This blog is for gardeners above, beyond, and below the surface. For those interested in botanical names, inventories, collection and else.

Not recommended for gardeners depending only on nurseries for the practice.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


IT has been written previously. This quote from Gide. Everything has been said before, since no one has been paying attention, it has to be repeated.

The article below, discovered in a 2010 National Geographic, has been a pleasure.  One of those bedtime or mornings with Coffea arabica readings, stimulating with energy and purpose.


Miniature Surveys of Biodiversity
 Edward O. Wilson 

Within One Cubic Foot

Guess how many organisms you'll find in a cube of soil or sea.

By Edward O. Wilson

Photograph by David Liittschwager

When you thrust a shovel into the soil or tear off a piece of coral, you are, godlike, cutting through an entire world. You have crossed a hidden frontier known to very few. Immediately close at hand, around and beneath our feet, lies the least explored part of the planet's surface. It is also the most vital place on Earth for human existence.
In any habitat, on the ground, in the forest canopy, or in the water, your eye is first caught by the big animals—birds, mammals, fish, butterflies. But gradually the smaller inhabitants, far more nu­merous, begin to eclipse them. There are the insect myriads creeping and buzzing among the weeds, the worms and unnameable creatures that squirm or scuttle for cover when you turn garden soil for planting. There are those annoying ants that swarm out when their nest is accidentally cut open and the pesky beetle grubs exposed at yellowed grass roots. When you flip a rock over, there are even more: You see spiderlings and sundry pale unknowns of diverse form slinking through mats of fungus strands. Tiny beetles hide from the sudden light, and pill bugs curl their bodies into defensive balls. Centi­pedes and millipedes, the armored snakes of their size class, squeeze into the nearest crevices and wormholes.

It may seem that the whole icky lot of them, and the miniature realms they inhabit, are unrelated to human concerns. But scientists have found the exact opposite to be true. Together with the bacteria and other invisible microorganisms swimming and settled around the mineral grains of the soil, the ground dwellers are the heart of life on Earth.
The terrain they inhabit is not just a matrix of dirt and rubble. The entire ground habitat is alive. Living forms create virtually all of the substances that flow around the inert grains.
If all the organisms were to disappear from any one of the cubic spaces depicted in these photographs, the environment in it would soon shift to a radical new state. The molecules of the soil or streambed would become smaller and simpler. The ratios of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other gases in the air would change. Altogether, a new physical equilibrium would be approached, at which the cubic foot would resemble that on some distant, sterile planet.
Earth is the only planet we know that has a biosphere. This thin, membranous layer of life is our only home. It alone is able to maintain the exact environment we ourselves need to stay alive.
Most of the organisms of the biosphere, and the vast number of its species, can be found at the surface or just below it. Through their bodies pass the cycles of chemical reactions upon which all of life depends. With precision exceeding anything our technology can match, some of the species break down the dead plant and animal material falling from above. Specialized predators and parasites feed on these scavengers, and higher level specialists feed on them in turn. The whole, working together in a constant turnover of birth and death, returns to the plants the nutrients needed to continue photosynthesis. Without the smooth working of all this linkage, the biosphere would cease to exist.
Thus, we need all of this biomass and biodiversity, including all of the creepy-crawlies. Yet in spite of its vital role, life at the ground level remains relatively unknown, even to scientists. About 60,000 species of fungi have been discovered and studied, for example, including mushrooms, rusts, and molds, but specialists estimate that more than 1.5 million species actually exist on Earth. Along with them in the soil thrive some of the most abundant animals in the world, the nematodes, also known as roundworms. These include, among other forms, the barely visible white wigglers that can be found everywhere just underground. Tens of thousands of roundworm species are known, and the true number could be in the millions. Both fungi and roundworms are outdone dramatically in turn by still smaller organisms. In a pinch of garden soil, about a gram in weight, live millions of bacteria, representing several thousand species. Most of them are unknown to science.

Ants, with more than 12,000 described species in the world (and the group on which I specialize as a naturalist), are among the better studied insects. Yet it's a good guess that the actual number is double or even triple that. In 2003 I completed a study of the "big-headed ants" of the Western Hemisphere, a genus (Pheidole) that has the largest number of known species and is among the most abundant of all the ants. At the end of my study, after 18 years of off-and-on effort, I had distinguished 624 species. A majority, 337, were new to science.
Only a dozen or so of the species have been closely studied. One of the smallest, I discovered, feeds on oribatid mites, which are usually much smaller than the letter o on this page and resemble a cross between a spider and a turtle. Oribatids are among the most abundant creatures of their size in the soil. A cubic foot might contain thousands of individuals. Yet I found that their diversity and habits remain largely unknown, much more than in the case of ants.
Life at the ground level is not just a random mix of species, not an interspersion of fungi, bacteria, worms, ants, and all the rest. The spe­cies of each group are strictly stratified by depth. In passing from just above the surface on down, the conditions of the microenvironment change gradually but dramatically. Inch by inch there are shifts in light and temperature, the size of the cavities, the chemistry of the air, soil, or water, the kind of food available, and the species of organisms. The combination of these properties, down to a microscopic level, defines the surface ecosystem. Each species is specialized to survive and reproduce best in its particular niche.
Soil studies, and especially the biology of the ground level, is growing rapidly into a major branch of science. Now bacteria and other microscopic forms of life can be identified quickly by the decoding of their DNA. The life cycles of increas­ing numbers of insects and other invertebrate animals, many entirely unknown to science, are being explored in the field and laboratory. Their physical and nutritional needs are coming clear, species by species. The Encyclopedia of Life, available in a single address (, is gathering all known information on each species and making it available free throughout the world.
A small world awaits exploration. As the flo­ras and faunas of the surface are examined more closely, the interlocking mechanisms of life are emerging in ever greater and more surprising detail. In time we will come fully to appreciate the magnificent little ecosystems that have fallen under our stewardship. 

AS time goes by, getting older, still impatient, one thing is more cliched transparent, crystal clear, if our surroundings are not studied, understood, the imbecilic planting of trees in urban/rural contexts,  taking place in Puerto Rico becomes
more and more inane, useless.



Friday, September 21, 2012


 IN some circles is fine to paraphrase to make the information more or less personal.  In this quarters is not, if some can write/say it better what is the point?  One thing I have never understood is plagiarism, if somejuan has nothing to say, close the blog....start something else.  The photos are yours truly.

 One confession, I am falling in love with the north, those changes of light and shade as the earth moves is a real trip, a collateral benefit unsuspected when this project started.       

Distinguishing Degrees of Light and Shade

Learn to match the type of light with suitable plants, and your gardens will shine

So, shade is shade, right? Wrong. All shade is not created equal. Many variables, including season, time of day, age of trees, their density, and canopy composition, all affect how plants are shaded. Understanding these factors helps gardeners select and care for plants.
Let's set the record straight. Shade is a term used to describe some degree of relief from the sun. There are basically four classes: light shade, partial shade, full shade, and deep shade. These are based on the duration of time without sun, coupled with shade density.

Shade varies by habitat

To define degrees of sun and shade, and the needs and tolerances of various plants, I look to natural habitats. In nature, full sun is analogous to meadows, prairies, and other open country. Cultivated plants that require a full day of direct summer sun -- 10 or more hours -- are native to these ecosystems. Light shade occurs along edges of woodlands and in savannas where trees provide up to 25 percent canopy closure and plants receive 5 to 10 hours direct sun. In partial shade, such as in open woods, and small clearings with up to 50 percent canopy closure, plants get less than five hours of direct sun and are shaded for at least half the day. Full shade occurs in forests and woodlands with complete canopy closure. Plants there may take in less than an hour of direct sun a day, though they may glean filtered or dappled light throughout all or part of the day as the sun tracks across the sky. In deep shade, direct sunlight seldom, if ever, reaches the ground. This occurs in coniferous forests, or in gardens where walls or building overhangs block out the sun.
Equally important as the sun-to-shade continuum is solar intensity -- the strength of the sun's rays. This varies with the time of day, the season, and the sun's distance from the equator. Early-afternoon sun is more intense than morning or late-afternoon sun. Equatorial regions and mountains experience the most solar intensity. In the U.S. and Canada, the sun shines most intensely June through September and is stronger in the South than in the North. Thus, a plant grown in light shade in Minnesota may require partial or full shade in Alabama.
Plants are adapted to shaded environments in various ways. For instance, in most woodlands there is ample, often direct, sun during springtime while the branches of forest trees are bare. Many woodland species have evolved to handle this temporary abundance of light. They produce rapid growth in spring to spread their leaves and flowers while direct sun is available before trees, shrubs, ferns and larger wildflowers leaf out. As the light level drops, some more diminutive woodland wildflowers, such as anemone and spring beauty, simply go dormant. On the other hand, many woodland plants, such as trillium, bloodroot, and epimedium, bloom early, but keep their leaves well into summer, or even the fall. These persistent species use different strategies to ensure ample food production.

Shade leaves are often broader and thinner

Leaf size is one of their main adaptations. Broad and flattened leaves on plants such as umbrella leaf, hosta, and skunk cabbage function like huge solar collectors. Many leaves, such as those on ferns, aralias, and black cohosh, have dissected blades that are equally efficient, but also more wind-resistant. A large leaf divided into many small segments is less apt to be tattered or flattened in a summer storm. Leaves adapted to full sun are often smaller than shade-adapted leaves. Sun-adapted leaves have many layers of chlorophyll-rich cells, called palisade cells, piled one upon the other. This piggybacking is possible because the strong, direct sun can penetrate deep into the leaf. In this way, a small leaf can be very efficient. In contrast, shade-adapted leaves have a single layer of photosynthetic palisade cells, so the leaves must be proportionately bigger to accommodate the same number of cells and produce the same amount of food.
Leaves that are efficient in the sun are usually unable to function in the shade, and vice versa. For example, a potted ficus tree placed outside for its summer vacation gets lots of light, so it grows efficient, cell-packed leaves. In the autumn, when it's "back-to-school time," the ficus suffers a setback. Indoor light levels are low, and the high-efficiency leaves can't function, so the tree sheds them and produces new, larger leaves better adapted to less light.

Hot sun burns shade leaves

Shade leaves, because they have a thin palisade layer, are subject to burning in the hot sun. This became painfully clear recently, when a summer storm brought down half of my largest canopy tree. Overnight, the garden switched from full shade to light shade. Although some leaves have burned, I suspect that next year, most of the plants will gracefully make the transition. As new leaves emerge, they will be better adapted to the new light conditions. I may have to move a few plants, such as pulmonarias, which seem unable to absorb enough water to keep from wilting in the direct sun. Large-leaved plants are also subject to scorching in hot, dry weather for the same reason. In my bog garden, the huge, thin leaves of umbrella leaf often burn in July in the hot, afternoon sun. The same amount of sun earlier in the day would not be detrimental. Evergreen plants are the best-adapted to full and deep shade. Since their leaves don't go dormant, they are full-time solar collectors whenever the temperature is over 45°F.
So, how can gardeners make the most of shade? The bottom line is that even the most dyed-in-the-wool shade plants will benefit from bright light, or even some direct morning sun, where duration and intensity are moderate. A plant that tolerates deep shade will grow better in full shade. A plant that grows in full shade will generally grow more lush in partial shade, particularly if it receives direct sun in the morning.
From Fine Gardening 59 , pp. 16-18

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


THIS is part two of what could easily could be the next General Hospital. Same reference as before.


MOST fungi resemble a mass of tangled threads (hyphae) called a mycellium.  Fruiting bodies grow from mycellium.  These bodies release spores that may be considered the 'seeds' of fungi.  Some fungi grow to become quite large-the common mushroom is a fungues. The mushroom is the fruiting body of a fungus whose hyphae feed on decaying material in soil.  However, much of the fungi in the soil must be examined under a microscope.  Up to 450,000 fungi may reside in a teaspoon of soil.

While fungi are less numerous than bacteria, because of their larger size, they generally make up the largest microbial mass in the soil. Fungi are entirely heterothropic and  aerobic, and occupy larger pore spaces. Fungi tend to dominate in acid soils.

Along with bacteria, fungi act as the main soil decomposers.  Fungi can attack matter that resists breakdown by bacteria, partly because hyphae can grow into the material.  Many fungi are plant parasites, such as with the fungus (Verticillium spp) that attacks potatoes, several landscape plants, and other plant species.  A group of soil fungi called "damping-off fungi", like Rhizoctonia, attack seeds and seedlings and cause root rots, particular problems for  greenhouse and container nursery growers. 

A few odd fungi are predators.  For instance certain fungi  capture and consume nematodes (a microscopic worm)These fungi trap nematodes either by growing rings that can tighten around the body
of a nematode or by growing knobs covered with a sticky substance. After the nematode is trappec, hyphae grow into its body until it is consumed.


I received some feedback from one of those Florida people gardening as they only can. Her comments? How deep/interesting.

The information above and the rest  to come, may seem irrelevant to most amateurs.  However,  in Puerto Rico, where I live, some con artists have been promoting edible gardens left and right, for  $125 USA dollars a pop.  They advertise edible gardens as a solution like sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty.

But Josy Latorre and Douglas Kndelabro, (among others) prophet/ess respectively,  of this fad, never mention that any intelligent, echologically correct  gardening requires  solid notions
about soil, pests, and diseases.......not to get into irrigation.

As if any fool, overweight, unable to bend, to  pull some weeds,
could have AN garden edible or not.   

The intelligent solution to solve this matter would be to do a street by street inventory of what people have planted in their backyards, 
fruits, herbs and such as they do in California, swapping this for that.
If you have arthritis, heart problems  to name a few, edible gardens are not for you, unless you have high beds, preferably on tables.   

that is that


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I HAVE seen  lots of blogs/posts about many things above the ground, except pests, diseases and the great absentee in the tittle.  It is the one making or breaking any garden.  Perhaps it is the jargon what keeps most people away from it.

When I began my studies for the certificate in the NY Botanical, soil science was one of the most difficult classes, it covers a whole universe. If it seems too much of text book information, you are right.  If you know a lot about the subject, go ahead, skip it.  Stick around or buy the book. Keep it as a reference, it will be useful for your gardening life.

Soil is a living creature with lots of secrets. Forgotten and ignored for a simple reason, when bare, is not so attractive except for geologists and archeologists.   


Bacteria, simple one-celled organisms are the most abundant inhabitants in the soil.  Up to 100 million organisms may live in one
teaspoon of soil.  Common soil bacteria are rod-shaped, though many assume other  shapes. Bacteria usually grow as small colonies
on the surface of soil particles and smaller pores. They are most dominant in nonacid soils. 

Bacteria are the most variable of soil organisms. While most are aerobic, many thrive in anaerobic soil.  Most are heterothropic, yet many obtain energy autothropically from chemical reactions with certain soil substances.

Most soil bacteria are saphrophytic.  They comprise one of the groups most responsible for breaking down organic matter in the soil.  A few species are parasites, causing plant diseases such as crown gall (Agrobacterium tunfasciens) which causes a tumorlike 
growth on roots of many plants. 

Soil Science & Management
Edward J. Plaster
page 113

One of the issues that  keep  yours truly motivated  to keep a blog, was the destruction of 5 hectares in the town of Trujillo Alto, by a Phd and his wife. Alberto Areces Mallea and Gabriella Ocampo, the culprits.,                             there is a whole series of articles on that scam if you are interested.


Our second pumpkin is hanging it there, our first Malpighia glabra, arrived after 3 years in the south garden. 

the soil series 
has begun

that is that


Monday, August 13, 2012


I NOTICED that some visitors stay in this space, not venturing into the other two.  Here are two sides, those missing will be available in a near future.  Let the record show at least 56 species live
here happily with some editing when necessary.  If interested check my inventory for the hell of it.\IMG_2891

.IMG_2890  The north side wide and narrow. The third photo shows the same space facing west.

IMG_2888   FINALLY,  the south side home of the pumpkin,  west and east.IMG_2892


that is that

Thursday, August 9, 2012


  THIS rainforest
cactus has been in the collection for a couple of years, a present from Maria, one of me neighbors.

Some readers may find strange these succulents could grown under  rainy conditions, but I assure you is not the only one.

Mine, to the right, decided to attach itself to
the concrete wall for support.  It was planted
under the Duranta repens, for the intense
shade and humidity, not found everywhere in our garden.

I did my research under rainforest cacti, finding
this and a few others under the botanical name.

that is that.