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Silence All Around

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Uncategorized, Weather | 7 Comments

I was thinking about what I could write about while driving home from the dentist today. I looked into a forest preserve I was passing and thought, “Nothing. I can’t think of anything to write about gardening. It is just so damn gray today”. But inspiration sometimes comes out of being quiet and letting the silence in, you know? So here I was, sitting at my desk, quietly, a little somber, when I looked at a book winking from the shelf, and instinctively knew that Donald Culross Peattie would have something to offer.

For those of you who may not know Mr. Peattie, he was a naturalist and author who was born in Chicago in 1898, went to the University of Chicago, worked for government and newspapers, but spent much of his life in France. He wrote about the inter-connectedness among all living things, about nature’s “head scratchers”, and about wonder, the big picture, the tiny aspect (maybe the little gasp we make when we glimpse a first bloodroot in spring), oddities, and even ugly dis-pleasures. Mr. Peattie also wrote about utopians, botanists, wilderness plantsmen, and the romanticists. Take this sprig of his thoughts, for example: “[Compared to Romanticism]…our aims today are cautious, niggardly, unattached to fundamentals. One science is out of touch with another, and they are all shockingly out of touch with philosophy, art and religion. There IS one-ness about Nature, but scientists are lazy about looking for it. Take the sexuality of plants, for example…”. Ah, Mr. Peattie, you must have been a Scot. Poetic yet scientifically demanding.

Maybe I like Mr. Peattie so much because fabulous black and white woodcuts illustrate his nature books.

Anyway, Mr. Peattie must also have been staring out the window onto a gray December day, for this is what he wrote about today in his book, An Almanac for Moderns [1935]:

“Now everywhere in the woods, silence. There is not a single hum from the fields, of insects tuning up their tiny orchestras. I cannot think what can have become of even the crows; the squirrels today have fled the boughs; there is no scampering of chipmunks; there are no brooks that speak, only a slow dwindling of rivulets, and no pods that click, no sudden whirring of pheasant from under foot. The sky is heavy with unshed snow, and even when it falls, it will make no sound, spinning down in the first great, starry flakes, in silence. Everywhere, only silence…silence”.#

December 2, Middlefork Savanna, Lake Forest, Illinois

December 2, Silence in the Middlefork Savanna, Lake Forest, Illinois

Mississippi Flyway Used by Half of All North American Birds! Hear more next Monday…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Events, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lake County Audubon Society welcomes all to attend a very important presentation on Monday, December 2, 7:30 pm, at the Libertyville Village Hall, 118 W. Cook Street, Libertyville, IL.

Chris Canfield, Vice President of the Mississippi Flyway and former VP Gulf of Mexico Conservation and Restoration, will discuss the National Audubon Society’s Mississippi Flyway, the role it plays in Audubon’s integrated conservation model, and the essential role that local Audubon chapters play in advancing National Audubon’s conservation priorities and success stories for birds.

Audubon is proud to have played a role in making a difference in the restoration plan that followed the Gulf oil spill as well as “working on the diverse team that helped make the RESTORE Act a reality [Queen Bee says: This act wisely gave all the BP money back to the Gulf instead of the US Treasury.] “ That funding will help revive vital wetlands that have been mismanaged for years as well as supporting a “river of birds,” since about half of North American species use the Mississippi Flyway at one time or another.

QUEEN BEE SAYS:  OPEN this link and LISTEN to this bird! http://birds.audubon.org/birds/greater-prairie-chicken. Wouldn’t you just die if a prairie chicken (a bird that counts on a healthy Mississippi and no bullets. Ahem.) was outside in your yard making his crazy noises?!

Greater_Prairie-Chicken_l07-50-097_l_1

Canfield did his undergraduate work at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama and graduate work at the University of Oxford in England, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Until September 2010, he was executive director of Audubon North Carolina, a National Audubon Society program he led for more than a decade.

All along its length, the river has been controlled and manipulated to the detriment of natural systems and the birds and other wildlife that depend on them. The upper river is governed by a series of dams and locks; the lower river is channeled by more than 1,600 miles of levees. Together, these structures confine the Mississippi to less than 10 percent of its original floodplain, and the sediment that historically fed the river’s vast delta in Louisiana no longer reaches marshes and coastal forests. As a result, 19 square miles of delta wetlands disappear each year.

But Audubon is making a difference for the birds, habitats, and communities of the Mississippi Flyway.

Support Audubon. These people (mostly volunteers) do great work! ## PS And turn off all the damn floodlights in your buildings and yard. Birds do not read books.
 

Butterflies, Bees and Trees: What’s Your Legacy?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Plants, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

monarch on milkweed

Yesterday I was ferreting through a pile of my husband’s “paperwork” and came across a lost treasure: a faded pamphlet of “The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness”, written by French novelist, Jean Giono (1895-1970) and first published by Vogue Magazine in March, 1954. This is the most precious and inspirational true story you could ever read. I read it first on a sunny summer afternoon when I had the honor of being able to visit the Wisconsin farm of the late landscape architect, Alfred Caldwell. I found the little booklet on his bookcase. It was just about the only thing on his bookcase. Intrigued, I hid for a time and devoured the story. I’ve never been the same since.

So this morning I sat down and re-read the story, which in subsequent American re-printings was retitled, “The Man Who Planted Trees” (a far less compelling title, n’est-ce pas?). The tale is so simple and lovely. And then–I just LOVE when “synchronicity” happens–I switched to email and opened one from the McHenry County Wildflower Committee. It contained the following link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/sunday-review/the-year-the-monarch-didnt-appear.html?smid=pl-share.

Which was really crazee to see because the article was written by Jim Robbins, author of The Man Who Planted Trees, a book which I have not read (I ordered it) but which apparently starts with the story of “The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness”.

Full circle, oui? I implore you to read the NY Times article and make an early New Year’s Resolution to be the person who saved the bees and butterflies…to be the person who planted hope and grew happiness. Please plan to plant an oak tree and some milkweed next year or if you are “property challenged”, to plant some parsley to feed the caterpillars. Think of it as your legacy. Or simply your first donation to the food pantry of starving animals.##

PS Ironically, the ‘Jean Giono’ Rose is a lightly scented tangerine color beauty. It will do nothing to feed a bee, but it is lovely:

Rose 'Jean Giono'

Rose ‘Jean Giono’

##

Woe the Ornamental Pear Tree: Invasive, But Does It Make the “Invasive List”?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Plants, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Trouble’s brewing over the fate of Ornamental Pear [Pyrus calleryana] trees. It seems that this tree (you may know its cultivar names such as Aristocrat, Bradford, Chanticleer, Cleveland Select, Redspire, Trinity, or Jaczam) is becoming invasive in northeastern Illinois. In fact, Cathy McGlynn, coordinator of the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership, told me that attempts to regulate its sale were recently proposed because conservationists fear that “it may become the next Buckthorn.” In fact, just last week–presumably because nurserymen (with lots of ornamental pear trees to sell) freaked out–the Illinois Invasive Species Council decided to slow down on regulation, opting not to list the pear as an “exotic weed” at this time but instead to do “education and outreach and shift market focus”, according to McGlynn. (Methinks this means that the Ornamental Pears will not be for sale anymore in 3-5 years, so watch for some good $$ deals from nurserymen…).

Is this Pear the next Buckthorn?

Is this Pear the next Buckthorn?

(Note: there is a small 12′ x 15′ pear tree that is of a different species: Pyrus fauriei ‘Korean Sun’. No word on the invasive aspect of this species.)

Now all this is enough to make Queen Bee quite crazy. Why? Because while we should (rightly) worry about pear trees, the elephant in the room is still, even after decades of education,  BUCKTHORN. This tree is without a doubt the most injurious invasive plant in Illinois. Sadly, it is only illegal to sell buckthorn (see the Exotic Weed Act below) but it is still quite okay to continue to grow it on your property, which means it is not on Illinois’ Noxious Weed Law (see below for list of the plants that require eradication).

Why isn’t the disgusting Buckthorn banned? Because homeowners think it is a great screening plant and refuse to spend the money to take it out and plant appropriate shrubbery that stays put. And elected officials who could change the law listen to their whining neighbors. To that I say, “Enough is Enough!”. If we can ban smoking in restaurants and public places, we can insist that Buckthorn be banned too. Start easy if one must (Queen Bee holds her nose here): create a law that only outlaws all the female Buckthorn plants (the ones with black berries that the birds eat and then spread). But move ahead with stating that Buckthorn is a noxious weed. Our legacy as gardeners must be to demand of each other that we all save our wild areas from Buckthorn. And Garlic Mustard. And, yes, Pear trees…

If you want to see where Ornamental Pear trees and other “new” invasives are being spotted in northeastern Illinois, here’s an interesting website: http://www.newinvaders.org/. And here’s a link to an Ohio research study on Pears’ invasiveness: Theresa Culley, Spread and Ecological Impacts of Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana) and Other Ornamentals in Southwestern Ohio.

Illinois Exotic Weed Act

It shall be unlawful for any person, corporation, political subdivision, agency or department of the State to buy, sell, offer for sale, distribute or plant seeds, plants or plant parts of exotic weeds including:

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica); Glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula); Saw-toothed buckthorn (Rhamnus arguta); Dahurian buckthorn (Rhamnus davurica); Japanese buckthorn (Rhamnus japonica); Chinese buckthorn (Rhamnus utilis)

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata).

Illinois Noxious Weed Law: 

It shall be the duty of every person to control the spread of and to eradicate all noxious weeds on lands owned or controlled by him in the State of Illinois.

Marihuana (Cannabis sativa L.)  [Editor: we’re they smoking it while they were trying to spell it??!]

Giant Ragweed (Ambrosia trifida L.) and Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia L.) within the corporate limits of cities, villages, and incorporated towns

Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Perennial Sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis);

Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans);

Perennial members of the Sorghum genus, including Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense), Sorghum almumand other Johnsongrass x sorghum crosses with
rhizomes;

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata).

According to its website, the Midwest Invasive Plant Network is working with the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership, Chicago Botanic Garden, Lake County (IL) Forest Preserve District, and The Nature Conservancy to provide information to both nurseries and consumers about ornamental plants that have become invasive plants in native areas.  Some of these ornamental escapees include –

Burning Bush (Euonymous alatus) (this species is banned in Massachusetts and declared invasive in Connecticut and New Hampshire)

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)  (it’s sale has been banned in Oregon and it is on the Washingston State Noxious Weed List)

Callery (Bradford) Pear (Pyrus calleryana)

Common or European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) [on the Illinois Exotic Weed Act List]

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)  (voluntary phase out of 25 cultivars in Connecticut. Lake Forest IL bans Barberry but no other plant, yet it is ubiquitously planted by residents who apparently haven’t received the no-no memo.)

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) (declared invasive in NH)

Oriental (Asian) Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)

Porcelain Berry/Porcelain vine/Amur Peppervine (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).

Last, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and its Illinois Invasive Plant Council have this REALLY LONG list of nasty plant varmints: http://www.invasive.org/species/list.cfm?id=152 which includes Pyrus calleryana but then splits the difference, listing only ‘Bradford’. Is it just ‘Bradford’ that’s the problem or is it all the cultivars (dopey question–definitely all that set seeds). Another ecological restoration “head scratcher” as this Queen Bee sees it.##

 

Restoration Ecology: Bad Signs, Good Books, and Henry Cowles

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Historic Places, Plants, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I am not a biologist nor a botanist, merely an interested gardener, but our trip to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore did offer a few “head scratchers”. For example, why is it that so often I notice signs like this…

P1080969

 

…which are then surrounded by non-native plants (in this case, coreopsis and agastache)? In our town, the “Restoration Area: Do Not Mow” signs posted on the publicly-owned Lake Michigan bluff are apparently markers for inviting rampant noxious weeds to invade the hillside.

I wonder if Henry Chandler Cowles (1869-1939)would laugh and shake his head in bewilderment that so often we still “miss the mark”. Do you know Mr. Cowles, the Chicago botanist who was a pioneer of “ecology” and discovered the phenomenon of “plant succession” in large part from his observations of the Indiana Dunes and its hinterland? It was Cowles, along with Thomas W. Allison (can someone provide biographical information on him to me?) and landscape architect Jens Jensen, who formed the Prairie Club of Chicago in 1908 and began to propose the preservation of the dunes via a “National Park for the Middle West”. That was before the National Park Service itself was established in 1916. The group’s promotional efforts were very successful, but regrettably, World War I intervened as a national priority.

There is a most interesting book, Henry Cowles: Pioneer Ecologist written in 2007 by Victor Cassidy. I learned a lot, particularly since Cassidy incorporated Cowles’ own writing about various local-to-Chicago ecologies. Right now, I am trying to learn about what grows within Lake Michigan’s ravines, which are an ecology which Gerould Wilhelm calls, “unique among the world’s ecologies”.

Speaking of good Chicago ecology books, here are some of the intriguing titles for sale at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore:

 Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History, edited by Helen Hornbeck Tanner

The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas, by Jerry Dennis

Talking Landscapes: Indiana Dunes Poems, by Paula McHugh

Great Lakes Shipwrecks & Survivals, by William Ratigan

Calumet Beginnings: Ancient Shorelines and Settlements at the South End of Lake Michigan, by Kenneth J. Schoon

Roadside Geology of Indiana, by Mark Camp and Graham Richardson

Nature Walks in Northern Indiana, by Alan McPherson

The Nature Conservancy’s Guide to the Indiana Preserves

60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Chicago, by Ted Villaire

Birds of the Indiana Dunes, by Kenneth Brock

A 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach: One Woman’s Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan, by Loreen Niewenhuis (I heard her lecture on her trek: very very interesting!)

Thanks to all these authors, beginning with Professor Henry Cowles, for writing down all this wonderful research for us. An amazing commitment of time and energy!##

 

 

The Indiana Dunes National Seashore: Homes and Homesteads

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
A Ranger, back that day from the Federal Furlough, describing the houses' history

A Ranger, back that day from the Federal Furlough, describing the houses’ history

Have you been to the Indiana Dunes National Seashore lately? In October, we took the short drive to Indiana to tour the “Houses of Tomorrow” from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair: Century of Progress that were hauled by barge to Indiana’s lakeshore as part of a housing developer’s promotion. The Federal government now owns the homes (located near Beverly Shores) but leases them to people who agree to restore them to their 1933 “glory”. This is easier said than done. Seems to me like the homes would be in better condition if the Federal government did all the restoration itself, as it has done with other Federal buildings in the National Park…Nonetheless, here are photos of three of the five 1933 homes:

 

A House of Steel

A House of Steel

Come to Florida and You'll Live in Art Deco Splendor!

Come to Florida and You’ll Live in Art Deco Splendor!

 

Park Your Airplane in Your "Home Hangar"

Park Your Airplane in Your “Home Hangar”

 

Nearby in the 15,000 acre National Park, we also visited the Chellberg Farm, a Swedish family’s homestead from 1900

P1080976

 

Next, we happened upon the 1822-1917 Bailly Homestead. Such a surprise to find this “mansion” in the remote and beautiful woods.

P1080991

 

P1090005

 

And all just about an hour southeast of Chicago… What a wonderful place that was preserved, starting in 1899, for our enjoyment and for the sake of ecology.#

 

Astounding Mosaiculture! Which One is your Favorite?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

I hope you will open this link and be ASTONISHED at human ingenuity.

http://myvirtualgarden2.blogspot.com/2013/09/mosaiculture-exhibition.html?m=1

Thank you to Courtney Dobyns, landscape designer in Vermont, for sending weedpatchgazette.com this display of sculptures in Montreal. Three of these models struck home with me: first, I saw the exact big brown incredibly shaggy dog today at the mailboxes store; second, my husband used his chainsaw to carve an Easter Island sculpture out of the red oak that fell down two summers ago; and third, The Man Who Planted Trees is a favorite little book of mine. I found a dusty copy in Alfred Caldwell’s farmhouse in Wisconsin, immediately sat down to hungrily read what Caldwell, a master landscape architect, might have (probably) read, and felt the connection to the importance of those “who plant trees” even more strongly.

PLEASE COMMENT: Did you plant a new tree in your yard this year?

Human Ingenuity At Work

Human Ingenuity At Work

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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

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Here’s to Tiny Bubbles!

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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. ##