Sunday, December 8, 2013

Man Man Zou - The Species Richness Standard

Reply to: Bay Area Xeric Guerrilla Gardeners

Your experiment would subject others to your interest. Do they want that? I believe your interest is really in the lowest minority. - Olneya

Here's one of my interests...

Sinningia cardinalis and Hoya serpens

I think it's a pretty decent amount of diversity. And yes, clearly I want to subject others to this interest of mine. Why? Because I'm as certain as I'll ever be that the world would be a better place if more people shared this interest.

This one branch on my tree has more diversity than other branches on my tree. It stands to reason that some spaces have more diversity than other spaces. The Huntington desert gardens have far more diversity than any space of equal size in the surrounding foothills.

Regarding your cautionary argument is for increasing diversity...not decreasing it. Therefore, if a plant decreases diversity...then telling me it shouldn't be introduced is preaching to the choir.

Obviously I'm not a fan of monoculture. Variety is the definitely the spice of life. Which is exactly why...all things being equal...I would choose to explore the spiny forests of Madagascar rather than explore the surrounding foothills. Again, clearly these two spaces are not equally diverse.

What's neat about desert plants and epiphytes is that they've adapted to growing in areas that are too inhospitable for most other plants. Of course there's still competition for resources.

A while back I sowed some seeds of Echeveria rosea in several moss baskets. The seedlings are all competing with each other...and a few of the seedlings are clearly winning. The seedlings are all unique individuals. Each one has an entirely different combination of traits/inputs. It's a given that some combinations are going to be better than others. Some individuals are going to be better adapted to their conditions. But they are all individuals. They aren't working together...they are all's survival of the fittest.

Why should I bother propagating Echeveria rosea? Why should I make the effort to make it more abundant? Why do I think there should be more...rather than less...of this plant? Because I value it. Because it's an epiphyte...because it's one of the few Echeverias that can grow outside year around in milder parts of the UK. Because it has nice flowers. Because somebody hasn't already made it abundant enough here in California.

Have you ever seen it in Northern California? If it can grow in milder parts of the UK...then I'm sure it would have no problem growing in NorCal. Perhaps you wouldn't mind growing it...but you clearly wouldn't want it escaping up there.

Don't look now...but Platyceriums are escaping in Columbia...

Here's a perpetrator growing on an organ pipe cactus.

They aren't the first ones to escape to the Americas though. Platycerium andinum infiltrated the Americas a while ago. How long ago? Long enough ago that we consider it a native. Same thing with Rhipsalis baccifera in Africa.

And here we see Tillandsia usneoides infiltrating Australia.

So now we have Platyceriums from Asia and Africa starting to grow in the Americas and a Tillandsia from the Americas starting to grow in Asia.  It's plant globalization.

With market often does a foreign product infiltrate America without destroying a local product? Chinese food certainly didn't destroy American food...but the two products definitely compete for some of the same limited resources.

Would we be better off if we simply closed our borders to all foreign products? Shall we pretend that we have absolutely nothing to gain from foreign innovation? Shall the Chinese pretend that they have absolutely nothing to gain from foreign innovations? That's what Mao did.  It didn't work so well.  In 1978 Deng Xiaoping opened China up...and the results have been remarkable.

Here in the Americas...Platycerium bifurcatum is a foreign product. Any product is simply a unique combination of inputs. In certain conditions...Platycerium bifurcatum's combination of inputs allows it to grow on organ pipe cactus. For the most part...there's not too much competition for space on a cactus. It's not exactly prime real estate.

The California desert and scrub isn't exactly prime real estate either. But I'm certain that our native habitat could gain from foreign innovations. Would any foreign product be a sure investment? Of course not. Every investment is always a risk. Every possible allocation of resources could be a mistake. Nobody has a crystal ball.

But because nobody has a crystal's essential that we hedge our bets by diversifying. Right now the human species are all in one basket (Earth). If we want to ensure our would behoove us to colonize other planets sooner rather than later. If we want to ensure the survival of the maximum amount of would behoove us to spread them to as many baskets as possible.

Don't keep all your eggs in one basket. Introduce California natives to other winter rain areas...Chile, western South Africa, the Mediterranean and western Australia...and introduce their natives to our wilderness. There will be competition, diversification, differentiation...

Each new introduction will provide a new can provide a new type of shelter for some...a new food source for others. But most/many of these new opportunities won't be seized over night. It can take a long time before a product is created that fills a specific niche.

I grow quite a few Tillandsias...and some of them volunteer here and there. Each generation of volunteers will be somewhat better adapted to our winter rain climate. A Tillandsia that has a longer growing season will have an advantage over those that have a shorter growing season.  Longer growers will reach maturity faster and their progeny will quickly outnumber the shorter growers. I'll share my Tillandsia abundance with my friends...and they'll share their abundance with their friends...and so on. It's a numbers game...the more numbers...the less time it will take before a Tillandsia is created that can escape and survive with only winter rain. Then it will be able to take advantage of so many bare tree branches. A product will finally have been created for a specific microhabitat. It's likely that this Tillandsia will be pollinated by more nectar opportunities for hummingbirds...and more shelter opportunities for invertebrates. More complexity, species richness and numbers...value and interest.

The standard is "man man zou". That's Chinese for "walk slow". When I first moved into my plant friends would quickly walk past my Cedar tree. As I started attaching more and more plants to the took them longer and longer to walk past it. The other day a lady actually got choked up when she saw all the orchids blooming on my tree.

This poem comes to mind...

January by H.R. Hays

The air is Sucked clear of dross.
Space is enlarged.
A hundred miles away
Birds are whistling
And I know
That time is pale blue.

If I throw a stone
It will disappear,
Snatched by a yellow hand
With burnished nails.

Sunlight and stillness,
Creeping along the branches,
Nest in the pine needles.

Ponds stare at the sky
Through opaque,
glittering spectacles
And do not reflect
The skeletons of angels,
Picnicing in Refracted light.

The cold has
Bathed my eyeballs with tears
As I stare into the crevices
Of an ancient Paradise.

Breathe in,
Breathe out.

It's not difficult for some to worship the beauty that can be found in the surrounding hills. But that's not the standard. Hiking in nature here in California should be extremely slow going for most. Every step should yield an abundance of wonder, awe and worship. Few should be able to escape its grasp. And removing plants from nature wouldn't be a crime...because there would be an abundance of anything that was demanded.

If we now turn to consider the immediate self-interest of the consumer, we shall find that it is in perfect harmony with the general interest, i.e., with what the well-being of mankind requires. When the buyer goes to the market, he wants to find it abundantly supplied. He wants the seasons to be propitious for all the crops; more and more wonderful inventions to bring a greater number of products and satisfactions within his reach; time and labor to be saved; distances to be wiped out; the spirit of peace and justice to permit lessening the burden of taxes; and tariff walls of every sort to fall. In all these respects, the immediate self-interest of the consumer follows a line parallel to that of the public interest. He may extend his secret wishes to fantastic or absurd lengths; yet they will not cease to be in conformity with the interests of his fellow man. He may wish that food and shelter, roof and hearth, education and morality, security and peace, strength and health, all be his without effort, without toil, and without limit, like the dust of the roads, the water of the stream, the air that surrounds us, and the sunlight that bathes us; and yet the realization of these wishes would in no way conflict with the good of society. - Frédéric Bastiat, Abundance and Scarcity

My friend Elmer has some of the coolest weeds. The future can be like that as well. But it's only possible if we facilitate the free flow of resources.

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