Archive for the ‘Plants Everyday’ Category

Courtesy UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences

Courtesy UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences

The University of California Riverside’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences in partnership with the UC Global Food Initiative and California Agriculture and Food Enterprise will host a series of lectures about the science of food and health.

This series is a wonderful way to explore the role plants play in our lives and why we should care about plants. Share this information with fellow educators, friends and family!

The following topics will be presented during the Spring Lecture Series:

  • Feeding Botswana: From Field to Lab to Vaccine (April 9)
  • Food Security for Africa: The Cowpea Story from Lab to Plate (April 23)
  • Seeds of Change: UCR’s Healthy and Sustainable Food Initiative (May 7)
  • What You Eat Is How You Feel: Nutrition and Its Impact on Immunity and Health (May 21)

All lectures will be held from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. at the UC Riverside Extension Center at 1200 University Avenue, near the intersection of University Avenue and the 60 freeway (map). Lectures are free and open to the public. There is no charge for parking when attending the lectures.

For more information, click on the image.

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Plants, Life, Riverside is an ongoing interpretive project about plants in the bustling urban landscape of Riverside, CA.

Soil is alive.

It may look like dirt and in need of human intervention to become productive and worthwhile, but this is not the case.

Soil is alive with nutrients, minerals, animals, and plants. While we collectively spend most of our time contemplating how to explain why people need plants, the truth is that there wouldn’t be plants if there wasn’t soil. So today we take a moment to address “plant blindness” by addressing another invisible element of our environment — soil.

Pedology is the study of soil. Soil scientists contribute their expertise to many disciplines. They conduct research, manage crop production, advise land managers, design hydrologic plants in urban areas, evaluate water availability, assess environmental hazards, regulate land use, and teach (Soil Science Society of America).

Today we have the opportunity to learn from a botanist at the University of California Riverside who is also a soil scientist.
Camille Wendlandt is currently researching nitrogen deposition in soil and the relationship between legumes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

Please join me in welcoming Camille Wendlandt!

Cami, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to discuss your research with us. You study the relationship between pollution, legumes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Tell us about your work.

I am a second year PhD student in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, and I study how air pollution affects the relationship between legumes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which are called rhizobia. Rhizobia convert nitrogen gas, which is an inert chemical, to a water-soluble form that plants can use for growth. Many legume species support colonies of rhizobia in their roots, which allows them to pass sugar directly to the rhizobia in exchange for fixed nitrogen.

This intimate relationship is called a “symbiosis,” and many researchers have been interested in the strategies legumes use to keep rhizobia from cheating — that is, from stealing sugar from their host without providing nitrogen in return. Many legume species are able to screen potential rhizobial partners before they infect and to police them after they infect, denying them sugar if they fail to produce nitrogen. Air pollution enters the story because nitrogen-rich chemicals emitted from car exhaust can settle into the soil in urban areas, providing legumes with a very cheap source of nitrogen. I am studying how nitrogen deposition affects the ability of legumes to police their rhizobial partners. On the one hand, legumes with access to a lot of free nitrogen might enforce rhizobial cooperation even more, to ensure that only the best strain make it into their roots. On the other hand, these legumes might stop policing rhizobia at all, if it requires more energy to police rhizobia than they gain from selecting the best strains. We just don’t know.

How did you come to study this relationship?

I was interested in plant biology and environmental science during college, and after working for a few years I knew I wanted to research climate change so that, as a society, we can make better management decisions. The legume-rhizobia symbiosis is also an exciting system because it is extremely important in agriculture (legumes are grown for food and fodder all over the world) but also wide-spread in nature, so research in this area can be very broadly applied.

California is known for its smog and Riverside has had some of the worst smog in the area. Is this a contributing factor to your study of pollution?

Yes, indeed.  Nitrogen oxides from car emissions react to form ozone, which is the primary constituent of smog, and these nitrogen oxides are the same compounds that settle into the soil and become available to plants. Because smog (and therefore nitrogen deposition) is restricted to specific areas by mountain ranges and prevailing wind patterns, I am also interested in how regional differences in air pollution might lead to parallel regional differences in legume policing mechanisms.

What are legumes, exactly? What types of legumes are commonly grown in urban areas?

Legumes are an incredibly diverse family of plants. The most familiar examples are crops like beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, and soybeans, but there are also shrubs and trees in the legume family. Outside my lab there is a legume tree called the Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia blakeana) that puts out gorgeous purple flowers all summer. You can tell that it’s a legume because of its fruits, which look more or less like beans, although they are much woodier. Another legume tree that you’ll see in Riverside are Eastern or Oklahoma redbuds, which stay pretty short and work well as street trees under power lines.

What types of legumes might Riverside residents encounter in natural areas such as Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park?

You’ll see plenty of herb and shrub legumes out there. My study species is a tiny herb called Lotus strigosus (the common name is “strigose lotus,” which isn’t very helpful, is it?). A larger and prettier species from that genus is Lotus scoparius, commonly called deer weed. It is a perennial shrub with long spires of small yellow flowers. I have seen both Lotus species in Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park. Another common legume is arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus), which has bright blue flowers. One of my favorite legume shrubs, even though it’s not native, is the bird of paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii), which I have seen in the Box Springs Mountain Park; you can spot it by its yellow flowers with long, red stamens. If you head east beyond Palm Springs, you’ll start to see native woody desert legumes like palo verde (Parkinsonia) and ironwood (Olneya tesota).

Back when I was a very active gardener, I used to rotate my backyard crops and I even planted a cover crop one year. In your research, have you come across resources that may be of particular interest to the urban gardener?

The University of California Cooperative Extension runs Master Gardener programs on a county-by-county basis, and I think this is a great resource for anyone wanting region-specific gardening advice. Since moving to California, I have also become a huge fan of Calflora.org, which is a continuously updated public record of all the plants out in the wild in our state, whether they are native or introduced.  It is a little technical, but if you are a plant nerd already, it’s a lot of fun!  If you’re interested in landscaping with native plants, for example, it’s a great tool for figuring out what species grow in your area.

In your research so far, have you discovered anything you weren’t expecting?

I can tell you what surprised me most as I embarked on this work. I knew that pollution put nitrogenous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, where they contribute to global warming, but it never occurred to me that these pollutants settled into the soil (by “dry deposition”) and were directly available to plants as a form of fertilizer. I thought the only sources of reactive nitrogen in the soil were biological nitrogen fixation, lightning strikes, synthetic fertilizers, and manure. I was shocked that even natural areas protected from agricultural runoff could still be indiscriminately fertilized as a result of human activity.

Camille’s interesting research brings attention to our ongoing relationship with soil. It is a relationship that the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) wants to bring attention to as well. This year the SSSA has named 2015 as the International Year of Soils. In commemoration of this year-long outreach event to enhance soil science education, the SSSA created the 2015 International Year of Soils Educator Kit. This kit includes:

  • SOIL! Get the Inside Scoop, a 36-page book written for students in grades 4-5 that explores how soil is a part of our lives.
  • An activity list highlighting SSSA event for 2015.
  • A coloring and activity book for grades K-2.
  • A soil taxonomy poster
  • An overview of how soils sustain life.
  • A poster about careers in soil science
  • I “Heart” Soils ruler
  • A “Know Soil, Know Life” pencil
  • Information about becoming a Friend of Soil Science
  • Information about how educators can receive a free trial membership with SSSA.

This kit of educational materials was sent to teachers earlier this year. Most of these materials are now available as downloads on the SSSA website. Limited quantities of the Careers posters and Soil Taxonomy poster remain. Go to the website of the International Year of Soils to view the resources for teachers.

I would like to send special thanks to Cami for her time and for introducing us to her fascinating research linking botany and soil science with our urban lives.

Literature Cited

Soil Science Society of America. Careers Poster in 2015 International Year of Soils Educator Kit.

Drawing Science – A Resource to Consider

Wood, Phyllis. 1994. Scientific Illustration: A Guide to Biological, Zoological, and Medical Rendering Techniques, Design, Printing, and Display. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons

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Fallen Fruit returns to Riverside!

This weekend Fallen Fruit returns to Riverside to establish an Urban Fruit Trail in the City’s Eastside neighborhood. This event is part of Riverside Art Make, an ongoing community project hosted by the Riverside Art Museum. If you would like to take part in establishing the Urban Fruit Trail, go to Lincoln Park on Saturday, February 21, 2015. Planting will begin at Noon and continue until 3 PM. The City’s Urban Fruit Trail will begin with twelve trees planted inside the park and then extend into the surrounding neighborhood.

Do you live in the Lincoln Park area? Go to Fallen Fruit’s website to learn how you can become part of the Urban Fruit Trail. Participation is free.

Also happening this weekend is Making Ground: Living Sculpture, a workshop with artist Cynthia Herrera. This installment of Cynthia’s “Making Ground” series will be held at the Farmer’s Market at the Galleria at Tyler, Riverside’s local mall. This event will occur Sunday, February 22, 2015 from 9 AM – 12 PM.

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Download entry form

Download entry form

Riverside residents have the wonderful opportunity to study a diverse collection of plants without leaving town. A few weeks ago we learned about the UCR Botanic Gardens. If you haven’t visited the Garden yet, here’s incentive to do so. The UC Riverside Botanic Gardens is having its annual Primavera Poster Contest. Local artists are invited to submit photographs and other artwork about the Garden for consideration. Artists can submit original artwork to two categories: 1) Photography and 2) Other Media.

This contest is open to all artists. The Garden’s only stipulation is that the art must be of the UCR Botanic Gardens and be no smaller than 11″ x 14″. First-place winners will have their winning work featured in this year’s Primavera poster.

Primavera is the UCR Botanic Garden’s annual fundraising event featuring food from local restaurants, wine from local wineries, beer from local breweries and art from local artists. First-place winners of the poster contest will each receive four tickets to Primavera in the Gardens. Second place winners will each receive two tickets to the event.

Visit the UCR Botanic Gardens and capture the beauty of Riverside’s hidden garden.

Are you a regular visitor to the Garden? Have you taken a show-stopping photograph of a plant or landscape scene in the Garden?
Do you have a drawing or a painting of a plant in the UCRBG collection of which you are especially proud? Download the entry form and submit your original artwork to the Primavera Poster Contest. Submissions are due March 6, 2015.

View Guidelines, Entry Form

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View of Alder Canyon at UC Riverside Botanic Gardens.

View of Alder Canyon at UC Riverside Botanic Gardens.

Like so many botanic gardens before it, the botanic garden at the University of California Riverside began as a teaching garden. Originally called the “Life Sciences Experimental Area”, the garden was not open to the public and was established for school use only. The garden’s second director, Dr. George W. Gillett (1967-1973), began the garden’s public life in 1969 by conducting tours for special interest groups. Today the 51-year old garden is open to the public everyday except holidays.

Designed to support teaching, research and the extension of knowledge, the reach of this small garden extends far beyond campus. While used frequently by students studying biology, botany, the humanities and art, the interdisciplinary garden is also popular with local gardeners, naturalists and families.

For thirty-four of the garden’s fifty-one years, its relationship with the public has been cultivated by the Friends of the University of Riverside Botanic Gardens. The Friends group hosts wildly popular plant sales each spring and fall and hosts an elegant celebration of art, music, food and wine called Primavera in the Garden. Held each May, this year’s event will feature wineries from Temecula, food from local restaurants and art.

Herb Garden, UCR Botanic Gardens

Herb Garden, UCR Botanic Gardens

In commemoration of its 50th anniversary, the Friends started a Children’s Education Fund in 2013 to establish programing for children and families. This very small and emerging fund joins the garden’s other small funds supporting the rose garden and the butterfly garden.

Notice the emphasis on the word small in the previous paragraph. I bring attention to this word intentionally because I was surprised to learn that even though the garden is at a world-class educational institution, it has been operating on dangerously limited funds its entire existence.

The idea to establish a botanic garden was proposed in 1954 by botany professor, Dr. Victor Goodman. While the idea for a garden received support, funds weren’t allocated for another eight years. The garden was founded one year later in 1963 under the directorship of Dr. Frank Vasek. For most of its existence, the Garden has had a staff of two people. Today there are three staff members and the Garden’s Director, Dr. J. Giles Waines, who works 1/4 time. Most of the $200,000 the Garden receives from the University is used to pay for staff. After salaries and benefits are paid, very little remains. Maintenance is a never-ending expense. As a result, what remains from the University’s contribution, plus about $200,000 earned by the Friends group, is used to pay for maintenance and other expenses associated with keeping the garden open to the public.

Canyon views at UCR Botanic Gardens

Canyon views at UCR Botanic Gardens

Nestled in a hillside canyon in the southeast corner of campus, the botanic garden is a fantastic outdoor classroom. It features a cross-section of native plants and plants that grow well in the Inland Empire. Horticultural collections feature California native plants and trees, a rose garden, an herb garden, a cactus garden, a subtropical fruit orchard, a lilac garden and a collection of more than 150 bearded iris cultivars. Also featured are plants from South Africa, the southwest, the Sierra foothills, Australia and Baja California. The garden has a pond, a geodesic lath dome and is a nature preserve with more than four miles of hiking trails covering rolling and rural terrain.

The garden’s unique collections are introduced to the public through docent-led tours and school tours. Dr. Waines is happy to report that students from local high schools, Riverside Community College and Cal Baptist University, are visiting in greater numbers.

The only area where the Garden is not seeing its attendance grow is with the general public. Contributing to this significantly is the fact that this 40-acre outdoor classroom does not offer programs and workshops year-round because of its small staff and the dire need to hire an Education Director to oversee the creation of public programs, especially programs for school children. Dr. Waines says the need for additional staffing and funding are the Garden’s biggest challenges.

After speaking with Dr. Waines and learning more about the history of UCRBG, I left our meeting bothered that the garden is in such a tight spot. They need money to increase the staff, yet don’t have the people-power to create more events that might result in increased revenue. Without additional funding, little can be done to move the UCR Botanic Gardens forward. Dr. Waines says he hopes the University will be able to one day offer more support for the garden, which is the only museum on campus open to the public on weekends.

Agave filifera, UCR Botanic Gardens

Agave filifera, UCR Botanic Gardens

The most support the garden receives is from those already committed to the garden and who are well aware of what the garden has to offer. An example of this kind of support was announced last year. In February 2014, it was announced the garden received a bequest from Dr. Victor Goodman, UCR’s first botanist, and his wife, Marjorie. The $1.3 million received from the Goodman estate will be placed in an endowment and will be used to complete specific garden projects. While these funds may be helpful in seeing the completion of certain maintenance projects, it does not get to the heart of what the garden needs, which is additional support staff and someone to establish year-round programing.

The UCR Botanic Gardens is one of Riverside’s hidden gems and is a wonderful way to begin learning about plants and the environment. It deserves more support and attention than it is receiving. If you live in Riverside or the Inland Empire, I encourage you to visit the garden and to explore its collections. When you visit, stop by the message board at the entrance to pick up a free map and to learn about upcoming events and what’s blooming in the garden. While in the welcome area, you can also purchase a guide to the colonial herb garden ($1) and a copy of Deserts of the Southwest ($2), an informative publication created specifically for the self-guided tour.

The UCR Botanic Gardens is located in the southeast corner of campus. From the 60 Freeway, exit Martin Luther King Drive and enter the campus at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Canyon Crest Drive (map). The UCRBG is open daily from 8 AM – 5 PM. The parking lot at the entrance has a modest parking fee (25¢ per hour). Overflow parking is in UCR Lot 10 (University parking rates apply in this lot). Admission is free. A donation of $5 per family is suggested.

Please note dogs are not allowed into the garden and professional photography is not permitted per UCR Policy 700-10 and 
UCR Policy 700-15.

Visit the UC Riverside Botanic Gardens

Plants, Life, Riverside
is an ongoing interpretive project about plants in the urban landscape of Riverside, CA.

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Plants, Life, Riverside is an interpretive project about plants in the urban landscape of Riverside, CA.

Cynthia Herrera
is a photographer and MFA candidate at California State University, Long Beach who explores new spaces through photography. In her current project, Making Ground, Cynthia tells the story of immigrant families and how they use the past and the present to create new spaces. In her project, Cynthia also addresses where families place plants around their homes and it is this element that inspired the theme for Making Ground and its focus on transplanting, grafting, herbs and community stories.

Making Ground had its beginning at Gloria’s Nursery, a family owned nursery operated by Celestino and Gloria Garcia. Cynthia chose the nursery for her project because she wanted to explore a space where families visit. Cynthia has spent a considerable amount of time learning from Celestino and Gloria and completing an oral history about the nursery. This history includes information about the development of Riverside’s historic Arlington Greenbelt.

Making Ground workshops are where the community can share living histories and practices that create roots, “make ground”, and generate new histories challenging traditional notions of space, place, ownership and access.

You are invited to take part in Making Ground and to contribute to this unique series. Please join Cynthia and fellow neighbors at one or more of the following event:

    Community Cuttings
    Saturday, October 25, 2014
    11:30 AM – 1:30 PM
    Storytelling and the community history of plants. This transplanting workshop will be held at the Orange Terrace Community Library at 20010-B Orange Terrace Parkway, Riverside, CA 92508. (map)

    La Sierra University Artist Talk and Pop-Up Transplanting Workshop
    Saturday, October 25, 2014
    Time TBA
    Making Ground: Community Engagement as Art Practice, Space and Place | Access and Agency will be presented by Cynthia Herrera.
    La Sierra University is located at 4500 Riverwalk Parkway, Riverside, CA 92505 (map)

    Common Ground: A Stakeholder Event
    Sunday, November 9, 2014
    10 AM – 3 PM
    Community members are invited to join workshops in grafting, transplanting and growing herbs in domestic spaces in an exchange of community histories. Participants will also enjoy a host of dishes from recipes made from plants grown on site. This community event will occur at Gloria’s Nursery in Riverside’s historic Arlington Greenbelt at 2078 Van Buren Blvd, Riverside, CA (map)

    Living Sculpture
    Sunday, February 22, 2015
    9 AM – 1 PM
    Participants will learn about the transitions of healing plants by local curanderas and help create a growing sculpture. The community will be invited to share histories and bring plants to share and exchange. This event will be held at The Farmer’s Market at Galleria at Tyler, 1299 Galleria at Tyler, Riverside, CA 92503 (map)

Making Ground is a community engagement project for hosted by the Riverside Art Museum.
Inquiries about Cynthia’s workshops should be sent to Making Ground 2014.

Event Information to Download and Share (PDF)

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Plants, Life, Riverside is an interpretive project about plants in an urban setting. Today we learn how fruit and participatory art connects communities.

Fallen Fruit is an art collaborative founded ten years ago by David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young. Since 2013, David and Austin have continued the collaborative work. Fallen Fruit uses fruit as a common denominator to change the way people see their world. David and Austin explain:

    “Fallen Fruit began in Los Angeles in 2004 with mapping ‘public fruit’ – fruit that grows on or over public property. Our projects include diverse site-specific artworks that embrace public participation. Fallen Fruit’s art works invite people to experience their city as a fruitful, generous place, inviting people to engage in sharing and to collectively explore the meaning of community and collaboration through temporary communities and exhibition programs. Our work focuses on urban space, neighborhood, located citizenship and community in relation to fruit.”

Fallen Fruit has held events and exhibitions in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Spain, Colombia, Australia and Greece. This weekend Fallen Fruit will host an event in Riverside, CA. On Saturday October 18, they will bring their Lemonade Stand to Cesar Chavez Community Center as a participant of Riverside Art Make, a community-focused campaign to bring the arts into Riverside’s 26 neighborhoods. Riverside Art Make is organized by the Riverside Art Museum.

Fallen Fruit’s lemonade stand is not your typical lemonade stand. Visitors to the pop-up beverage counter receive real lemons and are instructed to draw a self-portrait on their lemon. In exchange for their self-portrait, Fallen Fruit gives visitors a glass of organic lemonade. David and Austin explain that “the lemon self-portraits create a new form of public that illustrate some of the archetypes that construct community.”

David and Austin’s lemonade stand differs from traditional lemonade stands in yet another way. Their lemonade stand comes with a microphone set up for real-time storytelling. Visitors will be invited to use the microphone to respond to prompts selected by Fallen Fruit.

You are invited to take part in Riverside Art Make on Saturday, October 18, 2014. The lemonade stand will be open 11 am – 2 pm.
The Cesar Chavez Community Center is located at 2060 University Avenue, Riverside, CA (map).

This weekend’s Art Make event will be held in collaboration with the City of Riverside’s Neighbor Fest celebration in Bobby Bonds Park.

Watch Video About Fallen Fruit

About David Burns

David Burns is a life-long Californian and native of Los Angeles. He earned an MFA in Studio Art from UC Irvine and a BFA from California Institute of the Arts. David is a co-founder of Fallen Fruit, a contemporary art collective that uses fruit as a material for creating art projects that investigate the boundaries of public spaces, including urban geographies, historical archives and time-based media. Prior to his work with Fallen Fruit, David was core faculty in two programs at CalArts from 1994 to 2008. David’s curatorial practice investigates narrative structures in contemporary art with notable exhibitions for the journal Leonardo at MIT; the Armory Center for the Arts and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. Currently, David is faculty in the Social Practice graduate program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Concurrent to the development of his career in contemporary art and academics, David has also built expertise in corporate branding strategy, advertising and television as a technical consultant for projects with Mercedes Benz, Discovery Channel, SEGA Gameworks and others. David’s work activates the nuances of social spaces, public archives and cultural indexes as an authentic negotiation by creating works of art that are expressions of people and place and reframe the real-world and the real-time.

About Austin Young
Austin Young grew up in Reno, Nevada. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles and studied painting at Parsons in Paris, France. Early in his career, Austin transferred his interests from traditional painting and taught himself portrait photography. In many ways, Austin is more accurately described as an image-maker: his works illustrate the sublime qualities of character that make celebrated people unique. Based on a visual language of iconography, his trademark style and techniques have captured musicians, artists and celebrities including Debbie Harry, Leigh Bowery and Margaret Cho. In several series, Austin captures portraits of drag and transgendered subjects, confusing personality and identity issues in confrontational and unapologetic images of people who do not cross gender but instead split gender and socially-constructed identity. Recently, Austin’s portraiture practice has become a reality TV subject, with Austin featured as a recurring character on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Gene Simmons Family Jewels. Austin directed and produced a feature length documentary, Hadda Brooks, This is My Life, about torch singer Hadda Brooks, and has completed production on his second feature film, a crowd-sourced musical titled TBD, a musical play and video by EVERYONE who comes. Austin is a co-founder of Fallen Fruit, a contemporary art collective that uses fruit as a material for projects that investigate the synergistic qualities of collaboration. Fallen Fruit performs works of art that are transgressive about authorship and prescribed meaning.

Related Interests

Fruitarians, Hunters, Politics & You

Many thanks to David Allen Burns for his help with this article.

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