Here’s looking to a bright 2018 full of hope. There is an old proverb that says that he who plants a tree is planting hope. We could not agree more. Thank you to all of our Sponsors. Here is to 2018 and planting so many more trees together! Every tree makes a difference! We will tend them to maturity and grow future forests now for future generations! THANK YOU !!!
Seems like no matter where you are, talk about drought is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. I was recently in California this past April and was surprised to see the all fountains, even the ones in Beverly Hills, completely turned off. Babylon is running out of water. How ironic because Babylon used to be known for its lush hanging hydroponic gardens overflowing with plenty of water and more than enough food for all. Now look at us.
Water wars have begun whether you know it or not. Competition for this precious resource is going to become ever more fierce because we have altered our air composition and cut down way too many trees. Excess carbon dioxide is driving up temperatures which is, in turn, trapping in more water vapor.
Rainforests balance the global temperature and water cycles through recycling huge quantities of rainfall. Enormous amounts of water are continuously being elevated through the one-way, antigravity valving system of trees. Each canopy tree transpires some 200 gallons ( 760 liters) of water annually. For every acre of canopy rainforest, trees transpire about 20,000 gallons (76,000L) of water.  The tree feeds the rain-forming atmosphere by leaking atomized water out through its leaves while at the same time sucking in fresh water through its roots. Trees run the rainfall/snowfall system through their evapo-transpiration. So how do the trees recycle the rain?
Water evaporates from the sea and from the trees, first rising as water vapor and then condensing and falling as rain, a process referred to as evapo-transpiration. Some rainwater sinks into the earth and some rainwater drains away over the ground surface, depending on the temperature of the ground surface coupled with whether there are trees there or not. In forested areas, the trees cool the ground off with their shading branches and leaves. When the the ground is cooler than the falling rainwater, the warmer rainwater to easily penetrate the earth. Around 85% of the water runoff is retained, with 15% being absorbed by vegetation and humus and about 70% going to recharge groundwater, aquifers and underground stream systems.
In the full hydrological cycle like this, the trees recharge the groundwater table by sending it down through interconnected webs of tree roots. This is why biodiverse groupings of different species of trees, like those growing in a natural forest or highly diverse reforestation project, ensure that water is, in fact, penetrating the ground at multiple levels and actually nourishing deeper underground streams and reservoirs instead of draining them like in a monoculture or single species plantation.
In a healthy, full hydrological cycle, diverse tree root systems play another key role in regulation of the water cycle. Roots from all kinds of trees reaching down to all strata of underground levels draw water up from different layers of the soil and underground aquifers. This water then transpires through the tree leaves and rises as water vapor, cooling with altitude and condensing into clouds. Finally, the water aggregates into bigger droplets and precipitates as rain. Some say that water rising from trees is more highly charged and healthy water because it emanates from a living source, with mineral and trace element content much higher than transpiration from the sea, where many creatures have already absorbed the oxygen and carbon dioxide content leaving the water empty.
Now think about what happens to the water when we cut down the trees, particularly around the Equator where the majority of rainwater and oxygen is recycled on our planet. In deforested areas without tree cover, the temperature gradient of the soil is normally so hot that the cooler rainwater cannot penetrate it at all. Instead, the water runs off and just evaporates away. It’s just like when you throw water on a hot skillet and it sizzles and skitters sideways, just evaporating into thin air. Without the trees and cooling clouds to shade and protect and keep the soil cool, the rainwater cannot sink in.
The water vapor in the atmosphere at first increases and the rain spreads out over a much larger surface area instead. Sometimes the rainfall is excessive, then flooding occurs. At the same time, enhanced evaporation causes the atmosphere to become overloaded with water vapor and make the water fall somewhere else instead – sometimes far from the original source of the water vapor. By this process, devastating droughts can also result from the vicious cycle of rain created by a broken hydrological cycle. Yes, a flood in one region begets the next flood, and conversely, a flood can also be the cause of a future drought.
How can drought occur from too much rain? Critical consequence of the half hydro cycle is that there is no groundwater recharge. Think about it. Most of the water is staying on the surface because trees are not rooting the water down and transpiring the vapor upwards in a slow steady balanced process. Instead, the water is rising very fast, in large part as hot vapor and falling as rain without ever actually penetrating the deep levels of the earth. Often, if there aren’t enough trees to hold moisture in the soil, and the winds end up moving the vapor elsewhere which effectively removes the water from that local system.
Where there is no tree cover, the groundwater initially rises and brings with it underground salts, which contaminate the upper levels of topsoil. The plants are not able to metabolize these salts and vegetation and soils dry up and die. Over time the groundwater table will sink and disappear, because there is insufficient rainwater to nourish it and in turn, the supply of nutrients to vegetation from below the ground ceases.
Esteemed scientist Victor Shauberger calls this a biological short circuit which ultimately leads to widespread desertification. Why? The nutrients present in the upper zones of the groundwater table, which are normally drawn up by the trees to a level where they are accessible to the lesser plants are left below instead to sink with the falling ground water. The water table eventually drops to levels far beyond the reach of even the deepest tree roots, taking all soil moisture and trace elements down with it. No water means the desert reigns supreme.
When widespread desertification is the norm, not only is water lost in the deep bowels of the earth, but it also begins to be lost at the great heights of the heavens. The initial greater intensity of thunderstorms and storm activity at first raises the water vapor to levels far higher than normal, even as high as 40 to 80 km above the surface of the planet. Here the vapor reaches altitudes where it is exposed to much stronger ultraviolet and high energy gamma radiation, which break apart the water molecules by disassociating the oxygen from the hydrogen. Due to its lesser specific weight, the hydrogen molecule then rises while the oxygen molecule sinks. This way the water is effectively removed forever – gone gone gone for good.
So what can we do to restore a healthy, full hydrological cycle for our planet? Planting bio diverse trees within 10° of the Equator is one of the best solutions. In badly deteriorated soils, pioneering species are able to handle the higher levels of soil salts and are critical to plant so they can provide some early shade and ground cover which begins to lower the soil’s temperature. Soil conditions slightly improve as the trees move rainwater deeper into the earth, taking the excess salt down with it. Meanwhile a mix of fruit and hardwood trees can survive in the regenerated soil thanks to the process of creating shade and more soil moisture. Eventually, the pioneer trees die off because the evolved soil conditions are now no longer suitable and the dynamic balance of nature is restored.
When Justin Brothers, one of the Producers of the Envision Festival in Costa Rica, asked me to write an article about what ACCT does, I wondered what I could say that would resonate with this jet setting, fun loving, and mantra murmuring crowd. Non profit Association Community Carbon Trees- Costa Rica has been working with the ENVISION FESTIVAL since it’s inception 5 years ago in an effort to provide a way for people attending the event to offset their carbon dioxide emitted from the airplanes, trains, and automobiles used to travel to the Southern Zone of Costa Rica. Envision’s example of giving back to the local and global community has set the stage for other festivals to be more environmentally aware not just about their footprint for the festival itself, but also for the planet as a whole due to the countless environmental services and sustainable products rainforest trees so generously give us. Trees do so much for us from sucking up excess carbon dioxide to recycling thousands of gallons of rainwater each year, to providing food, medicine and products. With so many amazing qualities, it is hard to focus on just one reason why we love rainforest trees.
Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions from people at the festival is HOW do the trees do their magic? Most people know a little about photosynthesis, that amazing atmospheric chemical exchange occurring in green plants which forms the basis of our symbiotic relationship with them. Humans exhale CO2 constantly, as do land based animals, and many fossil fuel consuming machines and factories. Trees breathe in CO2 and store the carbon molecule while literally recycling our pollution into the oxygen we breathe and the water we drink.
This mutually reciprocal relationship is nothing short of amazing as it provides for our most fundamental needs. Carbon is not the enemy. In fact, Paul Hawken, esteemed environmentalist, reminds us that carbon is an extraordinary element we need to hold hands with and collaborate. We need to fall in love with carbon.
I say we need to fall in love with rainforest trees too. Because they truly do hold hands with carbon and turn it into food for growth. Nevertheless, tree services often go unnoticed and taken for granted. That old cliche “Save the Rainforest” never really worked and now we have so much carbon in the air that it has become a menace to society and no one really has invented a better way than a tropical tree near the Equator to absorb it and give us so much back in return.
Let’s go deeper. How do we calculate how much carbon dioxide is captured by any tree? It depends on the growth characteristics of the tree species, the conditions for growth where the tree is planted, and the density of the tree’s wood. In other words, how big and hard does the tree grow over time? Where is the tree located and how old is it? Carbon offset is greatest within 10 degrees of the Equator and in the younger stages of tree growth, between 20 to 50 years. This is why it is so important for every tree we plant to “keep on living and giving” which makes our long term, paid community farmer rainforest management and conservation program critical to real success.
Do you want to go even deeper? Of course, all trees planted anywhere are wonderful and generous. But when you start calculating the real carbon sequestration of any given tree, those growing within 10 degrees of the Equator out perform all others because they grow 365 days a year with no real dormant cold season. Here is a basic outline of how the calculation works. First, we determine the total (green) weight of the tree by determining “W” = Above-ground weight of the tree in pounds, “D” = Diameter of the trunk in inches and H = Height of the tree in feet. Fn3
Then we determine the dry weight of the tree. This is based on extensive publications with tables for average weights for one cord of wood for different temperate and tropical tree species. Taking all species in the table into account, the average tree is 72.5% dry matter and 27.5% moisture.Therefore, to determine the dry weight of the tree, multiply the weight of the tree by 72.5%.
Next, we determine the weight of carbon in the tree. The average carbon content is generally 50% of the tree’s total volume. Therefore, to determine the weight of carbon in the tree, multiply the dry weight of the tree by 50%.
Determine the weight of carbon dioxide sequestered in the tree. CO2 is composed of one molecule of Carbon and 2 molecules of Oxygen.
The atomic weight of Carbon is 12.001115.
The atomic weight of Oxygen is 15.9994.
The weight of CO2 is C+2*O=43.999915.
The ratio of CO2 to C is 43.999915/12.001115=3.6663.
Therefore, to determine the weight of carbon dioxide sequestered in the tree, multiply the weight of carbon in the tree by 3.6663.6
Finally, determine the weight of CO2 sequestered in the tree per year. To do this, we divide the weight of carbon dioxide sequestered in the tree by the age of the tree.
Estimated growth rates and sizes of agroforestry trees were taken from the World Agroforestry Centre’s “Agroforestree Database”:
Let’s see how much a Calliandra calothyrsus ( small leguminous tree native to Central America) might sequester in a year. A 10-year-old Calliandra would probably grow about 15 feet tall with a trunk about 8 inches in diameter. Therefore:
W = 0.25D2H = 0.25(82)(15) = 240 lbs. green weight above ground.
382.8 lbs / 10 years = 38.3 lbs. CO2 sequestered per year
If nothing else, it becomes very clear that it is not enough to just plant the tree. Every single tree must be lovingly tended, especially the first four years if it is to grow up over the cattle grasses and form a biodiverse forest canopy to give us maximum environmental benefits. Each one of these diverse trees contributes over 200 pounds of biomass each year to rebuild soils on deforested cattle farms participating in our programs. Based on the number of trees Envision has sponsored to date, just picture more than 74,600 pounds of fresh new topsoil added from falling branches, leaves and animal droppings where it used to be just hot mess of cattle grass and erosion! But wait. There’s more! Each tree transpires or recycles over 200 gallons of rainwater each year. By the time the trees reach 20 years old, they have formed a canopy which transpires over 20,000 gallons of water per acre per year. That is a big deal with the ongoing drought and flood conditions plaguing our planet due to deforestation and unusually higher temperatures year after year.
Local Costa Ricans participating with us, both workers and host farm family members, all paid labor, chop cattle grasses and choking vegetation away from the base of each and every tree and its perimeter 3 to 4 times per year the first two years, 2 times during the 3rd year and 2 times the 4th year. This means the majority of the money from each ACCT sponsorship is going out to the community to make sure each and every tree grows to maturity which is at least 25 years for the carbon sequestration numbers to be real.
ACCT distinguishes itself from most other tree planting groups by allocating money and management to the follow up care of every single tree. We even replace any trees that die the first 4 years. What’s more, we plant a huge diversity of trees. And we do not buy the land either, but rather empower local farmers to work on their own land which means less deforestation. Through local job creation, ACCT cultivates greater chances of long term rainforest regeneration and conservation. Social justice has a huge role to play in keeping rainforest standing for future generations.
My, how we have all grown! As of planting season 2015, just 5 years after our birth, 16 different family farms are participating in our ACCT forestry programs. Over the past 5 years, Envision Festival has grown as well. They have sponsored 373 trees for Future Generations with a projected measurable carbon offset of at least 373 tons of CO2 over a 25 year period. We could break down these numbers to yearly calculations, but given the long term nature of our work and commitment and dedication to forest management, the 25 year cycle is a more fair analysis based on a per tree basis.
So if you are traveling to Envision Festival this coming year 2016, or still want to offset your CO2 from previous years, or even other festivals or events, you can safely calculate that 1 tropical tree will absorb approximately 1 ton of CO2 plus give us all of the other benefits mentioned. We really do hold a powerful, socially just solution in the palm of our hands. And ACCT loves to do the dirty work with our community of men and women! Every single tree does makes a difference. You have an important role to play. If not you, then who? Envision the forest we are planting. It is real and we need your help!
ACCT thru the carbon offset button on the Envision website EnvisionFestival.com. You can also post your pic and testimonial and receive a Carbon Certificate through our interactive website www.CommunityCarbonTrees-CostaRica.com. We are the change we seek. ACCT now!
2 The National Computational Science Leadership Program http://www.ncsec.org/cadre2/team18_2/students/purpose.html and The Shodor Education Foundation
3 “Total-Tree Weight, Stem Weight, and Volume Tables for Hardwood Species in the Southeast,” Alexander Clark III, Joseph R. Saucier, and W. Henry McNab, Research Division, Georgia Forestry Commission, January 1986.
Chave J, Muller-Landau H, Baker TR, EasdaleTA, ter Steege H and Webb CO. 2006. Regional and phylogenetic variation of wood density across 2456 neotropical tree species. Ecological Applications 16:2356-2367.
Vallejo A, Hernadez PC. 2006. Database of observations of Central American species and generic models of growth. Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenaza, CATIE, COsta Rica.
4 “Heating With Wood: Producing, Harvesting and Processing Firewood,” Scott DeWald, Scott Josiah, and Becky Erdkamp, University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, March 2005.
Chave J, Muller-Landau H, Baker TR, EasdaleTA, ter Steege H and Webb CO. 2006. Regional and phylogenetic variation of wood density across 2456 neotropical tree species. Ecological Applications 16:2356-2367.
5. “Carbon Storage and Accumulation in United States Forest Ecosystems, General Technical Report W0- 59,” Richard A. Birdsey, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Radnor, PA, August 1992.
I remember when I was a little kid growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and I would watch my MOM gobble down these green mushy “fruits”, all cut into little squares inside their perfect little natural bowls. She would drip lemon and salt over the chunks and slowly savor each and every bite. I could tell how much she was enjoying this mysterious food because she would smile like she was in heaven. So, eventually, I got curious and asked her for a bite. Oh, I sighed, this is good… Now I get it.
That was the first time I tried the amazing AVOCADO, not knowing then that it grew all over the rainforest in Costa Rica. I don’t think we ever went to the grocery store again without me asking for them. They weren’t always available so I learned young that avocados are a special treat. This remains true today. Even though I live in the rainforest and have avocados trees in my backyard, they are not always in season. Sometimes I still do without. Whenever I germinate avocado seeds for tree production, I think of my Mom and all those avocado seeds she would stick with toothpicks and try to sprout in glass jars in our kitchen window. I wondered why she tended those vines when they could never become a tree since Louisiana was still not the right climate for growing avocados. I guess it was just “fun”.
My Mom introduced me to other kinds of fancy food from the rainforest, which at the time, I just did not understand how precious they really were. I also remember those special little while round discs MOM would toss into our salads. I never really knew what they were but I knew I liked those special white nuggets in the salad. I remember when my Mom showed me the can with the “HEARTS OF PALM” inside. I could not believe something so yummy could come out of a can. I would search longingly for it every time we went to the grocery store, not knowing then that hearts of palm are a rainforest treasure I would one day grow by the thousands.
It’s funny how I never knew that hearts of palm actually came from a palm tree. Yea, the words were there, even written on the can, but I never truly “got it” that these delicacies came from the center of a palm tree.
When I moved to Costa Rica 15 years ago, I was stunned and dismayed to hear that each and every palm only gives one heart of palm. Once cut, a new palm will only regrow from a new palm tree. It does not regenerate out of the stump. Again, this could seem obvious to some, but I had to move across the world and discover this hard truth for myself. Once I understood how over exploited the rainforest palms were for this high quality nutritious food, we started replanting them in droves! Indeed, no forest would be complete without a diversity of symbiotic palms to complete the ecosystem. Hearts of palm must be replanted regularly to keep the supply sustainable.
Perhaps the most noteworthy introduction to slow rainforest food my Mom made to me was the marvelous mango. ( I am keeping chocloate out of this discussion because the precious cocoa tree deserves it’s own story in my book!) I met the MANGO at a special buffet offered at a fancy breakfast party I attended as a small kid, again with my adventurous MOM. I remember seeing this work of food art decorating the fruit table. Mangoes had been cut away from the big seed in the center then perfectly cut into cubes while still attached to the skin. By turning it inside out, little chunks of sunshiny goodness, all fleshy and sweet, were easy pluck off one by one. I remember asking my MOM it it was edible or just part of the decorations. She laughed, inviting me to sit and share it with her. I remember picking up the heavy fruit from the table, and bringing it carefully to where my MOM was sitting. After bursting with surprise that anything could be so yummy and soft, I exclaimed that I wanted to go and buy a mango tree and plant it that very afternoon on the way home from the brunch. My Mom just laughed again and explained that mangos only come from tropical countries near the Equator where the rainforest grows. She explained how mango trees take a long time to grow. She told me how generous they were once grown because they give hundreds of fruits per year. I marveled at how anyone could have a mango tree in their backyard.
So I have to thank my MOM for introducing me to fancy rainforest foods, including chocolate, one could say the “finer things in life”. Imported foods like avocadoes, mangos, hearts of palm are a regular part of my diet now. But the cool part is that I am lucky enough to have them growing right in my own backyard! It has taken some time to get these trees going and harvest their fruits, but the wait is well worth it. Easy picking from low hanging fruit in a carefully designed tropical food forest means abundant and diverse food for export, all organic and non GMO. It is as easy as taking a stroll with a big basket. Just collect the bounty of your harvest. Because we really do reap what we sow. And with rainforest trees, we get more fancy food per hectare with the least amount of effort long term. Plus a world of other environmental benefits.
The first time I saw Vanishing of the Bees, I had already dedicated more than 10 years of my life to creating solutions for global warming through rainforest conservation and community tree planting in Costa Rica.
I was lucky to have answered the call of my life’s mission: I evolved from environmental lawyer in Louisiana to the founder Carbon Community Trees, a successful non-profit community reforestation group that regenerates degraded cattle farms with communities in rural areas of Costa Rica.
On an intuitive level, I felt that keeping the rainforest healthy would also serve the bees. We could not just focus on the pesticides and herbicides in a vacuum, or genetic modifications and big factory farming alone. We need to look at the bigger effects and think globally.
We have observed record-high temperatures for the past 12 years as a result of human-hastened climate change. More intense winters also take their toll on natural systems; bigger storms, floods and droughts stress all organisms.
Planting trees with community participation has a measurable, positive impact on lowering global temperatures. Rainwater is recycled into clouds; clouds bring down global temperatures; lower global temperatures take the pressure off species all over the planet, including the sensitive bees.
Finding long term ways to keep biodiverse rainforests standing also keeps the planet cool. Deforestation accounts for more than 20 percent of the carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. When farmers are paid to plant trees and take care of them long term, they do not cut them down like times gone by. Farmers have learned their lessons and are more than willing to work hard to repair their land and build new sustainable income opportunities related to the long-term growth of the trees.
Through our interactive programs, farmers are regularly harvesting renewable resources from the trees and gaining a new awareness of sustainable agro-forestry systems. We plant shelter zones and bridges made of growing trees to connect new forests across fragmented zones where animals, including bees, can build shelter. We empower forest communities, including women.
Tree Hugging and Bee Loving
Forests near the Equator breathe; trees are the lungs of the planet. Trees planted within 10 degrees of the Equator, like in Costa Rica, directly fight global warming and climate change by breathing in more carbon dioxide than anywhere else. These trees exhale oxygen 365 days a year in an atmosphere that is constantly being polluted by excess carbon levels.
In our community reforestation work, we have noticed time after time how docile and sweet the bees are when the trees are about five years old. (Now keep in mind that there are only Africanized bees in Costa Rica). They find comfort in the shade of the trees, which lowers the temperatures and encourages varied secondary vegetation. Once trees and weeds start blooming naturally, we regularly find hives rich in honey, filled with buzzing bees completely disinterested in us. One could even say they were happy. They appear focused and organized in a loose way, buzzing around plenty of different kinds of flowers both high in the canopy and around ground vegetation.
But the bees give off a whole different vibe when we first enter a deforested and degraded farm. They seem crazed and lost, if not desperate. A once abundant and pleasant habitat is now a hot, deforested and eroded hillside with sharp and thick, cattle grasses. These aggressive grasses suffocate and mangle even the strongest pioneering species, preventing anything else to grow. There is nothing blooming and nothing moving with the exception of “mean,” hungry bees. We find Africanized bee populations in these fields as aggressive as the grasses. Their temperament under the Equatorial sun—with no food, no flowers, no shade and fierce competition—matches the threatening environment.
Sometimes we unwittingly disturb these bees when our workers come swinging with machetes through the grasses for the first time to cut spaces to plant the baby trees. The bees attack the tree planters, stinging them hard! Faces and hands swell up as we slather on baking soda mixed into a cooling paste with water and continue chopping onward.
It is amazing to witness how fast we can convert these uninviting, cattle pastures into gentle, shady and productive food forests for all, especially the bees. No more angry bees attacking us. Hard work and time in nature satisfies everyone, including the bees. Meanwhile, resources become plentiful and workers become empowered. The young trees can only survive if we chop the cattle grasses regularly and trim vegetation so they can receive enough light to grow straight and tall.
The repair work we do requires a sustainable food chain and clean water and air, free of chemicals. Solutions must address rising atmospheric and ocean temperatures. Small scale farmers must be encouraged and empowered with economic support for natural farming practices and local conservation based on digging deep roots in the community.
Sponsor Trees for Future Generations
Big agriculture and first world governments are trying to “feed the world” more unsuccessfully than ever. How long can big agriculture keep hiding? We have to stop supporting commercial farming.
Purchase food from your local small farmers, plant a garden, or work in a community garden. Return to small and sovereign agricultural systems where local families and workers develop long term and balanced relationships with their own land and that of their neighbors. Land is best stewarded by those who work it, love it and depend on its ongoing productivity. Basically, people who have a connection with their land. This is one way we can start to lower carbon footprint.
Farmers who have a vested local interest in the fertility and long term productivity of their soils and the cleanliness of their water make the best conservation stewards. Valuing fruits like cocoa, guanoabana, mangoes, avocados, almonds and cashews from small reforestation farmers is just one way to repay the hard work and environmental services contributed by trees along the Equator in fighting climate change. It also supports the bees who pollinate these fruits and nuts.
With Community Carbon Trees Costa Rica, we aim to give people around the world a trustworthy and effective way to participate in one of the most hopeful solutions available to us in fighting the realm of maladies facing our natural systems today. Planting Equator biodiverse rainforest trees with local farming communities with our proven and certified ACCT model benefits people, animals and the planet.
We can make the changes that alter the course of our current tragic trajectory. NO action is too small; it all adds up. If poisons can add up over time, so can the positive steps we take to counteract them.
Jennifer Leigh Smith grew up on a sustainable farm in Louisiana playing in the woods and bayous, marveling at the Nature all around her. Jenny, who is also a lawyer, created Community Carbon Trees about 10 years ago. Jenny and her teams have planted more than half a million trees for 145 different projects. Jenny is a Climate Reality Leader trained by Al Gore and currently works with the United Nations and the Global Environment Fund to educate and build community reforestation programs in the emerging world.
SOLUTIONS ARE EASY … PLANT LOCAL TREES FOR BEES IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD
We are all still buzzing after our ACCT screening of the documentary film, “Vanishing of the Bees” last week with it’s Co–Director Maryam Henein at Hotel Roca Verde in Dominical Costa Rica. Everyone has a special opportunity to be part of the solution for this critical contributor to our healthy food chain. We can all plant sweet blooming flowering trees and plants for the bees! And stop using chemicals. Are you wondering what to plant in your jungle backyard or what to leave alone to be symbiotic with our Costa Rican honeybees? No matter where you live, h ere are some useful tips to attract the maximum diversity of healthy pollinators!
Bees need trees to live well. No surprise really, no matter where you live. Bees living in the tropics build their hives in nooks and crannies of old trees, or high on tree trunks in the forest. The bees can thrive in these conditions when left alone. They seek spaces of protection in the trees to be able to build natural and strong honey colonies. Wild spaces for the bees are important to maintain nature’s natural, uninterrupted rythyms. If you have a hive around your house or business and the buzzing is making you nervous or a hive is otherwise in a spot that is subject to disturbance, a qualified bee rescue expert is always available to relocate unwanted hives.
In the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Harold Ramirez is available to relocate any unwanted hives of Mariolas or Meliponias, medicinal bees (Tetragonista angosteras). Honey from these small creatures strengthens the human immune system, builds longevity and can heal diseases of the eye. Costa Rican honeybees produce delicious honey fragrant with hints of flowers. Delicious bee pollen and propolis are valuable nutritional contributions generously given by the local organic bees.
With so many gifts they give us, it is a natural response to want to help the bees in return. We can all plant a wealth of biodiverse native trees, herbs, and flowers depending on where we live to nourish the bees naturally. In Costa Rica, where we enjoy eternal summer temperatures but lots of rain, we try to plant a wide range of flowering trees that bloom at different times of the year. This way there are always abundant flowers for our fuzzy friends. We all thrive with a varied diet of ORGANIC fruits and vegetables to stay strong and fight off pathogens all around us in today’s growing fierce competition for resources and survival.
Guava Bella is one of the most resistant, sun tolerant, fast growing trees which give copious amounts of flowers for bees. This variety is most commonly sold at local fruit stands in their natural packaging in the form of a big boomerang shaped pod which cracks open to offer neat rows of white, cotton candy-like fruit covering large black seeds. More appropriate species for higher elevations is the Guava Guayinaquil. The bees also love its showy and sticky flowers. Both of these trees in the varied “Inga” family grow well even in poor soils and can provide shade in the early years of any reforestation project. Monkeys will sit in a guava tree and strip it bare. And the bees? Buzzin so loud you can hear them. They are drunk and happy in Guava flower season!
Papayas are also a big bee pleaser. While we humans rarely ingest the leaves of a papaya tree except when recovering from dengue or malaria, some of the larger birds like the wild turkeys will eat papaya leaves to nothing. I have seen up to four large Pahuillas in a single papaya tree balancing gingerly on the thin stalks so they can keep munching on the leaves. The bees buzz around the small white flowers all sticky and fragrant with pollen.
And what about those ubiquitous Guayaba trees dropping their luscious pink fruits all around? Have you ever noticed the bees hovering all drippy and drunk around these sweet pollen laden flowers? While this fruit is just perfect for making marmalade, again, you will have to compete with the lower part of the food chain to get your share, especially because worms are often hiding inside. Rich in vitamin C, many an unassuming human has bitten into a Guayaba fruit only to be grossed out by the worms. Don’t worry, nothing goes to waste in Nature, and the deer and other mammals will scarf down any worm laden fruits left over. The rest serves as great organic compost. We each take our share and leave something behind to decompose for completing the circle.
Any variety of Mango tree is a magnet for the sticky bees. They are a great way to feed the bees, the wildlife and yourself! The rose colored shower tree, known as Karao, is also a big bee pleaser. No bee banquet would be complete without a few special flowers from fruits like Caimito, Abiut, Javoticaba, Cascarilla, Guanabana, Carambola, Jackfruit and Breadfruit. The fruit offered by these trees is so valuable to us all. But we would not enjoy it without the bees. The bees come to the flowers and end up giving us fruit by their pollination. Sweet symbiosis. We have a tropical food forest that nourishes us and the bees and makes us all healthy and happy too.
What about flowering trees for bees? Aceituna is a tall, slender purple blooming tree that offers a hearty flower with extra long stigmas perfect for bees making landings with sticky hind legs hanging down. Flitting from flower to flower, the bees pollinate the tree. Several months later the tree makes a large olive like fruit coveted by all kinds of birds and animals of the rainforest.
Everyone loves the striking beauty of the Orgullo de la India tree, boasting bright hues of purple or pink flowers in October when few other trees are flowering. This is an important late rainy season food for bees. In late summer, activated by dry weather, the Corteza Amarilla explodes in short lived yellow neon flowers that are aglow with the buzz of the bees. It’s cousin in the Tabebuia family, Roble Sabana o “Pau de Arco” tree is another flashy bloomer that impresses in late summer. Its bark is ground into a tea that is taken internally for a range of health benefits including tumor shrinkage. How is that for successful bee tree symbiosis?
Planting trees creates shade and improves the fertility of soils by dropping biomass for nourishment. Planting a food forest creates a dappled light habitat perfect for growing a wide array of herbs and flowers, also good for bees and humans alike. These weeds in turn nourish the growing trees with their decomposing biomass and the regenerative cycle of life is intact and rolling without obstacles.
Plant the impressive and hardy Agave plants (“tequila plants”) and you will attract some incredible bees when they bloom. Other blooming shrubs like Rabo de leon or Butterfly Bush, Gardenia, Poinsiana, Castor Bean, plus the whole family of Heliconias and Gingers and Hibiscus will attract an ever abundant menagerie of flying pollinating insects, not to mention hummingbirds. Add in some medicinal shrubs like Saragundi or wild Senna (great antiseptic, cooling skin wash), Hombre grande (stops diarrhea and vomiting), Fruta milagrosa (Stevia) or Gavilan (Jackassbitters) for amoebas and parasites, Romero or Rosemary for skin conditions, or Dandelion for liver detox and you get a home medicine chest while also creating beauty and diverse habitat for bees and butterflies.
It’s true that a weed can be as precious as a rose. Let your grass grow wildly in the summer time, let it bloom. Don’t waste so much fossil fuel maintaining a manicured lawn. Chop manually, get some exercise or create a job for someone doing it. Instead of paying big corporations for the poisonous herbicide, pay a local farmer instead. Value the volunteering weeds like Lantanas and Verbenas, Begonias (kidneys), Tuetes, (nausea), Botoncillos (inflammation) and other secondary regenerating plants and shrubs. The cycle of life depositing organic material from blooming and decomposition will create richer soils in collaboration with your tree planting. Meanwhile, your local mix of native trees, shrubs, herbs and weeds will create a wonderfully colorful and active space thriving with pollinators from bees to lizards, to dragonflies, and butterflies.
Plant a beautiful mix of shrubs, herbs, trees and veggies will provide a cornucopia of delights. You will be entertained, fed, and nursed when you are sick. Oh sweet symbiosis of the bees and the trees.
A few final tips to remember no matter where you live. If you want to grow healthy plants, food and soils while attract wildlife, the first rule of thumb is do not apply herbicides or pesticides. They just kill the soil, accumulate and create a vicious circle of dependence on fossil fuels. Avoid the systemic pesticide coated commercial seeds widely available today. Save heirloom seeds and trade with your neighbor. Let some of your garden go to seed every year and always leaves some fruit on your trees for the animals too. This never goes without saying.
Healthy, alive soils mean prosperous trees and plants. No amount of store bought chemical fertilizer can compensate for dead dirt. The secret really is in the soil. Make compost. Buy compost. Love the dirt. Touch it. It will bring you happiness and remind you where real good food comes from.
Second, don’t manicure the jungle or over chop or overwork your immediate area. Don’t cut the grass down too short or scrape off ground cover all the way to the dirt. When we remove the cover crops, we over-expose the dirt to the ravages of the weather. We want to preserve and protect the thin tropical topsoil and beneficial soil carpet of connective fungus. This forest floor contains beneficial organisms, like fungus which work like pro-biotics to inoculate the soil and protect the plants against pathogens. We want to encourage soil building by leaving the rotting organic material and developing fungi, not “clean” it up.
Harsh sun and rain will destroy the topsoil if it is exposed. Ground covering plants of diverse types are critical to shade and build healthy soils, plus create thicket areas for animals to birth their young. Pioneering weeds and short lived trees are also important because they provide shade and protection for regenerating long term species which grow slower and only in cool, protected, shady and healthy soils.
Nature really is perfect in its chaos. It all goes together, like we do with mutually beneficial relationships stacking together seeking survival. Symbiosis works back and forth, forever seeking balance on a constant basis. Symbiosis is dynamically fulfilling cycles with no unnatural wastes, everything useful and beneficial to the system and its ongoing processes over future generations. Like the bees and the trees.
Our ACCT model of planting over 85 species of native trees on deforested farms owned by Costa Ricans with community collaboration is working! Our viveros are full and we are ready for rainy season 2015! We also produce a variety of nitrogen fixing cover crops and medicinal plants. Let us help you with your reforestation project this year for great results. Make a difference for the bees, and the trees. Make a difference for yourself. Make a difference for future generations. Sponsor a tree today for longterm bee tree symbiosis with CommunityCarbonTrees-CostaRica.com. We love to do the dirty work!
And don’t forget to check out Maryam Henein’s HONEYCOLONY.com, an educational magazine touching on a range of health and food purity topics inspired by her ward winning documentary Vanishing of the Bees. Honeycolony offers an online store for the highest quality and purest food and beauty products, friendly to bees of course. SUPPORT local beekeepers and activists working in your area today. We are all part of the change! As Maryam Henein says, “BEE the Change”! As Tree Jenny says, “ Sponsor a Tree for Future Generations”!