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It’s waayyyy past time to outlaw Buckthorn!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Plants, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The first two emails in my inbox today concern Buckthorn–the scourge of the Chicago region. First, my husband John sent me a photo of the black berries produced by female Buckthorn trees. He suggested that for readers who might be unsure how to identify this weed, the berries are a surefire sign:

Buckthorn's black berries, full of seeds that birds eat and excrete, thus spreading the tree everywhere.

Buckthorn’s black berries, full of seeds that birds eat and excrete, thus spreading the tree everywhere.

The second email was sent by fisherman Paul Bergmann. It appears we now know what’s ruining the ecosystem for amphibians. Buckthorn! (PS I live in Lake Forest, which I think has more buckthorn per square inch than any town on earth. It’s embarrassing and shameful.)

Thorny Situation

Thanks, gentlemen. Now get out there with your chainsaws and cut down this vicious weed! AND call your elected officials and demand that buckthorn be illegal (this is not a joke. In Lake Forest, buckthorn is not illegal but barberry is. Go figure.)##

Save the Raptors, Savor the White (But Don’t Drink the Milk)

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Plants, Public Gardens and Parks, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A small blurb in the Lake County, IL Audubon Society‘s fall newsletter caught my eye…and as a result I visited a website called, barnswallow.net. What a wonderful thing that Wauconda resident Linda Breuer is doing to care for and raise owls, hawks and other raptors. Don’t you just LOVE LOVE LOVE people who are so devoted to animals? And don’t you just LOVE LOVE LOVE “Boopie”, the owl? He needs your money to care for his amputated foot.

Boopie the Owl

Boopie the Owl

Autumn is the time to savor orange and red and yellow, but this year I particularly noticed a white flower growing prolifically in a local park and also volunteering in my garden. And it’s not just me: bees and insects noticed the White Snakeroot [Eupatorium rugosum] too. Turns out that this native plant is NOT one that you should encourage in your landscape if you are anywhere near cows. This plant’s flowers may be beloved of bees and pollinators, but its leaves and stems contain a toxic oil that can cause cattle to get tremors, especially in the flank and hind legs, and a fatal lethargy. Horses prefer grass and goats seem pretty immune, but cattle eat everything, so this is how cow’s milk becomes poisoned. And you all know the story of Abraham Lincoln’s mother dying of…milksickness. The settlers were drinking raw cow’s milk poisoned by Eupatorium rugosum.

White snakeroot with bee Eupatorium 9-24-2013 10-40-23 AM 480x640

White Snakeroot, Eupatorium rugosum

White Snakeroot, Eupatorium rugosum

 

A slope full of White Snakeroot

A slope full of White Snakeroot

What you may not know is that an Illinois woman was the person who figured out the connection between the fatal illness and this pretty white-flowered plant. Her name was Anna Pierce Hobbs Bixby (1812–1873) and she was a physician: that is, as much a physician as a woman could officially be in 1830: midwife, dentist, nurse. She was alarmed by the quick (1 day to 3 weeks) death of her mother, sister-in-law, and serious illness of her father, along with other people in the region around her small town on the IL/OH border. She realized it was seasonal and affected people who drank milk and ate butter, but it was an old Shawnee woman who told Dr. Bixby the connection to the White Snakeroot. It wasn’t until 50 years after Dr. Bixby’s death, however, that she was given credit for discovering that a plant was causing a fatal illness. Moral of the story: do not drink raw milk from cows AND make sure the seeds from your plant are staying put–away from cows, horses, and foraging humans. Speaking of milk, there is a version of this plant named, ‘Chocolate’. Death from Chocolate Milksickness?!

One more white feature in our Midwest landscape. This GREAT EGRET (the black legs tell you it’s an egret), cavorting yesterday in the mist with his friends at Mellody Farm Nature Preserve…

Great Egret and Friends at Mellody Farm, Lake Forest, IL

Great Egret and Friends at Mellody Farm, Lake Forest, IL

###

 

 

Here’s to Tiny Bubbles!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with gardening.

This morning I opened a random link and read this: “Two Americans and a German shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine this year. Americans James E. Rothman and Randy W. Schekman, and German Thomas C. Sudhof were awarded the prize Monday for discoveries of how the body’s cells decide when and where to deliver the molecules they produce. The Nobel Assembly said the three “have solved the mystery of how the cell organizes its transport system.” Their work focuses on tiny bubbles inside cells called vesicles, which move hormones and other molecules within cells and sometimes outside them, such as when insulin is released into the bloodstream. Disruptions of this delivery system contribute to diabetes, neurological diseases and immunological disorders.”

HA! Why didn’t I win a Nobel Prize?! I knew a lonnggg time ago that tiny bubbles (in the wine) make me feel fine:

Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles)
In the wine (in the wine)
Make me happy (make me happy)
Make me feel fine (make me feel fine)

Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles)
Make me warm all over
With a feeling that I’m gonna
Love you till the end of time

So here’s to the golden moon
And here’s to the silver sea
And mostly here’s a toast
To you and me and Mr. Nobel!

And, just in case you forgot, Don Ho (wow!) sang the tune. ##

 

Gotta Love the Signmakers!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Just a note to all of you (thanks for subscribing!) to say that we are off on a vacation for a few weeks, so chances are I will not be posting any Weedpatch articles while on the road, although you never know…

But before taking off, I just had to share these two signs with you. And I hope you will comment on what you think they mean. This first one is your own, “glass empty or glass half-full” test..is it your bad human nature or your good that will “come out” while on the trail?

Green Burial 9-2-2013 10-20-11 AM 4320x3240

The second photo (“green burial”?) makes me think of the Irish saint, Patrick (patron saint of organic gardening) or perhaps my personal favorite saint Dorothy–the virgin patroness of horticulture, brides, gardeners, florists, and brewers, perhaps not in that exact order. “Green burial”? Can people actually be composted?

Green Burial 9-2-2013 10-21-49 AM 4320x3240

Do you use Gmail?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Attention, Weedpatch readers. Gmail has decided to make our lives easier, which means they’ve created a new “time waster” to our lives. Please check to see if my email alerts to new posts has ended up in the “Promotions Tab” on gmail, rather than the “Primary Tab”… Ugh.

Here’s how to check:

http://kb.mailchimp.com/article/how-do-i-get-my-emails-to-the-primary-tab-in-gmail

I do hope you are enjoying the Weedpatch Gazette and that you will recommend subscribing to everyone you ever met. My ego really really wants more readers, so whatever you can do… xxx’s Rommy Lopat, editor

Do Deer Like Milkweed?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Plants, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

“Do Deer Like Milkweed”?

Do Deer Like Milkweed?

Do Deer Like Milkweed?

This is a query received from a Weedpatch reader named Patti S. I LOVE questions from readers because finding answers is my way of avoiding working on any essential tasks (like earning money or calling the health insurance company). Very oddly, the question reminded me that I had recently bought a used book, The Hidden Life of Deer, by naturalist/anthropologist, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, but had not yet read it. So, now’s the time, right? Honest to God, I randomly opened the book to page 186 and immediately saw the word, “Monarch”. Could I really have an answer so quickly? Well, no, but I did read four riveting pages of Thomas’ observations of a Monarch caterpillar on a Milkweed leaf. Which left me with the question, “Do caterpillars shit only on leaves they don’t nibble”?

But I digress. Next, I googled. Whereupon I came upon a lot of other people looking to answer the same question, but also found my new favorite website, homesteadingtoday.com, which appears to be about as blue state/red state in its opinions as Americans can be. There I read comments claiming that Milkweed is “a noxious weed, just like kudzu” and how best to eradicate it with 2-4D but followed by polite suggestions from obvious blue staters like, “couldn’t you leave just a little bit for the butterflies?”. I also read how Grandpa considered Milkweed to be his cash crop during WWII cuz he sold the waterproof and buoyant floss for stuffing in life jackets and flight suits (methinks Grandpa did not get rich but this CSM article about its WWII uses is REALLY interesting). Then I read that Milkweed “never bothered the cattle”. And that Milkweed should be planted by the front door because it draws bees but the bees “keep the door knockers away”. The same commentator, “Alleyyooper”, answered Patti’s question this way: “Deer like it like a horse eats oats”. H’mmm…

But methinks that Alleyyooper is wrong about the grazing deer. “Milkweed” is MILKweed for a reason (actually, let’s rename it “Silkweed”, much more attractive name). Milkweed refers to its “white juice, which is a kind of rubber”. (Recall that Thomas Edison tried to use it to replace rubber in making car tires. True.). Here’s more from a 1911 book, Handbook of Nature Study, (buy it!) recommended to me by botanist Jerry Wilhelm:

“The most striking peculiarity of the milkweed plant is its white juice. Let a drop of it dry on the back of the hand, and when we try to remove it we find it quite elastic and possessed of all the qualities of crude rubber. We can see that the hollow of the center of the stem has around it a dark green ring, and that outside this is a light green ring. It is from the dark green ring that the milk exudes. The juice will soon fill and heal the wound we made. This milk is not the sap of the pine; it is a special secretion, and is very acrid to the taste. Milkweed is seldom eaten by grazing animals…”.

P1060681

I tested the Milkweed myself, including trying to sniff for its “strong odor” which I thought might deter the deer. I couldn’t smell any odor, although I thought I detected a soft vanilla scent. Deer cookies? Anyhoo, this is what I think. If you were a deer grazing in a salad bowl of vegetation, you might bite off a Milkweed occasionally, but if you got a mouthful of white sticky latex on your tongue every time you would definitely prefer to eat something else. Like a hosta. So, dear Patti, plant the milkweed and watch to see what the deer do to it. Get back to us, okay?

And to alleyyooper–if a horse eats too many oats, a horse gets sick. Same with Milkweed and deer. Please plant milkweed. Make a butterfly come alive.##

monarch on milkweed

Got Milkweed?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Landscape Architecture, Plants, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

If you are reading this, doubtless you know the Golden Rule of Biodiversity: plant milkweed. Please. No, I take back the “please”. Just do it. Even if you garden on only a balcony, grow some milkweed in a clay pot. However you manage it (ie “float” its diaphanous seed in the parkway or the alley), be a guerrilla biodiversifier and…plant milkweed.

You know why I am pushy about this plant: because its leaves are the only thing that Monarch butterflies can eat. As noted entomologist Doug Tallamy says, “To have butterflies, we need to make butterflies. To make butterflies, you must use a native species that serve as a host for butterfly larvae [Ed: that’s a caterpillar] as well as a supply of nectar for adult butterflies. Butterflies do not lay their eggs on any old plant. They lay their eggs only on the plant species to which their larvae are adapted”. And that means…Milkweed.

You even have choices when it comes to which milkweed, but three species are commonly available in garden centers or via seed packets:

The Common milkweed [Asclepias syriaca], which has husky leaves, roots that grow to China, and a handsome dusty rose globe of a flower. [If you are worried about this being too aggressive, look for its cousin, Sullivant’s milkweed, which grows slowly, albeit by rhizomes, which means its good in tough-to-grow-anything-else spots. Nonetheless, I like the Common milkweed in gardens–it provides a tall, solid, almost tropical contrast although you might have to tie it up with a strong shoelace.]

 

Common Milkweed flowering pattern

Common Milkweed flowering pattern

The Butterfly weed [Asclepias tuberosa], which has flowers the extravagant color of a Navel orange, does well in dry, “crappy” soils, and makes a great bouquet;

Common Milkweed / Asclepias syriaca

Common Milkweed / Asclepias syriaca

The Red or Swamp milkweed [Asclepias incarnata] has a two-toned pink flower, narrow leaves, and a pleasing way of gracing a moist spot–especially nice en masse if you have a lake edge to landscape.

Swamp milkweed [Asclepias incarnata]

Swamp milkweed [Asclepias incarnata]

And if Monarch’s weren’t good enough for you, at least 11 other species of butterflies and moths reproduce on milkweed as well. Goldfinches eat the insects that get trapped in the flowers and also use milkweed seed “down” for nesting material, and you may see (good) beetles on the plants as well. Biodiversity can be easy if you try!

Milkweed pods and the seeds that float on the air...

Milkweed pods and the seeds that float on the air…

Okay, I’ll be nice again. PLEASE plant milkweed someplace on your property. Or your balcony. And now I won’t be nice: if you work for a municipality, we gardeners expect to see milkweed growing everywhere around town. It’s the law.#

My Ash Was Shot Up Today!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s July 23 and a relatively cool day outside, just right for giving my ash(es) an injection…

P1060374-001

…against the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). If you have a large ash (this is just too hard to write without laughing), I recommend getting shots. Just so you know, our five ash trees, ranging from 10″ – 23″ in diameter, cost $645 to be injected with a two-year treatment. This reduces to an average cost of $65/tree/year. Which is a whole lot less than cutting these trees down, especially because they are wedged in next to our garage, a new-ish fence, power lines, and ornamental plantings. Plus having been innoculated before, they look incredibly lush and healthy now.

And, puff puff, aren’t I something…the company that innoculated them, The Care of Trees, took my suggestion and made dogtags to hang on each tree showing when they were treated against EAB:

P1060363-001

Please have a forester inspect your big ol’ ash today! You’ll thank me later!#

By the way, ash is a very hard wood and if you have to cut down a tree, make sure you use the wood somehow. You can save it for firewood or have a portable sawmill come to your house and make some planks for flooring or tables or baseball bats or…building a log cabin.##

The Blues on the 4th of July

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Happy 4th of July! It’s a great holiday, parades, picnics, pyrotechnics. What’s not to like?

Of course, you can get the blues on the 4th of July-but in a good way, in the garden. Two bulbs must be ordered for your garden because they are indispensable and you cannot have too many of either one. First, let me introduce, Brodiaea corrina:

A side view showing coloration of Brodiaea corrina

A side view showing coloration of Brodiaea corrina

Isn’t she beautiful? I can’t pronounce her name worth a damn (I call her “Corrina”), but these 2″ funnels of blue with darker blue midveins can be planted anywhere in your garden and you will be so pleased with yourself that you’ll glow all day with nary a depressing thought until the evening news comes on.

Then, to keep “Corinna” company, order yourself scads of Allium azureum, aka The Blue of the Heavens, introduced in 1830. A true blue that is so blue that even a pink flamingo turns into a blue flamingo in its company:

Allium azurum: globes of true blue color

Allium azurum: globes of true blue color

Both are available through mail order from John Scheepers, Inc. Order today and thank me next July 4th!#

Garden(er) Inspirations

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Last week while shopping at Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery in Woodstock, Il, I met a lovely gentleman named Art Tanimura. Art is a part-time salesperson at Rich’s because, he explained, “It’s a hike out here in traffic, but I really like the plants and the people I meet.” That’s a plenty fine reason to take a job, right? Art has a two-acre property in Long Grove, and as you can see, he’s done a remarkable job as a gardener. And, yes, he is a really good salesperson (very patient, very knowledgeable) of dwarf conifers, Asian maples, and the other wacky plants sold at Rich’s. By the way, Rich and Susan Eyre have a personal goal of building sixty hospitals in South America. (Don’t you LOVE people who think like that?) Your purchases of hostas and conifers are the backbone of making their dream come true.# PS If you would like to make a collage of your garden, however “modest”, send it here for posting. It can be your 15 minutes of fame!

Tanimura Garden, Long Grove, IL

Tanimura Garden, Long Grove, IL