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In Praise of Bumble Bees

A yellow-faced bumble bee,Bombus vosnesenskii, foraging on a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii, in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

When was the last time you sighted a bumble bee? Photographed it? It's National Pollinator Week and one of our favorite bumble bees is the...

A yellow-faced bumble bee,Bombus vosnesenskii, foraging on a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii, in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A yellow-faced bumble bee,Bombus vosnesenskii, foraging on a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii, in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A yellow-faced bumble bee,Bombus vosnesenskii, foraging on a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii, in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, leaving a foxglove in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, leaving a foxglove in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, leaving a foxglove in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Garden of Poisonous Plants

I am a frequent flier at UC Davis.  My husband and I have walked our dogs the entire length of the arboretum once or twice weekly for over twenty years.  It wasn't until about 5 years ago, on a break from a UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) pet appointment, that we discovered the Toxic Plant Garden.  It is on the north side of the anatomy building very close to the VMTH.  The garden has over 60 plants known to be poisonous to pets and livestock and some to people, as well. 

The original garden was designed by Murray Fowler DVM (1928 - 2014), a name some may recognize as the former Sacramento Zoo veterinarian.  He was also the first to author a zoological medicine text used to train zoo animal medicine.  He designed the Toxic Plant Garden in 1970 in a different location near the VMTH, and he and some of his students maintained it.  In 2006, Dr. John Pasco relocated the garden to its present location.  Mick Mount, Clinical Toxicologist worked together with Dr. Fowler (who was retired by this time) to select the plants from a long list to plant in the new garden.  A walk through the current garden can be eye-opening.  Plants you never thought would be toxic ARE to our pets and livestock (lemon verbena, aloe!)

While the plants are identified in the garden, a list of them can be found at this address: https://ccah.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk4586/files/local_resources/pdfs/toxic_plants_common%20name_Auug2011.pdf

It is not the complete list of every toxic plant you can buy.  There is no such list that I am aware of.  I check numerous sites before I bring a plant home and still have unwittingly planted something that I later find out is potentially poisonous. I will have found it on one list and not on another.  Fortunately, my husband and I adopt older dogs now, who seem to have the sense or have gained the wisdom before we got them, to not eat everything in sight.

Some sites I have used to check for plant toxicity are ASPCA, HSUS, Cornell University, and the Sunset Western Garden Book which has an icon to identify a poisonous plant.  Of course, if there is any concern, after ingestion, contact your veterinarian immediately or the Poison Pet Helpline at (800) 213-6680 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.  Each of the phone hotlines has a fee attached. 

Lemon verbena. photo by Michelle Davis
Lemon verbena. photo by Michelle Davis

Posted on Monday, June 17, 2019 at 10:34 AM

The California's 2019 wildfire season takes off

As California grappled with a record-breaking heatwave last week and 236 wildfires, officials are bracing for the worst, reported Maanvi Singh in the Guardian.

The fires have been mostly fueled by grass and brush that came up during the state's especially wet winter and mild spring, according to a CAL FIRE official. UC Cooperative Extension fire advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson said California's annual wildfire season is growing longer – beginning earlier in the spring and stretching later in the fall.

“It's not unusual for us to see this many small fires in June,” she said. “But 50 years ago, so many fires this early on – plus these extreme, high temperatures in June – would have been abnormal.”

It is difficult to predict how bad the rest of this fire season will be based on the number of fires so far, said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain.

"Our worst fire years aren't necessarily the years that we've had the highest number of fires,” he noted. “All it takes is one – one huge, destructive fire to ruin the whole year."

Lenya Quinn-Davidson, center, is the UC Cooperative Extension fire scientist serving Humboldt, Siskiyou, Trinity and Mendocino counties. She is pictured with Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, left, and Kelly Martin, right, at a Women-in-Fire Prescribed Fire Training Exchange session.
Posted on Monday, June 17, 2019 at 9:36 AM
Tags: Lenya Quinn-Davidson (15), wildfire (127)
Focus Area Tags: Environment

Let's Celebrate National Pollinator Week

A ceramic/mosaic sculpture,

Did you know that next week is National Pollinator Week? It is. June 17-21 is the week set aside to celebrate pollinators and how we can protect...

A ceramic/mosaic sculpture,
A ceramic/mosaic sculpture, "Miss Bee Haven," anchors the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. It is the work of self-described rock artist Donna Billick of Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A ceramic/mosaic sculpture, "Miss Bee Haven," anchors the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. It is the work of self-described rock artist Donna Billick of Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Visitors to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven can learn what to plant to attract pollinators. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Visitors to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven can learn what to plant to attract pollinators. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Visitors to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven can learn what to plant to attract pollinators. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jeopardy Question

You're on JEOPARDY! It's the final question, and you've bet all your winnings.  Quick!

Here's your final JEOPARDY! answer. 

“This spice is common to Ethiopian, Thai, Spanish, Indian, Mexican, and Greek cuisine.” 

Do-de-do-duh DO. DO. DUH.   Time is up.

Did you get it right?

 


 

You did, if you said, “What is Coriander/Cilantro?”

All of these diverse cultures use coriander/cilantro in their cooking.  North Americans alone make the distinction between the seed and the plant.  Other parts of the world call the plant and the seed coriander.  For North Americans, coriander is the seed or fruit of cilantro.  This fruit is actually two seeds in a crispy jacket.  The seeds are considered to be the spice.  Cilantro – the leaves and stems - fall in the herb category.  Every part of the plant is edible.  Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, is related to parsley, and both are related to carrots. 

Have you ever stood in front of the fresh herbs at the grocery store trying to figure out which bunch of green leaves is the flat leaf parsley and which is the cilantro?  Without tasting a leaf or smashing your nose into the bunch for a good sniff, it's pretty difficult.  Look closely at the leaves.  If the leaves are pointy on the ends, it's parsley.  If the leaves are rounded, it's cilantro. 

Of course, you could always pop a leaf in your mouth and make the distinction. Or could you?  Up to 14% of people possess the olfactory (smell) receptor gene OR6A2 that causes them to taste cilantro the same as soap.  The culprit is aldehydes - found in cilantro and also in soap.  I, fortunately, do not possess this gene.  I love the taste of coriander, a little peppery and a little citrusy. 

The history of Coriander goes far into the past.  Coriander seeds dating back 8000 years were found in the hills near the Dead Sea in 1983.  King Tut's tomb contained coriander seeds for the afterlife.  Hippocrates used it for medicine. During the Middle Ages, it was used together with wine as an aphrodisiac.  Today the herb/spice is grown worldwide as an annual and used to flavor food of all types.

I have tried planting the herb outdoors in the spring, but our summer heat caused it to bolt almost as soon as it was tall enough to start harvesting some of the leaves.  The trick is to plant it in a container and place it in a sunny window indoors.  Use packaged seed.  The bottled coriander seed has been dried.  Pick the exterior plant leaves when the plant reaches about 8 inches and leave the inner part of the plant for future growth and harvesting.  You can also leave some of the plant to produce coriander seeds as desired. 

Or you can go to the market, stare at the bunches of herbs, search for the rounded leaf edges, take the bunch home, and then add some to your exotic culinary masterpieces.  Did you pick the right bunch?

photos by Michelle Davis
photos by Michelle Davis

cilantro
cilantro

Posted on Friday, June 14, 2019 at 10:15 AM

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