Category: The Best of Nature

Lightning Bugs or Fireflies ~ Lampyridae Species

lightning bug up closeFireflies produce cold light, meaning there is no heat produced as a by-product. Fireflies generate light by mixing a chemical (luciferin) with an enzyme (luciferase) and oxygen. Fireflies produce their light by controlling the oxygen supply to the light organs that contain the chemical reaction.  Fireflies use their light to attract each other, which is rare, as most insects use scent instead of sight.

As I again, feel like these little cuties are known the world round, I will launch into some fun stuff, like some Japanese folklore as to where they came from:

Once upon a time, a woodman and his wife lived on the edge of a beautiful forest beneath Mount Fujiyama in Japan. They had a cozy, little house and a beautiful garden, however they were not happy, because they wished for a child. One moonlit night, the wife slipped out of the house and laid herself down before the great mountain with its shining snowcap. She begged for Fujiyama to send her and her husband a child.
As she prayed, a tiny light appeared high upon the mountain and began to drift down toward the woman. When the light reached the branches of the bamboo, it stopped. The woman was overjoyed when she found it was a Moonchild, sent by the Lady in the Moon herself. She took the child home and her husband was overjoyed as well.
The Moonchild grew into a beautiful young lady, a Moon Princess, and was beloved by all who saw her. When the Emperor’s son saw her, he asked for her hand in marriage. However, she refused, saying that her mother, the Moon Lady, had bidden her to return home when she reached the age of twenty.
When the night came for her to leave, the woodman, his wife and the Emperor’s son were all there to say goodbye, and they were inconsolable. The Lady in the Moon sent down a silver moonbeam for her daughter, and the Princess floated up upon it. As she floated, the Princess cried silver tears for those she left behind. As they fell, they took wing and flew all over the land.
The Moon Princess’ tears can still be seen on moonlit nights. Some call them fireflies, but those who know the legend know that they are the Princess’ tears, searching for those she loved on Earth and had to leave behind.

This is a great video segment about the Fireflies in Tennessee, they are very unique.


© The Naturarian

Summer Annual Pots

shade annuals in pot
Summer Annual Container

If you’re looking for sensational summer color, look no further! Summer pots are the way to go. Not only are they full of pizzazz, the color is often right in your face, literally, especially if your favorite container is on a pedestal.

You don’t need to remember a bunch of annual names. The only thing you need remember for a well-presented display is: Thriller, Filler & Spiller! The Thriller is that one large plant that is generally in the center and taller than the rest. Filler are those mid-range sized plants, often of ‘fatter or fuller’ stature. Spiller is just that, plants that hang over the edge of the pot.

Here’s where your imagination needs to run free through the flowers. In many of the containers below, the photos are of the plants after there has been a bit of growth put on them. You can also get instant height from a trellised plant such as a mandevilla, jasmine or other vine.

Another tip ~ Flowering can be increased if the plants are kept on the drier side. This takes a bit of skill, as you don’t want them to dry-out, but keep them on the brink of drying. Why?!? Because. Think of it this way. If you’re kept all fat and happy without doing anything, why not just enjoy the hand-outs? (can you say ‘vegetative growth’? Haha!) Just like some of the folks living off us tax-payers, yet they have nicer stuff than me. =-( However, if you need to work for everything you’re getting, you fight to survive and multiplying is surviving in a plants eyes. Thus, more blooms = more seeds. Boom.

 

Contact us to get on the schedule!

© The Naturarian

Use Landscaping to Save on Energy Bills

Landscaping can significantly reduce the costs of heating and cooling the home. Some well-placed shade trees, evergreens and shrubs not only look great, but also keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Not much solar energy enters our homes through the walls and roof because of the insulation. Sun shining through the windows accounts for about half of the unwanted heat in a house during the summer. Twice as much solar energy enters through the east and west windows as the south windows, particularly if there is a roof overhang on the south side of the house.

The sun and wind both affect the temperature of residences in winter. A substantial amount of warmth can be gained from the sun shining through a southern facing window in the winter when the sun is low in the sky. East and west windows can also provide solar energy gain in the winter. The solar energy from the windows may provide 4-18% of the total energy needed to heat the home. Although, escaping warm air, along with cold wind penetrating a home, increase the heating costs and account for 24-39% of the heating requirements.

How to Utilize Landscape to Save Energy

When planting trees for energy conservation, try to:

• Create windbreaks to block harsh winter winds, generally using evergreens and different sized shrubs.

• Enlarge the deciduous tree canopy in specific areas to either shade or not obstruct the solar energy.using trees as a windbreak to your houseCommonly, the harsh winter winds come from a different direction than the cool summer breezes. Begin by placing an effective windbreak on the side of the house where the winter winds prevail. This can provide shelter for the home from cold winds, and therefore reduce heating energy costs.

When a windbreak is planted correctly, a larger area of relatively calm air is formed downwind from the windbreak.

To be effective, the windbreak should contain trees and shrubs that are the right height, thick enough, and in a long enough row to protect the house. The most proficient windbreaks will made of at least one row of dense evergreen trees whose branches extend to ground level. Windbreaks are planted in rows perpendicular to the wind direction.

winter landscape drawingFor us in the Midwest, the windbreak will run to the north and west of the home. A windbreak that permits 50-60% of the wind to penetrate (such as plant material) is superior to a solid barrier (such as a solid fence) because it creates a larger area of protection on the leeward (downwind) side.

Smaller yards do not have space for large evergreen trees, but the canopy of tall deciduous trees can provide a great deal of protection. To be effective, mature trees should cover at least half the canopy space. This will provide some defense from winter winds, and a significant amount of shading from hot summer sun.

summer landscape drawingDeciduous shade trees should be planted due west and east of windows. Shade trees in these locations will shade the late morning and afternoon sun, which produces the most heat to homes in summer. Be sure to research and choose the right tree for the location, it should grow within 20 feet of windows and should grow to a mature size of at least 10 feet higher than the windows they are shading.

Trees planted to the south of the home will have an opposing result on energy savings. In the summer, the midday sun is high, almost directly overhead. The resulting shadow of a tree will fall directly under the tree, and miss the house, providing no shading. Alternatively, in winter, when the sun is at a much lower angle, the branches will shade to the house, rather than letting the full solar heating benefits get through. Mature deciduous trees in summer block 60 to 90% of the sun. In winter, a mature tree’s branches and twigs will block approximately 30 to 50% of the sun.

In addition to shading the house, trees or shrubs should be planted to provide shade to air conditioners. Be aware of where the fans discharge on the unit, as this could cause drying and death to the herbaceous screen. Keeping the surfaces of the air conditioner allows it to run more efficiently.

Foundation plantings of shrubs and small trees can also considerably reduce energy costs. In addition to reducing the amount of wind that hits a home, shrubs planted next to the house can provide insulation as it creates a dead airspace next to the foundation. Plant the shrubs so at mature size there will be approximately 1 foot of space between the plants and the building wall.

If drifting snow is a problem in the yard, windbreaks of trees and shrubs can act as living snow fences to control the location of snowdrifts. Lower shrubs planted on the windward side of the windbreak will trap snow before it blows next to the home. Winds will funnel around the ends of a snow fence. If possible, the row of plants should extend beyond the snowdrift area. A minimum of two rows of deciduous shrubs and/or one row of evergreens are most effective for snow control.

© The Naturarian

Happy Birthday Rachel Carson – Author of ‘Silent Spring’

Rachel Louise Carson, author of “Silent Spring” (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania and credits her mother for instilling her with a love for nature. In 1932, after many hard personal life problems, she graduated with a master’s degree in zoology. She taught for a few years, then in 1935, she obtained a part-time position with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries as a writer of the radio show, “Romance Under the Waters”. After being the first woman to take and pass the civil service test, she was promoted to full time with a title of junior aquatic biologist.

Her writing career started in 1951 with, “The Sea Around Us”. Followed by other books titled, ”The Edge of the Sea” & “Under the Sea Wind”. She wrote multitudes of articles on topics from pesticides to ecosystems. In 1958, her work started on the famous, “Silent Spring”, which basically implied if we continue with the pesticide use (DDT), it would cause the death of songbirds, hence no singing = silence. The book was released on September 27th, 1962 with much controversy.

In 1960, after some other health ailments, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This caused the delay in the publication of “Silent Spring”. After the book was released, many critics downed the book as being inconsistent & that research was not backed. This didn’t stop the government from banning DDT shortly after it’s release though. The pesticide industry took great measures to discredit her. Carson responded to these attacks by speaking to organizations, testifying at Congressional hearings, appearing on television, and conferring with President Kennedy and his Science Advisory Committee. In letters, she continued to defend her life’s work and urge that man use restraint and knowledge in his treatment of the environment.

Rachel Carson also started many influential, grassroots environmental movements, giving the start of the Environmental Protection Agency. She won many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her research was the vehicle for the banning of DDT worldwide, though again, is still debated today.

She died of breast cancer at the age of 56. Way too young for such a defender of the universe!!

© The Naturarian

 

American Robins (Turdus migratorius) Nesting Outside My Door

robins nest in my flower pot attached to houseRobins are the largest North American thrushes. They are named after the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), however they aren’t in the same family.

Females have paler heads with a grayer back than the male.robin's nest with blue eggs

Robins are not cavity nesters and prefer to nest in evergreens and eaves. They also like to nest near humans. In the below photo, that is our main entrance in the background, with our driveway/parking to the right.

Robins build their nests with long coarse grass, twigs, paper, feathers and is fastened with mud. The inside is softened with grass or other materials. An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year.

I left a pot on the side of my house and Ms. Robin took advantage of the situation.

baby bird robins in nestRobins eat different types of food depending on the time of day: earthworms in the morning and fruit later in the day. Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is susceptible to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution.Baby robins in nest

There were five bundles of joy in her nest.

Robins are among the first birds to sing at dawn. This possibly relates the saying, “The early bird gets the worm”.

Robin bird trying to be scary
Mom sometimes thought we were getting too close to the nest. INCOMING!!

The Robin uses sound, smell and possibly feels its prey moving in the ground with its feet, however vision is the major method of prey detection. In addition to hunting visually, it also has the ability to hunt by hearing. Experiments have discovered that Robins can find worms underground by simply using its listening skills. So all the cute running, stopping, hopping, and cocking of the head is how a Robin find its breakfast.

mom robin sitting on nestRobin roosts can be huge, sometimes including a 250,000 birds during winter. In summer, the females sleep in their nests and males gather at roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males. Female adults join the roosts only after they have finished nesting. These guys left one by one, until there were none!

© The Naturarian

 

Why Native Plants Rock – 4 of 4

Street side bioswale full of colorful flowers
Street bioswale

BIOSWALES AND RAIN GARDENS

The fundamental basis for encouraging use of native plant species are for improved soil erosion control in waterways, and the slowing of storm water run off. Many homeowners have a problem with seasonal, storm water accumulating on their property. Again, the solution lies with the installation of native plants in bioswales or a rain gardens. The difference between the two are: A bioswale is generally sloped to facilitate the movement of water, and a rain garden holds the water to be infiltrated into the local soil. Both are great for the environment and also promote and provide wildlife habitats.

Bioswales (also known as infiltration swales, biofilters, or grassed swales) are vegetated open canals purposely designed to reduce and treat storm water runoff. Like open ditches, they convey storm water from one source to a discharge point, but unlike ditches, they deliberately promote slowing, cleansing, and infiltration of the water along the way.

There are some design variations of the bioswale, including grassed channels, wet swales and dry swales. Grassed channels are primarily grass, and are the easiest to install, but it lacks in the slowing of storm water and removal of pollutants. A wet swale involves standing water at times, and is not usually wanted by homeowners. The dry swales are the most beautiful and functional of the three. These generally include many different types of plants, and the best method for the slowing and pollutant removal in storm water. Because they are made to move higher volumes of water, they may include an underlying rock reservoir, and / or a perforated drain-tile.

One of the biggest benefits of a bioswale is its pollution filtering properties. Above ground plant parts (stems, leaves, and stolons), retard flow and thereby support particulates and their associated pollutants to settle. The pollutants are then leeched into the soil where they may become immobilized and/or decomposed by beneficial bacteria.  A well-constructed bioswale installed along a roadway could reduce the amount of carbon-based pollutants like motor oil in the environment. Among the many benefits of vegetative swales, they also provide stabilization and prevent erosion, cost less to install than traditional curbs, and again, are much nicer to look at compared to concrete and asphalt.

cross section of a rain garden

Rain Gardens are landscape features designed to treat storm water runoff from hard surface areas such as roofs, roads and parking lots. They consist of depressed garden areas, where runoff can pool and infiltrate into the native soils below. Storm water enters the rain garden via an inlet pipe, such as the downspout of a residence. Small storm events can usually be temporarily stored until they infiltrate into the ground. Most rain gardens are designed to pond no more than 2-3 inches above the soil bed. Where native sub-soils have low infiltration rates, rain gardens often have a drain rock reservoir and perforated drain system to take excess water to another point. The constructed soils of the rain garden, and the overlying mulch layer, are designed to replicate many of the pollutant removal mechanisms that operate in wetland ecosystems. Though rain gardens do remove pollutants from runoff water much like a bioswale, if the pollutants are of a higher concentration, a bioswale may be a wiser choice.

There are many native plants adapted to having “their feet wet”. Some wildflower, fern, grass, and sedge options for the Lake County area are:

  • Aster puniceus, Purple-stemmed aster
  • Caltha palustris, Marsh marigold
  • Eupatorium maculatum, Joe-pye weed
  • Eupatorium perfoliatum, Boneset
  • Geum rivale, Bog avens
  • Helianthus grosseratus, Big-toothed sunflower
  • Liatris pycnostachya, Prairie blazing star
  • Lobelia spicata, Pale-spiked lobelia
  • Mimulus ringens, Monkey flower
  • Solidago spp., including S. gigantea, S. ohioensis, and S. riddellii, Goldenrods
  • Verbena hasta, Blue vervain
  • Vernonia gigantea, ssp. gigantea, Tall ironweed
  • Thelypteris palustris, Marsh fern
  • Calamagrostis canadensis, Canada bluejoint
  • Carex comosa, Bottlebrush sedge
  • Carex muskingumensis, Palm sedge

Population growth of Lake County will cause stress on the native environment unless residents are informed of mitigation efforts and encouraged to use native plants in their landscape. By using native plants, a community can reduce water use, pesticide/herbicide use, and maintenance cost/time. The extended root systems of natives help stop erosion and promotes soil health.  Native plants restore the surroundings, and encourage native insects and animals to inhabit the area.

Here’s a great link to the Wisconsin Extension Natural Resources Departments “How To_Build_RainGardens”, one of the best I’ve scoped out. It has ‘recipes’ for rain gardens that supply all the names of plants that do well in different types of soils and light requirements.

© The Naturarian

 

Why Native Plants Rock – Part 3 of 4

far side comic of a dog mwing the lawn badly
Credit: The Far Side – If my husband could teach our dogs to mow the lawn, he’d be a happy man!

America’s fascination with green lawns has brought the total crop area to 40.5 million acres, and cost Americans a total of about $30 billion last year. Kentucky Bluegrass – Poa pratensis, the most common lawn grass used in this area has a root system of approximately 1” – 2” at best. Because of the shorter root zone, and non-native status, a Bluegrass lawn requires more water, nutrients, and maintenance. Some of the statistics reported by The National Wildlife Association regarding typical lawns in the United States are:

  • 30% of water used on the East Coast goes to watering lawns; 60% on the West Coast.
  • 18% of municipal solid waste is composed of yard waste.
  • The average suburban lawn received 10 times as much chemical pesticide per acre as farmland.
  • Over 70 million tons of fertilizers and pesticides are applied to residential lawns and gardens annually.
  • Per hour of operation, a gas lawn mower emits 10-12 times as much hydrocarbon as a typical auto. A weed-whip emits 21 times more and a leaf blower 34 times more.
  • Where pesticides are used, 60 – 90% of native earthworms are killed. Earthworms are important for soil health.

These statistics address the environmental argument for lawn alternatives, but there are the time and money factors to figure in also.

The other problem for most homeowners to wrap their mind around is the difference between cool season grasses and warm season grasses. Warm or cool season refers to when the lawn is growing, i.e. a cool season grass grows when it is cool (spring / fall), a warm when warm (summer). Kentucky Bluegrass (a cool season grass) is green and needs little water or nutrients during the spring or fall months, but needs constant mowing. However, during the hot, summer months, cool season grasses go dormant, often turning yellow and crispy. This is usually a problem for Joe Homeowner that expects the lawn to be green all year. This is also the time of year (June – August) that most water is wasted (and overuse of nutrients) by desperate homeowners thinking their grass is dieing. Educating the public about the seasonal nature of Bluegrass (going dormant) could possibly reduce water waste, but peer pressure and the persona of the “Perfect Green Lawn” will most likely win out, for now…

buffalo grass
Buffalo Grass

Many lawn alternatives arguably look just like a lawn. Buchloe dactyloides, commonly known as Buffalo Grass, is one of the only perennial, native grasses that can be found from Montana to Mexico. It is a stolaniferous, very drought tolerant, varieties can be from 2” – 8”, and if left unmowed, will have attractive seed heads. Choice of variety (and personal preference) will be the factor of how often the lawn will need to be mowed, but 2X a month is about average. It is a warm season grass, opposed to the Bluegrass, so it is slow to start growing in the spring, but will be green during the warmer months without (or very little) added water or nutrients (compost).

white clover instead of lawn
White clover

Another alternative to the standard lawn is Clover, which, from a distance can look like a lawn, but not close up. Though there are many, non-native Clovers to choose from, Trifolium repens, or White Clover is the only native of Illinois. Clovers are in the Bean family (Fabaceae), which have a unique ability to recondition the soil by returning nitrogen to it (called: nitrogen fixation). Farmers often rotate Clover seasonally into their fields to prevent weeds, reduce compaction (because of the deep root system), and to restore nitrogen levels to the soil.

Although Clover does not look like a traditional lawn, it will act much like one without all the hassles. Clover is very low maintenance, and stays green with little water and no mowing (unless wanted). Fertilizers are unnecessary, as Clover provides it’s own nutrients to itself by nitrogen fixation. The real benefit for Lake County residents is that it grows well in the hard, clay soils and will better the soil in the process. Another advantage for dog owners, it does not yellow from urine. The cost of a Clover lawn is inexpensive, at about $4 to cover a 4000 square foot area. Durability is the only downside to clover, as it can handle foot traffic, but not hard-core activities.

creeping thyme groundcover inbetween flgstone steppers
Thymus praecox – Creeping Thyme

A compromise option is a half Clover, half Buffalo Grass (or Bluegrass) lawn that will be able to handle the stresses of an active family. Sadly, society may look down at the combination, as it looks as though weeds are overtaking the lawn, especially in the spring when the Clover flowers (beautifully). A back yard may be a better location for this type of arrangement for someone trying to break the ‘bluegrass lawn mode’.

There are many alternatives to lawns (groundcovers) people can use that have their own special characteristics. Thymus praecox, commonly known as Creeping Thyme is an Illinois native that blooms shortly in the spring with light pink flowers. A solution for those shady, moist, hard to grow areas is Thuidium delicatulum, commonly known as Fern Moss, also a native to our area. Both can take a small amount of foot traffic, and most often are used in between stepping stones or rock type paths.

Come back tomorrow for the last part of the Native Plant series.

© The Naturarian

Why Native Plants Rock – Part 2 of 4

Dutchman's breeches white flower
Dicentra cucullaria – Dutchman’s breeches

OUR NATIVE PLANT SPECIES

Encouraging native plant use in the landscape can help the community save local native species, help with water related issues, and reduce pollution. Using native plants will help correct the problems connected with compaction and soil health.

Native plants can be defined as being indigenous or occurring naturally in a given geographic area and not introduced to that area by humans. When it comes to native plants, the “geographical area” is a 50-mile radius. The distinction between native and non-native species is important because native species have generally adapted and evolved with the competing species, predators, and diseases of an area over many thousands of years. Native species are therefore generally in reasonable ecological balance with their associates and competitors, and have pests, predators, or diseases that limit their abundance.

chart showing how deep our native plant roots goThe Lake County area was part of the tall grass prairie lands, and the soils are the richest of all the soil orders. The reason for this is native plants have extensive root systems which improve the ability of the soil to infiltrate water and withstand wet or erosive conditions. When comparing root systems of non-native to native plants, the differences are obvious. Most native plants roots are 2-3 times longer and more fibrous than non-natives are. The root systems of a native plant are on an average 7′ feet deep, with some reaching up to 15′ feet. Because roots reach these depths, the soil becomes very rich with nutrients at lower levels.

Soil taxonomists have assigned the name “Mollisol” (soil order) to this type of soil, characterized as having a dark-colored organic surface layer of approximately 1”-3” (O horizon), and an extensive next layer of dark loamy soil (A horizon) from 3’ – 18” down.

A homeowner can reduce their time input, money, water use and pollution output by just reducing the lawn size of their property and adding native plant gardens. After a native plant garden establishes itself (1 – 3 years), the maintenance time involved plummets. More garden areas mean less lawn areas, and all the maintenance requirements of it. The cost of a native garden can be very affordable, as seeds can cost as little as $30 covering a 500 square feet area. After removal of the lawn (sod remover rental of $48/day), installation is as easy as a disk tiller (rental for the day $32), some hard work, and the seed. This method is for a patient person, as some flowering, native plants (forbs = flowering plants) can take up to 3 years to bloom. Most homeowners would like to have something to look at quickly, so mature plants would be best, or another possibility is a mix of plugs (immature plants) and seed.

The newly seeded/planted area will need extra water to germinate/get started and throughout the first season. However, after a native garden becomes established, the plants can withstand most droughts, only needing a small amount of water in desperate times. This saves time, money and resources.

Lastly, native plants do not need any commercial fertilizer, which pollutes the environment. Natives are happy to receive compost as a method to get vitamins. Compost application can be as easy as leaving vegetation and leaf residues to over-winter, taking free manure from any of the horse farms nearby (remember to dig deep for the good stuff!!) or from your compost bin. Many natives, mostly of the wetland type, can actually extract toxins from the soil, mitigating damage done from commercial fertilizers.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow we’ll discuss some ‘lawn substitutions’ for those die-hard lawn fans.

© The Naturarian

Why Native Plants Rock – Part 1 of 4

canadian white violet flower
Canadian White Violet

Many native plants, animals and insects have become endangered as the world’s population grows and expands into areas previously untouched by humans. To mitigate these issues, residents should be encouraged to use native plants in their landscape. Not only do natives promote habitats, a community can save water and reduce erosion and flooding problems.

Lake County, Illinois’s 2010 census has the population at 703,462 with projections of 786,000 by 2020. Lake County is one of the fastest growing counties in Illinois, and that will mean many, large subdivisions being built here.

dead dirt
The ‘Dirt-Pile-Of-Death’…..

One of the problems is the builders of these new communities strip off a deep, top-layer of earth before building, and pile it up in the corner of the land. This “top-soil” looses nutrients, becomes compacted, and looses it’s air circulation promoting harmful, bacterial growth within it. As the houses are being built, heavy construction equipment collapses and compacts the lower horizon of soil (generally clay here) promoting poor drainage. After building is complete, the piled up, nutrient poor, mediocre topsoil is replaced. Aside from installing a water greedy lawn, the neighborhood is usually left with little other vegetation.

NON-NATIVE AND INVASIVE SPECIES

Another problem is when new people move to a new area, they want to bring or install the plants they remember from home. Most non-native plants are not deleterious, but they will use up more of your time and resources. However, sometimes these non-native plants can become extreme bothers; these species are called invasive species. A fable many, naive people believe is that an area overrun with non-natives will “go back” to native plants if an area is left alone; this is untrue!

There are many non-native plants that are generally no danger to the local environment. Though many of the non-invasive, non-native plants that people use in their gardens are stressed in the different environment, they may acclimate over a few years. Despite the fact that the plant may look healthy, it may be because of all the additional water, fertilizer and care a person must give to it. Because of all these added requirements these plants often become a maintenance issue, pollution concern (fertilizer run-off) and accrue costs accordingly.

burning bush type of plant with red leaves not on fire haha
Euonymus alaus – Burning bush

The real danger to the native landscape is non-native, invasive species. An invasive plant has the ability to thrive and multiply aggressively outside its natural range (everything is native to somewhere). Some invasive plants are worse than others.  Many invasive plants continue to be admired by gardeners, and sold illegally by nurseries that may not be aware of their weedy nature, or just want to make money. Others are recognized as weeds but property owners fail to do their part in preventing their spread.

Examples of some of the plants that were just recently added to the invasive species list for this area were: Acer platanoides – Norway Maple, Berberis thunbergii – Japanese Barberry, Euonymus alata – Burning Bush, Viburnum opulus – European Cranberry Bush, and Lonicera spp. – all exotic honeysuckles, to name a few.

Some of the characteristics used to classify an invasive species are:

  • They produce large numbers of plants seasonally.
  • They tolerate many weather conditions and soil types.
  • They spread proficiently by wind, water, and animals.
  • They grow rapidly, allowing them to displace slower growing plants.
  • They spread rampantly and are free of the checks and balances of their native range.

If people continue to use non-native plants in the landscape, many native species of plants, insects and animals will be lost. Aside from this, the cost of non-invasive plant maintenance and the time needed to care for them are higher, as the non-natives cannot fight out the invasives (increased weeding time and/or herbicide use). However, a native plant garden that is established and has it’s biosphere in check will be able to fend off most non-natives.

Check in tomorrow for the next part of the four day series

© The Naturarian

Courtship Dance & Serenade – House Finch Style

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) breed between March and August. Courtship practices can entail some crazy serenading like in the video below. After the female chooses the perfect, bright red suitor, she builds a nest, which is made of any soft material available. A pair can lay as many as three clutches of eggs in one summer, however they usually can only successfully raise two. The female lays 3 to 6 bluish or greenish-white eggs, with each egg weighing approximately 2.4 g that take about 14 or 15 days to hatch. The female incubates the brood and feeds the naked chicks for five days, then both parents take over feeding.

The nestlings leave the nest when they are 13 to 20 days old. The male continues to feed the fledglings for about two more weeks. (It’s actually quite comical to see the ragged-feathered dad with three youngsters in tow, all screaming FEED ME!!!) The female avoids this nonsense and begins to build a new nest so the cycle can continue…


© The Naturarian