Archive for the ‘Conservation & Environment’ Category

Point Reyes National Seashore

Well, I’m back from my trip to the San Francisco area. But there are oodles of pictures and places to share so we can keep on field tripping.

Take a full tank of gasoline—hybrid even better—and head on out to the remote and top-of-the-world Point Reyes National Seashore, all 70,000 acres about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. Wow!

When you go, enjoy the rolling coastal grasslands on the way. Pass the cows and cattle of the historic landmark ranches—a beautifully pastoral landscape scene in Northern California’s green season. It’s an opportunity to learn about the history of ranching here if you so choose. You might be interested in reading about The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), the first land trust in the United States to focus on farmland preservation. http://www.malt.org/

Though it was April, once arriving at the top we found a need to hunt in the trunk for a buried set of ear muffs and scarf. There is a wind chill factor at the top of the world—it may be the windiest point on the Pacific coastline. Ear muffs worked well for one set of ears. A rumpled white towel had to stand in as a scarf for the other person–me. Didn’t care how silly I looked with a white towel wound around my neck and ears. One can enjoy the geology, the passing gray whales if you’re lucky (we weren’t). The overhead views of the ocean bring various movie dramas to mind. Just dress in layers.

Ice plants are a delight to see. Read the signs all about the wonderful world of lichens and algae. Though not true plants, they dot and coat the rocky landscape at Point Reyes with a reward of color. Surviving harsh winds and salt spray, hundreds of other species of plants and animals inhabit this expansive seashore—900 species of vascular plants alone. I didn’t see nearly that many, but someone’s sure been doing a lot of counting. “Over 50 plants at Point Reyes are currently listed [and monitored] by the Federal government, State government, or the California Native Plant Society as being rare, threatened, or endangered.” Find out more at http://www.nps.gov/pore/index.htm.

Now, there is a lighthouse with legacy down a steep set of 308 stairs. But judging from the huffing and puffing of the 20 year olds coming back up the stairs—I skipped that part and used my imagination.

We timed the field trip perfectly finishing up the field trip just as an eerie fog crept in over the cliffs from the Pacific.

An aside: The latrine at the top of the world offers no running water, so pack those pre-moistened wipes for freshening up!

Nancy R. Peck


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Richard James collected bottles

Richard James' bottle collection

Often it is the discoveries one makes in between the final destinations that make a trip interesting. Transported from San Francisco to Point Reyes National Seashore we came across this display in a barnyard. These are giant bottle shapes sculpted out of chicken wire and filled with the litter of actual plastic water bottles. An accompanying photo reads:

In One year

One person collected these bottles

On the beaches of One national park: Point Reyes

Most plastic in the ocean breaks into particles that contaminate

The fish that eat them and us where we eat the fish.

Use One metal bottle.

Collected, created and photographed by Richard James copyright 2011.

If you follow through to “Coastodian’s” blog www.coastodian.org you’ll learn this:

Almost every day Richard walks for miles up and down Tomales Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. Carrying a backpack, he collects 40 to 60 pounds of trash each trip.

Shows how just one person can make a difference, but a shame that one could spend a lifetime cleaning up after folks. Thanks, Richard, for making every day Earth Day.

Nancy R. Peck

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Botanical Garden at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

I’ve left the desk-nest this week and am touring the San Francisco area. Sunny weather. That’s always a nice gift to bring to one’s host.

Field trip to UC Berkeley Botanical Garden: Up up up the hill the car crawls past two flagmen. Grunting trucks are painstakingly choreographed  in the renovation/retrofit project going on at the old university football stadium. Destination reached and admission paid, we enter this very diverse 34-acre UC Berkeley research garden—13,000 varieties sectioned off by geographic regions of the world’s continents. First we enter the Arid House with its large collection of the quirkiest of cacti, sheltered, because they would not tolerate the Bay Area’s dampness. The collection dates back to the 1920s.

Exiting that shed, one is immediately struck by (photo above) the “Southern Africa” rocky hillside on the left dotted with oranges, yellow, purple annuals and bulbs and fan aloes. Turn around and there’s a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay behind a gauze of atmospheric blue.

I’m always attracted by the sound of water features. The Japanese Pond (photo below) augments the diminutive Strawberry Creek which runs midway through the property. The pond is set off by a small waterfall framed by maples, empress tree and dogwoods. But the pool’s claim to fame is its breeding ground reputation for Taricha torosa (newts), native to upper Strawberry Canyon. I got to see several newt couples doing their thing which is always interesting. Ah spring.

The loudest aspect of the botanical gardens, I would say, is a chorus of frogs. They live in a pond ecosystem which lies between the Herb Garden and Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden. No need to follow path signs, just follow your ears.

There’s much to see and learn at this botanical garden but I did notice that some toddlers couldn’t be happier frolicking around a small man-built water feature next to the tour deck and rest rooms. Down close to the ground and with attention to details they were fascinated searching for the little slimy critters clinging for dear life to the concrete pond wall.


For a list of garden tours click here http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/education/tours.shtml#children

Nancy R. Peck

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden Japanese Pool

Japanese Pool at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

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In 1999 the Corals for Conservation program began in Fiji. The “Coral Gardens Initiative” uses hands-on methods and training to connect individuals in local communities to the restoration of degraded coral reef ecosystems.

As part of the coral program, we trim bits and pieces off of rare, and where possible temperature tolerant corals, and then grow them to several hundred times the original fragment size to create “mother corals”. Two-year-old mother corals are then trimmed to produce coral seed fragments that the communities grow in the coral farms and restoration sites. All of the coral farms thus produce only second and third generation corals, completely avoiding the negative impact of wild harvesting of corals.

Enjoy this video below and visit http://www.coralsforconservation.com/default.html

Picture source: ‘sheyneg’ Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives

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Moon Tree at Tilden

A redwood tree.

Looks like any other coastal redwood tree, doesn’t it?

So, what’s so special about THIS one?

THIS tree was started from a seedling,

which was started from a seed,

which went around the moon 34 times.

Let’s back up. When on January 31, 1971 Apollo 14’s Lunar Command Module pilot Stuart Roosa took off, he had packed away in his personal gear nearly 500 seeds of loblolly pine, sycamore, redwood, Douglas fir and sweetgum trees. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, the idea was to see if the prolonged weightlessness of seeds would ultimately affect their growth to mature trees—a good thing to know “should colonization of other planets become necessary.” A control group of seeds stayed back on Earth for comparison.

Once back home, supposedly more than 80% of the seeds were germinated in some U.S. Forest Service nurseries. (After years of observation, by the way, no discernable difference was detected.) Then in or about the bicentennial year 1976, “Moon Tree” seedlings were distributed throughout the U.S. and ceremoniously planted with the reading of a congratulatory letter from President Gerald R. Ford.

Among sites that requested seedlings were botanical gardens, state capitols and courthouses, state parks, state universities, nature centers, schools, libraries, and space science properties. Some areas made their own signs marking locations of the trees, while other trees bear no marking at all. The still-alive sycamore planted at Camp Koch Girl Scout Camp in Indiana bears the hand-painted sign “. . . Long live our beautiful Moon Tree.”

Precise records were not kept with regard to the seedling distribution. But a man named David Williams has made it his own personal mission to track down and catalogue the whereabouts of these seedling/trees. Williams has a list of those he knows about at http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/moon_tree.html. If you know of a Moon Tree planting not listed (dead or alive), he would like to hear about it dave.williams@nasa.gov.

Now, “Half-Moon Trees” are being grown naturally from the discarded and cross-pollinated seeds of original Moon Trees. If you are so inclined, check search engines for those who are selling these babies and also for those who are grafting and cloning the original Moon Trees.

Photo credit: Thanks to Susan Peck who recently photographed this now tall Moon Tree at the Tilden Nature Area, Berkeley, CA

Nancy R. Peck

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National Arboretum Needs Your Help

Azaleas Photo by Don Hyatt

This is a story—a true one—of a few people who made an unpopular decision, and a much greater number of passionate people opposed. How a little piece of blog news exploded. And how we can still find heroes. It’s also a story of what we stand to lose if we’re not careful: The National Arboretum.

If you’re outside the mid-Atlantic metropolitan area, you may have missed this unfolding drama that has been hovering over the National Arboretum for the past four months—an arboretum visited each spring by 100,000 people, 446 vivid acres in northeast D.C. It is the only federally funded arboretum in the United States and it’s been having problems in spite of itself. Read on. (more…)

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“The first impression for a visitor arriving in a town is often formed by their view from a train carriage, and it is a disgrace that view is so often a degraded and dirty one that suggests a lack of care or pride in the area.”—Bill Bryson


How many times have you ridden on a train where railway property litter is just part of the scenery? I can’t think of a train trip when that wasn’t the case. Especially entering and emerging city rail stations, I’ve seen the strangest combination of things strewn—car seats, discarded wheel-less strollers, open-for-business signs, crumpled venetian blinds, things I haven’t been able to identify, hair-dryers, wigs. And everything plastic known to Man has just “blown” over the embankment.

As it turns out, this is also a serious pet peeve of Bill Bryson, current president of Campaign to Protect Rural England. (He doesn’t know it, but Bill also has the distinction of being one of my favorite Laugh Out Loud armchair-travel writer-humorists.*)

“This generation of people has a duty to pass the countryside on in as good a condition as we can.”

“In one of the most beautiful countries in the world,” (Bill, is it ok to call you Bill?) says “I just can’t understand how someone could open up a car window and toss out an empty pizza box.” That is something that has baffled so many of us over many a decade.

Since 1926 CPRE has been “campaigning for the beauty, tranquility and diversity of the countryside.” It is spearheading a movement to use a little enforced law requiring rail companies and public highway agencies to keep their properties clear of litter and rubbish. If written requests to agencies go unheeded, then anyone in the public can use a legal mechanism and file a Litter Abatement Order to enforce the law. Introduced by the Environmental Protection Act of 1990, this also applies to local councils, schools, colleges, hospitals, port authorities and airports. If you live in England, CPRE has instructions for you.

There are many conservation and landscape preservation issues CPRE addresses—over and above preserving hedgerows, championing for forests, deterring roadside advertising, sprawl and traffic, fly-tipping (sneaky dumping on the fly). Explore the CPRE website http://www.cpre.org.uk/home and their publication library http://www.cpre.org.uk/library.

On the right sidebar here at Garden Club Salon, see the “Blogroll” if you’d like to link to similar organizations in the U.S.—Keep America Beautiful, Scenic America, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, The Trust for Public Land. Use your favorite search engine to locate those U.S. states that have their own organizations dedicated to landscape protection.

*Bill Bryson was born in Iowa in 1951 but has spent most of his professional life living in England when he isn’t traveling. Among his many books are A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Notes from a Small Island, Down Under, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Made in America.

Thanks Bill, and thanks to all our friends at CPRE.

Nancy R. Peck 

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