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Korean Bellflower – Beware – Invasive Mystery

Japanese Bellflower

KoreanBellflower

This flower showed up mysteriously in my garden. A Facebook appeal has identified it as Korean Bellflower, Campanula takesimana. The warning is that it is invasive, but I have found it for sale from several nurseries on line. Only one Canadian company noted that it was a strong grower and needed to be kept in bounds. I also checked Google images so I think I have a good ID, even though there is not total agreement about how invasive it might be.  However, I am playing it safe. I dug it all up. The roots had spread into other plants and I did have to sacrifice a ‘Blue Paradise’ phlox and part of this lady’s mantle when removing it. I kept in mind that it is best to  clean out past the margins to make sure all the roots are gone.

I will probably plant an annual in the fairly large bare spot that is left. I don’t want to put any other perennials in peril. With just an annual there I’ll be able to keep close watch for more shoots of the Korean bellflower.

Has anyone else ever had this kind of problem?  Finding an invasive plant mysteriously appear in the garden.?

Let’s Eat the Invasive Species

Scientific American September 2013

‘How (and why) to Eat Invasive Species by chef Bun Lai in the new issue of Scientific American proposes an answer to the economic damage ($120 billion a year) that invasive species cause. Eat them. Eat the wild boar, the lionfish and Japanese knotweed. Turn them into thin-sliced hot meat drizzled with ginger, garlic,roasted sesame and sauvignon blanc soy sauce, or thinly sliced raw lionfish sprinkled with lime juice, seven kinds of crushed peppers, roasted seaweed flakes, toasted sesame seeds and sea salt, and lemonade made by blending knotweed shoots (that taste kind of like Granny Smith apples) with fresh stevia leaves, fresh kefir lime leaves, lemon juice, and mineral water over ice!

Bun Lai is not the first to make this suggestion. In the July 2013 issue of The Atlantic Nancy Matsumoto wrote: “More and more people are trying hard to prove they do. The Corvallis, Oregon-based Institute for Applied Ecology’s (IAE) Eradication by Mastication program includes an annual invasive species cook-off and a published cookbook called The Joy of Cooking Invasives: A Culinary Guide to Biocontrol (kudzu quiche! nutria eggrolls!). The program will hold a workshop this summer on how to dig, process, and cook up the highly invasive purple varnish clam. Tom Kaye, executive director of IAE, made one of three prize-winning entries at last year’s cook-off: battered, deep-fried Cajun bullfrog legs. Second place went to popcorn English house sparrow drumsticks. Despite their poor labor-to-meat ratio, Kaye says, “they were tasty.” Third prize went to nutria prepared three ways, including pulled-pork style and made into sausages.”

Back on July 9, 2011 the New York Times ran an article by Elisabeth Rosenthal titled Answer for Invasive Species-Put it on a Plant and Eat It. She quotes “Humans are the most ubiquitous predators on earth,” said Philip Kramer, director of the Caribbean program for the Nature Conservancy. “Instead of eating something like shark fin soup, why not eat a species that is causing harm, and with your meal make a positive contribution?”

A whole website Eat the Invaders is devoted helping us find, prepare and eat invasive species from the lamb’s quarters weed to the nutria, otherwise known as river rat. This is a fascinating website with information about invaders, recipes and links to all kinds of resources like the Center for Invasive and Aquatic Plants and Invasivore.org run by Notre Dame graduate students. They also note that the classic Larousse Gastronomique cookbook, first published in 1938 and last revised in 1988 –  ” [is] fabulous!  For the invasivore, there’s a nice little entry on the Burgundian way with the rat. And, of course, all those North American invasive weeds are in there.”

Could you be an Invasivore?

BTW – I cannot help telling your to take a look at this latest issue of Scientific American –  if only to look at the various covers. I had a terrible time choosing between the yellow, orange, and red covers. Not only was the background cover different the tiny pictures of various foods and equipment that make up the spoon graphic were also different. Which cover had more of my favorite foods? I finally chose the yellow cover that included watermelon. Hey, it’s summer.

 

Native Alternatives to Invasives

Purple loosestrife along a Heath roadside

“Invasive species have the potential to completely alter habitats, disrupt natural cycles of disturbance and succession, and most importantly, greatly decrease overall biodiversity, pushing rare species to the brink of extinction. Many ecologists now feel that invasive species represent the greatest current and future threat to native plant and animal species worldwide, greater even than human population growth, land development and pollution.” William Cullina of the New England Wildflower Society

We do not have to travel far to see the power of invasive plants. Look at local wetlands filled with the plumy spikes of purple loosetrife. Drive along I-91 coming into Greenfield from the south in the fall and see all the Oriental bittersweet climbing trees along the highway. See the acres of Japanese knotweed blooming in the fall along the roadsides.

Where and how did these exotic invasives get their start? This simple question has a multifaceted answer.

Over the past 300 years non-native plants have found their way to North America in a variety of ways. Some have come accidentally. Agricultural weeds have come in grain shipments, or in the ballast of early ships. Others have been introduced by horticulturists, and even the government.

As recently as 25 years ago I ordered several Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellaata) shrubs from the Conservation district. They grew well for several years, but eventually died, probably because of the competition by the wild grape vines I am always fighting.  They died, but it took me a while to notice that they had seeded all over the sloping field to the east of the planting. I assume this is one of those un-intended consequences that befall all of us from time to time – but it is making a lot of work for us now.

Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is a shrub that can still be found at nurseries even though it is on the invasive list of plants in Massachusetts. The brilliant red fall foliage and its dependability are the reasons for its popularity.

So what can gardeners do? We choose plants like burning bush and purple loosetrife because of their beauty and because they suit our site.

First, gardeners have to educate themselves about which plants must be avoided. They can check the list on the New England Wildflower Society website, www.newfs.org. This site will not only list invasive plants, it will suggest native plants that provide many of the same attributes.  For myself, I have never really liked burning bush, and my highbush blueberries give the same red fall foliage – and blueberries.

Other alternatives to burning bush include Cotinus obovatus, the American smoketree. Many people plant this large shrub because they like the plumey ‘smokes’ in the fall. The deep red color is there all season long. Sweetspire, Itea virginica, is a smaller shrub if you have less space, and Clethra alnifolia, summersweet, gives you wonderfully fragrant flowers in summer as well as autumnal color.

Loosestrife in Buffalo hellstrip

This summer I was in Buffalo to get a preview of the fantastic Buffalo Garden Walk tour. One of the ‘hell-strips’ that my colleagues exclaimed over included purple loosestrife, half of us not recognizing it among the mixed planting of phlox, echinaceas and other perennials. It is a beautiful plant but so dangerous. Alternatives of Lythrum salicaria and L. virgatum, include Gayfeather, Liatris pynostachya and Filipendula rubra otherwise known as Queen of the Prairie which is a good strong grower, but not invasive. If you have a wet site swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata with its clusters of pale to deep rose on tall stems might be an answer.

The climbing tree in front of the Buckland Library is a Norway maple. This has been identified as such an invasive species that many public gardens and parks like Central Park in New York City have cut down all their Norway maples. It was planted to give children a good climbing tree. With the new library addition and new landscape that tree will need to be removed, but I suspect it will be replaced – and this time with a non-invasive climbing tree. I have been told that mulberry trees (and there are fruitless varieties) are good for climbing, as are apple trees.  There are a lot of apple trees in Buckland orchards, so this might be an appropriate tree – especially if someone volunteers to prune it during its youth to accommodate young climbers.

Other good native trees for the domestic landscape include Yellowwood (Cladastrus kentukea) which has flowers in spring and golden fall color, several birches, river birch as well as paper and sweet birch. Crabapples and mountain ash feed the birds.

In his excellent book, Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in our Gardens, which I cannot recommend too highly, Douglas W. Tallamy makes the point that even suburban gardeners play an important part in providing food and shelter for the wildlife that we welcome into our gardens, and maintaining a healthy balanced ecosystem.

That sounds reasonable – and easy, but we have to provide food that native wildlife find edible. We also need to pay attention to feeding all stages of these creatures’ lives. Butterfly larvae need to eat too.

Using native plants does not limit us to a few uninteresting varieties, but we will need to be aware of their importance, and then educate ourselves. There are many resources on the Internet and at your library and bookstore. In addition to Tallamy’s book the Brooklyn Botanical Garden has an excellent small book Native Alternatiaves for Invasive Plants.  Happy reading.

Between the Rows  August 28, 2010

A Wonder – and a Warning

Wisteria

I got a call from Edwin Graves who said I had to come and see the wisteria on his rental property in Greenfield. He told me it had climbed into two cherry trees, but he didn’t tell me those two trees were 60 feet tall, and that the wisteria climbed into the very top reaches.

Sarah Jean and Edwin Graves

The Graves bought this Greenfield house for her parents back in about 1981. Since they moved out in 1989 the house has been rented to other families. The wisteria was there when they bought the house and it occasionally bloomed. Sarah Jean said she was always cutting down plants that popped up in the lawn. And so it went for some years.  Invisibly climbing and spreading, until this year.  My snapshots don’t give any sense of what it looks like to have two 60 foot trees decked with hundreds and hundreds of beautiful wisteria blossoms.

This photo is of more wisteria shoots that are now climbing four smaller trees and they are very pretty. But you can surely see the problem.  A plant that grows rampantly up tall trees, spreads to neighboring trees, and has little offshoots growing all over the ground can be a concern.  The Graves don’t know why the wisterias have bloomed so amazingly this year. There was an old chicken house and run next to the cherry trees years ago, and we did have a lot of rain last year (wisterias love rain and rich soil) and we’ve had a lot of rain this spring – are those reasons enough?  Hard to say.  Those of us who have grown wisteria know that they can be moody and unpredictable plants.  The vigor of Chinese wisteria like these can lift roofs off house and pull off clapboards – as well as climbing 60 feet.  It is easy to understand why horticulturists now recommend planting Amethyst Falls, Wisteria frutescens, a native American wisteria that is smaller and not as vigorous, but it blooms at a young age, and will rebloom during the season – great benefits.

Still – The Graves’ wisteria is a wondrous site and I thank them for the chance to see it.

Obligations at the Edge

As I prepare for the new year I have been thinking about the importance of conservation, about preserving the best of what we have for the benefit of the next generations.  Today I am posting a piece I wrote three years ago after talking to an inspiring conservationist and speaker.  My inspiration is a gaggle of grandchildren, two of whom love to play in the old apple tree in our field, home and pantry to birds – and porcupines.

Even those of us who live in Greenfield or any one of the village centers where we have pretty yards and gardens, know we are very close to a wilder world. It is not all wilderness, of course. There are fields and farms, as well as the riversides and mountains. Sometimes we take all that loveliness for granted, but sometimes, when we read about zoning issues in the newspaper, we remember that there are pressures on this beautiful landscape.

The Conway School of Landscape Design is known for the excellence of its academic graduate program, but also for its sustainable design principles which reach out into the local community through student projects for individuals and towns. As part of their larger educational mission, CSLD organizes a series of free lectures every fall. On October 16, Frances Clark will speak at the Conway Elementary School about our ‘Obligations at the Edge’.

I was happy to have the chance to speak to Clark, who after a career in botanical gardens, and serving as President of the New England Wildflower Society, now works as a freelance botanist. She often works for the state and municipalities making inventories of conservation land. “I come up with a list of native plants, give descriptions of the land, and make recommendations on how to manage the properties. I suggest the best public uses of land, the kinds of interpretive signs to install, and where to lay trails so they don’t disrupt important plant populations,” she said.

When talking about our area Clark says the ecology of the region has been ‘resilient’. The first wave of change was from wilderness to agriculture. Now we are facing the major impact of housing and businesses. Clark asks the question, “If maintaining the natural landscape is a value, how do we minimize the effects of that development?”

Her first answer is that we should not build densely. But if you live in an established suburban neighborhood there are things you can do to preserve biodiversity, and the ecological integrity of your land. For example, she says that barrier fences like stockade fences that reach down to the ground can impede the movement of wildlife like turtles and salamanders. I have to admit that this downside to fences is one I had never considered before.

She talks about avoiding poisonous pesticides and herbicides, and even about the dangers of bright lights. Bug zappers may comfort us, but Clark want us to remember that bugs provide sustenance for birds and bats.

She also cautions about feeding wildlife including birds. “My husband and I feed the birds in the winter and it is a great joy to watch them. But as soon as bears start coming out of hibernation, we put the feeders away. At that time of the year birds have more food. Besides, providing water, even in winter, is as good a way to attract birds. Instead of bird feeders, plant viburnam, dogwoods, blueberries and other plants to feed the birds.”

I don’t live in a suburban neighborhood anymore, nor do I live at the edge of conservation land, but I do feel an obligation to the land and to the future. There are some principles of conservation biology that are very easy for me to practice.

Clark says, ”Nature likes it messy. Keep messy edges. Grass seeds for the sparrows. Dead trees attract woodpeckers. Big dead trees provide food, but also den sites.”

Anyone who visits End of the Road Farm knows we have lots of messy edges. Our only fences are old barbed wire fences. We have hedgerows that provide shelter and food for birds. Our pond, built as a fire pond, certainly attracts wildlife.

Over the 25 years we have lived here we have seen a great change in the amount of wildlife. Wild turkeys are a common sight. I used to tell deer hunters that there were no deer; now there are substantial numbers. We have even seen a bear or two.

One of the conservation issues we have become more aware of is the damage done by invasive species like purple loosestrife and bittersweet. We pulled out the autumn olive that we got years ago from the conservation district, and are now going around to find the seedlings that planted themselves. We are also battling hops and yellow flags. My young grandson Rory had a great time chopping down the yellow flags that appeared in the very wet Sunken Garden this summer, checking them daily to see if the plant was recovering and needed more whacking back.

In the end, for me, conservation is about leaving at least a little part of the world in better shape than I found it. I have grandchildren and just last week my first great-granddaughter was born. I want to leave them with a world that is healthy and beautiful. I treasure the walks the children and I have taken through the woods, noting bear and tiger trees, as well as the wolf trees that I explained provided food and shelter for birds and animals. The woods and fields, so various in their moods and textures always delight. This is what I want to endure.

Between the Rows  October  2006

Falling – Gently

After a chilly, even cold, week we are now enjoying a sunny warm spell.  Autumn begins tomorrow but the fall into the golden season is now a gentle one. I am looking forward to a mild week because there is a lot to do in the garden.

In spite of the chill, I did get to observe the eradication of the Mile-a-Minute vine in Greenfield, and visit some other gardens last week.

Mile-a-Minute vine

Mile-a-Minute vine

I cannot stress how dangerous this invasive weed is. Seeds that look like little blueberries are ripening right now. The little barbs are vicious! If you find this plant growing in your neighborhood email our state botanist at  bryan.a.connolly@state.ma.us.
Dahlia - giant

Dahlia - giant

While I was visiting the Purington family at Woodslawn Farm I got to admire  some maginificent flowers like this giant pink dahlia. It’s about 6 feet tall and the blossom is more than 8 inches across.

Balsam

Balsam

I know about balsam evergreens, of course, but this balsam flower was new to me. It was just one of the many flowers in a garden that allows Barbara Purington to keep the house filled with gorgeous bouquets.

Katsura

Katsura

There is always a lot to admire at Tony Palumbo and Mike Collins’ garden. The Greenfield Garden Club visited and were in high admiration mode. Tony showed us his long tall zinnia border which I loved, hibiscus, an exulting hydrangea and a secret garden with a splashing fountain.  Tony and Mike have planted  wonderful trees over the years. My favorite is the Katsura with its heart shaped leaves.

Magnolia

Magnolia

Of course, there was this stunning magnolia tree that looked so exotic and tropical, but Tony said it is a native variety he bought at Nasami farm.

After visiting gorgeous gardens it is time to come back to earth.

Lasagne garden

Lasagne garden

Under the warm Sunday sun it was a joy to work in the garden.  My husband mowed and cleared the tansy, goldenrod and mint filled area between two of my ‘new’ wood chip paths.  (You can see the wood chips on either side of the cardboard.)  I don’t know quite why we never got that area covered. Once Henry cleared the space I put down some unfinished compost and covered that with lots of cardboard, two and three layers deep.  Then more chips.  Last year, when I was making the Potager, I put compost on top of the cardboard, but right now I don’t have enough to cover such a large area. My plan for this year is to let chips cover the cardboard until it is spring planting time.  Then I will push aside the chips to make winter squash hills. I’ll break through the rotting cardboard, pile on some compost and rotted manure and plant the squash seed.  Over the summer the squash vines will cover the wood chips which will continue to cover this area. My theory is that this will be a weed control and in the spring of 2011 I”ll be ble to put in vegetables that need more attention.  Remember, worms love living under cardboard so they’ll be adding their castings to the soil this fall, and in the spring as soon as it begins to warm up. 

sweetpeas

sweetpeas

Before we leave the Potager I have to show off my Zinfandel sweet peas from Renee’s Garden. Because of the poor soil in this spot, and the bad spring weather they got off to a slow start. They also had to fight the tansy that kept coming through the cardboard. In spite of all my weeding they are still fighting the tansy, but they have won.  They are climbing on the metal crib ends I found at the Transfer Station, part of my White Things strategy for keeping away the deer, and my desire to do as much Reusing before I got to Recycling.

Mile-A-Minute is too fast

Mile-a-Minute vine

Mile-a-Minute vine

Mile-a-Minute vine is the latest threat on the invasive plants front. This nasty vine has moved up from the mid-Atlantic states and is now well established in Connecticut. Massachusetts residents should be on the lookout for this fast growing vine, up to six inches a day! It has arrowhead leaves and nearly invisible but really treacherous barbs. It flowers in August and starts setting seed which begins to ripen right about now.

Mile-a-Minute seed

Mile-a-Minute seed

The seed is small and blue, just like a low bush blueberry. Though small, it has vital strength and can remain viable in the soil for 7 years.

I got to meet Bryan Connolly (L), our state botanist  who works with the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, when he came to Greenfield on Thursday, with Chris Buelow (R) , also with NHESP, to rip out a small patch of Mile-a-Minute vine. This patch was reported by an alert Greenfield resident who knows his weeds!  Bryan and Chris were joined by a crew of Conservation Volunteers (wearing good leather gloves as protection from those barbs) from the New EnglandWildflower Society; they made quick work of the task. Bryan will return in the spring  to check the site, and spray an herbicide, if necessary.

Bryan explained that Mile-a-Minute vine is an annual, but it self-seeds readily. Birds can spread the seeds, but he said most often the vine is spread unknowingly by humans who get seeds stuck in the soles of their shoes, or trucks pick up seeds and transport them on their tires.  Sometimes the vine grows into a hayfield and it spreads all over the farm.  Bryan and Chris carefully gathered all the seeds which they will burn. They are too dangerous even to put in an herbarium.  Foliage will be sent to the University of Connecticut, UMass and Harvard for their herbarium collections.

If you should come across this plant, which needs only sun and ordinary soil to thrive, email Bryan at bryan.a.connolly@state.ma.us            You will have done a good deed.  Remember, the barbs are  an important clue in identifying this plant.

Life Will Not Be Denied!

Life will not be denied is a cry that goes up with some regularity at the End of the Road, often because some weedy thing is trying to get the better of me. But sometimes . . .

Yellow flags in abandoned beaver pond

Yellow flags in abandoned beaver pond

there is an example of how nature simply abhors a vacuum. Earlier this year I posted about the acres of invasive yellow flags that grew in an abandoned beaver pond.  Then, during the summer the dam gave way.

Beaver dam gives way

Beaver dam gives way

Stinky water rushed out, undermining part of the road, carrying debris down the road, down the stream on the other side of the road and into the millpond in the Dell.  The road crew had their work cut out for them.

Beaver lodge and floor of the pond

Beaver lodge and floor of the pond

All that was left of the beaver pond was the exposed beaver lodge, something one rarely gets to see, long submerged branches and muck. The stream that fed the pond continued to trickle across the empty pond bed.

Now the  drained beaver pond is reverting to something like a meadow. I fear this will just give the invasive yellow flags more room to spread.

Bad Iris!

Iris pseudacorus

Iris pseudacorus

Looks pretty doesn’t it? And it is as pretty as many irises one might choose to plant in the garden. Don’t!

This is the common yellow flag that loves water and wet sites. It spreads by rhizomes, but I found out to my dismay that it also spreads by seed carried on the wind. A friend gave me several yellow flags to plant around my pond.  They didn’t do too much, but one day I  found this indestructible iris growing in my wet Sunken Garden.  Even the grandsons haven’t been able to destroy it.

Yesterday, driving past an abandoned but watery and swampy beaver dam I noticed yellow flags. They still look pretty in a  clump.

But when you see acres of  them it is terrifying. Yellow flags are listed as invasive in many states.  I’m still trying to kill my plant, and cutting off all blossoms before they  go to seed. BE WARNED!