10 Healthy Herbs and How to Use Them

Using a variety of herbs in your diet will not only please your taste buds, it will do wonders for your health and well-being.

Fresh herbs not only add flavor without calories, they may also serve up health benefits as healing foods. “Herbal medicine has been used as kitchen medicine for thousands of years, and while our body’s response to these natural treatments has not changed, we now have more global choices than ever,” says Steven Chasens, an herbalist and acupuncture physician at Coral Gables Acupuncture in Florida.

“There is no substitute for competent medical care and routine checkups. However, to avoid disease and live strong, a good diet and sensible eating is critical.” A basic knowledge of how food and herbs can help what ails you is key to your sensible eating plan, Chasens explains. Here are 10 healing herbs to add to your recipe rotation.

Rosemary for Heart Health

herbs 2

Rosemary is an herb that may help prevent damage to blood vessels and aid with cardiovascular health, says Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, New York City-based author of The O2 Diet. The healing herb may also help with indigestion and memory function and reduce muscle and joint pain when applied topically. Rosemary’s active ingredient, carnosic acid or carnosol, might also prevent the spread of cancer, a study published in the journal Cancer Treatment Reviews found. A very strongly flavored herb, rosemary goes great with hearty foods, such as meat and potatoes. Butterflied rosemary chicken with pan juices is a tasty recipe to help add rosemary to your diet.

Parsley for Hypertension

herbs 3

Parsley is high in antioxidants, vitamins A and C, and the chemical apigenin, which may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells several studies have found. It also has been shown to have heart-healthy effects, reducing high blood pressure. A quick way to put this healing herb in your diet is as a chopped garnish, but it can also play a starring role and add great flavor to dishes like this recipe for chicken creole, which cooks up in just minutes.

Ginger for Gastrointestinal Health

herbs 4

Ginger appears to be effective for treating gastrointestinal disturbances, especially in relieving diarrhea or nausea caused by morning sickness during pregnancy and nausea and vomiting after surgery or after cancer patients’ chemotherapy treatment. A powerful anti-inflammatory, ginger has also been shown to reduce joint pain. In foods, ginger doesn’t have to be reserved for sushi — consider adding this healing food to your dessert, such as this recipe for berry ginger shortcakes.

Cinnamon for Stable Blood Sugar

herbs 5

Cinnamon twig appears to have some antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. This healing food may also help treat gastrointestinal disturbances, including diarrhea and indigestion. Cinnamon seems to have antioxidant effects as well.

Glassman says that cinnamon is excellent for controlling blood sugar levels and has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Jazzing up carrots is as simple as adding cinnamon, like with this apple-glazed baby carrots recipe.

Garlic for Cancer Protection

herbs 6

Garlic is most well-known for the healing herb’s potential anti-cancer effects, Glassman says, as well as its ability to slow other diseases, including hypertension and even the common cold. One of the most commonplace healing herbs, garlic is a great flavor enhancer in stews and soups, such as this quick-and-easy Asian pork soup.

Stinging Nettle for Joint Pain

herbs 7

Stinging nettle, also known simply as nettle, appears to be effective in reducing the inflammation associated with arthritis. According to Susun Weed, an herbalist with the Wise Woman Center in Woodstock, N. Y., stinging nettle is great for controlling dandruff, making hair glossy, and improving overall hair health. It may also be effective in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition that involves enlargement of the prostate. Weed suggests infusing stinging nettle in tea, but this healing food may also be used in soup, pesto, or this creamy polenta recipe.

Chives for Cancer Protection

herbs 8

That tasty green garnish on your baked potato is rich in vitamins A and C, known for their antioxidant effects. The healing herb has also been shown to reduce the risk for gastric cancer. Sprinkling chives on salads and pasta is great, but cooking with chives is equally as delicious. Check out this recipe for blue cheese and chive potato salad to add more of it to your diet.

Coriander for Bad Cholesterol

herbs 9

“Coriander may aid in lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol and increasing ‘good’ cholesterol,” Glassman says. “It can also help lower blood sugar levels as well.” This healing food also appears to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Coriander is a staple in many cuisines, from Indian to Thai. For a light dinner or lunch option, add this healing herb to roasted vegetables or a nourishing stew.

Bay Leaves for Sinus Relief

herbs 10

There’s a reason why bay leaves are in so many cold-soothing stews. “Bay leaves contain an oil with the active ingredient cineole, which eases discomfort caused by sinusitis,” says Rovenia Brock, PhD, a nutrition expert and author. “Studies show that inhaling the essential oil can reduce inflammation and fluid buildup in the sinuses.”

In addition, bay leaves may play a role in preventing heart disease, treating arthritis, and supporting the immune system. Bay leaves are a great type of herb for adding flavor to stews, soups, and sauces. Using bay leaves in a basic pot roast recipe spices up the dish. Just remember to remove them before serving; they generally should not be eaten whole.

Dandelion for Digestion

herbs 11

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, dandelion is considered a natural mild diuretic, which could make the herb helpful in treating poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure. Dandelion root may also improve gastrointestinal disturbances as well as liver and gall bladder function. “You can use any part of the dandelion — leaves, flowers, roots, even stalks — as medicine,” says Weed. “You can pick it at any time you wish. And you can prepare it as a tea, an infusion, a food, a vinegar, a tincture, or a honey.”

With the wide variety of types of herbs, options for adding healing foods to your meals are abundant. “Herbal medicine is people’s medicine,” Weed says. “It is easy, accessible, and generally safe. We know that drugs can damage our health, so instead reach for a nourishing or aromatic healing herb to help you maintain or regain health.”

Forests and passion: a hero’s guide to resisting climate change

With the launch of a major report by the Global Commission on Adaptation on 10 September 2019, we follow the story of an environmental hero from the Seychelles and their quest to adapt by harnessing the power of trees. #AdaptOurWorld

For many people, retirement is a chance to take a break. Not so for Victorin Laboudallon, a grandfather from the Seychelles who spends his days planting forests to fight climate change.

Wherever there’s a forest fire in the Seychelles, you can be sure you’ll find Laboudallon ready to fight back, armed with seeds and shovels.

“Protecting nature makes me very happy in life,” says Laboudallon. “We need to protect it as much as we can, so other generations can enjoy it like I did when I was a kid.”

Laboudallon, 65, has built a network of volunteers, from children to retirees, whom he calls upon to help him with replanting.

“If tomorrow we have another fire, we are ready to go back and plant.”

image
Victorin Laboudallon provides a tour of his tree nursery on Praslin Island in the Seychelles.

Laboudallon is widely known across the Seychelles for his decades of environmental action and his big personality. While planting trees in the wet dirt, barefoot and laughing, he says his surname means “friend of the mud” in his local Creole language.

“I’m not somebody who lives under the big concrete. I live under the beautiful trees,” he says, pointing above at the iconic coco-de-mer palm.

The Seychelles is a nation of 115 islands—known for glistening beaches and stunning biodiversity—off the east coast of Africa. Here climate change is not a distant prospect, but a daily reality.

Sea levels are rising and many of the islands are low-lying. As the waters creep higher, the shoreline crumbles away and floods devastate people’s land. 

“We’ve got the sea rising,” says Laboudallon. “You can see places where there used to be houses. Now there are none. There is something on this planet going wrong.”

It’s unknown how the Seychelles will adapt. More than 16 per cent of the nation’s land is below 5 metres above sea level, yet a study in the journal Nature suggests Antarctic ice alone could increase sea levels by 15 metres by 2500. The waters of this tourist paradise are crystal-clear, but the future is anything but.

Nature enthusiasts like Laboudallon have taken matters into their own hands. While giving a tour of his tree nursery, he explains how different types of trees offer different services when adapting to climate change. For the Seychellois, mangroves are fundamental.

“If the mangroves are gone, the nation of Seychelles will be gone,” says Laboudallon. “Our protection for human life is the mangroves.”

Mangroves defend against the impacts of rising seas and coastal erosion by drastically reducing the height and force of the waves before they hit the shoreline. In fact, if all of today’s mangroves were lost, the global damage from flooding would be an extra US$82 billion per year.

image
Seychellois farmer, Pierre Philoe, explains how mangroves protect his farm from intruding seawater that kills his crops. “The mangroves are important for all Seychellois people. If there’s no mangrove, there’s no life.”

This strategy of using nature—and the services it provides—to adapt to climate change is known as ecosystem-based adaptation. It’s often cheaper than concrete infrastructure. Not to mention that it simultaneously creates a space for nature.

For conservationists like Laboudallon, this is a win-win. Communities can adapt to climate change while protecting biodiversity. It is no longer a choice between people or nature. Considering the Seychelles’ economy is inextricably dependent on ecotourism, ecosystem-based adaptation is seen as a promising approach.

“Year after year, we are seeing more evidence of how nature can protect us from climate disasters,” says Jessica Troni, Head of the Climate Change Adaptation Unit at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “In a major report, the Global Commission on Adaptation states that restoring mangroves for flood defences is 2–5 times cheaper than engineered structures.”

Back at a mangrove reforestation site, Laboudallon enthusiastically explains there’s even more to these trees than meets the eye. Mangroves not only protect the land from the sea, but also protect the sea from the land.

After the fire season comes the monsoon, which washes all the ash and debris from the forests into the ocean. The layers of dirt fall on the reef like a deadly blanket.

image
Beyond adaptation, planting mangroves also tackles the causes of climate change, as these forests absorb 10 times more carbon dioxide per acre per year than rainforests.

“It sits on the surface of the coral and kills it. Then the fish are gone,” says Laboudallon. “Mangroves are used like a strainer. They stop all the debris coming from the hill, making sure only clean water goes out to sea.”

“Mangroves also provide a breeding ground for fish,” he says. “If the population of mangroves is still in good health, then fishermen are in good health.”

This power of mangroves to protect both the land and coral, whilst generating income for local fishermen, is precisely why UNEP refers to these trees as a ‘super solution’ to climate change.

Under a global adaptation project called Ecosystem-based Adaptation South, or EbA South, the government of Seychelles has been working with leaders like Victorin Laboudallon. Funded by the Global Environment Facility, the project is using nature to defend against climate impacts in three ecosystems—coastal habitats in Seychelles, dry deserts in Mauritania and mountainous forests in Nepal.

Projects like these are vital for the transfer of lessons on ecosystem-based adaptation. For instance, in the Seychelles crabs were eating the mangrove seedlings planted by the project. Using plastic tubing to protect the trees resulted in litter sprawled across the landscape when floods washed them away.

Applying the approach of nature-based solutions, local tree planters began using biodegradable tubing made from sugarcane. Through the project these lessons were transferred to other regions of the world.

image
Victorin Laboudallon uses compostable tubing made from sugarcane to protect the mangrove seedlings from crabs.

EbA South was executed by the National Development and Reform Commission of China, through the Chinese Academy of Sciences. By increasing collaboration between countries in the global south and sharing solutions for adaptation, the project is seeking to create the next generation of Victorin Laboudallons.

The official International Day for South-South Cooperation is celebrated on 12 September.

Back on Praslin Island, Laboudallon is getting ready to go home after a long day of tree planting. His efforts have been widely recognized in his home country, having received national awards and honours.

With a smile he tells me there’s even a local species of fern named after him—Ptisana laboudalloniana. It turns out they’re both quite rare.

What to Eat for Glowing, Younger-Looking Skin

Searching for the secret to healthy, radiant skin? Look no further than your kitchen. When it comes to getting a gorgeous glow, the foods you eat are just as important as the creams or lotions you slather on your face, says Anthony Youn, MD, a plastic surgeon based in Troy, Michigan. And certain nutrients can help you save face more than others. “Antioxidants are crucial when it comes to maintaining a youthful glow,” he says. “They fight off free-radical damage that can cause skin to age prematurely.” 

Other complexion savers include vitamin A, lycopene, and fiber. Luckily, they’re easy to incorporate into your diet. Read on to discover which foods will make you glow from the inside out.

Green Tea

Green tea

Polyphenols found in green tea are some of the most powerful antioxidants out there, according to Dr. Youn. To up your polyphenol intake, try switching out your morning cup of coffee for green tea, which contains 24 to 45 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce (oz) cup. Or pour green tea over ice for a healthy alternative to soda or juice.

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey

All honey offers some benefits for your skin, but manuka honey, produced by bees in New Zealand that pollinate the manuka bush, may be the best. “The antioxidants in manuka honey are exceptionally good at binding to free radicals and reducing them,” says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. “And that’s important since free radicals that come from the sun destroy collagen and elastin, which keep skin smooth and supple.” Manuka honey can be found at most natural food markets. To reap the benefits, stir it into a cup of green tea, or drizzle it onto plain yogurt. 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Cukes are 96 percent water — one of the highest of any vegetable — which means they’re great at keeping you hydrated. “I always take cucumber slices with me on planes so I can eat them while I’m up in the dry, high-altitude air,” says Josie Maran, founder of Josie Maran Cosmetics. “They help my skin retain moisture so it stays healthy and hydrated.” Cucumbers are easy to incorporate into meals: Simply add a few slices to salads, sandwiches, and wraps for a hydrating boost.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, which works like an internal protector to help shield your skin against sunburn and the aging effects that come with sun exposure. To work more tomatoes into your diet, try cooking up a zesty sauce made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and basil (spoon it on top of whole-wheat spaghetti or baked spaghetti squash). You could also roast a batch of grape tomatoes drizzled with olive oil for a simple yet tasty side dish.

Salmon

Salmon

The unsaturated fats found in fish, called omega-3 fatty acids, reduce inflammation and make your complexion look clearer and more even, says Dr. Gohara. They also reduce the risk of skin conditions associated with inflammation, such as rosacea and eczema, which cause redness and dry patches, respectively. The American Heart Association recommends that adults eat two servings of fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, trout, and herring, once a week. If you’re vegan or not a fan of the fish, reach for walnuts, which are also packed with omega-3’s. 

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Here’s a reason to add this Thanksgiving staple to your menus all year long: “Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A — a powerful antioxidant that fights free radical damage and is anti-inflammatory,” says Youn. One serving of sweet potatoes contains about 4 grams of fiber and a whopping 377 percent of your daily vitamin A requirements, according to the USDA. Try them baked and topped with a spoonful of protein-packed Greek yogurt, suggests Alexis Wolfer, founder of TheBeautyBean.com and author of The Recipe For Radiance: Discover Beauty’s Best-Kept Secrets In Your Kitchen. 

Berries

Berries

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are loaded with antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavanoids, which help neutralize free radicals from your body, helping to slow down the aging process, says Gohara. Keep a bowl on your desk or kitchen counter to encourage healthy snacking all day, or blend frozen berries into your morning smoothie.

Water

Water

Sipping lots of H2O keeps your skin hydrated, making it appear smoother and more supple. If you struggle to drink enough or don’t like the taste, try flavoring your water with fruits or veggies. “I infuse my water with blueberries, cucumber, basil, and strawberries, and it helps me drink more water throughout the day,” says Moran. Recommendations for daily water intake depend on your gender, body size, activity level, temperature, and health conditions. In general, most people do well with roughly 73 ounces for women and 100 ounces for men per day. A great way to ensure you’re drinking enough is to check your urine color: A light lemonade color indicates that you’re well hydrated. You should always drink more when it’s hot out or when you exercise.

And One to Avoid: Sugar

Sugar

Consuming too much refined sugar (from soda, candy, or other sweets) can trigger the process of glycation, whereby sugar molecules bind to collagen fibers in your skin, making them stiff and deformed, says Youn. “This creates advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which  damage your skin and cause it to age prematurely,” he explains. So to keep your skin looking young, skip processed sugars and stick to the natural kind found in fruits and vegetables.    

Go Green for Better Health

From avocados to Brussels sprouts to green tea, a surprising number of green foods can help fight disease and protect your health. Why don’t you give green eats a try?

12 great green foods

Everyone knows veggies are a must in any healthy diet — the phrase “eat your greens” has been drilled into us since childhood. But fewer than 10 percent of Americans eat the recommended amount of fruits and veggies, a 2009 study found, and fewer still choose the dark green vegetables that boast a myriad of disease-fighting health perks.

Even if you’re not a fan of dark green produce (we recommend you give it a second chance), you can still reap tons of health benefits from a variety of green veggies, fruits, and other foods you should be eating — but probably aren’t. Read on and see why the rest of your pantry will go green with envy.

Avocados: Protect Your Eyes

avocados protect your eyes

Avocados do contain a lot of fat (about 23 grams in a medium-sized fruit), but it’s the cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated kind that nutrition experts love. Avocados also contain lutein, an antioxidant that protects eye health, and they’re rich in vitamin E. Research shows that people who get the most vitamin E from their diet (not supplements) have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Avocados are a wonderfully versatile addition to salads, tacos, soups, and sandwiches.

Nopales: Lower Your Blood Sugar

nopales lower blood sugar

Nopales are another popular south-of-the border green. Also known as nopalitos or prickly pear, they’re a type of cactus leaf packed with fiber, as well as vitamin C and other disease-fighting antioxidants. Nopales are an especially healthy option for people with diabetes; research shows the cactus leaves can lower blood sugar levels.

Kale: Fight Cancer

kale fights cancer

Kale belongs to the powerhouse family of greens known as cruciferous veggies (a fancy word for the cabbage family). All cruciferous vegetables contain cancer-fighting plant compounds and vitamin C. Kale in particular also has bone-boosting vitamin K, vision- and immune-boosting vitamin A, and even anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

Brussels Sprouts: Reduce Blood Pressure

brussel sprouts reduce blood pressure

Another potent cruciferous veggie, Brussels sprouts have vitamins A and C as well as birth-defect fighting folate and blood pressure-balancing potassium. Not into Brussels sprouts or kale? Consider such other cruciferous veggies as broccoli, arugula, and bok choy. To make Brussels sprouts more tempting, try roasting them.

Kiwi: Fill Up on Fiber

kiwi for fiber

Research shows kiwifruit is surprisingly nutrient-dense. According to the California Kiwifruit Commission, this fuzzy green fruit provides 230 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C (almost twice that of an orange), more potassium than a banana, and 10 percent of the recommended daily allowances of vitamin E and folate. It’s also a good source of filling fiber. Slice some kiwi into your cereal, yogurt, or salad for a refreshing health boost.

Edamame: Cut Your Cholesterol

edamame cuts your cholesterol

These soybeans are a longtime Japanese diet staple. A complete plant-based protein, edamame is a good protein source for vegetarian and vegan diets. While some experts caution that you should avoid soy supplements and processed soy foods because soy’s estrogen-like effects may contribute to health problems, whole soy foods like edamame are a smart and healthy choice. When eaten in place of fatty meat, soy may lower cholesterol by reducing saturated fat intake.

Green Tea: Try a Health Super Hero

green tea for antioxidants

Reams of studies have deemed green tea — with its potent antioxidants — a health panacea; it’s been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and more, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Steep a cup in the morning to start your day on a super-healthy note.

Basil: Calm Inflammation

basil calms inflammation

Herbs — loaded with vitamins and antioxidants — are underrated health foods. Basil in particular is a good source of vitamin K and iron; fresh basil leaves also boast anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Snip some leaves into salads, pasta, or any Italian dish.

Seaweed: Get Your Minerals Here

seaweed for minerals

Seaweed — another Japanese cuisine mainstay — is gaining popularity in the West, in part because it’s chock-full of minerals. Seaweed is a solid source of iodine (essential for thyroid health), packs a healthy dose of iron, and has unique anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Select a seaweed salad appetizer or sushi rolls made with nori next time you order Japanese food.

Green Beans: Stabilize Your Blood Sugar

green beans stabilize your blood sugar

Also called string beans, green beans are a common side dish in Southern cooking. They’re loaded with fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar, making them an excellent choice for people with diabetes.

Green Pepper: Load Up on Antioxidants

green pepper for antioxidants

Colorful red, yellow, and orange peppers may get more health accolades for their cancer-fighting lycopene, but green peppers can certainly hold their own. They’re a good source of many important nutrients, including vitamin C, beta carotene (a type of vitamin A), folate, and vitamin K. Dip them in hummus for a healthy snack, add them to salads for extra crunch, or toss into stir-fries or Mexican dishes. Try them in this Beef Fajitas recipe.

Asparagus: Eat Right for Your Gut

aspargus for digestive health

This springtime vegetable is rich in vitamins K, C, A, and folate; it also has a number of anti-inflammatory nutrients. Asparagus is famous for a healthy dose of inulin — a “prebiotic” that promotes digestive health — and is high in fiber (about 3 grams per cup) and protein (4 to 5 grams per cup). Fun fact: Asparagus’s amino acid called asparagine, which helps cleanse the body of waste, is responsible for the odd-smelling urine some people experience after eating it.

Acid Rain Effects on Plants & Animals

Acid rain is defined as any amount of precipitation that has some level of toxic metals or chemicals. Even though acid rain can be caused by volcanic gas and debris, acid rain is also caused by the release of sulfur and nitrogen dioxides from fossil fuel production and industrial byproducts. When these particles are released into the air, they can accumulate in humid areas and be incorporated into the precipitation cycle, which continues their negative effects.

Acid precipitation is a growing problem in America and Europe, causing government agencies to instill laws and programs to counteract the negative effects of acid rain. In this post, we’re going over what acid precipitation is and the effects of acid rain on plants and animals.

Acid Rain Definition

The acid rain definition actually includes all forms of precipitation including rain, fog, snow, hail, etc. It’s when any precipitation has acidic properties, aka a pH below 7, as a result of sulfuric or nitrogenous components.

Acid rain can be caused by volcanic eruptions, but recently it has been attributed to the burning of fossil fuels along with industrial byproducts being spewed into the atmosphere.

Reduced pH Level in Water

Acid rain can make the water in lakes and streams more acidic and discharge toxic amounts of aluminum into a water system. Many aquatic animals cannot thrive in a low pH environment; acid rain has many negative effects on plants and animals in the environment.

The death of aquatic animals results in other animals within the habitat to have a lack of food, thus throwing the entire food web and ecosystem out of balance.

Damage to Forests, Plants, and the Food Web

Acid rain damages the leaves of trees and plants, thus limiting their growth and exposing them to the metals in the air from the toxic rain. Depending on the severity of the damage, the vegetation can be stunted in its growth or the foliage can be stripped away.

The damage can also destroy a plant’s ability to handle cold or disease, which can also negatively impact the food web.

Poisoning of the Soil

When acid rain absorbs into the ground, the soil becomes more acidic, which dissolves helpful minerals in the soil. Acid rain also releases toxic substances, such as aluminum, into the soil and has poisonous effects. The effect of acid rain on plants and animals can be mitigated under certain conditions, such as having a thick layer of soil and having certain types of bedrock under the soil to absorb the rain.

Effects of Acid Rain on Plants and Animals

When fish are exposed to acid rain, the disturbed levels of minerals in fish will affect their reproductive system and the females will not release eggs. When certain fish are in water with a very acidic pH level, the mucus on their gills will become very sticky and will eventually stick together, causing them to be unable to receive oxygen from the water.

Case Study on Acid Precipitation

A study was done in the Netherlands about the exact effects of acid rain on a given habitat. They noticed that acid rain leached calcium from the soil, which was the primary source of calcium for snails in that environment.

Result of bad ecology. Compare this two leafs. One of this after the acid rain …

The snails soon died off, which was the primary source of calcium for birds in that habitat. The birds had to look to other sources for their calcium, such as insects. The birds were not able to receive a significant amount of calcium and began to lay defective eggs.

Facts About White Oak Trees

The white oak tree (Quercus alba) is a long-lived tree used for shade in landscapes and it is one of the most important timber species in the United States. The “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees” reports that the white oak has the nickname stave oak, since its wood is integral in making barrels. Shipbuilders in colonial times valued the wood as well.

Today, white oak goes into products such as flooring, furniture and beams. The white oak’s range includes most of the eastern United States. The tree is vital to the animals that exist where it grows.

Size, and Form and Growth

While some of the biggest white oaks measure as tall as 150 feet, the average tree of this species grows between 80 and 100 feet high. The trunk’s diameter can exceed 4 feet and the tree takes on a broad round look when mature. On some individual white oak trees, the lower branches become gnarled and grow horizontal to the ground. While they aren’t commonly found in nurseries due to their slow rate of growth, white oaks are prized landscaped specimens for the shape of their wide-spreading branches.

The slow-growing trees are also long-lived with specimens surviving for hundreds of years. The white oak is difficult to transplant successfully due to its slow growth, making a full-grown oak even more valuable.

Identifying Characteristics of Quercus alba

white oak leaves.

The leaves of the white oak are about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide, with from seven to nine round-ended lobes on each leaf. The upper sides are a blue-green color, with the underneath surface a whitish shade of green. The white oak’s wood when first cut is light beige to almost white, an aspect of the tree that gives it its name. The grayish bark features grooves and rectangular scales, with deep grooves appearing at the bottom portion of the trunk on older white oaks.

Quercus alba produces both male and female flowers. The pendulous clusters of yellow-green male flowers appear first and are followed by the spiky, reddish female flowers. In autumn, the leaves turn a reddish color, ranging from brownish red reddish purple.

Fruit of the White Oak Tree

Acorn

The acorns produced by the white oak are a major source of food in the tree’s ecosystem. These fruits are about 3/4 inch long, egg-shaped with a shallow cap and need but one season to grow to maturity. A wide array of birds including turkeys, pheasants, grackles, woodpeckers, jays, thrushes and nuthatches depend on them in the fall for nutrition.

In addition, mammals as large as the black bear and the deer and as small as rabbits, voles and mice include the acorns in their diets. Populations of some species fluctuate in proportion to the amount of white oak acorns available each year.

Insect Threats

gypsy moth

A variety of insects will launch attacks on a white oak, among them the larvae of the gypsy moth and other moths. The caterpillars, when present in large numbers, may defoliate sections of the tree. Other bug pests like the oakleaf caterpillar and orange-striped oakworm can devour foliage.

Economically, the most significant insect that bothers white oak are the wood borers, which can cause defects in the lumber of still-standing trees. Scales are a group of insect pests that feed on sap and cause fungus to grow on the trees. A common white oak tree adaption to insects feeding and laying eggs is the development of galls. Galls are areas of irregular tissue growth that can become harmful to the tree over time.

White Oak Facts

The white oak tree ranges from southern Canada to Florida and as far west as Minnesota. It is the Illinois state tree, as well as the state tree of Maryland and Connecticut. It’s called white oak because newly-cut wood appears light in color and is nearly white.

While not considered an edible species, historical evidence suggests that native Americans consumed white oak acorns after boiling them.

Five Types of Ecological Relationships

Ecological relationships describe the interactions between and among organisms within their environment. These interactions may have positive, negative or neutral effects on either species’ ability to survive and reproduce, or “fitness.”

By classifying these effects, ecologists have derived five major types of species interactions: predation, competition, mutualism, commensalism and amensalism.

Predation: One Wins, One Loses

Predation includes any interaction between two species in which one species benefits by obtaining resources from and to the detriment of the other. While it’s most often associated with the classic predator-prey interaction, in which one species kills and consumes another, not all predation interactions result in the death of one organism.

In the case of herbivory, a herbivore often consumes only part of the plant. While this action may result in injury to the plant, it may also result in seed dispersal. Many ecologists include parasitic interactions in discussions of predation. In such relationships, the parasite causes harm to the host over time, possibly even death. As an example, parasitic tapeworms attach themselves to the intestinal lining of dogs, humans and other mammals, consuming partially digested food and depriving the host of nutrients, thus lowering the host’s fitness.

Competition: The Double Negative

Competition exists when multiple organisms vie for the same, limiting resource. Because the use of a limited resource by one species decreases availability to the other, competition lowers the fitness of both. Competition can be inter specific, between different species, or intraspecific, between individuals of the same species.

In the 1930s, Russian ecologist Georgy Gause proposed that two species competing for the same limiting resource cannot coexist in the same place at the same time. As a consequence, one species may be driven to extinction, or evolution reduces the competition.

Mutualism: Everyone Wins

Mutualism describes an interaction that benefits both species. A well-known example exists in the mutualistic relationship between alga and fungus that form lichens.

The photosynthesizing alga supplies the fungus with nutrients, and gains protection in return. The relationship also allows lichen to colonize habitats inhospitable to either organism alone. In rare case, mutualistic partners cheat. Some bees and birds receive food rewards without providing pollination services in exchange. These “nectar robbers” chew a hole at the base of the flower and miss contact with the reproductive structures.

Commensalism: A Positive/Zero Interaction

An interaction where one species benefits and the other remains unaffected is known as commensalism. As an example, cattle egrets and brown-headed cowbirds forage in close association with cattle and horses, feeding on insects flushed by the movement of the livestock. The birds benefit from this relationship, but the livestock generally do not.

Often it’s difficult to tease apart commensalism and mutualism. For example, if the egret or cowbird feeds on ticks or other pests off of the animal’s back, the relationship is more aptly described as mutualistic.

Amensalism: A Negative/Zero Interaction

Amensalism describes an interaction in which the presence of one species has a negative effect on another, but the first species is unaffected.

For example, a herd of elephants walking across a landscape may crush fragile plants. Amensalistic interactions commonly result when one species produces a chemical compound that is harmful to another species. The chemical juglone produced in the roots of black walnut inhibit the growth of other trees and shrubs, but has no effect on the walnut tree.

How Long Does Each Stage of Ecological Succession Take?

Each stage of ecological succession can take 100s to 1,000s of years – if not more. That is true, but only in a forensic sense. The assumption of ecological succession is that it is a forward moving, and linear path. As more of humankind encroaches on the natural world, the linear progression of this methodology is changing itself. That someone seems fitting for a theory that talks about the inevitability of change.

How is Mankind Changing Ecological Succession?

To best illustrate this, let us return to our first example – the rock face. Let us suppose that the granite wall was quarried by man, and then abandoned once they had what they needed. This allows for a primary stage to begin. Left alone by man, it could quickly pass into a secondary stage within a hundred years or so.

Another few centuries after that, the old quarry is slowly entering its stable climax stage – except – now man has returned to build a road. One thing that ecological succession recognizes is the death of an ecosystem. That is what occurs when a climax stage ecosystem like the rain forest is destroyed by logging. Yet when a climax stage ecosystem is only interrupted, it is not yet understood whether it returns to the secondary stage, or would still be considered at its climax of ecological succession.

Stages of Ecological Succession

Succession is a scientific term describing the long-term progression of biological communities that occurs in a given area. Ecological succession breaks down into three fundamental phases: primary and secondary succession, and a climax state. The study of ecological succession generally focuses on the plants present on a particular site. But animal populations also shift over time in response to the changing habitat.

Ecological succession is the term used to describe what happens to an ecological community over time. It refers to more or less predictable and orderly set of changes that happen in the composition or structure of ecological community. When you are born, your learn to crawl, then walk and then run. When you grow old, your body goes through certain predictable changes over a period of time as in your body grows taller, your hair grows longer, your mind and body develops. Similarly, when you plant a tree, it grows slowly and then grows bigger and bigger and bigger. Basically, its a predictable set of changes that are visible over a period of time. The time scale can be decades or even millions of years.

It is different from Ecological Evolution because the changes that occur aren’t evolutionary in nature, but they may be adaptive. It is based on the principle and knowledge that nothing in life ever remains the same, but that all habitats are in a process of constant change as a result of the inter-dependencies and reactions within the ecological system itself.

Primary Succession

Primary succession occurs when organisms colonize an area devoid of life, usually after a catastrophic natural event that leaves the land barren. Often the first organisms to take hold are algae, fungi and simple plants such as lichens and mosses.

Over time a thin layer of soil builds up so that more advanced plants, such as grasses and ferns, can take root. Along with the successful colonization of plants come animals such as insects, birds and small invertebrates. One example of primary succession is the pioneer communities that begin to inhabit a newly created lava bed, where life cannot exist until the rock surface cools to a moderate temperature.

Secondary Succession

Most ecological change occurs as secondary succession. In fact, most biological communities are in a continual state of secondary succession. This term describes the process in which an established community is replaced by a different set of plants and animals.

Secondary succession is gradual, always moving toward the climax community. Most ecosystems, however, experience disturbances — either natural events such as wildfires or flooding, or man-caused events such as logging — that set back the progress of succession.

Intermediate Stages

An ecosystem undergoes many intermediate stages of succession. These changes form a continuum between the two endpoints, with the actual stages being merely a fixed glance at the never-ending progression of plants and animals.

The emergence of the climax state of succession may occur more quickly in some ecosystems, and likely never occur in other biomes that experience routine disturbances. Examples of quickly forming climax communities are the short-grass and long-grass prairies of the Great Plains of the United States.

Climax Communities

Climax communities are relatively stable and can vary widely in a given region, especially when the landscape consists of high mountains and low valleys. In such cases, the final biological matrix of plants and animals can cover vast tracts of land or be limited to a very small pocket within the landscape. Overall, a climax community is very dependent on rainfall, soil, altitude and temperature. California, for instance, includes many different and distinct ecosystems. One of the most unique places is the redwood forest, which can be found only in the fog banks along the coastal waterways of the northern part of the state.

The path and endpoint of succession

The early ecologists who first studied succession thought of it as a predictable process in which a community always went through the same series of stages. They also thought that the end result of succession was a stable, unchanging final state called a climax community, largely determined by an area’s climate.

For instance, in the example above, the mature oak and hickory forest would be the climax community.Today, the idea of a set path for succession and a stable climax community have been called into question. Rather than taking a predetermined path, it appears that succession can follow different routes depending on the specifics of the situation. Also, although stable climax communities can form in some cases, this may be uncommon in many environments.

Ecosystems may experience frequent disturbances that prevent a community from reaching an equilibrium state or knock it quickly out of this state if it manages to get there.

Importance of Ecological Succession

Ecological succession is of great importance as:

  • It provides information, which help to have control on the growth rate of one or more species in a given geographical area.
  • It helps in reforestation and forest management programmes.