The Shawnee News-Star Weekender April 27th 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg The plastic rant.  You've been warned!  Plastic.  It's everywhere.  The perfect compactable bag so relished by most the stores in Oklahoma.  We don't care how plastic impacts the environment.  We just want our stuff sacked and out the door we go. We are so important.  […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender April 27th 2019

Native honeysuckle in the Japanese Peace Garden.

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The plastic rant.  You'vebeen warned! 

Plastic.  It'severywhere.  The perfect compactable bagso relished by most the stores in Oklahoma. We don't care how plastic impacts the environment.  We just want our stuff sacked and out thedoor we go. We are so important.  When wehave emptied our little fossil-fuel derived sacks, we simply toss them out, beit in the garbage bin or out the car window.

Our Oklahoma state legislature feels their constituency mustbe too poor to pay a tax on plastic bags people can afford to fill with dollarsof stuff.  We're talking 5 cents abag.  The legislature also wants to cripplecommunities from imposing their own local taxes in an effort to curbpollution.  Apparently, Okies love theirlitter.  The voters can't remember tobring their own canvas bags with them when they shop?  Too inconvenient?  Are we stupid, lazy, apathetic or totallyunconcerned about the mounting levels of plastic on land and in the ocean?  Communities along both the Atlantic andPacific have banned plastics that have now formed huge Texas-size oceanic garbagepatches.  As the plastics swirl around,they break into tiny toxic bits consumed by marine life.  Tuna fish. Cod. Future speculation: therewill soon be one pound of plastic for three pounds of fish in the ocean. 

What is happening to all those plastic bags here inOklahoma?  Many join the feed sacks thatblow out of truck beds and litter the roadside. Plastic bags take anywhere from10 to 1000 years to decompose.  They toobreak down into tiny pieces in the soil where what now happens?  Plants, insects, wildlife all depend on thesoil, water and other basic elements of nature where plastic becomes intimatelyconnected.  It easily enters into the webof life. Our life. Your life.

I don't know about you, but when the time comes to go to thestore, a collection of canvas bags sits in the car at the ready.  The clerk begins to drop my things intoplastic wonder bags either torn off from a thick oily batch or whirled aroundon the ever-so-handy efficient rotating racks. 'I brought my own bags' Isay.  My eyes usually meet a blank starebefore confusion sets in.  The reactioncan be priceless.  Interesting to knowhow many stores justify the trashing of the earth just to keep theirthoughtless customers happy.

There are others out there like me.   We do care.   Carry your own canvas sacks and set the example. Earth day is every day and plastic does not go away.

The cross in the Murrah Monument

Plastic pollution is an on-going problem at the JapanesePeace Garden.  From stores to the southit blows into the garden and assembles along the airport fence. Some who walkthe track do trash sweeps and periodically clean the fence line.  Our Sister Cities delegates collect debristhroughout the garden when performing their community service.

The Japanese Peace Garden is quite lovely during the springbefore drought and heat cracks commence. Near the parking area, the newly expanded circle has been planted in bigbluestem.  The rains have come at a goodtime to settle the root balls into the ground. 

Shawnee city coordinator Jim Van Antwerp has workedfeverously at the Murrah Memorial to complete the first phase of hardscapedesign before the earth becomes too soggy. A large cross now surrounds the inscribed granite monument.  The edging of treated timber is filled withcrushed granite.  It took time, effortand looks awesome.

On the natural side, both native honeysuckles at each side of the entrance to the Bridge of Understanding are blooming.   The larger vine has a daffodil within it, adding yellow and white to the red.   Hardy native honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) goes by a multitude of names:   coral honeysuckle, trumpet honeysuckle, woodbine, scarlet trumpet or red honeysuckle.   This honeysuckle keeps many of its leaves throughout the winter on vines that can travel 15 to 18 feet in trees or along fences.   In spring (sometimes fall) it produces striking masses of coral and red tubes with yellow stamens projecting outward covered in pollen.   A draw for butterflies and hummingbirds that have just migrated into our area.   The flowers form red berries, a good food source for wildlife.

Native honeysuckle is a tough plant.  Not only can it tolerate heavy clay soils, itwithstands munching deer and black walnut trees, notorious for creatingjuglone, a chemical that makes the black walnut roots, buds and nut husks quitetoxic to other plants. Ordinarily this is a great defensive move for theplant.  Along a related vein, the Monarchbutterfly caterpillar dines on milkweed brimming with cardiac glycosides.  If an animal takes a bite, it really wishesit had eaten a pork chop and, if lucky, learned not to ever again touch ablack, yellow and white striped caterpillar.

Hibiscus with tropical milkweed

Speaking of milkweed, my tropical Hibiscus has a littlefriend which was discovered when the plant was moved from the greenhouse to theoutdoors for this season.  The tropicalmilkweed used the Hibiscus stems for support and stood four feet tall withinthe framework.  The go-getter had severalclusters of red/orange and yellow flowers, quite similar in color to nativehoneysuckle.  Come Monarchs.

At ground level in the Japanese Peace Garden are popping up large bright, yellow flowers, each with 4 petals.   These cheerful drought tolerant guys are Common Evening Primroses (Oenothera biennis).   The blooms have a lemon scent, but catch them at dusk when they first open.   These night bloomers go down as the sun comes up.   Does this give you a clue as to what the pollinators might be?   Moths, but hummingbirds also hit these flowers.   The seeds are later eaten by birds and animals graze on the greens.  

Common Evening Primrose

A few low-growing pinkish evening primroses were present.  Each of their four petals were pale pink.  The Showy Evening Primrose (Oenotheraspeciosa) is also called Pink Lady.  Aslight problem with this common name. There seem to be lots of Pink Ladies: Pink Lady Amaryllis, Pink Lady Hibiscus, Phlox Pink Lady and Pink LadyHydrangea.  I've known some pink ladies,but they ate biscuits and drank tea. Pink Lady Evening Primroses were Lady Bird Johnson's favorite flower.  The taproots of both the yellow and pinkevening primrose are edible, as are the leaves, but it is an acquired taste. Theseeds can remain alive for 70 years. These flowers are ever so popular and visited by butterflies, skippersand bees.  Hummingbirds locate thenectar.  Later, goldfinches discover theseeds.

For a splash of color, or just quiet for your soul, comevisit the Japanese Peace Garden.  Pick upa few plastic bags while you're there!