Category: Fabulous Plants

Shelf and Bracket Fungus

Shelf or bracket fungi tend to grow in somewhat circular shapes. They can be parasitic, saprotrophic (decomposing) or both. Many times these fungi can kill the tree they infest and then continue to live on it for years after its death. Some species have multi-colored growth rings just like the trees they eat.

A few of these are edible! Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom) is commonly cultivated for food. Polyporus squamosus, or Dryad’s Saddle is listed by many sites as an edible. Be sure you learn your Shroom ID before gnawing on one of these. I AM NOT a shroom IDer… That is why I did not caption the above photos 😉

Sadly, once a tree is infected, the fungus cannot be killed. These fungi cause either white or brown rot in the heartwood; both are structurally weakening. The brown rots are the result of a fungus not being able to break down lignin in the cell walls (Lignin is what makes cells strong). White rots attack both lignin and cellulose. Sometimes, the tree becomes hollow, yet remains stable, however decay usually leads to weakening of the trunk, eventual limb fractures or toppling. Top rots which affect upper parts of the tree are less hazardous (dropped branches) than the root or butt rots which can be quite damaging because the whole tree may fall!

Bracket fungi cause millions of dollars in damage through lost wood production in the lumber trade. The only mitigation is to harvest the tree before the rot spreads too far. Income is lost because foresters need to harvest more wood to make quotas. Removing the infected trees decreases nesting sites for birds and animals, also. The rotten wood is easier to excavate and fallen logs provide cover.

There is a good side to these fungi!

The Chinese and Japanese continue to use many types of bracket fungi as a way to prevent and treat a number of diseases, including hepatitis, hypertension, bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, rheumatism, cancer, reduce saracoma 180 (cancer in connective tissues), esophageal carcinoma (malignant tumor with epithelial cells), hyperglycemia and to treat rheumatic tuberculosis. They have also been used to relieve pain, reducing fever, indigestion and hemostasis, and reducing levels of phlegm, steroids, fatty acids, applanoxidic acid, ganoderic acid, ganoderenic acid, and furanoganoderic acid. Studies have been conducted which show the fungi has antitumor, antimicrobial, antibronchial asthma, immune-stimulating, immune-regulating, liver- protecting, anti-hypertensive, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-allergic and anti-oxidative properties. Antibacterial properties are also found in the tube layers of Artist conk (Ganoderma applanatum). It prevents tumor growth and increases white blood cell activity. Extracts from Ganoderma applanatum lower glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels significantly.

I brought up Artist Conk, want to know why it is called that? When the bottom is touched, it bruises the tender white underbelly a dark brown. Many folks have some beautiful art with Artist Conk as their medium.

Remember, mycelium, the body of the fungus, decomposes chemicals in the tree cells. White rots attack both lignin and cellulose, which are the molecules found in paper. The rotted wood is white because that is the color of the cellulose left behind. Scientists are experimenting using white rot fungi to convert wood chips to paper pulp. This process reduces energy use and pollutants. White rot fungi can also destroy toxic chemicals like PCB’s in soil. Go Go Fungi power!

Fungi are just the suckerfish of the woodlands. Someone has to do the dirty, clean-up work so the cycle of life can go on in the forest.

Here are some interesting sites I came across while researching this topic:

YES!! Fungi are great cures for many ailments.
I do investigate these ‘medical alternatives’, as a true cure may be found in them!! Burdock root (burr plants) & Turmeric (ginger) keep my skin issues in check. They are affordable, don’t destroy my system (like antibiotics) and no need to go to the doctor.

The U.S. GOV site on alternative meds

A list of every medical mushroom

A well written piece about shrooms with a bit of history

Dr. Mercola writes many articles about alternative health, good stuff)

© The Naturarian

Start Thinking About Spring Flower Containers!!

Happy Spring!… ? OK, Really, is it Spring?

No. However I’m optimistic that Woodstock Willie (my local groundhog) got it right, and I’m looking forward to an early spring!

In the meantime, it’s time to start thinking about your outdoor spring container displays. “How early can I plant?” will surely be your next question. Depending on your ‘love and devotion’ level, is how early you can plant. Factors:

  • Availability of plant material? Hard to plant what you can’t get.
  • Is your irrigation turned on? If not, you’ll need to water regularly.
  • A well-watered pot holds heat – water right before a freeze.
  • Fabric (NOT plastic) to cover in case of frost. Be sure to remove the next day.

Be sure your container / pot is very clean to start the season. A good, stiff brush dipped in a 10% bleach solution will do the trick. This will kill off any of the nasties waiting to infect your flowers. This cleaning should take you through the season also. No need to disinfect after each season change. (Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter)

Spring flowers such as; Petunias, tulips, hyacinths, primrose, cyclamen, hydrangea, muscari, snap dragons, ranunculus, helleborus, viola, ivy and diacia are just a few cool weather choices.

Give your display a bit of height with pussy willow or forsythia branches. If cut at the right time (pretty much right before placing in display) they will also bloom, adding to the WOW factor.

These flowers will last until the weather turns hot & then it’s time to switch over to your summer display.

I’ll be taking requests from now until April 15th. After that date, most things are so picked over, it’s hard to be creative. You’re also almost into summer pots by then….

Want a FAST quote? Attach a photo in the comments or Email me for a quote!

Anticipated installation start this year is April 1st, possibly one week earlier. This is all based on weather forecasts.

© The Naturarian

The Skinny on Skinny Trees – Columnar / Fastigiate Trees

evergreen bushes that resemble male peepee

Columnar or fastigiated trees make great candidates for landscape areas where space is restricted such as in parkway strips, between the sidewalk and driveway, or near the corner of a building. Many of these trees can also be used as a privacy screen. Columnar trees are also recommended for parking lots where outward branching can get in the way of vehicles. Be sure to check the salt tolerance factor of the tree before planting in a parking lot. And of course, be sure you think about the over-all look you’re going for…..

If you click on the Latin Name, the link will take you to Google Images for that species.

INTERMEDIATE & SMALL TREES (15′ – 30′ feet tall):

White Japanese lilac shrub tree white blooms
Japanese lilac trees bloom white, in mid-summer

Amelanchier laevis ‘Cumulus’ – Serviceberry – 20’H x 18’W

Amelanchier laevis ‘Ballerina’ – Serviceberry – 20’H x 15’W

Malus ‘Red Jewel’ – Red Jewel Crabapple – 18’H x 12’W

Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ – Chanticleer Pear – 30’H x 15’W

Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’ – Ivory Silk Lilac – 20’H x 15’W

LARGER TREES (Over 30′ feet tall):

Acer x freemanii ‘Armstrong’ – Armstrong Freeman Maple – 40’+H x 15’W

Acer x freemanii ‘Marmo’ – Marmo Freeman Maple – 50’H x 30’W

Acer saccharum ssp. nigrum ‘Greencolumn’ – Greencolumn Black Maple – 40’H x 25’W

poplar tree windscreen
Poplar tree windscreen

Carpinus betula ‘Fastigiata’ – Upright European Hornbeam – 40’H x 20’W

Fagus sylvatica ‘Fastigiata’ – Upright European Beech – 40’H x 10’W

Ginkgo biloba ‘Princeton Sentry’ – Princeton Sentry Ginkgo – 60’H x 20’W

Populus tremula ‘Erecta’ – Upright European Aspen – 30’H x 8’W

Populus nigra – Lombardy Poplar – 50’H x 12’W

Quercus x warei ‘Long’ – Regal Prince English Oak – 60’H x 20’W

Taxodium distichum ‘Mickelson’ – Bald Cypress Swanee Brave – 50’H x 20’W

EVERGREENS:

Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’ – Skyrocket Juniper – 12′-18’H x 2′-3’W

Evergreen hedge
Pyramidal Eastern Arborvitae

Picea pungens’Glauca Fasigiata’ – Upright Blue Spruce – 15′-20’H x 5’W

Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’ – Upright Eastern White Pine – 30′-50’H x 10′-15’W

Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’ – Emerald Eastern Arborvitae – 20′-30’H x 5′-8’W

Thuja occidentalis ‘Pyramidalis’ – Pyramidal Eastern Arborvitae – 15′-20’H x 5′-8’W

© The Naturarian

Arrowhead Plant – Syngonium podophyllum Nephthytis

I had these wicker plants hangers for years before that, not knowing what to put in them… I finally found these two Arrowhead plants from work about five years ago and thought they were a great fit! They love their south facing window, which gives them very little light in the summer and a full days worth during the winter. They really thrive and grow during the winter. They tend to take a pause from growing in the heat of the summer.
These are relatives of the Philodendron, another easy plant to grow. They like moist soils, but don’t over-soak them. They like a light 10-10-10 fertilizer every 3 months.

Plants inside can get spider mites. These don’t get moved outside during the summer, so they’ve been insect free.

Pruning is a bit tricky. You don’t want to cut all the way down to the split or you will nip the tip of the new leaf off. As you look at the stem that branches off, you will notice there is a bulge in the stem, this is where the next leaf is curled up in it’s stem.

A still rolled up leaf.

The plant will start to shoot ‘runners’ (l o n g branches) after a few years. If you like them, keep them. I’ve got one that is about 15 feet long. I just want to see how long it will actually get! To keep the plant bushy, these should be pruned off. If you do this during the summer months, place the piece, now known as a ‘cutting’, into water and it should soon root, then plant it in a light mix.

This is the start of a runner. See the thick ends of the leaf stem at the main branch? Don’t cut below this.

After it grows out, the brown dried-up stem can be cut, do not peel it!

© The Naturarian

Signs of Spring in the Midwest: Yellow Willows (Salix)

One of the first signs of spring (to me) is when the willows start to turn bright yellow. You can’t miss them in the dreary, white, Midwestern landscape.

Some Facts About the Willow (Salix):

  • When compared to other trees, life span of a weeping willow is shorter because of its fast growing nature, some don’t thrive past 30 years.
  • They need to be grown in full sun.
  • Their height and width can be 30 to 55 feet. Willows can grow 10 inches in a good growing year.
  • The fruit of the tree is a small brown capsule. It is around half-inch long.
  • The tree is very brittle because it grows quite rapidly.
  • The bark turns reddish/brown during the winter and yellow/green in the spring.
  • Pests like aphids and tent caterpillars can destroy the tree quite quickly. You should frequently check for conditions like powdery mildew, crown gall, and canker.
  • You may cut some branches in spring, remove the bottom leaves and put them in a jar of water. Keep the jar out in the sun. Roots will grow within 15 to 20 days. However, if you want a specific variety, it is better to buy it.
  • Historically, beautiful baskets are woven using willow stems.

Country folk have known the healing properties of willow for a long time. They made an infusion from the bark as a remedy for colds, fevers, and to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatism. Young willow twigs were also chewed to relieve pain. In the early nineteenth century, modern science isolated the active ingredient responsible, salicylic acid, which was also found in the meadowsweet plant Filipendula ulmaria. From this the world’s first synthetic drug, acetylasylic acid, was developed and marketed as Aspirin, named after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spirea ulmaria. Botanists love to change the names of plants!

Most willow species grow and prosper close to water or in damp places, and this premise is reflected in the legends associated with these trees. The moon too recurs as a theme, the movement of water being intimately connected with and affected by the moon. For example, Hecate the powerful Greek goddess of the moon and of willow, also taught sorcery and witchcraft, and was ‘a mighty and formidable divinity of the Underworld’. Helice was also associated with water, and her priestesses utilized willow in their water magic and witchcraft. The willow muse, called Heliconian after Helice, was sacred to poets, and the Greek poet Orpheus brought willow branches on his adventures in the Underworld. Apollo also gave Orpheus a lyre, and it is interesting to note that the sound boxes of harps used to be carved from solid willow wood.

© The Naturarian

Succulent Plant Display Terrarium

I had to go to The Big Hardware Box store for some things and I MUST ALWAYYS go through the plant section. I found these three ‘lil guys.

From left to right;

  • Crassula ‘Caput Minima’
  • Sedum nussbaumerianum
  • Hawthorhia fasciata – zebra plant.

The glass succulent bowl was a gift from my brother and his girlfriend. Since no one is perfect… I killed the plants they originally gave me with the bowl… I figured I’d give myself one more chance with these three. May their God have mercy on their souls! I teased out the roots and used a very light sandy soil. These arrangements should stay on the dry side, only watering lightly when necessary. I’ve been using a spray bottle.

Succulents in a terrerium

Enjoy the day & keep on planting!
© The Naturarian

African Violet’s Boast 10 Months of Blooms!!

African Violets are one of the easiest flowering plants to enjoy inside during the cold weather of the Midwest. With a good initial set-up and some minor care, African Violets will bloom ten months out of the year.

Procuring an African Violet is convenient and low cost. I always goes to the indoor plant section of the Big Box store where the price for one is around $2.50.

African Violets require a special acidic soil that must be kept moist. Because of this, a normal, growing pot is not recommended. There are two types of pots: one type has a pot-within-a-pot soaking in water and the other uses capillary action via a wick within the soil.  I created a system with a glass bowel, decorative rocks, and a terra cotta pot. (see photo)

During the summer months African Violets can be moved outdoors in a partly-sunny location. When the temperatures get below 50F it’s time to bring them inside. Place them in a South or West window for the most available sunlight. Most flowering plants also require a dark period to bloom. Make sure there are no nightlights in the vicinity.

African Violets do not like drafts either, so keep them away from doors, vents, space heaters, and fans.

When it comes to watering, there’s nothing easier than an African Violet. Both type pots have a reservoir that only needs refilling with quality, non-softened water. No guesswork involved.

To help maintain the flowering of the plant, be sure to give is a dose of liquid fertilizer according to the labels directions.

African Violets can bloom 10 months out of the year. Care is the key to keeping it in bloom.

Maintaining a good watering schedule is important. They can go a few days being empty, and it is ok to do that periodically, just not to “droop” status. If the whole plant is drooping, water from above and fully soak pot to revive, careful not to wet leaves.

Always use good water. African Violets like it a bit acidic, and our Midwestern water is alkaline. Bottled or filtered water works well, but room temperature, melted snow is slightly acidic and a better choice if available.

The rocks and outside of the pot need to be rinsed off monthly. Sometimes fungus (green) will begin to grow in the water, or the pot will develop a white film on it. The white film is mineral salts, and needs to be removed. An old toothbrush works without using any soap. It’s OK to let a bit of water to run through the pot, as it rinses the mineral salts thru the soil and out the sides of pot, just keep the leaves as dry as possible.

Prune off the dead flowers with a scissors, don’t pull. Just trim the individual dead flower, as the rest of the main stem might still be blooming. This steps-up additional flower production for the plant.

Remember, it is seriously stressful for the plant to flower (think pregnancy!) So, after a good run of blooming, the plant may chill, and just be green for awhile. Be happy with that, and anticipate blooms after a short rest. Generally, stores sell these in bloom so people would buy them. Don’t be surprised if that rest period comes sooner than expected.

Prune off any bad looking leaves at anytime with scissors.

Talk to your African Violet, it likes to listen to your problems (it also wants your CO2)…

Check the bottom leaves that rest on the edge of the pot, they may get damaged/bent with age. Promptly remove them.

©  The Naturarian