Sunday, July 27, 2014

Painting: Fluid Convergence in Art

Paintings and Poem by Abe V Rotor

Inter-tangential convergence

Uni-tangential convergence

Movements in art come and go, short lived or enduring,
     laid forgotten, or into schools they bloom; 
the daring weaned from the masters must tread on and on
     outside convention hall to freely roam.   

The artist is no constant, nor equation the rule of art;
     more so with vision, however art is seen;
people move, they arrive, depart, transient or domestic,
     everywhere, every thing's ever changing.

And yet the urge to return is primordial at the end -
     the homing instinct in convergence;
art paves the road, clears the sky, rings the chime
     in poignant familial obedience. ~

The Backyard as Laboratory and Workshop 4: Papaya Ring Spot Virus (PRSV) - Scourge of Papaya Worldwide.

There is no stopping the viral scourge of papaya (papaw, pawpaw), wiping out plantation after plantation worldwide - even with attempts in genetic engineering.  It's because the virus is not only complex (it infects cucurbits like melon and squash - and other plants), but persistently mutate into resistant types that invade quarantined areas and overcome transgenic defense. There is one hope every backyard can look up to -  the return of the native papaya varieties preserved in their indigenous state.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Photo of a sick papaya at home in QC. The virus is systemic, that is, the virus resides in the whole system of the plant and infects all tissues from roots to fruits.  The leaves are the first to show the symptoms which may be mistaken for iron (Fe) deficiency being chlorotic (lacking in chlorophyll), mosaic, deformed and wrinkled like being scorched  by heat and sunlight. Even stunting may be thought of as deficiency symptom of other elements. The plant doesn't die, but remains stunted and exhibits rosette leaf arrangement. Some gardeners even think it is a fancy variety, and by keeping it as ornamental would only exacerbate the spread of the disease by mere physical contact and through biological transmission, particularly by aphids (Myzus persicae) as well as, in my observation though not mentioned in the books, the white fly of the genus Bemesia.       
The virulence of PRSV cannot be underestimated, from early infection during seed germination, to later infection at any stage of the plant. Which means that the virus is incipient in the embryo and openly infectious even in the senile age of the tree. As the infected tree faces slow death it becomes a source of viral inoculant in the open field within the range of the vectors, including man. Note the ring spots on the fruit from which the virus got its name. The spots predispose the fruit to secondary infection, leading to bacterial rot and fungal attack. Thus, not only production is gravely affected but the quality of the fruit as well to the point of becoming unfit for human consumption.     
My son Marlo (above) harvests a ripening fruit of native papaya we planted in our residence in QC. Note the lanky stand but  healthy condition of the tree. The photo at the right (from the Internet) shows a variety apparently immune to the disease like our own. Indigenous varieties have been reported to be resistant if not immune to PRSV, whether it be the P or W biotype - and possibly against the mutants arising from both pathotypes, and other viruses which we may not know. Commercially, the native papaya is of lesser importance, but it can supply the needs of the family and immediate community for ripe papaya (for the table and puree), and green papaya (for tinola and pickles). 

The commercialization of the Hawaiian papaya owing to its heavy and early fruiting, and feasibility in large scale  production was a boom but at the same time exacerbated the spread of the disease on global proportion.  Today, virtually no place is secure and safe from PRSV in spite of strict quarantine laws and regulations. 

When I was a farmhand, my dad grew native papaya in our backyard in Ilocos. We harvested only the fruits as they ripen in succession at few days interval. This is a general rule for practically all fruits. Papaya in the market are ripened with carburo or ethylene gas. They taste flat, the color dull of the flesh is dull, and the texture gummy. When we needed green papaya, we would simply thin out the bansot, and leave the large, healthy fruits to reach full maturity. 

By the way, papaya is dioecious. Only the female papaya is cultivated, but a few male trees are spared for pollination. A third gender now and then would arise.  The tree bears small fruits hanging on elongated peduncles. The fruits are generally not edible, green or ripe.

Would you guess the productive life span of a native papaya in my time? Five years to as long as twenty years of continuous fruiting. And it reaches a height of twenty feet so that harvesting requires a pole with a basket (salukang Ilk). Well, the native papaya is not laden but the fruits though small, are luscious and sweet. As the tree gets older it branches out into two, three or four and the main branches are productive. Branching papaya is more resistant to wind and also to long dry season and pests, which includes the fruit bat (if you don't harvest the ripe fruits ahead of this nocturnal feeder). 

Papaya is the only species under the genus Carica, and the only edible species of importance among its five relatives. No wonder when it was orphaned from its non-edible kin, and transported for widespread cultivation, the virus became concentrated in the species, and through repeated and expanded cultivation in other countries, the virus mutated and evolved into more virulent forms. 

I was in high school in the mid fifties when an agriculturist who trained in Hawaii promoted the Hawaiian papaya to be planted in the Philippines.  I bought a packet of seeds which dad and I planted.  Indeed our Hawaiian papaya became an "apple to the eye" in our locality. In a short time many backyards had growing Hawaiian papaya trees. And the native papaya was almost forgotten. . 

The sixties and seventies brought agricultural technology which revolutionized agriculture. It was a short live green revolution. It was a kind of "globalization in farming" where the frontiers of agriculture were not only expanded by crisscrossed in order to meet the expanded needs of the market. Agriculture took the helm of development with little consideration on the welfare of the environment.  It did not give much importance to the consequences of its destruction and violation of its laws. Take these examples.   
  • Plantations of Hawaiian and Peruvian ipil-ipil were wiped out by Psylla plant lice, while our native ipil-ipil was unaffected.
  • Hawaiian pineapple, so with other foreign varieties, failed to adapt, while our native pineapple called Formosa continued to thrive. 
  • Varieties of rice developed by IRRI ultimately disappeared from farmers' fields. Our while native rice varieties returned.
  • Many corn varieties failed, while our native corn varieties hanged on - even if production is low (only around one ton per hectare).
  • Bangkok santol brought leaf galls caused by mites that brought its own demise. The pest still persists in its progeny, a cross of Bangkok santol and native santol. 
  • The large Anglo-Nubian goats did not adapt to local conditions, while our local goats live on.  So with St Gertrude bullock.  
  • Several trials were made to plants soybean, white bean (for pork and beans), and potato.  We failed for the same reason. We cannot tailor the land to the crop.  
  • Foreign varieties of plants and breeds of animals failed top get acclimatized under Philippine condition?  All these  - and many more introduced crops and animals - failed. Genetic engineering is not the answer.  It is to return to the old faithful genes.         
The answer is simple. Go back to the native genes. The unspoiled, pristine gene pool that developed through thousands is not millions of years of evolution.  Genes that enhanced our survival as Homo sapiens. Co-evolution has been the key to our success as a species. Technology is not, and will never be. Tinkering with nature, more so with the genes, ushers the decline and ultimate demise of mankind. ~      
“The potyvirus Papaya ringspot virus (PRSV) is found throughout the tropics and subtropics. Its P biotype is a devastating pathogen of papaya crops and its W biotype of cucurbits. PRSV-P is thought to arise by mutation from PRSV-W … PRSV may have originated in Asia, particularly in the Indian subcontinent, as PRSV populations there are most diverse and hence have probably been present longest. Our analyses show that mutation, together with local and long-distance movement, contributes to population variation, and also confirms an earlier conclusion that populations of the PRSV-P biotype have evolved on several occasions from PRSV-W populations.”

On the evolution and molecular epidemiology of the potyvirus Papaya ringspot virus

Bateson MF, Lines RE et al, JGV Journal of Virology


·         “Vaccination” Like vaccination technique in humans, the host plant receives a mild strain of PRSV.  Resistance is gauged from delay in the onset of symptoms to reduction in the severity of symptoms. But inoculation of the mild strain also causes pathogenesis on the papaya plants, which means the plant did not gain true resistance.

·         Transgenic papaya (Rainbow and SunUp) are claimed to have differential resistance to the Hawaiian strains of PRSV, but such resistance can be eroded by other viral strains found in other countries.   

·         Pathogen Derived Resistance (PDR) is a technique of inserting a gene fragment from the pathogen into the transgenic crop, which developed two transgenic lines claimed to be resistant to PRSV, but like the “vaccinated” and transgenic lines, are sooner or later overtaken by increasing virulence and mutation into new strains of PRSV.  

·        Deregulation aims at breaking out from world’s objection against GMO. Some countries like US and Japan, on a very limited scale, import Hawaiian papaya. Backlash against GMO papaya also results in surreptitious destruction of papaya plantations in certain countries. So with other GMO crops. 

Objection to any type of GMO research rages in most parts of the world as people are “going for natural” food, medicine, clothing, homes, life style, etc. And they look at GMO as a Frankenfood (from the novel Frankenstein, by Mary Shelly). 

·        Durability of ResistanceExposure to foreign strains of the virus is a serious risk, as the transgenic Rainbow papayas have been shown to be susceptible to PRSV from Guam, Taiwan and Thailand.

Acknowledgement: Wikipedia

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Modern Art: Multi-dimensional Painting

"I wonder if there was a kinder universe before,
     where Heaven and Earth were one and whole."

Dr Abe V Rotor

Primordium in acrylic 38" x 26"), by AV Rotor


I wonder at infinity in its early beginning,
     of a primeval universe devoid of stars;
I wonder at the prima causa of time and space,
     of energy and matter into living mass.

I wonder at the blueprint of a Supreme Design,
     if found the Big Bang and the Black Hole;
I wonder if there was a kinder universe before,
     where Heaven and Earth were one and whole. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Postmodern Art: Leaning Cradle

Dr Abe V Rotor
Also visit my other Blogs:
[Living with Nature]
[naturalism - the eighth sense] 

I wonder at the huge size of  the wooden cradle leaning to the front and on one side;

I wonder at the absence of one whole side facing the street, and the cradle leaning towards the traffic; 

Author and the Leaning Cradle at downtown Bangkok. 

I wonder at the absence of a flooring, for how could it be a cradle without it which is the essence of its function;

I wonder at the support, half rocking sideways, while the other half is fixed like post, permanent and immovable;

I wonder at how the cradle defies gravity, even without a central body and weight which rest on the center of gravity;

I wonder at its precarious structure, its joints loosely hanging on wooden pegs and few simple bolts;

I wonder at it symbolism - is it the end of an era of child bearing and caring, traditional and domestic way?

I wonder at the impermanence of the cradle, now transient - and if the child who was weaned here knows the meaning of home; 

I wonder if society can read the message of this postmodern structure in our postmodern world. 

I wonder if postmodernism means living in the future in free fall, remiss and abandoned of things we love most in life. ~      

Child's Symphony of a Fantasy Garden

Dr Abe V Rotor 
 Mackie on her first birthday

A garden of the finest art on stage
of fairy tale and  fragments of a garden lost,
where nature to fantasy land transposed.
How short, how far nature lies!
From here the task begins to know
that roses have thorns. 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Photo Editing with the Computer

Photo Editing with the Computer
Dr Abe V Rotor

This serves as guide. Here are examples of edited photos of  the Bengal Tiger. Guests are caged in a vehicle that takes them to the animals in the field.  Photos are candid and hurriedly done. But thanks to Adobe Photoshop installed in most computers.  Practice to acquire the skill of editing. Get familiar with the features of the program. 

  1. crop
  2. brightness
  3. contrast
  4. tone
  5. color
  6. color to B & W
  7. hue
  8. saturation
  9. align
  10. reverse, others

Photos taken at Zoobic in Subic, (SBMA) Zambales, Philippines

Finding Nemo Parade

Photos and Verse by Dr Abe V Rotor
Also visit my other Blogs:
[Living with Nature] 
[naturalism - the eighth sense]

 Film Festival Parade, University of Santo Tomas, Manila, November 11, 2011 

Move over Aesop and George Orwell,
Naturalists Henri Fabre and Edwin Teale,
Novelists Jules Verne and Herman Merville,
Evolutionists Charles Darwin, Lamarck;
Scientists EO Wilson, and Attenborough;
Enter Babe, Honey I Shrunk the Kids,
King Kong and Jurassic Park,  

Welcome Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo
And all Animaes in the new Noah's Ark.~

Photography: Silhouettes and Filters (Sunset in the City)

By Marlo R Rotor 

The sun gets lost in the city and leaves
       the sense of time and space;
the night lights up with a thousand eyes
       save true peace and solace.

                                          Photos taken along Regalado Ave., QC

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ed Nanquil's Works for Art and Thinking

Paint and draw and unleash the power of imagination and creativity.    
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Still Life

Your favorite fruits do not only fill and satiate;
they take you by your other senses deeper,
drawing out thirst and hunger that grow farther
 in fullest expression and milder character,
to see the world not in things sensual and ephemeral, 
but in the mind and spirit eternal.           

Nature's Art 

If proportion and balance were strict basis of form,
style and design lofty and grand,
then what is art?  What is art in water and rock? 
in a growing shell, in shifting sand?

Only Nature knows, she is the beginning and end
of all art, earlier than man and the world; 
for the elements of art are not what we perceive, 
they are the very foundation of Creation.  

Good Life

Take me to where my ancestors lived,
healthy and free and happy,
away from the city of poverty in riches,
and riches in poverty.       

NOTE: Mr. Ed Nanquil is one of the pioneer followers of Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid.  Melly and I congratulate  Ed for sharing his talents with these inspiring works which we are sure will benefit our listeners to the radio program (738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday), simulcast with the Internet - Living with Nature School on Blog (

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Flying over the crater of Mt Mayon

Photos and Poem by Dr Abe V Rotor

Closest I could get a photo of the crater with ordinary lens on a Zest airplane October 19, 2011, 2 pm.from Manila to Virac, Catanduanes .
Landscape view, seconds after taking the first photo above.
Surrounding landscapes: forested area, farmlands and settlements.

Beautiful Mayon, what's inside you?
I peeped within distance of your breath,
And a wisp of cloud veiled your beauty,
and oh, the warmth of your hearth.

Wonder if a woman is of your kind
Beautiful when calm and coy;
Within lies her strength, or her ire,
Her fit when wanting of joy. ~

Parbangon Nanem (It's Dawn Again)

Living Up with the Ilokano language and the indigenous culture of Northern Philippines in verses 
Dr Abe V Rotor
Doves flying at dawn to meet the sun, mural painting by AV Rotor 

                                1. Pumarbangonen:
Sarzuela ken komedia, 
Mangrugi manen.
(Dawn ushers daily grind
of life's drama and comedy)

2. Ti ukoy-ukoy,
Agur-uray diay abut
Iti agbiddut.
(The antlion waits for prey
that blunders and falls into its pit.)

3. Nakasutsutil -
Bacchus, Ambrosius Venus,
(Help me from tempters - Bacchus,
Ambrosius, Venus. From Greek mythology
gods and goddess of ostentatious living.)

4. Igudagudmo,
Agsangit, agkatawa;
Langit ken daga.
(It's the violin being referred to.
It cries and laughs with heaven and earth.)

5. Kapanunutan 
Ken takyag iti mangged,
Puso ti tured.
(Intellect and brawn to earn;
courage is in the heart.)

6. Saan nga ammo,
Nat-natay diay adayo,
Ilagip tayo.
(Reverence to the dead -
even those unknown in distant land.)

7. Kapanunutan, 
Narigat nga abaken,
Malaksid kukuam.
(You really can't win an argument,
except your own.)

8. Umisemkan, 
Tapno maturogen ti
Dakkel a bulan. 
(Your sweet smile
makes the moon sleep. )

9. Nakadumog, 
Labaslabasan ti angin,
(Refers to good harvest:
Heavy panicles bow low,
ducking the passing wind.)

10. Naturoganna't 
Panagbaliw ti lubong
Ni Rip Van Winkle.
(From Washington Irving's story,
Rip van Winkle, about a man
who slept for twenty long years
amid changes going on in the world.)

Dawn behind a bamboo grove, Santo Domingo, Ilocos Sur

11. Panagkakadua,
Awan iti baetna, 
(Too close for comfort, referring to friendship. )

12. Malinlinay, 
Lumakay, agbabaak,
(Getting old and aging
don't mean the same thing.)

13. Gura ken ayat,
Bumtakman wenno umpes,
Arig ti ulep. 
(Love and hate may be compared to a cloud -
it dissipates or falls as rain.)

14. Diay pag-gugubatan
Ubbing laeng ti matay,
Ilida’t lumakay. 
(As the young die in the battlefield,
the country unprecedentedly grows old.)

15. Warnak inaldaw, 
Amin nakaragragsak, 
(A daily reminder: Too much
fun may lead to sorrow.)

16. Toy agkabanuag,
Adut’ pakairamanan, 
(The youth have good
and bad things to share.)

17. Kapapategan, 
Dua laeng iti pagpilian - 
Kappia ken Kappia.
(Peace is peace. There is no other choice.
It is the most treasured thing.)

18. Flanders, Bataan,
Agur-uray ti turay, 
Kappia, pakawan. 
(Forgiveness and Peace reign in the WWII
memorials in Flanders Field in Europe,
and Bataan in the Philippines.)

19. Uray laglagip
Tinubuanen iti ru-ot
Didiay Austerlitz.
("I'm the grass, I cover all," says a poet, referring
to the dead in this battlefield in WWII.
It covers also memories)

20. Akasia’t malem,
Ti panagawid ammuem, 
(Call it a day when the leaves of the
acacia tree droop.)

Vinegar - Nature's Secret of Good Health

Dr Abe V Rotor

Vin-egar, which means sour wine, is Nature's secret of good health.

Vinegar or acetic acid (CH3COOH) abounds in nature, as long as there's sugar(C6H12O6). Sugar is converted into ethanol, and ethanol to acetic acid.

Ilocos Vinegar (far right) and fruit wine and basi- products of the Ilocos Region 

Vinegar then is oxidized ethanol or ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH). The conversion process is both biological and chemical. In fact, fermentation of sugar to ethanol, goes hand in hand with ethanol conversion to acetic acid, with the latter prevailing at the end.

This formula is taking place in food, flowers, fruits, plant sap, insect exudate, honeycombs, raisins, etc. Nature eliminates sugar - simple and complex - ultimately through this process, and at the end converts them back to elements ready to be re-assembled in the next process and for the next user or generation. This process is taking place everywhere because the agents are ubiquitous such as the yeast (Saccharomyces) and the vinegar bacteria (Acetobacter). And there are dozens more working in union. This scenario is also taking place in the mouth and stomach, on the skin, and other parts of the body of organisms.

Vinegar is Nature's cleansing agent and disinfectant, eliminating stain, odor, fungi, bacteria, weeds, and repelling ants, and other vermin.

People who are fond of food prepared with vinegar are healthier and slimmer. It is because vinegar regulates formation of adipose tissues, and burns fat. Some people dampen their appetite by sprinkling a little natural vinegar on prepared food to take the edge off their appetite. Notice that after eating anything with vinegar, you lose interest in your meal. Vinegar triggers the appetite's shut off mechanism.

Feel good. A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water, with a bit of honey added for flavor, will take the edge off your appetite and give you an overall healthy feeling.

Well, here is a short list of home remedies using vinegar.
  • Soothe a sore throat. Put a teaspoon of natural vinegar in a glass of water. Gurgle.
  • Apply cold vinegar right away for fast relief of sunburn or other minor burns. It will help prevent burn blisters.
  • Soothe a bee or jellyfish sting. Douse with vinegar to soothe irritation and relieve itching.
  • Relieve sunburn. Lightly rub diluted natural vinegar on skin. Reapply as needed.
  • Conditions hair. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to your rinse to dissolve sticky residue left by shampoo.Italic
  • Relieve dry and itchy skin. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to your bath water.
  • Fight dandruff. After shampooing, rinse with a solution of ½ cup vinegar and 2 cups of warm water.
  • Treat sinus infections and chest colds. Add ¼ cup or more vinegar to the vaporizer.
  • Cure hangover. Combine two raw eggs, a tablespoon of vinegar and black pepper. Blend well.
Just a reminder. Use only natural vinegar - not glacial acetic acid. ~

Home, Sweet Home with Nature, AVR

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ponds and Mudflats Placenta of Terrestrial Life

Dr Abe V Rotor

          A pond is a transient environment. Unlike a stream, river, or lake, it has feeble currents or none at all. It is surrounded by thick vegetation which, advances towards the pond as it grows older. As the pond fills up with sediments and muck, and its bottom gradually drains, higher plants become progressively abundant.

         Parks and Wildlife Center, QC

At this stage, it is impractical to stratify the water into zones based on depth since the forces of wind and convection keep the whole volume of water in circulation so that at any depth the temperature is fairly uniform and the amount of gases, notably oxygen and carbon dioxide is equally distributed.
The relatively large ratio of surface to volume of ponds make them most susceptible to weather and climatic changes than large bodies of water. Because of their small size they are also susceptible to changes in physiographic conditions like erosion and deposition. Likewise they suffer much effect from pollution, changes in the chemical composition of the water, and the influence of the biota on their physical structure.
Like any community a pond grows, passes a relatively stable mature phase, and ultimately dies. This basic ecological cycle is a result of interplay between organisms and their environment. Organisms live in an environment where they are adapted, and remain in the most stable area or niche which best spells out their success as population and members of an interacting ecosystem.
The physical nature of the environment consequently determines what types of organisms can settle successfully. Temperature, rainfall, altitude, soil conditions and other abiotic factors decisively influence the kinds of plants that survive in a given locale. Vegetation in turn, as well as the animals, have selected effects on the kind of biotic community in that region. The presence of a set of organisms gradually alters the local conditions. Raw materials are withdrawn from the environment in large quantities, and metabolic wastes are returned together with dead organisms, but of another form and in different place, thus resulting to redistributions and alterations of vast quantities of substances.
This means that later generations of the original organisms may find the altered local environment no longer suitable for themselves so that the members of the community must resettle elsewhere or die out. Later a new community of different plants and animals arrive and settle down. Again this new community will alter the area according to its own specialization. Hence, it is said that the living and non-living parts of the environment are vitally interlinked, that changed in one produces change to the other.

          As a typical ecosystem, a pond relates a classical story. Most ponds must have originated during the last ice age when the moving glaciers scraped out giant sinks. Others have been known to have originated from a portion of a bay or lake which was isolated by a sandbar by the action of waves and wind. Pirated rivers may also form into ponds. Most of the newly formed ponds may be wiped out days, months or years later, by storm or silt deposition. But a better-protected pond survives the drastic geologic fate. It must somehow face the slow process of ecological succession through which continuous dynamic processes take place that will ultimately lead to the accumulation of organic matter and silt.
On the functional aspect of ecological succession, like in any lentic communities, the progressive increase of organic matter which fills up the pond will lead into a heterotrophic conditions which means that the dependent organisms (heterotrophs) will increase in proportion to the increase of the producers (autotrophs). This results to an increased gross production of aquatic and semi-terrestrial organisms, and therefore, increased heterotrophy.

          The placenta of life in a lentic environment is the fertile bottom. The mudflat is actually a part of the bottom of the pond that intermittently comes out for a quick drying only to be submerged like in a cycle, incubating impregnation of eggs and dormant lives.   The mudflats are therefore exposed and submerged at intervals depending upon the amount of water that enters the pond from the headend and from the surrounding watershed. As the remaining aquatic zone further shrinks and the water flow meanders along the bottom, wider flats are formed.

          No zone in the pond is richer in variety and in number of living things, and no types of interrelationships could be more complex, if not deceiving or unknown, than the aquatic zone where life continues on n some amazing and mystic ways. There are evidences that these dynamic changes shall go on until the pond has completely transformed into a terrestrial ecosystem, despite such threat of pollution which may had already marked the face of the pond, and had turned the tide of balance in nature.

          But nature proves flexible with change. Normal changes would simply be dismissed by Nature’s own way of adjusting the role of it’s own creatures. Changes shape the conditions of the environment; Nature shape its organisms to fit better into it.

          The bottom of the pond is directly affected by the amount of water and by water flow. It is the recipient of silt and other sediments from plant residues from the surrounding watersheds and from the immediate shoulders of the pond. The decreasing area occupied by water may indicate that age of the pond, and the changes which, undoubtedly lead towards an irreversible transition from aquatic to terrestrial state.

          Typical of old ponds and lakes, the aquatic zone considerably decreases with the lack of water supply and by the steady deposition of silt and decomposing plant remains- not to mention the garbage and other wastes thrown into the pond by unscrupulous residents in the area. The black, spongy and fertile are an envy of many plant species and consequently of the dependent animal organisms. From time to time pioneer plants venture for a try to settle every time terrestrial conditions begin to prevail. But in many parts of the old exposed bottom left by the receding water, terrestrial plants can not settle down because time and again the water immediately submerges the previously baked flats to become once more a slosh of mud that readily shallows a wader to his knees. And so the outcome of the battle turns to the advantage of the water plants- Eichhhornia, Alternanthera, Jussiaea, and Pistia, and of course to the ever-present thick scums of blue-greens and green algae with their co-dependents. Ipomea, the adventuresome Brachiaria and other grasses on the other hand are pushed back to safer limits where they wait again for conditions to favor another invasion, that is when the mudflats shall come out to the sun again.

Henry David Thoreau's quote in Walden Pond where he lived for a year detached from 'civilization.' See complete quotation below.   
          The story of competition between the two groups continues indefinitely and all the while the sluggish water meanders against the shoulders of the pond and etches the old bottom. But all along, sediments are being arrested and piled upon the bottom until small isolated “islands” formed in the middle of the water zone. The isolation of these islands can not be for long, so their barrenness, for the dormant seeds under the warm rich soil suddenly come to life and together with air borne seeds and spores, and the stranded shoots and tillers, which altogether make these islands small lustful worlds in themselves.

          No place in the aquatic zone is absolutely for a particular species. However the dominance of a species can be noted from one place to another. For example, the pseudo-islands in the middle of the aquatic zone may be dominated by Brachiaria, while the lower part of the pond adjacent to rear gate where water is impounded to some six inches deep, harbors the remnants of the once dominant Eichhornia. At the headend, the old bottom may be covered up with grass, except in places that may be occupied by Jussiaea repens, a succulent broad-leaf and a water-loving species.

          Any decrease in area of the true aquatic zone a corresponding increase of the immediate zone. Terrestrial plant species continuously pursue the reclaimed flats. Ipomea and Alternanthera species appear at the front line of the invasion while the grasses stand by. The logic is that the former can better withstand the conditions of the waterline. Their roots bind the particles of silt and humus, which are suspended in the water, and when the plants die, organic matter is added, thus favoring the terrestrial species take over. It is as if these benefactors are robbed at the end by their own beneficiaries.

          The aquatic and shore zones are more or less homogenous as far as their principal plant species are concerned. This could be explained by the fact that the newly established zone (aquatic zone invaded by plants) is but an extension of the shore zone, and was it not that the shore zone a part of the aquatic zone?

          Hence, the close relationship of the two zones can be readily noted, although they can be divided by alterne, this demarcation is not steady as shore vegetation spreads out into the water zone.

          The phytoplankton composed of countless green algae, flagellates, diatoms, desmids and a multitude of bacteria are the precursors of the food pyramid. In an illustration, they form the broad base of the structure, which is the foundation of a pyramid. If simplified, the phytoplanktons make up the larger link of a chain with which other links join---those of the zooplanktons to join first, then the insect larvae and nymphs,then the larger organism,and so on. The farthest link is made up of the decomposers that ultimately join with the link of organic matter and the humus upon which many phytoplankton and higher plants depend upon. Although the “food chain” is not really as clean-cut and orderly as this (there are short circuits and short-cuts of the chain), there is undoubtedly an existing order in the community, and that parasitism, predatism, saprophytism, commensalism, etc., are but “linking” relationship of a greater whole, the ecosystem.

          In the pond, the rooted as well as the floating plants and the phytoplanktons are the “producers”. They support the herbivores (insects and fishes), and they add organic matter when parts or the whole of their bodies die. Zooplanktons generally feed upon the phytoplanktons, although some are dependent upon organic matter and humus. Small fishes, crustaceans and insects eat the zooplanktons in turn,, and these will be eventually eaten by carnivores. If not eaten, every plant and animal eventually die and decompose, its protoplasm reduced to the basic materials that green plants needed for growth.

          The shores progressively widen following the drying of the mudflats. This area is usually dominated by Brachiaria mutica. Other plants belonging to Convulvolaceae, Amaranthaceae and Malvaceae may be next in number. During the rainy season the shores are waterlogged. The soil is black and it emits methane and ammonia gases, which show that anaerobic decomposition is taking, place. Muck is the product of this slow process. The soil is rather acidic but many plants tolerate it. High ferrous content can also be noted as rusty coloration, a characteristic of waterlogged soil.

          Towards the end the shore becomes dry. Vegetation changes follow a dynamic pattern, the grass producing numerous secondary stalks, which become thick and bushy. The broad-loaf species tend to grow in clumps or masses. Some plants in the slope zones descend to join some plants in the shore zone, some are forced a prostate growth. Along the water line the grass is tall and verdant green.

     Soon the pond will die.~

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Backyard as Science Laboratory and Workshop (Third of Series)

Topics: Cover crop to control weeds, green water as garden fertilizer; is-is (Ficus) as natural scrub and sandpaper; pansit-pansitan as home remedy for arthritis... and when a guava bonsai is no longer a bonsai. 
Dr Abe V Rotor 

Learn from the things around you with the coming and passing of seasons, with plants that spontaneously arrive, grow and vanish, of their hosts and tenants from reptiles to insects to mushrooms. Your backyard is a living laboratory.  It is an extension of the classroom, it is a microcosm of the living world. 

 Plant competition for space and sunlight.  
Spiny spinach (Amaranthus) sprouted and quickly established dominance, producing flowers and subsequently seeds which will be disseminated. It took just a month since the first rain of May to complete its life cycle. 

But in the process, the wild kamote (Ipomea) slowly rose from beneath the wild amaranth, and finding no other support, started to use the latter for its ladder to reach for the sun. In no time it began to strangle the amaranth (left photo), choking it ultimately. 

By this time the amaranth has produced seeds which will be disseminated by wind, water, animals and man, but the seeds will not germinate until the next rainy season. The seeds remain dormant in the soil during the dry season (amihan). 

The wild Ipomea flowers later, and produces similarly dormant seeds. In the next rainy season the next year the competition takes place once again. These two players are not alone. Any other plant within the areas participates in this drama, an unending process in evolution.   

This is the principle in cover cropping to protect fruit trees like citrus, lanzones, cacao, papaya and young coconuts from weeds that compete for soil nutrients and moisture, and space. Centrosema or tapilan, kudzu, spineless Mimosa are among the most popular cover crops. These are leguminous plants which have another advantage: they add fertility to the soil because they harbor nitrogen fixing bacteria (Rhizobium). Kamote or its wild type, and relative kangkong, belong to another family - Convulvolaceae.   
 Bonsai no more
Not so many people are aware that fruit trees can be made into bonsai, the dwarfened plant through an ancient art founded by the Chinese and Japanese. This guava bonsai must be seventy years or more.   

We are the second owner after it had outlived a kindly old lady. It grew very slowly like any other treasured bonsai, but when it began showing senility, and we feared it was going to die, so we transferred it to an earthen plant pot thrice the size of the original one.

Soon it began to bear fruits, and to our delight, picked them just like ordinary guava.  The leaves became robust so that we have to prune the new stems now and then, and even use them for home remedy (bath for convalescents, scrub to clean fish and letchon, decoction for digestive problem). 

Our bonsai survived termite attack,thanks to its active cambium in its trunk, mealybugs and white flies attacking its leaves, and if we miss to water it daily, it could withstand wilting for two or three days. 

Which is more important - bonsai or just a potted guava? We miss the ohs! and ahs! Our guests cannot differentiate one from the other anymore. It is a sign of relief whenever we believe we saved our bonsai, and that it is more at home with us.

Is-is (Ficus ulnmifolia), natural scrub and sandpaper
It is a wild growing shrub or tree, its leaves are picked to scrub the floor, cooking pots, and smoothen wooden handicrafts and toy, just like commercial scrubbing pads and sandpaper. It grows at a corner in your backyard, or on the sidewalk, and assures you ready supply of this natural material. 

When we were kids we used to gather the ripe fruits which turn dark red to purple before they fall off. The fruits are sweet, and I am reminded of the only commercial fig - Smyrna fig from the Middle East. One characteristic of figs is that their fruits are "inverted". Yes the flowers are borne inside the fleshy ovary, so that it takes a wasp specific to the fig species to do the pollination and fertilization.

Figs are among the most disseminated wild plants by animals, specially bats and birds. Scientists say without figs the landscape is not complete. So with the kitchen.

Green water as natural garden fertilizer

What makes water bright green is because it contains a high density of one-celled green algae. Algae are photosynthetic; they produce sugar and oxygen under sunlight. That's why aquarium fish are healthy and may not need motorized aerator. Oscar fish (left photo) are at ease in an aquarium rich in algae. When viewed against the light in a beaker, the green water is emerald, which means the algae are very much alive and fresh, their cells are actively dividing.

So when you water your garden plants, use the green water from the aquarium or pond, then replace it with tap water. This serves also in keeping the aquarium water fresh.  Actually you are continuously harvesting the algae as organic fertilizer, and allowing young cells to grow. 

When using water from the faucet it is advisable that you let it stand in an open tank overnight to allow chlorine to escape as gas. 

Pansit-pansitan or Piperomia (linlin-na-aw Ilk) for arthritis 

Pansit-pansitan is a home remedy for arthritis. Used as fresh tea, once or twice a day it can relieve you of the swelling and pain characteristic arthritis in advancing age, or due to poor healthy habits. 

It has been my experience that when I needed this herbaceous plants, I would be searching for it in the most unlikely places - damp, shady and remote.

Yet here it is, you can culture it in a flowerpot, and allow it to stay in your garden year round. It's here when you need it, when a neighbor comes around limping. 

The seeds will simply sprout in your backyard.  But the best way to assure you of supply is to grow it is pots and let the plant freely grow just like in the photo.