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Archive for the ‘Native Plants and Gardening’ Category

I am a large perennial shrub or tree growing to 35 ft, and am a member of the Magnoliales order.  My native habitat stretches from the Southeast, through Pennsylvania and the East Coast and parts of the upper Midwest.  I am often found growing in deep fertile bottom lands, as well as hilly upland areas.  My growth pattern is to form a dense thicket of tall slender trees and often provide an understory component in my preferred habitats.

I have large, simple leaves and the largest edible fruit indigenous to the US.  My leaves cluster symetrically at the ends of my branches.  They are wedge shaped at the base and are alternate and spirally arranged.  Being deciduous, my leaves turn a rusty yellow in the fall.  Otherwise they are wedge shaped at the stem, with a grey rusty underneath and a hairy upper surface.

My flowers are quite unusual, in fact I often resemble a maroon Campanula when in bloom.  They are 1-2″ across, rich red-purple or maroon in color…and are produced in spring from April to May just before the leaves appear.  My flowers are composed of three sepals and six petals, arranged in two tiers and are pendulous.

Pollination is somewhat different for me in that the yeasty smell of my flowers attracts more blowflies, fruitflies, carrion beetles than honey bees.  I am reasonably shade tolerant and my leaves, twigs and branches have a slight disagreeable odor when handled.

My fruit has been described as being showy and the main distinguishing factor in giving me my common name.

Please post your answers as a comment.  The usual bragging rights go to the one with the correct answer.

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Cup Plant

Dutchman’s breeches
Switch Grass

Native plants are defined as those that grew naturally in our area before plants from distance places were introduced.  In Michigan, native plants are plants that were here before Europeans settled in the 1700s.  The five reasons I choose native plants; wildflowers, shrubs, trees, and grasses, for my landscape are:

  1. Native plants are adapted to the local climate, soil condition and are easier to grow and generally require less water and less effort in pest control.  They help reduce mowing costs, conserve water, and protect the soil and by the reduced used of fertilizer and pesticides.
  2. By introducing natives into my landscape I have provided a habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.  Local wildlife, birds and butterflies have a relationship with native plants. They rely on them for food, shelter and nesting.  Because of human activities such as urban development, native habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate.  Planting natives is one step in restoration of the ecosystem.
  3. Natives rarely become invasive and we all know how invasive introduced plants can be,  such as garlic mustard, Russian olive, and purple loosestrife just to name a few.  These aliens crowd out our natives and reduce biodiversity.   The use of natives can help reverse the trend of species loss.
  4. Natives require very little long-term maintenance if they are properly planted and once established.  Because they are adapted to a local region, they tend to resist damage from freezing, drought, and common diseases.
  5. Native plants can be as attractive as the introduced ornamentals. The truth is that many native plants have interesting forms and foliage with a variety of textures and shades of green.   The use of natives also helps preserve our cultural traditions. Historically natives have played a significant role in Native American culture.  Many have been used as food, medicine, and dyes.  Early settler also used natives for similar domestic purposes.

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It’s been a rough week. All things technological still hate me, and I’m posting from my husband’s computer since mine is STILL in the shop. To top the week’s bad luck with technology, my brand new Ferrari-like camera finally got delivered – defective. To content myself with some serenity-inspiring photos I went to my husband’s archives. I chose these because they all have a Zen-like quality to me. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.

Photo credit Tom Morrison

Photo credit Tom Morrison

Photo credit Tom Morrison

 

 

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Mature Bladdernut seed pod

The American bladdernut, Staphylea trifolia, is a large, suckering, deciduous shrub or small tree 8 -15 feet tall and native to the Eastern United States.  Bladdernut grows in the wooded bottomlands along the River Raisin and can tolerate a wide range of soils and conditions from dry to wet and part shade to full shade.  It prefers moist soil, tolerates occasional floods but can also tolerate drought.  I have one shrub planted in a dry, sandy, shaded area and another in clay soil which   floods and both perform well in these extreme conditions.  The blooms in April and May are clusters of small cream bell shaped flowers.   The trifoliate leaves are dark green and the bark is greenish brown with white cracks.  I find the inflated, three chamber bladder like fruit very interesting.   The papery capsules, normally 1-2” long, change from green to cream and mature to brown.  In the autumn the seeds within the bladder will rattle in wind. The American Bladdernut is an interesting shrub for the landscape especially in native plant gardens, shade gardens or in woodland areas.

American Bladdernut bark

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Jennie writes: I think I have finally found a place at our home for a sumac.  My farmer husband, working hard to keep our ditchbanks and drain tiles free of tree and shrub roots, does not appreciate “brush” as I do, so I needed to find a place where its suckering tendencies can be kept in check. In fact, a place where it is not likely to thrive but to struggle somewhat. Then I should be able to restrain its rapid growth as we have in the native row along the Extension parking lot, by severe pruning.  The photo shows why I want it.  The straight species’ fall colors tend to bright and deep reds, which would not show up against our barns, and they do not have such long, graceful “fronds” of such soft texture.  I do not want the yellow-leaved ‘Tiger Eye’ cultivar but the natural cutleaf mutation of staghorn that I understand was first found in Vermont. Along a barn-red machine shed the thick brown furry antler-like twigs won’t show up much in winter but the blazing yellow-green-orange fall color will, and in that hard clay, with a concrete foundation on one side and mowed tall fescue on the other, its rhizomes will be limited. Some summer day my granddaughters and I will make a cool, tart drink from the red seedheads as native Americans did.

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