Sorbus domestica hybrids - Hybrid Mountain Ash

An overview and photos of Luther Burbank’s Sorbus domestica hybrids in Sebastopol, California. Sorbus domestica has much potential in agroforestry systems, reforestation and further domestication / selection / hybridization.

Eriodictyon californicum - Yerba Santa

Yerba Santa is a Borage relative that grows in a variety of habitats including chaparral and Coast Redwood forests.

The leaves have historically been used to treat asthma, upper respiratory infections and allergic rhinitis. The Concow tribe calls the plant  wä-sä-got’-ō. The Chumash used it as a poultice  for wounds, insect bites, broken bones, and sores. It was also used in a steam bath to treat hemorrhoids.

Eriodictyon californicum
Eriodictyon californicum

Calochortus amabilis - Golden fairy lantern

Calochortus amabilis flowers.

Calochortus amabilis flowers.

Calopchortus amabilis, another California native flowering bulb. This is a stout branching plant with bright yellow flowers with a triangular outline.

The plant prefers higher levels of shade, and soil humus rich in organic matter, however it grows in the wild in a wide variety of conditions, including full sun, rocky hillsides, chaparral and Serpentine soils. .

In the wild the plant can be found along the North Coast Ranges from Solano and Marin Counties to Humboldt an Colusa County.

As with the bulbs of many Calochortus species, C. amabilis bulbs were traditionally eaten by Indigenous peoples in the region. Bulbs were baked or boiled and eaten in a similar way as sweet potatoes. Large swaths of land were carefully sustainably managed over generations to provide supply of these delicious and nutritious bulbs.

Young seed pods on Calochortus amabilis

Young seed pods on Calochortus amabilis

Calochortus amabilis flower close-up.

Calochortus amabilis flower close-up.

Fouquieriaceae, Fouquieria diguetii, Palo Adan, Adam's Tree

This is a somewhat unique, tree-like shrub, with a short trunk and numerous branches growing upright. When in bloom this species has a spectacular reddish-pink bloom, very bright and in stark contrast to the desertscape. Reportedly the bark is stripped and cooked and used to wash cuts.

Palo Adan, leafing out

Palo Adan, leafing out

Palo Adan, leaf

Palo Adan, leaf

Palo Adan

Palo Adan

Palo Adan, bark detail

Palo Adan, bark detail

Thermopsis macrophylla - False Lupine

A west coast native annual nitrogen fixing plant in the Fabaceae family. Reminds me of Crotolaria in its growth habit and overall appearance. It looks like it has potential as a cultivated, drought tolerant biomass or cover corp species.

Thermopsis macrophylla leaf and flower.

Thermopsis macrophylla leaf and flower.

Thermopsis macrophylla flower spike.

Thermopsis macrophylla flower spike.

Elaeagnus pungens - Nawashiro-gumi, thorny olive, spiny oleaster, silverthorn

OVERVIEW, ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

Elaeagnus pungens fruit

Elaeagnus pungens is a species of flowering plant in the family Elaeagnaceae, known by the common names Nawashiro-gumi thorny olive, spiny oleaster and silverthorn; also by the family name "oleaster". It is native to Asia, including China and Japan. Today it is widely spread throughout temperate and mediterranean regions of the world. Primarily this plant seems to be used as a ornamental shrub used in landscaping. However, the Elaeagnus genus deserves more attention in agroforestry and sustainable agriculture in general for their nitrogen fixing properties, edible berries and seeds and promising medicinal properties.

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

It was also used to  abandoned mining sites in Kentucky and other areas. 

Seed (Dry weight)

  • 0 Calories per 100g

  • Water : 0%

  • Protein: 42.2g; Fat: 23.1g; Carbohydrate: 0g; Fibre: 0g; Ash: 0g;

  • Minerals - Calcium: 0mg; Phosphorus: 0mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;

  • Vitamins - A: 0mg; Thiamine (B1): 0mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0mg; Niacin: 0mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;

  • Reference: [ 218]

  • Notes:

PROPAGATION AND CULTIVATION

Freshly sewn seed should germinate freely within 4 weeks, though it may take 18 months. Stored seed can be very slow to germinate, often taking more than 18 months. A warm stratification for 4 weeks followed by 12 weeks cold stratification can help.

You can also take cuttings in the summer (June, July - August) - half-ripe wood, 7 - 10 cm, ideally with a heel

Despite its invasive potential, E. pungens is widely cultivated as a garden plant in temperate regions. It tolerates varied environmental conditions, including heat, cold, wind, coastal conditions, shade, and full sun. It is very drought-tolerant. It can grow in varied soil types, including those found at mine spoils. Numerous cultivars have been developed, especially for variegated foliage effects.

 

Crataegus mexicana - Mexican hawthorn

Crategeus mexicana fruit

I encountered this Mexican hawthorn tree at the Gold Ridge Experimental Farm in Sebastopol, CA - Luther Burbank’s former laboratory. Although much of the acreage has long been converted to housing development and only a small tract of the former farm remains, there are some interesting trees surviving. One area I return to whenever I visit is the small group of Cratageus species in the back where a few species, including C. mexicana, are still thriving.

Compared to the Chinese Hawthorn, C. pinnatifida, the Mexican hawthorn tastes much better out of hand and has an interesting aroma, reminiscent of some obscure tropical fruit or synthetic bubblegum.

The fruit of Crategeus mexicana is eaten in Mexico cooked, raw, or canned. It resembles a crabapple, but it has three or sometimes more brown hard stones in the center. It is a main ingredient used in ponche, the traditional Mexican hot fruit punch that is served at Christmas time and on New Year's Eve. On Dia de los Muertos tejocote fruit as well as candy prepared from them are used as offerings to the dead, and rosaries made of the fruit are part of altar decorations. A mixture of tejocote paste, sugar, and chili powder produces a popular Mexican candy called rielitos, because it resembles a tiny train rail.

In some parts of Mexico, tejecote is taken for treating flu and cough, and also to prevent several cardiovascular diseases.

Due to its high pectin content, the fruit is industrially processed to extract pectin for the food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, textile and metal industries.

Other uses include food for livestock (for which the leaves and fruits are used) and traditional medicinal uses; a Mexican hawthorn root infusion is used as a diuretic and as a remedy for diarrhea and fruit-based preparations are a remedy for coughing and several heart conditions.

The Mexican hawthorn tree's wood is hard and compact, it is good for making tool handles as well as for firewood.