Science Notes: Cherry Blossom Buds

SCIENCE NOTES: Autumn Cherry Blossom Bud

How much of a tree is alive, do you think? Actually only about 1%, though all of it was alive at some time or other. Wood is made up of cells, and like all living things cells will grow and multiply, and they will die. All the wood in the middle of a tree is dead. There are only two places on a tree where you find living wood. One is a thin layer just underneath the bark, and the other place is the buds. I’m talking here not about the flower buds, but the buds which are forming the new twigs and leaves. Here’s one from the autumn-flowering Cherry Blossom, seen through Clodagh’s electron microscope.

Autumn Cherry Bud fig1

In this relatively low mag picture you can appreciate the shape of the whole bud. If we zoom in a little you notice that some parts of the delicate outer leaf structures have broken, revealing several layers of living cells.

Autumn Cherry Bud fig2

The cells in a tree multiply by dividing (which sounds like a mathematical contradiction!). A tree has different types of cells to do different jobs, such as bark, roots, leaves etc. All cells start off the same, and like the stem cells in your body they differentiate into specialist types. The cells in this picture are doing the job of protecting the growing bud: quite quickly they will break up and be replaced, in fact the strange wiggly things in the picture are the remnants of earlier protective layers.

Science Notes: Lichen on Trees

We found lichen on many of the trees around the campus. And that’s very good for us, because lichens only grow where the air is clean. In the 1970’s there was almost no lichen to be found on trees in urban environments because of air pollution and acid rain.

Lichens are fascinating organisms. In fact they are not one organism at all. They are made up of a fungus and one or more algae living together in a mutually-beneficial relationship – a kind of mini-ecosystem. The fungus makes up most of what you see: it surrounds and protects the algae. In return the algae feed the fungus (which is unable to feed itself) by photosynthesis.

The beauty of lichens is not easy to see: you need at least a magnifying glass to appreciate them, but an electron microscope is even better. Here are two photos which Clodagh took of lichen on the Oregon Maples:

 Lichen fig1

In the top photo you can see the filament structure of the fungus. The small circular shapes in the bottom photo may be cells of the algae.

Lichens are great survivors. You find them all over the planet in many different environments. And it turns out that they can even survive in space! The European Space Agency arranged to take some lichen up to the International Space Station where they brought them outside, exposing them to the ultra-cold vacuum of open space, where they would be bombarded by cosmic rays and everything. No space suits for them, but they still survived the trip: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Lichen_survives_in_space

 

 

Introducing the Rose Garden

 

 

IMG_2984 lo res

Even at peak student population, you’ll sometimes have the Rose Garden to yourself. It is a small intimate space enclosed on three sides. The well-spaced benches and domestic-style planting make it feel like a haven in a busy campus.

I recently spent a wonderful afternoon in the Rose Garden surrounded by the cherry blossoms, which were in full bloom. The flowers created a blanket like structure that seemed to hover overhead defying gravity. I was also captivated by the various species of birds that seem to frequent the space. I was especially delighted to see what must have been an adult bird wandering around on the grass pulling up worms while a young chick followed along greedily eating the food passed to it from its parents beak. I will write more about my time in the Rose Garden in a future post as the responses I received from visitors to the garden will form part of the art work that will be placed in the Crab Apple Tree in September/ October 2017.

The Rose Garden itself is located between the end of Woodward and Deane’s Museum Building and its perpendicular neighbor, the number 40 block of New Square housing, with open space (the rugby pitch and College Park, with the cricket crease and running track) behind railings on the other two sides. The path into New Square is the only open side, and even this feels somewhat enclosed thanks to the large cherry blossom tree planted nearby.

Tree Spotlight – No.1: Cherry Blossom

rows of cherry blossom trees

  • Common Name: Sweet Cherry, Wild Cherry, European Cherry
  • Scientific Name: Prunus avium
  • Distiribution: Europe and Asia
  • Tree Size: 32-65 ft (10-20 m) tall, 1-2 ft (.3-.6 m) trunk diameter

    Colour/ Appearance: Heartwood is a light pinkish brown when freshly cut, darkening to a deeper golden brown with time and upon exposure to light. Sapwood is a pale yellowish color, typically 1-2″ wide.

    Grain/ Texture: Has a fine to medium texture with close grain. The grain is usually straight or slightly wavy.

    Endgrain: Semi-ring-porous; small pores in no specific arrangement; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; gum/deposits occasionally present; growth rings distinct due to a concentration of earlywood pores; rays visible without lens; parenchyma absent.

    Rot resistance: Heartwood is rated as being moderately durable to non-durable regarding decay resistance. Sweet Cherry is also susceptible to insect attack.

    Workability: Sweet Cherry is easy to work with both machine and hand tools. The only difficulties typically arise if the wood is being stained, as it can sometimes give blotchy results due to its fine, close grain. A sanding sealer or gel stain is recommended. Glues, turns, and finishes well.

    Odour: No characteristic odor.

    Allergies/ Toxicity: Although there have been no adverse health effects reported for Sweet Cherry, the closely related Black Cherry Black has been reported to cause respiratory effects.

    Pricing/ availability: Typically only available in Europe (or from orchards), Sweet Cherry is usually only sold in smaller sizes or as veneer. Prices should be moderate within the tree’s natural distribution.

    Sustinability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

    Common Uses: Veneer, furniture, cabinetry, turned objects, musical instruments, and carvings.

    Comments: Sweet Cherry is the Old World counterpart to Black Cherry found in North America. Sweet Cherry is said to exhibit a bit more of a color contrast than Black Cherry, and it also tends to be slightly denser and stronger. However, the tree itself tends to be smaller than Prunus serotina, and does not yield the larger sizes of lumber that are available for the American species.

Mind Map…ongoing

 

Over the last few months of this project I have gathered many images and various points of interest for each of the eight trees.  My mind was starting to overload with all the information so I decided to create a mind map on one of the large walls in my studio.  There I sectioned off an area for each tree, tacked up images, SEM photos, samples and any inspirational notes of I had pertaining to that tree.  I was also able to connect the various overlapping themes of interest by linking them with different coloured string.  See below the progression..it’s starting to look very busy…and not unlike a CSI crime board.  

At this stage in the project I am constantly adding to this wall as I work towards finalising which concepts, material and colour schemes the final art works will take.  

mind map image 1

updated mind map 1 lo res

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The project team met late last week and had a very fruitful meeting.  David Hackett was as ever a mine of knowledge.  I gleaned so much information that was really inspirational that I am still processing it all….the mind map is progressing a pace and I will post another update in another week or so to show you how it looks.  

Increased Magnification reveals…

 

The following slideshow highlights the process by which Clodagh choose  an area of interest on the Palm Tree leaf and through increased magnification brought, in this case an individual somata, into sharp focus.

Under each palm leaf there are numerous breathing holes and these are called somata.  They are not unlike the pores on human skin.

Images start at 92 times and end at 1,600 times magnification.

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Another example of this is the seven images Clodagh took of the bark  surface from the Snake Bark Tree.  This time she started at 17 times and ended at 2,720 times magnification.  

Of interest is the pod like structure that Clodagh honed in on.  To date we have been unable to find out what it is but we plan to ask Professor Daniel L. Kelly from the Trinity College Dublin Botany Department to see if he can put a name on this structure/ organism. 

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Medicinal Garden – early artistic inspirations

 

clear spikes on blue fabric lo res

During recent musings on the hairy structure of the sage plant I was reminded of some early experiments I completed with transparent piped silicone.

oj & clear spiky blob on blue fabric lo res

This led me to doing another few spiky experiments (see images above).

I also decided to add some spiky silicone ‘hairs’ to an unrelated experimental piece that I have been working on.  (See the images below).

There were some interesting results from these tests so this is something that I will definitely look into further in the development of this piece.

The other thought that came to me while thinking of the work to be placed in or near the medicinal garden is that I would like to incorporate a more tactile element into this work. I hope that the piece itself or a sample of it will be accessible to the public to touch.

More artistic musing on the sage plant to follow.