Tuesday, February 12, 2008

All About Leaves

Let us praise “Leaves” today, for they are a crucial component of our survival on Spaceship Planet Earth. Daily we exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with these lateral outgrowths which come in all shapes and colors.

Leaves are one of the categories used to classify the essences included in the Botanical Perfumers palette. A myriad of systems can be utilized to organize our volatile plant materials. This list is by plant part:
  • Aerial Tops
  • Bark
  • Berries
  • Buds
  • Grasses
  • Fruit/Zest
  • Leaves
  • Needles/Twigs
  • Petals
  • Rhizomes/Roots
  • Resin
  • Seeds
  • Wood

Essential Oils are stored in the internal or external secretary structures of the plant, referred to as glands. In leaves the presence of essential oil is usually a survival tactic to prevent insects from eating them. This differs from essential oil rich flowers whose fragrance invites pollinators.

This Saturday, under a brilliant blue sky and warm sunshine, Greg, Eve and I attended a class titled “All About Leaves” at the Theodore Payne Foundation. This important organization is located on twenty two acres in the foothills of Sun Valley. Our teacher Lisa Novack took us on a multidimensional journey. We closely observed the leaves of eight different native plants within the Chaparral, Coastal Sage Scrub, Riparian and Woodland Habitats of the Los Angeles Basin. We learned the various adaptations of California native plant leaves and conducted three scientific experiments.

Native plants in California are mostly found in the park lands. Unfortunately Los Angelenos have created water hungry gardens throughout the city utilizing nonnative plants. This ignorance has created a host of challenges, most obvious the huge amounts of H20 needed from the Colorado River Delta to water thirsty lawns. The current ideal garden in the minds of City of Angel inhabitants is one appropriate for rain rich climates like England. One can hardly blame them since plant nurseries rarely stock many natives. The palm tree, now the emblematic symbol for Los Angeles isn’t even a native tree! We now have the regular removal of native Oak trees for construction of Mediterranean mini mansions that landscape using palm trees instead of our large canopy and rich leaf laden Coastal Live Oaks. Worse of all the LA Department of Building and Safety and the Urban Forestry Division ignore our protected tree ordinance. Can you tell I am angry?

The good news is that there is some awareness beginning to take place. As water prices rise, homeowners will look for other options. California Native Plant gardens are quite beautiful, require little to no water once established and are essential to our local, community ecosystem. Did you know that only 7% of our native insects can eat nonnative plants? Insects are a crucial part of the cycle of life, providing the most important food source for our bird population.

I am currently enrolled in a California Native Plant Design Class at the Theodore Payne Foundation. The intention for our garden is that it will inspire others to Go Native!

Theodore Payne Foundation
California Native Plant Society
California Oak Foundation
The California Chaparral Institute

The images are all old engravings which I placed on pieces of parchment in Photoshop.

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