Friday, 30 March 2018

Tree of 40 Fruit

New York Based artist Sam Van Ken created a tree of 40 fruit using the ancient technique “chip grafting”. His family lives in Pennsylvania Dutch and he grew up on the family farm. He’s an associate professor of sculpture at Syracuse University. Therefore, each tree produces forty different types of stone fruit, of the genus Prunus, ripening sequentially from July to October in the United States. The tree is fruiting in the artist's nursery, where each spring the tree's blossom is a mix of different shades of red, pink and white. Thus, a variety of fruit, harvested from one of the trees in one week, in August 2011.

Van Aken had produced 16 Trees of 40 Fruit, installed in a variety of private and public locations, including community gardens, museums, and private collections. In the chip grafting technique, which involves cutting the buds off a fruit tree and having them heal to the lateral branches of a rootstock tree? Branches from the different fruit trees grow off of the rootstock, which is naturally a tree variety natural to the area's climate and soil. This lets fruit to be grown in areas that might not otherwise support that type of tree.

In 2008, he was looking for specimens to create a multicolored blossom tree as an art project; then he acquired the 3 acres orchard of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, which was closing due to funding cuts. He started to graft buds from more than 250 heritage varieties grown there, some unique, onto a stock tree. Therefore, the tree was nourishing over the course of 5 years the tree accumulated branches from forty different "donor" trees, each with a different fruit, including almond, apricot, cherry, and nectarine, peach, nectarines, and plum varieties. He has plans to populate a city orchard with the trees.

Van Aken tries to include local fruits on each of his trees, as well as varieties that aren't commercially available. And once they happened upon one of these trees, they would start to question ‘Why are the leaves shaped differently?’ ‘Why are they different colors? So, Van Aken's trees can be found in Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Butterfly Winter Sleepers

The cold weather of winter poses a major problem to many creatures. The peacock, small tortoiseshell and brimstone are three butterflies which opt for hibernation in the adult form until spring. The beautiful peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies that feed on Michelmas daisies in autumn gardens are the same butterflies that will be out and about searching for flowers on the first sunny, warm day of the New Year. The peacock and small tortoiseshell are usually up and about in March. However, the brimstone, which favors the flowers of the woodland rides, can often be seen much earlier particularly in the south of England even in January if the weather is suitable.

These butterflies live for about nine months in their adult stage, much of this time spent in hibernating sleep. Other butterflies have different methods of coping with winter; a few migrate to warmer climates where nectar is available. While others survive the winter in the inactive egg or chrysalis stage or hibernate in the caterpillar stage.

Butterflies need the sweet energy rich nectar from flowers to give them strength to fly and help them survive their hibernation through the long winter months. During this inactive state their energy consumption is minimal, so they can survive without further food. As a protection against the cold, some sugar in their blood is converted to glycerol which works rather like anti-freeze in car radiators.

Hibernating time starts in late autumn the peacocks, small tortoiseshells and brimstones search for a safe dry dark place where they will be protected from winter frosts. Usually peacocks find a hollow tree, although they will sometimes tuck themselves in a wood pile or a corner of a garden shed. Small tortoiseshells choose similar places, but tare also quite likely to come indoors. A hideaway in a little used from is safer than a hollow tree; there are no birds to eat them while they sleep. Brimstones seek dense, ever green cover in their woodland surroundings and particularly thick growths of ivy or holly which offer protection.

The butterflies often bury themselves among dead leaves. At rest, the bright wing colors are hidden only the underside, looking like a dried up leaf, is visible. This gives the butterflies particularly good camouflage. The peacock has a spectacular defense mechanism which it uses if it is disturbed from rest. Opening its wings, it creates an alarming hissing noise as the front and hind wings rub across each other, revealing huge eye sports. A small bird, startled by the hiss and then confronted by large owl like eyes, will usually fly off, leaving the butterfly to go back to sleep.

With the first spring sunshine in late March the peacocks and tortoiseshells awake from hibernation; individual peacocks can be seen much earlier in fine weather, when they come out for a short flight. Although the brimstones may be tempted to stir as early as January they return to hibernate until later. Sometimes tortoiseshells hibernating indoors also wake too early, perhaps because the heating is switched on in a spare bedroom. If you see a tortoiseshell fluttering at a window in midwinter, put it in a cool shed or garage where it can go back to sleep until spring really arrives. There are small migrations of tortoiseshells from abroad which augment our own butterflies.

The new brood of adult brimstones emerges in July and August and spends most of the day feeding. It shows a distinct preference for purple flowers, particularly those of the thistle, knapweed, scabious, bramble and clover. The new brood of adult tortoiseshells, which emerges in late June or July, lays eggs to produce a second brood in August and September; this feeds on most garden flowers, especially ice plant and buddleia, and is the overwintering brood. The peacocks emerge later in August and are numerous in gardens there they feed on buddleia and in fields where they feed on Lucerne, thistle, knapweed, marjoram and clover.

Remember that you need more than flowers to attract butterflies to your garden. An undisturbed corner of a shed will give the butterflies somewhere safe to hibernate and a patch of nettles in a sunny corner of the garden will feed the caterpillars which will turn into chrysalides and eventually become the next generation of butterflies.

Life Cycle of peacocks and small tortoiseshells:

Butterflies go through four stages the egg the rapidly feeding and growing caterpillar the chrysalis and the adult butterfly. A peacock takes one year to complete a cycle but the small tortoiseshell caterpillar has less growing to do and there is time for two broods each year. The summer brood lives only a few weeks as butterflies.

Egg: after feeding for few days from spring flowers, peacocks and tortoiseshells mate and then the females search for stinging nettles on which to lay eggs.

Caterpillar: when the eggs hatch the crowd of young caterfpillars spins a single silk tent in which they all live as they feed and grow.

Chrysalis: the fully grown caterpillars crawl away to find a fence or branch from which they can hang down while they turn into chrysalides’.
Butterfly: Within a few weeks the glistening adult emerges fully grown. The butterflies die several weeks after mating and laying their eggs.