How Many Trees on the Planet?

For many years, scientists could only guess at the number of trees on earth. But in 2015, Thomas Crowther and colleagues at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies used a combination of satellite imagery, forest inventories, and supercomputer technologies to produce a global map of tree density at the square-kilometer pixel scale.

Coast Live Oak trees growing in Trabuco Canyon. (Elizabeth Wallace)

The study published in Nature on September 2, 2015, concluded that 3.04 trillion trees are growing on earth.

California sycamore (Platanus racemosa) growing at Tree of Life Nursery. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Studies also estimate that the number of trees worldwide have declined 46 percent since the onset of agriculture thousands of years ago.

California Sycamore at O’Neill Park in Trabuco Canyon. (Elizabeth Wallace)

In an effort to increase biodiversity and combat climate change, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) launched a Billion Tree Campaign in 2006. By November 2007, they had achieved the goal, and one billion trees had been planted worldwide.

In December 2011, after more than 12 billion trees had been planted, UNEP formally handed management of the program over to the youth-led not-for-profit Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation (an organization that has been participating in the Billion Tree Campaign since 2007).

More recently, in the World Economic Forum 2020 at Davos, the Forum launched an initiative to bring support to plant a trillion trees by 2030.

Native California Sycamore tree leafing out in springtime. (Elizabeth Wallace)

If you want to join the tree-planting momentum, the Audubon Society recommends careful research in Plant Trees that Turn Your Yard into a Bird Oasis. Planting a native tree that contributes to life where you live is important, and the Audubon Society is a great resource that will help you select the best tree for your outdoor living space.

Coast Live Oak trees and deer browsing. (Elizabeth Wallace)

If you have a small yard or patio, and you live in California, a great tree for wildlife is the Scrub Oak (Quercus berberidifolia). The Scrub Oak grows 15 feet tall, is evergreen, and supports more than 100 species of butterflies and moths.

Scrub oak tree. Photo by Valley News.

A versatile California native shrub for pollinators is the California buckwheat. The California Native Plant Society Orange County (OCCNPS) chapter will be giving away four-inch California buckwheat plants during the April 4 weekend at the Fullerton Arboretum’s Green Scene.

California buckwheat in the Dana Point Headlands. Photo by Debra Kettler.

OCCNPS will also be offering a variety of California native plants and trees for sale at  Green Scene. Native plant experts will answer your questions and offer support to help make planting with natives successful and fun. Join us at Green Scene on April 4.

 

Bring More Hummingbirds, Orioles, and Warblers to Your Home

How can you get more birds visiting your garden?

Hummingbird gathering nectar from Cleveland Sage. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Go to Audubon’s guide for plants that attract birds.

Orange-Crowned Warbler foraging on Showy Penstemon. Photo by Kris Ethington.

When you click on this link, you will be directed to the Audubon Society database that recommends plants that help birds thrive where you live. Enter your 5-digit zip code and explore the best plants for birds in your area, as well as local resources and links to more information.

Hooded Oriole feeding chick. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Click the Audubon link and learn which native plants will bring more birds to your garden this spring.

Hummingbird fledgling perched on a Cleveland Sage with parent in the background. Photo by Kris Ethington.

If you live in Southern California, you can find bird-friendly native plants for sale at Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano.

Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano. (Elizabeth Wallace)

And on Saturday, March 12 from 3 to 5 p.m., you can pick up a free California buckwheat plant at the Arbor Day celebration at Lang Park in Laguna Beach while supplies last.

Where Do Western Monarchs Spend the Spring?

Despite the fact that Western Monarch butterflies are universally loved, their numbers have plummeted in recent years.

Two monarch butterflies cruise together under a Coast Live Oak tree. (Elizabeth Wallace)

What can you do to help? Join the Western Monarch Mystery Challenge–a campaign created to increase awareness of locations where Western Monarchs spend the spring in California after leaving their coastal California overwintering sites.

Male and female Western Monarchs together. Photo by Jeff Wallace.

If you see a monarch from February 18 through April 22, take a photo (it can be far away and blurry). Then report the siting to iNaturalist, the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper, or email it to MonarchMystery@wsu.edu.

Far away and blurry photo of Western Monarch on baccharis pilularis cultivar and coffee berry. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Your photo will help scientists better understand Western Monarchs’ locations and activities in February, March, and April. When you share your springtime Monarch observations, you help conservation efforts for the butterfly.

In between reporting your spring Western Monarch sitings, plant more native plants in your garden, especially California buckwheat, salvias, manzanitas, narrow-leaf milkweed, and maybe a scrub oak tree!

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is partnering with National Audubon Society to encourage all of us to go outside this weekend and count the birds we see in our backyard or favorite place.

Sandpipers at Laguna Beach, CA. (Elizabeth Wallace)

I spent about 30 minutes this morning with a pair of binoculars and my Birds of California Field Guide by Stan Tekiela. I counted five American Robins, one Yellow-Rumped Warbler, a Cooper’s Hawk, and three White-Crowned Sparrows.

Cooper’s Hawk in search of breakfast. Photo by Kris Ethington.

The count continues through the Presidents’ Day holiday on Monday, February 17. Audubon encourages people from around the world to count wild birds and then submit the data online for scientists to use in their research. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an easy-to-use phone app to help you record and identify the birds you see. It’s called Merlin.

The Merlin app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology helps you record the birds you saw during the Great Backyard Bird Count.

You can add this app to your phone for free and quickly identify and record the birds you observed this weekend. It’s easy and fun and will help scientists better understand trends in bird populations worldwide.

Pelicans at sunset in Irvine, California. Photo by Yana Bridle.

After you’ve finished counting birds, join us in April at the Fullerton Arboretum Green Scene. We will be giving away free buckwheat and also offering other California native plants for sale.

California buckwheat plants are flowering machines that attract hundreds of pollinators. These pollinators are an important food source for birds. I look forward to seeing you this Thursday.

Tiny masked bee visits California buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Saying Good Bye to a Billion Birds

Did you know that in 2016, North America had more than a billion fewer breeding birds than 40 years ago?

Blue birds eating insects. Photo by the Louis Gintner Botanical Garden.

What is contributing to the decline in bird populations? Scientist Doug Tallamy has discovered that when non-native ornamental plants are installed in the landscape, insect populations plummet because insects are co-evolved to feed from native plant species, not from introduced plant species.

Insects make up 96 percent of terrestrial birds’ food source.

Carolina chickadee prepares to feed young. Photo by Douglas Tallamy.

 

Thousands of lady beetles hibernating in a canyon area in a southern California woodland in the winter of 2020. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

We have 3,300 species of ornamental plants (from other areas of the world) introduced in the United States. These plants are cultivated and promoted by nurseries and home improvement centers because they are unusual, pretty, and easy to grow.

Ornamental Pampas Grass (from Argentina and Brazil) invades a creek in Southern California. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Introduced ornamental plants do not support abundant insect life, and without insects–humans, birds, and animals cannot survive. Other factors contributing to the reduction in bird populations include pesticide use, bird strikes on windows and plexiglass fencing, and feral cats. To learn more, you can read Tallamy’s research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS).

Ornamental fountain grass (from Africa) planted in a residential landscape in Southern California.

What can you do to help? Start by learning about native plants from your region. If you live in California, you can go to CalScape.org and type in your zip code. You will find a list of plants that are native to your area, and the insects and pollinators the native plant supports.

California Native Plant Society

Returning birdsong to the outdoors is one of the reasons why the Orange County California Native Plant Society is giving away one free ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat to Orange County homeowners. Buckwheat supports 15 species of butterflies and moths, not to mention all of the native bees and other insects that thrive with this plant in the landscape. Plant a California buckwheat today and help birds find enough to eat.

Lady Beetle Visits Buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Caring for Buckwheat During a Dry January

If you picked up a four-inch California buckwheat at A Buckwheat in Every Garden event last fall, hopefully you planted it and watered it deeply, then spread a light layer of mulch to keep the soil moist.

Thea Gavin and Connie Bowen plant a two-gallon California buckwheat ‘Dana Point’ at an October Buckwheat in Every Garden event in Orange, California.

We received plentiful rain in November and December. However, except for a fraction of an inch of rain in mid-January, most Orange County gardens have been cool and dry in the new year.

Sunny January day in the California garden. (Elizabeth Wallace)

It is time to check your newly-installed buckwheat to see if it needs water. If the plant is dry a few inches down, give it a deep drink using a watering can or hose with a rain nozzle to simulate rainfall.

Watering a newly-installed buckwheat. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Native plants enjoy water during the winter rainy season, and sometimes when we have a dry month like this, we may need to add supplemental water to ensure the root ball doesn’t dry out while the plant is in its establishment period.

California buckwheat. Photo by Laura Camp.

It takes about a year, sometimes more, for a California native plant to become established in the garden. Once the plant is established, it will only need monthly watering at most.  Below are a few photos of established California native plants that are flowering in the January native garden.

Verbena ‘De la mina’ (Verbena lilacina). (Elizabeth Wallace)

Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea). (Elizabeth Wallace)

Dancing tassels (Ribes malvaceum). (Elizabeth Wallace)

Sunset manzanita (Arctostaphylos ‘Sunset’). (Elizabeth Wallace)

Lester Rowntree manzanita (Arctostaphylos ‘Lester Rowntree’). (Elizabeth Wallace)

Whether it’s wet or dry, keep an eye on your new buckwheat. Send photos and let me know how your buckwheat is growing.

A pair of cactus wrens enjoy the buckwheat at the Dana Point Headlands in January. (Elizabeth Wallace)

First They Sleep

Have you heard the old adage about growing newly-installed plants in the landscape? The saying goes like this: “First they sleep, then they creep, then they leap!”

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This starter ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat is not sleeping after installation: it has doubled in size a month after being planted. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Is your new ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat sleeping, creeping, or leaping? Some homeowners who planted their free buckwheat report bunnies feasting on the tender new growth. If this has happened to your buckwheat, consider fencing it temporarily until the plant grows larger and less tasty to rabbits.

Most ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat starter plants that were planted last fall are nestled into the soil and becoming established in their new home. The rainfall has nourished the leaves, stems, and roots with pure water.

California rains soak California buckwheat. (Elizabeth Wallace)

As the weather begins to warm, the new four-inch ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants will begin to bud and eventually flower.

Budding buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

The buckwheat flowers will attract native California pollinators such as the Acmon Blue, Gray Hairstreak, Brown Elfin, Blue Copper, and Dotted Blue butterflies, as well as many species of California bees including the tiny Masked bee.

Masked bee visits a buckwheat flower. Photo by Kris Ethington.

If you haven’t had a chance to attend A Buckwheat in Every Garden event to pick up your free buckwheat, consider visiting the San Juan Capistrano Garden Club monthly meeting on January 20. The club will give away 96 ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the San Juan Hills Golf Course banquet room.

Buckwheat in flower. (Kris Ethington)

The ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat is a must-have for every Orange County garden, and now is the perfect time to plant it in your home landscape. Get yours while supplies last.

Growing Buckwheat in the Garden

When cooler winter temperatures arrive in Southern California, residents wear sweaters and scarves to stay cozy. Buckwheat changes in the winter too, as the creamy white flowers turn a reddish brown when the flowers go to seed.

‘Dana Point’ buckwheat graces a garden in winter. (Kris Ethington)

The ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat has a compact nature suitable for the home garden and is fairly easy to grow for first-time native gardeners.

Buckwheat mixes with other natives in the garden. (Kris Ethington)

More than a thousand buckwheats were distributed last fall, and if all went well, the plants that were given away may have doubled in size by now. Thanks to abundant rains over Thanksgiving and Christmas, the new buckwheat plants should be off to a good start.

New ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat planted in late November has doubled in size. (Elizabeth Wallace)

How is your new buckwheat growing? Have you experienced troubles or success? Let me know with a comment on this blog, and share a photo if you have one. I would love to hear from you.

And if you haven’t had a chance to pick up a free buckwheat, you can pick one up at Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar on January 14, 15, and 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (while supplies last).

Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar. Photo from Roger’s Gardens.

Buckwheat in Winter

Pictured here is a large expanse of California buckwheat growing healthy and wild in O’Neill Park in November, just before the rainy season began. Notice how the flowers have turned a rusty reddish brown as this shrub reflects the changing seasons.

Field of buckwheat, oak trees and clouds in November before the seasonal rains began. (Elizabeth Wallace)

The buckwheat flower is turning to seed as winter approaches. California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is distantly related to the Eurasian crop plant common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), which is used for pancakes, bread, and porridges. Unlike its European relative, the seed of the California buckwheat is not commonly used as a grain but instead feeds local birds and wildlife. If you trim the reddish flowers in winter, lay them on the ground for wildlife to enjoy.

California Buckwheat heading into the fall season. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Author Michael Wilken-Robinson reports in his book “Kumeyaay Ethnobotany” that native Baja Californians cook buckwheat flowers and leaves with water to make a tea to calm nerves. Others report using California buckwheat to cure digestive disorders. Medicinal uses for buckwheat are widespread among the Kumeyaay people.

Kumeyaay Ethnobotany by Michael Wilken-Robinson

In the spring and summer, California buckwheat is an important source of nectar for bees and is prized for the fragrant honey produced from the flower. Buckwheat honey has a delicate flavor and aroma.

Honey bee visiting buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

More honey comes from pollinated buckwheat than any other native plant in California. Visit your local farmer’s market to purchase local buckwheat honey and enjoy its sweet, rich flavor throughout the year.

Buckwheat honey. (Elizabeth Wallace)

It’s hard to resist the allure of the iconic California buckwheat and all of the benefits it will provide in your garden landscape.

Restored Habitat at Shipley Supports Wildlife

I took advantage of the break in the rain last weekend to visit Shipley Nature Center for their A Buckwheat in Every Garden giveaway in Huntington Beach.

Sycamore tree overhangs natural pathway. (Elizabeth Wallace)

The 18-acre Shipley Nature Center is a California native botanical area and wetland. The centerpiece of the gardens is a fresh water pond surrounded by various California native habitat gardens, restful seating areas, and natural pathways.

Red toyon berries flank an adirondack chair in autumn. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Shipley offers vermiculture (worm composting) demonstration sites, rain harvesting and storage examples, and a native plant nursery on site. Fallen tree branches are stacked along some of the pathways, providing perfect habitat for California native bees.

An Urbane Digger Bee in flight. Photo by Kris Ethington.

The City of Huntington Beach and the nonprofit Friends of Shipley Nature Center began restoration of the site in 1974. They removed invasive plants such as tamarisk and black mustard, then planted fifty thousand native plants. This site now supports snowy egrets, great blue herons, ducks, turtles, Cooper’s hawks, cedar waxwings, and many other species of birds, and butterflies.

Cooper’s hawk in search of breakfast. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Shipley Nature Center is an oasis in the city of Huntington Beach. Take your family to visit over the holidays and walk along 4,000 feet of trails that wander through oak woodlands, Torrey pines, willows, coastal sage scrub, and butterfly gardens. Admission is free, and visitor hours are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Matilija poppies in full flower at Shipley. Photo by Mary LeBoeuf.

Don’t forget to look for the buckwheats planted near the entrance of the site, and remember to look up! You may be rewarded by the site of a snowy egret near its tangled branch nest in the tree tops.

Do you see the ghostly figure of the snowy egret near the nest built in the sycamore tree at Shipley? Photo by Mary LeBoeuf.

More Buckwheat, More Butterflies

When you plant California buckwheat in your home landscape, you bring immediate relief to butterflies and other pollinators searching for nectar and shelter.

California native bee, solitary and docile, visits a California Buckwheat. Do you see the bee? Photo by Kris Ethington.

California buckwheats flower for months, enrich the soil with their tiny leaves, are easy to grow, and are evergreen. Buckwheat is a foundation plant for any garden.

Buckwheat graces a suburban garden. (Elizabeth Wallace)

The California Native Plant Society Orange County (OCCNPS) chapter is partnering with the Shipley Nature Center to give away 200 California ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants at the Holiday Crafts Faire on Saturday, December 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.

Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach.

Visit Shipley Nature Center this Saturday to pick up a free California buckwheat, select from 70 California native plants to purchase, and see 18 acres of restored wetlands, woodlands, and pristine coastal sage scrub habitat. Shipley’s address is 17851 Goldenwest Street in Huntington Beach. See you this Saturday!

Bernardino Blue butterfly on California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasiculatum). Photo by Chuck Wright.

Buckwheat with a Side of Natives

The Shipley Nature Center of Huntington Beach is partnering with STEMscopes students to host the final Buckwheat in Every Garden giveaway of 2019.

Restored coastal sage habitat at Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach.

The December 7th Shipley Nature Center buckwheat giveaway is especially exciting because along with the 200 buckwheat plants being distributed for free, Shipley will offer 70 additional California native plants for sale.

California native plants and books about gardening with natives. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Located in an 18-acre fenced natural area within Huntington Beach Central Park, the Shipley Nature Center is owned by the city of Huntington Beach. Several years ago, the Friends of Shipley Nature Center and the city of Huntington Beach joined together to remove invasive plants, upgrade the trail system, improve wetland areas, and install 50,000 California native plants.

Shipley Nature Center field of poppies.

This Shipley garden event will help OCCNPS supply northwest Orange County homeowners with buckwheat for their home gardens and fill in the Buckwheat in Every Garden iNaturalist map. One buckwheat plant is given to an Orange County homeowner in exchange for the homeowner’s street and city to plot the buckwheats as they are planted across the county.

A Buckwheat in Every Garden iNaturalist map showing 975 buckwheats planted across Orange County as of November 29, 2019.

Join us at the Shipley Nature Center, 17851 Goldenwest Street, Huntington Beach, on Saturday, December 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to pick up your free buckwheat and buy some California natives too. While supplies last, see you December 7.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly on Red Buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.