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

Plant of the week: False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

This plant is not all that showy unless you look at the individual flowers close up and see the wonderful bright yellow stamens against the white tepals and sepals which make up the 1/6" long individual flowers.  Like other members of the lily family, the flower parts occur in multiples of three and it has parallel veins in the 4" long by 2" wide mostly smooth leaves that alternate up a zig zag stem. The plant is much showier in late summer and early fall when the tiny white flowers turn into clusters of beautiful red berries.  It flowers in late summer and likes mostly shade but will flower better in partial shade (morning sun) and it is tolerant of a wide range of soil types but does best in rich organic soils. The flowers are slightly fragrant and are pollinated by small bees and beetles. The flowers in the cluster give the appearance of a plume and hence another common name for this plant is Solomon's plume. The entire plant stands about 2.5' tall and it will form a nice cluster that forms from a perennial rhizome. I like this plant because in a colony it has a great textural appeal in the shade garden and gives rise to interesting leaf patterns.  The berries are eaten by some woodland birds and white-footed mice and white-tailed deer will occasionally browse the foliage, but it is generally avoided by this and other herbivores.  Native Americans did use the leaves and brewed them to make a concoction that treated colds and constipation.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Plant of the Week: American Holly (Ilex opaca)

The popular holiday song says to "Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly" during this holiday season and the American Holly is the tree species they are referencing. It has been reported that Christianity has embraced this during the Christmas season because the thorny leaves represent the "crown of thorns" on Jesus' head and the bright red berries represent his blood. It is a magnificent evergreen tree that is pyramidal is shape and typically reaches heights of 15 to 30' tall. The reason this is such a great urban tree is that it tolerates clay soils, air pollution, and deer.  Deer do not like this species because of the thick, leathery, and spiny leaves.  This species is dioecious which means the male and female flowers occur on separate trees.  Hence to get the wonderful red berries, that birds typically love in late winter after numerous frosts have broken down the tannins and other compounds in the fruit, you must have a female tree.  To obtain good fruit set, you should plant one male tree per three female trees and they should not be located any further than 200' apart.  One of the problems of planting this in heavy limestone areas is that the leaves may be chlorotic because the pH is too high.  If this is the case, use a little sulfur to make the soil a bit more acidic. If you wish to keep this as a more shrubby species, you can do that by cutting it back every year to the height you wish to maintain it. There are many, many cultivars of this species in the nursery trade and one of the most prolific fruit producers is 'Jersey Princess.'  The bark is generally smooth and green and is often hidden from view by the dense thicket of leaves in the cultivated varieties.  This is such a popular tree that there is even a society devoted to all things holly and it can be viewed at http://www.hollysocam.org/

Monday, December 2, 2013

Plant of the Week: Spoonleaf Sundew (Drosera intermedia)

This is probably the most eye-catching of the temperate sundews that are cold tolerant. Adult plants get up to 5 inches tall and 5 inches in diameter although they rarely get this large growing in the wild. Its uniform shape gives it the appearance of a miniature tree and when the sun shines on the plant it becomes almost translucent. It is only known from one location in Kentucky, but the native range is all along the east coast up into Canada over to Minnesota and down to Texas. Of all the sundews that can be grown in the garden, this one requires substantially more moister than the others and it is often found growing in standing water. If you have a bog garden, this is one area where you might mix the peat to coarse sand in a 1:1 mixture and keep it wet (near the source of water). While this plant can go dormant throughout much of its range, sometimes up to 9 months, there are two forms available in the trade 'Cuba' and 'Mt. Romaima, Venezuela' that do not go dormant and would be showy right now.  Like other carnivorous plants, this little gem traps insects on the sticky hairs of their leaves, then digest them for nutrients and is usually grown under low nutrient conditions. In Kentucky, try growing it in a bog or create a small bog in a half whiskey barrel or other large pot with the appropriate peat moss and sand mixture.  Remember to keep in the full sun and never let it dry out.  Other species that can be grown with this that are available in the trade include various other sundews like filiformis, capillaris, rotundifolia, and anglica; pitcher plants including white-topped, yellow, hooded, purple and many new exciting hybrids, some orchids like grass pinks and rose pogonia, and some other interesting species.  Creating native bog gardens and habitats is another fascinating way of exploring native plants in the landscape and I know when I grew them, all the neighborhood kids were fascinated by the plants that turned the table on the animal world.