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Richard Carroll discusses 'Bees, Plants & Honey' at Botanical Gardens on August 20

published: 07/21/2016

Richard Carroll discusses 'Bees, Plants & Honey' at Botanical Gardens on August 20

Richard Carroll is a geologist for the Geological Survey of Alabama. He grew up in California and he moved to Tuscaloosa in 1991. On August 20 from 8:30-12:30 p.m., he'll come to The Gardens to share his expertise on 'Bees, Plants and Honey - An Overview of Pollination Ecology.'

Interested participants can register online here.


Before his visit, he shared more about how he came to study pollen and spores, his interest in honeybees and how his profession and his hobby came to live harmoniously.

Where do you collect pollen here at The Gardens?

The reason I'm the coal geologist is because my background is in paleobotany, specifically, palynology - the study of pollen and spores. Most of my work was with fossil pollen and spores; pollen and spores last pretty much forever. So they make great fossils to be used in the oil industry and different kinds of environmental studies. So my interest has always been with pollen and spores.

I haven't had a chance to frequently use that because when I came to Alabama, it was primarily for coal research. Over the last few years, I've had some extra time to get back to my roots and looking at pollen for the honeybee industry. People that raise honeybees like to know where their bees are going, and I can look at the honey and extract the pollen and tell them what kinds of plants the bees are using to create their honey.

At The Gardens, with the help of Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion, I'm building a reference collection so that I can compare known pollen types that I get from an identified flower. And I make preserved samples of those so that I can compare those to the pollen that I find in the honey. John's been a lot of help, and The Gardens is obviously a great place to find flowers.

Can you explain the association between pollen and fuels?

Because pollen and spores are so small, they're fairly ubiquitous. In the fossil record, they're found in most rocks - anything that is fairly organic rich will be more liable to have pollen spores. But they make good index fossils. As with all things, through time, plants have evolved and produced more pollen and spores. By identifying the types of pollen and spores that you find in the rocks, you can identify the age of the rocks and the types of environments that those rocks were created in. Those are the types of things that are important when you're looking for oil and gas reserves. They're no found everywhere, but they're specific to different types of ages, rock ages and rock environments.

How did your educational background evolve into an interest in honey?

I've always been interested in honey! That's what I grew up on. My mother made sandwiches all my life - I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich pretty much every day of my life. So honey has always interested me.

But when I went to school, it was primarily for the fossil pollen and spores. There are some outcrops in Clarke and Wilcox Counties that I've studied. I've actually had a chance to assign a fossil pollen to a new genus.

Where will the process of honey production be when our class arrives in August?

Honeybees shut down work when it gets cold - I'd say in November or December - and they get back going when the plants begin producing nectar and pollen in the early spring. Beekeepers don't extract usually until June or so.

They'll shut down when the goldenrod starts. I don't know why, but it makes the honeys stink. It produces honey that you really wouldn't want to eat. They'll shut down; they'll take their last extraction of honey when the goldenrod gets started. That's usually about the end of August.

Are honeys distinguishable in taste or appearance or smell before humans take it into a kitchen or elsewhere and change it?

If a honey hive is targeting a specific flower or plant that will be impacted on the quality and the color and the taste of the honey that they're producing. Some varieties of honeys called varietals are more wanted than others. For instance, the Tupelo honey that you've heard about is quite in demand and it will collect a higher price.

Is it actually sweeter than other honeys?

I don't know if it's sweeter, but it has a better taste!

Buckwheat honey comes from the the buckwheat flower. It's a very dark honey; it almost looks like molasses and it actually tastes a bit like molasses. 


To learn more about all of the educational opportunities The Gardens has to offer, we encourage you to visit our website, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and follow us on Instagram. You can subscribe to the award-winning Dirt E-Lert, our bi-weekly e-newsletter, by simply texting BBGARDENS to 22828.

About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama's largest living museum with more than 12,000 different plants in its living collections. The Gardens' 67.5 acres contains more than 25 unique gardens, 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture and miles of serene paths. The Gardens features the largest public horticulture library in the U.S., conservatories, a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, the Southern Living garden, and Japanese Gardens with a traditionally crafted tea house. Education programs run year round and more than 11,000 school children enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.


'The Art of Soy Candle Making' comes to Botanical Gardens on July 31

published: 07/19/2016

'The Art of Soy Candle Making' comes to Botanical Gardens on July 31

On July 31 from 2-5 p.m., Brittany Stallworth of Scents from Heaven will share "The Art of Soy Candle Making" at Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

The class will lead students step-by-step through how to handcraft highly fragrant soy candles at home. Participants  will be able to take home a newly crafted candle and all tools will be provided.

To reserve a seat online today, click here.

Stallworth shared more about what to expect from the session.

How difficult is it to make candles?

Candle making can be relatively difficult at first when trying to find the proper wick and wax combination. However, once the proper combination is found it can be a fairly simple process.

How can candles be therapeutic?

Candles create a warm glowing natural light that provides a relaxing, calming ambiance. They can be used in meditation, to fragrant homes, enhance one's mood and a host of other purposes. What makes soy candles so unique is that they can also be used on the skin as a moisturizer.

How can the oils be used to moisturize skin?

Soy candles are made from the oil of soybeans which is a natural vegetable wax. Once the candle has been lit and has created a pool of wax, the oil from the candle can be applied directly to the skin as a moisturizer or massage oil.

Are candle making supplies expensive? Easy to find?

No, they are not very expensive at all. They can be purchased online or from a local craft store.


To learn more about all of the educational opportunities The Gardens has to offer, we encourage you to visit our website, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and follow us on Instagram. You can subscribe to the award-winning Dirt E-Lert, our bi-weekly e-newsletter, by simply texting BBGARDENS to 22828.

About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama's largest living museum with more than 12,000 different plants in its living collections. The Gardens' 67.5 acres contains more than 25 unique gardens, 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture and miles of serene paths. The Gardens features the largest public horticulture library in the U.S., conservatories, a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, the Southern Living garden, and Japanese Gardens with a traditionally crafted tea house. Education programs run year round and more than 11,000 school children enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.


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