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, September 23, 2013

Plant of the Week: Spurred butterfly pea (Centrosema virginianum)

Sorry for not posting anything last week, but I spent the entire week in the ICU unit at Central Baptist and funny how they don't let you access computers and such; but then I didn't feel much like doing much of anything so I guess we shall call it a wash.  But I am back and this weeks plant is outstanding vine, considered rare in Kentucky, but quite showy and profuse in the length of blooming season and beauty of the individual flowers.  The spurred butterfly pea is a short 6 to 8; long vine that doesn't have tendrils and has a tendency to intertwine among existing vegetation.  For this reason, you should probably keep in on a short trellis (along with some native clematis like C. crispa, C. texensis, and C. glaucophylla) for an extended blooming period on the trellis.  The companion vines are also short species and will flower much earlier in the year compared to this species which blooms in July through September.  It is considered a perennial vine, but in Kentucky it acts like an annual and it easily self seeds from the interesting narrow seed pods that are quite showy as well when dangling as they look like a long French string bean dried out.  It likes dry, open sandy soils in pine barrens, but is quite adaptable to most growing conditions.  The three individual leaflets are generally lance-shaped and range to 2" long.  This is the larval host plant for the long-tailed skipper and northern cloudy wing butterflies.  The primary pollinators for this plant are bees and it is a nitrogen fixing species.  I think you will be surprised if you grow this plant because the 2 -3" lavender flowers are very showy and most people in Kentucky are unfamiliar with this plant.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Plant of the Week: Striped Maple (Acer pennsylvanicum)

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

Plant of the week: Obidient Plant or False Dragonhead (Physostegia virginiana)

This plant gets its name from the unique attribute that when an individual flower is moved it stays in place.  The other name, false dragonhead, arises from its resemblance to a European flower with that name.  This wonderful, showy wildflower is a member of the mint family and as such has a 4 angled stem that can reach as high as 4' tall.  The entire plant is hairless or smooth and the individual leaves are serrated, lance shaped and about 5" long and 1 1/2" wide.  The individual flowers are tubular in nature with 2 lips and the upper lip has a short hood and the lower lip is divided with three lobes.  The individual color of the flowers can range from pure white to deep lavender and this is a widely planted species with many cultivars available.  This plant can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions and will form large colonies in above average to moist soils.  Its preference is for well-drained loamy soils but it can tolerate some clay and gravel.  Bumble bees are the most important pollinators although other long-tongued bees and the ruby-throated hummingbird will use the flowers as will some butterflies with long proboscis like some of the swallowtails and silver-spotted skippers. Keep in mind, this can be an aggressive seeder in the garden and it will need to be divided every couple of years.  Some great companion plants shown above include great blue lobelia, orange coneflower, wild golden glow, some of the asters that flower early, and perhaps even cardinal flower.  I know if you have any spotted jewelweed (an annual I know but you can get seeds started in your garden by collecting them in the wild) the hummingbirds will come have a field day.