Living on the edge…

Earth ‘entering new extinction phase’ – US study –

Sobering stuff….the report suggests we could lose our bee populations within three generations. If that were to happen, fruit and vegetable crops that rely on bee pollination could be under threat (e.g. apples, strawberries, cucumbers).

Everyone can help by growing bee friendly plants. Not sure what to grow? Then check out this guide published by the Royal Horticultural Society:

Happy Growing!


Barley – the ideal food for mountain living?

New research in Science Magazine suggests that around 3600 years ago, farmers on the Tibetan Plateau started growing crops on slopes higher up on the Plateau, choosing to grow cold, frost-tolerant barley in favour of more traditional but less hardy crops such as millet.

Surprisingly, the expansion of agriculture on the Plateau seems to have occurred when the Tibetan climate was getting colder, suggesting that the switch to barley made growing crops possible at higher elevations, despite a worsening climate.

Archaeologist Kurt Rademaker calls it “a fascinating example of a cultural strategy to tackle a challenging place,”.

Click here to read more…

Top Ten Trees of the World: No. 7

At number 7 we have Liquidambar orientalis: the Oriental sweet gum – one of my favourite trees of all time!

Native to SW Asia, the name Liquidambar refers to its aromatic gum, previously described as ‘liquid amber’. Orientalis is Latin and means ‘from the East’ (Source: Davis Landscape Architects).

Deciduous, broad-leaved and often found in parks and arboretums in temperate zones (e.g. Kew Gardens, ANU Canberra), Liquidambar is famed for its show-stopping Autumnal display when its palm-shaped leaves turn from green to vibrant shades of orange, scarlet or purple.

Liquidambar produces beautiful round pollen grains covered with large pores – click here to see some photos.

The exterior ‘shell’ (exine) of this and other pollen grains are made of decay-resistant sporopollenin, enabling grains to be preserved for thousands of years in lake sediments, peat bogs and other depositional environments – providing a record of the types of vegetation that grew in the past.