"To prove a decades-old hypothesis about how nutrients are transported in plants, a biologist set up shop 40 feet high in a red oak tree."



"Mother Nature’s Daughters" a NYT profile piece on women and urban agriculture. 

Describing their own farms and gardens, managers suggested that women make up 60 to 80 percent of field workers, organizers and educators. Applicant pools are similarly unbalanced for summer postings, internships and certification programs.

Urban agriculture is much more diverse than is outlined in this article. Nonetheless, the questions asked are worth considering. Would you agree that women tend to lean more towards soil-based urban agriculture because its activities are tied more closely to their surrounding community? As for men, do they lean towards the more technological urban food fixes (hydroponics, vertical farming, aquaponics)? 

Is urban agriculture truly a more female driven industry? 

Read the NYT article.

I think the fact that men tend towards more technological options is a matter of:

A) Men tend to have more money, or access to more opportunities to make money, and networks of other men with money: especially in the horticultural industry. I had several years of greenhouse experience, for example, and couldn’t find a landscaping crew that would hire me. My younger brother, with no experience or interest in horticulture, managed to snag a nice landscaping job with an all-male crew because he “knew some guys.” Even in the greenhouse business, I had to put in two low-pay years as a cashier before managing to talk my way into a raise and working in trees and shrubs / using the heavy machinery.

B) Men tend to have more opportunities and support to acquire technical knowledge: places for learning technical disciplines are often overtly hostile to women.

C) Men are more trusted to build technical solutions: a man and a woman could submit the same grant proposal/crowdfunding presentation for a hydroponics project, for example, and the man would have more success finding funding. The disparity between the funding received by men and women in sciences and in crowdfunding is well-documented.

D) Women are more likely to suffer from “imposter syndrome" and doubt their own abilities to accomplish complex projects like these, or trust their own leadership capabilities.

E) Women don’t get taken very seriously when trying to purchase equipment and hardware.

I know I would certainly be working with more high-tech solutions if I could afford to create them, or could find someone to hire me.

It’s not like I don’t have the aptitude for it — I run this entire site and a food forest, after all!

#food politics

I’m glad that someone posted this, and many of the points mentioned above are valid, but I do want to mention that in all of the horticulture/urban ag work and volunteering that I’ve done in Chicago, Milwauke and Seattle in the last five years (garden center, Master Gardener training, greenhouse propagation, foraging and plant identification, community garden management, landscape installation and maintenance), only one of my supervisors/lead instructors/managers has been a man… and that’s the guy I started working for here in Seattle last week. All of the rest of the people I learned from and worked under have been women, including the woman who was hired instead of me for a garden caretaker position at a large estate north of here… which really only makes sense since she has a degree in horticulture and she’s worked at an equally high-end estate already. I was given the opportunity to be her weekend assistant. On the flipside, I’d say that it’s been a challenge to get work in urban ag/horticulture during that same time period, when there are so few (near to no) black men or women working in the industry. And here I mean commercial landscaping, garden centers and farmers’ markets, not community gardens or other unpaid neighborhood ventures. It’s not like black people don’t know how to grow vegetables or tend gardens, after all.


Trigger Plant - Stylidium eriopodum

Enclosed in the Stylidiaceae Family, the scientific name of this plant, Stylidium eriopodum, is not resolved yet, and neither has an official common name, although some people call it boomerang plant by the peculiar shape of the flower. 

Stylidium species are generally known as Trigger Plants because their flowers have a touch-sensitive, fast-moving column that deposits pollen on, and picks it up from, pollinators (nectar-seeking solitary bees and bombyliid flies). Pollen is placed “explosively” on the insect by the motile column of fused staminate and pistillate tissues. 

This species grows in Southwestern Australia, where the plants are held above the ground on very fine roots, resembling beautiful mats over the ground.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Jean Hort | Locality: Australia (2012)

(via viridiplantaestuff)


Blue-eyed Moraea - A beauty in the verge of extinction in wild

Moraea aristata (Asparagales - Iridaceae) is a beautiful South African plant with white blooms marked with light to deep iridescent blue eyes or nectar guides. Although critically endangered in the wild, it is easily cultivated.

Endemic to clay slopes and flats of the northeastern Cape Peninsula, Moraea aristata occurs in remnant Peninsula Shale Renosterveld vegetation. The species is currently limited to a single subpopulation near the Liesbeek River in the suburb of Observatory. Despite its location within a protected area, it is on the verge of extinction there, as the limited number of individuals and low genetic diversity, poor seed production and disturbed site renders the subpopulation non-viable.

Moraea aristata is pollinated by monkey beetles (Hopliini: Scarabaeidae). The beetles are attracted to the striking blue nectar guides located near the base of the three broad outer tepals. The beetles feed on the nectar and pollen, and in so doing, pollen is deposited onto their heads and backs. When the beetles leave the flowers they brush against the stigmas and pollination takes place when they visit other flowers. The seeds are locally dispersed from the ripe capsules by the shaking action of wind.

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©Tiggrx | Locality: Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa (2011)

(via viridiplantaestuff)



Datura seed pods are absolutely gorgeous.  But be careful harvesting the seeds from them! 

#seed morphology

My lady friend thought I was making it up when I jokingly mentioned this kind of service to her friend whose lawn has some brown patches, but I was not.

beast-mode rosemary on Flickr.

It took some time before I understood that rosemary can grow like this in Seattle because of the mild winters here. After I had plants die in successive years in Chicago, I looked up its cold tolerance and said, “Oh.” I had assumed that since it’s a woody mint, it would tolerate freezing temperatures like sage and lavender.