Gardening Archives

August 2, 2006

Ginkgo Biloba Leaves

ginkgo biloba leaf

I've written before about the Ginkgo biloba tree, and it really is most spectacular in the fall when the leaves turn bright yellow and fall within a few days, but the other day walking through the park the sun behind this tree showed off the primitive vascular system. You can see that unlike less ancient trees, the vessels have simple splitting into two parts as the leaf fans out. This is one step up in complexity from conifer needles, but is a far cry from the complexity of more modern trees with their intricate webs.

July 31, 2008

Poison Oak - Leaves of Three

What you see here is poison oak also known as "Toxicodendron diversilobum". It can be found in much of California. The reason it is called poison oak is that there is an oil within the plant called "Urushiol" which causes mild to extreme itching if you get it on your skin. There are a number of home and commercial remedies (the cheapest is probably washing with VERY hot water - this releases and depletes the histamines which cause itching) but the best thing is to just avoid contact altogether.

From the picture you can see several of the key characteristics. The three leaves are one of the most well known identifiers and there is even a rhyme "leaves of three, let it be" to help remember. Oak leaves have a similar shape but do not come in groups of three. Poison oak also grows on a woody vine and frequently climbs trees or stands as a low bush. The color is also a good indicator. It is green in spring and gradually turns reddish and then brown in the fall. When green the leaves are a bit shiny, but as they age they lose some of the shine.

Poison oak can also be recognized by the small white berries it produces. They are about the size of a pea. But you don't need to see the berries to know it is poison oak. The leaves tell the whole story.

If you have come in contact with poison oak, the best thing to do is wash as soon as possible. Because the urushiol is an oil, use soap or other detergents when washing. Water alone won't help much in removing it from your skin. The sooner you wash the better because once it starts to soak into your skin, it won't be easy to get it off.

It can contaminate clothing as well, so if you have been through an area with a lot of poison oak, make sure to wash them well.

All in all, the best strategy is to be able to identify it, and then avoid it.

May 1, 2009

Corona Aluminum Handle Bypass Loppers Review

These are the best loppers I've used. I've broken the handles on a couple of wood handled loppers over the years, but the aluminum handles on these are both stronger and lighter and can get wet without cracking and getting splintery. They are also replaceable as are the cutting blades. You can take the blade off pretty easily to sharpen it when the need arises too.

The bypass style doesn't give quite as much leverage as you would get with a geared anvil type lopper, but I think that the blades stay sharp longer with this style, and there is plenty of leverage for cutting anything that you would use a lopper on. Anything too big to cut whith these you should be sawing anyway. But note that if you are frequently cutting bigger branches you should get the type with 31" handles instead of the 24".

You can see a bit of rust near the blades from the times when SOMEONE in the house has left them out in the rain or sprinklers, but the plastic coated handles are fine even after long exposure to the sun.

One minor feature which bears mention is the set of rubber pads you can see right near the pivot point. They really do work to cushion the impact you get when the blades cut through, Anvil cutters meet with a sharp snap. These cut past the end and then those rubber pads cushion the blow. When you are chopping a lot of stuff, the little touches make your day nicer. Occasionally I tuck one handle under my arm and cut one handed. In that position, a soft cut is appreciated!

Overall, I don't think you could do much better than these loppers. I'd buy another pair, but I have a feeling this 10 year old pair is not going to wear out anytime soon. Mine is an older model so it does not have the "Stratashear" teflon-coated blades like the #AL 8240, but they are fine without it.

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