June 29, 2008

Tree-named streets and a brook in Fairmount, Hackensack, New Jersey

Pin oak, Oak Street Hackensack is named for the Achkinheshcky tribe; Achkinheshcky was simplified to Hackensack. The tribe settled at the mouth of the Hackensack River. The city is the seat of Bergen County; the county was once covered with farms, many of which, along with orchards, were located along the river (see History of Hacksensack).

The river runs east of the Fairmount neighborhood which has several tree-named streets: Elm Avenue, Poplar Avenue, Pine Street, Cedar Avenue, Catalpa Avenue, Willow Avenue, and Oak Street. A search of the online history book of Hackensack revealed the names of several creeks and brooks. I was told that many of these smaller bodies of water have been buried. Coles Brooks (pictured above), a tributary of the river, runs north of Coles Avenue remains in its natural state. Perhaps the tree-named streets in Fairmount are an homage to a lost, more extensive riparian landscape.

Imported Comments Comment from : Albert Dib [Visitor] "G.N. Zingsem was the force behind the establishment of the Fairmount neighborhood. Zingsem was also an architect who designed the Fairmont Park in Philadelphia. He grew trees here in Hackensack and sold them to Philadelphia for planting in the park. Thus, the area was called Fairmount and many of the streets were named after the trees." From: City of Hackensack, Three Centuries of Prosperity, 1693-1993. In response to: Tree-named streets and a brook in Fairmount, Hackensack, New Jersey Comment from : Georgia [Visitor] Albert, thank you very much for this information! It's very interesting that the park designer was able to sell his trees to the City of Philadelphia. My mother moved to Fairmount last summer and we really like the neighborhood.

June 25, 2008

Dutch farmhouse, creek, and diverse sidewalk canopy in a Clifton, NJ neighborhood

An after-breakfast walk took us past a nineteenth-century Dutch farmhouse on Valley Road, a creek on Robin Hood Road, and a block of McCosh Road planted with seven species of (street) trees. In the aerial above, the farmhouse is outlined in yellow, the creek in blue, and the block of trees in green.

The creek - whose name I have been unable to find - is located in Watershed Management Area 4 of the Passaic River watershed in New Jersey. The creek runs perpendicular to Robin Hood Road in the first block east of Valley Road. The first indications that there was water were a thick line of trees (riparian zone) and a bridge railing along the sidewalk, pictured above.

We discovered the farmhouse between a shaded block of McCosh and the creek. The nineteenth-century house and garden are a museum - Hamilton House Museum - set amongst single-family houses, Montclair State University, and municipal playing fields. The house was moved to its present location in 1973; its current footprint is significantly smaller than the original 96-acre homestead. The museum is open for tours on Sunday afternoons. Click here to see a photograph of another farm in Clifton; Ploch's Farm has been in operation since 1867. In other farm news, I noticed a sign with the following slogan - "Save the Garden State, Keep the NJ Dept of Ag" - at a local nursery. New Jersey governor Corzine's 2008-2009 budget calls for the elimination of the Department of Agriculture among other state agencies. The numbers: the New York Times reported that the state needs to make $2.7 million in cuts and the elimination of the agriculture department would save $500,000. Blog PolitickerNJ.com reported that the agricultural industry is state's third largest revenue source at $82 million behind pharmaceuticals and tourism.

Farms are only one aspect of the garden in the "Garden State." I have observed a variety of sidewalk canopy conditions in various Jersey towns including the block of McCosh Road pictured above. We counted seven tree species: Pin oak (number 4), Callery pear, Littleleaf linden, American linden (number 3), Norway maple (number 1), Red maple, and London planetree (number 2). Not only is the planting strip narrower on the west side of the block, but there are overhead utility wires. Unfortunately, large stature trees like the Norway maple and Callery pear have been planted beneath the wires. An example of poor pruning techniques and the conflict between wires and large trees is shown in the photograph below (which was taken on McCosh).

Callery pear (background); young Norway maple (foreground)

For a discussion of streetscape design, read "A Tall Order—Large Stature Trees" and "Street Trees: Let’s Think Outside the Wires," both available at Human Flower Project (search "Georgia").

June 20, 2008

Photo du jour: Jane Jacobs's house

69 Albany Street, The Annex, Toronto A full-length post about Jane and her neighborhood will follow in July.

June 16, 2008

Tree Walk: Tilia and Aesculus in bloom

June 21 is the summer solstice and the official start of summer but the presence of linden flowers is a good sign that summer is already here. The flowers bloom “for about two weeks, when spring turns to summer,” according to Plotnick in The Urban Tree Book. The linden (genus Tilia) pictured above is not a littleleaf (T. cordata) or a silver linden (T. tomentosa), common lindens on the streets of Boston where I worked as an urban forester. I think it is a bigleaf linden or T. platyphyllos. The leaves of the lindens tend to be heart shaped with imperfect – lopsided – bases. The leaves end in long points, a perfect design for directing water to the root zone. The lindens also grow a second type of leaf known as a bract, a “more or less modified leaf situated near a flower or inflorescence” (H.D. Harrington in How to Identify Plants). The bracts frame the lindens’ flowers (pictured above).

Both the flowers and leaves of the linden offer something sweet. The sap produced in the leaves attract aphids who greedily drink too much and excrete it on the leaves and anything below the canopy of the tree. Many animals benefit from this excreted sap; ants, flies, and moths eat it as well as “a sooty mold that blackens the leaf” (A. Plotnick). Plotnick describes the perfume of the linden’s flowers as “a floral mist” that is “diffused…through the neighborhood.” The flowers are complete; they have sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils. Bees pollinate the flowers, but there is a price to be paid for the abundance of flowers, pollen, and nectar. Plotnick writes that silver and Crimean lindens produce a toxic substance that seems to be concentrated in pollen. Bumblebees tend to eat pollen. Honeybees extract nectar which is less toxic. Cultivated linden honey is “sold as a delicacy and used in liqueurs.” The flowers are also steeped to make an herbal infusion – tilleul – in France.

I’ve written about the genus Aesculus on this blog. The ones that grow along Adeline Street near the Berkeley Bowl are horsechestnut or A. hippocastanum. I am most familiar with this species; there were several in front of the parks department building when I worked in Boston. During my time there one was killed by an errant driver. The horsechestnut flowers have peaked but the California buckeye’s (A. californica) flowers are still in bloom. The tree pictured above grows north of the alumni house on the UC campus. There is a buckeye growing as a street tree on Parker Street at Dana in the Le Conte neighborhood. The buckeye, like the horsechestnut, has a palmate leaf (spread apart your fingers for a rough visual aid) but its leaves are narrower than those of the horsechestnut. There are three types of palmate gemoetry: divided, parted, and compound. The leaves of the genus Aesculus are compound. On to the flowers. If the branch structure of the buckeye is like a candelabrum (A. Plotnick), then the flowers are its lights! In fact, Plotnick writes that buckeyes and horeschestnuts are refered to as “candle trees.” The geometry of the floral cluster is a thyrse described by H.D. Harrington as “a cylindrical or ovoid-pyramidal, usually densely flowered panicle on the order of a cluster of grapes or a lilac inflorescence.” There are 100 – 200 blossoms per thyrse and like the linden, the smell is intoxicating. The smell is described by A. Plotnick as “a soapy summery aroma.” Plotnick provides a description of the complexities of floral design:

The individual flowers could not be more gracefully structured or inviting. Examine them closely. Pollen sacs are extended on long wiry filaments. A sweet nectar lures pollen spreaders along the female parts. Color makrings on the petals provide ‘honey guides’ for the clueless. And when the sweet stuff is used up, the petals undergo color changes from yellow to orange and carmine, signaling, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. VISIT OUR OTHER FINE BLOSSOMS (p. 244).
Like the linden, the horsechestnut and buckeye are toxic, but in this case it is the seed not the flower, and the toxicity is towards humans, not bees. The horsechestnut has been confused with the American chestnut, Castanea dentata, which is related to beeches (genus Fagus), native to the eastern U.S. , and was decimated by an Asian fungus between 1904 and the 1930s (A. Plotnick). The chestnut seed is edible but not the horsechestnut or buckeye seed. The latter contains a substance known as esculin “that destroys red blood cells” when ingested; esculin can be extracted via boiling (A. Plotnick).

Source: Forestry Images, Univ. of Georgia, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources The common names – horsechestnut and buckeye – were derived from “associations with horses,” according to Plotnick. For example, the buckeye’s seed resembles the eye of a horse because of the helium – “the scar where the seed broke away from the fruit” (H.D. Harrington) – which resembles an iris. Also, the leaf scar (where the leaf was attached to the stem) resembles a horseshoe (pictured above).

June 13, 2008

State-wide drought, regional water rationing, and local wasteful irrigation

The above photograph was taken on June 11, at approximately 1 p.m., on the UC campus. The previous day, the fountain at Bancroft and Berkeley, several feet away from the lawn in the photo (see steps in the background), was overflowing. The overflow might have been related to the construction project at the law school to the east. I do not think the June 11 lawn watering was the result of a mechanical malfunction. At 3 p.m. on the same day, I noticed that the lawn in front of Hearst Gym on Bancroft had been watered - the grass was covered with water drops, glistened in the sun, and the sidewalk was wet. East Bay Municipal Utility District (or EBMUD) is enforcing a mandatory water rationing rule. EBMUD has set water use reduction goals for various users; the required water use reduction for institutions is 9%. California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, declared a statewide drought last week, on June 5. The governor "called for a 20 percent reduction in water use statewide and urged local agencies to bolster conservation programs and to work with federal and other authorities to help farmers who are suffering huge financial losses and abandoning crops in droves" (San Francisco Chronicle).

left, Cedar Rapids, IA (source: sfgate.com) right, Camache Reservoir, east of Lodi, CA (source: EBMUD) While cities and states in the Midwest are grappling with the effects of torrential rain and resulting floods, the Bay Area, though experiencing cooler weather than earlier this week, is still in a drought and water conservation requires our "extra efforts" after two successive dry winters (EBMUD).

June 11, 2008

News: recent plant articles

Worries Mount as Farmers Push for Big Harvest
Last winter, as the full scope of the global food crisis became clear, commodity prices doubled or tripled, provoking grumbling in America, riots in two dozen countries and the specter of greatly increased malnutrition.
State-grown Tomatoes OK, but Warning Widens
...leery shoppers seem to be redirecting some of their tomato shopping away from supermarkets and toward farmers' markets, where most produce is grown locally in small batches. Growers nationwide urged health officials to speed up their investigation into the origins of the salmonella, before massive quantities of tomatoes that are awaiting sale end up rotting.
Is Bamboo Flooring Actually Good for the Environment?
Don't automatically assume that bamboo is the environmental winner, especially if there's a locally sourced, FSC-certified hardwood option. If you are tempted by bamboo, don't settle for the salesman's patter about his product's wonders—get in touch with the manufacturer and inquire about how the source material is raised and harvested. Some of the greenest bamboo doesn't come from monoculture plantations but, rather, from operations such as Madagascar Bamboo, which harvests naturally occurring plants from the edges of farms.
Banking on Gardening
“I’m hoping to take $20 a week off my grocery bill,” she said. This is in the low range, according to Mr. Ball, who says a $100 investment will produce $1,000 to $1,700 worth of vegetables.
Loyal to Its Roots
The sea rocket, researchers report, can distinguish between plants that are related to it and those that are not. And not only does this plant recognize its kin, but it also gives them preferential treatment. If the sea rocket detects unrelated plants growing in the ground with it, the plant aggressively sprouts nutrient-grabbing roots. But if it detects family, it politely restrains itself.
Guerrilla Gardening (need Times account to access the article)
Yet aside from a few tomatoes and some Swiss chard, which he says “tasted dirty,” Reynolds has never grown any food. Nor is he too tied to gardening as an ecological act, a way of restoring nature’s order; he gladly plants invasive species if they’re aesthetically appropriate to the setting. Instead, he seems to focus on guerrilla gardening as a socially subversive phenomenon, breaking us out of the unconstructive role we’ve cast ourselves in as citizens.

June 8, 2008

Go with the flow: Touring Cordonices Creek in Berkeley

Tour participants creekside, University Village, Albany The Cordonices Creek bike tour co-sponsored by Sustainable Pacific Rim Cities and Cycles of Change was held this Saturday with fourteen participants. Grey of Cycles of Change led the tour with help from me. We met at Berkeley BART at 10 a.m. and rode uphill to Cordonices Park where we parked our bikes and walked to the waterfall. After a brief guided meditation at the fall, we biked to several more sections of the creek at the Beth El Synagogue, at Live Oak Park, at Albina Street near St. Mary's College High School, at two places in University Village in Albany (the first of which was a restoration by EcoCity Builders), and finally, where the creek meets the bay at the Albany Mudflats Ecological Preserve. The preserve was the official end of the tour but several of us continued to Albany Bulb. The next bike tour will be held on July 5 and will tour gardens, parks, and water features in Oakland and Berkeley. The full schedule can be downloaded here.

Sign at the Beth El section of the creek

St. Mary's section - note the cascading pools design; steelhead trout were first spotted in this section of the creek.

University Village (section 1) - note remnants of the deconstructed culvert

Sign in an orchard located in the floodplain of the creek

University Village (section 2)

This is the Marin Creek outfall. The Cordonices Creek outfall is slightly northwest of this location. The creek meets the bay

Slough and protected mudflats

Cairn at Albany Bulb

Albany Bulb For a photographic timeline of the most recent restoration of the creek (at University Village), click here. To participate in creeks restoration at the grassroots level, contact Friends of Five Creeks.

June 5, 2008

Photo du jour: Contaminated water at Strawberry Creek Park

Taken on June 4, 2008

June 3, 2008

Nature-made: California Academy of Sciences green roof

Nature making profiles is the signature project of local ecology. We have written three profiles, are working on a fourth, and are traveling to Toronto to see more. There are several styles of nature making. The sites we have profiled thus far (and the ones we are primarily interested in) were designed by neighborhood residents. These nature made sites are "introduced patches" (see Forman and Gordon, 1986) of intended ecological succession versus purely ecological infrastructure patches (like the California Academy of Sciences green roof) or traditional restorations of remnant "spontaneous nature" (Mozingo, 2007).

The roof is in the background of the photograph - note the rolling "hills." I saw the California Academy of Sciences green roof from the de Young Museum tower and from ground level. The roof's outline is impressive but the design details became obvious only after reviewing the Good magazine article about the roof. The roof is engineered to mimic the function of ground cover plant systems. This type of green roof is "extensive" and is characterized by shallow planting depths (versus "intensive" roofs with deep soil depths that can support shrubs and trees). Despite the shallow nature of the soil and the short layer of the plant material, the CAS green roof will intercept rainfall - keeping it out of storm drains - as well as regulate seasonal building temperature.

In a 14-month study of the rainfall interception rates of green roofs, Michigan State University researchers at the Green Roof Research Project observed that extensive roofs "retained 60.6% of rainfall from [83 experimental rainfall events] compared to 50.4% and 27.2% for the media-only and conventional gravel ballast roofs, respectively." I am always amazed by Berkeley's lack of rainfall interception landscapes and storm-water best management practices. My street floods during heavy rainfall and most of it flows into storm drains. EBMUD has implemented mandatory rationing this summer because of low precipitation levels this past winter. I think we did not do a good job of storing the rain we did receive. I am a renter so I cannot install a green roof, but if you are a house owner, consider installing, at least, an extensive green roof in combination with a rain barrel or cistern. For more information, visit the following Web sites: Nine Mile Run Rain Barrel Initiative; Best Management Practices for Low Impact Development; Low Impact Development - Stormwater - Rain Barrels & Cisterns; and Great Lakes WATER Institute Green Roof Project. For a local example of a small-scale green roof/living roof, visit the EcoHouse in the Westbrae neighborhood.