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, April 30, 2013

Plant of the Week: Intermediate Wood Fern (Dryopteris intermedia)

This is one of the largest and most showy of all the ferns in Kentucky.  It loves rich woods and has a tendency, particularly these days, to be somewhat evergreen, although the fronds do lay on the ground during the winter.  It is now just growing in the woods and makes a wonderful foundation planting in the woodland garden.  It has several cousins including Goldie's wood fern (D. goldiana), marginal wood fern (D. marginalis), log fern (D. celsa), southern wood fern (D.ludoviciana), and autumn fern (D. erythrosora) among numerous others. For the most part, they all look alike superficially except the autumn fern which can turn a beautiful cinnamon color.  Furthermore, this group of ferns is known to hybridize which can make exact field identification difficult. However, that is not a concern for the gardener. The intermediate wood fern grows from about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet tall. It is very delicate, graceful, and lacy and has lobed leaflets on twice compound fronds. The spores on the underside of the leaflets are usually produced in mid to late summer and there is a translucent tissue that covers the spores, which are circular. This species likes slightly acidic to neutral soils that are well drained and high in organic content, which is typical for most mesic woodland wildflowers like trilliums, lady slippers, etc.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Plant of the week: Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)

Foam Flower is one of the main stay plants with any woodland or shade garden.  It is very adaptable to a wide variety of conditions and numerous other woodland wildflowers work well in creating a dynamic and colorful garden.  Some excellent companion plants are wild blue phlox, dwarf crested iris, Jacob's ladder, bellwort, trilliums, jack in the pulpit, violets, yellow lady slipper orchids and even may apples as seen in the photograph above.  This is such a delightful and charming plant that has captivated plant breeders and there are now dozens of varieties in the market place.  Some cultivars have dark brownish, blackish, or reddish veins, some have foliage that turns bronze in the fall and winter, some have pinkish flowers, others have bluish flowers.  I have observed a tremendous amount of variation in the wild with leaf and flower color.  This plant gets its common name from the fact that the tiny white, spider-like flowers on a short stem look like foam.  The scientific name arises from the Latin name tiara which is a Persian crown and ella which means a turban shaped dry fruit. This species is member of the Saxifrage family which includes the commonly planted Alumroot.  The wild version of this species is a natural clump forming species that sends out above ground runners and if given enough time can become an excellent shade ground cover.  The leaves look similar to maple leaves but are highly variable in shape where some look more like Japanese maples (highly dissected) to a more thickened type leaf representative of a red maple.  The plant gets no taller than 8 to 12" and the leaves are evergreen to semi-evergreen. This is a good deer and rabbit resistant plant and it has no serious insect or disease problems. The tiny 5 petal, 10 stamen flowers are pollinated by small bees, syrphus flies, and butterflies.  It is relatively easy to grow but does best in rich organic soils that drain well because they are killed easily in the winter if the soil stays waterlogged.  They like dappled sunlight as well.  This is one of those species that every woodland garden should have and should be a foundation species for small woodland spring wildflowers.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Plant of the Week: Robins Fleabane (Erigeron pulchellus)

When most folks think of fleabanes, they concentrate on the tall, weedier species that can be found in road ditches and other weedy, idle areas in the spring and early summer.  This species, however, makes a great woodland garden species because it grows no taller than a couple of feet and the flowering heads are quite large, sometimes up to 1.5 inches across. It has basal leaves that persist throughout the growing season and these soft, fuzzy like leaves add considerable interest to the summer woodland garden. During the flowering period, the leaves and stem are soft and hairy. This is an easy species to grow as it likes average to dry garden soil,  The flowers attract numerous different types of small insects from bees, to flies and butterflies. Mammals like the leaves and small rodents like the seeds.  I love the flowers when they first emerge and have a pinkish to lavender tone to the ray flowers.  Planted in a nice clump, this species would make quite a showing in the front of a native plant wildlife garden.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Plant of the Week: Cumberland Rosemary (Conradina verticillata)

The Cumberland Rosemary is a very rare plant known only from several counties in Tennessee and Kentucky. It grows on gravelly river banks which are seasonally flooded then left high and dry in the summer. The plant looks like a semi-prostrate juniper growing about 8 inches tall and spreading several feet. Its leaves are semi-evergreen and look like those of Rosemary. They are wonderfully and strongly scented as you would imagine a wild Rosemary and can apparently be used like Rosemary in cooking. Lavender flowers appear in May. This species must be grown in extremely well-drained soil or pure sand in very slightly acidic conditions in full sun. Use it for its fine texture where a low plant is needed. I grew this in a container by the front porch so folks could smell the wonderful fragrance. There is also a white form of this species available.  There is only one nursery I know of that has the permits to sell this species and it is Sunlight Gardens in Andersonville, TN.  A great companion plant to grow this with is Barbara's buttons (Marshallia grandiflora).