Sunday, September 23, 2012

Seed collecting in Cairns

Seed collecting.... well actually seed pods, Rainforest fruits, whatever might contain seeds!

The Garden staff here at the Botanic Gardens in Cairns have been doing a great job of saving things for me. Yesterday I went to pick up yet another batch and was stunned to see huge pandanus cluster that was impossible to lift virtually. These ones below however were as light as can be.

Note the seeds are actually rather small ...yet they case friction as the pod develops so that the marking is much larger than the seeds that nestle in the pods.

I will come back with the species name ... I've photographed these before and should know.

I had a lot of fun arranging them...  always love the patterns to be found in nature!

the curling pod is still closed, as are the other brown pods.

Endless inspiration... I have downloaded so many seed images over the last few years... 
great material for drawing. Alas... there is never enough time!

This red seed is used in jewellery making extensively. I saw two stalls at the market in town yesterday featuring these seeds. They are contained in a pod that explodes open to reveal this bright seed... and the pods themselves curl up into a tangled mess with the seeds curiously often still attached and exposed.

The image below comes from WIKI: Adenanthera pavonina 

From Wiki:
Its beads has long been a symbol of love in China, and its name in Chinese is xiang si dou (Chinese相思豆), or "mutual love bean". This tree is useful for nitrogen fixation, and it is often cultivated for forage, as a medicinal plant, and as an ornamental garden plant and urban tree. The beauty of the seeds, their use as beads and for necklace, and their nourishing qualities (the raw seeds are toxic but can be eaten when cooked), have combined to scatter the plant. E. J. H. Corner states that in India, the seeds have been used as far back as history records as units of weight for fine measures, of gold for instance.[1] The Malay name for the tree, saga, has been traced to the Arabic for 'goldsmith'.
The small, yellowish flower grows in dense drooping rat-tail flower heads, almost like catkins. The curved hanging pods, with a bulge opposite each seed, split open each into two twisted halves to reveal the hard, scarlet seeds. The young leaves can be cooked and eaten. The wood, which is extremely hard, is used in boat-building, making furniture and for firewood.
This tree is used for making soap, [2] and a red dye can be obtained from the wood.
High doses of the seed extract show an anti-inflammatory effect in studies in rats and mice.[3]


I recall Jason Halford at Brisbane Botanic Gardens talking about various species that explode open when the temperature/conditions have reached a certain point. It must be something to witness a plant in this process.

So many seeds are well hidden under foliage... walking through gardens or wild habitat requires a keen eye very often!

I've tried to keep my diary current... when documenting one realises how full a day can be. I have really made a point of photographing the growing collection as soon as possible as some of the fruits deteriorate rather quickly!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Day Two in Cairns ... on sundown!

Day two

Seeing this poster reminds one the deadline is looming. One reason I 
was keen to produce work in Brisbane over the last couple of months.

People pour into the gardens to go walking all hours. 

This is the view into the Tank Arts Centre at the gardens where the exhibition will take place.

Love looking up and seeing all the ferns growing on tree limbs.

This week is busily being taken up with orientation and meetings. Its exciting to see what can be packed into a short period of time. Not every idea will have the chance to be brought to fruition ...but certainly its very stimulating to be considering many options.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Residency commences... Cairns Botanic Gardens

I arrived in Cairns yesterday, Tuesday, Sept 18th, at 1am after a somewhat delayed flight from Brisbane. The residence was wonderful to walk into... not a thing out of place ... the ceiling fan was on in my room, things laid out neatly... I felt most welcome! 

These photos below are from the last trip to Cairns and offer a little orientation re where I am staying. I will blog this residency here at the Homage to the Seed blog in order to document the time which will be quite full I'm sure... if yesterday was anything to go by!

View from the back verandah.

Jack fruit growing in the garden.

Downstairs studio space awaiting my things.

enclosed downstairs space with the door to the lock-up studio.

View of the house from the back entrance. Last time I hired a car but this time I will spend 4 weeks walking, perhaps bike-riding and catching buses. The house is 4 mins form the gardens and is where visiting artists stay. last time the house was full ...three male printmakers were in town to run workshops. This time I will mostly have the house to myself over the 4 weeks. 

An important reference book.

I have a list of people and places to visit and have spent the morning setting up house, then sorting out a few online issues. I'm off the the Cairns Museum soon and will get the painting going tonight. I'm lucky to have absolutely wonderful people here to work alongside and have so appreciated the warm welcome and support!

Back soon!

Friday, September 7, 2012


After lots of preparations the Open Studio event went off really well last weekend.... the beginning of spring!

So much so that I decided whilst everything was still all there and I will be at the studio painting all Saturday.... why not invite those who might have missed out on coming along to come by this week... on Saturday the 8th from 10am till late.

Today I sent out thank you's and also notes about this Saturday!

A small work on linen that I have had reproduced as an archival quality print which you can order through here.

A work on linen, 90 cm sq "rainforest seed capsules: cross-sections"

The studio with work for Cairns on the back wall and other works for sale... paintings on canvas and linen and works on paper.

Much of the work at the studio is connected to the Homage to the seed project in one way or another ... even the black and white paintings on the floor on the RHS of the photo above come from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience Residency in May and feature the DNA sequencing of arabidopsis seeds. 

More photos soon I hope!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Forest Razing by Ancient Maya Worsened Droughts

Ive been following the blog Ancient Foods for some time... archeology and cultural history Ive learnt much here when time allowed me to read and ponder some of the amazing stories.

Today I am reblogging a whole post that was in turn fully reblogged from Heritage Daily. Its a stern reminder of why we deforest at great peril to our civilisations.

Forest Razing by Ancient Maya Worsened Droughts

Topic: Myan Crops
For six centuries, the ancient Maya flourished, with more than a hundred city-states scattered across what is now southern Mexico and northern Central America.

Then, in A.D. 695, the collapse of several cities in present day Guatemala marked the start of the Classic Maya’s slow decline. Prolonged drought is thought to have played a role, but a study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters adds a new twist: The Maya may have made the droughts worse by clearing away forests for cities and crops, making a naturally drying climate drier.
“We’re not saying deforestation explains the entire drought, but it does explain a substantial portion of the overall drying that is thought to have occurred,” said the study’s lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate modeler at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatoryand the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
More than 19 million people were scattered across the Maya empire at its height, between A.D. 250 and A.D. 900. Using population records and other data, the study authors reconstructed the progressive loss of rainforest across their territory as the civilization grew. The researchers ran computer simulations to see how lands newly dominated by crops would have affected climate. In the heavily logged Yucatan peninsula, they found that rainfall would have declined by as much as 15 percent while in other Maya lands, such as southern Mexico, it would have fallen by 5 percent. Overall, the researchers attributed 60 percent of the drying estimated at the time of the Maya’s peak to deforestation.
As crops like corn replace a forest’s dark canopy, more sunlight bounces back into space, said Cook. With the ground absorbing less energy from the sun, less water evaporates from the surface, releasing less moisture into the air to form rain-making clouds. “You basically slow things down—the ability to form clouds and precipitation,” he said.

The idea that the Maya changed the climate by clearing away jungle, partly causing their demise, was popularized by historian Jared Diamond in his 2005 book Collapse. In the first study to test the hypothesis, climate modeler Robert Oglesby and his colleagues ran a computer simulation of what total deforestation of Maya lands would do to climate. Their results, published in 2010in the Journal of Geophysical Research, showed that wet season rainfall could fall 15 to 30 percent if all Maya lands were completely cleared of trees. Oglesby, who was not involved in the Cook study, said that Cook’s estimate of a 5 to 15 percent reduction in rainfall, though lower than his own, makes sense since Cook’s simulation used a realistic tree-clearing scenario.
Archeologists attribute a variety of factors to the collapse of the Classic Maya, whose ancestors are still living today in parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. In addition to a drying climate in several regions, the city-states struggled with overpopulation, changing trade routes, war and peasant revolts.
The Maya cleared the forests to grow corn and other crops, but they also needed the trees for cooking large amounts of lime plaster used in constructing their elaborate cities. Thomas Sever, an archeologist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and a co-author of the 2010 deforestation study, said that it would have taken 20 trees to produce a single square meter of cityscape. “When you look at these cities and see all the lime and lime plaster, you understand why they needed to cut down the trees to keep their society going,” he said.
The Maya also lacked the technology to tap the groundwater several hundred feet beneath them. Their reservoirs and canals were able to store and distribute water when rain plentiful, but when the rain failed, they had nowhere to turn. “By the time of the collapse, every square mile of soil had been turned over,” said Sever.
Scientists know from studying climate records held in cave formations and lake sediments that the Maya suffered through a series of droughts yet they continue to debate their severity. In a paper earlier this year in Science, researchers Martín Medina-Elizalde and Eelco Rohling of Mexico’s Yucatan Center for Scientific Research found that annual rainfall may have fallen as little as 25 percent during the Maya’s decline, from about A.D. 800 to A.D. 950. Most of the reduction in rainfall, however, may have occurred during the summer growing season when rain would have been most needed for cultivation and replenishing freshwater storage systems, they added.
Today, many of the Maya’s abandoned cities are overgrown with jungle, especially on the Yucatan peninsula. Satellite images, however, show that deforestation is happening rapidly elsewhere, including in other regions the Maya once occupied. The study may offer a warning about the consequences: “There’s a tremendous amount of change going on in Guatemala,” said Oglesby. “They may be that much more vulnerable to a severe drought.”
Other authors of the study are: Kevin Anchukaitis, Lamont-Doherty; Jed Kaplan, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland; Michael Puma, NASA GISS; Max Kelley, NASA GISS and Denis Gueyffier, ONERA, the French Aerospace Lab.
Original Article:
August 21, 2012
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