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, February 24, 2014

Plant of the Week: Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Is it a shrub or a wildflower?  This common species of eastern Kentucky and the Appalchians is one of the very first things to flower in the woods.  It grows on the upland sandstone ridges and you should begin looking for it when March arrives. This may be one of those species you just need to enjoy in the natural gardens because it is exceptionally slow growing, very difficult to transplant or grow in a nursery, and very hard to find in the nursery trade (although you can do it). Technically this is a tiny shrub growing only to 4" in height with alternate leaves that are simple and oval shaped. Like many of the species growing in acidic conditions, this little gem needs a particular mycorhizzal association to grow and reproduce successfully. I love this diminutive and tough plant because it is highly fragrant, showy and the flowers range in color from deep pink to light pink or white. There are several nurseries that sell young plants and if you decide to take a stab at growing it around the garden, the soil must be highly acidic, sandy and it should consist of just coarse sand and humus.  It is a member of the heath family (think mountain laurel, azaleas, etc.) and has much history associated with it.  It is the state flower of Massachusetts and supposedly street vendors collected this from the wild and sold it yelling out "Mayflowers for Sale." which is why the poets like Whitier and others made it a legend such that this plant greeted the settlers at Plymouth Rock.  It has been used medicinally by making a tincture to treat bladder and urinary troubles as is a astringent and diuretic. While Munckin Nurseries has a limited supply of plants in quart containers, be reminded it is difficult to grow in the garden.  Good companion plants include wintergreen, spotted pipsessewa, and spleenwort ferns.  Lazy S'S Farm Nursery also sells plants.

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