Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Peanuts grow on Trees

Peanut tree and peanut butter.

An Australian native, this beautiful tree grows anywhere from 6 to 18 meters and is referred to under many different names: peanut tree, monkey nut tree, red fruited Kurrajong, orange fruited Kurrajong and one strange one called Kuman (anyone know the origin of this name?)

Immature fruit pods in September
Ripe fruit showing bright orange pods with the black seeds
  The botanical name is Sterculia quadrifida and is a member of the Malvaceae family which include cotton, hibiscus, okra and cocao. This family has some 200 genera with nearly 2,300 species and the Sterculia genus has some 250 species. The scientific name is taken from Sterculius of Roman mythology, who was the god of manure; this is in reference to the unpleasant aroma of the flowers of this genus (e.g., Sterculia foetida). Yet the seed from these pods are "Bush Tucker" and very similar to normal peanuts and delicious - how dare they name this genus after the God of Manure! The small white flowers are actually lemon scented and no way remind me of manure.

The gum of this tree is also apparently used as a glue and a thickener in cooking (similar to corn flower) while the bark is used by Aboriginal people for basket weaving, fishing lines and the sap to heal wounds. Each pod when open contains about 8 black seeds which can then have the black coating or shell removed and eaten the same way as normal peanuts. Although a lot softer - they are the same when roasted or used to make oil and peanut butter.

New shoots when the pods are still green - September
This particular specimen was fruiting in September - see photos above. The name Kuman is common in North Queensland but there have been terms used to describe the SE Queensland ones as Kuhuna Nut or Klump Nut - not sure where these ones come from?

Homemade Peanut Butter:
  1. Roast approximately one & half cups of raw peanuts (black shell removed) until light brown.
  2. Blend when cool in a blender until smooth.
  3. Serve.
  4. For crunchy just add 1/4 cup lighty blended to recipe above.
I'll call this either Kuhuna Smooth or Klumpy Crunchy! Maybe Dick Smith should look at this for his range of wonderful Australian products! Have a look at the website of Dick Smith Foods and see the Video that was banned for his Australian peanut butter.
Maybe Dick to add this to his range!
And to finish off - if you value Australian values and jobs - please take time to read this great magazine of Dick Smith online.
Click here to read Forbidden Ideas!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Battle Botanica

Battle of the Botanics!

This battle between some of the worlds most amazing botanical garden spaces is taking place in Singapore. There are only winners - botany and Singapore is winning hands down - the theme parks are attracking massive numbers of tourists and also providing beautiful opens spaces to the people of Singapore. Lets look at some facts:
  1. Kew Gardens is about 150 hectares.
  2. Central Park in New York is about 370 hectares.
  3. The City Botanic Gardens in Brisbane is about 20 hectares.
Number 3 surprised me in the fact that the name was changed from Brisbane Botanic Gardens to City Botanic Gardens. Why? It really identifies with Brisbane - not at all! It opened in about 1855 and was selected as a public garden in 1828 by the NSW Colonial Botanist Charles Fraser. Here's a photo:
City Botanic Gardens - Brisbane - Queensland, Australia.
Back on topic of this massive Botanical Battle that is occurring now and into the future in Singapore! Who are the contestants in this botanical duel? The first is "The Singapore Botanic Gardens" and the second is "Gardens by the Bay" - who will win? Well let's just look at the photos of each - one stepped in history and one that rivals theme parks in Dubai!

Singapore Botanic Gardens - 1882 established by Sir Stamford Raffles

Gardens by The Bay - opens July 2012.
The comparison of the two is impossible and some facts about each are in themselves world records. The details are so amazing that the only winner in this battle is Singapore - the garden enthusiasts will arrive in tmillions for centuries to come to always compare. But surprises await those who wait - both gardens are continually expanding and will give Singapore the new garden, botanical, plant, recreation area title of the world.

Statistics of the Battle: Singapore Botanical Gardens versus the Gardens By The Bay!
SBG - opens 365 days a year from 5am to midnight and its free.
GBTB - TBA on all aspects.
SBG - established 1882.
GBTB - Established 2012.
SBG - Cost not known but approximated at about $700 million.
GBTB - Cost reaching $1 billion.
SBG - A very large and diversve educational centre - over 40 different attractions.
GBTB - Broken into three areas but huge number of attractions.
SBG - Known for the largest orchid collection but also the largest tropical plant collection.
GBTB - Known to house over 1/3 million different plant species.

Now for some photos of each so you can determine the winner:

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Gardens By The Bay
Singapore Botanic Gardens 1st Green Roof
Gardens By The Bay - 2 giant biodomes,
The amazing thing regarding these botanic gardens, is they are now approaching the worlds largest between them - only a few hectares short - but both developments are increasing and will take the world title! Total so far is nearly 178 hectares exclusive botanical dedication! Nearly up to Kew Gardens!

The amazing thing is I can go and enjoy the plants, people and places all in one location! Can we do this in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Horbart, Perth, Darwin, Sydney and Canberra? Tha answer is Yes! But we have to go to each city - let's invest in an AUSTRALIAN BOTANIC GARDENS?

Links to details of each of Singapores attractions:
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Gardens By The Bay
Gardens By The Bay

The Backyard Botanist will be away for one week developing the new Botanic Gardens in Queensland! Stay tuned!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Seedy Capsicum!

Capsicum seeds reveal a different side!

Capsicum is a genus of plants that have a range of names, varieties and has been in cultivation for over 5,000 years.
This is Capsicum from Wikipedia!
Capsicum is thought to have come from the Americas - namely Puebla in Mexico with the word chilli referring to what we know as capsicum! This was 3,000 BC, so capsicum has history and depending on where in the world it is now grown - the name changes - see quote below:
The fruit of Capsicum plants have a variety of names depending on place and type. They are commonly called chili pepper, red or green pepper in North America, or sweet pepper in Britain, and typically just "capsicum" in Australia, New Zealand, and India. The large mild form is called bell pepper in the U.S. and Canada. They are called paprika in some other countries (although paprika can also refer to the powdered spice made from various capsicum fruit). So what has the seeds got to do with this story?
The seeds produced by a capsicum or pepper, red or green that you see below:
This is Californian Wonder - red & green depending on when you pick!
The amount of seeds being produced by these beautiful fruit are amazing - in one there were close to 500 seeds! This is a photo of a small amount from a capsicum used in cooking - the seeds are the bonus!
Capsicum seeds
This is the best little seed packet you can purchase! The cost of a packet of seeds (Capsicum - annuum) is around $4.00 for about 100 seeds. Not bad but you can purchase about 3 capsicums for under $5.00 in Australia but far less in other countries! The source of Capsicum annuum (California Wonder) can be sold in Australia, seed from Asia, packaged in the UK and eventually sold in Bunnings! Almost all the capsicums that we purchase in Australia (90%) come from North Queensland and fortunately they have their own seed stocks. The best way to taste what you buy is use natures seed packet for growing your own.

Keep an eye on the Rural ABC site listed here - Caitlyn Gribbin seems to have a handle on a lot of the North of Queensland's rural produce. Here Caitlyns website at the ABC.

So if you can't buy the local produce - sow the seeds and see if the fruit are tasty - then keep the seeds and keep the flavour going. Good luck!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Plants need birds & birds need plants!

Bird of Paradise from PNG is Magnificent!

This is not about the botantical kingdom but this bird also relies on plants!
Lettuce look at this photo: (The lettuce joke is for Dean & Levi! - Peter already uses it!)

Superb Bird of Paradise PNG
Then the female comes along here:

Mr Superb gets the Girl - all live happily ever after!
 The reason I have chosen this subject is the following two videos - no more talk just watch these! The BBC What a Wonderful World is just the best spoken version & visuals I have see of this song!
Amazing Bird!
Best Wildlife Clip!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Plumbing in a Tree!

The Pipelines of The Tree.

Trees need CO2, water, sunlight, and nutrients. Three things affect these essential components in tree growth - and they are tree characteristics, site characteristics, and climate. The tree has two major pipelines - one that carries water and nutrients from the ground to the leaves - and other (mainly down) carries all the carbohydrates (mainly sugars) to growth and storage areas of the tree.

Look at this basic diagram of the tree trunk:
Cross Section of tree trunk showing the basic components
 As you can see the major parts are the outer bark, then the cambium, sapwood and then central heartwood. So wheres the pipes? Look at this diagram of a cross section of root magnified and you can see all the cells that make up the basic pipeline.

The phloem and xylem here are dominant with not heartwood.
The phloem lies just under the bark of a tree trunk and this mainly fibrous tissue carries sugars down from the leaves to growth and storage areas. Could be called a feeding pipe or downpipe.

The xylem is composed of the sapwood and heartwood combined and carries water & nutrients to the leaves. The sapwood is the major transport area and is lighter than the heartwood. The heartwood is mainly for strength of the tree.

Trees are mainly carbon, but to ensure healthy growth, trees also need oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulphur, and trace elements.
CO2 and sunlight are absorbed by the leaves, water is absorbed by the roots, and nutrients are absorbed mostly by the roots but also by the leaves. The chlorophyll that enables the sun’s energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar through photosynthesis.

How does water rise in some cases over 100 metres from the ground to the leaves - as there is no electric pump, heart or anything to assist this? In some cases waters rises at the rate of 30 meters per hours and in large volumes. It all starts in the root area where the cells contain sugars and minerals dissolved and this will pull water from the ground into these cells through osmosis, and the water pressure then transfers the flow onto the next cells upward and so on. This is repeated throughout the xylem or sapwood until it is released into the tissue of the leaves. Also involved in this is the evaporation of water from the leaves into the air - that is called transpiration - and will cause a vacuum effect that is quickly filled by water rising up the trunk. In some cases during rapid growth a tree may only utilise 1% of the water sent up the tree to the leaves - with the rest lost to the atmosphere.

Parts of a Tree
 As you can see the trees trunk, branches and roots are all set up in a similar way that helps these pipelines operate.
The phloem is the section between the bark and the cambium layer - and this carries the sugars around to differentt areas of the tree ranging from the roots to new growth tips at the very top. The phloem is only small compared to the xylem in the main trunk as it only carries the concentrated sugars to the growth and storage areas.

The parts of the trunk
The cambium is the main growth or cell making area of the tree. It provides new cells for the phloem and xylem and will continually lay down these new tissues at a rapid rate. The outer bark is the main protection for the whole tree interior pipework - and will vary greatly from species to species.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Satinay - the Builders Name?

Satinay, Turpentine or Syncarpia hillii.

Well, again we start with the reason for this article and it involves lunch with three other men, one a builder (the same one as the Jacaranda story), a boat builder, and the builders son. The talk got around to timber and carbon sequestration with trees - and I happened to mention Turpentine from Fraser Island! The reply was short and swift -

"Turpentine is the common name - not it's proper name - It's Fraser Island Satinay!"
I would like to mention prior to correcting the builder on his error - his knowledge of timber, history and the area of Fraser Island is second to none. Where did the name Central Station come from? Why is the current railway line the width it is? etc These are all questions I get asked regularly - so you can understand this reply!

Here's a few photos of the Satinay or Turpentine (both common names)

Satinay or Turpentine at Fraser Island

Syncarpia hilli flower! The Botanical name!

Central Station - ex logging camp - why the name?
So very quickly - the botanical name is Syncarpia hilli - just one of many species within the syncarpia genus! Syncarpia hillii is a tree of the Myrtaceae family which grows on Fraser Island, Queensland, and the surrounding Cooloola area. Common names for this species are Satinay and Fraser Island Turpentine.  Large examples of this tree may be seen growing at the 'Central Station' picnic area on Fraser Island.
The tree can grow to 40 metres tall and the trunk may reach over one metre in diameter.

It is valuable timber tree, particularly for marine pylons as it is totally resistant to marine borers . It is also fire and termite resistant. However, supply is limited. Satinay timber was used in the construction of the Suez Canal and London Docks. Resin from the sap has proven useful in treating chronic ulcers. There's another native to one of Queenslands islands that is also resistant to termites - whats's it's Botanical name?

If you require answers to the builders questions above? I have already suggested he writes his own BLOG site! And this also proves that men at lunch don't always discuss footy, the races and jokes! But that's another story!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Jacaranda - Who knows where it came from?

Jacaranda - Where did it come from?

I was asked where the Jacaranda and the Poinciana came from by a friend - he said Madagascar? I wasn't sure so hence this little article on the Blue Haze Tree or "Get ready it's exam time tree"!
Below is a photo of the particular Jacaranda we were discussing:
A broken limb off a Jacaranda nearly 20 meters long
 Now to the history of it's origin - and this is where it gets interesting as Stirling Macoboy (who my friend uses a gospel) didn't read his copy that day -
"the Jacaranda is found naturally in the high and dry deserts of Brazil."
But as investigations take us further - the fact that it has been introduced all over the world as Baron von Ludwig  did in Cape Town about 1829. Time of arrival in Australia was considered around 1900 - but it is thought to be earlier than this. It was almost certainly the first jacaranda to be grown in Australia. Walter Hill, the Gardens' Superintendent, planted it in 1864. It remained in the Gardens until 1979, when it was blown over during a cyclone ― part of the trunk is now located at the offices of the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. Under the jacaranda (see below) 1903 has been one of the best loved works in the Queensland Art Gallery since it entered the Collection in 1903. Godfrey Rivers completed the painting 13 years after he arrived in Australia from the United Kingdom. The work depicts Rivers and Miss Selina Bell, who later became his wife, taking tea under the shade of a jacaranda tree in full bloom. The tree was a landmark in Brisbane's Botanic Gardens, which adjoined the grounds of the Brisbane Technical College where Rivers taught from 1891 to 1915. It's worth a visit to the Mt Cootha Botanical Gardens to see this specimen - and the painting below is on display at Queensland Art Gallery.

R. Godfrey Rivers | England/Australia 1859-1925 | Under the jacaranda 1903 | Oil on canvas | 143.4 x 107.2cm | Purchased 1903 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

The main street of the town of Red Cliffs, Victoria, Australia (part of the Calder Highway) was named Jacaranda Street in the original town plans of the early 1920s and Jacaranda trees have since been planted to line this street. So they had to have been in Australia for Town Planners to have designated street names after them! Ipswich, Grafton and Brisbane have also had a long history of Jacarandas. In South Africa their love extends to students that start studying hard when the Jacaranda starts flowering as they do every year that coincide with end of year exams! South Africa's love of Jacaranda's is similar to our own but with legend - they have this little legend which has not yet been proven:
University of Pretoria and legend has it that if a flower from the Jacaranda tree drops on your head, you will pass all your exams.
Here's a photo of Jacarandas in Zimbabwe - South Africa.
Jacaranda in flower in Harare, Zimbabwe - could be Grafton Australia.
There are so many stories regarding the Jacaranda - and its contribution to the gardens of Australia has been invaluable!  Another article will describe the botanical information of beautiful tree from Brazil, Peru, Argentina or Bolivia (Oh - and I put in Madagascar for my friend)?

Use the poll on the right to vote where you think it originated from? A clue is in the name Jacaranda mimosifolia!  Poll Open Now

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Pōhutukawa - What's in a Name

Metrosideros - what a great genus!

This beautiful group of shrubs, vines and trees are in the Order Myrtales and Family Myrtaceae which means they are a close relative of the Gum Tree (Eucalyptus) yet there are no native Australian species of Metrosideros.
NZ Xmas Bush or pōhutukawa
This showy group of plants in the genus Metrosideros comprises of about 50 known species in 3 subgenus:
  1. Mearnsia, 24 or 25 species, trees, shrubs (some epiphytic) and vines, with red, pink or white flowers;
  2. Metrosideros, 26 species, trees and shrubs, flowers mostly red, but some species have yellow or white flowers;
  3. Carpolepis, 3 species of rainforest trees from New Caledonia, all with bright yellow flowers.
New Zealand has only 12 species of Metrosideros although it is through that this group all originated from there in the late Cretaceous period after breaking off from Gondwana Land. Hawaii has five, and Papua has four with the remainder scattered across small islands of the Pacific, with one outsider described from South Africa.

The name Metrosideros comes from Greek - metra meaning "heartwood" and sideron meaning "iron! Hence the term ironwood as the it was used in carving by the original New Zealanders the Maori! The Maori also named Metrosideros excelsa as the pōhutukawa which means "sprinkled with spray" - as it describes the plants habit of clinging to salt water cliff faces and being constanly exposed to the marine environment. In mid-summer in the southern Hemisphere the pōhutukawa is covered in flowers and hence the easier name of New Zealand Xmas Bush! The photo above is of metrosideros excelsa and even within this species the leaf colour can vary from leathery grey to dark almost shiny green! Normally the underside is always a silvery colour.

The other species (also NZ) of NZ Xmas Bush is metrosideros kermadecensis which is mainly sold today as the varigated form with also a wide variety of colours.

metrosideros kermadecensis
Metrosideros polymorpha  - or the Ohi'a Lehua is from the Hawaiian Islands and is found growing up to 35 meters high. When these large trees are covered in red vivid blanket of flowers - you can understand the Hawaiians declaring it sacred to the VOLCANO goddess called PELE!
ōhiʻa lehua  or Metrosideros polymorpha 

Friday, 23 March 2012

Books that botanists read!

My favourite gardening book!

"The Lazy Gardener" by Don Burke is still one of the better publications for the home gardener (Yes, I use it) and the latest one is a very entertaining read! Funny, stories, recipes, tips & the environment rolled into a chapter by chapter informative story. The original "The Lazy Gardener" is almost a collectors item - if you haven't read this - then try and get a copy!

R'Cycling and the 'Nvironment contains some of the most practical advice out of all the different gardening magazines. His environmental advice is based on common sense - not as Don puts it "feel good one day experiences".

Here's a photo of the front cover - you can also click the photo to go to Don's site - Burke's Backyard.

Click the photo!
Also his recipe for Finger Lime canapes is terrific. But I perfer the pulp on fresh oysters! YUM!

The name he has for slow release (or controlled) fertilisers is funny! But you'll have to read it to find out.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

GRASS is not a Grass!

Grass is not a grass!

Cannabis species (Grass) is not technically a grass at all. It is a member of the flowering plants called dicotyledons while true grasses are members of the moncotyledons.

Cannabis is a dicotyledon - It is not a grass!
Where the name "Grass" came from is unknown by this author - maybe check more informed sites on cannabis! But grasses in the true sense, normally have narrow leaves with smooth edges. Their flowers are arranged also in threes or multiplies of three.

First - the difference between monocotyledons and dicotyledons is in the seed development. Cotyledon refers to the first seed leaf that appears and in monocots only one leaf (cotyledon) appears while in dicotyledons there are two seed cotyledons (leaves) that appear first. Beans are dicotyledons as are the majority of flowering plants. Here is a drawing of the basic difference between a monocotyledon and a dicotyledon.

Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons compliements of Wikipedia
In this example they have used a bean seedling and a corn seedling. The major difference is the emergence of the two leaves in the bean (dicotyledon) and only the one leaf in the corn (monocotyledon). Cannabis is a dicotyledon and should not be refered to as a grass.

Monocotyledons include all the grasses, orchids, lillies, palms and bananas. There are many more species and number of dicotyledons than monocotyledons. But of the two - it is the grasses (monocotyledons) that man relies on so heavily. Corn, rice, wheat, oats, barley, sugar cane, millet, sorgham and bamboo are all members of the moncot group and basically classified as grasses. Some of the grasses (including wheat, corn etc) are annual, and these grow one season and produce seeds, then die. The average lawn grass is not annual and has the majority of the plant underground and will spread by runners in the soil. The leaves of these grasses can be grazed by cattle, sheep or lawnmowers and continually regrow!

Wheat is descended  from wild grasses some 7,000 years ago - when man selectively cultivated the plants with the most grain - and then chose these seeds for the next crop. Over the years techniques have been deleveloped that currently wheat is now dependant on man to survive and spread.

Cultivated wheat is a grass! (somewhat modified)
Grasses in general cover nearly one third of the land area on earth, as they don't rely on as much moisture as many other plants. Their survival ability sees them exist in deserts, the artic, mountains and salt pans - the role they play in the environment is probably the greatest of all plant groups.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Pumpkin is not a vegetable!

Eat your vegies please!

If you are served pumpkin as your vegies - don't eat it! It is a fruit under proper classification. Just so you quite sure we're talking of the same item - here is a photo.

Pumpkin is a Fruit!
Yes! There are many different species of the pumpkin from the giant Queensland Blue to the smaller Butternut pumpkins. All of these have seeds inside - and is the seed bearing mature ovary of the flowering plant (vine in this case). Also tomatos, avocados, egg plants, cucumbers etc are all fruits. Many of the fruits are further broken down into berries (grapes & tomatoes), drupes (peaches,plums), pomes (pears, apples), aggregates (raspberries) and many others that are classified on their structure. For example a pea is a fruit also - but actually called a Legume - along with peanuts.

Then there are the nuts - another group of edible fruit that are often wrongly classified. The hazelnut and acorn are true nuts, while the almond is actully the seed of a stone fruit. Brazil nuts, cashews and pistachios are also not true nuts.

Confused? Well it gets even more complicated - watermelons and cucumbers are still fruit - but grouped as pepos.

Vegetables are mainly classified as Not Fruits - that is they have no seeds at all and can be any part of the plant. For example brocolli is just a bunch of tightly clustered immature flower heads, while carrots are just the swollen tap root of the plant and spinach is just the leaves and stalks.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Evolution of Plants

Plants - did they all start together?

No! The earliest fossils of plants were just traces of algae that lived approximately 3,000 million years ago and are thought to be the first primitive relatives of all plant life on earth.

To give an idea of the time scale - here is a picture that explains the evolution of the different types of plants and when they first appeared on earth.

The Plant Time Line
These algae who started life in the Pre Cambrian period didn't arrive on land until about 400 million years ago, so this first stage took some 2,600 million years. Many land plants were still basic algae which didn't survive - but others which are the ancient relatives of the mosses and liverworts did survive. The basic plant kingdom time line of evolution is shown here:

Basic Plant Kingdom
As you can see at the start was algae (which itself developed further) until the liverworts and mosses arrived. So 400 million years ago there were no trees, ferns, flowers at all. Just some mosses and liverworts - very tiny along with algae. The liverworts and mosses then were just multicellular tissue grouping that photosynthesised. (Another story). Then 55 million years later there was a change to these multicellular plants - they developed specialised water conducting cells with the plant body. The ancestors of these first specialised developed tissue plants are called the clubmosses, horsetails and ferns. These were the first true image of what we recognise today as plants. They had roots, stems and leaves, and the relatives of these are common today and remarkably unchanged. This all happened 345 million years ago. It was another 120 million years until the next big change occurred - the arrival of the first true seed bearing plants.

This was 225 million years ago, and they are the relatives of our conifers (pine trees etc) and cycads -  sometimes called cone bearing plants. This period lasted some 90 million years until the glorious flowering plants arrived for the first time and now is the largest plant group on earth. They cover trees, shrubs, grasses, vines, weeds and nearly every plant we normally see from day to day.

The development of each of the above groups will be discussed separately. Overall they are nearly 400,000 different plant species on earth the have been discovered so far and growing rapidly each year.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Hypsometer - what is it?

A Hypsometer - A tree height measurement tool.

Basically a laser instrument that can give a fairly accurate measurement of a trees height. Extensively used in forestry and agricultural plantations.
This is the Nikon 550 used in forestry
But basically it just works out all the measurements that can be done through trigonometry. As per below:
Trigonometry in reality
Also you can get this application on iPhone now - called hypsometer app.
iPhone hypsometer application
There is so much more available IT applications to make measurements of trees that much easier.

Hope everyone likes my first Blog?