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Posts Tagged ‘Ethnobotany’

Fenders Blue Butterfly and the Kincaid Lupine

I attended a wonderful talk at the Straub Environmental Center is Salem, Oregon last night.  The speaker Gail Gredler an instructor at our local community college spoke about creating native plant gardens. She answered a lot of questions I had about what is a native plant and why are they important to humans and to the planet.

What is a native plant?

First, according to Gail a native plant can be described as plants growing before European settlements started about 200 years ago. Other sources I found also describe them this way: “A native (indigenous) species is one that occurs in a particular region, ecosystem, and habitat without direct or indirect human actions” (Kartesz and  Morse 1997; Richards 1998

Gredler explained that trying to say what is native and what is not is getting harder because some plant specialists are cloning and messing with the DNA of native plants to create “nativars”.  These mad scientists (my judgment) are creating these bio-modified cloned plants so they can patent the plant and make money on each sale of the plant or its seeds.  Bio-modification is not made with ecosystem health in mind so we don’t know if there will be detrimental effects.  People are beginning to sell the look-alikes as natives and so it is important to find a native plant nursery that is registered.  (See resource list at end of this article).  Insects may or may not recognize the plant chemicals of these “nativars”.  Some research on bio-modified corn and other grain crops are showing that insects will not pollinate the crops because the plant chemicals are toxic to the pollinator. The bio-modified grains are causing issues with human and animal health also.

Insects need native plants to survive.  We need insects alive so that our food and medicine and utility plants can be pollinated and fertilized. Without insects and native plants our biome will experience an ecological collapse.

 Ke Chung Kim an entomologist with Penn State University writes in his book “Biodiversity, conservation and inventory: why insects matter”, that insects and anthropods have existed for more than 400 million years and after surviving the Permian and Cretaceous mass extinctions, arthropods have been the most successful of all living things and along with other invertebrates constitute more than three-quarters essential for human food production, and maintaining rain forests, savannahs and other important components of global water storage in ecosystems.

 Without insects we would experience complete eco-system collapse. Native plants are the only food that many pollinator insects will consume. Without native plants, many insects such as the Fender Blue butterfly, the Franklin’s Bumble Bee (Bombus franklini) and Mason bees (Osmia cascadica) will become extinct.  Bringing native plants back into our environment is essential to the survival of humans, fauna and flora. Once the insects are gone, then will fall the birds, squirrels, foxes, rabbits, deer, and other fauna. The food chain will collapse.

According to Gredler 90% of insects depend on native plants for food. Local insects evolved with native plants and are attracted to particular leaf chemicals.  The leaf chemical allows the insect such as the Fender Blue butterfly and pollinators to find food. Only 10% of insects are generalist feeders.

Here are 7 reasons on why native plants are important according to Gredler.

  1. Resource conservation:  Native plants do not need a lot of extra water. They are drought resistant. Most native plants that would grow in Oregon and (Washington, British Columbia) valleys do not need extra water in the summer time. They need well adapted to our dry summers.
  2. Save on the use of fertilizers and pesticides:  Native plants do not need pesticides. They are already acclimated to insect populations and can take care of themselves, thank you.  Fertilizers are applied sparingly.  Having plants grow in correct soil types is more helpful.
  3. Insects need them to survive. As already mentioned: 90% of insects depend on native plants for their survival. 37% of animal species eat herbivorous insects.
  4. Native plants in landscapes will stop the desertification of Cascadia.
  5. Habitat fragmentation is a hazard to wildlife.  Bringing natives back will stop the ecosystem collapse. Native plants provide food, water, and habitat for wildlife.
  6. Plants are the only thing on the planet that can harvest the sun’s energy and create their own food.
  7. Native plants are not necessarily aggressive and can be out done by non-natives. They will need our help to come back.  We need to stop planting aggressive non-natives like the Butterfly plant.

Here are few more from other sources:

8.  Native plants are important to human health. The vast array of natural chemicals is already the basis for ~25% of all U.S. prescriptions, ranging from aspirin (bark of willow tree) to taxol (bark of pacific yew tree).  These plant based medications easily break down in our ecosystems unlike pharmaceutical synthetic hormones and drugs. Use native plants for healing and stop the chemical soup poisoning of our world.

9. Native plant heritage: plants were used for almost everything that humans needed to survive. Think what the world would be like if we stopped producing toxic plastic “stuff” and went back to living simply with few things, essentials made from plants: clothes, homes (not from trees but from fast growing plant fiber and earth such as in Cob buildings).  Paper not made from our forests but from fast growing plant fibers. Humans lived with this technology for hundreds of thousands of years.  We may have to adjust to new ways of living to survive.

10. Native plants can be used to restore our land.  They easily adapt to harsh conditions and have been used in the repair of streams, meadows, savannahs, forests, and other fragile landscapes.

According to Gredler since the 1840’s over 80 million acres have been taken out of native landscapes.  Landscapes have been paved over, planted in non native turf grass and tilled for non native crops.  Gredler called this process the “desertification of Oregon”.  I call this process the desertification of Cascadia because this destruction of the bio-region is happening everywhere.

According to my other source Kartz and Morse, although only about 737 native plant species are protected by the Endangered Species Act, it is estimated that nearly 25 percent of the 20,000 native plant species in North America are at risk of extinction. It is becoming generally recognized that in order to preserve individual species, their plant communities must be preserved. This includes the preservation of native plants that are not yet in danger of extinction, but still play an important role in native ecosystems.

Native plant species provide the keystone elements for ecosystem restoration. Native plants help to increase the local population of native plant species, providing numerous benefits. There are specific associations of mycorrhizae with plants, invertebrates with woody debris, pollinators with flowers, and birds with structural habitat that can only be rebuilt by planting native plants.

 We need your help.  Begin today to tear out the turf and aggressive non-natives and plant your yards to become a native plant repository and sanctuary.

Resources:

Where to find a list of reputable native plant nurseries in cascadia

1. Online PDF booklet of native plant nurseries in Oregon and Washington

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/yamhill/sites/default/files/wholesale_np_nurseries.pdf

2. Sources of Pacific Northwest native plants – a online Pdf booklet

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/yamhill/sites/default/files/sources_for_native_plants.pdf

3. The plight of the Fenders Blue Butterfly and its relationship to Kincaid’s Lupine

http://www.xerces.org/2010/12/10/saving-the-fenders-blue-butterfly/

If you would like to learn more about the relationship between insects and humans, animals and plants, check out the Xerces Society website at:    http://www.xerces.org

References

Kartesz, John, North Carolina Botanical Garden, and Larry Morse, The Nature Conservancy. 1997. Personal communication

Kim, Ke Chung (1994) Biodiversity and Conservation, Volume 2, Number 3, 191-214, DOI: 10.1007/BF00056668, Center for Biodiversity Research, The Pennsylvania State University. http://www.springerlink.com/content/q465056vr1t45u67/

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Artic Lupine

Salem, Oregon

Amateur Naturalist Series -Landscaping with Natives, Gail Gredler

January 13, Thursday, 7-8:30 pm Program: Creating Native Plant Gardens. Gail Gredler, Instructor of Horticulture at Chemeketa Community College, will explain how to create native plant gardens and landscapes. She will highlight the benefits of gardening with native plants and discuss which plants to use to create a haven for birds, pollinators, and other wildlife. The class costs $5 and is open to the public and is co-sponsored by Willamette Valley Chapter of the Native Plant Societyand the Straub Environmental Learning Center. Location: 1320 A St. NE, next to Olinger Pool, near North Salem High. Registration is required. To register, call John Savage at 503-391-4145. All classes are held at the Straub Environmental Learning Center at 7:00 p.m.  Call or email Alexandra at 503-391-4145 or fselc@fselc.org to register.   Website:  http://www.fselc.org/programs.html

Eugene, Oregon             January 10, Monday, 7:30 pm

Meeting: Bruce Newhouse presents “Delights, Myths and Legends of Native Plant Gardening.” Can midwinter exploration of gardening delights, myths and legends bring spring here sooner? Let’s try it and see! Join us for this presentation on creating “deep gardening” goals that can make a garden both good looking and purposeful. Is there really a difference between planting native or non-native plants in a home garden? Do native Plants have special care needs? Native plants are not easy to find for sale, so where can I get them? These and other questions will be addressed in this show. You can create a small ark of native biodiversity in your yard if you are willing to include native bees, butterflies and birds as part of your inner circle of friends. Sharing between like-minded gardeners will be encouraged during this event. If you would like to read a good primer, try “Bringing Nature Home,” by Douglas Tallamy. Can spring be far behind?

Location: EWEB Training Rm., 500 E. 4th Ave., Eugene. For more info call 541-343-2364.

 Ashland, Oregon

Wildflowers (many of which are endemic and very rare) begin to bloom in the lower altitudes in February and March. The Native Plant Society leads walks throughout the Rogue Valley on Saturday mornings (See www.npsoregon.org)

Tundra Swans

RIDGEFIELD, WASHINGTON

Ridgefield National Wildlife refuge – Annual return of the trumpeter and Tundra Swans also large repository of Wapato and other native water plants.  http://ridgefieldbirds.com/TheRefuge/Birds/ridgefield_NWR_tundra_swan.html

Seattle, Washington – Native Plant Society of Washington

Seattle Chapter     –    Saturday, January 8th

Tradition Lake Plateau, led by Nelson Salisbury and Louise Kulzer
Come join our Chapter Botanist, Nelson Salisbury, and Field Trip Chair, Louise Kulzer, for a bit tamer New Year romp on the Tradition Lake Plateau. It’s not New Year’s Day, but it’ll still get the year off to a great plant start. We’ll peruse the extensive plant list created by Fred and Ann Weinmann and see how many of the choicest mid-elevation plants we can find. Pacific willow, the most upland of the willows, mature ninebark, cherry and a conifer of great girth (was it a hemlock?) are some of the highlights I remember from a past field trip. Wintering waterfowl should be on the lake, Douglas squirrel and woodpeckers are also to be expected. Trip length can range from 3-5 miles, depending on the group’s desires, with moderate elevation gain.Note:  The gate to the parking area is closed, so we’ll meet at the gate and hike the .4 miles in.  Dress warmly! 
Date & Time Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011; 9 AM
Location Meet at the parking area by the trailhead at 9:00 AM. Take I-90 past Issaquah to Exit 20, then turn right on the frontage road to the gate. Note:  The gate to the parking area is closed, so we’ll meet at the gate and hike the .4 miles in. 
Contact Contact Nelson at 206-372-4255 or nelson@earthcorps.org to sign up.
Bring Bring water and a lunch and dress for the weather.

 

Native Plant Identification Workshop

Join Nelson Salisbury, Chapter Botanist, in a free plant identification workshop that is offered before each Chapter meeting at 5:30 PM in CUH, Main Hall.  While the workshop is oriented primarily toward beginners, anyone who wants to work on improving keying skills or their familiarity with the northwest flora is welcome.  Feel free to bring samples of unknown plants in for identification.  We will have plenty of material and tools if you come empty-handed.

Tri-cities – Washington

Koma Kulshan

Winter Twigs and BudsMeet at 9 AM at North Chuckanut Trailhead. We will decide then and there on route, depending on weather and interest.  We might hike four or five miles, but should be back by 3:00.  This winter walk will emphasize identification of deciduous trees and shrubs based on their twigs and buds (copies of a key will be provided).  There is a diverse assortment of native and non-native plants along the upland trails and along the Chuckanut beachfront. Bring lunch, and dress for the weather, including boots for muddy trails. 
Date & Time Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011; 9 AM
Location Meet at 9:00 AM at North Chuckanut Trailhead (the parking lot on Chuckanut Drive south of Old Samish Road and before California Street).
Contact Contact Allan Richardson at 733-5477 or boghill@earthlink.net to confirm. 

http://www.wnps.org/chapter_info/chapter_trips.html

British Columbia

Vancouver, British Columbia

Thursday January 6, 2011

Presentation: Fabulous fungi of Haida Gwaii
Paul Kroeger 
Until recently, very little was known about the kinds of fungi found on Haida Gwaii. Why should we care? Because fungi play incredibly important roles in ecosystems. Without fungi, we wouldn’t have the rich native plant communities that we have in BC.
Paul Kroeger is one of a team of mycological specialists who has been studying fungi in Haida Gwaii since 2003. He’ll talk about some of the species found there – including some rare species – and about the role of fungi in maintaining the health of our forests and other plant communities.It all happens at 7 p.m in the Cedar Room at VanDusen Botanical Garden, at 37th and Oak in Vancouver.Coming soon:
February 3: Edible plants of Coastal BC with Andy McKinnon
March 3: Flora of White Lake with Terry McIntosh
April 7: Pink Mountain Revisited with Ron Long 

 http://www.npsbc.org/Education/education.htm

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In 2011 I will be sharing with you why you need to respect and bring native plants into your life.  I will be doing this in a pragmatic way. First I am going to take up the post-a-week challenge made by WordPress and will be updating my blog weekly. 

 I will share with you why it is so imperative that humans stop destroying their natural environment.  I will share with you the science behind why native plants are so important.  I will teach you to identify native plants so that you can start visiting them in the wild places and start bringing them back into your health and wellness regimes, your yards, your cities and biomes.

I will be listing more activities found in Cascadia (the area from British Columbia to Northern California) that will help you connect with the both native plants and those who can teach you what you need to know.

You can help me.

Tell me what is going on in your area of the world that inspires others to protect native plants.  Share inspired comments to this website (skillshare).  Tell others about this website and this project.

I will be learning more about the technology offered by WordPress and available on this website.  I promise to learn how to tweet, digg, RSS, etc. I know I can do it, I know I can do it…

I will be publishing my book as an e-book during 2011.  It will include illustrations and watercolors that I have completed of native plants, plant identification charts, maps, and other useful information.  This book has 18 chapters.  Here is preview of the chapters.

Table of Contents

Introduction: finding our way back, reconnecting with the plant world. 1

Chapter 1. Plant Community, human community (White Oak) 5

Chapter 2. Learning the lay of the land (Oregon Grape) 11

Chapter 3. How to identify and “key” native plants (Miner’s lettuce) 19

Chapter 4. Building shelters from plants (Willow) 27

Chapter 5. Growing your own fibers: Grasses, sedges, tules and fiber plants (Cat-tail) 29

Chapter 6. Seeds and wild plants. What is valuable?. 31

Chapter 7. The great harvest (Wapato) 33

Chapter 8. Digging in the dirt- exploring earthworms and mycelium.. 35

Chapter 9. Using native plants as medicine (Pacific Ninebarks) 37

Chapter 10. Spring plants in Cascadia (Nettles and the potherb) 39

Chapter 11. Stalking the wild plant – Tools, geography, maps (Horsetail) 41

Chapter 12. Fermenting the bounty (Red and Blue Elderberry) 43

Chapter 13. Bringing the native plant and pollinators home. 45

Chapter 14. Twenty important native plants you need to know.. 46

Chapter 15.Place where the spirit dwells- First Nations- the ethnobotany of native plants  47

Chapter 16. Generational Injustice (St. John’s Wort) 49

Chapter 17. Bringing Native plants back into our mechanized world (Cats Claw) 53

Chapter 18.  Resources and Tools: books, gear, online resources. 57

WordPress will not allow me to publish the ebook or link to the ebook on this website so I am looking for other avenues to let you know how to support the Radical Botany project.  I will find a way to let others purchase the book and support this project to educate others about native plants .  I will continue to update this blog weekly and continue to teach what I know and what I am learning. 

  I am looking into starting a non-profit education project.  I hope to locate to a more rural area in Cascadia where I can have a greenhouse and native plant nursery and school.  I want to live next to the forest.

So those are my resolutions for 2011.  I hope that you will contribute in a positive way.

See you in the deep woods – Let us begin…

Happy New Year! 

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Oregon Grape

This is the first of 14 essays that I wrote on plant knowledge that appeared on the Portland Indymedia Website from January 12, 2008 until May 8, 2010.  They appeared as skill shares. People were encouraged to comment and share their own level of plant knowledge. I am reposting the 14 essays with updates and changes. I will also be archiving them on this website so they can be easily accessed. Please feel free to comment on each weekly essay.  There is a link to the original essay that appeared on Portland Indymedia.  The posts include interesting comments.

Let us begin this important discussion.

I must start by explaining that I call this land, this ecosystem and nexus of ecosystems stretching from British Columbia to northern California, Cascadia.  I will reference Cascadia throughout my writing and will sometimes, when necessary, identify a place more specifically by state, valley, or mountain range.  Much of what I will say about plants in Cascadia is true for plants across the Earth.  The Earth is made up of a connected series of ecosystems that support plants, humans, and all other creatures.  I believe in the Gaia hypothesis put forth by James Lovelock and others, which proposes that the living and nonliving parts of the earth interact in a complex system that can be thought of as a single organism. And we are a part of that organism – not apart from it.

I am a longtime Cascadian. I was born here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and grew up with the ways of a true wild child. I attended school and was part of a very large family, but every other moment of my life outside those realms I spent close to the earth and the plants.  I lived close to a white oak forest and learned about the plants from the plants themselves.  I loved the crawling animals, the birds and all creatures I found in that amazing forest. In that forest I found the divine. I lived close to the foot of Mary’s Peak in the Coast Range, a mountain that the native Kalapuya called Tamanawis, “place where the spirit dwells.”  When I was an older child in my teens, I ran wild on the slopes of the mountain – especially on the North Trail.  This trail was where Kalapuyan children were sent for their vision quests.  I had a father who loved the Earth and helped me to understand its plants and learn how to identify them.  He encouraged me to draw and paint pictures of the plants as a way of understanding them.  He did not know about their healing abilities, but  he sensed that some knowledge had been lost about these plants.  My father was a longtime organic gardener, and for a time our family raised about 50 percent of our food from the earth.  I learned a great deal about growing,drying, preserving, and harvesting plants from my parents.

In my early teens I was able to attract another great plant teacher: a woman simply called “Grandma,“ who lived not far from me. She lived across a couple of fields from my home..  Grandma taught me to harvest the tiny purple center of Queen Anne’s lace for use as a natural dye.  She was my most important human plant teacher. She told me about the spirit of each plant.  I was taught that specific plant families do not always react in the same ways in each human dose,  that we all attract plant healing in different ways.  This is the inverse of what corporate medicine teaches today.  Teachings such as homeopathy and the use of flower essence (Bach Flower Remedies) also teach that the healing must start with the human spirit and that all healing starts with emotions and energy.  I was also taught that to achieve proper healing,  a healer must be able to observe the progress and changes in a human or animal over time.  My most important teacher was the plants themselves. Through observation and use of the plants to heal myself and the animals on our farm, I was able to learn essential techniques used in plant healing.

To understand fully my relationship with the plants of Cascadia, I sought out stories about how native peoples used local plants. And I discovered an attraction to several plants.  I will start by teaching what I know about some essential plant species found in Cascadia.  These species are important to me, and you may find that  you are drawn to other plants in the region.

As I teach you about the important healing plants of Cascadia, I will also encourage you to observe yourself and note what plants you are attracted to. Understand that many times the attraction is mutual, and that the plant  that draws you in may be trying to heal you or bring you back to a state of balance with the natural world.

I will be covering how to identify and harvest the plants that I think we should all know about.  I also plan to discuss how to use these plants for nutrition and for emotional, physical, and spiritual healing.  I will provide resources for additional learning about each plant and share some ideas on how to use plants (not trees) for shelter and other necessities such as clothing and fiber…

 Before you can learn about healing and nutritional plants, you need to learn the lay of the land, and you must grow aware of the spirit force that the Earth gives us through plants.  Plants are more than inanimate objects put on the Earth for our enjoyment – they are part of us and we are part of them.  We need to have an understanding that everything in heaven and earth is connected as one big system and that plants are as much a part of our bodies, minds, and spirits as anything else in the ecosystem that we live in.  For too long humankind has been immersed in the idea of a mechanized world.  Many humans mistakenly believe they can treat the Earth and our bodies like machines with exchangeable parts.  Many believe they can remove or abuse a body part without harming the whole of the body.  A similar attitude perseveres about plants.  Yet as with human bodies, when you remove or abuse a plant community, you bring imbalance and dis-ease to the whole.

Plants are amazing Earth entities.  Yet we have lost so much knowledge about how to interact with them and gain health and wellness through their use.  There is a movement amongst permaculturists and plant healers to collect the stories of how native peoples interacted with plants – the Ethnobotany of plant knowledge.  The following is information that I gathered during a talk that I attended at the 2008 gathering of permaculturists in Eugene, Oregon put on by the Eugene Permaculture Guild.

The speakers were from Bill Burwell, a Kalapuya researcher, and Jerry Hall, an ethnobotanist who teaches at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon.

Bill Burwell spoke at length about the relationship between the Kalapuyans who lived in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  He said that at the start of each harvest season they first had a gathering ceremony.  Great respect was given to the earth and the process of harvesting.  The Kalapuyans expressed gratitude for the harvest.  „The spiritual leader of each winter village site would harvest a few articles of each resource, bring it back, prepare it in a ceremonial way, bless the plants or animals that were responsible, and then the regular harvest could begin.“

Burwell reported that there was a belief that all plants and animals, including humans, were part of the same lifeforce, family and community. „As above, so below“.

Burwell spoke of a word that was used up and down the Willamette Valley, the lower Columbia, and into the Salish area of Washington and British Columbia.that expressed this reverence for life: Tamanawas. Burwell said it’s been translated as spirit power. People on a vision quest would look for thier Tamanawas. Burwell said that what  Tamanawas really related to was a person’s ability to interconnect with all the rest of nature. Burwell reported that often a persons ability to find a certain plant for healing happened because they were able to connect with nature on a energetic level. „The plant actually was the teacher of the person who was going out on the search“, Burwell said.

Jerry Hall spoke about language and songs that were used to connect with nature.  Hall spoke about first people gather songs that would connect them to a plant. The songs were located in the ether world and if one was accepting, the song would come to them and then they would find the plant. „ My experience is that singing evokes something from us that is beyond talking and gives expression to prayer“, Hall said

Both Burwell and Hall agreed that people 500 years ago knew where everything was in nature and the people took care of it and respected it.

Original Essay with comments found at http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2008/01/370936.shtml?discuss

Other resources:

Eugene Permaculture guild:  http://www.eugenepermacultureguild.org

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Radical Botany: Arising from or going to a root or source; Arising from the root or its Crown: radical leaves. Favoring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in the current practices. Developing a new awareness of our place in the natural world.

The Radical Botany blog is a discussion and repository of articles on Plant wisdom. Most of the plants discussed are native to Cascadia- the area from British Columbia to Northern California.

If you are looking for a good teacher for learning about plants, look to the plants themselves. All knowledge that would lead us to live rightly on the Earth can be found with the plants. You only need to possess excellent powers of observation and do what the plants ask you to do. If you know and understand the plant teachers, you will never be hungry, unsheltered or unclothed. You will surely be a person who lives a prosperous, abundant life.

“The loss of connection to plants, to the land, to the Earth, leaves the connection to life with which we are naturally born unfilled. No matter how much Ritalin or Prozac is poured into those holes of disconnection, synthetic pharmaceuticals can never fill them; merely human approaches can never heal them. It is not only plants that are our teachers and healers; not only plants that are among our community of life; not only plants that have a language we have long known. It is the community of life that we are missing.”  Stephan Harrod Buhner – The Lost Language of Plants –http://www.gaianstudies.org/articles2.htm

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