Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Plant of the week: Meadow Phlox (Phlox maculata)

This is a superior summer blooming phlox compared to the commonly available garden phlox (P. paniculata) because it is not susceptible to powdery mildew or root rot.  It is fairly easily grown in medium soil, full sun and should not be over-watered.It is rhizomatous and clump forming and can reach 2-3' tall.  It is a deep pink color and hummingbirds are attracted to the slightly aromatic flowers a good summer mulching will help the species thrive and individual flowers should be deadheaded to keep the species blooming throughout the summer,  The lance-shaped, finely toothed leaves can reach up to 5" long and appear on reddish spotted stems (hence the name from the Latin - maculata - spotted).  This also makes an excellent cut flower.This species is often called Wild Sweet William.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Plant of the Week: Penstemon smallii

This is one of the showiest of all the beard-tongues and naturally occurs in TN, GA, NC, and SC but grows absolutely fine here in Kentucky.  The 2 - 2.5' tall plant flowers in May and June for an extended period and it has such a wonderful deep lavender color to the flowers. This is a good drought tolerant plant and prefers sun to partial sun and will thrive more in poor, shallow soils rather than good, rich loamy soils.  It has a tendency to be short-lived in good soil. The flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and bees and the plant is somewhat deer resistant. Native Americans chewed on the roots for relief of tooth cavities and to treat rattlesnake bites. A good companion plant is bluestar (Amsonia taberna  montana)

New Study Shows Rabbit Fencing Still Better Than Commercial Repellents

Wildlife Extension Specialists have long held the belief that permanent fencing is the best method of permanently solving wildlife damage problems. I think I have heard of every type of repellent used including mountain or coyote droppings, human hair, human urination, and the list continues.  In addition people swear by such things as soap or certain chemical repellents.  The research based information for the past three decades hasn't changed; repellents are simply not as effective at deterring browsing animals as are fences. A new study in the Journal, Human-Wildlife Interactions, two authors from CT tested 8 commercially available repellents against two fences and the fencing won out each time. None of the repellents worked 100% of the time and the blood-meal based product performed the best of the commercial repellents. Those containing putrescent egg solids sold next best.  If considering the use of a commercial repellent, be sure to calculate the cost of treatment and re-treatment and in the long run, you are better off building a good rabbit proof fence to keep them out of the garden.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Plant of the Week: Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica)

Early summer in most woodland gardens is pretty boring because the spring ephemerals have flowered and are gone and the later summer lilies, cohosh and other species have not yet flowered.  This plant, which is not that uncommon in southern Kentucky is a real gem of a woodland edge or woodland flower and is quite at home in full shade, full sun, part shade and full sun for much of the day.This is an easy to grow species in rich, moist soil and will spread over time to form large colonies in some cases supporting over 75 individual flowers in mature clumps.  It flowers in late May and June and if you cut back the flowerheads, it will rebloom during the summer. The glossy green pointed egg shaped leaves grow up to 4" long and the flower reaches heights of 2".On top of the already mentioned great attributes, this species only gets about 18" tall.  This can also be easily divided and moved to other areas around the garden. The Cherokee Indians used this as a ritual or ceremonial herb to induce visions and to foretell the future. There can be no doubt this is a real show stopper in any perennial garden.This plant has no known disease or insect problems and the one great attribute about this species, is that it is a hummingbird magnet, right up there with cardinal flower.  One combination I like for real show stopping is to use sundrops (a bright yellow and showy flower) as an accent to the red flowers of Indian Pink. Finally, this species enjoys being drought tolerant.  Because of its showy nature, numerous nurseries sell this species.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Plant of the Week:Shrubby Saint John's Wort (Hypericum frondosum)

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Imagine an easy to grow shrub that in the wild can reach 6' tall or more but in the home landscape there are cultivars like 'sunburst' that get 3' tall at most and 3' wide.It has somewhat flat linear almost bluish leaves that are bright green and up to 3" long.  This plant likes full sun to partial shade and rich sandy loam soils but does well in landscape plantings.  It bears flowers on new wood and thus it should be brimmed back, and the roots mulched, in late fall. While the entire bush can be covered with these beautiful 2" wide flowers, the reddish fruits are also quite attractive in late summer and fall. This is a drought tolerant species and prefers limestone, but will do okay in other soil types.  It is somewhat susceptible to wilt and root rot.  The genus.Hypericum has long been noted for its medicinal properties and H. frondosum has been reported to heal conditions ranging from muscle pain and skin burns to depression, ADHD and Parkinson's disease.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

Kentucky has two species of early summer blooming spiderworts, Ohio and zigzag or wide-leaf (T. subaspera).  The more showy of the two species is definitely Ohio as it grows to 2-3' tall in full shade to almost full sun and will stay in flower until July or later.  The wide-leaf species flowers mostly in late-May and early June, prefers deep shade and does not flower as profusely as the former species.  Of course we also have a spring blooming spiderwort, the Virginia (T. virginiana).  The easiest way to tell the species apart is to look at the leaves in terms of the width and also the glaucous or fuzzy nature of Ohio spiderwort (top image).  These are very easy to grow and maintain species and will ultimately form a nice clump (Ohio much larger than wide-leaf) that can reach 2' across.  The flower color ranges from blue to lavender and occasionally white or pink.  Ohio spiderwort prefers dry to medium soils and is incredibly drought tolerant. As the clumps enlarge, they should be divided in the fall.  Each individual flower only stays in bloom for a single day.There are few to no disease or insect problems associated with this species.  It should be cut back in late summer to 6" to eliminate bad looking foliage and to stimulate a potential fall bloom.  It is pollinated primarily by bumblebees and the foliage will be eaten by deer, rabbits, box turtles and even livestock as it is non-toxic. This species is named in honor ot John Tradescant, the royal gardener of King Charles I of England and in 1637 his son brought the plant from North American back to England where it became a garden favorite.  The species name arises from found in Ohio. These plants have become somewhat of a biological indicator species of high radiation and constant chemical pollution as studies at Kyoto University in Japan and Brookhaven national Lab found that the normally blue stamen hairs turn pink when exposed to radiation or constant pollution. Spiderwort use by Native Americans used it as a cure for tarantism and the Cherokee used to make a tea to treat female problems and a laxative to treat stomach and kidney ailments.  The Lakota made a blue paint from the flower to decorate clothing and crushed leaves were used to make a poultice to treat insect bites and stings.  This species also goes by the following common names: cow slobber, Indian Paint, Job's Tears, Blue Jackets, Widow's tears, Moses in the Buhrushes, Dayflower, and Trinity flower.



Monday, May 19, 2014

Plant of the week: American columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

This is a uniquely an American Plant and is a great example of evolution in process.  There is only one columbine in Europe, it is mostly bluish in color, and is pollinated by bees which can see that color (hint there are no hummingbirds in Europe).  The American species, at least in the east, are red with five long tubes wherein the nectar is contained deer within the tubes so that only the strongest and biggest insects can pollinate it.  However, it is uniquely designed for it's primary pollinator, the ruby throated hummingbird. While this is the only native species in the  east, there are about a dozen in the West and of course the crowing beauty is the Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine, Colorado's state flower.  This is kind of an unusual plant in the buttercup family and the leaves closely resemble those of meadow rue.  The really great thing about this gem is that it is largely resistant to leaf miners, something that the horticultural hybrids are quite susceptible too.  This is an easy to grow species in partial shade to full shade (the full shade plants get taller and more spindly) and can tolerate quite a bit of sun.  They have a long flowering period of up to a month and they like limestone soils (they naturally grow out of limestone cliffs and rock outcroppings) but give it good soil (although a bit on the dry side) and it will give you years of enjoyment for it self sows readily and persists in the garden for many years.  The generic name is derived from the word eagle which is thought to be related to the shape of the flowers as the individual petals look like eagle claws. Native Americans used it to treat heart trouble, kidney and bladder problems, headaches, and fever.  They also used it as a was for poison ivy. It was reported to also be used as a love charm.
This is a quite beloved wildflower as John Burroughs wrote: "Our columbine is at all times and in all places one of the most exquisitely beautiful of flowers. " I like growing this with eared coreopsis, Appalachian beard tongue, and Christmas fern.