by Lynn Richardson, vice-chair, Woodcroft Eco-friendly Landscape Committee; member, New Hope Audubon Bird-friendly Habitat Committee
Nothing says summer like black-eyed Susans! These sunshine-bright, easy-to-grow flowers attract numerous little wasps, flies, and other pollinators to your garden, many of which help control garden pests. In fact, native plants like the black-eyed Susan support beneficial insects in ways that other plants plants can’t. And it’s essential that we support these beneficial insects because if they disappear, our own extinction will not be far behind.
Two different plants are commonly called black-eyed Susans. Their botanical names are Rudbeckia hirta and Rudbeckia fulgida. Rudbeckia fulgida is a perennial plant that spreads by underground runners. It stands 2-4 feet tall and generally flowers from midsummer to early fall. Rudbeckia hirta is an annual or short-lived perennial that spreads by seed. New plants that pop up are easily dug and moved to where you want them. They flower most of June into July. Both of these species prefer full sun and a not-too-rich soil. Goldfinches love the seeds!
Many garden centers carry these plants. Be sure to ask whether the plants you’re planning to buy have been treated with neonicotinoids (“neonics”), a group of widely used insecticides that are absorbed by plants and can be present in pollen and nectar, making them toxic to bees. The local sources of Rudbeckia hirta and fulgida listed below do not use neonics.
Where to buy it
Cure Nursery, Pittsboro https://www.curenursery.com
Mellow Marsh Nursery, Siler City https://www.mellowmarshfarm.com/
North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill (check with them for availability of seeds and plants) http://ncbg.unc.edu/
An interesting aside—How do bees find the nectar?
The dark center or eye of the black-eyed Susan flower head is made of hundreds of tiny flowers filled with nectar that bloom from the eye’s outer rim inward. The yellow pollen along the outer ring of the eye in the photo above indicates that those flowers are in bloom. When a pollinator insect visits, it rotates around this ring, drinking nectar from each bloom. If you look carefully, you’ll see a slight darkening toward the base of the yellow petals that forms a bulls-eye around the disk. An ultraviolet pigment that bees can see (and humans can’t) causes this darkening, which leads them to the nectar and pollen at the flower’s center. Amazing, huh?
Resources consulted for this article include “Maryland Grows Blog” by Sara Tangren, Ph. D., Sr. Agent Associate, Sustainable Horticulture and Native Plants, and Christa Carignan, Coordinator, University of Maryland Extension, Home & Garden Information Center https://marylandgrows.umd.edu/2018/09/14/black-eyed-susans-attract-pollinators-and-other-beneficial-insects/
Invasive Plant of the Month—Japanese Stiltgrass
by Lynn Richardson, vice-chair, Woodcroft Eco-friendly Landscape Committee; member, New Hope Audubon Bird-friendly Habitat Committee
What is it?
Japanese stiltgrass (botanical name Microstegium vimineum) is a delicate, sprawling grass 1/2 to 3 1/2 feet high. Slender flower stalks that develop in September go to seed from late September through early October, unleashing 100 to 1000 seeds per plant. Seeds remain viable in the soil for three to five years. A native of several Asian countries including Japan, Korea, and China, stiltgrass was first identified in Tennessee around 1920. It was used as packing material for goods imported from China, which was probably how it was introduced into the United States.
In residential areas across Durham, fast-growing Japanese stiltgrass grows in lawns, landscape beds, vegetable gardens, and natural areas. Like other invasive plants, it thrives in a wide variety of habitats—from sunny to shady and moist to dry. Hay, soil, and potted plants may contain stiltgrass; wind, water, animals, humans, and vehicles all spread the seed, which are light and float easily. The seeds may survive and germinate even after long periods in water.
Why it’s a problem
Stiltgrass forms extensive patches, displacing native species that can’t compete with it. Areas filled with Japanese stiltgrass are less biologically diverse, and provide less native wildlife habitat. Left unchecked, Japanese stiltgrass can overtake and smother native vegetation in three to five years. Japanese stiltgrass may change soil chemistry so that the seeds of our native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers don’t germinate, making it a threat to the future of our forests. If a native seed does manage to germinate, the stiltgrass may shade the tiny plant out. When deer browse native plants in stiltgrass-infested areas, they open up even more room for it to spread. Unfortunately, they don’t eat stiltgrass!
How to remove it
Entire stiltgrass plants can easily be removed by grabbing the plant close to the ground and tugging firmly. Hand-pull in August and September, when plants are tall and branched. If you pull in July or earlier, you’ll need to keep an eye on the weeded area to catch any new plants that emerge, since pulling may expose buried seeds to light and jumpstart their germination. Late summer pulling is best because any new seedlings don’t have enough time to get established before cold weather. As weeding too early has its drawbacks, so does weeding too late! Be sure to weed before mid- to late September, when the plant goes to seed.
Plants pulled before they set seed can be left on site; plants with seeds should be bagged and placed in the garbage. When in doubt, bag them. You will need to continue pulling each year until the seed bank is exhausted, which may take several years. If your yard has low areas that seeds can wash into or if your neighbor has an infestation, you may not be able to permanently eradicate the plant. Keeping on top of what wanders into your yard will help keep the problem from getting out of hand.
Mowing is another option. It’s best to wait until late summer (roughly mid-August to mid-September) to cut stiltgrass. Mowing at this time will remove the inconspicuous flower before its seed matures while not allowing the plant time to flower and set seed again. Plants cut earlier in summer respond by regrowing and flowering soon after cutting.
I had great success last summer weed-eating the big infestation in my backyard natural area down to the ground, then covering it with a thick layer (4-6 inches) of mulch. This year the few plants that are emerging are easily pulled out. Another option is to plant a thick stand of wildflowers such as obedient plant or grasses such as river oats that will crowd out almost all stiltgrass.
Check out this talk given by one of our own amazing volunteers, Lynn Richardson!
Biodiversity Begins at Home: A Pioneering Project in Durham's Woodcroft Subdivision
The precipitous decline in biodiversity is not only a problem in the Amazon—it’s happening right here in our own back yards. Learn about a Durham subdivision’s pioneering committee that is working to increase use of native plants and control invasive plants in the neighborhood’s common lands and yards.
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Register here: Biodiversity Begins at Home: A Pioneering Project in Durham's Woodcroft Subdivision
Every year the Forest Service goes into forests across the country to see what kinds of trees are growing. Using this information, they created a data set called the "Forest Inventory and Analysis" data set. When I was in graduate school at Duke we utilized the Forest Inventory and Analysis data a lot... and now its accessible to everyone! This website allows you to look at what kinds of trees are growing in forests near you, and how it has changed over time. Be warned- its pretty dense, forestry stuff!
Forest Inventory & Analysis One-Click Fact sheet
Readers interested in exploring the forestry statistics about their home state may enjoy this Forestry Inventory & Analysis Factsheet. The resource provides "a brief overview of forest resources in each state based on an inventory conducted by the FIA program in cooperation with each State forestry agency." Factsheets were created using data from the USDA Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis database. To explore the data, toggle over the map and click on a state, or use the dropdown bar in the lower left-hand corner to select a state from the alphabetized list. A link at the bottom of the page also provides a text-only version of the site. Once users have selected a state, they will be able to analyze and download state-specific data, including forest land ownership statistics, acreage estimates, and usage of forest resources. Readers should note that the data used were collected between 2016 to 2019, with data added as the site is updated. Those interested in archived versions of the data can find information under the Backpage tab.
Last time it was drawing, now its listening... check it out!
Tree Podcast: YourForest
Guided by a desire to better understand the natural world, inventory forester Matthew Kristoff launched Your Forest in 2017. The podcast is structured as a conversation between Kristoff and guests, who discuss "the things [they] love about the natural world and [their] work to protect and preserve it." In doing so, Kristoff hopes to "challenge our ideas of sustainability," and push listeners to think about the reasons for and results of our actions towards our planet.
Recent episodes have covered the scientific stories housed in tree rings (see Episode 82, "Travel Back in Time with Trisha Hook") and the impact of wetlands on maintaining healthy ecosystems (see Episode 81, "Bogged Down with Ducks Unlimited: National Boreal Program").
As of this write-up, there are more than 80 episodes are available. Installments range in length, but are typically over an hour. Readers can find the full collection of episodes at the link above or on popular streaming services such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and Stitcher.
Do you want to take your botanical drawings to the next level? If so, check out this new resource: Botanical art and artists: How to draw and paint leaves and trees
Nature is a source of inspiration for many artists, but how scientifically accurate are the depictions? As the collection's name suggests, "How to draw and paint leaves and trees" provides "tips and techniques for how to draw and paint botanically correct trees and leaves."
Whether you are an amateur artist or a seasoned professional, you will find resources to support your artistic endeavors. Scrolling down the page, visitors will find information on famous botanical artists, suggested books on botanical art, and a plethora of embedded videos walking individuals through drawing and painting trees and leaves while maintaining botanical integrity.
To easily navigate to the videos section, users can click the "Video TIPS - Drawing and Painting Leaves" link in the green box at the top of the page. Videos cover topics such as "Painting Leaves in Different Seasons" and "How to Paint a 3D Leaf." The site was created by Katherine Tyrrell in 2015, who credits her background in education as inspiring her "to support those who want to learn about botanical art and illustration."
Urban Forestry Toolkit
Close your eyes and try to picture yourself in the middle of a forest.
Where are you? Perhaps you are in Brazil's Amazon Rainforest or California's Redwood Park, or maybe Pittsburg, Pennsylvania's Urban Forest?
While traditional notions of forestry often exclude urban settings, the Urban Forestry Toolkit provides resources to bring tree canopies to cities. The resources within the toolkit "are designed to help community managers and advocates in jurisdictions of all sizes to determine their current situation and be guided through a process at their own pace to reach goals of comprehensive urban forest management."
The toolkit's 17 steps take users from start (Assess) to finish (Sustain). Each step has a range of supporting content, from statistics to studies to samples. For example, the seventh step , "Planning: Best Practices in Urban Forestry" (under the Plan tab), includes examples of cities that have successfully created and implemented urban forestry plans.
The toolkit is a project of Vibrant Cities Lab, a collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service, American Forests, and the National Association of Regional Councils, on a mission to help individuals "discover how healthy tree canopy can enrich their own community and help guide them as they build an effective urban forestry program."
Sometimes I'm lucky, and one of our fabulous volunteers sends me an email chock full of resources. This time it was from Pat Carstensen, and its a doozy! I'll put them out in several up coming posts.
An evening with Doug tallamy
During this free event, you will learn practical, effective, and easy steps to taking environmental action in your own yard.
About this EventIn his new book, Nature’s Best Hope, Douglas W. Tallamy urges homeowners to turn their yards into conservation corridors that provide wildlife habitats. Tallamy, one of the leading figures advocating native plant gardening in the United States, joins the Western New York Land Conservancy for a special virtual event. During this free event, you will learn practical, effective, and easy steps for taking environmental action in your own yard.
About Douglas W. Tallamy
Doug Tallamy is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he has authored 95 research publications and taught insect related courses for 40 years. He is the author of Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, which won the 2008 Silver Medal by the Garden Writers’ Association. Learn more about him at bringingnaturehome.net
This one is hosted by the NC Forest Service, and should be the right about of nerdy for us. It also has CEU credits for those arborists out there...
Addressing Tree Canopy Loss through Stronger Ordinances and other Policy Tools
Karen Cappiella, Center for Watershed Protection
Lydia Scott, Chicago Region Trees Initiative
Date: May 13, 2020 | 1:00-2:15pm ET
Across the country, a number of cities are setting ambitious tree canopy goals to fight the trend of a decline in tree canopy. Among the many causes of canopy loss, development is a key driver, and is one that communities can significantly influence through local codes, ordinances and other planning tools. In 2018, the Center for Watershed Protection released the guide “Making your Community Forest-Friendly: A Worksheet for Review of Municipal Codes and Ordinances” to help communities better address these challenges. In this webinar, Karen Cappiella of the Center for Watershed Protection will provide an overview of this tool and share a related research project that is being conducted in the Delaware River watershed. Lydia Scott of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative will share successful strategies and lessons learned from efforts to help strengthen tree preservation ordinances across the 284 municipalities in the Chicago region and also across the state of Illinois.
Click here to sign up: Webinar on Tree Ordinances