Thursday, October 20, 2011

Picture: Bryophyllum x houghtonii

My intended post on the possible ban on lead in ammunition and other hunting and fishing equipment, which I mentioned in passing on Monday, is turning out to require a lot more investigation than I had originally intended, partly because I really know very little about lead, ammunition, hunting and fishing. (I'm having a good time trying to learn stuff really fast, though.)

I'm still going to try to post it on Friday, and if not Friday then Sunday at the latest (for reasons which will be revealed in the post, I will be very disppointed if I can't post it by Sunday).

Meanwhile, here is a picture of Bryophyllum x houghtonii I took a couple weeks ago at the ex-job. (Originally identified as B. daigremontianum, but Lee, in comments, said the leaves were too narrow to be daigremontianum. I'm keeping the link to the B. daigremontianum profile, because it's still half correct -- houghtonii is B. daigremontianum x B. delagoense -- and the care is presumably interchangeable. It's quite possible that the plants I was talking about in the profile were also B. x houghtonii, since the ones at work all kinda looked like this, but we didn't see mature plants that often because we tried to pull them up, so the ID was sort of always shaky.)


Diana said...

Here's something to look up on the lead-ban in hunting issue. What do you think is one of the leading causes of death among the California Condor (prior to reintroduction)? Lead poisoning. From eating dead animals that hunters left in the environment and were full of lead shot.

[honestly, I don't know if that's true but that's what I heard, repeatedly. That's also the big argument against the reintroduction of the condors - hunters are still using lead shot, the initial problem has not been addressed so you really shouldn't expect success this time around.]

[this is only helpful if you are taking the topic seriously instead of sarcastically]

Andrew Ablenas said...

That plant was a nightmare in the university greenhouses. The little plantlets would fall under the benches and grow like crazy.

mr_subjunctive said...


The original document does actually acknowledge that, though the paragraph doing so is worded awkwardly:

"Other than condors there is no evidence lead bullets are a serious conservation issue at the population level – meaning an entire group of one species living in a certain area. With the endangered California condor, every death is significant and so banning the use of lead ammunition in condor range made sense and sportsmen have supported this effort."

My understanding is that using lead shot has already been made illegal in condor habitats (Wikipedia: "This problem has been addressed in California by the Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act, a bill that went into effect July 1, 2008 that requires that hunters use non-lead bullets when hunting in the condor's range."), though it wouldn't be surprising to find out that some hunters continued to use lead anyway. There are people out there, after all, who make a point of using inefficient incandescent light bulbs because the government is encouraging the use of fluorescents, claim to eat junk food just because Michelle Obama says you shouldn't, and buy gas-guzzling SUVs so as to thwart those environmentalist liberals who say we should reduce fossil fuel use.[1] (I have been hoping for some time that Congressional Democrats would introduce a bill to deal with these people, perhaps the "Seriously, Let's All Try To Eat Less Arsenic Act of 2011." So far, nothing.)


[1] It's unclear how many people actually do this, and how many are just saying they do this to prove how manly they are for standing up to the government. But the claims are not difficult to find.

I ran into one guy in the comments of a science-related site once whose get-rich-quick scheme was to buy up as many incandescent bulbs as he possibly could before the government banned them, the idea being that in the apocalyptic post-incandescent age, incandescent bulbs would be so valuable that people would give him everything they owned in exchange for one. Among the difficulties with this plan: the government was/is not actually banning incandescent bulbs.

Anonymous said...

You really know the way to a girl's heart, posting a picture of daigremontianum like that one.

Andrew's right, this plant is a nightmare if you don't want it EVERYWHERE. My specimen was brought home from Madagascar by a friend, and given to me when they moved to Canada. I love it, and all its messy plantlets, dearly.

Paul said...

Well I personally do like and continue to use incandescents for some lighting and would resist attempts to ban them. The quality of lighting IS different and in some respects better than cfls. Also the fact that cfls lack mercury is a plus. I recall bringing this up to a speaker from California advocating banning all incandescents. He pooh poohed the mercury concern as there not being significant levels of such. Moron! It's a heavy metal and does not decay. And when you consider having an entire nation using them, that is by no means an insignificant level of mercury. I can understand the benefits of cfls --I do use cfls for my plant lighting because of much lower heat output -- but brushing off the risks as unimportant really made me want to smack the fool.

Can't stand either of the Obamas, truth be told.

Lee said...

Interesting.... While lead bullets are less of a problem in Korea due to strict regulations regarding firearms, lead sinkers used for fishing is a long standing problem.

While there are eco-friendly ceramic sinkers available in Korea, most hobbyist fishermen refuse to use them not only beacause they have lower densities and higher prices, but also their weight or size can't be adjusted through shaving the surface off(which causes further contaminations).

When confronted with concerns regarding those sinkers, many fishermen claim that since water area is huge and sinkers are small, they won't cause serious problem. Some people even think that dispersion of lead throughout the environment will dilute it to the point of being harmless and thus there will be no problems. Apparently they never heard of the term bioaccumulation.

By the way, the plant in the photo seems to be Bryophyllum × houghtonii, a hybrid between B. daigremontianum and B. delagoense. I think the leaves are too narrow to be B. daigremontianum, yet there are too many plantlets developing to be B. delagoense.

mr_subjunctive said...


I haven't checked out the claims personally (Jesus! One heavy metal at a time, people! Please!), but it's my understanding that incandescents actually contribute more mercury pollution than CFLs do, despite CFLs containing mercury and incandescents not. The explanation is:

A large portion of U.S. energy needs are still being supplied by coal-burning power plants.
Coal contains trace amounts of mercury as a matter of course.
The lower energy efficiency of incandescent bulbs means that more coal has to be burned to keep one lit.
The amount of mercury released into the atmosphere from the increased coal burn is greater than (the amount of mercury contained in a CFL) + (the amount of mercury released when coal is burned to power a CFL).

If true (and I don't have a problem believing that it is; YMMV), then it could cease to be true if the U.S. became less coal-dependent, if coal plants added measures to capture mercury before it was released into the environment (as was done for sulfur a few decades back), and so forth, but at least at the moment, mercury's more of a reason to get rid of incandescents than it is to get rid of fluorescents.

I think most environmentalists are hoping that the increased efficiency, lower energy bills, and less-frequent need to replace CFLs will win people over without having to outright ban incandescents. (Arguably, this may have already happened: I'd never seen a CFL ten years ago, and now it seems like most people don't use anything else.) I don't know what the recent legislation that had everybody all worried about an incandescent ban actually did or said, and don't have time to look it up at the moment, but I know it didn't ban incandescents.

I agree that the quality of light from incandescents is different from that of CFLs, or at least some incandescents and some CFLs. (There's a lot of overlap in color anymore: one can find "cool white" incandescents that are made to produce a bluer light and fluorescents that are made to be redder -- we actually have a considerable range of fluorescent light colors in the house, which causes all kinds of problems for me when photographing plants -- so the distinctions are, I think, disappearing.) I personally don't see enough of a difference to want any incandescents in the house, but if you want them, I have no problem with that, I guess.

mr_subjunctive said...


It hadn't even occurred to me that people might be shaving bits off of lead sinkers. That's just great.

As for bioaccumulation -- what about regular accumulation? Lead sinkers and lead shavings at the bottom of a lake don't, for the most part, go anywhere. Or if the lead does go somewhere, it's into the plants and animals in the lake, or the groundwater below the lake, neither of which are good.

I could say more, but a few more sentences and I'll be giving away stuff from the post I should be working on, so I'll stop there.

As for the Bryophyllum ID, I did google image searches for both and . . . it's hard to tell; either they're both really variable or people are really bad about misidentifying. But I believe you, so I'll edit the post.

mr_subjunctive said...


Also, I should probably add that using incandescents because one genuinely prefers them is not what I was talking about in my reply to Diana; I was referring to the people who make their choices based solely on what's going to upset liberals, not on any actual consideration of the benefits and drawbacks. Not only do such people exist, but there are a startlingly large number of them.

CelticRose said...

A couple of notes on incandescents vs. CFLs:

If I break an incandescent I am not exposed to mercury; if I break a CFL, I am. To me, that's a much more pressing issue than overall environmental contamination.

Many people, myself included, are actually made ill by the quality of light and/or flicker from CFLs and other flourescents. Many also find the hum from them irritating. YMMV, many people can't detect the flicker or hum at all.

The ban may not be a ban de jure, but it is a ban de facto. The legislated restrictions make it prohibitive to produce incandescents, and the resultant price increases make it prohibitive for consumers to buy them.

I'm in the process of switching to halogens for now. I'm looking forward to LEDs dropping in price since I'm not happy with the heat output from halogens.

I agree with you, however, that people who rail against CFLs simply because "the gub'ment is ramming them down our throats" are pretty silly.

mr_subjunctive said...


I found this from Popular Mechanics while looking for information to respond to CelticRose's comment. According to PM:

How much mercury do power plants emit to light a CFL?

About 50 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. is generated by coal-fired power plants. When coal burns to produce electricity, mercury naturally contained in the coal releases into the air. In 2006, coal-fired power plants produced 1,971 billion kilowatt hours (kwh) of electricity, emitting 50.7 tons of mercury into the air—the equivalent amount of mercury contained in more than 9 billion CFLs (the bulbs emit zero mercury when in use or being handled).

Approximately 0.0234 mg of mercury—plus carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide—releases into the air per 1 kwh of electricity that a coal-fired power plant generates. Over the 7500-hour average range of one CFL, then, a plant will emit 13.16 mg of mercury to sustain a 75-watt incandescent bulb but only 3.51 mg of mercury to sustain a 20-watt CFL (the lightning equivalent of a 75-watt traditional bulb). Even if the mercury contained in a CFL was directly released into the atmosphere, an incandescent would still contribute 4.65 more milligrams of mercury into the environment over its lifetime.

For whatever that may be worth.

mr_subjunctive said...


See previous comment to Paul.

Also, there's some variation in the amount of hum and flickering from one fixture to another; I know this because we have maybe a dozen different types of fluorescent fixtures in the house and I can detect flickering and/or hum in only some of them. It's possible that you still could, in all cases, and even if you couldn't, this wouldn't justify you buying a bunch of different kinds to try out and then having to throw out 3/4 of them. I'm just saying it's possible that these are solvable problems with the technology, and eventually fluorescent bulbs won't have these problems.

As for the direct mercury exposure from broken bulbs, yes, that's true, but breaking a CFL shouldn't happen terribly often. I mean, as many bulbs (both the 48-inch T12s and various sizes of CFLs) as we have around the house, I can only recall two that have broken in the last five years. Usually they just burn out, and we replace them without any mercury exposure happening. If you do have one break, the mercury exposure should be fairly minimal if you dispose of it properly. Granted, proper disposal is more complicated than for incandescents, and takes a long time.

I had trouble finding hard numbers about mercury exposure from different sources, but what I could cobble together suggests that cleaning up a broken CFL once a year is a little higher than, but in the same ballpark as, having a mercury filling in your mouth for a year or eating tuna twice a week.

Not that many people have tuna twice a week.

I like LEDs in theory, but the ones we've bought (as Christmas lights, not as lightbulb-replacements) have been very expensive and very short-lived. Plus my perception is that they flicker a lot more moticeably/obnoxiously than fluorescent bulbs do. (This may also be a problem that gets solved eventually.)

Just out of curiosity, how much have incandescent bulb prices jumped in the last few years?

phantom_tiger said...

I can't help wondering if there is an environmental saving when I see the amount of plastic packaging around a CFL. Not everyone has access to recycling. Incandescents come in cardboard. I also find CFL bulbs often take forever to warm up enough that I can see by their light.

I'm reading The Garden Succulents Primer by Van Wyk/Smith (um, full of surprising plot twists!) and it says that Bryophyllum is the old name and the new one is Kalanchoe? (Is it? I feel confused.) It focuses mostly on stuff you could theoretically grow outside if you didn't live where I live, but the pictures are very good.

mr_subjunctive said...


According to Plant List, both Kalanchoe daigremontiana and Bryophyllum daigremontianum are accepted names of actual species, which confuses me deeply. I feel betrayed, since I use Plant List to resolve questions like this, ordinarily.

The packaging differences between CFLs and incadescents are perhaps relevant, but CFL packaging varies a lot. I think the last ones we bought were in a divided cardboard box (roughly the thickness of a cereal box) with a thin plastic window covering most of one side. Figured on a per-bulb basis, it might have been about the same amount of packaging. On the other hand, I've also bought CFLs that were individually packaged in their own clamshell-type plastic container, which definitely had way more packaging. So I'm not sure I can make any sweeping declarations about CFL packaging.

It's worth noting that a CFL that breaks during transport is going to be many, many times the headache of an incandescent because of the mercury content, and as such it makes environmental sense to package them in airtight plastic containers. The alternative would be to have spilled mercury slowly accumulating at loading docks and in stores. So whether the plastic is excessive or not, I'm still glad it's there.

phantom_tiger said...

Ah. I've read that they keep changing classifications as they do DNA tests and such. But I always thought Latin names were to stop the confusion! I find it a bit shocking that somewhere a botanist is saying, hey, let's rename this.

Re: CFL packaging, I guess expecting the loading dock staff to just wade through mercury is optimistic on my part. I just was surprised environmentalists thought it such an improvement and never mentioned the extra plastic involved.