In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, we pay thoughtful tribute on this Earth day. With humanity on pause, and in global lockdown, we look at the ways that nature is restoring and we rejoice at the reduction of air pollution, the clearing of rivers and water systems, the freeing up of wildlife, the joyful song of birds against the backdrop of quietening cities; and hope that these positive results may lead the way to shifts in green policies.
A reminder: “The Earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.” —John Paul II
The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. The enormous challenge — but also the vast opportunities — of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary.
To hear the messages from participants check out the live transmission here.
With climate change action in the forefront of this year’s theme, i post two examples of plants which play prominent carbon sequestering roles in gardens here in the Cape. Hubby, the gardener in the family commits to planting these species and has planted over 30 shrubs in the past few years and continues to propagate more slips.
The first is Spekboom, (Portulacaria afra); also known as Porkbush has the ability to absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than most other plants and it does so particularly efficiently. A stand of Porkbush consequently has the ability to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than an equal amount of deciduous forest.
The second, below – is the Jade Plant (Crassula ovata) another hardy drought resistant shrub.
“Crassulas have a special way of reducing water loss from their leaves without limiting their ability to photosynthesise, known as Crassulacean Acid Metabolism or CAM. All plants need CO2 (carbon dioxide) for photosynthesis. Most plants take in CO2 during daylight hours through their stomata (pores in the leaves) and can’t avoid losing water at the same time through these open pores. In Crassula the stomata are closed during the day but open at night when the CO2 taken in is stored in the form of organic crassulacean acids. During the day, these acids are broken down and the CO2 released is re-used in the photosynthetic process. In this way they lose much less water yet can photosyntesise normally during the daylight hours. Furthermore, during extremely dry periods they won’t even open their stomata at night, and will re-cycle the CO2 within the cells. They won’t be able to grow at all but the cells will be kept healthy – this is known as CAM-idling.
In addition to being a CAM plant, and having succulent water-storing stems, and leaves and swollen roots that give it the ability to survive droughts, this crassula can also survive being grazed, trodden on or knocked over, as it is able to root from any piece of stem, even a single leaf.
The flowers attract bees, wasps, flies, beetles and butterflies. The fine dust-like seed is dispersed by the wind. Tortoises love the leaves but rarely devour them completely. Any discarded leaves left around the foot of the plant send down roots and grow into new plants. The stems also make handy bases for wasps to build their nests.” Information from Plantz Africa