Thursday, October 22, 2020

Behind The Garden Wall - The Japanese Tea Garden - San Francisco

Finding Serenity

Azalea at San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden

Much of what you’ve heard about San Francisco, California is true. You’ll meet some friendly, helpful people. Its history is fascinating. Some streets are crazy steep, as are costs. Homelessness is rife. Human poop is on some sidewalks. Aimless, naked people might shout at you unprovoked. If you don't look down, the distant scenery is awesome, but you really should look down, occasionally.  

However, there are some lovely places where you can escape the insanity and find serenity. The Japanese Tea Garden San Francisco is one of them. It holds the distinction of being the oldest public Japanese Tea Garden in North America. 

Follow me to see what grows behind the garden wall.

Gate San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden


The San Francisco Tea Garden was originally an exhibit - one of many "villages" - spanning about one acre for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition. The Japanese Village and Tea Garden, as it was called, was conceived by George Turner Marsh of Mill Valley as a concession enterprise. The entry gate - Shuro-no-mon - actually came from Marsh's property.

George Turner Marsh portrait

Marsh was fascinated by all things Japanese, having lived there with his family as a teenager. As an "Orientalist", he opened the G. T. Marsh & Company store in San Francisco, featuring Japanese art and Asian-inspired jewelry. He also developed other Japanese gardens in California. The family-run store continued in business until 2001.

Marsh employed Toshio Aoki - an artist and designer in his studio - to design the garden. 

Japanese Village and Tea Garden 1894

The Japanese Village and Tea Garden was completed and opened on December 27, 1893, one month earlier than the Exposition's grand opening. For .25 cents, visitors could experience the "authentic" village with its story-teller, gates, buildings, bridge, restaurant, paths, lanterns, and landscape.

As the Exposition's closing neared, it seemed a shame to entirely dismantle the Tea Garden, so the Board of Park Commissioners paid $4,500 for it. Some structures were removed, a couple to Marsh's Mill Valley estate. The garden was closed for remodeling. Japanese businessman and gardening enthusiast - Makoto Hagiwara - was retained by a “gentlemen’s agreement” to create and maintain the permanent Japanese style garden.  

As caretaker of the property, Hagiwara spent many years and much expense developing it to its current size spanning about 5 acres.  He and his family lived there until 1942 when they were forced to leave their homes and go to internment camps. They were not allowed to return. Some of their possessions were moved to the home of a friend. Others were sold at auction, the proceeds of which were used as down-payment for another home in the Richmond District.


The Japanese Tea Garden is now one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco. Noteworthy though typical features include a steeply arched drum bridge, stone lanterns and paths, pagodas, native Japanese plants, koi ponds and a zen garden.


Visitors will enjoy scenes such as these.

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden ferns

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden - Koi

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden - Tracery in the pines

Japanese Tea Garden San Francisco - Buddha

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden - Iris pond

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden - Lanterns

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden - Drum Bridge

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden - Pagoda

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden - Paths

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden - Stream

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden - Tea House

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden - Vista

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden - Koi Pond and Lantern

Its Location, Admission and Cost

The Garden is located within Golden Gate Park at 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118.

The attraction is now operated by the San Francisco Recreation and Park division, which has no intention of letting Japanese – or anyone else, for that matter – enter without paying admission, except for Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 9-10am, when admission is free. Find current hours. Find admission fees

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Monday, October 12, 2020

Furry Puss Caterpillar - Cute But Dangerous


Puss caterpillar - Photograph by Donald W. Hall, University of Florida.
Puss Caterpillar - Photograph by Donald W. Hall, University of Florida.

It's oh-so-cute, but oh-so-dangerous - the Southern Flannel moth (Megalopyge opercularis), especially in its caterpillar form. The caterpillar looks kind of like a little pussycat, but it is not to be touched. The soft hair hides venomous spines. 

The severity of the sting depends a lot on the sensitivity of the individual and the thickness of the skin where it's stung. One first feels an intense burning sensation and a red grid-like pattern on the skin where the person is stung. But that may only be the beginning of it. Much more serious symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, seizures and even abdominal pain, muscle spasms and convulsions can occur.

Who is most likely to encounter the Puss caterpillar? Children can certainly be stung. Its soft fur looks like it'd be fun to touch. Or, one might accidentally brush against it while walking in meadows or woods.

The Furry Puss caterpillar is found from New Jersey to Florida and westward to Arkansas and Texas. One year, its population in Texas grew to the point that school children were threatened and schools were closed.

Once the Furry Puss reaches the adult stage, the venomous spines disappear. At this point it's known as the Southern Flannel moth. It's still cute, but not to be welcomed.

By Patrick Coin (Patrick Coin) - Photograph taken by Patrick Coin, CC BY-SA 2.5,

By Patrick Coin (Patrick Coin) - Photograph taken by Patrick Coin, CC BY-SA 2.5

If you live in this caterpillar's native range, be sure to warn your children of it, and take care yourself.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Nootkatone Is Now Registered By The EPA


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces, "A new active ingredient, discovered and developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in insecticides and insect repellents.

"Studies show that when products are formulated from the new ingredient, nootkatone, they may repel and kill ticks, mosquitoes, and a wide variety of other biting pests. Nootkatone is responsible for the characteristic smell and taste of grapefruit and is widely used in the fragrance industry to make perfumes and colognes. It is found in minute quantities in Alaska yellow cedar trees and grapefruit skin.

"Nootkatone can now be used to develop new insect repellents and insecticides for protecting people and pets. CDC’s licensed partner, Evolva, is in advanced discussions with leading pest control companies for possible commercial partnerships. Companies interested in developing brand name consumer products will be required to submit a registration package to EPA for review, and products could be commercially available as early as 2022."

When applied, it is able to repel ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects for hours. It is nontoxic to humans. Nootkatone is already used as an approved food additive, and is commonly used in products for human consumption.

Read more.