Super Excellent Granola

8 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 ½ cups wheat germ
1 ½ cups oat bran
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
¾ cup honey
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 ½ tsp salt
2 cups raisins (optional)
Preheat oven to 325. Combine oats, wheat germ, oat bran, nuts in a large bowl.

Mix salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon and vanilla in saucepan. Bring to a boil and pour over dry ingredients, stirring to coat.

Spread mixture out evenly on 2 rimmed baking sheets lined with foil. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes then stir. Return to oven and bake another 15 minutes. Cool, then stir in raisins if you use them. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container. 

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Armed and Dangerous 
Being firmly rooted in the ground, a tree cannot move to escape harsh conditions or the unwanted attention of animals. There are no two ways about it, because trees are so long-lived they face a tremendous number of problems over their lives. They have therefore developed an impressive array of defenses to protect themselves where they stand. A plant has two choices for defending its leaves against herbivores (plant eaters). It can deploy a physical defense with spines, thorns and prickles, or it can defend its leaves chemically.

Spines, thorns and prickles are common terms bandied about when referring to sharp objects protruding from plants. There is a distinction to be made between these three terms: Spines evolved from a leaf or part of a leaf (cactuses have spines); thorns are modified shoots and arise from buds (hawthorn have thorns); prickles make up the rest of these plant defensive structures as outgrowths of the skin (epidermis) and underlying tissues (roses are a great example).
Twigs which are unarmed are called inermis or innocuous.

Although they are derived from different tissues, all three of these structures can damage the mouthparts of herbivores, slowing them down or making the cost of contending with them not worth the paltry gain. Thorns can be loaded with pathogenic bacteria and fungi causing herbivores severe infections that may be much more dangerous and painful than the physical injury from the thorn itself.

But why don't all plants produce spines, thorns and prickles? They are usually found in habitats where nutritious growth is scarce. This explains why thorny plants are commonly found in deserts or on plants that invade gaps in the forests, e.g. hawthorns, buckthorn, honey locust and black locust; food is scarce because other vegetation is out of the reach of herbivores. Spines, thorns and prickles are expensive things to produce and will only be grown where they are needed. Since most leaf-eaters stand on the ground to eat, simply because they are too heavy to climb or fly, it is perhaps not surprising that some trees, like honeylocust, produce thorns mostly on the lower part of the tree.

In the end, it might not matter which dagger your plant has; all will have the exact same effect if you bump into them.
A well-armed honeylocust. It's not hard to imagine that these thorns are remnants of the constellation of traits that once protected them from mastodon browsing but haven't been needed in the last ten thousand years, a mere moment in evolutionary time.   
Thorns are modified twigs with a tough pointed end which contains vascular tissue.
Prickles are quite different than thorns, being merely outgrowths of the bark or skin (and with no vascular tissue) are easily broken off. 

Paired spines are found at the point of attachment of the leaf (long gone) to the stem.

Spines are modified parts of a leaf, stipule, or fruit stem. They form sharp points generated from a node.
For more information on spines, thorns and prickles.   
What's not to Lichen?
Often overlooked amidst the overwhelming green of vegetation, mosses and lichens nevertheless form a vibrant and colorful decoration in the forest. Reproducing from spores, they are virtually unchanged from the first mosses and lichens which appeared 350 million years ago. While mosses are true miniature plants, lichens are amalgams of two creatures: a fungus and either an algae or a bacterium. Lichens may appear plant-like, but they are not plants.
The quietude and outer simplicity of lichens hides the complexity of their inner lives. The fungus produces a leafy organ, while the algae or bacteria nestles inside these strands and uses the sun's energy to assemble sugar and other nutritious molecules. The diversity of color in the lichens reflects the many types of algae, bacteria and fungi involved in the lichens' union. Lichens vary greatly, from wispy beards hanging from branches, to thin patchwork patterns of jade, oranges and yellows.
Given a place to grow, sunlight, and water, lichens seemingly live independently in their own little world. However, they play many important roles in the larger ecosystems where they live. Some lichens are an important food source for animals, for example, reindeer. Since lichens get their nourishment from the air, they absorb carbon dioxide, lowering greenhouse gasses. Some lichen species are sensitive to air pollutants and will be damaged or even die if air pollution levels are too high. It is possible to determine air quality by looking for the presence and at the quality of these sensitive species.
Since lichen can look like mold; I'm often asked whether or not it harms the trees. Lichens do not have roots. They are not parasitic, do not rob nutrients, steal water or poison their host tree. They only use the tree as a scaffold. Trees are probably completely indifferent to their presence.
Lichens are particularly hardy, enabling them to populate 10 percent of the earth's surface. They live where nothing else can, surviving icy cold mountains and hot, dry deserts. They are often the first living things to grow after a disaster has destroyed other life forms. Lichens balance their snail's pace growth with extreme longevity. They can survive to be hundreds of years old, showing that these tiny organisms are perfectly suited to life in the slow lane of the forest.

Lichen covered tree at Walden Pond.

Lichens can have crusty, leafy, branching or other growth forms and come in various colors and sizes.   

Lichen and moss light up the amazon rainforest floor;
a delicate work of art.

Mosses grow in environments where light is low and the atmosphere is damp. Here they densely clothe logs, rocks, tree trunks and branches rapidly converting them to a blanket of green, creating some of nature's most surreal gardens. 

For more information on tree-dwelling lichens.

Thanks for reading.  
Happy Planting!    


Faith Appelquist

President & Founder


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