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Is the Bay full of sharks?

The teeth you find at beaches in Southern Anne Arundel and Calvert counties aren’t from sharks now living in the Bay. The teeth fall from the eroding cliffs around the Bay, where sharks lived during the Miocene Epoch, around 17 million years ago.
    At that time, Southern Maryland looked very different. We were a shallow, salty sea with a climate like North Carolina’s. Over millions of years, the sea receded and through erosion the land that was once the bottom of the ocean rose as Bayside cliffs. The fossils are remains of animals that once lived in the sea, from scallops to sharks.
    Shark teeth top off at seven inches, which means the Great White Shark that grew them was as big as a boxcar. But even an ancient tooth as tiny as a rose thorn can be a thrilling discovery. Learn about these treasures from Calvert Marine Museum, which has a fine collection and offers Fossil Field Experiences (the next is July 16), help in identification and the guidebook Fossils of Calvert Cliffs.
    In addition to shark teeth, a trip to Calvert Cliffs State Park, Flag Ponds or Chesapeake Beach Bayfront Park can yield finds of fossilized shells, whale bones and small sea creatures. The Maryland Geological Survey has a number of handy guides available on its website (www.mgs.md.gov) identifying the fossils you can find in the area.
    If you go fossil hunting, know that collecting fossils directly from the cliffs is prohibited. The regulation protects the cliffs and you: The cliffs are unstable, and a collapse can ruin your day. The best time to go searching for fossils is at low tide or just after a storm.


Has a sight stymied you? Does an oddity bewilder? Your curiosity may be featured in an upcoming column. Send your questions to chesapeakecuriosities@gmail.com.

Gene splicing is latest form of ­systematic plant breeding

What do I think about genetically modified plants? Here’s my answer to that question I so often hear.
    We have been genetically modifying plants for many centuries. We can blame the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel for initiating the science of plant breeding, which has resulted in improved quality and yields of vegetables, grains, fruit, flowers and ornamentals. It all started after Mendel crossed smooth peas with wrinkled peas and yellow peas with green peas. From these crosses, he concluded that there are dominant genes and recessive genes and introduced the possibility of hybrid vigor.
    The science he founded, genetics, has enabled farmers to produce ­higher-yielding crops, better-tasting fruit and vegetables, disease-resistant and disease-immune plants, plants resistant to insect damage.
    The next time you look at a seed catalog, look for the word hybrid in such terms as F1 hybrid and double-cross hybrid. All those hybrids are the result of systematic plant breeding.
    I saw hybridizing for myself in a course in Cytogenetics in which we used an old dental X-ray machine to irradiate germinating corn seeds. The exposure to different levels of radiation and periods of exposures resulted in numerous physical changes in appearances of seedlings that survived. The changes were due to genetic alteration. The previous semester class had performed the same experiment, then grown the corn to maturity. We grew seedlings from their corn and compared differences between our seedlings and the parents. Only a few of the seedlings resembled the parent. The majority expressed tremendous variations in appearance. Some changes were beneficial, while many were not. These experiments had been performed for many years, with a large collection of photographs for comparison.
    The science of genetics has made tremendous strides since Mendel. The helical structure of chromosomes was first reported in 1961. Since then scientist have identified the number of chromosomes in many organisms and the location of specific genes on those chromosomes. Using genetic engineering techniques, it is now possible to select specific genes and transplant them into desirable locations on specific chromosomes. This new method of cross-breeding has significantly reduced the time to generate improved varieties.
    Genetic modification in corn and soybeans has made those crops immune to damage from the application of glyphosate. This GMO significantly reduces the need to apply weed killers, which is beneficial. But only time will tell if GMOs will have any effect on quality and safety of these crops.
    There have been environmental problems with GMO cotton and other such crops. But with regards to vegetable crops, there is now a GMO sweet corn that can be grown without insecticides to control corn ear worm. There are raspberries that can be grown free of crown gall. These are just a few of many crop improvements that are the result of genetic engineering and the development of GMO crops.
    The Florida citrus industry is fading rapidly. Viruses are mutating at a faster rate each year, killing citrus trees. If the citrus industry is to survive, it will most likely depend on the development of plants genetically modified for immunity to these viruses. Once the gene that makes some plants immune to viruses can be located, there is a good possibility it can be transferred to citrus trees, thus making them immune.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Stellar, but still shocking after all these years

When Jonathan Larson’s rock opera Rent, loosely based on Puccini’s La Boheme, debuted 20 years ago to a Pulitzer and Tony for Best Musical, it felt so edgy, so raunchy, so shocking with its cast of young radicals: the addicts, the drag queen, the bisexual, the stripper. Despite evolving societal norms and newer crises eclipsing the AIDS epidemic, this blockbuster still has power. With a pulsing beat and haunting earworms, it follows an unforgettable cast of characters for one year as they wrestle with the seven deadly sins and private turmoil only to realize that happiness lies only in living each moment as if it were their last.
    Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre has assembled a stellar cast of singer/dancers for this production, starting with Tim German as Mark, the videographer who records it all and learns the price of success when his creative genius meets corporate TV greed. At issue is his coverage of a housing firestorm surrounding former roommate Benny (Matthew Walter), who has turned ruthless landlord since marrying into money. When Benny padlocks the building and a tent city sprouts up, the cops and the media are there. So is protest artist Maureen (Loghan Bazan), Mark’s attention-whore ex who left him for an attorney named Joanne (Andrea Greenwald).
    When Mark’s old friend Tom Collins (Christian Gonzalez), a mathematical genius, rolls back into town, he is rolled by gangstas on the street and rescued by a cross-dressing Angel (Nicholas Carter), who becomes the love of his life (Today 4 U). As both men are HIV positive, their support group plays a large role as the story progresses. Mark’s other roommate, guitarist Roger (David Colton), is similarly afflicted and spends the whole show composing his magnum opus (One Song Glory and Your Eyes) before the virus that killed his girlfriend claims him. Roger is a content loner until he meets Mimi (Athena Blackwood), an exotic dancer (Out Tonight) and Benny’s sometime girlfriend. It’s complicated, but Roger and Mimi’s affair is the catalyst for most of the show’s greatest hits, including Light My Candle, I Should Tell You, Another Day and Without You.
    Momentum is slow to build, especially regarding a secondary plotline that has Angel killing Benny’s dog by drumming. But once things get rocking, they don’t stop.
    Greenwald is dynamite with German in Tango Maureen and with Bazan in Take Me or Leave Me. Bazan’s bizarre protest piece, Over the Moon, way eclipses the film version. German and Colton’s Living in America is raw and driving, while Gonzalez and Carter slow the pace in the dreamy Santa Fe and I’ll Cover You. The ensemble impresses with powerhouse solos by Kylie Airin Sjolie and Gabe Taylor (Seasons of Love), Kyle Gonzalez (Will I), Wesley Williams (No Day but Today). Amy Matousek, Katie McCarren, Elizabeth Pittman, Lilibeth Rabang and Brian Shatt provide solid backup.
    Details are fun. Remember the Lycra and shredded denim invasion? Pay phones and bricklike cell-phones? Technological innovations like flashlights serving as spots lend poverty-chic, and the onstage band feels as natural as your noisy neighbors. Best of all, live footage of Mark’s films projected onstage provide intimacy and immediacy.
    The take-away is this: Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.
    If you fly the rainbow flag and like your rock intellectual and irreverent, don’t miss Rent. Runs two hours and forty minutes with intermission. Rated R for adult themes and language.


Director: Andy Scott. Music director: Paige Austin Rammelkamp. Choreographer: Casey Lynne Garner. Stage manager: Jen Schiller. Set: James Raymond and Jeff Huntington. Costumes: Kristina Marie Martin. Lights: Matt Tillett. Sound: Rob Glass. Video: Babs Weiss. Musicians: Rammelkamp, Ken Kimble, Kevin Hawk, Jeff Eckert and Declan Hughes.
Playing thru July 23, Th-Su plus Weds. July 13 & 20, 8:30pm, 143 Compromise St., Annapolis. $22 rsvp: 410-268-9212; www.summergarden.com.

From Honor Flights … to Rocking the Dock … to Shark Week, Bay Weekly puts you in the know

Have your travels taken you to BWI, National or Dulles airports as a plane full of old veterans made their slow way through the concourse? If so, you’ll know the eruptions of appreciation described by writer Selene San Felice in this week’s feature story, The Men Who Saved the World: Honoring the Greatest Generation of Veterans Starts at BWI.
    I’ve seen that scene, as the planned Honor Flight welcome is amplified by the spontaneous gawking, applause, photo snapping, even singing of travelers whose ordinary passage through the airport has pulled them into history.
    Massed together as they were in their fighting companies, for perhaps the last time, the veterans come so full of memories that passers-by can’t help but feel the weight they carry and imagine its import.
    More powerful still, as San Felice documents, is to share the sacred space at one of our great national memorials like the World War II, Korean or Vietnam with a gathering of veterans who lived those wars.
    As well as Honor Flights, other organizations bring their veterans to our nation’s memorials.
    It was on a pilgrimage organized by the Laborers International Union of North America that I felt the power still vital in these old men.
    They saw the war, I wrote in this space in May 2010. You cannot imagine what they saw. But you know from their shell-shocked look that they are seeing it again.
    They are awed and daunted, and their hearts are overflowing.
    That May day was the last visit of many of the ­veterans I joined.
    Two I knew well are no longer with us: Paul Penn, a World War II veteran, and his son David Penn, a Vietnam veteran. Together we had traced the story of America’s wars in 24 bas-relief panels sculpted in brass on the ceremonial entrance walls to the World War II Memorial. One of the panels depicts trucks and jeeps on their way to England through the Lend Lease program.
    “That’s what I did. I was a driver,” said Paul, reading the images with his fingers and memory as if they were Braille.
    I was there, he said, and made the story real.
    Great as the power of art and architecture are, human witness is more powerful still. To understand the weight of history, we need the first person present. That’s what we get when we share the company of veterans — at our airports, our memorials and this week in Selene San Felice’s story.
    Selene, just turning 21 as you read her story, will remind you of the power of empathy — and take her ­veterans’ memories far into the future.

And, that’s just one of the benefits you get from reading this issue of Bay Weekly.
    Read about how Chesapeake Beach Resort Rocks the Dock almost every night of summer … Shark Week at Calvert Marine Museum, with living sharks and fantastic fossils … how to catch rockfish … what to do for entertainment and education through July 14 — plus, who’s doing what all around Chesapeake Country.
    In our advertisements, you’ll find just what you need — as well as what you didn’t know you needed until you saw it here.
    As always, Bay Weekly puts you in the know.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Learn the trick — and the science

Hardy mums planted for color last fall most likely survived the winter and are now rising in clumps in your garden. Here’s how to get them ready to bloom again this fall.
    To move mums to new spots: For lots of smaller plants, dig the clumps and divide them into smaller clumps of one, three or five stems each, with roots firmly attached. Transplant them 12 to 18 inches apart. After they have started to grow, prune the stems, leaving only three or four leaves near the bottom of the stem, for two to three branches per plant.
    To manage them in place: Get out the hedge shears and prune the tops away, leaving only a few leaves at the bottom of the stems. These undisturbed clumps will quickly generate multiple stems. Allow the new stems to grow about six inches before shearing away the upper half of the new growth. Continue shearing away the tops of the plants until July 23. Shear with a slight curve to make them naturally round like a large beach ball. This method will give you bushel-basket sized plants that will flower starting, depending on the variety, in early September until frost.
    Chrysanthemums are short-day plants, meaning that they initiate flower buds when daylight hours are fewer than 10 to 12. Thus you stop shearing them on July 23 so the plants will have time to send up new growth before flower bud initiation begins at the end of each stem. Some varieties require 24 hours of total darkness, while other varieties require only 22 hours of total darkness for flower bud initiation. Exposing the plants to a flash of light from a flood lamp, street lighting or light from vehicles during the daily dark cycle may prevent the plants from flowering. Once the round flower buds become visible at the ends of the stems, total darkness during the dark cycle is no longer necessary.
    Chrysanthemums are similar to poinsettia with regards to short-day requirements. Other common short-day plants are garlic and Vidalia onions. Vidalia onions — planted in Vidalia County, Georgia, in the fall for spring harvesting — require short days to produce bulbs. Just as the Champagne region of France is the unique producer of champagne, Vidalia County is the unique producer of Vidalia onions. The soils in that region are low in sulfur, resulting in mild onions.
    Because of our harsh winters, Maryland is best for long-day (and intermediate) onions. Planted in the spring, these onions produce bulbs because they are growing during long daylight hours.


Pruning Photinia

Q A row of redtip Photinia between my property and my neighbor is over 20 years old and has been pruned repeatedly. They are now taller than the garage but sparse at the bottom. If I cut them down to about five feet, will they fill out? Or are the base branches too thick? I have attended your pruning seminars and I know you can cut back a lot of shrubs and they bounce back. But I want to make sure I won’t do any damage before I proceed.
    I thoroughly enjoy your column and often clip it to keep in my garden notebook.

– Bonnie Smith, Lusby

A Photinia is nearly impossible to kill by pruning, though you should have pruned them before they resumed growth earlier this spring.  When you cold-cut these plants down to the ground, they return like gangbusters.  If you cut them back hard now, they will sprout only at the uppermost branches. If you wait and prune them back early next spring, they will grow new sprouts at the bottom.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Neighbors joining neighbors to celebrate our independence

Is there anything more fun, more moving and more important than a hometown Fourth of July parade? Whether joining the parade or watching it, we celebrate our independence as a nation and as a people.
    Across the land, communities large and small decorate themselves, their dogs and conveyances from baby buggies to trikes and bikes to convertibles, tractors, fire engines and floats. In a partnership of faith and delight, we join as one entity united by shared purpose.

–Sandra Olivetti Martin

Annapolis Parade

From Amos Garrett Blvd., down West St., around Church Circle and down Main St. Parade at 6:30pm, fireworks at 9:15pm (Main St. and Spa Creek Bridge closed 6-10pm), Downtown Annapolis: www.annapolis.gov.

The state capital bursts with patriotic pride every Independence Day with a parade, music by the USNA Concert Band at Susan Campbell Park and spectacular fireworks over the harbor.
    Marching in the parade is a special honor, says Glenn Carr, a parent volunteer of a Special Olympics athlete who has marched for the last four years.
    “We’d been loving the Annapolis parade for a number of years,” said Carr, “and I started thinking Why can’t we be a part of the parade? We see a lot of other civic groups here and Special Olympics is a great cause that people love to support.”
    Anne Arundel Special Olympics athletes wear their uniforms and medals and march with a banner and wave flags.
    “This year we have a decorated van as part of our procession,” says Carr. “It’s a lot of fun, and we love to expose our athletes to the public.”
    The sight of these smiling marchers draws a lot of cheering and love from the crowds, he adds. “One of our athletes, a young lady who works at a grocery store, saw some customers at the parade that recognized her, and she was absolutely thrilled. I always tell them to ‘bring your flags and spread your happiness’. It’s a great day for our country.”
    Park at city garages and take the Circulator trolley ($1) to the top of Main Street. The trolleys run 8am-midnight. Shuttle service ($1) is also available from Gate 5 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to Lawyers Mall 5pm-midnight.
    The closer you get to downtown the harder it will be to park and the more difficulty you will have getting out of town after the celebration.
    Watching by boat? Because of the anticipated crowds, boaters are urged to select their preferred viewing area anchorage early and are warned to avoid the 1,000-foot safety zone around the fireworks barge.


Cape St. Claire Parade

Parade begins at 10am from the Cape St. Claire firehouse, travels one mile to River Bay Rd., then to the beach; fun continues at the main beach 11am-2pm: 410-757-1223; www.cscia.org/d/July4th-celebration.

The Cape St. Claire community joins together to celebrate Independence Day with a parade down to the main beach area. The atmosphere is family-friendly with lots of youth sports groups passing out goodies along the route. Rhiannon Dunn, coach of the Cape Rugby Football Club, says the kids in her co-ed touch rugby team plan to throw candy and trinkets from their float.
    “This is our third parade,” she says. “I love the Cape. I’ve lived here about 16 years, and I love the parade. It’s a chance for the whole community to come together and enjoy our neighbors. We are like a small town. Even being so close to D.C. and Baltimore, we still have that small town feel.”
    Dunn reports that for the players, it’s a can’t-miss-event. “It’s like one of their favorite things to do even being in the midst of our playing season.”
    Her favorite thing? “There are a couple of really interesting floats. For being a tiny community parade, the amount of effort and enthusiasm that goes into it is interesting. We are working on a float, but I am not sure how floaty it will be since just last week I realized that July Fourth was coming up. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime.”
    Prizes are awarded for the Most Patriotic and Most Creative entries. Games and activities at the beach after the parade include tug of war, a sandcastle building contest, a water balloon toss, spoon and egg races and watermelon eating contest. Grillmasters compete to win the title of best Backyard Ribs in the Cape — guest judges sample entries and choose a winner.


Galesville Parade

From Anchors Way, between Galesville Park and Hardesty Funeral Home down Galesville Rd., turning right onto East Benning Rd., winding until it passes the community center, then out on West Benning and across to the Anchors Way starting point. Main St. closes at 12:45pm; parade at 1pm: 410-867-2648; www.galesvilleheritagesociety.org/July4th.shtml.

The historic waterfront community of Galesville began its Fourth of July parade tradition late, in 1994, with just fireworks, sponsored by the Galesville Heritage Society. A parade was added the next year. Each year the festivities grew a little more, until the fireworks brought in so many people that it overwhelmed the community’s resources. So the fireworks ended, but the parade lives on.