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Plant Communication Research: 'Taking Root'

UC Davis ecologist Rick Karban has researched plant communication in sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) on the east side of the Sierra since 1995.

It's not outlandish now, if it ever were. A recent article in Science headlined "Once Considered Outlandish, the Idea that Plants Help their...

UC Davis ecologist Rick Karban has researched plant communication in sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) on the east side of the Sierra since 1995.
UC Davis ecologist Rick Karban has researched plant communication in sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) on the east side of the Sierra since 1995.

UC Davis ecologist Rick Karban has researched plant communication in sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) on the east side of the Sierra since 1995.

A Dry, Shady Spot Succulent

I wasn't sure what I was getting when I purchased at a plant sale a slip of a delightful pendant succulent. But by end of the first year, I realized that this succulent, Crassula multicava, was not only hardy but a prolific plant. It has overgrown several patio pots, planted itself in a nearby flowerbed, surviving with little water and a lot of neglect during Vacaville's hottest summers.
 
Native to South Africa, this crassula is a relative of the familiar jade plant, hence the nickname Emerald Jade Carpet. But instead of having the capacity to grow into a large shrub like a jade plant, Crassula multicava rarely measures more than a 12 inches in height and 3 feet in width. With a low growing, trailing habit and the ability to tolerate low light, the soft deep green round leaves present a hardy ground cover beneath a shade tree, especially in dry areas where few plants thrive.
 
Personally, I'm impressed by this plant because it adds a touch of luxurious substance to a tall planter and its appearance becomes even more intriguing as it matures, producing long lanky stems that spill over the edges. And best of all, if protected from frost by a shade tree, an overhang or patio cover, Crassula multicava produces tiny pink buds that open into white star-like flowers during late winter to early spring. Some gardeners compare these blooms to the flowers of Gypsophila or baby's breath. When the flowers fade, the plant reproduces by forming new plants on the flower stalks. That's why you often see tiny green leaves sprouting among the blooms.
 
If you're searching for an intriguing ground cover for a dry shady spot or a succulent that spills over a pot edge, consider Crassula multicava.

Crassula multicava draping over pot.
Crassula multicava draping over pot.

Crassula multicava.
Crassula multicava.

Star-like flowers.
Star-like flowers.

Posted on Friday, January 18, 2019 at 9:24 AM

Drum Roll...First Bumble Bee of the Year!

Check out the pollen on this black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, nectaring on manzanita, as photographed by Kim Chacon, UC Davis doctoral candidate on Jan. 10.

We have a winner! Several UC Davis bumble bee enthusiasts--encouraged by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus...

Check out the pollen on this black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, nectaring on manzanita, as photographed by Kim Chacon, UC Davis doctoral candidate on Jan. 10.
Check out the pollen on this black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, nectaring on manzanita, as photographed by Kim Chacon, UC Davis doctoral candidate on Jan. 10.

Check out the pollen on this black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, nectaring on manzanita, as photographed by Kim Chacon, UC Davis doctoral candidate on Jan. 10.

Black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, heads for a manzanita blossom in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. (Photo by Kim Chacon)
Black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, heads for a manzanita blossom in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. (Photo by Kim Chacon)

Black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, heads for a manzanita blossom in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. (Photo by Kim Chacon)

Close-up of a Bombus melanopygus heading for a manzanita blossom. (Photo by Kim Chacon)
Close-up of a Bombus melanopygus heading for a manzanita blossom. (Photo by Kim Chacon)

Close-up of a Bombus melanopygus heading for a manzanita blossom. (Photo by Kim Chacon)

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, teaching at The Bee Course last August. (Photo by Kim Chacon)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, teaching at The Bee Course last August. (Photo by Kim Chacon)

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, teaching at The Bee Course last August. (Photo by Kim Chacon)

Linn County Master Gardeners-Trip 2

I have blogged before about a visit to the Linn County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Albany, Oregon. The first time I visited was late spring and I had hit the apex of spring bloom. This visit was the end of June early July.  Spring blossoms were gone and they had had quite a bit of warm weather. The vegetable gardens had recently been harvested and were being replanted. 

There was a very interesting sign that introduced the concept of planting by value in the vegetable garden. That is, consider the cost of the item in the grocery store and the amount of space it took to grow in your garden. I had never really approached planting that way, but it makes sense.  Their calculations suggested that herbs, carrots, beets, lettuces, kale, chard, zucchini tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and beans made more sense than broccoli, cauliflower, bulb onions, corn, watermelon, and pumpkins. Now, of course, these calculations are based on monetary value versus space. If your family has an absolute favorite vegetable that may raise its value for you more than it would for me.  After all the first rule of vegetable gardening is to plant what your family will eat.

Another interesting thing I noticed this trip were some problems in the garden and how the Linn County MGs handled them.  Their currant plant was covered with damage from aphids.  They took this opportunity to explain via signage what this was, that it was very common in currants and how to handle the problem, turning it into a wonderful teaching moment. Likewise, there was a dwarf apricot that did not look well.  Again, a sign explaining that it was dying for several reasons, the main one being that this wasn't the optimal zone for that plant and that it would be replaced with something more suitable.  Sharing real-world problems and solutions with their visitors made the gardens even more interesting.  It also reminded me that I should visit my favorite gardens more often because of how different they can be from season to season.

photos by Karen Metz
photos by Karen Metz

IMG 1931
IMG 1931

IMG 1933
IMG 1933

Posted on Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 2:05 PM

What, Santa Didn't Bring You a Tarantula for Christmas?

Mexican redknee tarantula, the new project of 9-year-old Delsin Russell of Vacaville. Santa delivered the much-wanted gift on Christmas Eve. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Doesn't Santa give everyone a Mexican redknee tarantula for Christmas? Oh, you didn't get yours? Well, Delsin Russell, 9, of Vacaville, did, and he...

Mexican redknee tarantula, the new project of 9-year-old Delsin Russell of Vacaville. Santa delivered the much-wanted gift on Christmas Eve. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Mexican redknee tarantula, the new project of 9-year-old Delsin Russell of Vacaville. Santa delivered the much-wanted gift on Christmas Eve. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Mexican redknee tarantula, the new project of 9-year-old Delsin Russell of Vacaville. Santa delivered the much-wanted gift on Christmas Eve. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Delsin Russell of Vacaville, then  8, attended an open house last August at the Bohart Museum of Entomology with his mother, Beth. Here they chat with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Delsin Russell of Vacaville, then 8, attended an open house last August at the Bohart Museum of Entomology with his mother, Beth. Here they chat with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Delsin Russell of Vacaville, then 8, attended an open house last August at the Bohart Museum of Entomology with his mother, Beth. Here they chat with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

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