Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sinister Signals from the Lotus

The lotus is in flower. It is a blossom of such divine perfection that it is not hard to see how it would inspire a cult of worship.

The lotus and the water lilies have spread so much this year you can scarcely see the water, let alone the koi. The pond appears to have created its own self-sustaining ecosystem, because I quit cleaning the filter a couple of summers ago - it took so long, and was a losing battle in the heat anyway. Since then the water has become murky but the fish are thriving, getting huge and having babies, and not even interested in store-bought food.
The petals are like translucent wax, this example is almost a foot in diameter.

The frogs seem to like it here, too.

Which begs the question, why are the lotus leaves suddenly looking like the leaves of trees and shrubs - losing chlorophyl? Obviously, the lotus has not been in a drought ever, it lives in a pond.

I wonder the same thing about trees and shrubs at nurseries, which presumably are watered or irrigated, and they also are showing signs of drought – yellowing, browning, dropping leaves.

So, if it isn’t drought causing the drought-like symptoms, what is it?

UV radiation, or the composition of the atmospheric gasses? Some other causative agent?

Any of which is terrible news if true, for growing crops for food.

Later, some more pictures of what leaves look like but first, a little break, some wildflowers, first - Queen Anne's Lace, which when my kids were little we liked to cut and put in water with drops of food coloring, to watch them turn pink, blue, and yellow:

Here, a chicory flower:

And now some flowers from the garden:

Back now to the subject at hand, leaves that are seriously compromised, first some from my fringe tree, which has the most delicate, light white flowers in early spring, whose scent permeates the air:

stunted leaves from a Japanese Maple:

Discolored ivy:


day lily leaves, which are generally indestructible:

Three butterflies!

I have found some studies that have enormous importance to me, in my quest to understand and document the ravages of climate change on trees.

This study is about the very specific needs that trees have for a particular amount of "winter chill". Although this report is about California agriculture - which naturally receives attention and funding, since there are vast sums of money involved - I'm sure it applies to Eastern trees as well.

And this is a long term mortality assessment of giant trees in Yosemite, where scientists have determined that climate change is killing them, and they intend to find out exactly how, and how fast:

And this is the most exciting notion I've yet come across, it's new technology to detect the health of trees - an infrared camera that serves as the same diagnostic tool for trees that x-rays and cat scans do for humans. I'm trying to track down an American expert but meanwhile, this story is about an arborist in the UK:

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