Tag Archive | prairie

Monday Memories 11-20-2017

How to Care for Your Thanksgiving / Christmas Cactus

https://midwesternplants.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/wpid-20141127_081225_richtonehdr.jpg?w=182&h=322

The Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas cactus  (Schlumbergera bridgesii) are popular winter-flowering houseplants native to South America and come in many colors: red, rose, purple, cream, white, peach and orange. The Schlumbergera species grow as epiphytes (non-parasitic plants that grow upon others) in the rain forests.

To distinguish the difference between a Thanksgiving and a Christmas cacti, look at the shape of the flattened stem segments called phylloclades. On the Thanksgiving cactus, these segments each have saw-toothed serrations or projections along the margins. The stem margins on the Christmas cactus are more rounded and less pronounced.

Since flowering plants sell better than nonflowering, merchants tend to fill their shelves with Thanksgiving cacti.

How to Choose, Care For and Rebloom Your Poinsettia

imageChoosing Your Poinsettia:

  • Choose a plant with dark green foliage. Avoid fallen or damaged leaves as this indicates poor handling, fertilization, lack of water or a root disease problem.
  • Avoid plants with too much green around the bract edges, as this is a sign of insufficient maturity.
  • Be sure to check the underside of the leaves for insects.
  • The colorful flower bracts should be in proportion to the plant and pot size.
  • Little or no pollen should be showing on the actual flowers, the red or green button-like parts in the center of the colorful bracts. This indicates a younger plant.
  • If you are planning on reblooming your plant for next year, examine the branching structure. If the plants are grown single stem (non-branched with several plants per pot), these cultivars do not branch well and will not form attractive plants for a second year.

Prairie Fires – Cleansing the Midwestern Landscape

imageFire has played an instrumental role in affecting many of the prairies in the Midwest.
Historically, tall grass prairies are shaped by one of three types of disturbances;

  • Drought
  • Animal grazing
  • Wildfires

There are many misconceptions that if the prairie (or other natural area) was left alone, it would revert to native. In the absence of disturbance, prairies often revert to either poor quality grasslands or thorn woodlands.

Native American Indians were keen on this information, observing what Mother Nature did naturally to herself to cleanse her skin, fire. They learned that fire removed the thorny brush, which gave access to animals and hunters alike. The open areas were also available to grazing animals and native plants that equal medical supplies and food to the Indians.

Ilex vs. Tar Spot on Maple

imageThere are several fungi in the genus Rhytisma (most commonly Rhytisma acerinum and Rhytisma punctatum) that cause tar spot on maples and sycamores. These fungi commonly survive in over-wintered leaf litter, where they produce spores that lead to leaf infections.

The best defense in keeping tar spot out of your trees is to rake up and destroy all infected leaves in the fall. Leaves should be burned or properly mulched. The fungus can overwinter on fallen leaves and provide a source of inoculum to re-infect the trees for the next growing season.

 

For anyone that might be interested in learning some tips or tricks for making outdoor winter containers – Click the photos below!

         

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

What’s That Bird? 

Knowing that my camerone can’t take a photo at a distance, I’ve learned that shooting a quick video can make-up for the lack of detail. I may even be able to pull a still from the video. Sadly, not in this case.

I am a beginning birder and try to key these little guys out to the best of my knowledge, however it is based on personal perspectives also. Although I think Juncos are black and white birds, many keys have them under brown. I furiously search under black, then white and can’t find them. Now, I’ve also employed other websites like allaboutbirds.org to know even more about the birds I have identified. I’ll admit I don’t feel like I’m any better at ID, but I’ll learn. I’m used to plants that love to be admired and stand still white I look for identifying features, leaf shapes, petal count, undersides… etc. Birds and animals… Not so much.

This little, yellow guy has a black face and is not a American Goldfinch, at least not a common one, I know those. I’ve looked through trushes, flycatchers, finches… exhausting!

I was in Central Illinois during Memorial Day, not sure if migration was still happening or these guys are residents. I was in a prairie/savanna area, not too far from water.

Any guesses??

 

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Summer Blooming Flowers 9-20-2016

He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time. ~ Oscar Wilde

No need to be punctual in seeing what I found blooming in 201320142015.

image      image

Hardy mum ~ Don’t see many ‘rund here     ||     Monarda seedhead

image      image

Purple hosta      ||       Liatris aspera ~ Rough blazingstar

image      image

Solidago rigida(or Oligoneuron rigidum) ~ Stiff Goldenrod   ||   I’m confused & maybe this plant is also. This looks like roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii), however its blooming now. Anyone with thoughts??

image      image

Spiraea ~ Spirea     ||     Heptacodium miconioides ~ Seven Son Flower

Ironically, there are no fun stories about this tree, however after it finishes blooming, the calex turn bright red, giving it a second bloom time! This is in my yard, so I’ll be sure to let you see soon.

image      image

Flies like nectar too! (on mint)    ||    A quick bouquet for my neighbor =-)

image

Rose hips

image      image

Aster     ||     A hosta with a large flower


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

How to Read the Midwestern Landscape For Resoration

Understanding what you see and observe in the landscape and knowing key indicator plants (axiophytes) aid in identifying each Illinois region community. Learning a few characteristics of each area can help with this identification.

Each area has its separate restoration challenges, however the wetland communities are the most frequently restored regions, followed by prairie, savanna, and woodland, respectively.

Wetlands

wpid-20130824_150247.jpg

Some of the main, topography indications of a wetland are:

  • Standing water during growing season
  • Drift lines
  • Watermarks
  • Sediment deposits

Sometimes because of drain tiles, dams/dikes, or channeling of streams, this might not be as reliable of an indication.

Conducting a soil test is the next test. Wetlands have a hydric soil characteristic described as one or more of the following:

  • predominantly peats or mucks
  • have bluish-gray coloring
  • contain dark streaks of organic material
  • include decomposing plant material

Plant indicators include cattails, bulrushes, cord grass, sphagnum moss, bald cypress, willows, sedges, rushes, arrowheads, and water plantains. Additionally, several types of oak, tamaracks, and pine trees occur in wetlands.

Wetland restoration relies heavily on the hydrology of the location. Generally, when natural water patterns return to an area, the usually, highly viable seed banks of the wetland overwhelm invasives. This makes for the easiest restoration, as most invasives cannot thrive in the wet conditions. Volo Bog is an example of how the returning of hydrology (breaking of drain tiles), along with overseeding, can restore a wetland.

Prairies

wpid-20130714_160108.jpg

Identifying a prairie area should begin with an observation of the layout. Prairies are flat or gently undulating, dominated mostly with grasses, and generally treeless. Some of the plant indicator species include (but not limited to) big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, switch grass, black oak, round-head bush-clover, butterfly milkweed, lead plant, heath aster, grey headed sunflower, compass plant, and cup plant.

Prairie soils (Mollisol) are very rich in nutrients. This is why many prairies are destroyed to grow other crops.

One challenge of prairie restoration lies in the condition of the site when presented for restoration. This will dictate the amount of time and money needed for the task. Another dilemma is the ability to burn. Many smaller restorations near communities that have banned any type of burning, must use alternate methods for restoration, which may delay the re-establishment for years.

Savannas

wpid-20130717_153326.jpg

Savannas are recognized by grassland-like features, with scattered trees that are few enough in number not to affect light penetration to the ground.  Indicator plants consist of: yellow & purple giant hyssop, tall anemone, purple milkweed, prairie brome, cream wild indigo, woodland boneset, oaks, and Jacob’s ladder, to name a few.

Savanna’s restoration issues also lie with ability to burn, but time is also a huge factor. Reconstruction may require the planting of oaks and other native trees, which take years to mature.

Woodland

wpid-20130914_132004.jpg

Woodland is an area with dotted trees where the portion of the land surface covered by the crowns is more than 30% (open woodland) but less than 60% (forest). Indicator species can include; oaks, shagbark hickory, black walnut, bitternut hickory, bottlebrush grass, woodland phlox, elm-leaved goldenrod, cut-leaf coneflower, brown-eyed susan.

The main challenge of restoring woodlands is time. Canopies need time to develop, and the understory elements might need to develop later because of this. Many times money and long-term dedication are the biggest hurdles.

© Ilex Farrell ~ Midwestern Plant Girl