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.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Plant of the Week: Southern Crab apple or narrow leaf crab apple (Malus angustifolia)

When considered flowering crab apple trees, most homeowners and horticulturalists recommend one of the numerous cultivars that show resistance to disease and other pests in addition to bearing profuse clusters of flowers.  If you are considering a flowering crab, and do not have cedars close by, then you might consider the southern crab apple.  One of the finest things about this species is the fragrance in the spring that almost has a strong violet smell.  It is also incredibly showy, although not as much as the various cultivars on the market.  People have a tendency to not like the wild crab apple trees because they are susceptible to cedar apple rust, honey fungus, apple scab, fire blight, insect borers, scale, aphids, canker, and tent caterpillars.  Some of these can be sprayed for but I think if you keep the tree where it gets good wind movement through the branches and leaves (by trimming) and keeping it away from other horticultural fruit trees and cedar, you can be quite successful in getting this attractive species to thrive.  It is a small growing tree, up to 30’ maximum height with a short trunk to a foot to 2 feet tall. Mature trees have beautiful bark patterns and color.  The leaves are more oval, not lance-shaped and finely toothed.  It should be situated in the full sun or it can get early morning shade but will handle disease issues better in full sun.  It should have very good drainage and soil fertility is usually not an issue.  No clay soils.  One way to reduce disease problems is to rake the leaves in the fall and burn them.  The great thing for wildlife is that this species produces a small fruit that is relished by birds, more so than the large fruits produced on many of the cultivars.  It can be a slow growing species but it is worth the effort.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Plant of the Week: Trailing Lespedeza (Lespedeza repens)

This is not the large showy garden plant that many folks are used to having in their landscapes.  However, this little gem does have a role to play in the rock garden or in areas that are extremely dry, rocky, or sandy where little else will grow.  This could also be an excellent rock garden plant as it creeps along the ground and can form a large mat of vegetation.  The lespedezas, for which there are many, many species, are well known for their soil nutrient increasing capabilities, and this species is certainly no different, except it is diminutive. This plant maybe gets up 12” from the ground when in flower, but when I have seen it in the wild, it is always prostrate on the ground.  It has long trailing branches that support small clover like leaves with three leaflets.  It has typical pea like flowers since it is a legume and the color can vary from violet to pink to white tinged with shades of purple.  This produces a preferred seed for bobwhite quail but other birds have a tendency to leave it alone.  The normal range for this plant is pretty much all of the eastern United States and will stay in flower from June through October or freeze in Kentucky.  Surprisingly this species is used in gardens in Europe and China but not so much in North America, its native habitat.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Plant of the Week: Starry Cleft Phlox or Sand Phlox (Phlox bifida)

This is one of the earliest blooming phlox found in the state and because of this, it does not have any of the problems with powdery mildew or root rot, as long as you plant it in the appropriate habitat.  This low growing and creeping type phlox, which is more delicate than any of the other phlox, requires full sun to some shade and it likes very well drained or sandy soil that is typically neutral in pH. It naturally occurs from Oklahoma up to Michigan and down to Kentucky and Arkansas. Compared to other phlox species, this one has deeply cleft lobes on the flower which make it quite distinctive. When fully established, this species can form a nice mat because 3 flowers typically form at the end of each stem and individual flowers can develop in the axils of the upper leaf. It can range in color from light blue to pink to white and is visiting by butterflies and moths.  It does have a taproot system but can re-seed itself easily given the proper growing environment. This is a species that does not like competition and companion plants should be grown at a bit of distance from the colony.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Plant of the Week: Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum)


Wow is a word that describes the scarlet fall color of the sourwood tree.  Better than the best maple tree by far.  Scarlet and I mean scarlet red.  This widely under-utilized tree in the landscape has tons of appeal. It is quite showy and in the spring the leaves come out with bronze tips, summer is complete with sprays of white flowers dripping downward in contrast to the bright green leaves, and in fall they turn spectacular color with the grayish seed pods providing contrast.  They are a small tree and to get a good growth form in the garden, only purchase a container product, not balled.  Their maximum height reaches about 30' and they can be rather slow growing in the landscape.  They need well-drained acidic soil high in organic matter and they don't like competition. They do not like high pH soils or heavy clay soils and can't tolerate much pollution. So mulch them in well with pine straw and keep the base free from competing plants.  They should be planted in part-shade and during extended drought periods watering is a necessity.  When considering where to place this small tree, think about someplace where it will have maximum visual impact in the fall. One of the best attributes of the species is that they honey made from the flowers is supposedly the best you can get.  Many folks don't appreciate it for a landscape plant because it usually has a crooked stem, but I think it just makes this tree all the more appealing.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Plant of the Week: Greater Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis crinita)

Do you have a perennial wet or moist spot in the garden?  Does it get full sun?  Do you need something to fill in with spectacular flowers that bloom during October?  You might consider planting the greater fringed gentian that grows from 8 to 24" tall and is one of the showiest of all the gentians.  It ranges from MN down through TN and is usually considered a northern species, but does pretty well here.  It is a biennial, so to keep it in the garden, plants will need to be purchased for two consecutive years.  The great thing is this species will readily self sow if growing conditions are favorable.  The 1 - 2" long x 1" wide leaves clasp around the stem and are yellowish green in color.  The second year plants (the first year is just a rosette) will send up a beautiful 1- 2" long flower with 4 rounded and lobed petals with reddish sepals underneath.  This species definitely likes calcareous soils, particularly sandy, with a neutral pH.  This species has no significant diseases or pests associated with it.  It has no discernible scent and the leaves are bitter tasting to mammals and it is primarily pollinated by bumblebees.  The flowers close at night and on rainy, cloudy days.  It is only available from a few nurseries but it is a spectacular fall blooming wildflower.

Plant of the Week: American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

This is a southern species of shrub but appears to grow pretty well in Kentucky.  It is fairly quick growing shrub that can reach heights of up to 8' tall with a spread about as wide as it is tall.  The most distinctive feature this time of the year are the bright purple berries, relished by birds.  The plant has coarse, fuzzy green oppositely arranged green leaves that appear on long, drooping branches giving it a very graceful appearance.  In late spring and early summer, light pink flowers are borne in the leaf axils in late spring and summer.  The old wood should be pruned in late fall to early spring since the flowers and fruit occur on new growth.  It is relatively easy to grow in a variety of soil types ranging from acidic to slightly alkaline and likes part--sun and part-shade.  It is not highly drought tolerant, especially if planted in full sun.  It does have fragrant flowers and the Native Americans used it for colic, stomach aches, dysentery, and fevers.  Be aware that deer love this plant so it is not a good species for use in areas with high deer densities.