Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Weevils

Any visit to a prairie in August is likely to produce sightings of weevils.  These confounded fools gather on flower heads, suck juices like crazy, doing incredible damage to plants. Apparently they drink their fill, make love and then lay eggs in the flower's  head or stem.  When the flower head falls prematurely to the ground, the new weevils' life cycle is about to begin.

The only thing nice to say about weevils: they inspired this poem which my botanical friend,  Bob Clips, shared with me. I hope you enjoy it too.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Huffman Prairie at Wright's Flying Field in Dayton

August is an ideal time to visit Ohio's prairies.  The tall grass prairie remnants of Ohio constitute less than 1% of our original prairie.  Most of those lands were tilled long ago for agricultural purposes. This blogger has covered many of these historic sites in the past, including the well-known cemetery prairies- Smith and Bigelow, and the Daughmer Savanna Prairie posts which are here and here.

Huffman Prairie restoration
While visiting Dayton, Ohio for the Midwest Native Plant Conference I was invited out to see Huffman Prairie. It is situated squarely on the grounds of the Dayton Heritage National Historic Park at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The prairie is managed by the Five Rivers Metroparks, one of Ohio's excellent park systems. It is open to the public. You too, can take a self-guided tour and enjoy the new interpretive signage along the trail.

Historic plaque
You'll find an historic plaque on the site noting that The Wright Brothers flew and perfected the world's first practical airplane at this location in 1904 and 1905. It was also the location of the Wright School of Aviation where many of the world's first pilots were trained.

Our group gathered in front of the Wright's hanger.
Our prairie tour included some knowledgeable guides, including Jim McCormac of Ohio Div. of Wildlife, Dave Nolin and Beth Burke from Five Rivers Metroparks and my traveling companion and outdoors man extraordinaire, Jim Davidson.

The timing of my first visit was fortuitous, as a new book has been released documenting the lives of the Wright Brothers.  Orville and Wilbur Wright were interesting characters and David McCullough's enthusiasm for the story was obvious during several recent media interviews.  I am now looking forward to reading the book!

Ohio native plant community

But we were here to study the plants, not the history. This prairie holds an abundance of the plants one would have found in Ohio's original prairie plant community.  Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea and Blazing-star, Liatris spicata are the major players in this pink and purple pallet set in a sea of grass.

Dragonhunter lurks in the grass
Prairies are magnets for interesting insects hiding among these forbs and grasses.  Unlike the average manicured lawn, prairies are teaming with biodiversity.  The many species of prairie plants lend themselves to even more species of animals, including birds beetles, butterflies and this dragonfly- the Dragonhunter, Hagenius brevistylus.  One of the largest, fastest and most fierce of the dragonflies, the Dragonhunter is known for feeding upon- other dragonflies!  A key to its identity is the great big body and the little-bitty head.

The increasingly rare Monarch butterfly 
We also saw several Monarch butterflies flitting about the flowers and paying particular interest to the milkweed growing within the prairie. We are fortunate to have this 112 acre bio-reserve to provide needed habitat for our best known migratory butterfly.  Monarchs seem to be having a little better recruitment this year, but we won't know the whole story until they gather in mass in Mexico this winter.  It is heartening to know many people are interested in the welfare of this iconic insect and milkweed is gaining a new popularity amongst gardeners and habitat managers alike.

Go Monarchs and go to Huffman Prairie!  There is plenty of biodiversity to see.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ohio's Pawpaw Festival

If you are a fan of native plants and butterflies, I hope you'll come on out and join us at the Ohio Pawpaw Festival on Sept. 11th. 

Here is the schedule for Friday night Sept. 11th at the Ohio Country Fair Tent.  Our good friends at Columbus Wild Ones are sponsoring my program.

Ohio Country Fair Tent Schedule

Friday, Sept. 11, 2015
4:10 p.m.
5:15 p.m.
Pollinator Gardens
6:30 p.m.
Bee Keeping
7:45 p.m.
Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly

Mark that 7:45 program down on your calendar, and we'll cover some little known fact about Pawpaw and the butterfly it hosts- the Zebra Swallowtail.  Look for this program:

Lots of Paw-tential!
It’s bona-fide. The Pawpaw is a comer. It even has a festival!  Unlike many other plants, the deer resistant Pawpaw, a member of the Custard- apple Family (Annonaceae), is expanding its range and thriving in wetter, hotter weather.  And what’s good for Pawpaws is good for Zebra Swallowtails.  Learn more about the life history of the Pawpaw and the stripe-laden butterfly that it benefits.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Midwest Native Plant Conference 2015

Having recently returned home from the Midwest Native Plant Conference in Dayton, I am excited to share news of all the fun and festivities!

One of the many native plant sales booth and a few of the conference organizers,
L to R- Judy Ganance, Kathy McDonald and Teri Gilligan.
NATIVE PLANTS: Everyone wants native plants.  It used to be so difficult to find them and virtually impossible to find knowledgeable sales people. Now it is shop-til-you drop natives all at one location!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this event with numerous vendors and an incredible selection of native plants.

The Bergamo Center's ground are the perfect location for this event.

DAY FIELD TRIPS at Bergamo: Brother Don Geiger (center) has been a major player in the development of this ecologically sound environment.  The Bergamo grounds hold many acres of native plantings and wood lots. It is perfectly suited to field trips- both day and night.  This photo is from a day-time nature walk lend by arguably Ohio's best naturalist, Jim McCormac (far right), and aided by Brother Don.

John Magee speaks on water features- and some native plants.
SPEAKERS: There are so many wonderful speakers and topics to choose from. The keynotes were author Don Leopald on "Native Plants for Sustainable Landscapes," John Magee (Magee Design) on "Water in the Landscape," and Kenn Kaufman of the Kaufman Focus Guides on "Why Butterflies are Better than Birds."

The breakout sessions make it harder on attendees- you have to choose! I didn't get to attend all the programs I would have liked, but here is a shout out to the excellent program given by Hal Mann, Erika Galentin, Michelle Banker, Jason Larson, Carol Mundy, Judith Nastlly and especially to new comer Bethanny Majeski. Her program on mycorrhizal fungus was amazing!

Thanks also, to the many folks who stopped by for my "Urban Landscapes- Life in the City." It was wonderful to see so many friends in the audience and their kind words were greatly appreciated.

Evening sessions: Moths were covered  by Elisabeth Rothchild and night singing insects are the domain of Lisa Rainsong.  These women are powerful educators and and they are helping people understand in importance of our insect world.

Common Milkweed at night.
 NIGHT FIELD TRIPS: This incredible plant is working a double shift. I have a whole new respect for milkweed, and I am going to make more trips out to my garden at night to learn about my own pollinators.

Moths encircled for your viewing pleasure.
 I have circled the night fliers on the same milkweed photo.  This was an eye opening experience for me and I thank Elisabeth for encouraging us in the field.  This was very timely for me as my newest garden at home is specifically for night blooming plants and pollinators.

Kenn and Kim = Kaufman2
FRIENDS and co-conspirators:  Midwest Native Plant Conference is a wonderful place to connect and share time with friends and like minded conservationist.  They may not even know they are fellow conservationist yet.  But if you grow native plants, you are my kind of people!

It is always a special treat to be with friends like Kenn and Kim Kaufman, Hugh and Judy Rose, and Jim Davidson. It makes the whole event feel like a family reunion.

Cecropia caterpillars at the Flora-Quest booth.

ORGANIZERS: Thank you to all of the organizers for the excellent program they bring to Dayton, Ohio. Most of all, a special thank you goes out to organizers Kathy McDonald (speakers), Yvonne Cecile (field trips) and Karen Arnett (venders) for making it easy for me to attend, with my caterpillar buddies in tow.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lakeside's Botanical Secret

If the cottages of Lakeside could talk, we might hear some intriguing stories.  After all, since the mid 1870's it has been a gathering place for families and the famous alike. You might be surprised to learn the exciting story which came to light during my recent visit to Lakeside.

Dewey Hollister, reknown plantsmen.
While attending the Gardening as Landscape Painting series, Dewey Hollister and I spent a good bit of our free time enjoying the gardens and grounds. We particularly savored the architecture and landscapes which incorporate a century's worth of designs.  We visited elaborately planned gardens and several of the most naturalistic remnants of plant communities on the Marblehead peninsula.
Hydrangea arborescens is the oldtime Lakeside garden favorite.
As we walked through town, Dewey noticed the cultivated hydrangeas which seemed to tell the story of Ohio's native plants and their appearance in our gardens. What could say "summer cottage" better than a foundation planting of hydrangeas?

These wild hydrangeas have rather small flower heads and bear more fertile flowers than showy sterile florets. Fertile flowers are the smaller pollen-loaded reproductive portions of the flower.  Today's hybrid hydrangeas boast larger showier flowers which are preferred by many gardeners, but do not provide pollen for our much need pollinators.

A progression of Hydrangeas often surrounded the older cottages.
Some early Wild Hydrangeas, Hydrangea arborescens probably sported a more uniform Hydrangea arborescens var. grandiflora which directly translated from the Latin means: Hydrangea of the woods with grand flowers.  This grandiflora genotype was later developed into the standard and completely sterile "Annabelle" Hydrangea we all know today.

The classic Hydrangeas arborecens is a staple in Lakeside landscapes. 
 Through the years, nurseries and gardeners quit growing the old standard as the much showier "Annabelle" Hydrangea became commonly available. The basic grandiflora form has been all but lost, until Dewey's realization that Lakesiders have shared and preserved this plant for over 100 years!

It takes very little imagination to see how neighbors might have split off a start of their cherished hydrangea to welcome friends and family as their cottages were built in our fair Chautauqua.  What could be more neighborly or Christian than to share your favorite low-maintenance plant?

Hydrangea arborescens var. grandiflora on the left, Hydrangea "Annabelle" on the right.
The difference between "Annabelle's" larger leaves and the showy, fully-sterile flower heads become more obvious with a little practice.  Soon you will notice many cottages with their original Hydrangea arborescens by the door and a nearby line of more recently added hydrangeas from the horticulture industry.

Test your botanical ability on your next Lakeside walk.  Try finding Ohio's missing heritage hydrangea which has been hidden in plain sight all along!  One has to admire the old-time Lakesiders for having the ability to preserve something special through love and friendships.