Early explorer of larva-host plant interactions

one of Maria's illustrations, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library site

one of Maria’s illustrations, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library site

Today is the birthday of Maria Sibylla Merian, born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1647. She was a VERY early explorer and explainer of botanical end entomological processes. I had never heard of her until I read about her at the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s blog site, where they write, “Maria’s illustrations were important and revolutionary for a number of reasons. The observations and evidence they displayed helped overturn the prevailing theory of the time that insects spontaneously generated from mud. Additionally, Maria drew her subjects from life in their natural environments. Most naturalists of the day illustrated species from dead, preserved specimens, which contributed to a lack of knowledge about the true life cycle and origin of insects. Finally, Maria also portrayed the host plant for the species she studied and even illustrated the damage the insects left on the plants.”

So, there we have it! The early days of exploring how insects and plants interact. I love the idea that she helped verify that insects do not simply spring up from the dirt. But what really captured my attention was her work to figure out that certain plants played a key role in the lifecycle of specific insects. This is something that, hundreds of years later, we are just scratching the surface on.



Do you know of Jens Jensen’s work?

Jens Jensen

image courtesy jensejensenthelivinggreen.com


Deirdre Kennelly, our CommunicationsDirector, passed along this interesting item:
The film Jens Jensen The Living Green, will be screened in  Los Angeles on April 27th, with Earth Day.
Jens Jensen pioneered the use of native flowers and plants in his designs for midwestern parks and became known as the Dean of Landscape Architects. Today his story resonates on a high level as cities struggle to deal with expanding populations and decreased green space, water and many issues here in California.

Interested in being on a TECHNICAL REVIEW COMMITTEE?


We need to help the California Department of Food and Agriculture change this picture!

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has  the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which is an annual competitive solicitation process designed to enhance the competitiveness of California specialty crops. And guess what? California native plants qualify as “specialty crops,” so we are applying for a grant to help the Horticulture Program stay funded.

The Department is looking for qualified individuals to join the committee that reviews, evaluates, and makes recommendations to them on proposals submitted for California Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding.

We’d love to have some native plant experts apply for the job. Here is the process:

Individuals interested in serving on the Technical Review Committee should submit their applications via email to grants@cdfa.ca.gov before December 8, 2014. Applications must include a letter of interest, short biography, and statement of qualifications identifying the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding category related to the applicant’s area of expertise. For a description of the funding categories, please reference the 2015 Request for Concept Proposals at www.cdfa.ca.gov/grants. In addition, prospective Technical ReviewCommittee members will be required to disclose whether they are affiliated with any proposals submitted to the 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, whether as an applicant or cooperator. If selected, individuals will be required to complete the Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests and the Ethics Training Course.

Prospective applicants may contact CDFA’s Federal Funds Management Office at (916) 657-3231 orgrants@cdfa.ca.gov for additional information.

The funding categories they mention are: Market Enhancement, Specialty Crop Access and Nutrition Education, Equipping Current and Next Generation Specialty Crop Farmers, Environmental Stewardship and Conservation and Plant Health and Pest Management.

So, this gives broad scope to the capabilities they are looking for – and we’d love to have some native plant expertise on the committee. Please do consider applying – or let others know so they might apply.

Moving mountains for lack of water

smithsonian moving moutains

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian – http://tinyurl.com/leqw8fm


A reader brought this article to my attention: California’s Record Drought Is Making Earth’s Surface Rise. It was published at Smithsonian.com.

The idea is that, “The record-breaking California drought is so bad that monitoring stations used to study earthquakes can detect the drying ground rising up. Measurements of these subtle movements, made using GPS instruments, suggest that the western United States is missing some 62 trillion gallons of water, enough to cover the entire region six inches deep.”

We have a huge network (over 1000 measuring points) in the US and many  of them are focussed on us – especially the San Andreas Fault. The activity is predictably unpredictable, of course. Every once in a while someone will see a slight pattern and then scientists rally round to figure it out. Dr. Adrian Borsa, from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, noticed one of these little patterns: ‘Most of the stations have been gradually rising in the last couple of years, just when the region was drying out.”

Apparently their instruments are so sensitive that, when water, which increases gravitational pressure on the crust, drains away, the decreased pressure allows the earth to shift upwards ever so slightly. This is a slightly different result than what happens when we drain aquifers – then the ground subsides, because the surface collapses to fill in the space left behind. I am not a scientist, so this is a super-simplified explanation.

Suffice to say that when Dr. Borsa and his buddies got together and made the necessary measurements, and most of these stations in southern California had begun to rise. By March of 2014, nearly all of the stations from here through Washington and Idaho registered on his instruments. They mapped the results with maps of deviation from normal precipitation and, BINGO!, found good correlations.

How big of a difference? On average 0.15 inches, with up to half an inch in the mountains.

Facebook does natives!


Photo courtesy Silicon Valley Business Journal

Linda Ruthruff, our dedicated member from the Santa Clara Valley chapter, tells us that it has been announced to the public: Facebook has native plants in their new West Campus project. The Silicon Valley Business Journal reported on it in this lengthy article.

And CNPS helped – here is Facebook’s list of key team members: PAE, energy consultant; Brightworks, LEED tracking; CMG, landscape architect; Forell/Elsesser Engineers, structural engineer. Environmental groups consulted: Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Sequoia Audubon Society, Committee for Green Foothills, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, Save the Bay, California Native Plant Society (Santa Clara Valley Chapter), South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project.

The article explains that the project, “Located on a former industrial site across the street from the Ravenswood wetlands, West Campus will include perhaps the region’s most ambitious green roof: More than 350 trees, including mature oaks, will dot the top of the 430,000-square-foot building, which will reach completion next year. The garden will also feature drought-resistant grasses, shrubs and groundcovers amid winding walking trails. And parking? No acres of heat-producing asphalt here: It’s all tucked underneath the building at grade level.”

“From the outside, it will appear as if you’re looking at a hill in nature,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook wall in 2012, introducing the project.

This project has been a labor of love for the many environmentally-conscious volunteers who have contributed time and know-how to help Facebook make the great choices that are evident in their plans. A high-profile project like this is a great way to spread the word about the value of our native flora. Who’s next?

Get a Garden Sign that Proclaims, “Natives Here!”

Native plants live here - garden signCNPS soon will be offering Garden Signs that anyone with native plants in their garden can buy and display. We announced the signs to generate neighborhood interest in the gardens that are bringing us all into the future: great landscapes with habitat, low water use, reliance on Integrated Pest Management instead of chemicals, and help us to conserve native plants throughout the state and Baja. The signs are meant as a marker of recognition. People who buy the signs are not being “certified”, nor are the gardens inspected. This less formal approach to garden signage means more people will feel able to participate and welcomed into the community.

Continue reading