The Importance of Geophytes

The Importance of Geophytes

Cultural  Connection

Researcher and author Kat Anderson is perhaps best known for her much-loved work, Tending the Wild. Her contributions to ethnobotany and historic ecologies in California have greatly expanded our understanding of the human relationship to native plants. Recently, we were privileged to have Kat serve as our Fremontia guest editor for a beautiful double-issue on geophytes. The following is an excerpt, capturing some of the highlights.

Excerpt from Kat Anderson and Philip Rundel in California Geophytes

M. Kat Anderson

In the course of evolution, plant species have developed a myriad of adaptive features that help them survive environmental stress. One such adaptation that has evolved multiple times in diverse lineages is the geophyte growth form. Geophytes have an underground storage organ which allows the plant to die back to the ground and go dormant during unfavorable seasons for growth. Renewal buds associated with the storage organs allow a new cycle of leafing and blooming when favorable conditions return.

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Ribes in Spring

RibesArticle and photos by Jennifer Jewell

The spring woodland garden has many bright stars in the form of shrubs: ceanothus and mahonia come immediately to mind. But look a little closer and you will see how lovely the ribes are as well this time of year. The native ribes are far more soft-spoken but have equally nice things to say as their brighter companions. Continue reading

California Hazelnut – by Vivian Mazur

CA Hazelnut photo courtesy Keir Morse

CA Hazelnut photo courtesy Keir Morse

If you have a shade garden, the California hazelnut (Corylus cornuta ssp. Californica) is a natural resident. It is widespread in woodland, particularly in moist or shaded canyons. It can be found along the Coastal Ranges in Northern California, the Siskiyous, and Sierras. If you hike this time of year, you may be rewarded with a crop of nuts unless the squirrels have beaten you to them. The name, Corylus, comes from the Greek ‘coys’, meaning helmet, which refers to the sheath around the nut. The hazelnut is in the birch family (betulaceae), related the alder. It is interesting to notice the similarities between them – from the shape of the leaf to the late winter catkins.

The hazelnut is an attractive addition to the woodland garden. It is a large (12’ – 15’), spreading, deciduous shrub with graceful, arching branches. In late winter the catkins appear. Each plant has separate male and female flowers but it is the males that are most conspicuous as they develop into long, golden tassels, followed by the unfurling of soft, velvety leaves. In late summer or early fall, the nuts ripen, much appreciated by squirrels and birds.

The California hazelnut is an adaptable garden plant. It is drought resistant once established but unlike many native plants, it will accept year-round water. It is a plant that will fend for itself, needing only pruning to keep it looking attractive. Some natural companions are sword ferns, bush monkey flower, and Douglas iris.

Native Moonshine

Tecate Cypress Bourbon V2_edited-1

Last year, I gave you my tried and true shortbread recipe. This year, I experimented with a new fun project: Tecate Cypress-infused bourbon.

Infused whiskeys and bourbons are all the rage of do-it-yourselfers and of artisanal restauranteurs. The idea is to take stems, greenery, berries, flowers or other plant parts and allow them to transfer flavor to a favorite spirited liquor.

Before you think about trying this at your place: warnings and caveats!

Caveat One: Never put anything in your mouth that you think you have the slightest chance of being allergic to. We are not suggesting that this is 100% safe for you. Call the Poison Control Center Hotline (which I did before I started my experiment) and talk to one of their experts. Call 1-800-222-1222.

Caveat Two: Don’t forage wild plants. Please grow your own, and forage your own garden, or ask permission to pick from someone else’s garden.

Caveat Three: Drink responsibly.

Caveat Four: You may not like these sorts of flavors, so test this out in small batches before you go using up all your expensive supplies.

Here is what I did. I took a small sprig of Tecate Cypress (Cupressus forbesii, now called Hesperocyparis forbesii) – about seven inches long and stuffed it into a quart Mason jar and filled it with bourbon. I set it on my counter in my kitchen and let it seep. Every once in a while I took a sip to see how it was coming along. Many online resources say this takes about two weeks, but after about eight days, I felt the flavor was strong enough to make an impact.

If I had found the flavor to be too strong, I would have simply diluted it with more spirits.

But it is just fine. It tastes slightly resinous. Just like it smells. I love it. For our family get-together on New Year’s Day, we swap under $10 gifts and the theme this year is to bring a gift that has a connection to wherever the person comes from. So, my little Mason jar of Tecate Cypress Bourbon is gonna be a hit, I am sure. I do plan to put a cute label on it, in the holiday spirit, excuse the pun.

If you see any members of my family before the gift exchange on the 1st, don’t let on. This is a surprise.

Manzanita Madness – A short summer film

Photo courtesy Alicia Funk.

Photo courtesy Alicia Funk.

Alicia Funk, at The Living Wild Project, just completed a short and beautiful film called “Manzanita Madness.

Alicia writes, “My favorite time of summer is here – the time to gather Manzanita berries. I hope you’ll enjoy our new short film on manzanita, participate in our manzanita recipe contest to win $250 for your favorite non-profit, and enjoy this month’s blog with harvesting tips and recipes.”

I watched the film and loved it. Please check it out.

 

She also suggested this event: the Tahoe foodie community will meet at the premiere of Elevate Tahoe-Food Innovations at 6,000 feet, a film on Saturday Aug. 23 at the Community Arts Center in Truckee. Doors at 6:30 p.m., film at 7:15 p.m. The Living Wild Project is one of the organizations featured in the film.