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Weed Triggers Plants to Self-Destruct

Spotted knapweed, a highly invasive thistle, releases a natural herbicide that kills native plants.

Scientists have always thought that invasive plants take over other natives by being more efficient in their use of resources. But the spotted knapweed has a truly homicidal use of chemistry. Catechin, a chemical released by this plant, was documented by researchers at Colorado State University. A natural herbicide, it causes plants to self-destruct, allowing the spotted knapweed to take over. Jorge Vivanco, Colorado State Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture professor says, "It actually triggers a genetic response within other plants, causing them to create oxidants--free radicals--as well as triggering genes that cause the plant's cells to die, and it's dead in a short period of time." The new research combines horticulture, biology, chemistry, weed science and genetics. The spotted knapweed is native to Europe. When soil levels of catechin in Colorado and Europe were compared, catechin levels were four to five times higher than in Europe. Potted plants native to Europe exposed to those same levels of catechin weren't affected. "There is strong evidence that chemistry can play a role when weeds invade non-native soil," said Vivanco.

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Gene Could Aid Fertilizers and End Pollution

Mycorrizhal fungi

A phosphate-transport gene has been identified by scientists at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University. Plants absorb phosphates from the soil with the help of mycorrizhal fungi, and scientist can now manage this symbiotic relationship to enhance sustainable agriculture. "Phosphorus is a nutrient, and in our lakes and rivers it nourishes undesirable algae," explained Maria Harrison, a senior scientist at the Institute. "Agriculture is a major source of phosphate pollution, so anything we can do to improve phosphate uptake in plants will make agriculture more sustainable and less harmful to the environment." The phosphorus uptake protein discovered by Dr. Harrison has been identified in the plasma membrane of the plant and reveals the molecules of two species that interact to the benefit of both. The fungi regulate the transfer of phosphorus by bringing it to the roots. More efficient plant growth using less phosphorus-based fertilizer will lead to less phosphate runoff into the surface water and underground aquifers. Ultimately this work will lead to a greater understanding of how nutrients are absorbed by plants.

Olmsted site seeks volunteers

Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903) is probably America's most famous landscape architect. He lived and worked in this Brookline, Mass. home for most of his life.

The Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Mass. is seeking volunteers to be part of the National Park Service’s Volunteer in Parks (VIP) program. The VIP program was developed to give people the opportunity to become part of the National Park Service’s mission, which is helping to interpret and preserve our nation’s natural and cultural heritage.

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site at 99 Warren St. was the home and office of America’s premier landscape architect and his firm for close to a century.

Volunteers work directly with visitors to the site and also have opportunities to assist with special projects and events. Interested candidates should have good interpersonal and communication skills, a desire to work with the public, computer experience, and an interest in history, landscape architecture, museums, and/or the National Park Service. The Olmsted site is particularly interested in people with weekly availability on Tuesdays or weekends, although they will consider candidates available on other days.

For more information contact Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site’s volunteer coordinator at (617) 566-1689, extension 216, between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (Eastern time) any day of the week.

A Birch by Any Other Name Would Be As Grand

The landscaping for the expansion of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art in Anchorage, Alaska is already causing debate. The proposed park area west of the museum reveals the birch forest and a pool, doubling as an ice skating rink in the winter. Additional funding will be necessary to move forward.

The design for a new building and grounds for the Anchorage Museum of History and Art is only a computer model at this point, but wouldn't you know it, some people are already expressing dissatisfaction with the proposal of landscape architect Charles Anderson, reports the Anchorage Daily News.

Anderson envisions a birch forest, a lawn and a large rectangular pool that would double as an ice rink in the winter. Flowering trees, shrubs, native plants and flowers will also be added to the mix, but the birches bother some, which was expressed at a public meeting. Who could complain about a lovely birch forest? The birch complaints included: too many; shouldn't be lined up, but randomly placed; will create an aphid problem.

The design team expressed its resolve to keep the birches in the landscape.

Eugene Firms Are the People's Choice

The sunroom patio and arbor were among the work of Kate McGee Landscape Architect presented at the Eugene Celebration that garnered a People's Choice award.

The Southwest Oregon Chapter of the American Institute of Architects presented its annual People’s Choice awards September 17-19 during the Eugene Celebration, a festive, Mardi Gras-inspired cultural gathering dubbed the "Big EC."

Kate McGee of Kate McGee Landscape Architect in Eugene, told LASN that this is truly a people's choice award, as the architectural and landscape architecture design projects are displayed during the Big EC at the Holt Center. People view the projects and select their favorites in the residential and commercial categories.

In residential landscapes, the Eugene firm of Stangeland and Associates Landscape Architecture and Design placed first; Kate McGee Landscape Architect was second; in commercial landscape, the city of Eugene won first place; and Stangeland and Associates won second.

Arizona Supreme Court Rules on Water Rights

A recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling gives the Arizona Department of Water Resources flexibility in how it imposes water conservation mandates.

The court ruled that the state water resources department can require regional water providers to meet water conservation standards rather than imposing conservation programs directly on water users.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 1990 by the Arizona Water Co., which said it was put in a bind between conflicting mandates to encourage conservation by the water resources department and to meet customers' needs by the Arizona Corporation Commission. The water provider argued it was up to the water resources department to create and implement programs to encourage end-users to conserve.

A lower court had agreed with Arizona Water Co., but the state Supreme Court ruled in June that the water resources department was acting within the state's 1980 groundwater law when it set conservation standards for the provider, expecting the provider to encourage its customers to conserve.

Source: The Irrigation Association.

ProGreen Show is Jan. 12-14

The ProGreen EXPO green industry trade show happens Jan. 12 through 14 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. The show has already signed up close to 700 exhibitors from lighting, irrigation, nursery and other manufacturers.

The event offers visitors more than 130 educational seminars. ProGreen EXPO 2005 is sponsored by the Colorado Nursery Association, the American Society of Landscape Architects and other green industry groups.

To reserve booth space or to register call (303) 756-1079 or visit

States Plan Tree Trimming to Avoid Another Year of Blackouts

A Chicago state panel has recently developed a 10-year blueprint for making the state's energy network less susceptible to disasters. The plan suggests adoption of a state tree trimming law that would require utility companies to maintain specific clearances between overhead power lines and vegetation.

Michigan's investor-owned utilities now must file reports on their tree and vegetation trimming practices around the transmission and distribution lines used to serve their customers. The Michigan Public Service Commission and the U.S./Canada Power System Outage Task Force both reported that the Aug. 2003 blackout partially resulted from power line contacts with trees.


Utility companies spend over $1.5 billion annually on labor and materials for tree pruning and removal.

Source: Excerpt from "Trees and Shrubs for Overhead Utility Easements" a publication sponsored by Agriculture and Extension Communications with Virginia Tech.

Natural Turf Group Questions Artificial Counterpart's Safety

Tufts University's artificial turf playing field debuted in Medford, Mass. in 2004. The field is one of more than 300 artificial turf fields installed by manufacturer A-Turf of Lancaster, Penn.

The Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) advocacy group has scheduled a series of meetings with the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss what it calls the "potential environmental, health and safety risks of artificial turf components."

According to the TPI, which represents the grass sod industry, the chemical components of artificial turf include substances like the heavy metal cadmium and silica dust, which may be dangerous to humans. Other concerns raised include "toxic gases" that could result from a fire, disposal questions and higher-than-normal field temperatures. TPI literature also mentions problems with plastic grass sanitation, "including removal of bodily fluids (spittle, blood, sweat, vomit, urine) and animal and/or bird droppings."

These and other potential problems are discussed in a TPI document, "Serious Questions About the New-Generation Turf That Require Answers." The first TPI meeting with the EPA was scheduled for sometime in September, with possible future meetings to follow.

Jim Dobmeier, president of the A-Turf artificial turf manufacturer, declined to address TPI's specific issues but said his company's product was safe for the same uses as its natural counterpart. "All of the material components that make up A-Turf synthetic surfacing system meet the safety requirements set forth by the government," he said in a written statement released to

New Data on the Cost of Building Green

A report by Lisa Fay Matthiessen and Peter Morris of Davis Langdon Adamson,* "Costing Green: A Comprehensive Cost Database and Budgeting Methodology," asserts that if there is any premium associated with building green, it is far less significant than a range of other factors that affect building costs. Matthiessen and Morris did a macro-level analysis of the cost of green projects. They compared the cost per square foot of 45 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) seeking projects with 93 that were not pursuing LEED certification. They found "no statistically significant difference between the LEED population and the non-LEED population." This finding held up within each building type as well as across the whole range of projects.

The report found that cost was largely indifferent to the level of LEED certification being pursued, whether certified, silver, or gold-platinum. The authors also briefly explored other ways of determining if it costs more to build green. Of the LEED-seeking projects they analyzed, over half were built within a budget set without regard to any green goals. Of those that did receive added funds towards green features, those funds were usually for specific, high-cost items such as photovoltaic systems. Matthiessen and Morris conclude that other factors affect cost so much that any possible green premium is, in effect, lost in the "noise" in relation to average cost per square foot. *Davis Langdon Adamson ( is a member of Davis Langdon Seah International, specializes in cost estimating and cost management in construction, with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, and New York.

ALCA Executive Director Resigns

ALCA Executive Director Debra Holder dedicated 25 years to the organization.

Herndon, Va.– The Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) announced the resignation of CEO Debra Holder. Holder cited the need to spend more time with family and friends.

Under Holder's leadership, ALCA membership more than tripled, as did the annual budget and staff. A sponsorship program and the ALCA Educational Foundation were launched, and the merger of the ALCA and PLCAA was realized. ALCA President Kurt Kluznik described Debra as a "shining star" and her guidance of ALCA as "nothing short of overwhelming success."

"My resignation was a hard decision for me to make, but the right one, and at the right time, for both ALCA and me," Holder said. Holder will remain on staff through 2004 as a consultant. Tanya Tolpegin, ALCA's chief operating officer, will be the interim CEO.

"Tree Woman" Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Wangari Maathai of Kenya has won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the country's Green Belt Movement, which has planted tens of millions of trees to slow deforestation on the African continent.

Wangari Maathai, known as "The Tree Woman" in her native Kenya, has been awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts on behalf of reforestation, education and responsible development.

Maathai, 64, founded the Green Belt Movement, which has planted 30 million trees since its beginning in 1977. She fought for democratic change under the regime of Kenya's former President, Daniel arap Moi. She was elected to parliament in 2002 and is now assistant environment minister.

"Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment," said Ole Danbolt Mjoes, director of the Oslo, Norway-based Nobel Committee, which picked the 2004 winner. "Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa."

Maathai has led groups of women in planting trees at farms, schools and church compounds to renew vegetation that's been chopped down for firewood and prevent soil erosion that destroys farmers' livelihoods. The movement has spread to 20 African countries, including Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Uganda.

The tree plantings aim to slow desertification, providing fuel and building materials needed to fight the spread of poverty. More than 300 million Africans and 46 percent of the population south of the Sahara Desert live on less than $1 a day and less than half of children complete primary school, according to the Commission for Africa, set up by the U.K. government.

"It's important for people to see that they are part of the environment and that they take responsibility for it," Maathai said in an interview with Norwegian broadcaster TV2. "When natural resources get scarce, wars are started. If we improve the management of our natural resources we help promote peace."

From and


10– Percentage of forest cover required for a country to sustain a natural level of rain, underground water, soil fertility, clean air, soil stability and beauty.

2– Percentage of Kenya's forest cover
at present.


Surprise CO2 Rise May Speed Global Warming

Trees absorb CO2 and research on trees in nature exposed to elevated CO2 show an 30 percent increase in trunk diameter and leaf canopy as they absorb the gas and return it to the soil.

There has been a sharp leap in the atmospheric levels of CO2 gases leading to fears that global warming may be speeding up. At the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, readings have averaged an annual increase of 1.3 to 1.6 parts per million (ppm). They have now jumped to over 2.0ppm. That increase is a function of the amount of CO2 that has not been absorbed by the forests and oceans of the world. In 1958, the CO2 data showed 315ppm; by 1993 it was up to 357.04ppm; in 2003 it was up to 375.64ppm. There have been peaks in the past where the readings have gone above 2.0ppm, but these have always been associated with El Nino conditions when the Pacific warms up and cannot absorb the usual amount of CO2. However, from 2001 to 2002 the increase was 2.08ppm, and from 2002 to 2003 the increase was 2.54ppm. Neither of these increases occurred in El Nino years, and there has been no sudden leap in emissions to explain it. Dr. Charles Keeling, U.C. San Diego physicist and head of the observatory, said the rise was real and worrying as it might represent the beginnings of a feedback. This long-feared climate change "feedback" mechanism results when global warming causes alterations that weaken the earth's natural systems and that, in turn, causes the warming to increase even more rapidly than before. This weakening, which is caused by the warming itself, reduces the earth's ability to remove huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere by absorbing it in the carbon sinks of its forests and oceans. Such a development would mean the worldwide droughts, agricultural failures, melting ice, sea-level rise, increased weather turbulence and flooding would all arrive on much shorter time scales than previously estimated and the world would have a much shorter time to coordinate its response. Replenishing the forests and grasslands may help reduce the CO2 levels. Studies done by the US Department of Energy in Wisconsin's northwoods in 1997 showed that trees grow 30-percent faster when they are exposed to extra CO2. Their leaves convert the gas to sugar that goes down to the roots becoming a natural part of the soil. However there is a question regarding how much of a solution trees can provide if emission reduction is not part of the equation.

Experiments May Prevent Water Wars

The ability to lessen the amount of water needed for agriculture would greatly reduce the possibility of international conflicts over water rights.

The Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. have been experimenting with a method that uses roughly only one-hundredth the amount of fresh water needed to grow forage for livestock and this may leave much more water available for human consumption. As a byproduct, it may also add formerly untapped solar energy into the electrical grid. Forty-two wireless sensors are being installed in a hydroponic greenhouse under the supervision of the National Nuclear Security Administration's Sandia Labs because, as Ron Pate, a lab researcher says, "Disputes over water are possible, if not likely, causes for war in the 21st century." Underground water supplies are dipping lower and lower because of increased pumping for agricultural use in many third world countries such as China, India, the Middle East and Mexico--not to mention the American southwest. Conventional farming methods in dry regions lose huge amounts of water through evaporation and over-absorption by soil. Preliminary indications are that hydroponic greenhouses in New Mexico could reduce the current 800,000 acre-feet of water to 11,000 acre-feet of water to produce an equivalent amount (dry weight) of livestock forage and do this on less then 1,000 acres instead of 260,000 acres. In addition to avoiding soil salination, hydroponic greenhouses do not require high-quality arable soil.

Sims Tree Learning Center Wins Founders Award

On September 20, Sims Tree Learning Center was presented the "Durrell Maughn Founders Award" at the annual 2004 California Urban Forestry Conference in Rohnert Park.

The honor is awarded to an organization that has done the most in the past year to advance urban forestry education in California.

Sims Tree Learning Center has shown innovation and leadership, demonstrated by the many workshops, tours and open gardens held each year at their Learning Center.

Saltcedar Tree Meets the Chinese Beetle

This leaf-eating beetle was purposely released into strategic areas across Nevada in hopes that it would eventually kill the extremely invasive saltcedar trees.

In Nevada, highly invasive saltcedar trees have taken over many of the state's streambanks and lakeshores. However, a small Chinese beetle, Diorhabda elongata, may be the big stick needed to combat these greedy invaders. Originally brought to the United States as ornamental trees and soil stabilizers, saltcedar trees (also known as tamarisks) suck up large amounts of water, compete with native vegetation, and have had a dramatic impact on Nevada agriculture, water levels, wildlife and riparian bird habitats. Unlike the bark beetles that have plagued pine trees in the Lake Tahoe basin, these beetles were introduced on purpose. According to Tom Dudley, associate research professor at the University of Nevada's Department of natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, "When the beetle eats as little as five percent of a saltcedar, the remaining foliage dries up, causing as much as 100 percent defoliation and ultimately killing the tree. Until the introduction of this beetle, the Nevada Division of Wildlife has treated the problem with herbicides, however the beetle is a promising alternative as well as the first USDA-approved biological control of saltcedar in the United States. Nevada is one of eight states where research is being conducted under the "Saltcedar Biological Control Consortium," a multi-agency and multi-partner effort that also includes private interests such as the Cattlemen's Association and The Nature Conservancy.

Soils May Reduce Global Warming

One promising method for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions is to increase the uptake of carbon dioxide by soils by planting forests and grasslands.

The Oak Ride National Laboratory's researchers have been assessing promising techniques for combating global warming with plant-based solutions. According to research head Wilfred M. Post, one of the options is to increase the sequestration of carbon dioxide in the soils. Considering the range of possible costs and benefits that would be derived by adopting land management practices to increase the uptake of carbon dioxide, they suggested intensifying cropping, adding organic material to soil, conservation tillage and afforestation and grassland establishment. The increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere contributes to global warming, which is causing ecological disruption and poses a threat to human populations as well. If the permanence of soil carbon sequestration were to be established to be effective, then research suggests that it would be wise to establish incentives that make these practices attractive for land managers.

Wet Winter Outlook for Southern U.S.

Southern regions hampered by drought over the past three years may be getting some relief if recent winter precipitation forecasts turn out to be correct. According to projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, "weak-to-moderate" El Nino conditions in the central Pacific Ocean are likely to shift storm tracks south--producing higher-than-average rainfall in Southern California, Texas and Florida.

The NOAA prediction, which is focused on December, January and February of 2005, plots corresponding drier-than-normal conditions for the Pacific Northwest and Midwest regions. Central and Eastern states should experience close-to-normal precipitation.

"Our winter forecast factors in the effects of a weak El Nino that may strengthen into a moderate event during the winter months," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., of NOAA. "But we'll keep our eye on other climate features in the Pacific and the North Atlantic that play an important role on the week-to-week variability in our winter weather. These patterns influence the position of the jet stream and dictate where and how winter storms will move."

NOAA is scheduled to issue an updated winter outlook on Oct. 21.

More information can be found at

New AQUA Show for Designers

The AQUA Show and Genesis 3 Design Group are presenting a new conference for landscape architects, designers and builders of pools, spas and ponds. Featured speakers include James van Sweden, cofounder of the landscape architecture firm Oheme, van Sweden & Associates; Anthony Archer-Wills, a leader in the pond design and construction field; and landscape lighting specialist Janet Lennox Moyer.

The four-day program begins November 8, 2004 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and offers seminars, workshops, new product introductions, demonstrations, book signings and one-on-one consultations.

For more details, call 800-536-3630 or visit

UCI Will Get Maya Lin Makeover

The Claire Trevor Theater at the University of California, Irvine. Architect Maya Lin has designed a 30,000-square-foot outdoor arts plaza for the school's Claire Trevor School of the Arts.

Architect Maya Lin has designed an outdoor arts plaza that will become the focal point of the University of California at Irvine's Claire Trevor School of the Arts. The $3.6 million project will include a 200-seat amphitheater, lighted pathways, a "water table" fountain and "whispering benches" that play music and recorded poetry. Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. calls the project "a garden of perception." About 24,000 students attend the Irvine, Calif. campus, but that number is expected to reach 40,000 eventually. Close to $700 million in building construction is now underway or in the planning stage. Construction on the arts plaza will start in early 2005.

Will Snowboard Parks Boom?

If you thought skateboard parks were big business, wait until you see the profits and the industry behind snowboarding and skiing. Dieter Sturm, owner of SNOWMAKING by STURM, plans to bring the sport into year round availability through their creation of biodegradable, SNOWFLEX artificial snow.

In the past year, snowboarding sales have increased 51 percent, reports Sturm who also claims that the surge of snowboarding popularity recently exploded when Americans won all three Olympic snowboarding medals. "Can you imagine the popularity when winter sports are accessible in cities across America?" says Sturm.

SNOWMAKING by STURM produces snow and special effects for commercials, motion pictures and for snow parks/centers. They see snow as a great business opportunity. "Wouldn't it be cool to just jump in your car after work, drive to you local park or country club, and snowboard for a few hours each week? Hit some pipes on the weekend? Real snow will always be real snow. Period. We are never going to say that our product replaces the real stuff, that's certainly not true," says Sturm. "What we can say is that you now have the most technically advanced synthetic surface ever available to practice and have fun on in the off-season."

Sustainable Golf Landscapes

The landscape architect, Sharon Fowler, specified sand cordgrass (top) throughout the golf course and other native grasses, such as gulf muhly (middle), and hardy flowers like the dune sunflower(bottom).

The RedTail Golf Club at Heathrow Country Estates in Heathrow, Florida, will unveil a panorama of native grasses, Florida wildflowers and historic oaks, assuming the hurricanes subside long enough to allow the work to be completed.

"One of the exciting things about the native grasses is layering grasses of different heights, colors, and textures to frame the golf holes," Sharon Fowler, the landscape architect, explained to LASN. Sand cordgrass runs throughout the course, but Fowler also incorporates crowngrass (Paspalum quadrifarium); gulf muhly; white fountain grass; Fakahatchee grass and dwarf Fakahatchee grass; Spartina patens; dune sunflower; Gaillardia; Yaupon holly; southern wax myrtle; and slash pines. Fowler also selected what she calls "character oaks," planted oak trees that have the character of the beautiful existing live oaks. "I also am using red maples, bald cypress, and many mitigation plants, such as pickerel weed and bulrush," she adds.

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June 15, 2019, 10:26 pm PDT

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