Wednesday, September 16, 2015

California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera) growth explosion with Mycorrhizal Fungi

A California Fan Palm planted into a front yard landscape from a one gallon container out performs 3  five gallon Mexican Fan Palms which not only had a more massive root system, but also three times the height. So what happened ??? - "Mycorrhizal Fungi"
(image: Mine July 2014)

Image taken on July 2014
It all began last year at the start of July 2014, I purchased four more Palms for my mothers front yard to create the appearance of an Oasis among plants of the Pea family like Red Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), Baja Fairyduster (Calliandra californica) & Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens). There was already an existing Mexican Fan Palm which had volunteered on my mother's property and my brother had moved it back in 2005 to where you see it in the photograph above. I'm still blown away by the fact that since 2006, that palm has grown very slowly from from a foot tall plant to what you see here above in last year's photograph. You may want to take special note of the size of not only the one gallon Washingtonia filifera, but also the height of the Washingtonia mexicana in the background which you'll seed more than doubled in height in the September 2015 photograph. But what blew me away on this year's (2015) return is to see what has happened with the one gallon California Fan Palm I purchased from Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery in relation to 3 other purchased five gallon Mexican Fan Palms I purchased from Lowes on the last week of July 2014 when I planted them. This native Southern California palm is just normally slower growth than it's cousin the Mexican Fan Palm.
The major difference maker was inoculating the California Fan Palm heavily within the soil at planting time with the as opposed to simply planting the Mexican Fan Palms without the beneficial fungi. The reason is I thought the Mexican Fan Palms would explode with fast growth on their own because as a natural rule they are much faster growing than Washingtonia filifera. Wow was I ever wrong. The California Fan Palm grew another three feet, while 2 of the five gallon Mexican Fan Palms put on only a foot of growth. The third Mexican Fan Palm actually died. I seriously should have inoculated everything. But after all these years of successes and positives which have greatly exceeded all expectations, I'm still excited by amazing changes almost before my very eyes. We're talking just exactly a year and two months. This is why documenting such things is so important, because those who are behind the Industrial Agriculture business model are not at all in favour of such practices and their successes. But take a look at last year's (2014) W. filifera to this year's (2015) results below.
Over four foot of growth between the period of July 2014 to August 2015. So why is it again that home owners and professional landscapers have preferred using the faster growing Washingtonia robusta over the so-called slower growing native Southern California - Washingtonia filifera ???
(image: Mine Sept 2015)

(image: Mine July 3, 2014)
The photograph above of the California Fan Palm is little over four foot tall as I did measure it at the frond tips. At the time of planting, this one gallon tree was barely one foot tall at the tips of it's small fronds. The big difference maker was inoculation with Mycorrhizal Applications Inc's product called MycoApply. I should also note however that I also bored holes in the ground around the base of the large 11 year old Mexican Fan Palm (why I don't know) and again with the Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii) on the opposite side of that largest and oldest Mexican Fan Palm as well. In any event, you can also notice the drastic difference in growth with that 11 year old Mexican Fan Palm in the same landscape Oasis photo at the very bottom of this post if you scroll on down. But also take a look at the 2013 one gallon Engelmann Oak (again purchased from Las Pilitas) which was planted in the front yard Oasis on April 2013 and the contrast of where it is today 2015. 

(image: Mine September 2015)

(image: Mine June 2013)
This one gallon Engelmann Oak was purchased and planted in late May of 2013. The first photo on the right side here  was actually taken on June 30th 2013 where you can see how that year's Spring branch buds which sprouted after planting grew another few more inches. So technically this small tree was less than a foot of growth from the Nursery. The top photograph above shows the tree actually well over six foot tall. I'm 6.3 foot tall, so it was a nice surprise also to see the growth of this tree slightly towering over me. I also imagine that the mycorrhizal fungi from the Oak has  moved underground towards that largest Mexican Fan Palm you see to the left in the Oak photograph above. Once again, compare the height of that Palm today (2015) compared to last year (2014). Big difference. Still the slow growth of the five gallon planted Mexican Fan Palms was a surprise to me, but I'll inoculate them this year before I go back to Sweden. During yesterday's monsoonal rainstorm, the curb on the opposite side of my mother's street rain had flood water reaching 5 foot out from the curb towards the center of the street. I grabbed a five gallon orange Home Depot bucket and placing it in the deepest part of the runoff against the curb, the bucket filled up in a matter of seconds. I then proceeded to walk back to my Mother's front yard and dump the contents under various shrubs. It just kills me to see such as waste of city storm runoff which ends up downstream into the ocean. This runoff develops from all the concrete and asphalt surfaces of a housing development called Sky Ranch built on top of Rattlesnake Mountain above Pepper Drive Elementary School. I made more than 50+ trips right about the time School let out at 3:00 pm. I got soaking wet, but it felt wonderful. The kids parents were parked up and down the street. Some snickered, others complimented me.  Some day these municipal flood control infrastructures within city limits are going to be designed or redesigned to be better at rainwater harvesting and infusing such water into the city park landscapes and road medians. It just makes logical sense. Anyway, the rainfall totals over my mother's landscape artificially increased by a couple more inches, especially around the Manzanitas. 

(image: Mine September 2015)
 Basically 4 years old landscape from 2011

(image: Mine Sept 2015)

Mexican Red Bird of Paradise 
seeds germinatinng after one rainstorm
This is a contrasting view of the same photo at the top of this post which was taken last year. Notice in this year's photo above how much growth and taller the largest 11 year old Mexican Fan Palm has gotten when you look at it's height as seen behind the Baja Fairyduster ? And to me there is not a whole lot of noticeable difference in the smaller Mexican Fan Palm here than the photo at top. The California Fan Palm is hidden behind this largest Palm and out of view. Also take special note of the photo here at the right. We had a wonderful long soaking monsoonal rain on our visit in September which lasted most of the day and tapering off during the night with mist through this morning. These seeds on the concrete driveway are from the Mexican Red Bird of Paradise and they are some of the easiest things I have ever germinated and grown. We have no weeds, but the seedlings would almost qualify as they are very prolific in germinating. Seriously, I don't know why anyone would ever purchase one of these plants at a retail nursery. One of the greatest compliments I've gotten over the last few days working out in the yard and trimming is people walking past the house wondering what I feed the landscape to make everything so lush and intense as far as flowering. My response of course is nothing. I have never once used either synthetic nor organic fertilizers to accomplish anything. All plants are inoculated generally at time of planting and the only other addition is mulch. As a side point here before I continue, take note of the photo from four years ago in 2011. Take note how tall the largest Mexican Fan Palm was back then and it was already 4 years old and barely hanging on, before I started inoculating with MycoApply. 

Same exact location, but photo is from 2011

(image: Mine 2015)

Can you find the Spider ?
Sometimes in the beginning after the original installation and inoculation, I'll inoculate further the next year and perhaps a couple years after that to build up soil microbial community and build up the soil carbon. My only yearly addition into the landscape is a thin layer of decorative pine or cedar mulch which will break down slowly by the mycorrhizae and other beneficial bacteria which will release nutrients back into the system ever so slowly. Under the the synthetic industrial science-based method, most of the fertilizer is lost to percolation and runoff. The point is once you create a natural healthy ecosystem within your own urban landscape, the health of the entire plant community increases negating the need for all the other industrial science-based synthetic chemicals such as insecticides and herbicides. The use of insecticides destroys every single beneficial predator insects such as the Spider shown above left. She was a surprise to find. I only noticed her because of the long trail of dired flower petals caught or woven into her foot long nest. Interesting I wondered what exactly she was catching, possibly bees. However my mother has a motion censor nightlight on the corner of the garage and when walking out the front door at night it is triggered to come on. Several nights I walked out and notice in the Red Bird of Paradise bush the blooms were being visited by numerous little white Moths with black speckles on their  wings. That was interesting since many types of garden and farm pest moths fly at night in desert agricultural areas. Hence such checks & balances critters are imperative. But the synthetic chemicals target them as well as pests and in their absence, the pest populations rise despite the chemicals. Once this type of industrial scenario is created, then you become shackled and prisoner into following the industrial maintenance program. And the sad fact is you cannot win. The only winner is the industrial agro-chemical company. Much of the synthetic fertilizers cause excessive growth which attracts insect pests and many pathogenic diseases in the form of powdery mildew etc. This is the same program or system used to grow your food found at the local grocery store produce aisles. The need for synthetic chemical herbicides also radically decreases as the mycorrhizal networks outcompete the weeds (ruderals) for available soil phosphorus. Weeds thrive in a bacterial soil system, not a mycorrhizal one. Any weeds that do make the occasional appearance are greatly stunted. Generally my mother's landscape has 4 or 5 anual weeds within the mycorrhizal soils in her landscape's sphere of influence and generally stunted with no effect on the trees, shrubs and other plants. 
(image: Mine 2014)
BTW, last year when planting the other palms, this palm root from the largest tree was 14 foot away from the Mexican Fan Palm. It reveals just how far palms will go in search of water. It's extremely imperative that people reading here do not simply take my word for all this, but make practical application within their own landscape or gardening projects. By all means challenge my methods, please.  This is what burns knowledge of such methods into your mind's personal experience. The majority of people have been indoctrinated into the industrial conventional business model through millions of dollars of annual advertising and also the infusing of massive amounts of funding within this world's Academia to maintain the industrial status quo. The earth simply cannot afford this type of irresponsible behaviour any longer. This isn't about pseudoscience or anti-science, this is about horrible irresponsible science versus good healthy holistic biomimetic science.

(Caesalpinia pulcherrima and caesalpinia mexicana)

The plant above on the right in the photo is Mexican Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana). It would make a nice contrast in the landscape. While I love the Red Bird of Paradise, it can be overwhelming with too much of the same colour. I already have several of the native South American native Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii - native to Argentina & Bolivia) planted throughout, but they flower very early in Spring season where the others are mainly in full summer blooming. These of course naturalize very easily and we also have to pull up seedlings as they appear, but not hard to keep a handle on. Below I'll post some links of previous articles on planting members of the Pea family (Legume) and I'll also provide the post of where the Oasis landscape was planted in the dead heat of summer during 100+ Fahrenheit (40 celsius) intense heat. It really can be done and while mycorrhizal fungi inoculum is a must, the timing of the day is everything. I'm not sure how many will read this post or take it seriously, but at the very least I've been further able to document something I should have recorded years ago. People are going to have to start viewing nature as a sophisticated biological machines with various fascinating complex components. By far the most amazing thing about this subject was something that I didn't expect from the California Fan Palm and that was extremely rapid growth. Even with the mycorrhizae colonized on the root system, I fully expected little change from when I planted that little one gallon Fan Palm. I never cease to be amazed by these successes.
Next Year's (2016) Experiment Watch: Mexican Blue Fan Palm (Brahea armata)
Image: My Sister Aimee (November 2015)
Two Mexican Blue Fan Palms from 5 Gallon Containers

 Next year in in Spring I hope I am able to come back over and check on the progress of to entirely different palms which are even more challenging when it comes to slow growth. These are the two Mexican Blue Fan Palms (Brahea armata) that I planted just the last week of my visit in El Cajon. The growth on these are extremely slow compared to most and they are extremely root sensitive, so what difference with the MycoApply Soluble Maxx have on their growth is anyone's guess. I'd love to see a dramatic change because these are so rarely messed with by most landscapers and homeowners for the simple reason people want instant landscape and for the fact that many still are not all that attracted to plants with a gray/blue green foliage. One thing that helps in decision making in my personal experience is being capable of visualizing what any tree or shrub will look like in the landscape. It is imperative to understand the plant's height, width, it's silhouette especially for a background tree as both of these. In my mind, I picture the example in the photo at right. In my opinion they are one of the more handsome palms when in flower as you can see in the photo. On the wait and see challenge side of things when it comes to root sensitivity, ever see those large semi tractor trailer flatbed trucks hauling large several meters high palms being transported from Tree Farms to landscape location in the desert resort areas ? It is almost impossible to do that with a Mexican Blue Fan Palm. When the machinery in the orchard cuts the roots and pulls the tree from the ground, most palms are fine, but not the Blue Fan Palm. They require the movers to first use a propane blow torch and burn the root system. This cauterizes the wounded root cuts, because otherwise being normally planted in the ground like other palms, it would bleed to death. Now growth will emerge from the burned area, but this method is imperative. This is why when search for these specific palms I looked for a one gallon container. Impossible to find, mostly because the palms are slow growing and most people wouldn't have the patience to wait for larger landscape specimen to develop. So the MycoApply's ability to prevent transplant shock and stimulate faster than normal growth will be extremely important, not only for these palm's health, but also possibly prove to the industry what can be accomplished for future successes.

Some of my recent posts on Mexican and California Fan Palms, this year and last year in 2014.  The first follows the incredible lengths Washingtonia filifera roots will go to in search of water. The second is about the invasive nature of Washingtonia robusta in the coastal canyons around urban areas of San Diego California and the further wildfire spreading threat potential they create
 Getting to the Root of why Natives rule & Exotics struggle or outright fail
"Day of the Triffids" or "Monolith Monsters" ? (Mexican Fan Palm - Washingtonia robusta)
Further Important Reading References
Is it safe to plant & water California Natives Plants in Summer ?
Water provides a Hydropatterning Blueprint for Rooting Architecture & "Infrastructure" 
Creating Chaparral Alcoves in your Landscape for personal regeneration & meditation retreats
Using Nature's Mycorrhizal Tool-Kit to compete with Weeds vrs killing them with Glyphosate
Deep Irrigation Methods for Training Deeper Rooting networks
Utilizing Ornamentals of the Legume Family in Southwest Landscapes

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