February 29, 2008

Leap Day night smells like lilacs

On my walk home along Shattuck, the air smelled like lilacs, like the east coast lilacs in my community garden plot. Here are some other blossoms from my Leap Day walk.

February 26, 2008

Weekend headlines February 25, 2008

The local ecologist is no longer updated via Blogger. Also, we could not migrate our skin, so we are working on recreating the old one.

On the afternoon NPR news hour I heard that Berkeley along with Oakland and San Francisco are in the top ten greenest cities in the U.S. The number one city is Portland with a 4.8 score for “green living” while Berkeley is number seven with a 2.8 score for “green living.” Recently a friend and I wre struck by the lack of stormwater management in Berkeley. This was foremost on my mind watching the recent downpours run off into the storm drains. Maybe Berkeley can improve its score by installing green streets (see Portland, Oregon) and permeable sidewalks (see San Francisco). Here are other headlines from the weekend.

UC removes ropes at Oak Grove protest, erects extra barricade Daily Planet Critics organize against Apple Moth spraying in East Bay Daily Planet

Cody’s to move Downtown, leave 4th Street Daily Planet

Pelican to trail walkers: Move it or lose it Chronicle

Dot-com sends scavengers after tomatoes, cash Chronicle

Matt Stoecker’s plan is to set the steelhead free to get back to Corte Madera Creek Chronicle

Governors want federal transportation funds Chronicle

Bay Area performing arts groups going green Chronicle The marquis announces that the theatre is the first 100% solar powered theatre in the U.S.

Zero-carbon city plan draws cautious praise Chronicle

Amid weeds and rust, a ruin seeks a second act New York Times

The battle over the greens Times

February 19, 2008

local ecologist has moved

Please visit our new blog site. Read our latest posts: Runnels in Spain and Weekend headlines. As always, we appreciate your readership and comments!

Runnels in Cordoba, Sevilla, and Madrid

Coincidentally I saw the runnels, or channels designed for irrigation in the garden (read here), at La Mezquita de Cordoba, Spain pictured in Rain Gardens: Managing Water Sustainably in the Garden and Designed Landscape by Nigel Dunnett and Andy Clayden. I travelled in Spain before reading the book which I borrowed from the Berkeley Public Library. Although I did not photograph runnels in Cordoba, I did photograph runnels in Patio de los Naranjos (courtyard of the orange trees) in Sevilla , pictured above and below, and in Parque del Buen Retiro in Madrid. Dunnett and Clayden use the term gully instead of runnel. They write,
In the Moorosh garden of the Mezquita, Cordoba (Spain), water is channelled through a series of gullies to each orange tree set within the cobbled patio. Water was a valuable and scarce resource that needed to be used widely. The flow of water can be regulated by inserting timber boards into slot sets within the rills.
Parque del Buen Retiro

February 18, 2008

Weekend headlines February 18, 2008

February 13, 2008

Tree Walk: Broadleaf tree leaf characteristics

UPDATE: Please visit our new blog site. Read our latest posts: Runnels in Spain and Weekend headlines. As always, we appreciate your readership and comments! ____________________________________________ As flowers bloom blossom and leaves leaf buds unfurl, I am reminded of leaf characters. Several broadleaf tree leaf character diagrams were printed in the Summer 2004 issue of the original local ecology newsletter. The diagrams are included below along with definitions from How to Identify Plants by H.D. Harrington. Simple and compound leaf parts
  • Blade is the "expanded usually flat portion of a leaf or petal."
  • Compound leaf is a leaf "completely separated into 2 or more leaflets." Example: California buckeye.
  • Leaflet is "one of the divisions of a compound leaf."
  • Petiole is the "stalk to a leaf blade or to a compound leaf."
  • Petiolule is the "stalk to a leaflet in a compound leaf."
  • Pinnate is a "compound leaf with the leaflets on 2 opposite sides of an elongated axis."
  • Rachis is the "central elongated axis to an inflorescence or a compound leaf."
  • Simple leaf is a leaf "of only 1 part, not completely divided into separate segments." Example: Pacific madrone.
  • Stipule is an "appendage at the base of the petiole or leaf at each side of its insertion; often more or less united."
Leaf shapes and margins
  • Lanceolate leaves are "lance-shaped; several times longer than wide, broadest toward the base and tapering to apex." Example: willow.
  • Oval leaves are "broadly elliptical, the width over 1/2 the length."
  • Cordate leaves have a "conventional heart shape; the point apical." Example: littleleaf linden.
  • Entire margins do not have teeths or lobes. Example: Eucalyptus.
  • Leaves with serrate margin have "sharp teeth directed forward." Example: coast live oak.
  • Undulate leaves have "gently wavy" margins.
  • Lobed leaves are "technically cut in not over half way to the base or midvein, the sinuses and apex of segments rounded." Example: California sycamore.
Source: Leaf parts: University of Arkansas Botany (original web page is defunct) Leaf shapes and margins: Allan Gardens, Canada (original web page is defunct)

February 10, 2008

Weekend headlines February 10, 2008

Last week I missed Ron Sullivan's tree article titled " Trees show their bones and history in winter." In other local trees news, the University of California has initiated Phase I removal of pines affected with pitch canker on the Gill Tract in Albany. The economics of environmental issues were featured in two articles this weekend. An SF Chronicle article titled "Where does convention trash go?" discussed efforts to host more environmentally friendly conventions and meetings. Apollo Alliance's Green Cities, Brown Folks forum last fall featured biodegradable kitchenware from the Green Home Environmental Store. The New York Times featured two sides of the recession's impact on the environment. The Finance Market web site argues that a recession will help the environment (ex: "fewer S.U.V.'s sold") while Treehugger.com noted that a recession would hurt the environment (ex:"politicians may redirect their attention from environmental initiatives to economic ones."). In a January post, I wondered if presidential candidates would address environmental issues on the campaign trail in California. I recall references made to a green-collar economy based on alternative energy, but nothing more substantive. Open Exchange shares the frustration of commentator adrian2154 on the "mass media coverage...of candidates' positions" on climate change and to that effect published candidates statements about and actions on global warming. Interestingly, the number one concern for those who voted in the recent primary was the state of the economy. I am not sure the link between non-fossil fuel energy and a more sustainable economy has been clearly articulated. Speaking of energy, the Times also ran an article about energy consumption in the suburbs. The article, titled "Don't let the green grass fool you," compares the carbon footprint of single family houses - both detached and attached - and multi-unit buildings. Not surprisingly, multi-family buildings have a small footprint in terms of heating and cooling. The article also mentions measures to reduce carbon footprints like the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, Levittown's (the quintessential post-war suburb) declaration to "cut carbon emissions by 10 percent this year, and more individual actions like the corn kernel/ pellet stove cooperative started by a "suburban environmentalist." In other consumption news, the Times reported on the decrease in paper use in some countries, but not in others like China. The graphics are quite interesting especially the illustration of the "paperless home" which features items like digital cameras, scanners, cloth dish towels and coffee filters, and l.c.d. digital photo frames. Back to living things, there were several bird related articles, one of which I mentioned in yesterday's post. The Chronicle featured the findings of two University of California researchers on the mechanics of the Anna hummingbird's song. The paper also reported on the release of a frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) from Catalina Island. On the other end of the spectrum, the Chronicle reported on the high number of bird deaths in Richardson Bay. The Audubon director of bird conservation was interviewed and was cautious in linking the rise in avian deaths to recent sewage spills into the Bay.

February 9, 2008

Bird watch: Berries and buds attract robins and cedar waxwings

In the first post on birds, I wrote about creating bird niches, or planting to provide a variety of food sources for birds groups (frugivores versus insectivores). I mentioned that I do not have a yard so much as a few, small growing spaces. One space is 1' x 21' and the other is 20" x 6'. I grow vegetables and herbs in the latter. The other space is already planted with a quince, rosebush, a crocus shrub, and a small tree bearing small, red fruit. I don't know the name. A neighboring purple leaf plum drapes into the space. Finally, there is a space by the front of the lot (there are six units on the lot), near the trash and recycling that supports an unidentified plant. In addition, the neighbor's honeysuckle (or is it a trumpet creeper?) hangs into the space. It is still sunny. I began writing this post three days ago, on a overcast, dull morning. However, the birds - robins, cedar waxwings, and more - were singing, loudly. After almost four years of living in Berkeley, I cannot identify birds by their song, I cannot identify many birds by sight, and I am still a plant id novice, hence the unidentified small tree bearing small, red fruit. Despite my lack of local knowledge, which is embarrassing because the name of this blog is local ecologist, the birds still eat the small, red fruit as well as the buds of the purple leaf plum. They also sit in the plum and raise a chorus; they fly from the plum to neighboring trees - more small trees bearing small, red red fruit and lemon trees. The street tree in front of the lot is also a prime perch site; it's a purple leaf plum. One of the birds whose return to the yard is exciting is Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna). I really like its song. Two University of California, Berkeley researchers have shown that the song is made as wind passes through the hummingbird's spread tail feathers at the end of a dive, rather than via vocalization. You can read the article about the research findings and watch a video of the researchers at work on the SF Chronicle web site.

February 7, 2008

Outdoor space for small dwellings

Sunshine and 57 degrees, sitting on the (north-facing) stoop of my small dwelling (not pictured here), drinking tea, listening to bird songs, and typing from "Go Outside" in Little House on a Small Planet by Shay Salomon with photographs by Nigel Valdez.
Porches on farmhouses were essential for food processing, entertaining guests during harvest, and summer sleeping. Front porches in neighborhoods used to serve as telephones and TV sets: they announced to neighbors you are available to chat, and livened up the street life for those out on an evening stroll. Porticoes, balconies, terraces, and verandahs were signs of a complete house. Some people credit the arrival of air conditioning with the decline of neighborhood cohesion, especially in the South. Porches on small houses provide extra storage, party, and summer guest space. Some are designed and built to convert easily into four-season space, if necessary, at some point in the future. They filter or block sun, and rain and they can be shallow on the south side of the house, to allow in warm winter sun but block summer heat. They protect finishes, making it possible for the owner to choose natural, inexpensive, nontoxic plasters or wood finished that otherwise would be hard to maintain. Screened porches provide mosquito-free outdoor relaxation. Excellent outdoor space, even when architect-designed and contractor-built, is typically one-third to one-tenth the cost of indoor space. "But unfortunately, the outdoor space comes last, landscape architect Irene Ogata explains, "literally--it's built when everything else is finished, and after the finances have been depleted." For this reason, some landscape architects complain that their profession is relegated to providing the "parsley on the pig," when...it makes more sense to treat the outdoor space as the main course.

February 6, 2008

Super Tuesday Results

Local Alameda County Measure A lost did not meet the required two-thirds vote in favor to pass (county tax to expand private hospital); there were 174,632 votes against the measure. Oakland's school district Measure G won passed with 60,629 votes. San Francisco's park Measure A passed. The Neighborhood Parks Council web site has great summary and detailed information about the bond. El Cerrito's street repair Measure A won passed as well as Richmond's Measure G to reduce maintain phone and cable service taxes. State Wins Yes Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97 (gaming) Losses No Proposition 93 (term limits) Proposition 92 (community college funding) Proposition 91 (gas tax) National Barack Obama 13 states Hilary Clinton 9 states John McCain 9 states Mitt Romney 7 states Mike Huckabee 5 states Source: San Francisco Chronicle, sfgate.com, and nytimes.com.

February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday Vote

It is Super Tuesday in California and 23 other states. Vote. Surprisingly, there are much fewer campaign signs than the last election season in California. I am surprised because this election will have national and international impacts, but perhaps the scale of the contest - the nation versus the neighborhood and city - and the significance of the vote has deterred folks from publicly committing to a candidate. Perhaps our lawns and windows, sidewalks, and medians will be covered with signs in the fall. Here are the three signs I noticed along my usual routes.

February 3, 2008

Weekend headlines

Glen Park Victorian front garden is now good for modern living SF Chronicle Magazine Riding that train [the Amtrak to Sacramento] SF Chronicle Magazine Life in Sunnydale [a San Francisco housing project] SF Chronicle 100-inch diet means not going loco [a critique of Barbara Kingsolver's 2007 book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about "one year of deliberately eating food produced in the place where we live."] SF Chronicle To pull a thorn from the side of the planet [eco-friendly flowers] NY Times Sewage spill in San Francisco Bay NY Times Richmond Design Board gives qualified ‘Yes’ to Chevron plans Berkeley Daily Planet

February 2, 2008

Bookshop: celebrating the rain

A Maine weather stick, a Christmas gift. An upward tilt indicates fair weather, a downward tilt indicates inclement weather. Read more on Wikipedia. With several rainy days last week and more rain tomorrow, perhaps it's time to curl up with books about (saving) rain water. Rain Gardens: Managing Water Sustainably in the Garden and Designed Landscape By Nigel Dunnett, Andy Clayden Introduction to Stormwater: Concept, Purpose, Design By Bruce K. Ferguson Design for Water: Rainwater Harvesting, Stormwater Catchment, and Alternate Water Reuse By Heather Kinkade-Levario Water Features for Small Gardens: From Concept to Construction By Keith Davitt Green Streets: Innovative Solutions for Stormwater and Stream Crossings By Metro For more titles, browse The Printed Leaf bookshop! Also, watch the After the Storm video, produced by the EPA and The Weather Channel.

February 1, 2008

Tree walk: Utility pruning on Blake Street

Utility pruning is the removal of branches or stems to prevent the loss of service, prevent damage to utility equipment, avoid impairment, and uphold the intended usage of facilities. Only qualified line-clearance tree trimmers or qualified line-clearance trainees should engage in line-clearance work. Arborists' Certification Study Guide, Sharon J. Lilly, 2001.
The utility pruning in the photograph occurred on Blake Street, south of Telegraph, in Berkeley. The tree is a topped redwood. Topping is an inappropriate and harmful form of tree pruning. (Arguably, a redwood should not been planted beneath overhead utility wires.) Lilly writes,
Severe heading causes branch dieback, decay, and sprout production from the cut ends, resulting in a potentially hazardous situation once the sprouts become large and heavy....If a tree has been topped previously...crown restoration can improve its stricture and appearance. Restoration consists of the selective removal of watersprouts, all stubs, and dead branches to improve a tree's structure and form....Restoration usually requires several prunings over a number of years.
A Davey Tree crew was pruning the redwood. I do not know what contract relationship the City of Berkeley has with Davey Tree, but I did find a 2007 City Council memo about tree removal services with West Coast Arborist, Inc.