Garden surprise and heartbreak

Catching up on the gardening after a period of neglect, I came across this sunflower, growing in a hole in the side of the old apple tree. The seed was probably dropped in by a bird, from the nearby feeders.

I’d guess the tree is over fifty years old now, still producing apples. Age seems to have given it a new dimension as a nursery for other plants. Sadly autumn is rushing in, so there does not seem time for the sunflower to fully develop.

The apple crop was remarkably blemish free, unlike 36 years ago, when we first moved in. In those days there were always lots of bugs boring their way through the apples, as we never use pesticides, and lots of bird pecks in evidence. Just one measure of the dramatic decline in biodiversity around here over those 36 years. Less insects, less butterflies, less birds, less caterpillars, less beetles, less frogs, less hedgehogs, less owls… You can even grow brassicas without the then-inevitable cabbage white caterpillar, gooseberries without the then-inevitable sawfly larvae. Huge gangs of frogs are replaced by the odd survivor. Year by year things appear much the same, but this slow reduction in biodiversity is huge and heartbreaking.

What are we doing to our natural world?

Featured image is not my apples – from Ukraine by George Chernilevsky, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The apple crop

Our small apple tree in a raised border by a fence usually has a crop of 20-30 smallish apples. About half of these are usually riddled with bugs and/or bird peckings. I don’t use any pesticides.

This year I recently picked the ‘crop’ – just ten apples, but each rather larger than usual. This summer’s weather must have somehow encouraged this by shining and raining at the right times, as I’d hardly bothered to thin them out.

The funny thing is, there were no blemishes on the apples, no peck marks, no bugs, no caterpillers, no sawfly larvae, no aphids… Now this is scary. We know about declining numbers of insects, but NO BUGS AT ALL? And no birds fancying a tasty peck? Even the army of slugs enabled by the lack of deterrent couldn’t be bothered to climb up.

I have never known such an occurrence before. Another piece of evidence of the alarming reduction in the natural world that is taking place before our eyes. What will future generations say when they look at David Attenborough’s films and literally cannot believe their eyes, and that this wonderful biodiversity was all lost by negligence?

So yes, there are more important things than unblemished apples.


Costa Rica

So we took a family holiday in Costa Rica, which proved to be a delightful country with mostly friendly people, particularly in the tourist industry,  its biggest industry. Well informed and passionate guides introduced us to the flora and fauna of three major national parks and to Costa Rica itself.

The national parks are prolific in vegetation, with a wide variety of birds and animals – well worth visiting. And you see and understand so much more with an experienced guide.

It was said that over 25% of the land is protected as national parks – which puts most other countries to shame. Yet there are still apparent tensions between conservation and development that are not going to go away.

The biodiversity is incredible. Costa Rica lies at the junction of two continents, resulting in an ingtermingling of species, and the history of volcanic activity ensures great fertility. This is truly precious resource for mankind that we cannot afford to lose. So tourists are actually helping in this process, so long as the tourism is managed sustainably, which appears to be the case today. Loss of tourism could actually jeopardise the whole enterprise.

In US and Europe, particularly UK, the pressure for development too often trumps that for ‘the environment ‘,  so our protected land area is much less, with little wilderness. Our biodiversity is much impoverished and under constant threat. In days of ignorance that may have been OK, now we know that our biodiversity for future generations is at stake – life as we know it, inherited from our forebears.

The effects of global warming are being felt in Costa Rica, as elsewhere, with changes in the seasons. This will put even more pressure on this biodiversity,  but who knows how nature might respond to this challenge?

There is no separate ‘environment’,  just us as an integral part of our earth and cosmos.

Featured map by Peter Fitzgerald, via Wikimedia Commmons