In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Friday, June 8, 2012


"Do you ever read any of the books you burn?"
"That's against the law!"
"Oh. Of course."
    -Ray Bradbury, science-fiction writer (1920-2012)

1.   Environmental Biologist wanted by SFPUC
2.   Last chance to take the Green Connections Survey
3.   Two views of the Venus Transit
4.   Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
5.   McKinley Square native planting June 10
6.   Warm Water Cove impromptu work party June 9
7.   Month of public events celebrates renewal of El Polin Springs
8.   Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary seeks beach watch volunteers
9.   Strong Support for Yosemite Restoration Campaign
10. Save The Frogs goes to Washington DC to ban Atrazine
11.  Creekside Homeowner's Workshop in Palo Alto June 9
12.  Feedback: What constitutes civilization?
13.  Living Bird article about the Philippine Eagle
14.  European farm policies lead to collapse of Europe's bird population/luxury city drowning in own sewage
15.  Catalog Choice trying to opt out of "Current Resident" mail
16.  New Zealand Christmas tree now in bloom
17.  Notes & Queries: Kermit says not easy being green with envy

Our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest. The maple and the pine may whisper to each other with their leaves ... But the trees also commingle their roots in the darkness underground, and the islands also hang together through the ocean's bottom.
    -William James

2484 Biologist III - Environmental Biologist

(Ecology and Botany / Fisheries)
Recruitment #PBT-2484-058962

Position Description:
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is recruiting to fill positions for Class 2484 Biologist III Environmental Biologist. There are currently two vacancies in Ecology and Botany and two vacancies in  Fisheries.  The work location for one Fisheries and one Ecology and Botany position will be at 1001 El Camino Real, in Millbrae, CA., a second Ecology and Botany position will be at 1145 Market St. in San Francisco, CA. and a second Fisheries position will be in Moccasin, CA.


The Green Connections online Survey will be shutting down on June 30th. If you haven’t already done so please take a moment to give your input.

About the Project
The Green Connections Projectis a two-year community-based planning process led by the San Francisco Planning Department. The Project will result in a Citywide network of green streets that can be built over time—improving access to parks, open space and the waterfront. The project builds on current efforts to create sustainable corridors that enhance pedestrian and bicycle conditions, reduce stormwater runoff, improve wildlife habitat and green neighborhood streets.

The survey should take about five minutes to complete and any answers you give are completely confidential.
Your feedback will be used to help prioritize which streets the city should prioritize as future Green Connections Corridors as well as help define the characteristics of how these streets are designed.

Thanks for taking the time to fill out this survey, we value your input.
-The Green Connections Team

Jeanne Koelling: I thought you'd find this posting interesting. Glenn Nevill, a local bird photographer, took a photo of the Venus transit and also included a photo taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory for comparison. Spiffy!  Also, he included the link to "Astronomy picture of the Day" where, today featured a beautiful photo of the recent lunar eclipse. (Go to their archives if you miss getting to the site today.)

Transit of Venus – a comparison of views
Posted: 05 Jun 2012 07:26 PM PDT
Before I concentrated on photographing birds, I used to love to go out with a telescope and star gaze.  I sold most of my equipment, but I kept my little Celestron C90.  And every once in a while, an event comes along that makes it worth dusting off the lens and setting it up.  Today is one of those days.  This afternoon the planet Venus transited the face of our own star.  And I actually had the solar filter needed to make it safe to view and photograph.  Here is the result.  I live at sea level, the air in the city is turbulent, and the scope is notoriously difficult to focus. Click on the image to enlarge.  You will see that it is not sharp, especially when compared to the next view.

Taken with Celestron C90 telescope and Canon 5Dmk2 camera body
The shot below was taken with the orbiting satellite Solar Dynamics Observatory. Free of the atmosphere the image is razor-sharp, and this is only the small size.  Taken from the website Astronomy Picture of the Day where viewers were able to see the progress of the planet as it crosses the sun. As I write this at 7:14PM the sun is below the buildings out front, but the website is still showing the transit as it happens.  If you read this post the next day, check their archive page for the link to the photo.

taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite
Easy to see why telescopes need to be in space.
Glenn Nevill


Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

(second half)

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

~ Wendell Berry ~

(Collected Poems)


5.  McKinley Square Native Planting

McKinley Square is having its final native planting day this Sunday.
Community members meet at 20th St @ San Bruno Ave
June 10th, Sunday 10am-12noon.
This is the last native planting day until next fall.

This is part of a larger effort of hillside restoration, removing invasive weeds, improving trails, removing trash & graffiti.  All are welcome to join.  

A sampling of the plants, and plant plugs that have or are being put down are:

Yarrow  (Achillea millefolium),  Sticky Monkey Flower (Mimulus Aurantiacus), Perennial Aster (Aster chilensis),  California Scorpion Flower (Phacelia californica),  Gum Plant (Grindelia camporum), Costal Buckwheat (Eriogonum Latifolium),  Red Fescue (Festuca rubra ‘Molate’) , California Fescue (Festuca californica ), Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha ), Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens),  Monardella Villosa (coyote mint), Carex vulpinoidea (Brown fox sedge),   Indian milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa ), Narrowleaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis ), Showy Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), Silver Lupine (Lupinus albifrons),  Summer Lupine(Lupinus formosus  ), Calfornia Melic (Melica californica), One-sided Bluegrass (Poa secunda), Sea Thrift (Armeria)

Each planting effort we try to give plant plugs to each volunteer.  Plants that are good for the park & hillside are also good for our backyards, maybe even better.

Lunch & drinks sponsored by Goat Hill Pizza & Chiotras Grocery .


6.  Hi all
We are having an impromptu work party at Warm Water Cove this Saturday 10am-noon. Please join us and bring your own drinking water/beverage and garden gloves and hand garden tools if you have them. We will be weeding, watering, picking up trash, realigning the rock borders, and enjoying the views, water and flowers.

We will have some extra gloves and tools.

Hope to see you there! At the east end of 24th Street at the Bay, 3 blocks east of 3rd St.
T-Line stop at 23rd St. and free parking, Dogpatch neighborhood


Presidio of San Francisco (June 4, 2012) -- Throughout the month of June the Presidio Trust, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and National Park Service are welcoming the public back to El Polín Spring with a month-long celebration of this rich ecological and archaeological site.  El Polín, a place where history and nature converge and one can trace the emergence of San Francisco, has been transformed into an idyllic retreat offering unprecedented opportunities for outdoor educational experiences. The area underwent a major restoration and is now open to the public. Funding was provided by a unique partnership between federal and state agencies and private donors.

The Presidio and its partners, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and National Park Service are hosting programs throughout the month of June, including family night hikes and discovery programs, Create with Nature family days, guided tours through El Polín and the Tennessee Hollow Watershed, and volunteer days. For details and a complete schedule of events

New visitor amenities include a small picnic area, benches crafted from Monterey cypress trees salvaged from the Presidio’s reforestation program, public restrooms, and a new connector trail linking El Polín with the Ecology Trail below Inspiration Point. A new redwood boardwalk and pedestrian trail have replaced an asphalt road. The creek’s historic cobblestone channel, built in 1940 by the Works Project Administration, has been restored. More than three hundred feet of creek, buried in pipes for decades, now flows above ground through a series of four wetlands ponds. The site is now accessible to people with disabilities.


With the support of hundreds of volunteers, invasive plants have been replaced with more than one hundred varieties of native trees, grasses and plants. A mosaic of six plant communities overlaps at El Polín to create a rich habitat for wildlife. It is one of San Francisco’s most popular spots for birdwatching; more than 100 species have been sighted there.
El Polín is also rich in archaeological resources, including the foundation of an adobe home believed to have been occupied more than 200 years ago by the family of Juana Briones, one of the Bay Area’s most prominent women of the time and a founding resident of Yerba Buena, the settlement that would become San Francisco.  Archaeologists recently uncovered a large basin made of Mexican-era tile likely used to capture water for laundry and other chores; and a kiln used for firing tiles. New interpretative signs, the first in the park that are bilingual, mark key natural and cultural sites.

The only named spring in the Presidio, El Polín lies at the heart of Tennessee Hollow, the Presidio’s largest watershed.  Restoration of the watershed has long been a cornerstone in the plans to transform the Presidio from military post to national park site.  Activities include a long-term effort to  daylight the entire creek system, restore and enhance native plant and wildlife habitat, build new trails, provide hands-on opportunities for school children to learn and for the community to be engaged in the transformation effort.  The opportunity to restore an entire watershed - from springs to bay – at the edge of a major urban center is highly unique and possibly unprecedented. 


Farallones  Marine  Sanctuary  Association

NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
Seeks Beach Watch Volunteers

NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary is now recruiting volunteers for its long-term Beach Watch shoreline monitoring program. Orientations and training will be held this summer (schedule below) at the Sanctuary office at Crissy Field, San Francisco Presidio. Space is limited, and reservations are required. Volunteers must be 18 or older and commit to monthly surveys for a one-year minimum. Approximately eighty hours of classroom and field training in marine mammal and seabird identification and data collection is provided; some wildlife identification skills are required.

            Orientations will be held this August and September at the Sanctuary office, 991 Marine Dr., San Francisco Presidio:

·  Tuesday, Jul. 10, 7:00-8:30pm
·  Thursday, Jul. 12, 7:00-8:30pm
·  Saturday, Aug. 25, 10:30am-noon
·  Tue, Aug. 28, 7:00-8:30pm
            Required trainings will begin Sept 22 and run thru Nov 3, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday days, at the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Offices, 991 Marine Drive, West Crissy Field in the San Francisco Presidio.  Several field trips are included in the training.
For training details contact Kirsten Lindquist, (415) 561-6625 ext. 302 or e-mail
            Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary launched its Beach Watch coastal monitoring program in 1993, providing long-term regular shoreline surveys spanning the Farallones and northern Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries. Data gathered provides sanctuary management with information on seabirds and marine mammals whose abundance or stranding patterns can be indicators of ecosystem health.  Live and beachcast (dead) wildlife are surveyed. Surveyors also document human use of beaches, report violations, detect oil pollution, and collect oil samples. The area surveyed spans 150 miles of coast from Point Año Nuevo to Bodega Head. The nonprofit Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association manages the Beach Watch volunteers and data base for the sanctuary.

            During the November 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill, Beach Watch volunteers were among the first on the scene. In testimony given at the November 19, 2008 Congressional Subcommittee hearing on the Cosco Busan spill, the Beach Watch project was singled out for its preparedness and swift action in getting trained volunteers into the field.
 RSVP: contact Kirsten Lindquist, (415) 561-6625 ext. 302 or e-mail


9.  Polling Shows Strong Support for Yosemite Restoration Campaign

The June 4 San Francisco Chronicle reports that San Francisco voters strongly support the Water Conservation and Yosemite Restoration Initiative we are working to put on November's ballot.

The poll of 602 likely voters, commissioned by big business groups and conducted in late April by EMC Research, found:
    •    59% support
    •    35% oppose
    •    6% undecided

San Francisco voters agree that the initiative is a moderate, reasonable, and incremental approach to addressing a big environmental problem. But the story also made clear that the corporate-backed Bay Area Council is planning to run a smear campaign against the measure, falsely claiming it will cost $10 billion.

Our opponents will win if they are allowed to deliberately confuse the voters. Click here to fight these lies.

Let's be clear about what the Water Conservation and Yosemite Restoration Initiative actually does:
    •    Establishes a task force to create a water sustainability plan to move San Francisco from last in the state to first in the nation in water conservation;
    •    Takes an important first step to restoring Yosemite National Park;
    •    Gives voters the final say on any costs or actions through a ballot measure in 2016;
    •    Costs San Francisco no more than $8 million over the next four years.

Last month, former Yosemite National Parks Superintendent B.J. Griffin and a coalition of environmental groups including the National Parks Conservation Association, Friends of the River, and the Sierra Nevada Alliance stood together to officially launch the petition drive to put the Water Conservation and Yosemite Restoration initiative on the November ballot.

This new poll shows San Francisco voters strongly support the initiative, but to win we will need your help to counter the negative attacks that will surely come. Fight back by clicking here.


“Evolutionary biology is now uttering and seeking those forces that link us with all those that have being.  If we can discover the meaning in the trilling of a frog, perhaps we may understand why it is for us not merely noise but a song of poetry and emotion.”    Adrian Forsyth


Please join me in Washington, DC on June 12th & 13th

The battle to get one of the world's most harmful pesticides banned is heating up. On June 12th, I will be giving a 25 minute presentation at the US Environmental Protection Agency's hearings on the effects of Atrazine on aquatic wildlife. I strongly urge all concerned members of the public to attend and give public comment. You will be able to speak for 3-5 minutes IF you reserve a spot in advance. It is free to talk and to attend. Is it important is it that you show up? I am told that at the 2010 Atrazine hearings, there were about 100 pesticide industry lobbyists present, and only two total people who opposed Atarazine. Currently I am the ONLY person opposing Atrazine scheduled to speak. So YES, you better be there if you can make it! More info on Atrazine is available at:
To reserve your spot, please email and ALSO cc us at so we know to expect you. You can download this EPA PDF for more info. Public comments will begin the afternoon of Tuesday June 12th and may go through Wednesday June 13th depending on how many speakers there are. Speakers can be any age. See you there!!!


Can't make it to DC? Then submit a comment to the EPA today
If you cannot attend the hearings, then please submit your comment to the EPA here . You can disregard the "Organization Name" and other columns on the left of that page. We suggest writing a personalized comment. Here is a sample comment you can modify and use.

Please donate to fund our Atrazine campaign!
It's us against Syngenta, Atrazine's producer, the largest pesticide company on the planet, with 11 billion dollars in revenues and hundreds of lobbyists working politicians fulltime. We need your help. Please make the largest contribution you can to help our campaign: it's tax-deductible and will help frogs, humans and lots of other wildlife species that share the planet with us. Thank you!!!


11.  Acterra

Creekside Homeowner's Workshop - Get a free native plant!
Saturday, June 9
9:30 am - 11:30 am
730 Palo Alto Avenue
Palo Alto [map] 

Come to a FREE workshop on creek-friendly home and garden practices. You do not need to live on a creek -- in fact, you will learn how your garden choices can help protect the health of our local creeks. Find out which pesticides are safe, as well as other ways your landscaping practices can improve your watershed.

All registered attendees will go home with a free native plant. For more information and to register, please visit the please visit the Acterra Stewardship Program Events website. Cosponsored by the City of Palo Alto.

Youth Video Contest!
Do you want to make a difference in your community? Would you be interested in creating something that airs on television? If so, then Be the Street wants your 15-30 second video that will encourage your peers to stop littering. Let your vision be the tool for building a litter-free community!

For more information, please visit the Be the Street website.

Acterra Needs Paper

Got some reusable, one-sided paper that you want to donate? Send it to Acterra! When we need to print, we like being able to reuse one-sided paper rather than printing on brand-new paper (albeit made with recycled materials).

Simply drop your paper off and let us know if you want us to send you a nice "thank you" letter (with whatever $ amount you believe the donation is worth) that can be used for tax purposes. Thank you!


12.  Feedback

Gray Brechin:
As regards your exchange below with Michael Alexander, the question is what constitutes civilization? Is it really what the victor defines it to be, and is that not then usually a preponderance of brute force and superior technology that permits a few flowers to poke up through the resultant rubble?

I've been thinking about this since enduring the first hour of the insufferably cocky Niall Fergusson narrating his PBS series "Civilization" about how and why "The West" managed to dominate the rest of the world for 500 years and his warning about how "we" are now losing our competitive edge to the wily Chinese who have long been plotting their comeback.   I nearly had whiplash when Fergusson said that "we" had exported our civilization to the Americas; as barbaric as many of the practices of the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican cultures might seem to our tribe, the resultant enslavement and extermination of the native Americans can only be regarded as another Holocaust.

I built my own book Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin on Lewis Mumford's observation that war and the city were born together. Recent archaeological discoveries appear to bear him out. The great architectural piles that we so enjoy seeing in ROme, London, Paris, New York, etc. are the products of often violent extraction from continental, hemispheric, or global empires as much as were the monuments that the Athenians built upon the Acropolis. The Athenian wealth needed to wage war against its neighbor came largely from the silver mines at Laurium which Diodorus Siculus called "a Hell on earth which neither Stoicism nor Delphi could touch."

In a rare moment of candor and lucidity, Thomas Friedman encapsulated the barbarism that calls itself civilization in his mega-best selling paean to the marvels of the free market The Lexus and the Olive Tree just before said market crashed in 2000:

"The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. And these fighting forces are paid for by American taxpayer dollars."

Diodorus Siculus couldn't have said it better, but he didn't have the platform of the New York Times. And how primitive seems that pre-drone declaration now.
About those silver mines at Laurium that funded (along with enforced tributes from the Delian League) Athenian power and obnoxiousness: 
Slavery, while an unenviable state, for the most part was not unendurable.  However, those slaves forced to mine silver worked in abominable conditions, working mostly prone on their stomachs in tightly confined spaces and unable to even turn around.

You touch on a number of problems with civilization, and its relation to power.  With every year I add to my observations of us humans I become less and less certain what the solution to our predicament is.  It's easy to finger the imperialists and power mongers.  But that leaves out the rest of us, who have a complex and not entirely beneficent nature.  We are a mixed bag and are masses of contradictions--except thee and me, of course.  :-)

So at tomorrow's lunch date, be prepared to defend your title to Dr Gloom.  On second thought, don't waste your time preparing, as you don't stand a chance.  You will yield the title to me.

(After the lunch:  We decided to share the title.)


13.  Last year Jeepney Projects Worldwide had a successful trip to the Philippines to see wild Philippine Eagles and visit the Philippine Eagle Center. We are stoked that Cornell University's excellent magazine: Living Bird has an article about the Philippine Eagle and our trip in their current issue written by our friend and travel companion George Oxford Miller.

Guardian Weekly
EU farming policies lead to a collapse in Europe's bird population

New survey shows devastation to farmland birds caused by policies – and experts can see no sign of improvement. Robin McKie reports

The lapwing is among the farmland birds badly hit by EU agricultural policy. Photograph: Penny Boyd/Alamy  


The luxury city at risk of drowning in its own sewage
Built by developers without proper infrastructure, Gurgaon exemplifies the problems thrown up by India's urban population explosion, writes Julien Bouissou

A fisherman near a rubbish dump on the Sidon seafront in south Lebanon. Photograph: Ali Hashisho/Reuters
World's urban waste mountain a 'silent problem that is growing daily'

World Bank report urges city authorities to reduce, reuse, recycle or recover energy from growing mountain of urban waste

Hello?  Is the picture getting any clearer?  Could it be there are too many people?



no answer


Population Institute

Expectations are Low for Rio +20
World leaders are preparing to meet in Rio de Janeiro for the long-awaitedJune 20-22 Rio +20 Conference on Sustainable Development, but the conference is not expected to produce any major, binding international agreements. 

"The raging monster upon the land is population growth. In its presence, sustainability, is but a fragile, theoretical concept." Edward O. Wilson

Catalog Choice members make change happen! Last month, over 40,000 members sent our letter to the Postmaster General requesting an easy and effective way to opt out of mail addressed to “Current Resident.” As a result, we are now in active discussions with the USPS to develop solutions.

Now it is time to contribute to the sustainability of the USPS. We are putting the collective power of our community together to come up with ideas to help the USPS innovate.

What Is Your Vision?  Take a moment to complete our 4 question survey so we can learn about your vision for the USPS.

New Zealand Christmas tree, Metrosideros excelsa
by Jake Sigg

The New Zealand Christmas tree has become one of San Francisco's favored street trees, along with the scarlet flowering eucalyptus.  Both trees are in that related group of the myrtle family which attracts pollinators with showy, colorful stamens rather than petals.  Examples are the approximately 600 species of eucalyptus and the bottle brushes (also a common street tree here).

The genus Metrosideros contains many viny and epiphytic species.  Some, such as M. robusta (occasionally seen here, such as in the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum, and one on Clayton at Parnassus) start life in a pocket of leaf litter in a tree crotch high above the New Zealand forest floor.  Aerial roots travel down the trunk of the host tree until they touch ground, at which time they expand in girth, all the roots eventually fusing together to strangle and kill the host tree; a huge but hollow-trunked tree is the result.  Its brother, Metrosideros excelsa, which the Maoris and other New Zealanders call by the musical name pohutukawa, is terrestrial, but betrays its epiphytic kinship by copiously producing red aerial rootlets from lateral branches, elongating until they touch ground, at which time they start to develop into a separate trunk, much like a banyan tree.  Older street trees in our fog belt develop these aerial roots, although they seldom develop completely, because of the exposed, dry situations on the street.

This trait is well expressed in a large tree in the botanical garden, near the garden entrance opposite the Japanese Tea Garden, and adjacent to the lake.  Aerial roots extend from every branch, some reaching the ground and increasing in diameter until they become large props helping to sustain the weight of the outward-reaching branches.  When I was gardener supervisor and de facto curator of collections there during the 1980s, one set of these rootlets was depending from a large limb that hung out over a road.  I encouraged the rootlets to elongate (by wrapping them in burlap to retain moisture) so that the tree, being rooted on both sides of the road, would form a high arch over the road.  The rootlets were about to hit ground and produce a trunk when I left the arboretum in 1988.  Subsequently a gardener severed the nascent trunk, and the arch never formed. 

In New Zealand, pohutukawa is the dominant tree in much of the coastal and lowland forests of the North Island.  It frequently grows along the coast in difficult situations, such as cliffsides, where it puts out long sweeping branches (the wood is extremely strong and durable--metrosideros means heart of iron) that sweep out over the water and even dip into it.  The Maoris had deep reverence for the tree, and one huge old specimen at Cape Renga (the extreme northern tip of New Zealand)  that stretched out over the sea served as a bridge for their departed spirits.

Pohutukawa flowers at height of summer, which is Christmas in the southern hemisphere.  It is flowering copiously here now, but individual trees flower at different times, so expect some to be blooming throughout the summer.  It makes a good street tree for the city and the foggy coast.  Foliage, with green upper surface, white-wooly underside, and contrasting new growth, supports charming forked clusters of tightly-curled buds covered with woolly tomentum, which open into bright red stamens.  It takes pruning well; it even tolerates bad pruning--fortunately, because bad pruning is the norm in this city.  The leaf’s dense wool on the underside and tough leather on top protects it from desiccation; it takes strong winds very well, which is why you see them in the median strip on Geary Boulevard.

A note about the Strybing tree:  I was reading some documents regarding the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition at the Palace of Fine Arts, and a note caught my eye regarding the New Zealand pavilion, where it stated that John McLaren descended on the Exposition after it closed and swept up all the plants to plant in Golden Gate Park.  That seemed the likely source for this tree.  I had independently decided that the Strybing tree was approximately that age, and I am certain that that is its origin, alongside other New Zealand plants, such as the arboretum's totara (Podocarpus totara), a handsome but slow-growing conifer tree. 

San Francisco has been largely indifferent towards its own history.  Raymond Clary left a couple of books about Golden Gate Park's human and structural history, but he had no plant information.  This knowledge has been disappearing, and will soon be beyond reach entirely, as little is written down.  Those who knew some of the history have been disappearing.


17.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly

Kermit would rather be red with envy

Why it isn't easy being green with envy

Kermit the Frog.

Why do we say we are green with envy? Why not yellow, pink or purple?

Being colour-blind, I take it as red.

John Marbrook, Auckland, New Zealand

• In Greek medicine an excess of bile was thought to be caused by envy and to turn the envious person pale green. The wonderful green Kermit, however, said that he was envious of those who are not green and would prefer to be red!

Margaret Wilkes, Perth, Western Australia

• Yellow, pink or purple? What have you got against red, white and blue?

Margaret Wyeth, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

• Because, as any painter will tell you, it's a mixture of being yellow with jealousy and having the blues.

Joan Dawson, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

• After the Dark Ages, humankind emerged into the age of Colourisation and thus were born such colourful characteristics as Yellow (cowardice), Purple (rage), Pink (fitness) and Green, as in raw (envy).

Peter Vaughan, St Senoch, France

Paddocks of our prosperity

When has drunkenness affected the tide of history?

When hasn't it?

Laurence Belgrave, Rome, Italy

• Whenever it washes against the shores of our despair, isolates our islands of hope, floods the fields of our dreams and swamps the paddocks of our prosperity.

Christine Kerr, Marrickville, NSW, Australia

Let's shoot the big curl

How do surfers measure the heights of waves?

There are methods that involve gazing from land at the horizon and noting where the top of a wave is in relation to a surfer, giving waist-high, under-head and overhead measurements.

And there are other useful approximations ranging from "not worth it" to "OK, let's paddle out and catch it" to "a bit scary" to "really terrifying" and "no way am I going near that monster".

Ursula Nixon, Bodalla, NSW, Australia

• In feet, in English-speaking countries. In metres, practically everywhere else in the world.

John Ralston, Mountain View, California, US

• They hold a board meeting.

Nigel Grinter, Chicago, Illinois, US

• They haven't been able to fathom it yet.

Roger Morrell, Perth, Western Australia

• Wavelengths?

Malcolm Shuttleworth, Odenthal, Germany

You're driving to the gym?

If intelligent life from a more rational planet observed earth, what would it find most surprising?

People taking the car to a gym, paying $30 for an hour of walking on a treadmill and taking the car back.

Bjoern Eser, Pencombe, UK

Send answers to weekly.n& or Guardian Weekly, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU, UK

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