Friday, March 29, 2013

Tour the Rose Hills Rose Garden with Dr. Tommy Cairns, Author "Modern Roses XI: The World Encyclopedia of Roses" and Ortho's "All About Roses" To Give Tour of Rose Hills Rose Garden, Wednesday April 3rd at 2pm.

Rosarian and author Dr. Tommy Cairns

We've got a treat! This Wednesday's class will be touring the Rose Hills Memorial Park Pageant of Roses rose garden and  our guide will be celebrated rosarian and rose author Dr. Tommy Cairns(check out his bio and and podcast interview at the link below).  We are extremely lucky to have Tommy give us this tour, so please be on time!

We'll meet at the rose garden at 2pm, Wednesday April 3rd. We'll also have a live video feed of the tour at

If you have questions you can call me at 626 821-3236  -Frank

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A 1/2 Century Plant

Our 50+ year old Fucraea macdougalii are blooming huge, spectacular, and terminal (the whole plant will die afterwards) flower spikes. Interestingly Fucraea macdougalii bloomed last year at the Mildred Mathias Botanical Garden at UCLA.  Today I received an inquiry from what appears to be the owner of another blooming Fucraea macdougalii:

Q.  I have what appears to be a D. draco plant that is about 18 feet tall. It has a single stem with no branches. About 10 days ago, after growing for about 50 years, it started to produce a massive flower stalk on top of the 18 foot plant. The stalk is about 8 inches in diameter and has grown about 10 feet! That's a foot a day. And it's still growing. 
I believe that after such massive growth the plant will die. Do you have any idea what the species of the plant is--and whether it will die after flowering. I could send you a photo in a separate letter if you're interested.


Q.   The flowering is not finished, but the plant sure does look like this.  It's surely at least a close relative.  I'd better buy a tombstone.  This plant is a favorite of mine.  The day before flowering began I accidentally hit a plastic golf ball that landed on top of the plant.  The next day the plant erupted in Jack-in-the-beanstalk fashion.  Even the neighbors noticed. This flower stalk is huge.  I locked the back door so the thing couldn't get in the house.  Is there anything in the literature about golf balls making these plants flower (joke)?  I never disturbed the plant before.  Not in 50 years!  Will keep a close eye on it.  It's an astounding growth rate.  A foot a day.  You guys are sharp.  Thanks for  the info. 
                                                                                      -A not so cheery Leonard    

A. I suggest using social media –set up a Furcraea cam to follow the progress and decline of the spectacular bloom. If you get enough traffic to sell advertising you may be able to earn enough money to replace the plant.  In 1999 an infrared webcam set up to follow the progress of the Huntington Garden’s stinky plant bloom was an early internet sensation. ; )

 Furcraea macdougalii's suicidal blooms at the L.A. County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mystery Plant Solved

About a week ago I was presented with the below pictures from somebody who wanted to know what the tree was.  They had seen and photographed the tree in Manila, the Phillipines. I observed that the leaves were somewhat like Albizzia julbissen  the Mimosa tree but the flowers appeared totally different. Knowing that the unkown tree was probably in the pea family (Fabaceae) I used to browse around that family. I found Parkia multijuga but that didn't seem to be exactly what I had. I then entered 'Parkia' into Google image search which brought up an image that looked like the plant I was looking at; Parkia javanica. Parkia javanica is native to southeast Asia and  is used medicinally there to treat Diarrhea and stomach infections. 
Photo of Parkia javanica flowers that I was asked to identify. 

Parkia javanica flowers that I was asked to identify.

Parkia javanica immature flowers. 

Parkia javonica flower that seems half eaten away. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Potpourri of Peacock Platitudes

Our Peafowl are Probably Here to Stay

Besides making it impossible to plant many tender annuals and other plants because of the peafowl's propensity to feed on the tender new growth and flowers of many plants, peafowl at the Arboretum eat bugs, snails, slugs and many other pests that would decimate far more plants than the peacocks could possibly damage. They also feed on snakes which may be why snakes are seldom seen here at the Arboretum. 
We Are Not the Only Place In Greater L.A. to Be Blessed with these Fowl  -Here Are Some Other Areas That Have Them:

Victor Heights – a working class section of LA west of Chinatown.  Peacocks are actually part of the neighborhood here; are not unwelcome guests.  They are described as noisy, disruptive, and temperamental but neighbors have grown to accept them.  Eggs are left on porches to hatch, people drive slowly to avoid hitting the peafowl, children collect their feathers, and people enjoying watching the funny mating rituals often performed in the streets.  No one claims ownership over the stubborn and independent peafowl; old-timer residents feel they are their protectors and feed them unsalted shelled peanuts, fruit, dry cat food, birdseed, toasted bread. 

L.A. Times Article on Victor Heights Peafowl:

Palos Verdes – peacocks came here in the 1920's when a wealthy landowner was given peacocks as a gift because the area was too quiet.  They Dapplegray neighborhood in Rolling Hills Estates is considered a peafowl protection zone.  Some newer residents are not peacock friendly – there are have peacock hit-and-runs.  Mary Jo Hazard wrote a children’s book called “The Peacocks of Palos Verdes”

Transcript of above:

Arcadia – E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin, founder of Arcadia, imported peacocks while on a trip in India around 1880.  They are very useful for the ranch, eating snakes and snails, and were good watchdogs (alerting when large predators were near with loud cries).  Ownership was a status symbol, and it was fashionable in the late 1800's and early 1900's for well-to-do people to decorate their properties with unique animals.  One source believes Baldwin to be the first to bring peacocks to the continental United States.  One rumor believes Baldwin gave peacocks to Frank Vanderlip, owner of the Palos Verdes peninsula, but they were actually given to Vanderlip by the Wrigley family (chewing gum). The last census of Arboretum peafowl was done almost ten years ago by students from Caltech found over 400 populating the grounds.
L.A. times article on Arcadia Peacocks:

La Canada Flintridge – peacocks came in the early 1900s, when Kansas Judge Edwin Sargent bought the property he found them there. LA attorney Frank P. Doherty bought the land from Sargent in 1936. The peacocks killed and ate rattlesnakes, which were a nuisance in the area.

Santa Susana Pass, Ventura County – Ten years ago the wild peacocks there were causing such a nuisance that some residents complained to the Ventura county animal control officials.  The county rounded up 30 peafowl and removed them to Wildlife Way Station – a refuge for exotic animals in the Angeles National Forest.
Supporters of peafowl like that they kill rattlesnakes and insects, squawk when coyotes are near, and the population seems to be controlling itself.  Non-supporters don’t like the damage to gardens, the noise, and the droppings.

Peafowl Abroad:

Peacocks in China:

The peacock (孔雀) is an earthly manifestation of the heavenly phoenix, and the hundred eyes on its tail are believed to activate fame, luck, promote public admiration and bring positive motives from other people. The peacock is believed to be able to relight the fires of an ailing relationship due to the fiery energy of the animal.

It associated with Guan Yim (goddess of compassion, mercy and kindness); both transmute evil into beauty as the peacock feeds on snakes and Guan Yim helps the suffering thereby turning evil into beauty.
In decorative art, the peacock symbolizes dignity and beauty.

Peacocks in India:

Wild peacocks originated in the deep forests of India; the Indian the peafowl is the national bird of India.  People like having peacocks around because they eat small poisonous snakes and other pests.

Indian blue peacocks are not considered endangered, but the green specie is endangered in southern parts of Asia (mostly in India) due to deforestation and hunting/poaching

Eating peacock:

Peacock served in hotels in China and has been well received for its sweet and fragrant taste and its low fat content.

Eaten in rural areas of Australia; the meat is described as cross between chicken and duck, and quite substantial.  Since the undomesticated peacocks fight constantly in the breeding season, they try to keep those numbers down by eating 2-3 peacocks a year.

Peacock was a popular dish in medieval Europe reserved for the royal and noble classes.  The custom was to serve the bird in its feathers for dramatic display.  According to an article by a gourmand who prepared it the meat is not as good as turkey, goose, or pheasant – and it is rather dry.

Peacock Evolution:

Peacocks have been at the center of the controversy between evolutionists and creationists recently. Previous studies showing that pea hens preferred not to mate with peacocks with a reduced number feather eye-spots. A slew of recent studies, several done here at the Arboretum, have added to what the older studies had concluded. One such such study found that peacocks with the highest eye-spot numbers did not have more mating success than other peacocks. This study was immediately jumped on by creationists as proof against sexual selection. However other recent studies have suggested that a minimum number of eye-spots is necessary, but having more than the minimum does not guarantee additional success. Other studies have found that, besides having the minimum number of spots a peacock with an exceedingly iridescent (iridescence is the glowing, vibrant quality of the peacocks coloration that is the result of the Bragg reflection) eye-spots were more successful at mating. It is thought that the quality of the eye-spots iridescence reflects the overall health and fitness of the male peacock.

Study equating mating success to eye-spot iridescence:

Peacock researcher Roslyn Dakin’s blog (from 5/52008 and earlier she blogs about here experience here at the Arboretum):

 Thanks to Arboretum Volunteer Angela Lee for compiling this list.