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‘Urban Eden’ students put a price tag on trees for Arbor Day

Nina Bassuk and students tag a tree outside Roberts Hall.

Nina Bassuk and students tag a tree outside Roberts Hall.

What’s a tree worth?

In what has become an annual tradition, students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) are helping to make people more aware of why trees are worth hugging by hanging bright green “price tags” on trunks around the Ag Quad.

The students entered data about the trees, such as species, diameter and location, into i-Tree — a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service. The application then calculates monetary benefits from reduced stormwater runoff, improved air quality,  carbon dioxide sequestration and energy savings to nearby buildings by blocking wind in winter and providing shade in summer.

“It’s really quite eye-opening for people who think that trees are just nice to look at and don’t have any other value,” said Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who leads the class alongside Zac Rood, lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

There are also benefits that are not easily quantified, such as wildlife habitats and emotional responses, added Bassuk, who is also director of the Urban Horticulture Institute.

Students tagging oaks in front of Mann Library

Tagging an oak on the Ag Quad

Tagging a red oak.

Tagging a Kentucky coffeetree

Tagging Katsura tree outside Mann Library

Bauerle explores role of forests in providing water in podcast

“The Need for Trees,” a new episode of the “What Makes Us Human” podcast series  produced by the College of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the Cornell Broadcast Studios, explores the critical role trees play in the earth’s water cycle. The podcast’s fourth season — “What Does Water Mean to Us Humans?” — showcases the newest thinking across academic disciplines about the relationship between humans and water.

“We pass laws to protect our water sources like lakes and reservoirs, but what many people don’t know is that our access to clean water relies just as heavily on forests,” says Taryn Bauerle, associate professor in the School of Integrative and Plant Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in her podcast.

Bauerle’s overall interests lie in woody root physiological ecology. The majority of her research focuses on growth and physiological responses of plants to water deficits, such as how roots respond to and modify their environment when faced with water stress.

Bauerle (right) orients Plant Sciences major Tommi Schieder ’19 to equipment she used on her internship in Germany to collect data on the passive movement of water that helps trees survive drought stress.

Bauerle (right) orients Plant Sciences major Tommi Schieder ’19 to equipment she used on her internship in Germany in 2017 to collect data on the passive movement of water that helps trees survive drought stress.

Saamaka rice ‘… for our children and our grandchildren.’

From Plant Sciences Major Rosemary Glos ‘20:

rice poster

Poster text: Our mothers and our ancestors planted many beautiful varieties of rice. These are a few, but there are many more. Let’s continue to plant them, take pleasure in them, and keep them for our children and grandchildren.

This poster depicts 20 of the unique rice varieties grown by the Saamaka people of Suriname.

Rice is a staple crop among the Saamaka, a culturally, politically, and economically independent maroon people from the upper Suriname River. Rice cultivation and consumption are intimately linked to Saamaka cultural identity and oral history dating back to their escape from slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Traditional rice cultivation may be under threat from a variety of environmental and cultural factors, including land degradation, rising population, and loss of rice-growing knowledge. Saamaka farmers, all of them women, grow an impressive array of rice varieties on small slash and burn plots.

In July of 2018, Dr. Erika Styger and I traveled to Suriname, where we documented over 50 distinct cultivars, interviewed farmers, and collected seeds for export. Back in Ithaca, we are obtaining genetic data in collaboration with professors Susan McCouch and Chelsea Specht and postdoc Jacob Landis.

We hope to work with Saamaka farmers to improve yields, preserve genetic diversity in situ, and encourage farming systems that replenish the soil and minimize deforestation.

Hortus Forum scores big at the Philly Flower Show

Plant Sciences majors Samuel Sterinbach and Alexander Liu and International Agriculture & Rural Development Major Veronika Vogel brought home a blue ribbon for their Haworthia cooperi and earned 37 other ribbons.

Plant Sciences Majors Samuel Sterinbach and Alexander Liu and International Agriculture & Rural Development Major Veronika Vogel brought home a blue ribbon for their Haworthia cooperi and earned 37 other ribbons.

The prize-winning Haworthia cooperi.

The prize-winning Haworthia cooperi.

Some might call it beginner’s luck. But it really has more to do with the top-notch growing skills of the talented horticulturists in Hortus Forum, Cornell’s undergraduate horticulture club.

The club entered 44 plants in various categories at the Philadelphia Flower Show. And they brought home 38 ribbons, including a blue ribbon for their Haworthia cooperi.

“That’s almost unheard of first time out.  I’m very proud of them,” says Mark Bridgen, director of the Long Island Horticulture Research and Extension Center, who helped organize the club’s trip to the show as well as a tour of nearby Longwood Gardens.

“Most people don’t understand how much work it is to grow and enter that many plants,” he adds.  Their entries garnered a lot of good will for Cornell.”

Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Philadelphia Flower Show is the nation’s largest and longest-running horticultural event. Attendance at the week-long extravaganza tops 250,000 people.

“We’re still ecstatic and overwhelmed with joy and gratitude,” says Veronika Vogel ‘21 who along with fellow club members Alexander Liu ’20 and Samuel Sterinbach ’20 organized the  effort. “We were told that it often takes people many years of entering before they win a blue ribbon, and we did it in the first year we participated!”

Club members carefully packed their 43 entries into a minivan to transport them from Ithaca to Philadelphia.

Club members carefully packed their 43 entries into a minivan to transport them from Ithaca to Philadelphia.

Vogel also emphasizes the team effort, crediting Hortus Forum members past and present who contributed to the health and beauty of the plants they exhibited. “Many of the plants we entered (including the prize-winning Haworthia) are years old and have had generations of club members contribute to their care,” she says.

Vogel also adds that their effort also put them on the map with other horticulturists at the show. “Many people were super excited to have us exhibit and we got lots of very positive feedback,” says Vogel, who along with Liu and Sterinbach pulled off several late night shifts to select, enter, groom, pack and transport the plants.

“The students really are to be commended,” says Bridgen.  “I can’t wait to see how they do next year.”

Art of Horticulture final projects

Portrait of Frida Kahlo in locally collected and preserved flora.

Portrait of Frida Kahlo in locally collected and preserved flora.

If you’d like to catch a glimpse of students’ final projects in the Art of Horticulture course, you can sneak a peek online.

You can also see previous classes’ work (as well as other class projects and videos) by visiting the Art of Horticulture’s gallery page.

Emily Detrick (MPS Horticulture ’16), who is a lecturer in the Horticulture Section and gardener at Cornell Botanic Gardens, teaches the course.  She took over this semester from Marcia Eames-Sheavly, who created the course in 2003.

Hortus Forum prepares for annual Poinsettia Sale

Reposted from the SIPS blog, Discovery that Connects:

Hortus Forum members at the 2017 Poinsettia Sale

Hortus Forum members at the 2017 Poinsettia Sale

The trees may still be showing fall color, but Hortus Forum is busy getting ready for the winter holiday.  A subset of the club’s members are growing over 500 poinsettias in 16 different varieties ranging from “Christmas Feelings Merlot” to “Whitestar” and “Venus Hot Pink”. Pre-order yours today and select from one of these beautiful varieties!

Hortus Forum’s mission is to provide a welcoming community for all plant enthusiasts and cultivate an appreciation for plants and horticulture in the broader Cornell community through sales and hands-on experience with horticulture. All profits from our annual Poinsettia Sale will go towards paying for greenhouse space and funding club activities that provide members with the opportunity to explore the world of horticulture.

8,000 bulbs planted in 11 minutes

bulb planter and class

Students in Bill Miller’s Annual and Perennial Plant Identification and Use class (PLHRT 3000) got a lesson in efficient bulb planting October 30. Using a tractor-drawn bulb planter imported from The Netherlands that slices open the sod, drops in the bulbs and then replaces the sod over them, they planted more than 8,000 bulbs in less than 11 minutes.

That’s a strip more than 200 feet long and 3 feet wide along the edge of Caldwell Field near the McConville Barn. The “naturalized” planting of daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, scilla, muscari and chionodoxa bulbs will push up through the turf before the grass begins to grow in spring.

Based on the class’s experiences planting bulbs by hand earlier this semester, Miller estimates that it would have taken the students more than a week to accomplish this task using hand tools. He tested out the planter last fall planting 30,000 bulbs into sod strips totaling more than 2,000 feet at the Cornell Botanic Gardens (view video) and the NYSIP Foundation Seed Barn.

“This machine greatly reduces the labor required to establish naturalized bulb plantings,” says Miller, a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science and director of Cornell’s Flower Bulb Research Program, who was aided by CUAES field assistant Jonathan Mosher.

“Some people might be concerned about the lack of precise placement of the bulbs,” notes Miller. “But actually most bulbs are forgiving about how deep they are planted, despite what you might see on the labels. They also do fine if not planted right side up.”

Miller hopes that planters like this might catch on with commercial landscapers and municipalities and result in more naturalized bulb plantings.  A benefit of this approach can be less mowing of turf areas due to the need to let the bulb foliage die back naturally.  In such areas, landscapers could substantially reduce carbon emissions from maintenance activity leading to a more sustainable landscape, Miller says.

Update: Geerlings, the Dutch company that makes the planters, does not export them directly. If you want to purchase one, Geerlings will sell a planter to a bulb exporter who will ship it to the U.S. and handle the paperwork.

Art of Horticulture students create sod sofa

sod sofa

In an annual fall traditon, students in the Art of Horticulture (PLHRT 2010) constructed a sod sofa at Cornell Botanic Gardens adjacent to the Nevin Center, October 2.

Under the guidance of instructor Emily Detrick and turf specialist Frank Rossi, associate professor and turf specialist in the Horticulture Section of the  they shaped a mix of soil and compost to form comfortable spots to sit, then covered the foundation with rolls of sod.

The sofa needs a few days to firm up, dry out and root.  So if you visit, please observe the signage signalling whether or not it’s ready for you to try out.

You can watch the process in this time lapse video:

Cornell’s new Sustainable Landscapes Trail opens Oct. 5

Cornell Chronicle [2018-10-02]:

Lace up your walking shoes and head to Cornell’s new Sustainable Landscapes Trail, which will open with a ceremony Friday, Oct. 5, at 2 p.m., at the newly refurbished Peterson parking lot across from Stocking Hall and the Dairy Bar on Tower Road.

In lieu of a ribbon-cutting, officials will offer a celebratory “downpour” of water on the sustainable, permeable asphalt. Afterward, Nina Bassuk, professor of plant science, will lead a tour of the Sustainable Landscapes Trail.

Students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (PLHORT/LA 4910) plant trees and shrubs in the Peterson Lot bioswale.

Students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (PLHORT/LA 4910) plant trees and shrubs in the Peterson Lot bioswale.

Stretching from the Libe Slope Meadow to the Botanic Gardens’ Native Lawn, the trail features 20 stops that show how design, construction and the management of campus grounds can enhance and promote healthy landscape ecosystems.

The Peterson green parking lot was constructed this summer as a state-of-the-art example of green infrastructure and is the latest project to join the trail. It was designed by landscape architecture students and Cornell staff to demonstrate an alternative to traditional impervious parking lots and the resulting storm water runoff.

As a cause of water pollution, runoff from impervious roads and parking lots collect oil, sediment and other pollutants – and carries this material into waterways.

Green infrastructure practices will turn this parking lot into a natural landscape by capturing rainwater where it falls, filtering out pollutants and reducing large volumes of runoff, said David Cutter, Cornell’s campus landscape architect.

The Peterson lot’s porous pavement allows storm water to drain into a stone reservoir below the lot’s surface, while CU-Structural Soil along the lot’s central bioswale (a landscape element designed to remove pollution) allows the roots of bushes and trees to succeed under paved surfaces.

The parking lot is expected to be certified by both SITES, an initiative of the U.S. Green Building Council to certify sustainable land design and development, and by Parksmart, a rating system for green parking structures.

Other highlights of the trail include Fernow Hall’s rain garden and green roof; a green roof consists of a shallow layer of light-weight soil and plants that filter runoff. Fernow Hall’s rain garden diverts storm water from paved areas and roofs and channels it into the ground using a well-draining soil that helps to prevent polluted water from flowing directly to streams and lakes.

The trail also includes Mann Library’s entrance garden and green roof, the Ag Quad biodetention basins, which control pollution, and the Tower Road bioswale, which filters polluted water runoff with carefully selected plants growing in engineered soil and it provides a habitat for insects and pollinators.

The trail is a living laboratory for open spaces, natural areas and landscapes with unique sustainability features. On the trail, see the Rice Hall bioswale that undergraduate students built by using a technique called “scoop and dump” during a project in the “Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design and Landscape Establishment,” taught by Bassuk and Peter Trowbridge, professor of landscape architecture.

The Sustainable Landscapes Trail was developed by the Land Team of the President’s Sustainability Campus Committee. It fulfills a goal in Cornell’s Climate Action Plan, by demonstrating best practices in sustainable landscape planning, design and management, according to Sarah Brylinsky, Cornell’s sustainability communications manager.

New Plant Sciences majors battle invasive plants

Students in PLSCI 1110 at the entrance to Smith Woods

Students in PLSCI 1110 at the entrance to Smith Woods

 

The honeysuckle, barberry and multiflora rose in the Henry A. Smith Woods in Trumansburg, N.Y., were quaking in their boots September 6.

The reason? New Plant Sciences majors enrolled in Collaboration, Leadership, and Career Skills in the Plant Sciences (PLSCI 1110) spent the afternoon roguing out these invasive species from this treasured remnant of old growth forest.

Every fall, instructors Marvin Pritts and Leah Cook involve the students in a service learning project as a way to give back to the local community. Previous projects included making improvements to the Habitat Trail outside of Trumansburg, planting mums at the Ithaca Children’s Garden, and designing and installing a campus garden.

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