Posts Tagged ‘South Boulder Creek’

A Super Weed to the Rescue

December 4, 2014

Sometimes little things can have mighty big consequences.  Here’s a tale about a tiny plant that has the potential to help provide us with clean energy, produce new medications, end world hunger and reduce water pollution. I found it on the way to the South Boulder Creek Trailhead from the East Boulder Community Center

On the Way to The Boulder Creek

On the Way to The South Boulder Creek

To the left of this sign I spotted a green pond full of life in what was otherwise a pretty dormant landscape…

A Splash Of Green

A Splash Of Green

At first I thought it was algae but upon closer inspection I realized that the pond was covered with small plants busy photosynthesizing …

Small Green Leaves Cover the Pond

Small Plants Cover the Pond and Absorb Solar Energy

The Leaves About 5mm in Length

Each is Less Than 5mm In Length

It wasn’t difficult to identify this small plant and to discover the big tales it has to share…

What Is This Little Plant Up To?

What Tales Can This Tiny Plant Reveal?

This was my first encounter with duckweed (Lemna minor) named for the ducks that love to eat it. It turns out that this diminutive plant is of great interest to scientists. Research into duckweed is promoted by the International Lemna Association and the International Committee on Duckweed Research and Applications. A comprehensive genomic study of duckweed was published in February 2014.

Here are some quick facts about this mighty little plant:

-The duckweeds (genus Lemna for water plants) are the smallest, simplest and fastest growing flowering plants known to people who know such things. These tiny plants can rapidly cover enormous bodies of still water such as this duckweed invasion in Lake Maracaibo in 2004

Green swirls of duckweed dominate the center of Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo in this Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 26, 2004.

Green swirls of duckweed dominate the center of Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo in this Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 26, 2004.

-Individual plants consist of a single, flat oval modified stem no more than ¹/4″ (5mm) in diameter

-The flowers are rare and are nearly invisible at ¹/₃₂ (1mm) in diameter…

Tiny Duckweed Flower

Tiny Duckweed Flower

-Despite its flowers, duckweed sexual reproduction is also rare. More often species propagate asexually by forming new plants from vegetative buds.

-Dense populations of duckweed are an important food source for fish and waterfowl. Because the plant contains more protein than soybeans, it is sometimes cited as a significant potential food source for humans as well. Since the late 1960s, scientists have studied duckweed for animal and human consumption (duckweed farming). Because each plant absorbs nutrients through its whole structure, and not just through a central root system, the tissue contains twice the protein, fat, nitrogen and phosphorus of other vascular plants. Millions of ducks can’t be wrong and duckweed may become the food of the future.

-Some of the most exciting prospects in duckweed technology have been aimed at using this plant as a factory for biopharmaceuticals. This technology is making rapid strides towards practical commercialization.

-Since duckweed floats on the surface of the water it is easily harvested. This makes it effective not only as a food source but also as a way to remove pollutants and toxins from bodies of still water.

-These plants also may play a future role in water conservation because a cover of duckweed will reduce the evaporation of water when compared to the rate of a similar size water body with a clear surface.

-Duckweed is a good candidate as a biofuel because it grows rapidly, has 6 times as much starch as corn, and its cultivation does not contribute to global warming. Additionally, it does not compete for land in food production. It is being studied by researchers around the world as a possible starch-based feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production. Duckweed just might be a source of cost-effective, clean, renewable energy.

-Our knowledge of its complete DNA sequence yields insights into how duckweeds are adapted for rapid vegetative growth. Their trick is to genetically  mimic the rapidly growing juvenile stages of other plants. The research, simply titled The Spirodela polyrhiza genome reveals insights into its neotenous reduction fast growth and aquatic lifestyle was published in Nature Communications in February 2014. In simpler words, duckweed never grows up!  A trait which could come in handy.

We earthlings have a lot riding on this little super weed that refuses to grow up.

Thank You Duckweed

Thank You Duckweed

 

Sizzling Sumac on the Homestead

October 25, 2012

“Now by the brook the maple leans
With all his glory spread,
And all the sumachs on the hills
Have turned their green to red.”

– from Indian Summer /William Wilfred Campbell

South Mesa Fall Sumac Vista Captured 1 October 2012 10:30am @ 39°56’25.45″N 105°15’36.88″W

Snow is on the way so it is time to return to the South Mesa Trailhead to celebrate the spectacle of fall in sumac country before it fades to white. This fall mosaic is tiled with sumac…

Crimson and Gold Mosaic Under The Pines

Rhus aromatica gold and Rhus glabra crimson tiles…

Rhus aromatica Gold

Rhus glabra (Smooth Sumac) Crimson

Both plants are related to but much kinder than their evil cousin Toxicodendron rydbergii (poison ivy). This family includes several species (Cashew, Pistachio, Mango) of economic importance. The drupes of the genus Rhus are ground into a deep-red or purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine. A drink made from the drupes is known as Sumac-ade.

Mandy and I decided to hike up the newly rerouted Homestead Trail. A steep section up a mesa was replaced with a switch back offering sweeping views of Eldorado Mountain and the South Boulder Creek below. Our hike starts at the South Mesa Trailhead. After a short walk across the South Boulder Creek bridge we pickup the Homestead Trail which starts next to the Dunn House. Be sure to read the interpretative sign, this area is rich with cultural artifacts. There is even a downloadable audible walking tour available from the City of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks department.

The Dunn House marks the Towhee Trail

We follow the trail to the Homestead trailhead and go west…

Go Left Up the Mesa

We climb above the South Boulder Creek  with views of the canyons and mountains to the west…

The Trail Provides Views of Eldorado Canyon and Mountain Mandy

I found a great spot on the mesa to set up my panorama tripod to capture some large vistas of Eldorado Mountain and Eldorado Canyon State Park. Can you see the Mickey Mouse Climbing Wall? Click here to open a 360 degree view.

View from the Homestead Trail (39°56’18.81″N 105°16’9.29″W)

Just then an Amtrak train went chugging up Eldorado Mountain on its way west via the route of the California Zephyr

I Think I Can…I Think I Can

More South Boulder Creek Color

View from the Ridge

Some Cottonwoods Add Yellow

Who Needs A Bridge Across the South Boulder Creek?

With color in the camera we are ready for the snow. Soon it will look like this.
South Mesa Winter Sumac Captured 23 Feb 2010 9:07 am @ 39°56’25.45″N 105°15’36.88″W


%d bloggers like this: