I Arrived in Nantes late on a Tuesday evening, and not much of the “landscape” could be seen. A thin cloud cover blocked the moon from lighting up the sleeping city.
Although the city seemed asleep, when the front door of my host family’s house opened, a rush of joyous energy came bursting out. My host mother warmly welcomed me, and I instantaneously knew I had fallen into a vibrant and “open” family. The slight nervousness I had been feeling in the pit of my stomach disappeared and a sense of excitement replaced it.
What would I discover within the next few days? What hidden mysteries do France and the city of Nantes hold for me? What places in Nantes would I come to deeply appreciate for one reason or another?
This last question was answered the next morning as I slipped on my Mizuno Tennis shoes for an explorative run! Little did I know, my house is located less than 5 minutes, from one of the most well known parks in Nantes. Le Grand-Blottereau, was built between 1742 and 1747 by a ship owner named Thomas Dobree. Upon his death Dobree left the Grand Blottereau Park to the city.
After the appeal of Grand Blottereau’s convenient location, I fell in love with many other aspects of this beautiful park. I recognized the uniqueness of the exotic and tropical tree species such as eucalyptus, pomegranate, olive trees and mimosas. The park actually represents 5 different cultural and environmental regions of the world: a banana forest, a Korean garden, an American Bayou, a Mediterranean Rock Garden, and a French Garden. The French Garden, mindful of architectural propriety, is located directly in front of the chateau.
Two Tropical Greenhouses also sit in front of the chateau. They house France’s only collection of commercially grown exotic plants such as: cotton, rice, cocoa, coffee and mahogany. Thanks to SEVE, Nante’s Parks & Gardens and Environmental Department and their large nursery located within the “Grand Blottereau” grounds, one can also find areas, throughout the park, devoted to lemon, tangerine and grapefruit trees- as well as hot peppers, asparagus, peas and peanut plants.
Since the middle of September I’ve visited the park almost daily. Each time I discover another hidden gem. Whether it is coming across two children playing hide and seek within the miniature tropical jungles or finding a veiled bench next to the American Bayou where I can enjoy a freshly baked almond croissant on an early Sunday morning, I continue to find this park unforgettable. I find tropical plants I’ve never seen before and discover clandestine paths through seemingly little trod paths. I am in awe of this park and the significant work that is put into its upkeep.
There is much history to this park since its gifting to the city by Mr. Dobree. After[K1] World War II it was used to host those who had lost their homes during the war. In 1905 “Le Grand-Blottereau” was adopted by SEVE, who focuses on studying, conceptualizing, realizing and discussing the collections of all municipal green spaces in Nantes. The Grand Blottereau also a houses several small educational facilities: “The Great Blottereau” horticultural High School, the Jules Rieffel High School and CFA’s “green education center of the city of Nantes[K2] .”
Cultural, Educational, Green, Peaceful… : A space far away from the neighboring world of civilization’s emerging and transformation machinations. A blessing, once again, full of trees.
Date Added: October 19, 2010 | Comments Off | Filed under: Carbon Offset,Facts about Trees,Uncategorized — Tags: Facts about Trees, France, Nantes, Parks — treeinabox @ 12:39 pm
I stepped from the sweltering August heat into the shade of a native tree and my breath deepened, my shoulders relaxed and my eyes swept from the ground to the view. I was on a hillside of Cinque Terre, Italy, on the Italian Riviera. Below me vivid, multi-coloured rooftops were tucked between stone cliffs, lush and verdant olive and grape yards tumbled over stone terraces and colourful boats floated on a truly azure sea. Here AZURE is a real colour and verdant connotes a saturated smell as well as many shades of green.
Who of my readers has heard of Cinque Terre, Italy?
Translated as “Five Lands” it is a set of five hamlets. These small towns are without cars or moderninity. They cling to the cliffs and extend into the sea. It is a rugged portion of the Liguria Region of Italy (North Atlantic coast, just under the top lip of the boot) where people from all over the world traverse the cliffs to explore one of Mother Earth’s most beautiful landscapes. I felt a serene connection with the nature around me and a true sense of accomplishment when I finished scaling the mountainside. The 10 km hike between all 5 cities, takes approximately 5 hours; a little more if you sit at a café in one and sun on a jutting rock in another…
A student, just out of university, I was forced (by the fortunate adjunct of good professors and mentors) to think in scientific method about how the shade of the tree changed the average temperature between direct sun and shadow. So many variables: type of thermometer, time of year, time of day, wind… For me on this day, it seemed in the range of 15 degrees, and it was the shade of the tree on a hot day that focused my attention…
A sense of peace, of appreciation, of grandeur enveloped me like the oxygen I swear I could sense coming from the cool shadow. In my awareness, I noted not only the landscape but the sound of multiple human languages, the feel of heavy salt air, the smell of fish and fresh cooked pasta, even up here. It was there, I noted that this environment; one very man-made but so organic in its situation and respect for itself, gave me a tangible respect for life.
The entire coastline, including the cities, are part of the Cinque Terre National Park and it is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site. The WHS catalogues, names and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. As of 2010, 911 sites have been listed and coincidentally, Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites. It was in 1997 that UNESCO cited Cinque Terre because of its physical significance.
Travelling by train and exploring on foot, I have traversed five countries and dozens of cities, monuments, museums and beautiful landscapes in the last month. I’ll be reporting here on my many adventures and how trees, the environment and its people combine to generate an experience that encourages our caring for this earth.Written by, Adrienne Carlson (edited by, Kristine Akins)
Date Added: September 30, 2010 | Comments Off | Filed under: Facts about Trees,Uncategorized — treeinabox @ 12:53 am
Watching Planet Earth sparked an interest in an unusual insect called a Cicada. The Cicadas, of the super family Cicadoidea, live in temperate to tropical climates and are completely benign to humans. They are often one of the most recognized of all insects, mainly due to their large size and extraordinary acoustic talents. Most cicadas go through a life cycle that lasts somewhere between two to four years. Yet on the other hand, there are several species have much longer life cycles: such as the North American genus, Magicicada, which has a number of distinct “broods” that go through either 17-year or 13-year cycles.
While flies and mosquitoes live for just a few weeks, cicadas, depending on species, spend either 13 or 17 years below ground in the nymph stage, feeding on plant roots. During the few weeks the Cicadas are above ground, there is an extremely loud and frantic effort for the insects to mate; and more importantly, for the females to deposit their eggs in trees. It is these Magicicadas that have begun to catch the attention of many scientists who are curious as to what the benefits of their existence are.
While they are above ground, these insects become an incredibly abundant food source for birds, lizards, snakes and fish. Because there are billions of cicadas that hatch all at once, predators can only eat about 15 percent of them, leaving the rest as fertilizer for the surrounding plants. “Even as dead bugs they are still influencing these forest ecosystems,” said Louie Yang, whose research was published in the journal “Science” and in an article on CNN.
For several years after a cicada emergence, the benefits often include faster growing trees and bigger seeds in some flowers. Many scientists call this sudden burst of new resources from the decomposing cicadas a “resource pulse.” Intriguing enough, because scientists have the ability to predict the cicadas’ appearance, practically to the day, it makes studying this phenomenon much simpler.
Yang specifically focused his research on the nitrogen levels in plants after a Cicada emergence. ”What we found was that these plants are actually taking up nitrogen that comes from cicadas. The seeds of the insect-fertilized plants were also 9 percent bigger than those in a control group,” said Yang. With this significant addition of nitrogen and other nutrients, the entire forest seems to have several years of significant growth.
So what’s the significance to us? Well, first off we should appreciate the abundance of bugs not only in our back yard but all around this world. Without them, our ecosystems would not be able to sustain themselves, nor would they ever have these valuable “resource pulses.”
Written and compiled by: Adrienne Carlson
Check out this video:
Articles referenced and used:
Date Added: July 29, 2010 | Comments Off | Filed under: Facts about Trees — Tags: bugs, cicada, Facts about Trees, tree nutrients, treebugs — treeinabox @ 12:15 pm
In a previous post I said: “To be in Laurelhurst Park is to feel green seep into your energetic field. I have never walked into the park and not come out happier…”
Why is that? The Answer is more interesting than imagined!!
New studies show that casual walking in a forest or park changes cellular and hormonal chemistry in the body. The Japanese tested a concept called “Forest Bathing” or “Shinrinyoku” which indicates that simply walking in a forest for several hours a week increases white blood cell count, decreases harmful cortisol levels, and increases production of immune-response cells, in addition to the more commonly know effects: stress reduction, lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure.
It is intuitive that nature makes one feel calmer; it is the sunshine, the clean air, the quietude… But a series of studies measured physiological effects of forest and treed environments and found that phytoncides (essential wood oils produced by trees to protect them from rot and harmful insects) are responsible for chemical changes that actually increase the body’s health. The effects are almost immediate and they last well after the forest experience.
Japanese researchers performed a series of tests over the last 6 years using over 600 healthy people who walked in or viewed forest settings for various segments of time and were given blood and urine tests prior to and after the walks or viewings. Control groups were sent to urban settings with the same tests performed.
The tests showed that NK cells (natural-killer cells - potent lymphocytes that fight infection and assail cancer growth) increased over 50% in groups of healthy people who spent 3 days and 2 nights in a forest setting. On the 1st day, subjects walked for 2 hours in the forest; on the 2nd day, they walked for 2 hours in the morning & 2 hours in the afternoon. Blood and urine were sampled prior to the trips, on day 2 day and day 3 during each trip, and on days 7 and 30 after the trips. The effects lasted for more than 30 days after the trip!
In a similar experiment cortisol (a stress hormone that has positive effects, but is normally too high in modern life) dropped on average 13.4% when subjects simply looked at a forest setting for 20 minutes.
As a result of these studies, the Japanese government has begun accrediting forests as official Forest Therapy Locations. 35 locations have gained official certification so far and many of these hold free medical checkups, breathing and aromatherapy classes, and guided walks with experts on forests and health care. Health plans are even beginning to cover costs associated with trips to these Forest Therapy bases.
So take a break, walk among the trees, breathe in the phytoncides, and be healthier and happier today!
Yoshifumi Miyazaki, director of the Center for Environment Health and Field Sciences at Chiba University and Li Qing, a senior assistant professor of forest medicine at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo are responsible for many of these studies.
Date Added: July 20, 2010 | Comments (4) | Filed under: Facts about Trees,Uncategorized — Tags: forest bathing, forest therapy — treeinabox @ 2:39 pm
This hotel, is made of specially coated aluminum that will be nearly transparent when viewed from within, so that you are enfolded by the forest that you are within. The exterior will mirror the surroundings, thus making you almost invisible to those outside your haven.
The plan is multi-level with enclosed and exterior spaces and an electrically heated floor to ecologically maintain comfortable temps. It opens July17th of this year along with 5 other Tree Hotels (which we will feature in coming posts), so we will get info on how to book these amazing rooms (and determine whether you need to shinny up the trunk to get to the space!)
Experience staying close to nature in a place of great natural beauty where joyful childhood memories of tree forts can be relived in a comfortable, sophisticated and ecological environment: Booking details to come: if you’d like us to email you with details comment below.
Date Added: July 6, 2010 | Comments (1) | Filed under: Carbon Offset,Facts about Trees — Tags: tree, tree hotel, treehouse — treeinabox @ 11:41 am
This “Bau-Botanical” Tower was built by a team at the Institute of Theory of Modern Architecture in Stuttgart Germany. It is a living-plant-construction that when completely grown (8 to 10 years) will support three floors made of zinc coated steel.
Shown above surrounded by supporting scaffolding, the trees at the base level are rooted in the ground while the several hundred trees above (White Willow, Salix alba) are potted, but the pots will be removed over time and the roots will be woven into the trees below with a type of grafting process that will create a single living structure. Lateral limbs will support the floors and the walls will be living breathing structure that will provide an oxygen rich environment.
I am attempting to determine if this qualifies as a use of bio-mimicry, an interest I will be examining in depth through this blog. I am also researching current status of this project as the above phot is about 1 year old. See more at http://bit.ly/bxnr10
Date Added: June 23, 2010 | Comments Off | Filed under: Facts about Trees — Tags: Facts about Trees — treeinabox @ 1:11 pm
A tree is an amazing “factory” of graceful elements that work together.
We all know that trees breathe in Carbon Dioxide and breathe out Oxygen. How about the idea that trees bring water from the ground all the way up to the branches and leaves without a pump? That their roots search out water in the ground in a systematic and scientific manner. That they naturally strengthen themselves at their stress points in reaction to wind, gravity, and even animal life. Leaves are not only flexible and water resistant, but also water absorbing and water channeling, contributing to some of the above processes and assisting nature in others. Some seed coats keep seeds viable for hundreds of years and across multitudes of environments.
Bio-mimicry seeks to consult living organisms and ecosystems and to apply the underlying design principles to innovations in the way we live. (see www.asknature.org for a great site on this subject)
If we could learn from trees how to pump water up a building in a means similar to the way xylem (the vertical tubes in trees’ inner wood) transports water from the soil to its leaves through the force generated when water evaporates from leaves and creates a negative sucking pressure, it would be a no or low energy based means of servicing kitchens and toilets in a high rise building.
I will explore many areas of tree bio-mimicry in more depth within this blog as we build it. Thanks for paying attention. The world will indeed be a better place when we have learned from nature how they build and create and live without plundering the earth while they do it.
Written by: Kristine Akins
Date Added: June 16, 2010 | Comments Off | Filed under: Facts about Trees — Tags: Environmental Innovations, Facts about Trees — treeinabox @ 1:54 pm