The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Article 18 April 2020 Becky Emerson Carlberg Next Wednesday, April 22nd, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Why have an Earth Day?  We humans have done an atrocious job of keeping the planet healthy. For example:  In 1949 dioxin was released at a West Virginia herbicide factory.  Dioxin, an ingredient […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Article 18 April 2020

Storm clouds ahead of the Easter Day cold front

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Next Wednesday, April 22nd, is the 50thanniversary of Earth Day. Why have an Earth Day?  We humans have done an atrocious job ofkeeping the planet healthy. For example: In 1949 dioxin was released at a West Virginia herbicide factory.  Dioxin, an ingredient in Agent Orange, persistsin soil for years. January, 1969, a rig leaked millions of gallons of oil offthe coast of Santa Barbara, California. June 1969, industrial chemicals, oilsand pollutants in the Cuyahoga River caught on fire along the southern shoresof Lake Erie. The worst US nuclear power accident at Three Mile Island was in 1979,but this was far surpassed in 1986 by Chernobyl in the Ukraine.  The last 10 years, 467 species have beendeclared extinct.  How are we doing sofar?

Disastrous environmental events actually caught the attention of the American public.   At a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Conference in San Francisco, John McConnell proposed March 21st 1970 (first day of spring) be Earth Day.   In a signed proclamation the day was recognized by the United Nations.   Many countries observe Earth Day the first day of spring. McConnell created the 'Blue Marble Earth' seen on Earth Day flags.  One month later Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson held an environmental teach-in, and proclaimed April 22nd to be Earth Day in the US.   Earth Day has since been in April.   It created a strong public grassroots movement which resulted in the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air Act.  

Fringed Puccoon

One bright light of hope is the Bald Eagle. This hunter offish and smaller wildlife was itself hunted and killed by people who alsodestroyed its habitats.  Bald eagles diedwithin 2-3 weeks after ingesting lead in waterfowl and fish.  DDT put them at extinction's door byinterfering with egg shell development.  In 1962 Rachel Carson's book 'Silent Spring'exposed the dangers of DDT.  The chemicalwas banned in 1972 but the American Bald Eagle, US National Emblem selected in1782, was now considered endangered (close to extinction).  Proper law enforcement, nest protection andother strategies were implemented.  TheBald Eagle has now rebounded and was removed off the Endangered List in 2007.  Americans should be ashamed their own nationalemblem almost vanished.  Have we learnedanything?

2020 Earth Day theme is 'Climate Change'.   Every day our earth deals with losses of habitats for many of its 8.7 million species (over 80% not yet known or described) and watches its waters and soils become more and more contaminated with plastics and chemicals while supporting over 7 billion people.  Thankless job?

Native Coral Honeysuckle

Whatever the reason, the climate bears watching.  We need to spring into action to help remedy risingproblems where we can.  Since we're allrather housebound at the moment, focus on your home.  Purchase items in recyclable packaging.andrecycle what you can.  Don't waste food,water or power.  Be conservative.  Pick up trash. Turn your yard into anature-friendly landscape with native plants. They require much less maintenance. It's the small things that count, so don't be discouraged.  Do your best.

I've been so distracted.   My early morning walk this past Tuesday was filled with snow flakes and snow pellets propelled by the cold north wind.   What month is this?  Back inside my cozy warm home I checked the on-line onslaught of e-mails.   Mouth-watering pictures of luscious pecans and a pecan pie were posted by Sunnyland Farms, the 1,760-acre operation in Albany, Georgia; last year's fruitcake source.  

Smart Pecan tree, one of the last species to leaf out in spring

Tuesday was National Pecan Day, celebrated every April 14th.  Why April? Is this an advertising ploy to sell the rest of the previous year'specan crop or inspire those to now plant their own pecan trees.  If container grown, yes indeed.  A  4-foot-tall grafted pecan tree grows 13-24inches per year, sends down a 1 to 3 foot long tap root and begins producingnuts in 6-7 years.  A mature pecan treeis worth over $2,500. Not a bad investment which makes a tasty pie.

How wonderful that a native nut is honored with its own day (we're talking plants)!   The pecan (Carya illionoiensis) is a hickory.   Native to northern Mexico and the southern Mississippi Basin, the nut is a nutritional powerhouse with over 19 vitamins and minerals (copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, several B vitamins, and folic acid, to name a few).   Pecans are heart healthy as they contain monounsaturated fats, more antioxidants than any other tree nut, good for skin and hair and boost the immune system. The word pecan is from the French pacane translated from Cree pakan, Ojibwa began or Abenaki pagan (all Algonquian tribes).

Black Locust in bloom

The pecan is included in the state symbols of Texas,Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and California. California?  The pecan shares thelimelight with the almond, walnut and pistachio as official state nuts. Easy tobe an official nut in California. 

Texans are serious about their pecans.  Pecans rank as the state tree, state healthnut and state pie.  Alabama claims thepecan as their state nut.  The pecan isthe state nut in Arkansas. The Vine Ripe Pink Tomato is Arkansas's State Fruit& Vegetable. Remember this.  

Oklahoma's has no official state nut.  Competition is too stiff.  We do have an official humongous state mealwhich includes pecan pie and explains why many people in this state are not so svelte. 

I discovered only fourteen states have official vegetables.   I am stymied by the selection of the watermelon as the official Oklahoma state veggie.   A botanist recognizes the watermelon as a fruit since it develops from the ovary and bears seeds for reproduction.   Even seedless varieties have seeds.   State legislators could have taken a page from Arkansas and simply called the watermelon the state fruit & vegetable!   Nope, the strawberry was declared the Oklahoma state fruit two years before the watermelon was turned into an Oklahoma vegetable.   Apparently, our state leaders eat the leaves and stems of this West African plant.   Someone should introduce them to the juicy sweet fruit.

Frost blanket

Native plants in bloom: Black locust tree with white dangling flower clusters, orangy IndianPaintbrush, low-growing Dewberry plants with white rose-like single-petal blooms,yellow tubes of the Fringed Puccoon, creamy white floral balls on Rusty HawViburnum, orangish red Coral Honeysuckle and delicate Daisy Fleabane.

Forecast is warmer weather. In no time we'll be scorching. Woo-hoo.  May is our month of notoriety for turbulentweather.  Storm chasers are cutting teethwith April's offerings.   The cold front that rolled through Easter daywas accompanied by billowing clouds which looked very impressive from adistance.  

Just the beginning.