Tasmanian Ent Moot? Rare unique conifers in Tasmania bear seed and the race is on to collect it

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It called ‘Masting’ and means that that a range of indigenous conifers have decided it’s time to bear seed. last time was five years ago in 2015.

How do they all decide that it’s the right time? An ENT Moot perhaps? (Tolkien readers will understand this reference). Likely it’s a range of subtle environmental triggers that the plants monitor so they can time their fruiting & seeding efforts for the best possible result.

Who said plants are not intelligent, just because they sit there?

In a recent post we covered seed banks and how they are really a Devils bargain in taking plant seeds out of context into a technological fantasy world.

This blog we look at seed collection going on this year on in Tasmania.

Tasmania – have you been there? I remember travelling over on the boat in the 90s and seeing the Mountainous cloud shrouded profile of Tasmania appear as we headed to Launceston. It’s certainly a special place.

Busy collecting this seed in a hurry is James Wood – Why?

The hurry comes from the coordinated timing of all of the plants to produce seed and that It happens irregularly.  They are also scattered over the alpine landscape in Tasmania so that means a lot of walking!

James Wood a botanist from Kew Gardens in London, works in the seed bank at the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens in Hobart. Wood is on a mission to collect seed from these rare Tasmanian conifers.

Yes! Australia has its own conifers and in Tasmanina they are very special – Pencil Pines, King Billy Pines, Huon Pines. Tasmanian is Australia’s Conifer hot spot.

As I said the sense of urgency is from the irregular timing of seed production plus the real threat from global warming that is changing the climate in the alpine areas these plants grow in.

You may remember the fires within the last couple of years where alpine areas normally too wet to burn, dried out enough for this to happen.

Also, when you collect the seed it needs to be from a variety of different plants form different parts of the landscape to capture the genetic diversity. Pencil pines it turns out grow often in clonal groups. This means they are all of one genetic strain likely all grown from only a few parent trees.

“It’s not a bad-sized haul as an insurance policy for the future,” says Wood.

The collection will be stored in the Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre and the UK’s Millennium Seed Bank. One day, the seeds may be reintroduced back into the landscape to flourish again which, for Wood, is a comforting thought.

Oh, OOH there those seed banks again – Why does reintroduction into the landscape again be only comforting thought? How about an urgent practicality?

Perhaps they could take a leaf (bad pun) from the book of the Sydney Botanic Garden and how they took action with discovery of the Wollemi Pine. Seed and plants were collected then there was an intense effort to propagate the trees so they could be grown by everyone.

This takes the pressure off the wild species from poachers and includes everyone into the conservation effort.

Wood says “As Tasmania’s habitat changes, many alpine species may become extinct — some have already been lost and may not be able to re-establish themselves naturally……. the increasing aridity and likelihood of fire in these areas is very worrying,” he says.

So, seed collection, propagation and storage plus growing on in the Botanical garden can here serve as a useful buffer. It just does not stop at the seed collection and storage part though.

“It will be nice if we can leave those who come after us with more than just a glimpse of what the world was in the beginning,” Wood says.

We would all agree with that

Based on an article from the ABC news site you can access here.

Seed Banks – Saving the future or a Devils Bargin?

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Touted and promoted as the doomsday vaults that will save us if there is a catastrophic accident, wide spread climate alteration or meteorite strike etc.  Created to preserve the worlds plant diversity against extinction.

They house seeds collected wither locally or from around the world as a genetic resource for future times and to prevent plant extinction.

One such storage site is the doomsday vault in Svalbard Norway that recently had to be upgraded due to warmer summers in the artic circle where it is located. Here is its website

 Svalbard Global Seed vault

The seed is gathered from around the world then deposited in this high technology vault in a remote safe location. Carefully stored recorded and checked for a future time of need. For once we seem to be having proper foresight in our society.

once you ponder a little bit longer, there are serious flaws

At first glance this seems wonderful that this precious material is being preserved however once you ponder a little bit longer there are serious flaws – It has taken me awhile to see beneath the surface attraction to understand it is only part of the solution.

Let’s look a bit deeper

The seed bank for the future sounds great – but if you look harder it another grandiose complicated technological solution to an ecological problem. As if we didn’t have enough ‘technology’ saving us already.

Where are the ecosystems that this plant lives in?

We have saved the seed but what about the actual living mature plant?

What about the ecological and cultural context of the plant?

As if we didn’t have enough ‘technology’ saving us already.

The seed lives on in its high-tech vault – largely devoid of its social & ecological & environmental history and context.

Separated from the soil where it germinates, the animals it feeds or who fertilise it, the fungi that colonise its roots and allow it to connect into the ecosystem, the people who cultivate it if it’s a food crop. The cultural stories it features in.

Yes, every seed has a file with photos, text describing where it came from but you can’t pretend that this is anywhere near the reality of its existence.

‘you can’t pretend that this is anywhere near the reality of its existence’

It shows an application of technology that separates us from reality, when what is needed is re connection with the plant world, the ecosystems that support us now and have done so for millennia.  There is no relatedness.

‘An abstraction from the ecological world we live in – a high technology fantasy’

It’s a Devils bargain – we believe we are getting something marvellous when out of sight a sacred feminine part of our self and our culture has been betrayed and sacrificed. The plant lives on as a dormant embryo dependent on high technology life support.

A Devils bargain or Faustian bargain is where a person or society trades something of supreme moral or spiritual importance, such as personal values or the soul, for a worldly or material benefit, such as knowledge, power, or riches.

For the seed its life as a living entity is now an abstract reality. It’s been reduced to a data entry in a computer and lives in a container at sub zero temperatures.

Thankfully there are organisation that have taken a different route – at lower cost, more relatedness and of benefit to all.

Here is contrasting example with vegetable seeds.

The Diggers Club Australia have taken on the mantle in Australia of gathering, preserving and distributing a wide range of heritage vegetable seeds.

Diggers source seeds, growing them at their support facility then send out to members. The seeds are connected with people and put into the ground to live and provide food.

It’s a social and biological ecosystem. Link here to The Diggers Club

Having a heritage lettuce variety that sits in a container at minus whatever degrees Celsius in a cavern in northern Norway is not much use to anyone.

Zoos are in a similar position if they are not captive breeding and providing a buffer to the wild populations. Plants and animals need to function in their original environments and for this to have value and be respected.

It’s a Devils bargain – we believe we are getting something marvellous when out of sight a sacred feminine part of ourselves and our culture has been betrayed and sacrificed.

Don’t buy it!

To read deeper into the psychology of a Devils bargain try reading Robert Johnson – The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology. It’s a short but profound book and helps explain our times.

Tinderry Mountain Herbs places a tithe on all income earned of 10%. This money is spent on various enterprises that help plants and the earths ecosystem. 

TMH supports Bush Heritage Australia an organisation that manages large areas of key Australian habitat. They remove all feral species and reintroduce the original animal species. They consistently find that once foxes and cats are removed the native animals establish themselves, breed and get right on with their business. The Native plants get right on with their business as well. Everything in context and environment.

Lomatium in flower!

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Well at long last I coax 2 flower heads out of my solitary Lomatium!

Lomatium or desert parsley or Indian balsam is an official ‘at risk’ medicinal herb.

Lomatium dissectum

Used in the herbal trade for respiratory infections to control them before they turn in to complications. However few people know of this plant – probably just as well for reasons you will see later in this blog.

If you do use it – you do not need much – its a potent herb and taking excess will give you a rash just to teach you a lesson. Have it dispensed by your herbalist who knows how to offset this.

Its a plant that can live for more than a century in the wild. Rich Cech says of lomatium

“there is no such thing as sustainable harvest of wild Lomatium. The plant is not renewable within our lifetime”

That means it is scare to rare or endangered in its wild habitat and needs to be cultivated for future harvests. From earlier posts you would have read about my persistent and patient growing of this plant. Its certainly slow however I have found that more regular potting up and a larger pot have helped speed things up a lot.

Alas this season I was unable to gather any seeds. Hoping for flowers this coming late winter and I will be on the ball for those seeds to harvest.

Hopefully my humble efforts will show the way or provide encouragement so that we can cultivate this herb rather than harvest from the the wild.

Hope in the Amazon – Radical Farming for a post Corona virus world

You hear mostly the doom and gloom stories about the Amazon, here is one that has lots of hope.

As Paul Hawken says………

If you look just at the scientific facts you despair, if you look at the people you will have hope.

A doctor and infectious disease specialist Eugenio Scannavino Netto set up the Experimental Active Forest Centre (CEFA) at an Amazon reserve  in 2016 to work on solutions for re-foresting cleared and burned land plus regenerating abandoned stock pasture.

Its amazon agroforestry.

Dr. Scannavino Netto says

The culture here is slash and burn, and we’re trying to change that,”

He has set up the experimental centre, plus a Health and Happiness NGO and then organised a sustainable agriculture gathering.

Dr. Netto sees the actions of clearing forests increase the risk of viruses jumping animal species and then to humans. DR Netto criticises the modern agriculture practice of monoculture (growing only one crop) and the usage of chemicals (pesticide herbicides antibiotics)

This destabilises the environment and all the inbuilt balances between species bacteria, viruses’, animals, plants.

Dr Netto says

Covid-19 has been a warning. “Either we change,” he said in a recent phone interview, “or we will die in the next pandemic. And it will be fast.”

Dr. Netto’s forest research centre grows up to 40,000 trees to distribute with local communities for planting.

The main tree propagated is the Cumaru tree, a native Amazonian tree whose seeds are used in cosmetics. Then there is Pau-brasil for wood, Urucum plants that has seeds used for body paint and lipstick colour plus Pau-rosa used in perfume.

All these are replanted out with a range of other supporting plants plus mulch for protection and support.

Dr. Netto’s own NGO the Health and Happiness Project works on community projects with health and education services. Its known by its Portuguese initial PSA.

Taking it even further Dr Netto then organised a sustainable agriculture event where a range of farmers talked about their techniques.

Agroforestry techniques like this were used by indigenous communities before Spanish and Portuguese explorers arrived – Ernst Götsch, 72, a Swiss farmer at the PSA sustainable agriculture event

 Good news is out there, you just have to look harder. Don’t expect to find it on the nightly TV news that’s all.

Here is the Link to the Guardian article by Dom Phillips

‘Either we change or we die’: the radical farming project in the Amazon

Tinderry Mountain Herbs(TMH) places a tithe on all income earned of 10%. This money is spent on various enterprises that help plants and the earths ecosystem. 

TMH supports the Amazon Conservation Team an organisation that supports Amazonian native peoples on their own lands keeping their wisdom traditions alive in the context of the forest with its plants and animals.

‘Gangsta’ Gardening

Ron Finley - Gangsta Gardener
Gangsta Gardener in Los Angles Ron Finley

This is no damn Hobby

The garden seduces me,” says Ron Finley, who is known around the world as the “gangsta gardener”. “I’ll get out there at 9am and next thing I know it’s 7pm … gardening takes your mind off things. Everybody should have a garden to cultivate.”

Ron is gardening in South Central Los Angles an area that does not sound like a gardening hot Spot to me. You would be more acquainted with the Gangsta Rap music from there rather than the zucchini harvest.

He calls his area a food prison with very few productive gardens, yet there is a great climate for growing food plants. This is a serious enterprise and Ron says ‘This is no damn hobby’

He calls his area a food prison

It all started when he wanted to access food that had not been sprayed by chemicals and started off by gardening the land between his house and the street. In typical petty bureaucratic form, the local council officials told him you could not do that. No gardening on the footpath!! The typical response to anything outside their narrow world.

No gardening on the footpath said the local council

He worked to get the law changed and was successful. He also starred in a 2015 documentary about community gardens in South Central Los Angeles. After ten years he has many gardens around Los Angles in vacant land.

Read the full article on this link Gangsta Gardener in the Guardian.

Here is a link for his entry in the Ted Blog.

No more citations for roadside veggies in Los Angles.

He worked to get the law changed and was successful.

He even has his own master class on You Tube – I just saw the ad for it!

So, let’s just summarise – This is a black guy in South Central Los Angles who changes the Local Government laws, grows lots of food, spreads the word and starts lots of other gardens plus a film and a Ted Talk.

Talk about Flower Power! – What your excuse? I will leave you with one of his sayings

“Let’s all become gangsta gardeners … If you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta”

Follow the breadcrumb trail

Strange things happen when you read a herb book…

Follow the breadcrumb trail into the deep dark woods of the unknown

I recently reflected on how my adventure into Herbal Medicine had came together over the years.


Did your Mum & Dad read you fairy stores before you went to bed?… I hope so.. What about Hansel & Gretel and that wonderful image of the bread crumb trail in the woods?

Well let me tell you my story of a reverse bread crumb trail where instead of them being eaten by birds and you loose your way, I ended up following Matthew Woods herbal bread crumb trail into the deep dark mysterious Herbal Woods where few go and about which strange tales are told in polite society.

You start off buying a herb book from an Author you respect. Bread crumb #1

In the book are portraits if you like of a range of herbs, all their quirky little characteristics and at the the end of each chapter is a brief description of how to make medicine from them.

Nothing intimidating just simple steps like take this part of the plant add the brandy of vodka then wait a bit and strain out. Nothing intimidating or complicated. The best way to start – Breadcrumb #2

That book is Matthew Woods  The Book of Herbal Wisdom. Well I read the book and got inspired by several plants and set off …

The Book of Herbal Wisdom
Matthew Woods book of herbal wisdom.

First stop was the Hierophant my favourite Herb store. The herbs I was after were not made commercially and Solomon’s Seal was one of them.

So the horticultural brain kicked into gear and said – well we can find the plant and grow it – Breadcrumb #3

So I did and eventually made my own Solomon’s seal tincture. From there interest kindled in these herbs, the collection of plants expanded. They expanded so much that Matthew on his last two visits to Australia came and spent time on the farm with the herb collection.

A herbal colleague visiting the farm said to me – go and do the workshop at Pindari herb farm in Tasmania – Breadcrumb#4 so I did.

Standing in the herb patch one day on a visit, a Local College CEO said to me – Hey why don’t you become professionally qualified – Breadcrumb#5  So I did.

The bread crumb trail never ends… and I am still following it even today The talk I am giving this coming Wednesday came out of that bread crumb trail followed over the years.

Continue reading here through this link to my book review of The Book of Herbal Wisdom. Read more here

Book Bargains

What MORE Second hand book bargains!
 The treasures keep coming from my secret location in Queanbeyan.

Cedric Mims – The War within us  covering  our immune system and disease. A serious tome yet written for the general reader. Originally sold for over $90 yet I snapped it up for well under $5

Healing Remedies – Comes from Bottom line books a publishing  enterprise from Boardroom Reports.  It is a collection of American folk remedies re purposed into this one volume. My interest is the way the book is presented. Boardroom reports is a very savvy  organisation running newsletters and book publishing marketed directly to consumers. Many lessons to be learnt from their example.

Louise Hay – Heal your Body – I had a problem with this book for a long time. I resented how people would look up your ailment then diagnose and  pronounce judgement upon you (like an Old Testament Prophet) about how you were thinking incorrectly.  Reading the book that is not how Louise envisaged it being used. I actually learnt a few things including a great insight into Menieres Disease about the Cervical spine. It is meant to give you insight as to where your mental attitudes are being manifested into your physical body. Your body talks to you through what we experience and name as illness. A small but profound book

The Fischer King and The Handless Maiden – Robert A Johnson Jungian Analyst Robert Johnson writes books where every word and story is carefully measured. In this volume he speaks of each genders psychic wounds and how to deal with them.

I recently learn that Robert passed way last September at the wonderful age of 97. Any book by him is to be read and reflected on and treasured. He was one of the best contemporary writers on Jungian perspectives for us everyday Folk. Jung is one of those Titans who needs intermediaries for us to grasp what he meant and how it reflects into our everyday lives.

Another trove for well under $10

Trilliums – Bethroot

Trillium abundance

Trillium Flower
Trillium in flower

Our plant photo this month is Trillium in flower – The botanists will note that all the plant parts are in threes – leaves sepals petals. This follows up my talk about it in an earlier post.

Dividing up the two pots of Trillium kurabashii in stock has now created over a dozen plants in one bathtub.  This proves the ease of growing propagating this species. This is important knowledge to support the availability of this precious medicinal herb and move away from wild harvest.

In the Eastern United States of America harvesting is done by Rural folk who see this as a traditional activity and income sideline. Its hard work gathering enough material then to be paid very low rates by dealers.

Each harvest depletes the remaining endangered plant stocks – Its a vicious no win cycle.  Rural poverty – Ignorance- exploitation of a natural resource.

A lady by the name of Jeanine Davis Associate Professor with North Carolina University has worked long on the education and research to make forest plant cultivation a profitable agricultural enterprise in Eastern USA.

Pharmacists used to be Herbalists

Lets talk about what chemists used to do as opposed to what they are now. 
Once upon a time not too long ago Chemists were actually Pharmacists and used to manufacture compound medicines individually for you either to a Doctors script or from a short consultation at the  pharmacy.

Now a manufacturing pharmacist  is a specialty requiring additional studies and you need to travel to attend one.

The proof of that is in a set of old pharmacy records unearthed by Pam Scott and her sister. Pam kindly allowed me to take some photographs and view these documents.


The several volumes date from the turn of the 20th Century right up in the 1930’s. Herbs were part and parcel of the Chemists dispensary. The big change came post WWII when a range of manufactured drugs were released and the plant medicines let go.

The mentality changed as well with the new belief that what was made, manufactured and synthesised in a laboratory was inherently better than what came from the plant world.

So when you see a Chemist or Doctor talk down Herbal medicine you know you are hearing someone who is ignorant of their own professional heritage and development.

Have a look below at the picture – The neat cursive handwriting  – in pen and ink  The Pharmaceutical latin used to describe what was dispensed – The Pharmacist signature in the bottom left corner – The use of measurement short hand to record the dosage of the drug or plant, minums grains.  Nowadays it is in the metric system – Dosage and frequency.

The ruled columns on each page – the patients names on the front piece with the pages where something was dispensed as reference.

Unfortunately there is no record of the presenting symptoms or Doctor diagnosis  so you have to reverse engineer that. There seemed to be lots of digestive upsets in those times.

Having looked through the books there is the recorded usage of Belladonna, Nux Vomica, Quinine, Hyosyamus, Digitalis and Gelsemium.

Many of these herbs are no longer available commercially (probably wisely) as dispensing a therapeutic dose needed careful judgement and usage. All of the above mentioned are available homoeopathics thank goodness

Pharmacy Records & prescriptions
Handwritten Pharmacy records

Talking to your Pharmacist

How to understand what the chemist is really saying
Pharmacist
A pharmacist dispenses pharmaceutical medicine
 You may have had this experience and wondered if you were just lucky to have received special attention?

You have the script from the Doctor and attend the chemist to have it dispensed. All good so far.
The assistant usually takes your script back to the pharmacist to review.

The Pharmacist then comes out to you in person to talk over the medicine with you.  You are now being professionally advised politely and usually in a kind gentle understated manner on the side effects, how to take, maybe some other questions.

This means you PAY ATTENTION VERY CLOSELY. The Chemist is telling you all the things the Doctor did not have time for, forgot or did not know. ASK QUESTIONS!!! be curious. The Chemist is not just being nice he is carrying out his professional duty.

You have just fallen into the professional advice gap between Doctor and Chemist both of whom may not even know each other due to the separation of professions and business offices.

More commonly than we would all wish for there is a professional tension between what Doctors prescribe and what Chemists knows about the medicines and advise when dispensing. 

This is not indented to be anti Doctor or anti Chemist – its an insight  as to what is happening so you are aware and can pay attention.