Plants and Wildlife
Some Forest Notes
Dorothy C. Bliss
One of my favorite magazines is American Forests and the winter issue included several topics of especial interest.
One article described the damage in September of a tornado associated with hurricane Frances that hit Jacksonville, Florida, severely damaging a Historic Tree Collection. Thousands of seeds and 40,000 trees from seedlings to 20 ft. tall landscape trees were destroyed. Damage was estimated at 6 million.
Several articles discussed problems in our forests. A golden-haired pine bark beetle was first found in the U.S. in the mid-90's and is of concern for our forests on both coasts. Another beetle, piñon engraver beetle is creating havoc in the piñon and juniper forest of the Southwest. Many of our National Parks and monuments are threatened including the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Arches and others.
If you have been to Florida in recent years you are aware of the invasive Melalevca which has taken over thousands of acres in southern Florida. A project that integrates biological controls with the addition of mechanical removal and herbicides appears to be effective. The biological controls include a leaf-eating weevil and an aphid-like insect that eats the tree's sap. If you wish to read more about these items, copies of American Forests may be found in some of the libraries as well as the internet.
You know hope springs eternal in the hearts of all gardeners. Most farmers will tell you it is either too hot or too cold - too wet or too dry. At some point most gardeners must admit that not all plants grow well for them.
Moisture is very important. Remember our drought of two years ago. There are some plants that are drought-tolerant and they are worth considering when planning a flower bed - a few shrubs might be added to the list.
Shrubs may be: Barberry, Pyracantha, Spirea, and Lilac.
Perennials are: Lily of the Valley, Yarrow, Dames Rocket, Joe Pye Weed, Coneflower, Black Eyed Susan, Day Lily, and Coralbells.
Shade plants that require a good soil are: Wild Geranium, Celendine Poppy, Spiderwort, Skull Cap, and Jacobs Ladder.
Medium shade - partial sun plants are Columbine, Goats Beard, Phlox, Dwarf Crested Iris, and Firepink.
Full sun plants are a delight to plant and enjoy. Try some of these: Asters, Primrose, Liatris, Goldenrod, the Sunflower family, the Coneflower family.
Poor soil is a challenge - try these plants: Blanket Flower, and Butterfly Weed. Also Creeping Juniper is a good choice. These are only a very few suggestions to get your flower gardening started. Most often success or failure is by trial and error - ask another gardener for help or ask at the local garden center. Good gardening! !
The Asian Longhorned Beetle - A Challenge
Dorothy C. Bliss
Our American forests are being threatened by another introduced pest that may result in damage to our deciduous forest ecosystem that is more devastating than the effects of Dutch elm disease, the American chestnut blight, gypsy moths and hemlock and fir adelgids combined. The Asian beetle attacks not one species but several of our hardwood trees including maples (red, sugar, silver, Norway, etc.) willows, elms, horse chestnut, black locust, ash. mulberry and birch.
How is this beetle recognized? The Asian longhorned beetle, a native of China and Korea is large, .75 to 1.50 inches long, the body is glossy black with conspicuous irregular white spots and has very long black and white banded antennae. Evidence of its activity may be the accumulation of sawdust at the base of the tree or in branch crotches and round holes, .35 inches or larger, in the bark made by the exiting adult beetles. The leaves may exhibit unseasonable yellowing and death of infected branches.
Where was it first discovered in America? This insect was first found in 1996 in New York City (Amityville) and in 1998 in Chicago. In 2003 it appeared in Woodbridge, Ontario, and in Jersey City, New Jersey. These infested areas have been quarantined against the removal of wood products to prevent the spread of the disease. Currently the only way to eradicate the beetle is to cut, chip and burn infected trees.
How did the beetle gain en-trance to the United States and Canada? This exotic pest has been found in wood from China used
to make solid wood packing materials such as pallets and crates. All such materials from China must now be fumigated or treated with wood preservatives. Baggage may also be subject to inspection upon entry into the United States.
How can you help? As yet this insect has not been found in Virginia but it is extremely important that if an infestation should occur that it is identified early and reported to the USDA. As hikers in our mountains and wooded areas you have an excellent opportunity to locate a problem before the damage is severe. If suspicious signs are noted do not remove wood but notify the nearest USDA office or county extension agent. The continued beauty and diversity of our forested mountains depend upon your vigilance.
The above information comes from the Internet and the brochure, USDA-APHIS Program Aid No. 1655.
Doing Something Right
Having the right habitat for birds and butterflies can be a challenge. It takes planning, decisions and lots of work. The results aren't often what was planned on paper before the actual work began, especially after very dry weather conditions. In spite of this, most of the flowers in my garden were beautiful. Lots of newspaper was used as mulch.
Plans were to have flowers to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The butterfly bushes had been planted in three different locations. After seeing these bushes in other gardens, with more than one color of blossoms, a huge hole was dug and all three plants were put together. It makes for a more colorful shrubbery plus the hummingbirds and butterflies add even more color. Canvas were another favorite for the hummers. It was interesting to watch goldfinches taking seeds from the evening primrose. The monarchs and other butterflies delighted the observer by feeding on the red zinnias, cosmos and phlox.
Trying for years to have bluebirds nest in your yard can be rewarding when it does happen. Watching them checking out the neighborhood, I placed a new house in an appropriate location. Several times they checked the house but didn't move into it. House sparrows had their eyes on it, however, and moved in quickly. They were evacuated three times, trying to encourage the bluebirds. It was noted a new nest was being built and shortly a wren seemed to be taking up residence. Wrens start several nests before the female can decide where she wants to live. The wren was considered a good tenant and the nest was not destroyed until it was certain that she was not returning.
Finally, Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird had reached a decision to build. In the meantime, the owner, with the help of a friend, put an extra piece of wood at the entrance of the house. This has been designed to give depth to the entrance so that long-beaked birds cannot reach in and destroy the eggs or little ones. For weeks it was exciting to watch flashes of blue as they gathered food for their brood of five. The thrill of watching their busy lives was neat. They did not return to raise a second family.
One day while taking a lunch break, partially concealed by the butterfly bush, I watched the squirrels speeding along the utility lines as if they were on Interstate 81. It was an extremely hot day and five or six sparrows were at the bird bath for a communal bath while another was drinking the same water. Butterflies, looking like flying flowers, were checking for the best nectar from flowers which had received TLC especially to provide for them and for the birds. All of this, plus the bluebirds, makes you realize you must be doing something right.
There's a little bunny and a chipmunk who think this is home; a raccoon, though an uninvited guest, thinks it is okay to trespass on the front porch. The squirrels can be a nuisance and thank goodness, there is only one rabbit.
One can revel in all the beauty when time is taken for it.
Deer Population and Our Deciduous Forest
Within the City of Lynchburg and the surrounding area, we are all too aware of the devastation of shrubbery and other garden plants by marauding deer. My hosta plants and pansies around the foundation of my home disappeared several years ago. I no longer attempt to grow either of these, but Christmas fern, non-native Nandinas, some white azaleas and a few other species survive. If food is scarce, few plants are immune to deer activity.
Several interesting but devastating articles on the explosion of the deer population in eastern U.S.A. appeared in the Science Times section of the New York Times for November 12,2002. Today the population of the white-tailed deer has reached 20 million and there are more than 100 human deaths a year and a billion dollars in damage resulting from vehicular collisions with deer.
The effect of the out-of-control deer population was dramatically brought to my attention in the comparison of several research experiments that involved 8' fenced and adjacent unfenced forested areas over a period of several years. Outside the fenced area in Posey Hollow in the Blue Ridge near Front Royal, the only plants left unharmed were the mature oak trees. Tree seedlings and most of the wildflowers had disappeared. The dominant vegetation was Japanese barberry and other non-native flora. The protected beds had abundant wildflowers including Trilliums. Similar changes have occurred in a forested area near Pittsburgh that had been fenced off. Photographs of the protected and non-protected areas dramatically illustrated the difference. The open areas were nearly barren of ground vegetation while the fenced plots showed abundant wildflowers and seedlings.
You may recall that in a recent article in this newsletter, I had described the near disappearance of Trillium at Thunder Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway and its replacement by mayapple. This region bordering the Parkway is not open for hunting and deer are able to roam freely. Perhaps this is a possible explanation for loss of Trillium.
If the eastern forest is to continue without drastic changes, more effective and diverse methods of control of the deer population must be instituted. In the past, predators of deer, such as wolves, have been eliminated. Drawn by the ever-expanding deer population, cougars or mountain lions are gradually moving eastward. This may present other problems. Except in a few instances many attempts at lowering the deer population - hunting, sharpshooting, trapping, birth control, repellants, etc. - have not made a great impact. I do not know the solution but hope that our mixed deciduous forest will be able to continue in all its diversity.
The Bristlecone Pine - The Oldest Known Tree
Dorothy C. Bliss
A recent article in our Lynchburg News concerned cloning of the world's oldest known tree. For many years the General Sherman sequoia in the High Sierras of California was considered the oldest living thing on our planet, at 3800 years. The age of a tree can be accurately calculated by extracting a core through the woody tissue to the center, then counting the yearly rings with the aid of a microscope. This past December, members of the Champion Tree Project collected six cuttings and some pinecones from a bristlecone pine, Pinus aristata v. longaeva, growing at an elevation of over 10,000 feet in the Inyo National Forest on the California-Nevada border. Scientists in a laboratory at the University of California will attempt to propagate this tree by means of tissue culture of microscopic cells from the shoot tips. These, it is hoped, will develop into clones of this ancient tree.
Rutherford Platt in Our Great American Forest writes "The bristlecone trees are gaunt runts. Many which died more than a hundred years ago are still standing, their skeletons silver gray, splintered, burnished by blowing sand. They do not rot because even the bacteria of decay cannot tolerate such aridity and because oxygen is at a premium at such an altitude. But thanks to the seepage of water from the snowpatch and a breath of moist air in the night, this sparse relic of a forest not only lives but produces sturdy embryos, as shown by a number of young trees scattered about."