ISSN 1188-603X

No. 246 March 25, 2000 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2

BEN issues 244, 245, and 246 are dedicated to botanist and plant ecologist

Professor Emeritus of the University of Washington in Seattle, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, March 21, 2000. His name does epitomize the Pacific Northwest botany. All the best, Art!


From: Mary Stensvold []

At least 25 mafic/ultramafic bodies are known in southeastern Alaska. Most of these are located on the inside passage between the Klukwan/Haines area in the northwest, just south of the British Columbian border; to Duke Island in the southeast, just north of the British Columbian border (Gehrels, 1992). These rocks are the exposed roots of volcanoes from an island arc that accreted to North America in the Cretaceous. Parts of oceanic plates were subducted under this accreted arc resulting in uplift and eventual exposure of the mafic/ultramafic bodies.

Many of these bodies are conspicuous from the water or from the air because of the reddish to gold colored exposed rock outcrops that contrast with the adjacent forests of Tsuga heterophylla-Picea sitchensis that dominate this part of Alaska. Some of these bodies are named, and the names often reflect the rock's distinctive coloration, Golden Mountain, Redbluff Bay, Yellow Hill. One of the outcrops, exposed as the Blashke Islets, is named for E. L. Blashke, a Russian ship's surgeon and botanist who worked in the area from 1839 to the early 1840s. However, botanists have explored few of these outcrops. This is in part because many of the outcrops are essentially inaccessible and require complicated logistics to explore.

During a 1997 U. S. Forest Service ecological/botanical reconnaissance of the summit of Redtop Mountain, the frond of a fern later determined to be Polystichum kruckebergii, was collected. Redtop Mountain is located on the Cleveland Peninsula about 50 km northwest of Ketchikan. This was an exciting find since the fern had not been previously reported from Alaska. According to Douglas et al. (1998) the nearest known location for P. kruckebergii is approximately 500 km to the east in central British Columbia. This northernmost B.C. locality was found and reported by Dr. Kruckeberg's son, A.L. Kruckeberg (1982).

In the summer of 1998 weather and funding cooperated allowing us to fly to Redtop Mountain to relocate the fern. Searches concentrated near the mountain's rounded summit at an elevation of about 730 meters. The substrate is dominated by bare dunite rock. In areas where decomposed dunite and organic material accumulate, the vegetation is a mosaic of bare dunite rock, alpine meadows and heaths. We were happy to find about 60 P. kruckebergii during a three-hour search. The plants were relatively easy to see, since their deep green fronds contrasted sharply with the orange dunite rock. Nearly all of the plants grew in vertical cracks on exposed dunite faces and were rooted in loamy sand derived from decomposed dunite. In many cases the entire fern was sheltered by overhanging bare rock faces. This population of P. kruckebergii is healthy. We saw plants of varying ages, growing singly and in dense clumps. We found no P. kruckebergii during quick searches of the more heavily vegetated areas away from the dunite core area of Redtop Mountain.

It will be interesting to see if P. kruckebergii grows on other mafic/ultramafic outcrops in southeastern Alaska.

Specimens of Polystichum kruckebergii from Alaska:


Douglas, George W., G. B. Straley, and D. Meidinger. 1998.
Rare Native Vascular Plants of British Columbia. B.C. Environment, Victoria, British Columbia.
Gehrels, G.E., and Berg, H.C. 1992.
Geologic map of southeast Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Investigations Series Map I-1867, 24 p., 1 sheet, scale 1:600,000.
Kruckeberg, A.L. 1982.
Noteworthy collections - British Columbia: Polystichum kruckebergii Wagner (Polypodiaceae). Madroño 29: 271.


From: Margery Edgren [], originally presented at NARGS Winter Study Weekend 2000

The following method of fern propagation from spores is less demanding than those requiring sterile technique. It is designed to encourage gardeners who grow hundreds of seeds, but find it too difficult or complicated to raise ferns from spores. It seeks to favor development of the fern in its competition with mosses, fungi, algae, etc. instead of isolating its tiny spores in a sterile environment. Propagators are urged to try variations of these suggestions that suit their individual facilities.

An easy way to collect spores is to place fronds flat in a paper envelope between layers of clean newspaper. If the frond is larger than the envelope, cut it in pieces or use only a portion of it. The newspaper absorbs moisture and facilitates opening of the spore cases. Spores collected in this way should be clean and can be sown from a small slit cut in the bottom of the envelope. They do not need to be sterilized.

  1. Tape side of a new clear 4" plastic saucer for label.
  2. Mix pan medium: 5 parts of Perlite + 1 part milled sphagnum. Moisten with 1 part hydroponic fertilizer (Chem Gro).
  3. Pack medium firmly to 2/3 the depth of the saucer.
  4. Place 2 rounded teaspoons of fine vermiculite in new plastic cup and moisten with hydroponic fertilizer (Chem Gro).
  5. Add spores to the cup (dust top of vermiculite lightly). Spores may be added from the bottom of the collection envelope by cutting a slit from one corner along the edge about 1/2 inch in length. Tap gently to sprinkle spores. Don't cut across the corner or the hole will be too large. Mix THOROUGHLY.
  6. Spread vermiculite evenly over top of medium in saucer.
  7. Press vermiculite FIRMLY into medium making good contact between the two layers.
  8. Place saucer in reclosable plastic sandwich bag and place under continuous subdued, cool, white fluorescent light at 70 deg F.
  9. Open occasionally to wipe out condensed moisture or add light mist, especially around the edges where the pan dries out first.
  10. Monitor pan for a few months as gametophytes grow into a mat across the pan followed by development of little sporophytes. It is risky to generalize, but on average in 2-4 months a nice mat of gametophytes should cover the pan. Appearance of sporophytes is common 4-8 months after spores are sown. 3 months is fast and 2 months is very fast, but does happen. Some pans may take a year to produce sporophytes.
  11. Prick out as desired or move in clumps to small pots with fern mixture: 3 parts coarse vermiculite + 2 parts sphagnum peat + 1 part sand. Moisten with hydroponic fertilizer.


From: Adolf Ceska []

In 1986 Mrs. Ethel Lohbrunner and the Vancouver Island Rock and Alpine Garden Society in Victoria, B.C. (VIRAGS), founded a series of annual lectures to commemorate Dr. Ed Lohbrunner who died earlier that year. Dr. Lohbrunner was a nursery man who had a pivotal role in introducing many Pacific Northwest native plants into cultivation. VIRAGS invited Art Kruckeberg to give the very first Lohbrunner lecture. The first thing Art wanted to do after the lecture was to look for some sheet music, and we learned about another of Art's passions, his bassoon playing in a woodwind orchestra.

I asked my friend, a distinguished bassoon player, teacher and composer, to write me a short note on the ethnobotany of the bassoon, but he told me that there is nothing really interesting about the bassoon, except that it is made from well-aged mapple wood. All the other woodwind instruments are made from ebony or various other woods. The most interesting part of a bassoon and other woodwind instruments may be the "reed" or "double reed" - a small piece of the stem of "a mysterious grass that grows in marshes of France." "The French growers know when to cut that grass; it has to be in a certain moon phase, or maybe before or after the rise of Venus," my friend told me.

This mysterious grass is a giant reed, Arundo donax L. It is similar to common reed, Phragmites australis or to sugarcane, Saccharum officinarum. It grows all around the Mediterranean Sea, but according to the Flora Europaea, it probably originated in South or Central Asia and it's only naturalized in Europe. Other botanists (e.g., Zeven & Zhukovsky, 1975) consider it native to the Mediterranean area, where it must have occurred for over five thousand years.

Stems of Arundo donax provided hollow canes for the manufacture of musical instruments such as panpipes of Classical Greece. For manufacturing the woodwind reeds, Arundo donax has been used since at least 3000 B.C. (Baker, 1970: 141).

For production of reeds, Arundo donax has to have proper strength (stems five to eight years old) and colour (ten to twenty years). The young plants will shrink, when cut, and the old ones have a tendency to warp (Veselack, 1979). Canes to be used for reeds are selectively cut during the winter months. Harvested stems are stored for a period of one to three years of natural curing, prior to being used for manufacture of woodwind reeds.

Although Arundo donax occurs in the whole Mediterranean area, the best reeds come from France, namely from the Department of Var (cap. Toulon) on the Mediterranean Sea, the district west of Nice.

During the course of history, stands of Arundo donax have been damaged during various wars that ravaged through Europe. During World War II, the reed fields of France were cut and large mats were woven from stems and leaves for use in camouflage by the military (Perdue, 1958). In the earlier military campaigns, Arundo fields were burned by enemy soldiers. This always resulted in shortages of double reeds for musical instruments.

In an attempt to ensure a good supply of reeds, Arundo donax was introduced to California, where it has become an unwelcome invasive plant in coastal marshes. In additions, the reeds from these plantations proved inferior to the French reeds. Maybe, only the French growers from Var region know in what moon phase one should harvest the cane.

Art, I wish you all the best luck in cutting your reeds, for many years to come!


Baker, H.G. 1970.
Plants and Civilization. 2nd Ed. Wadsworth Publishing Co. Inc., Belmont, California.
Perdue, R.E., Jr. 1958.
Arundo donax - source of musical reeds and industrial cellulose. Economic Botany 12: 368-404.
Veselack, M.S. 1979.
Arundo donax: the source of natural woodwind reed. Double Reed 2(1).
Zeven, A.C. & P.M. Zhukovsky. 1975.
Dictionary of cultivated plants and their centres of diversity - Excluding ornamentals, forest trees and lower plants. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

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