Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Grape vines as a Landscaping for Wildlife plant

I had a question come in via email:

I am leery of Vitis riparia grapes. I had considered them at one time but then found they spread and are hard on trees. Correct?

I cannot speak to the particular environment that the questioner lives in, but I can speak to what occurs in Ingham and Eaton Counties, Michigan.

There are two times when you will see trees "Swamped" by grape vines.
  • When they are less than fifteen feet tall
  • When there has been a major tree die-off 
Fundamental to understanding how grape vines fit into the overall, forest ecology is understand that grapes are an early succession, pioneer, woody, "edge" species.

Pioneer species are typically fast growing, sun and fertility demanding and intolerant of competition.  Pioneer species usually have a "gimmick" for spreading seeds.  The seeds are usually wind-blown (willow, birch, populars, elms and maple) or encased in berries that are attractive to birds (mulberries, crabapples, wild cherries, grapes).

Competition in the nascent forest is brutal, a matter of the quick and the dead.  Sometimes the grape vine is the quick and some other, slower growing shrub/tree is the dead.  That explains the first class of "Swamped" trees.

Reversal of causality
The clue here is the obvious:  Why didn't the vine swampe the surrounding trees as well?  Because they are still alive.  It is easy to assume the vine killed the tree on the right, but why didn't kill the others?
In this case 65% of the surrounding trees were ash.  There was a small community of vines in the canopy "smoldering" when the ash component succumbed to the Emerald Ash Borer.  Released from the competition the grapes were able to out-compete others for the sunlight, soil moisture and nutrients.
Here is an example population explosion caused by release from competition caught in mid-stride:

The clump of trees in the middle of the photo are Wild Black Cherries (P. serotina).  Like grape vines, it is also an early pioneer, woody species.  The seeds may have been planted by the very same bird. You can see a multi-stemmed cherry that died circled in red.

This is a close-up taken of the top of the canopy with the dead cherry stems visible in the bottom, left corner of the photo.  The grape vines are circled in black.  They are high in the canopy on the same side of the stand that had been shaded by the dead cherry.
In Ingham and Eaton counties, grapes seem to have an affinity for P. serotina.  Perhaps it is because they come out of the starting gate at the same time.
Aerial roots on a young Virginia Creeper vine.

Aerial roots on a young Poison Ivy stem (leaf in photo is from a different stem).

Other vines, notably Virginia Creeper and Poison Ivy can climb smooth trunks by virtue of their aerial roots.  Grapes used tendrils to climb and need twigs or thin (less than 1.25" diameter) to grip.  Grapes need young saplings with low branches to make their way up in the world.

A grape vine (V. aestivalis) climbing a sugar maple.  40 feet to the first limb, then another 15 to the second tier.
The mother complex for the vine climbing the sugar maple 25 feet away.
It is a near impossibility that the vine grew 40 feet, straight up in the air to reach the first maple branch.  More likely, it was growing on another, shorter lived tree like a black cherry and this vine is a legacy vine.

Other considerations
Most wild grape vines are either male or female.  Male vines are significantly more vigorous and offer less in the way of landscaping for wildlife.  If you are concerned about vines swamping trees then the landscaper should choose females OR domesticated selections that are nearly always hermaphrodites.

Vine vigor, in the functional sense, is inversely related to cluster size.  Vines with larger clusters will have less vegetative vigor.
Clusters picked from one of the more aggressive vines.  It is doubtful if they average more than 10 grams each.  Vine was V. aestivalis which accounts for their greenness.

The median cluster weight for V. riparia of accessions in the ARS collection is about 20 grams.  Choosing female selections with cluster weights above 25 grams ensures that the vigor of your vines will be manageable.  Examples would be: PI255189, PI588562, PI588259, PI588347, PI588261 or you can simply survey the local talent and take cuttings from the vines with the largest clusters.

By comparison, the ARS lists Valiant as having 135 gram clusters and Frontenac has cluster weights of about 120 grams.  Both of these cultivars are 50% V. riparia.

---Added later:  One other factor worth considering is that wildlife like possum, raccoons, squirrels, even black bears will climb trees and rake vines with ripe fruit down to them.  It is more economical from an energy standpoint to stand below the vines and pull them to you than to climb above them and reach down.

That can be a major factor in limiting a vine's ability to "Swamp" a host tree.  Clearly, this mechanism only impacts vines that bear fruit and not male vines.
End note---

Based on my small survey, V. aestivalis is more likely to be in the tree canopies than V. riparia.  That may be a fluke due to small numbers or it may be related to disease resistance, perhaps phomopsis.

A Vegetarian's Nightmare

Baxter Black, Large animal veterinarian, story teller and cowboy

Story starts one minute into the video.  This story resonates with the ERJ clan because we had a summer when we were pummeled by a series of Kirby Vacuum salespeople.

Stub 3.2: Advice from a mother figure

The third day of the three day legislative session was dedicated to handing out “home work assignments.”

Nobody had any objections to dedicating the next legislative session to setting up the apparatus and goals for determining “money supply.”

Nuffin was nursing a hang-over and only took a few notes. She knew she was going to hand off the heavy-lifting to her new friends.

Nobody objected to terminating the third day early.

Unable to go back to the job-site, Raymond took in another AA meeting and was able to connect with Grace, the Dean of Social Sciences at the local junior college. At coffee afterward he told her about his need to call in experts to counterpoint Nuffin’s parade of notables.

Grace demurred. She said she would look into the matter but was doubtful about coming up with prestigious experts in the intervening five days.

Then she looked him in the eye and said, “People don’t trust experts. I think you can do a better job refuting the core of their arguments because you can speak of experiences that ‘real’ people can relate to.”

Grace said, “I don’t have any problem auditing the session via live streaming and I can coach you via a BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid). Two sets of ears are better than one and it is hard to concentrate when the bullets are whistling overhead.”

Then, under the kind eyes of a sympathetic, older woman, Raymond found himself talking about his recent feelings of being adrift.

Grace said, “Yep, that is pretty common.”

“Certain personalities are more vulnerable to substance abuse than other personalities. You and I both have the petal-to-the-metal personality. When we commit we are all-in.” Grace continued. “It is just the way we are wired.”

“Personally,” Grace said, “I am blessed by my husband. He is my counter-weight and he compliments me. Where I am single-minded and intense he is scanning and multitasking.  When I think the world is ending Harry has a Plan B and a Plan C or just rolls with it and says 'It is all good.'”

“You know it would not be a bad thing if you spent some of your ‘excess’ time checking out the ladies.” Grace continued.

Raymond gave Grace’s words ample consideration as he walked the streets. The problem was that the girls he knew seemed two-dimensional, like cardboard cutouts. It was not his nature to be a 'player' and keep a harem of girls dangling.  On the other  hand, he got bored with any one girl in a matter of a week or two and simply could not get excited about investing time in building a relationship with another girl like that.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Bracing end-posts in the ERJ vineyard

A 3' length of 4-by-4 with about 30" in the ground.

It looks a lot longer when it is not in the hole.
The compression link is an 8', treated 2-by-4 that is trapped by joist hangers.
The ends are cut in parallel.
The horizontal dimension is 7' and the vertical dimension is approximately 48"

Economics as explained by a bartender

Stub 3.1: Adrift

While Ideka Nuffin was partying with her new friends, Raymond went back to the job site to check on the work.

He was met by Gary Haskell, the Project Manager at the door. Gary politely, and firmly threw him out.

“Raymond, you need a life.” Gary said. “You won’t be worth a broke-Richard to me when you burn yourself out.”

“But it is more than that.” Gary added. “Your constant checking and micromanaging is emasculating your crew-leads on other shifts. Not only that, but covering you on your “off” days is my responsibility and your coming back is a vote of no-confidence and is cutting my balls off.”

“Hire the best people. Give them good tools, materials and instructions and then cut them loose. If you cannot trust them then I need a different point-guy here.” Haskell finished.

Raymond had never heard it put that way; that his aggressive bird-dogging was undercutting his people’s authority. He was completely lost as he trudged away from the job site.

He took in an AA meeting but there were few people he recognized. He raised a question but nobody suggested they go to coffee afterward.

Raymond walked the streets of LA for several hours before he was tired enough to turn home and attempt to fall asleep.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The energy budget of V. riparia grapes

Seeds from three different grape cultivars.  Seeds on top are from Noiret (berry weight of about 3 grams).  Seeds in the middle are from Riverbank Grape (berry weight of 0.7 grams).  Seeds on the bottom are from Lucie Kuhlmann (berry weight of 1.3 grams).

Two selections of Vitis riparia, Riverbank Grape, on 3" by 5" cards for size reference.  Cluster on the right is L-50s, a low acid selection from Minnesota.  Cluster on the left is from a random, wild, Michigan vine.  The L-50s cluster weighed 32 grams and the native Michigan cluster weighed 25 grams.

Ten large berries from L-50s weighed 7.2 grams.

The seeds from those ten berries weighed 1.3 grams or 18% of the berry's weight.

The stems weighed 2.1 grams or 6.6% of the cluster weight.

The seeds will be dried using Dr L. Pittman's method of mixing them with ample amounts of corn meal that has been thoroughly desicated in a common microwave oven.
Making some very coarse assumptions here:
  • That the majority of the energy in the flesh is contained as soluble solids at 24% solids
  • That the stems are 50% water by weight
  • That the seeds are 45% water, 50% carbohydrates and 5% lipids 

We can rough out the following "energy budget" for Vitis riparia L-50s:
  • 60% of the energy invested by the plant in producing the cluster of V. riparia L-50s is contained in the flesh
  • 30% of the energy invested in producing the cluster of V. riparia L-50s is contained in the seeds
  • 10% of the energy invested in the cluster is contained in the stems.
Were it possible to produce seedless V. riparia L-50s berries, it would be possible to increase the yield of flesh by 40% by simple re-budgeting of the energy.  Note that the reciprocal of 70% (100%- the 30% invested in the seeds) is 1.4.  While eliminating the seeds might not be practical, breeders can increase the effective yield by selecting for larger berries which usually tilts the flesh/seed ratio in a favorable direction.

From a landscaping for wildlife standpoint, the seeds contain a significant portion of the energy originally invested by the plant into the cluster.  Even if the berries are completely dried out and leached by fall rains, the retained berries still present a significant amount of energy to birds migrating northward in the spring by virtue of the carbohydrates and oils in the seeds.