Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A Cumberland Cheer

One of the largest manufacturers of newsprint in the U.S. has agreed to stop clear-cutting hardwood forest, good news for lady slippers and hundreds more wild species of the Cumberland Plateau.

imageYellow lady slipper

Cypripedium calceolus

In her off hours, between cleaning fireplaces and attending royal balls, Cinderella must have worn these: lady slippers. A species of orchid, the pink Cypripedium acaule and its rarer yellow relative Cypripedium calceolus are both native to the Cumberland Plateau, an ancient woodland that stretches across seven states in the SE United States.

As most North Americans know too well, this region has been ravaged by more than a hundred years of coal mining and timbering. Cinderella’s dainty house shoes are just two species among scores squashed by the boot of industrialism.

Cinderella’s got good news though. Under pressure from the National Resource Defense Council and the Dogwood Alliance (and no thanks to Prince Charming), paper-giant Bowater has agreed to curb its clear-cutting of hardwood forests, limit its use of pesticides in the region, and stop buying timber from suppliers who have destroyed old forest for pine plantations.

The company is the largest supplier of newsprint in the South and “owns approximately 380,000 acres of forestland in the southeastern United States, of which about 100,000 acres are native hardwood forests” on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. Even after 100 years of depredation, this region is one of the richest and most diverse wildlife areas in the U.S., “including hundreds of forest and aquatic species found nowhere else on earth.”

imageLady slipper, Cypripedium acaule

Photo: Merkels Orchids

Under the agreement signed June 29, the company has also pledged to map 7,000 acres of particularly sensitive lands, declaring a moratorium on logging or selling these properties while the study is underway, and working “to protect these lands once identified.”

Scot Quaranda of the Dogwood Alliance writes that the effects of this agreement will reach as far as flowers: “Some of the herbaceous flowers that will receive further protection include trillium, mayapple violets, delphinium, phacelia, phlox, bloodroot, spring beauty, fire pink, wild iris, anemone, and many others. The area also contains two of my favorites, the yellow and pink lady slippers.”

Two of Scot’s favorites, Cinderella’s, and ours.

Congratulations to the Dogwood Alliance, NRDC and Bowater for reaching this historic agreement.

Posted by Julie on 07/14 at 03:20 PM

Meimei’s Free

Citizens of Guilin City, in southern China, paid respects with flowers to Meimei, the world’s oldest captive panda, who died Tuesday.


A girl brings flowers to honor Meimei, who died July 12,

at 5:37 pm, in Guilin City Zoo.

Photo: Chen Ruihua, for Xinhua

After 20 years’ confinement at the Guilin City Zoo, giant panda Meimei earned her freedom. She died Tuesday afternoon, July 12.

“She had entertained numerous visitors from both home and abroad, and remained the most popular animal in the zoo throughout her stay (sic) here,” zookeeper Chen Qian told the Chinese news service Xinhua.

Giant pandas, nearly wiped out by poachers and lost habitat, are native to China’s forests. Even after decades of protection, “as few as 1,600 giant pandas survive in the mountain forests of central China. Another 120 are in Chinese breeding facilities and zoos.”

Pandas have been the “poster children” of endangered species. The World Wildlife Federation adopted the panda as its logo; the zoological equivalent of a Rembrandt painting, a panda bumps any zoo into the major league—a prized possession, but alive, and mortal.

Meimei lived at the Wolong Park, a center for panda research, before she was transferred to the zoo in fall of 1985. She died of organ failure at age 36, the equivalent of 108 human years.

Posted by Julie on 07/14 at 09:48 AM
Secular CustomsPermalink

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Under Lavender’s Spell

A new study reveals that lavender induces restaurant diners to spend more, linger longer.


Photo: La Scarola (Chicago)

with lavender appointments by HFP

If you’re a waitperson, you might try spritzing on some lavender oil before tying on your white apron this evening.

A collaborative study by two French behavioral scientists, published in the latest issue of The International Journal of Hospitality Management, finds that customers stayed longer and ran up higher tabs in a restaurant scented with lavender.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) of the University of South Brittany was kind enough to send us proofs of the paper he wrote with Christine Petr, University of Rennes,  an account of their experiment with the effects of lavender and lemon scents on restaurant diners.

With “electronic fragrance diffusers,” they scented a small Brittany pizzeria with lemon on one Saturday night, lavender another Saturday, and no scent on a third Saturday evening. “Results showed that lavender—but not lemon aroma—increased the length of stay of customers and the amount of purchasing.” Gueguen and Petr suggest that lavender’s “relaxing effect”  may explain the difference. Less watch checking and wallet clutching.

Of additional interest here, the scholars include a summary of earlier scent studies: the smell of peppermint improves gripping and running but not free-throw shooting, for example. And 50% of customers prefer “narcissus scented socks.” (That seems extremely low.) Gueguen also showed that people will more readily pick up a lady’s glove if she’s wearing perfume.

It strikes me that this experiment would only have been devised by social scientists in France.  Restaurateurs in the U.S. clearly want customers to spend more, but I’m not so sure they’d trade longer meals even for higher tabs; they seem intent on turning the tables as many times as possible in a night. U.S. waiters and waitresses are known to deliver the check along with the meal, and as you’re enjoying a lively conversation with friends, will walk to your table, point down at your plate and ask, “You still working on that?”

What fragrance could possibly account for this behavior? More to the point, what scent could put an end to it?

Thank you, professors Gueguen and Petr. Perhaps your next study could be of differences in American and French ideas of “hospitality.”

Posted by Julie on 07/13 at 10:46 AM
CookingCulture & SocietyPermalink

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Shrinkage of Appeal

Human hands are having a Thumbelina effect on the snow lotus.

imageThe snow lotus

Sasssurea laniceps

Photo: all the tea

Sasssurea laniceps is a dramatic mountain wildflower shaped, it appears, by fingerprints.

The snow lotus grows on rocky slopes at altitudes above 13,000 feet (4000 meters) and produces a spectacular white bloom, tall as a triple Dairy Queen. The flowers are irresistible to travelers and profitable on the herbal medicine market, too. According to National Geographic, snow lotus is used in China and Tibet “to treat headaches, high blood pressure, and menstrual problems.”

Researchers from the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis have compared snow lotus flowers found in today’s markets with specimens from the past, some over a hundred years old, and plants in a well protected area of Tibet. Wayne Law and Jan Salick found that the snow lotus has shrunk, due to human handling.

“Tibetan doctors claim that the medicinal properties of Saussurea spp. are greatest during flowering, before seed set. Thus, most plant collection occurs from late July through early September, when Snow Lotus is flowering but not yet reproducing.” Over time, souvenir hunters and medicine harvesters have stunted the snow lotus by picking the stoutest, tallest flowers, leaving their mediocre relatives to set seed.

The scientists’ findings, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, are especially interesting as they contradict other recent writings about plant-human co-evolution. Inspired by Michael Pollen’s book Botany of Desire, much of the current popular literature suggests that human attraction has been of evolutionary benefit in the botanical world, protecting, diversifying and strengthening those plants that people have valued. The MOBOT study suggests another evolutionary effect.

Allure, as Shakespeare understood, isn’t unidirectional. With the gradual shrinking of this rare, sought-after flower, we may be seeing the snow lotus “Consumed by that which it was nourished by.”

Posted by Julie on 07/12 at 10:37 AM
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