fit this space at maturity, it was so tempting to choose a number of dazzlers at this plant sale, but for once I stated on point.
Attached Files
photo by Trisha Rose

photo by Trisha Rose
photo by Trisha Rose

Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 1:52 PM

Bring the wild back into our farmlands to protect biodiversity, researchers say

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Berkeley — With a body the size of a fist and wings that span more than a foot, the big brown bat must gorge on 6,000 to 8,000 bugs a night to maintain its stature. This mighty appetite can be a boon to farmers battling crop-eating pests.

But few types of bats live on American farms. That's because the current practice of monoculture – dedicating large swathes of land to a single crop – doesn't give the bats many places to land or to nest. 

Diversifying working lands – including farmland, rangeland and forests – may be key to preserving biodiversity in the face of climate change, says a new review paper published this week in Science by conservation biologists at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Benzinger Family Winery is a diversified vineyard in Sonoma County. (Photo: Corey Luthringer)

Diversification could be as simple as adding trees or hedgerows along the edges of fields, giving animals like birds, bats and insects places to live, or as complex as incorporating a patchwork of fields, orchards, pasture and flowers into a single working farm.

These changes could extend the habitat of critters like bats, but also much larger creatures like bears, elk and other wildlife, outside the boundaries of parks and other protected areas, while creating more sustainable, and potentially more productive, working lands.

“Protected areas are extremely important, but we can't rely on those on their own to prevent the pending sixth mass extinction,” said study co-author Adina Merenlender, a UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. “This is even more true in the face of climate change, because species will need to move around to adapt to shifts in temperature and climate.”

Diversified farms could include crops, pastures, orchards and woodland. (Photo: Xerces)

A win-win for wildlife and for farms

Maintaining even small pieces of the original landscape – even a single tree– can help conserve the original diversity of species, Merenlender said. Clearing oak woodlands and shrublands to establish large vineyards hits many native species hard. Animals that are well adapted to urban and agricultural areas, such as mockingbirds, house finches and free-tail bats, continue to flourish, while animals that are more sensitive to disturbance, like acorn woodpeckers, orange-crowned warblers and big brown bats, begin to drop away. “If you can leave shrubs, trees and flowering plants, the habitat suitability -- not just for sensitive birds but also for other vertebrates – goes way up,” Merenlender said. This is true not only in California's vineyards, but on working lands around the world.

Incorporating natural vegetation makes the farm more hospitable to more creatures, while reducing the use of environmentally degrading chemicals like herbicides, pesticides and man-made fertilizer.

A vineyard in California's central coast is an example of industrialized agriculture. (Photo: Steve Zmak, https://stevezmak.com/)

The ideal farming landscape includes woodland pastures and vegetable plots bumping up against orchards and small fields, said Claire Kremen, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Integrating livestock produces manure which can fertilize the crops, while those same crops produce feed for livestock. Birds and bats provide pest control, and bees boost crop production by pollinating plants.

“It is possible for these working landscapes to support biodiversity but also be productive and profitable,” Kremen said. “And ultimately, this is where we have to go. We just can't keep mining our soils for their fertility and polluting our streams – in the end, this will diminish our capacity to continue producing the food that we need. Instead, we must pay attention to the species, from microbes to mammals, that supply us with critical services, like pollination, pest control and nutrient cycling”

“We have some amazing diversified farms, sustainably managed forests and species-rich rangelands here in California that exemplify working lands for conservation around the world,” Merenlender said. “We are calling for a scaling up of this approach around the world, and to do that we champion community-based action and more supportive polices” Kremen concludes.

RELATED INFORMATION

CONTACTS

Claire Kremen, ckremen@berkeley.edu, 510-367-2100 (cell)
Adina Merenlender, adinam@berkeley.edu, (707) 489-4362

Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 12:58 PM
  • Author: Kara Manke, kjmanke@berkeley.edu, (510) 643-7741
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Environment

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