Not Just Wood: Tree Anatomy

I feel as though we are not properly taught about plants. But really, I don’t think we really know about plants like we think we do. We just think we know, but we have no idea; True Life, PLANTS.

What I mean by that is, I grew up and learned about trees as these green and brown things that existed in the world. They grew, shed their leaves, grew some more, and then we cut them down to build stuff. I never thought of them as MOVING, COMMUNICATING, and HAVING LIFE. Or maybe I just wasn’t a very sensitive child?

So, in this post I’m going to layout some of the anatomy of a tree, which may help you understand that it is a living thing, just like youuuu and meeeeee.  Respect.

First I’m going to start with the trunk.  The trunk is not just wood. It is an amalgamation of cells adapted to serve different purposes, like strength, resistance to decay and injury, transport of liquids and minerals, and for storage.

The first thing you see when you look at the trunk is the OUTER BARK. It serves as the tree's primary protection and is continually renewed, much like our skin. Then we have the inner bark, or PHLOEM. This is the pipeline that transports food and hormones throughout the tree. It soon dies and becomes cork which eventually becomes the outer bark. Next there is another thin layer called the CAMBIUM. The cambium is the growing part of the trunk. It responds to the hormones that are passed and annually produces new bark and new wood.

The XYLEM makes up the “wood” of the tree. Within the xylem you have the next layer, which is SAPWOOD. This is the pipeline for water to get from the roots to the leaves. This layer is able to form anti-microbial substances to respond to injury, much like antibodies! It is also the new wood of the tree. As newer rings of sapwood are laid out, the inner rings lose their vitality and eventually turn to the next layer, which is the HEARTWOOD. The heartwood is the central support. It is dead and discolored, but is very very strong and keeps the tree standing. And finally, at the most central point, you may (in some species) find the PITH. This is a Styrofoam-y material left over from the primary tissue that was the twig. In some species it goes away as the tree gets older.

If you go upwards from the trunk and through the branches you’ll reach the tips of the twigs. These form buds in the spring which is where those hormones I mentioned before come from. These hormones help the tree to go. (sound familiar?) These buds also produce leaves. The leaves are basically spongy cells that connect the air- to the tree- to the roots. Leaves create  food for the tree. They take carbon dioxide from the air and water from the roots and convert it to sugar, then send it down the phloem to the roots. In order for the roots to use that sugar to grow, they need oxygen. They search for oxygen in pockets between the soil. The roots then return the favor to the leaves by sucking up water and minerals and sending it back up to the leaves via the sapwood. The leaves use that water to create the food, and send it back down to the roots, and back and forth, back and forth.  

And that's only part of what we know! There's a great PBS documentary called "What Plants Talk About," that discusses communication between one plant to another, and plants to insects and animals. CRAY.

A-Town Get Down: Dragonflies Over Mount Kenya

Transformation, Adaptation, and Harmony

The A-Town Get Down is a one-day festival is put on by the Alex Townsend Memorial Foundation, a foundation created in memory of Alex Townsend by his family to help support art and music development and appreciation all around the country. The installation is comprised of over a hundred dragonflies flying above a negative space which makes up Mount Kenya. Alex and his family were avid hikers, and Mount Kenya is one of the mountains they hiked.  My installation is linked to artist, Katherine Sandoz’s stage installation through our concept of linking Savannah, GA with a mountain the family hiked together by referencing the landscapes and ecosystems of each. 

I would like to thank the following people for help on concept and origami folding: Katherine Sandoz, Lane Gardner, Gianina Gabriel, Lyn Bonham, and Payton Gardner. 

oooo that smell

Stink Bugs: look cool, smell gross, act real normal.

They are your typical bug, a True Bug, you might say. Stink Bugs are also known as Shield Bugs, and some shield bugs (the one’s we are talking about here) are in the family, Pentatomidae. But, most people know them as stink bugs because, when they feel threatened they secrete a smelly glandular substance from the pores of their thorax. Some secrete their smelly concoctions as they walk, leaving a trail behind. They do this even when they’re not scared, to keep from being scared, by always being on their smelly guard. Those guys ruin the fruit for all of us.

Actually, many of these guys ruin our fruit. Some species are huuuuuuge pests to human’s.They can create large populations of themselves and decimate crops. (In contrast, some are hugely beneficial, feasting on other crop decimators.)

But really, the coolest thing about stink bugs….


Stink bugs will suck the sap out of young fruiting bodies. If the fruit doesn’t die and fall to the ground, the healthy tissue will continue to grow, leaving the punctured areas behind. This creates a deformed looking fruit. CATFACE.

Hey look, those tomatoes look familiar...


When I was younger, I believed that however many times it took to pluck the head off of a dead dragonfly was the number of years it had lived.

This week’s post is about the Dragonfly. Instead of exploring the physical and biological aspects of the dragon fly, I’m going to write about human perceptions and myths relating to the dragonfly.

So maybe this post is more about humans than dragonflies?

Human’s like to tinker, especially in the brain. Everything, dead or alive, has a story or a reason for being. This is especially how it was before science happened.

It seems like most cultures had/have positive perceptions of dragonflies. Except for the Europeans, but old white cultures were scared of nature, so that makes sense.  In parts of Europe, dragonflies were called “devil’s darning needles,” “ear cutters,” and “eye snatchers.” They were perceived to bring the devil out and do harm, especially to horses. Damn those ‘horse stingers!!’ (Although, on a more biological note, dragonflies actually help horses (and humans), by eating tons of those pesky parasitic insects (mosquitoes) that actually DO harm the horses.)

In contrast, some Japanese myths tell of the dragonfly as a Holy creature that represents courage, strength, and happiness. And, in some Native American (sorry to be so non-specific about Tribes here) stories, dragonflies are seen as the souls of the dead, or symbols for activity, swiftness, and purity of water. Many modern day people view the dragonfly in a positive light as well. They are a symbol of power, transformation, adaptation, peace, and harmony.

It is the idea of the dragonfly representing transformation, adaptation, and harmony that I used while creating a stage installation for a music and art festival called the A-Town Get Down. The one-day festival is put on by the Alex Townsend Memorial Foundation, a foundation created in memory of Alex Townsend by his family to help support art and music development and appreciation all around the country. The installation is comprised of over a hundred dragonflies flying above a negative space which makes up Mount Kenya. Alex and his family were avid hikers, and Mount Kenya is one of the mountains they hiked.  My installation is linked to artist, Katherine Sandoz’s stage installation through our concept of linking Savannah, GA with a mountain the family hiked together by referencing the landscapes and ecosystems of each. 

You can see both of our installations, as well as many other talented artists and musicians at the A-Town Get Down Festival this Saturday the 21st. It will be held at the Charles H. Morris Center in Savannah, GA from 12pm-12am.

Don’t be square.


This week’s post is going to be short, but very very sweet. Not sweet in a delicious sugary kind of way, but sweet in a poop kind of way.

You’re right, poop isn’t very sweet...

But this post is, and it’s about poop!

Do you think that if you covered yourself in your own feces, that someone would try to get into a fist fight with you, or worse, try to eat you?

No. probably not.

Good job palmetto tortoise beetle larvae! These guys are terrific, and very smart. Or, at least, they have evolved in a very effective way. First off, we’re going to start with the adult palmetto tortoise beetle laying her eggs. She does so by cementing her eggs to a leaf, and then she conceals the eggs with a layer of dry poop. This is thought to be for defense purposes. Once the larvae hatch, they take careful notes from their mother, and start producing their own poop shields. Well, they’re more like hats, really. Large poopy straw-like body hats. They use their telescoping anus to poot out dried poop in coiled layers across their bodies. They are able to point their anus in different directions in order to build the most effective poop hat shield. They are then able to hold their poop hat shields in place with their very convenient anal fork!






It’s always really refreshing when I learn about a new organism. The ones that are super new, those that I had no idea about, like pangolins. No, not penguins, Pangolins.

But, with more pangolin research came the inevitable pang in my heart, when I read how exploited these guys are. It got me thinking about why any animal is sold on the black market. Not for hunger or for survival of the captor, but for show, so that those who purchase these animals can shake their fancy cock feathers.  Humans can be so self righteous and greedy. But that’s no new concept, so we shall move on. 

Pangolins are a manicurists’ dream! Almost their entire body is covered with scales made of keratin (the same stuff our fingernails are made out of). The scales grow throughout their lives, but they keep them trimmed by using rocks and the surrounding landscape to file them down. They don’t have teeth, but instead have a loooooong spaghetti-like tongue that exceeds the length of their bodies, which they use to extract ants and other insects from their hills and homes. The insects are swallowed whole and churned and crushed in the stomach with the aid of rocks, sand, and other consumed debris. Pangolins eat about 70 million insects a year. (Talk about biological pest control.) They don’t have to worry about an invading army of ants, if their feast goes awry, because pangolins have special muscles that enable them to seal their nostrils, ears, and eyes shut from invaders. And, when some other animal is ready to feast on a pangolin, his natural defense is to curl up into a keratin protected ball.  However, despite these defense mechanisms, these solo-living, nocturnal animals are on the decline. All 8 species of pangolins are somewhere on the verge of extinction. They are losing their habitat and are the most illegally traded mammal in the world.

I think the best form of prevention is education. So, now that you know a little bit about this scaly organism and his situation, maybe you’ll turn down the platter of pangolin at the next party. 



I spent the winter of 2013 rolling through part of the last 1% of the American tall grass prairie....freezing....searching for the infamous Greater Prairie Chicken. And I mean freezing. Two pairs of wool socks + leather boots, in a van, numb toes, freezing.

We were looking for Prairie Chickens, specifically prairie chickens who were forming a "lek." Leks are breeding grounds, booming grounds, where the single chickens (all the single chickens) go to call out to the ladies and try to make them swoon. The male chickens pick a spot in the prairie and meet there every day. They stomp their feet, fluff their feathers, puff out their orange neck cheeks, and let out these, at first gergly and then very smooooth, vibrating boooooooms. Their songs can be heard for up to a mile, hoping to reach their lady loves' ears...and vaginas.

 A similar ritual is true for the Kakapo. But, unlike the prairie chicken, the kakapo must walk...up mountains, far from their normal territory, to form their leks. The male birds dig bowls within the perimeter of their lek and boom within them. The bowl forms a sort of natural amplifier. Their lady loves hear this and walk 500 miles to find the males, just to get their baby on. Kakapos have to walk because they are flightless parrots. Back before humans inhabited New Zealand (the islands in which the kakapo live) the kakapo had no natural predators, and no need to fly. They are also the heaviest and only nocturnal parrots in the world. Their booming can be heard for almost three miles.

Unfortunately, both birds aren't doing so hot in whole scheme of life. The whole living thing. Mammals got 'em down. Human's took the land from the prairie chickens and brought predators to the kakapos.

So, just a reminder for me and for you...we have to be careful about how treat and travel around this blueberry we live on. Everything we do effects everything around us.  What's good for us may not be good for another. We have to keep the balance. Make sure that boom boom booooooom is used for making babies, and not for decimating a species.


The Lion's Tooth

Kentucky bluegrass is the grass that America has slathered all over itself, deeming any other plant within it a weed. Personally, I am a fan of natural lawns, you know, lawns with an abundance of various kinds of plants. It makes more since to me, especially because many other plants have much more value to the soil they grow in and to the environment around them. Moderation is key, anyhow.

The wildly hated Taraxacum officinale, or the dandelion, is number one on many a lawn owner's list. But it's very unfortunate.

Dandelions are 100% edible. Not only are they edible, but they are extremely beneficial to a consumer's health. They contain vitamins A, C, & K, Calcium, more potassium and iron than spinach, manganese, and more beta-carotene than carrots. The dandelion has been used to help treat fungal infections, bile and liver problems, and is a natural diuretic (maybe that's why I grew up calling them "pee pee flowers?"). There's even research going on about using dandelions for natural rubber production!

And gardeners, listen up, dandelions are actually beneficial next to your plants. Their long taproots help to transfer nutrients to shallower rooted plants, fix nitrogen into the soil, and release ethylene gas, which helps to ripen fruit! I’ve also heard tales of dandelion roots being used as a natural what’s not to love? Oh, and you haven’t forgot about dandelion wine, have you?

So next time you want to uproot the dandelion in your yard, maybe instead give him a little brush through his mane and thank him, or maybe just toss him on your salad.

PS I recommend doing personal research on dandelions and their properties before consuming, in case of any allergies.

F. catus

This post is about F. catus. It's also about Scientific Classification. It's about the Scientific Classification of Harrison "Harry" Gardner and Squirrel "Cutest Kitty"  Bourgeois. I'm doing that New Year thing where you take on a project that you promise to complete each week. Science, the environment, and drawings of. 

I want to learn and I'd like to inform.

We were all taught Scientific Classification (or Biological Classification) in grade school. Here it is again.

Mr. Corolus Linnaes is the Sweedish plant scientist who is responsible for inventing this method of grouping living organisms together based on their similarities. (mid 1700s) Because, as we know, humans gotta have order and humans gotta have truth, always.
Scientific Classification goes as such:

or Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach.
or Keeping Precious Creatures Organized For Grumpy Scientists.
or (the way I learned it) Keep Pickles Cold Or Fungus Grows Shortly.
but even more memorable, Kinky People Can Often Find Good Sex.
Each category has its own set of categories and so on and so on and so on, until you widdle it down to that one single Species who's in a category of its own. A species is defined as an individual that can do it and have babies, ahem, reproduce.

The Scientific Classification of Kitties. or the Domesticated Cat. or F. catus. As follows:

Last note, if you ever see a group of kitties you should say  something like "Hey there, that's a clowder of cats." Or "Y'all look! it's a glaring of kitties!"
Now I know, and so do you.

I went on a harvesting walk through the city of Savannah to find plant material to dye my silk material. Luckily it was right after the Holidays and people were throwing out old bouquets and center pieces. To say the least, I found gold mines. Here's some of the process. 

After they steamed I boiled some of the bundles in a bath of red wine, yellow onion skins, and black tea.

And then I wrapped some of them around a rusty iron spike.

What about the Kitties?

I've started a new thing. Because Lane and I have the best kitties in the universe, I'm going to be documenting their real life holiday adventures in the form of cards. Each holiday will be a new set of cards.  It's going to be called "What About The Kitties?" Keep those eyes peeeeeeeled.

True story.

Broughton Exchange Pop-up Shop

This holiday season I will have silk scarves, prints, and other handmade items for sale at the Broughton Exhange Pop-up Shop on 18 E. Broughton St. in Savannah, Ga. The shop will be open every weekend until Christmas, with new items added each weekend. 

Paprika Southern wrote a great little blerb about the shop. Check it out, if you can or contact me about what I have in stock for sale. ;)

There are also new products in the works!



The Nature Conservancy of Minnesota

While serving with AmeriCorps NCCC, I was able to work with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of Minnesota. I was fortunate enough to have Toni Agular as my crew captain. She led us, chainsaws in hand, to save the prairie, one invasive species at a time. Once my service year was up, she contacted me and asked if I would design something for their region's T-shirts. I was more than happy.


I also took this design and screen printed it on a heavyweight cream BFK paper at 28 x 22 inches. These are for sale in various colors. Contact me for more information.

Going National

Today, the Made in America segment of ABC World News Tonight featured the studio I work with, Lovelane Designs. The mastermind behind it all, Lane Huerta, designs unique and imaginative EVERYDAY play wear for the small ones...and sometimes big ones too. 

Check out the segment here.

And feel free to buy all of the things here.

Oh, and here's Pixie. She likes to help out as much as possible.