The timing of spring can vary each year based on weather, but there are always ques in nature that line up in similar fashion year after year. While climatic conditions on exact calendar dates my vary, the sequence of emerging biota is consistent and based a long evolutionary history which has carefully lined up everything from blooming plants to hatching insects and birds.
Many gardeners are starting to integrate more and more milkweed into their landscaping in support of monarch butterflies. Plants in the milkweed genius (Asclepius) are the exclusive food source for monarch caterpillars, making them incredibly important in the race to sustain imperiled monarch populations across our continent.
Shade trees are some of the most valuable plants in most urban landscapes. They provide energy saving shade as well as valuable habitat for wildlife in a sometimes otherwise inhospitable built environments. However, a mature shade tree takes considerable time to develop the canopy and branch structure that provides such benefit, which is the primary reason their high value when weighed against other landscape plants. So, it pays to identify tree ailments effectively in the interest of protecting our investment in time and tree value.
In recent decades, insect populations around the globe have been declining dramatically. A 2019 study assessed global insect populations and determined that 40% of all insect species are in decline and some may reach extinction in coming decades if populations are not stabilized. Among the causes for these sharp declines, all were human induced, with habitat conversion to human uses topping the list followed by use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, human spread of pathogens and invasive species, and climate change.
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 to infect new plants. Many of their stories sound like something out of science fiction, often involving multiple species or special adaptations to enter and infect their host.
As you might imagine, my family spends a considerable amount of time out observing the wonders of the natural world, and I am always fascinated by the way my kids view and interpret things in nature. Many times, their straightforward and simple perspective makes me feel like such a dummy. There is certainly wisdom in their innocent perspective.
Bird migration is perhaps one of nature’s greatest feats, easily observed each spring as waves of species arrive from warmer climates each week. I always enjoy watching the spring progression, observing our bird feeders and the woodlands and natural areas around our house for the first signs of each particular bird’s arrival.
Nothing beats a homegrown tomato! Even when in season, the store bought varieties just cannot compare to a fully ripe tomato harvested at its peak from your own garden. So many gardeners across American choose tomato plants for their garden each year for this reason, making it the most planted garden crop in the US.
Last week, I notice the first of an annual pest in our area that is always unwelcome to anyone that gardens. Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) adults emerge from the ground every June to voraciously consume a plethora of plants. Although there are certainly plants these beetles prefer, their list of potential host plants is quite large (greater than 100 species) including everything from large landscape plants to home vegetable gardens. As these small, metallic beetles buzz about each year, they are most known to feed on foliage, although they often consume flowers, fruits and
If you live near a wooded area and have any type of minute crack in the exterior of your home, then you have undoubtedly been visited by a creepy, crawly winter guest over the years. The Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridi) seeks refuge in rocky bluffs to spend the winter in its native range, but often mistakes our home for winter refuge given the lack of rock outcrops in central Illinois. They have the uncanny ability to squeeze and crawl their way to the smallest cracks in exterior siding, windows and doors, often making it to interior rooms in our homes.