Hungry Mice

Pt. Reyes Lupines threatened by invasive beach grass, with the help of a cute little native mouse.

It’s a battle between an invasive plant and a native plant, but with a new twist. The two plants, European beachgrass and Tidestrom’s lupine, are not in direct competition, and yet the beachgrass is helping to drive the lupine over the cliff.

European beachgrass provides cover that allows a timid deer mouse to get close enough to the lupine to snip off stalks of lupine fruits without being nabbed by overflying birds.

How cute is that little mouse? This cute:



Scientists from the University of Arkansas announced at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting the results of a study that showed genetically engineered pesticide-resistant canola growing like a weed in North Dakota. They found that up to 80 percent of wild canola in their sample from various North Dakota roadsides contained genes that conferred resistance to either glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready pesticide) or gluphosinate (from Bayer’s LibertyLink seeds).

But it gets better, er, worse. The scientists also found wild canola with both properties. And as lead scientist Cynthia Sagers observed in an accompanying news report, “these feral populations of canola have been part of the landscape for several generations” — plant generations, mind you, not human generations. Still, this is not a new phenomenon. It’s true that biotech companies do sell seeds with multiple forms of pesticide resistance, so-called “stacked trait” seeds. But these wild canola plants managed this interbreeding feat all by their lonesome.

So, these genetically engineered plants — which, when out in the wild, are considered weeds — are cross-pollinating and transferring “alien” genes that confer pesticide resistance. The next step in the chain is for the canola to interbreed with other related weeds. Suddenly, the prospect of our nation’s bread basket infested with superweeds becomes very, very real.

Very Green Roofs

Can you plant a roof with sedums and sempervivums and other green roof succulents AND still have room for solar panel? Well, they’re doing the research in Oregon, and the picture seems to imply they’ve already reached an answer.

Heather Noddings/Portland State Vanguard
Eco-roofs: Eco-roofs are being studied at PSU through a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Rural Australian Cactus Problem

The harissia cactus was introduced as a pot plant over 100 years ago and has since spread throughout a lot of Queensland.

The Banana Shire Council’s rural services coordinator Gordon Twiner says they are working with landholders to try to get on top of the cactus which is spread by birds.

Foreign languages, even when in English, are odd and confusing. Did you know the cactus was a “pot plant” in the “Banana Shire” and that “landholders” want to be “on top of the cactus”? Interesting. Let me translate that for you using google translate, into german and back to english. We get this:

The harissia cactus was introduced as a potted plant over 100 years ago and has since spread a lot of Queensland.

The Banana Shire’s rural services coordinator Gordon climbing plant, it says landowners are working to try on top of the cactus, which is spread by birds receive.

That didn’t work out too well. It did translate “pot plant” into “potted plant” and “landholder” into “landowner” so that was good. Now if only we knew what this “Banana Shire” was and why the people there want to sit on the cactus?

The Harrisia cactus is a night-blooming cereus known as the Moon Cactus (Harrisia martinii). Hard to know why it would be considered a dangerous weed from that photo.

The blooms are stunning! This can’t be a problem cactus to anyone.

Here we see why it’s a problem when it has escaped into the Australian wilds. Indeed that does look like a problem. If someone wants to send me some cuttings, I’ll be happy to research the plant.

Green Roof, Reims

It’s French.

With a curvy green roof… Wave House has a double-skin polycarbonate glass facade and a vegetated surface to shield against summer heat and winter cold.

According to architect Patrick Nadeau, the plants, which include…  succulents… were selected for “both for their aesthetic qualities as well as their natural resistance and minimal need for for maintenance.”

The italics are in the original, tho’ I don’t know why. High concept architecture.

One of our Favorite Endangered Species in the Sunday Chron

Limahuli Valley on Kauai’s North Shore, with its green-mantled spires of volcanic rock, starred as Bali Hai in the movie “South Pacific.” The Limahuli Garden, one of five units of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, occupies 17 acres of this improbably gorgeous place; an additional 985 acres preserve remnant upland forest….

Limahuli’s signature plant is the alula (Brighamia insignis), a lobelia relative that could have been a Dr. Seuss invention; it’s been described as “a cabbage on top of a bowling pin.” The alula’s natural habitat is the precipitous Na Pali cliffs, where only a few individuals remain. No one has ever seen its pollinator in action; some speculate that it may be the elusive green sphinx moth, or something even more rare, if not extinct. Botanical garden botanists have rappelled down the vertical cliffs to hand-pollinate alula plants in situ. Alula has been successfully propagated by Martin Grantham at San Francisco State University, among others – but is hard to keep alive. An attempted introduction at Kilauea Point is looking unsuccessful. It really misses its cliffs, where it’s being displaced by the likes of invasive sanseveria, the familiar houseplant “mother-in-law’s tongue.”

The SF Chron didn’t include any pictures. Here’s a picture of one of our plants:


Flower closeup after the break… Read More…

A New Danger to Endangered Cactus Wrens

Glue traps for mice and rats.

It started innocently enough as an attempt to get rid of some pack rats around my home – a frustrating process as many Tucsonans know well….

I purchased two large glue traps, which are coated with a scented sticky substance that attracts rats or mice, which then get stuck.

The traps worked as advertised, catching three small pack rats. But I was horrified to discover that one trap also held a Western screech owl, an adorable species about 8 inches tall, which has had its habitat hammered by development. It wildly flapped its wings, trilled and barked, in a futile effort to escape.
Now what to do? An Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum staffer told me to call Janet or Lewis Miller at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northwest Tucson. Janet told me to carefully wrap the bird in a towel and bring it in….

Lots of human activities maim birds and animals but one of the worst, according to the Millers, are glue traps, which ensnare screech and elf owls, Gila woodpeckers and cactus wrens….

Lewis first used mineral oil to dissolve the sticky substance on the screech owl’s feathers and beak; then Janet used a small dropper to feed it liquid electrolytes to replace those lost by the bird during this horrific experience. A volunteer readied a cage in a warm area. A wash with Dawn dish soap will follow and plenty of feedings over the next couple of days. As of this writing, I don’t know whether my screech owl will survive.

Las Vegas Cactus

Even with the development crash in Nevada, the edges of Las Vegas are still growing. This time into protected cactus territory.

A state-protected cactus may become a thorny snag for a developer with plans to build a subdivision near Red Rock Canyon….

But growing on the hillside land is the Blue Diamond cholla, a stubby, big-needled cactus that is among 24 plants the state considers “critically endangered.”…

Public opposition to Rhodes’ plan is growing among those who want to protect the cactus.

Well now that is a first – a group of Nevadans trying to slow development encroaching on the desert!


Blue Diamond Cholla is Cylindropuntia multigeniculata and the picture is from Bird and Hike, plus they have a dozen more photos including bright yellow flower pictures of the Blue Diamond. Nice!

On the Move

We feature a lot of drought tolerant plants on the cactus blog. Cactus, for instance. But it turns out there is another solution for plants – becoming a nomad; getting up and going where the water flows.


It’s a nomadic plant from Mexican artist Gilberto Esparza. (via good blog, images from plantas nomadas)

Killing the Frogs

From CNN we find out a common herbicide used in the US but banned in Europe may be the leading cause of falling amphibian populations.

Atrazine, a weed killer widely used in the Midwestern United States and other agricultural areas of the world, can chemically “castrate” male frogs…

Farmers in the United States continue to use atrazine on crops The herbicide has been a long-standing favorite among corn, sorghum and sugarcane farmers because t is affordable and can eliminate the need for tilling it is affordable and can eliminate the need for tilling the soil. Tens of millions of pounds of atrazine are used each year in the United States.


Green Roof Orange County

Life on the Balcony went to Knott’s Berry Farm, the other amusement park in Anaheim, and found green roofed trash cans! She let us post a picture, but I think there’ll be more photos on her blog soon, too.

Here’s another green roof project in Orange County.

The commissioners recently approved funding for a green roof for the Sustainable Technologies Building and a wastewater recycle system to serve that building and the (Central Carolina Community College’s) Chatham Community Library, which is also going up at the campus…. “The commissioners felt that sustainable technologies are a critical part of CCCC-Chatham,”

Of course, that will be Orange County, NC.

Well how about this one, another green roof in Orange County.

it’s Hartford’s Hollander Center, a LEED-EB candidate that recently broke out the first green roof in Connecticut’s capital city.

Hollander Green Roof

OK, so this must be from a green company based in Orange, CT. Shall we try one more time? One more attempt at a green roof in Orange County?

Duke Medicine’s commitment to sustainabililty has reached new heights with Duke University Hospital’s recently completed green roof project.


A green roof features vegetation planted over a waterproofing membrane. Besides being nice to look at, green roof vegetation can enhance the energy performance of a building by mitigating heat.

Well, at least they’ve established a succulent farm for new green roof projects in North Carolina.

Last year, Duke Medicine helped sponsor the creation of a local sedum farm in Orange County, North Carolina. The farm is growing the pre-cultivated mats with sedum species more indigenous to our climate.


There’s that Orange County again! Curse you google!

Well, back to California, apparently the Irvine Medical Center has a green roof, but I can’t find a photo.

California Living

Could these heavy rains presage even heavier rains to come?

Discovery News has this story of a team of scientists modeling a, “MONSTER ‘FRANKENSTORM'”,

The recent California storms left the state battered and bruised, but that could just be a taster of things to come.


And what has a monster storm looked like in California in the past? Like this one:


Oy, that’s not good. The Great California Flood of 1862,

transformed the Sacramento Valley into an inland sea, covering the tops of telegraph poles with steamboats passing over the farmlands to deliver goods and rescue survivors. The Santa Ana River formed two large lakes – one in the Inland Empire and another in the flood plain of Orange County. Probably the only definite high water mark in Southern California is at the Aqua Mansa, just south of the present city of Colton. Hydrologic studies at Aqua Mansa, document a discharge in 1862, three times the magnitude of anything since.

Of course, driving to Sacramento in winter normally the Sacramento river basin is usually flooded and looks like a lake. Even if that hasn’t happened in the last few drought years, it’s not uncommon. That’s why they don’t build houses on flood plains. Or shouldn’t.


Rat-eating plants do exist! Nepenthes attenboroughii.


The plant is among the largest of all carnivorous plant species and produces spectacular traps.” Co-discoverer Stewart McPherson

And another picture from io9


Green Roof Succulents

Growing succulents for green roofs is becoming a big business. We’ve sold some, but you really need to work in large volumes, and we’re too urban for that.

On the other hand, Southern Maryland seems like it would be the perfect place.


John Shepley shows one of the many green roof plants grown on the farm. (Photo by Maryland Newsline’s Lindsay Gsell)

Rows and rows of small sedums, delosperma and other green roof plants sit below, soaking up the sun in their newly insulated home.

These plants have been the sole focus and cash crop of the farm since 1998. Nearly a million of them are grown each year for green roofs around the country, says Shepley, a former electrical engineer who is now co-owner of the business.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Walter Reed Community Center in Washington, D.C., and Radio Shack’s World Headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, are among the farm’s more than 400 clients.


Endangered Cactus Still Endangered

This review shows that the Obama administration has not substantially improved the dismal record of the Bush administration in providing protection to the nation’s critically endangered wildlife,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity….

“Continued delays in protection of these 249 species is a failure of leadership by Interior Secretary Salazar,” said Greenwald….

Florida semaphore cactus: The Florida semaphore cactus has been waiting for protection for six years. It is a large prickly pear cactus from the Florida Keys that was thought to have been driven extinct by cactus collectors and road construction in the late 1970s, but was rediscovered in the mid-1980s. Much of its historic habitat has fallen prey to development, destruction, and fragmentation. Only two populations remain.

Green Roof Saturday


Green Roof on their gazebo
(Joe Fudge, Daily Press / September 24, 2009)

Charles Martino , Operations Manager for Cooke’s Gardens stands under the green roof on their gazebo at Williamsburg Botanical Garden in James City County….

The garden is a “green roof” of 250 sedums planted on top of an outdoor pavilion. This fall the sedums are at their peak, covering the 200-square-foot roof with lush greenery. Prolific bloomers like ice plant and portulaca add more splashes of color. All are… succulent(s).

As usual, rather than read the article all the way through to figure out where this Williamsburg in James City County is, I’ll do a lovely little internet search, this time using – and we have Virginia. No surprise there. I was hoping for Utah, but it wasn’t to be.

Green Roof, UK

From the Telegraph, if you can get the link to work, as it’s a bit wonky this morning, comes a story about home offices – separate small buildings in the backyard.

Some even have a sedum roof, planted with succulents and herbs, to blend in with the surroundings.

Well, that’s enough to create a blog post out of. Now if only they had pictures, then it would be an interesting blog post. Oh well.

To the google!

And I see we have a very exciting Home Office with Green Roof right here on Inhabitat.



Drought tolerant gardens from the 60s in Arizona were a bit more sparse than today’s fine upstanding cactus and succulent gardens.


Green Gravel Lawns, Arizona
Photograph by James P. Blair

Images From the National Geographic Archive

Green gravel lawns dress homes in Sun City, a retirement community that opened in 1960 near Phoenix. Arizona’s 65-and-over population rose 104 percent between 1950 and 1960.

Green Roof, PA

The green roof phenomenon is spreading. Succulents are saving the day, yet again. The Phila. Inquirer writes about local college buildings that have gone green.

Princeton University’s first “green roof” on a dorm (in the newly rebuilt Butler College housing complex) includes monitors for students to track energy performance and storm water runoff compared with coventional roofs….

The sleek, 17-story Millennium Hall is Drexel University’s first green dorm. It features concrete walls that don’t need paint, windows that reflect heat but allow light indoors, and a lobby floor made of recycled tires. A “green roof” (actually on a one-story platform attached to the building) is planted with succulents.

The article doesn’t have pictures, but that won’t stop me. I’m armed with google, photoshop, a text editor, and the fastest fingers to type a blog post in Berkeley.


Engineer returns to lead Butler’s construction. Nick Caputo ’73 on a green roof of one of Butler College’s new dorms.


This residence hall… will incorporate many environmentally sustainable design features, including a 3,000 square-foot green roof to reduce storm-water run-off and heat-island effect and a rain screen panel system envelop to provide solar shading.

Stopping Pests Before They Reach California

The cactus moth, a South American bug that destroys the prickly pear cactus, was recently discovered on Louisiana’s coast….

The biologists want to stop them now, before they get to western cactus-lands where they could devastate environments.

The agriculture agents are also breeding sterile male moths that they will release in areas where other cactus moth is found. The female cactus month mates only once, and if she mates with a sterile male the population will decrease.

More info is here and here.


Larvae inside a prickly pear pad. Photo: Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS PPQ

Modern Bathing

From Design Boom, we have this amazing water-re-using shower system.


Phyto Purification Bathroom Image: Jun Yasumoto

There’s more detail at the link, but I think the image says everything you need to know about this.

I want one.

Green Roof Buffalo

If green roofs have made there way to Buffalo, you know the fad has now reached trend status.


To see the latest green trend, look up. Dave Lanfear of Brayton Street is among those encouraging people not to overlook their roofs….

Today the roof on the one-story building is a neat, green oasis, planted with an assortment of sturdy sedum, some fine-textured grasses and even a few edibles.

OK, but it must be the only one in all of Buffalo, right?

The Lanfears’ roof, built last spring and summer, is no longer unique in the neighborhood. This year, Urban Roots acquired a small shed with a living roof that was built with recycled materials from Buffalo ReUse for the Junior League Show House.

Who knew? Because you know, I’ve been to Buffalo, and I can’t say it was at the forefront of green trends.

Green Roof West Virginia

(T)he renovation of West Virginia University’s Brooks Hall began in 2006… A few years later, 85 percent of the roof is vegetated, adding a splash of green to both the downtown campus and the university’s coffers….


The vegetation is known as sedums and succulents. They act as natural absorbents, holding, filtering and easing water into the drainage systems.

Yay! Nice picture.

Green Roof Palo Alto

It’s about time those Stanfordies got with the program and developed a homegrown sedum green roof.

We were coming from a home with no insulation, and the idea of a green roof — literally a succulent garden growing out of a horticultural mixture spread directly onto the surface — eliminating the need for air conditioning was a huge attraction,” Melissa said….

(They) chose several varieties of sedums and simper vivums, both of which spread, as well as non-invasive miniature ice plants and aloes. “I wanted to create an imitation of a larger landscape,” Schneider said.

“It takes about a year for everything to fill in,”

Alas, no photos. I think they meant Sempervivums, not that there’s anything wrong with simper succulents too.


September 2020

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