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Living Willow Structure by Bonnie Gale

Living Willow Structure by Bonnie Gale

I have been looking forward to spring!  So far however the only signs that it is on its way have been some little crocus buds which the squirrels ripped apart.  To remedy this, I have been trying to put up some aspirational gardening posts.  Yet, looking back at yesterday’s post about a ragged poisonous flower, I wonder if I have succeeded.  Therefore, here is a post about a beautiful living garden structure which was created by Bonnie Gale, a garden designer and inventor/innovator who builds unique garden rooms for the great masters of New York.

Living Willow Outdoor Structure

Living Willow Outdoor Structure

When I was a child, I read fantasy novels which featured all sorts of elves and nature spirits.  This structure is made of living willow branches, and very much reminds me of the magical otherworldly feeling evoked by such imaginary nature sprites.  Bundles of living willows are carefully planted in proximity to each other and then methodically trained to entwine together into a single structure—a literal living room.

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These astonishing live pergolas and arbors are amazing, but they look like they not only require sunlight, space, and meticulous building skills, but also prodigious amounts of time and patience.  A mere green thumb would not be enough to craft such a delightful folly: one would have to have green hands.  I have always thought I was more gifted at gardening than other people (at least I get out there and try), but after years my irises still haven’t bloomed!  I don’t anticipate building any living willow rooms of exquisite delight.

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Yet I am thankful to Ms. Gale for creating such things and I look forward to seeing more of her structures in the future!  Additionally, maybe someday the bioengineers will get better at their craft and we can all have extra growing rooms to enjoy.  Right now though I would settle for a single blossom…

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To borrow a page from the timeless style of Sesame Street, this week Ferrebeekeeper is brought to you by the Roman letter Q.  Each post will concern a topic which begins with that rare letter.  So quench your thirst with quinine water and wrap up in a quaint quilt. There is a reason that the letter Q is worth 10 points in scrabble but I think we can find 5 relevant topics that are not too quixotic (also I’m going to stop using extra q words for effect immediately—please don’t stop reading).

A Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus)

For the first q-themed post, we must travel to the ancient arid continent of Australia. For reasons of geology and tectonics, Australia has been a wallflower in the great continental ballet and has been isolated for the last 40 million years.  Thanks to this geographic seclusion, the animals of Australia are much different than the creatures which flourish elsewhere, and Austalia’s mammals are dominated by marsupials like the kangaroos, the wombats, the koalas, and the bandicoots.  All of those creatures are herbivores, but there are insectivorous marsupials (like the numbat) and there are marsupial carnivores which prey on the others.  Some of the larger orders of marsupial predators have died off as Australia dried out, but a major order of predators remain–the catlike quolls.

Quolls (genus Dasyurus) are solitary, nocturnal mammals which seek shelter in their burrows and dens by day and hunt birds, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals at night. They are agile all-terrain creatures capable of swiftly moving across the forest floor or through the forest canopy.  Quolls kill their prey with a bite to the neck where it joins the head.  In addition to being predators, they also scavenge for carrion and they can sometimes be found by picnic areas and rubbish dumps. There are six species of quolls which range in size from 350 grams (12 ounces) to 3.5 kilograms (8 pounds). Four species are located across the Australian mainland while one species inhabits New Zealand.  One outlier species, the Bronze Quoll (Dasyurus Spartacus) lives in the savannah of New Guinea. The animals all share a characteristic spotted fur coat and a similar lifestyle.  The closest relatives of quolls are the formidable Tasmanian devils (the largest extant marsupial carnivores) and the superficially weasel-like mulgaras.

Unfortunately, quolls are not doing well.  Feral cats, dogs, and foxes are much more deft predators and are outcompeting the quolls or eating them outright (although the quolls do get some free meals from the invasive wave of rabbits and rats which have swept Australia).  Additionally the quolls are falling victim to an even stranger invasive species.  The Cane Toad (Bufo marinus) is a toxic South American toad which was brought to Australia in order to control agricultural pests.  The toads secrete a powerful toxin which is potent enough to kill a human (some people ingest cane toad secretions in order to experience the hallucinogenic effects).  Cane toads resemble some of the natural amphibian prey species of quolls and the spotted predators eat them voraciously—only to fall sick and die.  In order to save the unlucky quolls, a project is afoot to train the predators not to eat cane toads. Wildlife researchers have been dropping small sausages made of cane toad from airplane in quoll habitats.  It is hoped that quolls will eat the sausages and become violently sick (but not fatally so).  Having had a miserable bad trip, the quolls will then presumably forbear from eating further cane toad flesh.

The Cane Toad (Bufo marinus)

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