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A spotted lanternfly on a red flower.

Spotted lanternfly spotted in Illinois

Invasive species are putting continual pressure on plants and animals in Illinois, which is only expected to intensify in the coming years.  This means we all need to be vigilant for new threats and aware of their impact when new invasives arrive. Last month, experts confirmed the arrival a...
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snowy road with snow-covered trees

Extreme winter cold and plants

Extreme winter cold is something that can keep gardeners up at night.  Since plants are dormant, there is little we can do in the way of plant health care and that can be a real helpless feeling.  The extremely cold weather back in December certainly raised concern and my office received...
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Urban trees provide a variety of benefits which are going to be increasingly important as climate change impacts Illinois in coming years.

Climate Change Adaptations for the Urban Forest

Last month, the US Forest Service released a technical report titled, “Climate Adaptation Actions for Urban Forests and Human Health.”   The report includes a summation of the current research related to urban trees and climate change, looking at how trees benefit human health, how...
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Tread lightly as the hunt begins for morel mushrooms

Every spring, a group of enthusiastic woodland hunters frequent forests across Illinois in search of a mysterious and elusive fungi – the morel. Many are armed with years of practical knowledge and experience to inform the success of their hunt. Many, like me, simply get lucky by stumbling upon...
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The frosty accumulation of ice crystals on these spruce needles resulted from the wafting spray of an adjacent (untreated) roadway and serves to illustrate how salt spray can accumulate on plant parts.

How winter salt can damage landscape plants

Deicing salts are essential to winter travel in Illinois and provide necessary safety in a landscape setting by melting dangerous ice on precarious steps, sidewalks, entryways, and other areas of frequent foot traffic. However, winter damage from salt can be a major problem in some landscapes...
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Ice accumulation yesterday resulted in damage to many trees and shrubs in our area.

Ice Accumulation on Trees and Shrubs

Freezing rain is a regular part of winter weather patterns in central Illinois, resulting in occasional ice storms that can damage property, take out utilities and wreak havoc on tree canopies.  By meteorological definition, an ice storm occurs when ice accumulation is greater than 0.25 inches...
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The alien-looking fingers protruding from these crabapples release spores that can infect trees in the juniper family to perpetuate cedar-apple rust disease.

Plant Pathogen Spread

Whether its fungi, bacteria or even viruses, one of the most important aspects of plant disease management is stopping or limiting the spread of infectious pathogens.  I have always been fascinated by the way these tiny organisms, rarely visible to the naked eye, make their way through nature...
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The tufted seedheads of reed canary grass are easily noticed this time of year.

Plant Phenology for Identification

There are so many plants in nature that tend to reveal themselves during some kind of phenological event, such as flowering or fruit set, and then scream for attention.   For example, consider Joe-pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), which one of my favorite native wildflowers, frequenting...
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This two-spotted bumble bee forages pollen on the flower of a spirea shrub

Early History of Pollinators and Plants

This past week was National Pollinator Week, a time set aside to celebrate the amazing and monumental task that pollinators perform each and every growing season.  Worldwide, animals pollinate about seventy-five percent of all plant species, and about ninety percent of all flowering plants....
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Garlic mustard is in full bloom right now with clusters of tiny white flowers and distinctive leaves that have a garlic-like aroma when crushed.

Invasive Species

Invasive species can be characterized as any non-native species that is introduced to a new location, has the ability to spread and causes some kind of harm.   Across Illinois and around the globe, invasive species cause significant ecological and economic damage each year.  In the...
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Wild Ramps

As the local food movement has grown in popularity, an interesting subset of “foodies” have emerged that forage in nature for their dinner.  Many native, wild plants are edible and these folks seek them out in our forests, prairies, and sometimes even our yards.  One plant that is often...
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This young swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) has retained its leaves while the maples on either side have already dropped theirs.  Many of our native oaks keep their leaves all winter as young trees.

Why do some trees retain leaves over winter?

Not all trees shed their leaves in coordination during fall. You may have noticed that some trees are still holding their leaves this week, and many of those will likely hold them until spring. Each winter, I get a number of questions on this topic as folks ponder the “not-so-deciduous” deciduous...
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The green foliage in this picture is bush honeysuckle, which is an invasive species that dominates forest understories in Illinois. If not weeded out...

Weeding out Invasives

The management of Illinois’ forests has become an increasingly difficult task for landowners focused on maintaining and enhancing native plant diversity. I have often thought of it as a similar process to weeding a vegetable garden, with a diverse mix of our native forest trees as the vegetable...
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illinois forest

Forest Management, HIPP and RCPP

The management of Illinois’ forests has become an increasingly difficult task for landowners focused on maintaining and enhancing native plant diversity.  I have often thought of it as a similar process to weeding a vegetable garden, with a diverse mix of our native forest trees as the...
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This rhododendron shoot is infected with the pathogen Phytopthora ramorum, displaying the typical symptoms of ramorum blight. PC UI Plant Clinic

Rapid Response to Ramorum Blight

In early July, the Illinois Department of Agriculture submitted a press release detailing the detection of a new pathogen in Illinois that threatens our native oaks. This non-native pathogen is the causal agent for a very serious disease known as sudden oak death. However, there may be some good...
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Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid

The eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea) is perhaps one of the most beautiful native prairie flowers in Illinois.  Its delicately fringed, white flowers gently unfurl from the bottom to the top of its inflorescence over a 7-10 day period during late June and early July in...
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Native Plants and Biodiversity

A startling report on global biodiversity was release by the United Nations this week noting an alarming trend in worldwide species extinction.  We, humans were pegged as the primary cause of an increase in extinction rates to the highest levels in human history.  Specifically, around 25...
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Prescribed Burning

This past week, many folks around Champaign-Urbana and surrounding areas may have noticed plumes of white smoke gently rising in the distance or caught the scent of what seems to be the well-known smell of a campfire.  It is special time of year when a tiny window of time emerges for the...
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creekbed garlic mustard

Garlic Mustard and Phenology

It’s beginning to feel more like spring and I know that many of us are anxiously awaiting the awakening of the plant world.  Although we all know spring is sure to come, it would be nice to have some assurances on the timing and date of warm weather’s arrival.  Unfortunately, that’s just...
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spotted wing drosophila

Spotted Wing Drosophila

In our increasingly globalized society, invasive species have become somewhat of a way of life as we continuously intermix the world’s biota. Plants and animals from other continents tend to find their way to our landscapes and often are here for good.  As a gardener, it’s difficult to keep up...
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Climate Change and USDA Plant Hardiness Zones Part Three

The Fourth National Climate Assessment was released last fall in two volumes, containing information about how climate change is affecting the physical earth system across the US and a detailed assessment of how those changes now, and in the future, will impact our country.  The report...
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Climate Change and USDA Plant Hardiness Zones Part One

The USDA Plant Hardiness Zones are a standard that most gardeners consider when selecting plants suitable for their local climate.  These maps show us the mean annual low temperature for a given location, which helps distinguish the relative cold hardiness of plants, insects and other biota...
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Climate Change and USDA Plant Hardiness Zones Part Two

Last week, I reviewed the history of USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Maps (PHZM) and their relative change over recent time.  These maps are intended to be a guide for gardeners attempting to predict the potential for winter injury to plants, which is a key factor in establishment and successful...
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American Ginseng

This week marks the half way point for the 2018 Illinois Ginseng Harvesting Season, which runs from the first Saturday in September through Nov 1.  Did you even know that ginseng grows in Illinois, let alone the fact that there is a regulated harvest of this valuable native plant? ...
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Natural Lawn Care

During the growing season, questions about lawn or turf care are quite common at the Champaign County Extension office.  Among the many questions we receive, there is growing interest in natural or more sustainable lawn care practices.  Many perceive this goal, of a more sustainable lawn...
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East Central Illinois Master Naturalists

Native plants offer a whole suite of ecosystems services that are often taken for granted. The faunal associations with our native flora run deep and, through this plant-animal connection, support the ecosystems of the natural world here in central Illinois.  Planting native species, even on a...
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The Monarch Butterfly

The iconic monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has become somewhat of a poster child for the plight that many pollinators face, and for good reason.  Monarch populations have experienced drastic declines in recent years for a variety of reasons, some which researchers are still...
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National Pollinator Week

Eleven years ago, the US Senate unanimously approved the designation of a week in June as National Pollinator Week, marking a huge step in recognizing both the value of our pollinators and the plight they have faced nationwide.  Governors in all 50 states have also recognized the same...
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The Headwaters Invasive Plants Partnership

Visitors to the downtown Champaign area last month may have noticed an odd addition to the One Main Development landscaping.  Over the course of May, an increasing number of mysterious white trees appeared out of nowhere.  Who placed these ghost trees?  Where did they come from? The...
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As agriculture worldwide continues to advance and innovate in an attempt to feed our ever-growing global population, unique and specialized productions systems are popping up all the time.  One such system, referred to as aquaponics, includes an interesting mixture of plants and aquatic...
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Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest

With last week’s Easter snow, it is hard to believe that the frost-free dates for our area are fast approaching.  Hopefully April will follow a more March-like tradition of “in like lion and out like a lamb”.  The “frost-free” date for the Champaign area is around April 15th, which is...
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Cover Crops

It’s beginning to be that time of year again, when our vegetables gardens become less productive and most of the season’s bounty has been realized.  Before you begin to look toward next year’s plans, why not consider planting something for the winter season?  A hard-working cover crop is...
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Our Moon and the Old Farmer's Almanac

This weekend, I will be traveling to southern Illinois for the experience of a lifetime—a total solar eclipse.  The eclipse will occur on Monday, August 21, and will only be viewable in “totality” within a narrow band of approximately 70 miles that extends across the US from Oregon to South...
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