Each gardening season there seems to be a new invasive species we have to worry about. Unfortunately, this is the sad reality of our ever-globalizing economies. Despite the best measures to track and limit the indiscriminate spread of exotic biota, regulatory agencies and the industries involved just cannot stay ahead of things. Without a crystal ball to predict the future, we are often left with a problem that was unforeseen, but irreversible.
The plant world is filled with amazing feats of both helpful and harmful attributes when you consider all the ways that humans interact with our floral friends. Everything from disease treatments or cures, to irritating rashes and seasonal allergies, or even highly toxic compounds all come from plants.
Insects are a celebrated part of our natural ecosystems, but when they enter our homes, it’s rarely anything to celebrate. Each fall as cold weather closes in, there are a few usual suspects that surface at my house to cause a hubbub. However, these exotic houseguests are rarely a serious issue, simply existing as annoying roommates that congregate around light fixtures and windows.
Fall color is upon us with so many plants entering their annual push toward winter dormancy and putting on a great display in the meantime. As deciduous plants show their true colors this time of year, it offers the observer an opportunity to quickly identify many species by the color and timing of their autumn display.
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 the partial shade of woodland openings and edges on drier sites.
This past week, the vivid red leaves of our native maples have really stolen the show, reaching near peak fall color for the year. I have always loved the brilliant red colors of autumn leaves, making burning bush (Euyonomous alata) an old favorite of mine. However, in recent decades this plant has emerged on invasive species lists from the East Coast to the Midwest, which has forced me to take it off my personal list of recommended landscape plants.
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 crop and the weeds being everything from invasive species to some of the our native trees that tend over populate or dominate woodlands without some type of natural disturbance.
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 not possible without a truly working crystal ball. However, there is some very important information about the seasonal habits of plants we can surmise from collection of phenology data from year to year.
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 with the pace at which new invasives pop up. It’s even more difficult to figure out what these invasives mean to our home gardens and how they may impact our future plant choices.
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
This time of fall, most of our native, deciduous vegetation is turning beautiful autumn colors and nearing the annual leaf drop that occurs before winter. In the next few weeks all of our native vegetation will drop the leaves that have worked so hard to produce energy all year. However, one non-native bush will retain its green leaves for weeks longer, gaining a competitive advantage over our native vegetation as it claims the last days of photosynthesis this season.