Ginkgo Gone Wild

The Ginkgo Walk at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, November 2008.
Ginkgo Walk

Another Brooklyn blogger reports:
One crisis I've been tasked with dealing with [from a co-op board meeting] is one of our ginkgo trees in the front of our building has apparently decided to change its sex - from male to female; or at least one branch of it has done so.
- Thoughts While Looking Up, Ink Lake, 2009-11-17

Ginkgo biloba is a dioecious species, with male and female flowers on different plants (usually). The fruit of Ginkgos, which arise only from the flowers of female plants, is notoriously messy and smelly, hence the co-op's concern. We had a close encounter with some on the Sustainable Flatbush Street Tree Walking Tour a few weeks ago.

The gender of dioecious flowering plants can't be determined until they flower; male and female plants must be selected and copied through vegetative propagation techniques as cultivars, i.e.: clones. Hollies, Ilex, are also dioecious, and gardeners who want berries on their Hollies must purchase known-female cultivars and ensure that compatible males are close enough for pollination.

Flowers on the female cultivar of Ilex verticillata, Winterberry, in my backyard native plant garden. The sticky stigma, which receives the pollen from the flowers of the nearby male plant, is clearly visible in the center of the flower.
Ilex verticillata, Winterberry (female)

The ability of dioecious plants to change gender has been observed before, though it's unusual. The mechanisms by which individual plants "choose" their gender remains unknown; the accelerating capabilities of genetic technology are likely to change this. If any reader has some good references, please share them in a comment below.


Flatbush Daffodil Project - 11/14 & 11/15

11/14 ONLY - CANCELLED due to rain (remains of Hurricane Ida). Join us Sunday, 11/15, for a beautiful day of Daffodil bulb planting!

Daffodil bulb

Join Sustainable Flatbush and your fellow urban gardeners to beautify neighborhood tree beds by planting daffodil bulbs!

The Daffodil Project was originally created to commemorate September 11th; a Dutch bulb grower donates 500,000 bulbs each year to NYC community groups who plant them in neighborhoods all over the five boroughs. This year, New Yorkers for Parks distributed more than 125,000 Daffodil bulbs for planting throughout the City. Sustainable Flatbush received 500 bulbs for planting in tree beds and other public areas in our neighborhood.

This will be Sustainable Flatbush's second year of co-sponsoring the Daffodil Project locally. If you enjoy gardening, feel like digging in some dirt, or if you just want to delight in the company of your neighbors, join us this weekend!

WHAT: Flatbush Daffodil Project
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, November 14th and 15th, from 10:00am until 12:00pm
WHERE: Meet in front of Vox Pop Cafe at 9:45, 1022 Cortelyou Road (corner of Stratford Road)

(Please note: rain cancels this event! Call us at 718-208-0575 if in doubt)


BK DECAY: Brooklyn Community Leaf Composting, 11/7&8, 11/14&15, & 11/21&22

Update 2009-11-21: In just 4 hours over 2 days, the Flatbush CommUNITY Garden diverted 1,740 lbs of leaves from landfill to compost which will enrich the Garden and more of Brooklyn's urban farms and gardens. As Director of the Urban Gardens and Farms Initiative of Sustainable Flatbush, I want to thank everyone who participated, whether by planning, volunteering, or dropping off leaves.

Cherry Leaves, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, November 2008
Cherry Leaves

Until 2007, NYC collected and composted residential leaves. For the second year, 20,000 tons of leaves will be treated like household garbage, added to the City’s already-overburdened waste stream. Sign the petition to restore leaf composting to NYC.

Stepping into the void left by the City's abandonment of leaf composting, more than a dozen Brooklyn community gardens, as well as gardens in other boroughs, have banded together in partnership with the GreenBridge Community Garden Alliance of Brooklyn Botanic Garden,  Council on the Environment of NYC, bk farmyards, Vokashi, and the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition,

Over the next three weekends, from 11am to 1pm, Brooklyn residents can bring leaves, free of trash, twigs and branches, in clear plastic or paper bags to one of the locations marked with a blue pin on this map. Not every garden is participating on all dates, so check the garden nearest you to see when you can drop-off in your neighborhood.

View larger map

Information will be available at many of the participating gardens about how to make compost in your own garden or apartment and about efforts to encourage the City to reinstate its municipal leaf collection and composting program.

The Flatbush CommUNITY Garden is participating on two dates: this Sunday, November 8, and Saturday, November 21. The drop-off will be at 1550 Albemarle Road, near Buckingham Road (East 16th Street). The Garden is a project of Sustainable Flatbush, part of the Urban Gardens & Farms initiative.


Who Cares About Honeybees, Anyway?

2021-10-26: Scraped and back-dated from an Internet Archive copy of Garden Rant.

Originally published as a Guest Rant on Garden Rant on November 4, 2009. The original is no longer available on their Web site.

Subgenus *Agapostemon*, male, on NOID *Helianthus*, perennial sunflower, along my driveway, August 2009 
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been making the news rounds for a few years now. It's old, if still current, news. Dire outcomes from the loss of honeybees have been proffered. For example, PBS recently introduced an online "ask the expert" feature with this:
Since the winter of 2006, millions of bees have vanished, leaving behind empty hives and a damaged ecosystem. 

- Ask “Silence of the Bees” Expert Dr. Diana Cox-Foster, PBS Blog
Really? The ECOSYSTEM?! Did they not notice that honeybees aren't part of the ecosystem? 

Honeybees are livestock. They are animals which we manage for our uses. We provide them with housing and maintenance. We even move them from field to field, just as we let cows into different pastures for grazing.

Perhaps, if CCD can neither be prevented nor cured, disaster would come to pass. However, the underlying cause would not be the loss of the honeybees but our dependence on them as a consequence of unsustainable agricultural practices.

The old ways of farming include hedgerows, uncultivated areas between fields. The biodiversity of these patches provide substantial habitat for native pollinators, as well as other beneficial insects. When even these rough “unproductive” patches of land are cleared, we set the stage for the patterns that have come to dominate agriculture: more herbicides, more pesticides, more machinery. All of these also damage the soil food webs that support both soil fertility and agricultural ecosystems. Although  manufactured inputs provide temporary relief, they reduce the ecological functions of the land, requiring more and greater inputs to achieve the same effect. This is the definition of addiction, and it’s a clear sign that this way of doing business is unsustainable.

Why do we need to ship and truck pollinators around? There are plenty of native pollinators to do the job, where we haven't decimated their habitats. There are 4,000 species of bees alone in North America. 226 species are known in New York City. Many of them visit my gardens in Flatbush, Brooklyn; some have even taken up residence. Many native bees are ground-dwellers which need only some open ground in which to dig their nests. When every patch of ground is cultivated, plowed under or paved over, native pollinators disappear. Suddenly, we “need” honeybees for pollination.

I care about the honeybees. I like my honey and beeswax candles. I support efforts to legalize beekeeping in New York City. But not at the expense of the biodiversity that is all around us, even in the city, if only we care enough to look for it, value it, and nurture it.

Related Content

Cellophane Bees Return, 2009-05-02


Ask “Silence of the Bees” Expert Dr. Diana Cox-Foster. [http://www.pbs.org/engage/blog/ask-%E2%80%9Csilence-bees%E2%80%9D-expert-dr-diana-cox-foster], PBS Blog 

Saving [Honey] Bees: What We Know Now [About CCD] http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/saving-bees-what-we-know-now/], NY Times, 2009-09-02