plate of Christmas cookies

Sugar and spice make everything nice, especially Christmas cookies. But, do you know where your sugar and spice come from?

Plants make the sugar glucose during photosynthesis. Certain plants can take excess glucose, create sucrose then stored it in either the stalk or root. This is the sugar we use every day to sweeten treats from coffee to cookies. Sugar adds sweetness, gives a tender texture, and allows browning to occur in baked goods. 

bowl of myrrh resin

Just what are frankincense and myrrh? Certainly, they are part of many Christmas stories, but do you know what those products are and why they were so valuable? Here is more information on both of these plant-based products.

Frankincense and myrrh are both resins -- dried tree sap -- that come from trees of the genus Boswellia (frankincense) and Commiphora (myrrh), which are common to Somalia and Ethiopia.  Both are in the botanical family Burseruceae commonly called the incense tree family. 

bird at a bird bath with flowing water

North America has lost 3 billion birds since 1970, according to a study from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This is a 30% decrease.

This statistic may feel devastating and overwhelming, but you don’t have to feel helpless. There are some simple things that you can do to make your yard bird-friendly.

composte bins in yard

Peat wetlands are delicate ecosystems that take thousands of years to form. Peat accumulates at a rate of about 1 millimeter per year. When the peat moss industry harvests 22 centimeters per year, it is easy to see why there is a concern for its sustainability. 

Many rare plants and animals can only survive in peat wetlands. These wetlands purify water and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. To harvest peat moss, ditches are constructed to drain water from the area. Large vacuums remove the peat.

yellow bird in wild flowers

By Carla Rich Montez, Extension Master Naturalist serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties

 

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

humming bird feeding from zinnias

By Jeff and Nancy Staecker, Extension Master Naturalists serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell counties

wedding bouquet using local blooms

Flowers are a wonderful way to make any wedding day special.  There are many ways to choose beautiful and sustainably grown and arranged flowers. 

Choose a local source for your blooms.

Flowers that are locally grown have a much smaller carbon footprint than flowers flown thousands of miles in refrigerated containers.  By choosing locally grown flowers for your wedding décor, you are getting fresh, high-quality blooms and can be a cost-effective option. 

jumping worm

Only accept plants...

  • From gardeners that have looked for jumping worms 
  • That don't come from an area known to have jumping worms.
  • If there is no evidence (like soil that resembles coffee grounds) to suspect there are jumping worms at the site that produced these plants/materials.

Use these practices to prevent their spread:

  • Remove soil from all plants before transporting them
    • This limits the spread of weeds and worms by removing most earthworm egg cases or weed seeds.
  • Wash roots
jumping worm
  • Thoroughly clean tools, shoes, and vehicles when moving from one site to another.
  • Only purchase compost, mulch, or other organic matter that has been heated to appropriate temperatures and duration to reduce the spread of pathogens, insects, and weeds. Jumping worm egg casings do not survive temperatures over 104°F
  • Remove adult jumping worms.  Place adults in a plastic bag and leave in the sun at least 10 minutes.
jumping worm

Originally posted April 15, 2021

Jumping worms (Amynthas spp) are an invasive earthworm probably brought into the country as fishing bait. They go by many names, such as crazy worms, Alabama jumpers, or snake worms. These worms are known to change the soil structure, deplete available nutrients, damage plant roots, and alter water-holding capacity of the soil. This is especially a concern in our forests, where organic matter is limited. It is important to stop the spread of jumping worms. 

field of pink cosmos

Spring brings thoughts of beautiful, colorful, fragrant blooms that brighten up our landscapes after a long winter.  

But we aren't the only ones on the lookout for flowers. Pollinators are looking for them also. Heirloom flowers provide these pollinators with more of the resources they require.