For all our West Coast readers, why not celebrate Mom with a trip to the Echo Park Craft Fair? Wilder friends Agnes Baddoo, Kathleen Whitaker, Dream Collective and Moon Canyon Flowers will all be present to brighten up your weekend and make Mom feel just that much more special. Card optional.
Observations from the East Coast’s Largest Gem and Mineral Show
By Kate Sennert
Photos by Rory Gunderson
Behind booth 201, a woman points to a rock donning a $900 price tag. “This one’s spoken for,” she informers to her co-worker, “The guy gets his tax refund in three weeks.” She is wearing a baseball cap and a snugly fit tank top emblazoned with the logo for Prospectors, a new reality show on the Weather Channel about “upstart” miners in America’s Rocky Mountain region searching for gold and gems. Stars from the show are purportedly on site. A few booths over, a middle-aged woman ogles a milky, blue-green hunk of fluorite mantled in a display case under florescent lights. “We don’t need anymore fluorite,” chides her husband, who then drifts toward a collection of fiery red wulfenite specimens, each with a four-figure asking price. The MC takes then to the loudspeaker, reminding visitors not to bypass the life-size models of dinosaurs used in the film Jurassic Park.
Enter the NY/NJ Gem and Mineral Show—the largest event of its kind outside of Tucson, now boasting its second year. So well attended was the previous year’s event that the show has been moved to a mammoth, 150,000-foot exhibition hall at the end of a sprawling industrial park in Edison, New Jersey. On the surface it’s an unlikely destination for some of the earth’s most rare and alluring treasures. Yet the place is teeming with visitors, an odd mix of natural history buffs, new age healers, cowboys, geophysicists, amateur paleontologists, little boys dressed as Indiana Jones, one guy dressed up sort of like an astronaut, and rock collectors, oodles of them, who have made pilgrimages from all corners of the country.
Minerals, apparently, are the great equalizer. Their mysterious and alluring beauty lies in having come—as one friendly miner from Upstate New York put it—“from the ground.” How is it possible, you ask yourself, that these crystalline structures in colors so mesmerizing and shapes so complex come not from the hands of men, but from the very ground we walk on? Bubbly green smithsonite crystals that resemble a cluster of grapes. Rhodochrosite brighter pink than any neon sign. Juicy watermelon tourmaline with hues so tantalizing you almost want to take a bite.
If that doesn’t blow your mind, there are plenty of other gems on display: dinosaur fossils, trilobites, glow-in-the-dark rocks under UV lights, jars full of shark teeth and furniture constructed of petrified wood. For this reporter, though, it is the dazzling array of gemstones and minerals that truly delights the eye. You are supposed to call them specimens, by the way—not rocks—but there’s not a single snob in the room to correct you.
The cherry tree has always had a powerful grasp on the hearts and minds of the Japanese. Come March, an entire nation turns their ears to hear the cherry blossom forecast- whole crowds wait, eager to gather and picnic under pink and white blossom clouds. In Japanese culture, the tree represents lavish beauty, and transience, and the inevitability of death. Kamikaze bombers adopted the flowers as their symbol, painting them on their planes, and some even believed they would be reincarnated as next season’s blossoms.
Some of the USA’s greatest cherry displays come direct from the land of cherry blossom. Washington D.C obtained it’s first donation of more than 3,000 trees as a gift from the City of Tokyo in 1912. The Brooklyn Botanic garden’s 220 Japanese cherries are the centerpiece for the garden’s ‘Hanami’ celebrations, where visitors can revel in the scents and sights of spring.
And what better way to celebrate spring than with a flower whose lifespan is as short as the season itself?
Carrion flower does it. Corpse flower does it too. So guess which of our USA natives is gifted with the talent for thermogenesis (producing it’s own heat)?
Are we noticing a theme yet? First of all, it bears mentioning that these three plants are all in the same family: the Araceae. Second of all, these plants all use strong scents to attract pollinating flies to their flowers- why? Because heat aids in dispersing these scents to further flung locales, and getting more pollinators in to do their duty, more quickly.
Skunk cabbage’s heat-producing capabilities serve a second purpose, too. Ever notice it is always the first plant up, come spring? Forget daffodils or snowdrops. Increasing air temperatures directly around the plant by as much as 50 degrees F, skunk cabbage is able to melt snow, and get a serious jump on the season. Thermogenesis is such a production, it requires the plant to use a whole different kind of metabolism than it usually does. In terms of energy use, the plant kinda starts acting like a hummingbird, or fleet-footed rodent. It’s weird.
So next time you’re out enjoying that first sliver of springtime green thanks to skunk cabbage (or maybe cursing it because it smells so nasty), stick your finger inside it’s flowers- feel the difference!
We just backed the Daphnis and Chloe Greek herb project on Kickstarter:
“The Mediterranean basin is home to a large variety of aromatic plants but the finest ranges rarely cross the narrow borders of their native lands. Daphnis and Chloe wants to make this goodness available for every cook and bring genuine, dried culinary herbs to the cities. This campaign will help us fund the production of our next batch.”
Chaka Khan does Hawaii in the 70s.
This film, From Tracks, caputers the best moments of the 2012/2013 Hawaii season. Featuring raw snippts of North Shore life and a soundtrack that swings from the palm trees, TROPCAL PORN is the next best thing to playing a ukulele while you pull in.’
From our Instagram feed, which is currently being manned by Taylor Patterson from Hawaii.
“Named after Proteus, the son of Poiseiden, true Protea were originally found in Africa, and South Africa remains the only place in the world where they naturally grow in the wild today.” Learn about the plant protea from Hawaiian shop Paiko who sources their protea from upcountry Maui.
Last May I wrote a post about the arrival of the emerald ash borer beetle in New York State’s Orange County. It’s a problem. Numerous exotic species, hailing from places all around the globe, assail our shores each year. While the majority of these alien invaders are relatively benign, inflating regional diversity numbers and adding to the biological patchwork of the landscape, some of them are outright terrors.
The emerald ash borer is one such bug. Boring into the bark of ash trees, the insect’s larvae feed on the plant’s phloem , essentially cutting off the tree’s ability to feed itself. In badly infested areas, trees die within just a couple of years. Already abundant in Michigan, this single sparkly beetle has been responsible for the decimation of millions of ash trees. New York State is up next.
What can you do? Get in touch with a local arborist. Find out how to identify an ash and the signs of the emerald ash borer. Additonally, the National Seed Laboratory, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Mid Atlantic Regional Seed Bank, and Cornell are all participating in an interstate ash seed collection program. You can help. Come to a training. Learn more about the project. Ash trees account for almost 20% of our trees in some areas of New York State and they are abundant across the nation: help save a species before it’s too late.
With Spring coming in, the garden has naturally been on my brain. So, for some unusual reason, has nudity. Trolling the internet for gardeners a la Adam and Eve, I had to laugh when a friend sent me these. Kind of a stretch on the old fig leaf look. Forget people being pantless in a garden! Here’s to people wearing plants!
For a limited time only, the eclectic collective and online book shop, Book Stand launched a special collection of artists’ books about plants. Titles include: haute-couture florists in Japan, gardens and the process of aging, plant life in Mexico City, fake flowers, trees like stones, trees at night, weeds in Sweden, supermarket flowers, Robert Mapplethorpe’s flowers, unpretentious herbs and much more from artists working in and around the natural world.
Get ‘em here.
“Among the 20,000 species of butterflies that exist around the globe, the monarch butterfly holds a special place in the hearts and minds of entomologists and animal lovers alike. Both the mesmerizing patterns of their wings and their epic journeys are a source of admiration and astonishment, and it’s no wonder why: Monarchs amount to the largest mass of all migratory species in the animal kingdom.”
Elizabeth Flores wrote that in the Fall 2012 issue of Wilder Quarterly. (You can download the full article here.) Flores spent some time at the Mexico’s Bioreserve pondering the five generation migration cycle of the butterflies and their shaky future. Last Friday, The New York Times penned a similar piece about the decline of the Monarch Butterfly coming with some scary stats such as ”the area of forest occupied by the butterflies, once as high at 50 acres, dwindled to 2.94 acres in the annual census conducted in December.” And with the Monarchs go all sorts of insects who are part of its ecosystem.
So what to do? Stop logging? Stop using herbicide which kills off milkweed, the Monarchs favorite feast? Sounds like there is no easy way out.
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