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, December 16, 2013
Monday, December 9, 2013
Monday, December 2, 2013
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
This is one of those native plants that kind of hides until it is time for it to strut its brilliance, which is now when the clusters of seed pods open and display the bright orange to red seeds in the four lobed seed capsules that are rough looking. This feature has given this plant the common name of "Hearts-a-Bustin" . This green stemmed plant is pretty common throughout the woodlands of Kentucky but you hardly ever see it get very big in the wild because it is a favorite deer food and in many places they have almost eliminated it. However, in the garden, this 4 to 6' tall plant, makes a wonderful edition to the woodland or woodland edge garden. It can form a thicket because it suckers and the light green leaves and 5 petaled flowers are not that showy, but this is unusual for a Euonymus because they usually have 4 petaled flowers. Fall is definitely the season for this plant as the leaves can turn a scarlet red draped against the green stem complete with those wonderful seed capsules. When considering where to plant look for loamy soils that are slightly acidic as the eastern Wahoo (a native tree) likes the more heavy limestone soils (and is also an excellent native species as well). All parts of this plant are poisonous and contain glycosides that cause severe diarrhea and potentially heart failure and cardiac arrest. This is a much better native alternative to the invasive exotic burning bush and winter creeper so heavily planted in this state.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Monday, October 7, 2013
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Monday, September 23, 2013
Monday, September 9, 2013
Often called moose maple or moosewood, the striped maple is the least known of all the common maple species in Kentucky. In our state we find it primarily in the true mountains at higher elevations of Pine, Stone, and Black Mountain. It is planted as an ornamental because of the distinctive white stripes on the greenish-brownish bark. It is not a large shade tree, rather it can be a shrub or a small tree, up to 20', and is best grown in cool, shaded areas. Unlike the other maples that do not really have a soil preference, this species is definitely associated with acidic, well-drained, organic soils. In urban environments it would probably be wise to amend the soil to create this environment. One of the best attributes of this species is the bright yellow leaves in the fall and the outstanding bark in the winter. One cultivar, 'Erythrocladum' is known for the bright red twigs in the autumn after leaf fall that form on young stems that contrast nicely with the striped bark. This species has typically maple like looking leaves with three lobes and the leaves can be quite large ranging from 5 - 7" long and wide. It does have some problems adapting to urban environments because it is susceptible to pollution and canker when under stress. The key to successfully growing this species is to keep the roots cool and moist (not wet). It does make for a great tree in naturalized landscapes. The other big drawback is that this is a highly preferred browse species for deer and they will readily eat it to the ground.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Monday, August 26, 2013
Photo from Clemson University
How many books, articles, and other materials have you read that says to plant Nandina, Heavenly Bamboo, or Sacred Bamboo (Nandina domestica) to attract and feed birds in the late winter? This plant is classified as a noxious weed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and many states list it as a noxious-invasive weed because it escapes readily from the home landscape. It is used as an ornamental because of the dark glossy green leaves and bright red berries that persist throughout the winter. It is still used, in large numbers by the horticultural industry and landscapers and is a recommended landscape plant by University Extension programs across the country. Unfortunately this species, which has escaped from cultivation, is highly toxic to birds. The bright red berries contain cyanide and other alkaloids that produce highly toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN) which is extremely poisonous to all animals. Sudden death may be the only sign of cyanide poisoning and death usually comes in minutes to an hour. The deaths of cedar waxwings in Georgia that were necropsied at the Vet. school showed hemorrhaging in the heart, lungs, trachea, abdominal cavity and other organs. This is a horribly painful method of death for a bird or any other animal. Bird deaths in the Houston, TX area and other parts of the country have also documented the death of songbirds as a result of eating these berries.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Monday, August 12, 2013
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
This week there are two plants of the week because they should definitely be grown together and provide a color palette that is outstanding (yellow and lavender). I guess my reason for talking about these plants comes from my recent trip back from South Dakota where these plants dominate the tall grass prairie and roadside plantings in Illinois and Iowa. Both species obviously flower about the same time (actually in mid-summer here in Kentucky) and are for the most part disease resistant (although wild bergamot has a tendency to develop powdery mildew) and can tolerate the typical nasty clay soils of urban development. They are also tolerant of deer browsing and are excellent cut flowers, even providing some nice fragrance in the process. Finally, these two species are easy to grow and establish and will flower for an extended period of time. Both like full sun and can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. Because these grow up to 3 - 4' tall, never fertilize or water them and if grown together, there is no need for staking as each other will provide support. The primary pollinators of the yellow coneflower are various bees some wasps and small beetles and butterflies. This is a host plant for the silvery checkerspot butterfly. Bergamot has an oregano-mint scent and is visited by ruby-throated hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, skipper and swallowtail butterflies. The primary pollinators are long-tongued bees. This species was, and is still, used to make a tea (usually with honey added because the flavor is so strong) to ward off colds and one of the common names, bee-balm refers to its antiseptic uses as an ointment.
Photo by Ramona Marie Lauder
Photo by Eddie Eller
This seems to be the year of the bald cardinal. I can't remember receiving this many calls about the strange cardinals folks have been seeing lately. What are these birds and why is this happening? These are just regular cardinals but at this time of the year the birds go through a process called molting. Molting is nothing more than feather replacement. In this case, the best explanation is that all the feathers molted at one time, giving the appearance of a "bald" bird. Most of these birds are most likely young of the year, or juvenile birds, that are undergoing their first molt. Normally feathers are molted a few a time and it is unknown why this phenomena seen in the photos occurs. There is not a large amount of research on the topic but it also appears that feather mites or lice may cause the condition as the head is one area that the birds can not reach to "preen" to remove the tiny bugs. The final explanation may be some unexplored nutritional or environmental contaminant problem. For whatever reason, there is no need to worry because by the next molt the feathers will return and your beautiful red cardinals will not be bald any longer, unlike the author of this blog, who lost his hair at age 18 and it has never returned!! Now that's a long molt!
Monday, July 29, 2013
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Monday, July 15, 2013
It never ceases to amaze me how people are so concerned with our tiny little ruby-throated hummingbirds when they don't see them in early spring. I always tell them to have some patience, they will return in mid-summer and yes, right on schedule the hummers are back at the feeders. Why? There are several reasons: 1. The babies have now hatched and are out and about on their own and looking to "beef up" prior to their annual trek to the tropics; and 2. the migrants are now beginning that journey south and are looking for nectar sources. Because of these phenomena, it should come as no surprise that the best hummingbird nectar flowers are now just coming into flower including the number one species of all time: trumpet creeper! This plant produces as much as 10x more nectar than any other hummingbird plant. But other species are coming into flower now as well including cardinal flower (another favorite and maybe hummingbird plant number two), jewel-weeds, red bee-balm, our native mallows, royal catchfly (a specialist for the hummingbird), false dragon-head, monkey flowers, and trumpet honeysuckle. Now that the heat is with us make sure you keep the liquid in the feeder fresh and clean the feeder scrupulously so no bacteria or fungal diseases become associated with it that might harm the birds. Here is a little extra recipe for attracting hummingbirds and non-nectaring butterflies: mix old stale fruit (peaches, nectarines, melon, pineapple) with stale beer and sugar. Put in a blender and place in a container in the shade on a platform. You will be amazed at what will come into that mixture as shown with the pearly eye butterflies shown below. Happy gardening and enjoy those flying flowers from now until frost.
This native perennial gets its name from the arrow or halberd shaped leaves that occur on this species that is common pretty much across the entire state of Kentucky. It does best and is found naturally near wetlands, streams, ponds, and other moist soil habitats, but does just fine in the garden. If you are planting in a wet area, be aware this species can literally take over the entire habitat. Of course there are worse things than having a 4 to 6' tall showy plant with up to 6" wide hollyhock like flowers that range from white to pink to red (and yes I have seen all color forms in Kentucky). The 5 petaled flowers have a deep maroon center with a very prominent staminal column. The plant has a deep taproot but it spreads easily via seed. I recommend cutting this species back in the fall of the year to maintain a more horticultural appearance. This species is pollinated by bumblebees and an oligoletic (means specializing on pollinating one species or groups of species of plants) bee that also feeds on wild morning glories. The plant also serves as a host for gray hairstreak butterflies (buds and seeds), painted lady and checkered skippers (foliage) and some moths including the pearly wood nymph, Io, and Delightful bird-dropping moth. Unfortunately Japanese beetles will eat this plant and deer will also consume the non-toxic foliage as well. However, this is a much better replacement in the landscape than the exotic Rose of Sharon bush, which is invasive.
Monday, July 1, 2013
Monday, June 24, 2013
Monday, June 17, 2013
Last summer, I posted an item on this blog about Ticks In Kentucky. I listed some of the different kinds of ticks that live in the state, the diseases associated with those ticks, and how to defend yourself against ticks. I also addressed a question that we often receive in the Department of Entomology at UK: "Are tick populations increasing in Kentucky?"
Since then, we've seen even more evidence, both experimental and anecdotal, that tick numbers seem to be increasing. And while we have little scientific data from Kentucky, veterinarians and entomologists from states like Michigan, Missouri, and Oklahoma are convinced that tick populations are growing in number and that ticks are being found in new places. We still don't know exactly why the numbers are changing, but some scientists believe that growing deer populations, climate change, the suburbanization of the North American landscape, and even acorns may all be contributing factors.
I have not conducted any experiments on my own, but it seems like I see more ticks in Kentucky than I did a few decades ago. When I was a kid, I spent most of the 1980s wandering in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Rowan County. I was told by my parents to "watch for ticks." I would find a few every now and then. These days, when I visit the same parts of the forest, I will regularly pick off dozens of ticks. Sometimes, I find so many that I lose count, but I estimate the number to be about two hundred. When I find that many, the ticks are always very small: about the size of a grain of sand. Some people call these tiny ticks "seed ticks" or "turkey ticks." These small ticks are the immature stage of the Lone Star Tick—none of the other ticks in our area regularly attach themselves to humans while they are in the immature stage.
Luckily, these tiny ticks—which seem to be the most common in our area, and which are the ones that I run into almost exclusively in the woods—are not known to be associated with Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or any other major pathogens. (Identification can be tricky, though, so any tick should be removed as soon as possible.)
So, tick numbers may be on the rise. But there's one thing that hasn't changed: tick-safety! It is fairly easy to protect yourself, your family, and your pets from tick-borne illnesses, and you can read all the details in our online factsheet: Ticks and Disease.