Friday, December 30, 2011

Slow Growing Native Trees of Georgia

There are many landscapers who plant native trees so their yards will mature into an array of color and shade. However, some trees are typically slow growers and will take much longer to get to mature size than others. These four trees are all good native trees for any landscape, although they will grow slowly.

Carya ovata (P. Mill.) K. Koch (Shagbark Hickory)

This particular hickory has richly aromatic leaves and the wood is good for meat smoking in barbeques. It will get up to 70 to 90 feet tall with a spread of 30 to 40 feet. It is a slow grower. Known as the best tasting of the hickory nuts; one mature tree will ripen two to three bushels a year. It is shade tolerant and can tolerate normal drought. Plant this in sun or partial shade for maximum growth. This is bold and ornamental in the landscape.

Diospyros virginiana L. (Common persimmon)

Persimmon is a slow-growing deciduous tree that can grow up to 70 feet tall but will usually stop at around 40 feet. Flowers will appear from March to June, giving way to fruits mid-September to November. Commercially its wood is used for golf club heads and low-grade lumber. Unripe fruits have been used as a fever reducer, while ripened fruit is used as ink.

Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. (American Beech, Fagus grandifolia var. caroliniana)

A slow growing tree, the American beech prefers partial shade and well-drained soil. It will get 50 to 80 feet tall and have a spread of 40 to 60 feet. It has golden brown fall color and its fruits (nuts) will attract birds and squirrels. It has flowers that will appear just after the leaves. Beech has sensitivity to heat and drought.

Juglans cinerea L. (Butternut, White Walnut)

This slow growing walnut reaches a height of 40 to 60 feet tall and a spread of 30 to 50 feet. It is soil adaptable but prefers full sun. In summer it will have green foliage changing to yellow leaves in the fall. It has edible fruits that are oblong and covered with hair. It makes a good lawn tree. Folklore has this in use for eczema and headaches.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

White-Blooming Native Flowers of Georgia

Georgia is home to hot summers and cool winters, with a ground that is mostly red clay. Gardeners in this area have always had a little harder time than others in more topsoil-rich areas. Native plants of Georgia, however, are designed to grow in these conditions. These three native plants all have white blooms, for those looking to design a cool themed garden or want to contrast some other startling colored flowers.

Actaea pachypoda Ell. (White Baneberry, Doll’s-eyes, White Cohosh, Actaea alba)

A perennial herb with one to three foot stems, this plant has showy white fragrant flowers blooming from April to June. It fruits from July to August with 10 to 20 berry-like white fruits that give it the name “doll’s-eyes”. There is a red fruit variety as well. Baneberry prefers partial to full shade and a wet to moist well-drained soil. Soil should also be acidic. Propagate by seed or by root division.  If by root division, do so in early spring or fall. If by seed, plant them quarter-inch deep into the soil and plant as soon as the seed ripens. White baneberry is an old aborigine’s medicine for rheumatism. WARNING: While all parts are poisonous, the toxicity is more concentrated in the berries and roots. The toxic ingredients can be glycoside or essential oil, protoanemonin.

Ageratina altissima var. altissima  (L.) King & H.E. Robins. (White Snakeroot, Eupatorium rugosum)

This clump forming perennial grows up to four feet in height.  Erect dark purple/brown stems with white flat clustered flowers appear from August to October. Leaves are pointed and large. It is a great butterfly draw. Make sure that white snakeroot is planted in partial sun to full shade and in moist neutral soil, about three to four feet apart in spacing. It can be propagated by seed.  Historically, it has been used as a medicinal treatment for colds, liver disease, and fever.

Allium tricoccum Ait. (Wild Leek, Ramp)

The wild leek has clusters of small white flowers on a six to 10 inch stalk. Two oval leaves that are glossy will appear before the flowers do, with flowers coming May through July. Wild leeks taste like a mild onion and there is an annual “Ramp Festival” in the Great Smoky Mountains around the end of April. It prefers shaded areas and moist rich soils. Propagate by division or by seed. WARNING: Like the nodding onion, wild leeks have a low toxicity and can be eaten in small amounts but not large ones. It contains sulfides.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Planting and Growing the Paleleaf Woodland Sunflower

Also known as paleleaf suflower or woodland sunflower, this plant is a member of the aster family of plants. It is native to the United States and is botanically known as Helianthus strumosus.

Paleleaf Woodland Sunflower Description

Growing up to seven feet high, this stout-stemmed perennial has branching at the top. Leaves are narrow and oval, with green up top and white below. Flowers are yellow and on loose clusters near the branch tips. Flowers are two to four inches wide and on smooth to slightly rough stems.  Bloom season is between July and September.

Growing Guide

The paleleaf woodland sunflower isn't picky about where it grows. It can be fine in full sun to full shade. It does need a dry acidic soil. Propagate by seed, stem cuttings, or by clump division. Air dry the seed heads after collecting and refrigerate over the winter for best germination. In early spring you can do division if you'd like.


This native is found in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. It is seen in woodland edges and dry woods.

Interesting Facts

The paleleaf woodland sunflower is only one of 20 species of the sunflower that has yellow disk flowers that is in the eastern portion of North America.

Source: NPIN

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Planting and Growing the Birdfoot Violet

The birdfoot violet is a member of the Violaceae family of plants and is native to the United States. Botanically it is called Viola pedata.

Birdfoot Violet Description

Growing 4 to 10 inches tall, this flower has pansy-like flowers and grows as a clumped perennial. Leaves are deeply cut and green. Flowers are blue or purple hued, flat, and broad. The lowest of the petals will have streakings. Blooms also have orange anthers. Bloom season is between March and June.

Growing Guide

The Viola pedata prefers to grow in partial shade or full shade lighting conditions with a dry acidic soil. It will need good drainage. Propagate by seed or by root cuttings. Seed should be brown when collected, typically in mid-June, and then have 10 days of cold-moist stratification. Root cuttings can be done in he early spring, cutting lengthwise so that there is a bud and root to the cutting.


This native is found in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. It is seen in pinelands, prairies, and rocky woods.

Wildlife Attracted

This violet attracts birds and butterflies to the landscape. It is a larval host plant for the Regal Fritillary butterfly and does well in butterfly gardens.


The birdfoot violet is prone to getting crown rot if there is not well-drained soil.

Source: NPIN

Thursday, November 17, 2011

All about Fragrant Verbena

Fragrant Verbena is also known as Sand Verbena, Snowball, Sweet Sand-verbena, and Abronia fragrans. It is a member of the four-o-clock family of plants. It is also a native plant to the United States.

Fragrant Verbena Description

Growing 8 to 40 inches tall and wide, this has an upright or sprawling form, depending on its natural growth. The perennial has long and funnel-like flowers. They are white, but may have a greenish, pinkish, or lavender hue to them. They are in clusters, ball-shaped, and are prolific in blooming. Bloom season is between March and September. Stems are hairy and sticky. You'll see the flowers in the late afternoon when they open up but they will close in the morning.

Growing Guide

Grow the fragrant verbena in partial shade with a loose, dry, deep soil. It should be propagated by seed. While it can be sown in the fall without pretreatment, it may do best after the seeds are removed from the papery fruits.


This makes a great addition into butterfly gardens. It is nicely aromatic, and goes well in rock gardens. Flowers are showy and can make for an ornamental choice in flowerbeds.


You can find the fragrant verbena plant throughout the states of Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. It is typically found in the prairies and plans.

This flowering plant has a nice big ball of blooms that make for quite a display. It also has a lovely fragrance for those that want to put it next to a porch or a patio.

Source: NPIN

Monday, November 14, 2011

Easier Mushroom Gardening, Composting, and Raised Beds

Mushroom gardening has been a bit of a hassle for some folks. I know when I once tried it I failed miserably. I didn't have the time or the patience it seems. I am one of those low-maintenance gardeners, needing low-maintenance plants and systems. 

There is a way now to grow up to one and a half pounds of mushrooms, quickly and easily. So simple, I can even do it. In about 10 days you can have pearl oyster mushrooms with a new Mushroom Garden system. It is called "Back to the Roots", and you can get more information at their website. There is even a video.

Now also, I've been posting some on composting and raised beds. I believe that by incorporating the rich nutrients you can get out of compost by using it on your garden plants, you are raising better food. Composting can be done with so many household and kitchen items, that instead of junking up our landfills, they can be going to helping you raise better crops and plants in the garden.

Raised beds are another great idea. I know that for me, as I get older, bending over to work on the garden is getting difficult. I'm doing more with raised beds now, and its helping. I make mine with a nice flat plank around them, so that I can sit and weed and garden with a bit more ease. I like this concept.

If you have any comments on mushroom gardening, composting, or raised beds, I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Knee Deep in the Garden Writing

Been furiously writing lately. Having finished one native plant book and put it to the publisher last month, I'm getting started on another plus working on plant profiles for some upcoming ebooks. What has been going on in YOUR garden?

The additional offender groans.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Planting and Growing the Virginia Sweetspire

(Virginia sweetspire photo from SB_Johnny at wikipedia via GFDL)

The Virginia sweetspire is also known as the tassel-white. It is a native plant to the United States and a member of the saxifrage family of plants. Botanically, it is called Itea virginica.

Virginia Sweetspire Description

Growing up to 8 feet high, this native has slender branches and deciduous green leaves that turn red and purple in the fall. Flowers are white and will bloom in spires. They open base to tip so bloom times appear longer. The perennial shrub has a mound form and is semi-evergreen in the southern portions of its range.  Its name of 'tassel-white' refers to the white flowers that look like tassels. Bloom season is between April and June. Plant en masse as single plants are not as pretty.

Growing Guide

The Virginia sweetspire prefers to grow in partial shade with a moist acidic soil. If it has full sun for part of the day it has more vivid blooms and fall color. It does fine in areas that have drainage problems. Propagate by seeds and semi-hardwood cuttings. Semi-hardwood cuttings should be done in late summer or in early fall. Seed should be collected during those times as well. It will need no pretreatment prior to sowing into the ground. Water during a drought.


This native is found in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.  It is seen in the pine barrens, swamps, and stream banks.

Source: NPIN

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Planting and Growing the Standing Cypress

Also known as the Texas plume, red Texas star, or red gilia, the standing cypress is native to the United States. It is a member of the phlox family of plants and is botanically known as Ipomopsis rubra. It may be listed as Gilia rubra as well.

Standing Cypress Description

Growing up to six feet tall but typically more like two to four feet high, this stiff biennial has red tubular flowers and fern-like rosettes. Flowers are on a spike and marked with yellow or orange spots. They open from the tip of the flowering stem down. Bloom season is between May and July.

Growing Guide

The standing cypress prefers to grow in full sun or partial shade with a dry and sandy or dry and rocky soil. Propagate by seeds in the fall. Seeds will flower in the second year, only producing a rosette in the first year of growth.  Planting two years in a row will guarantee consecutive blooms since it is a biennial.


This native is found in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. It is seen in open woods and in rocky fields.

Standing Cypress Uses

This native attracts hummingbirds to the landscape for its nectar, so it makes a great addition in hummingbird gardens. There is showy colorful displays, making this a nice ornamental for use around patios and decks.

Source: NPIN

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Symptoms of Jack-in-the-Pulpit Poisoning

Jack-in-the-Pulpit is a perennial plant botanically known as Arisaema triphyllum. It is from the Arum family of plants and is native to the United States. It has large glossy leaves and a hooded flower that is green with brown stripes. There are bright red berries on the plant as well. The poisonous ingredient in the plant is calcium oxalate.


The signs of jack-in-the-pulpit poisoning from ingesting the plant include teary eyes, swelling of the mouth and the tongue, slurred speech, diarrhea, burning in the throat and mouth, nausea, and vomiting. There may be difficulty breathing if there is severe mouth and tongue swelling.

First Aid

Pour water on the skin where the plant touched, if it touched the eyes have them be rinsed with water. Wipe out the mouth with a wet cloth. Give milk to drink unless there is convulsions, decreased alertness, or vomiting (where swallowing may be too difficult). Call emergency medical intervention.


Rarely, the poison will block the airways cutting off breathing. The emergency workers will monitor the patient's vital signs and treat the symptoms that they are having. There may be stomach flushing and IV fluids given. Treatment will be determined by how much of the poison was ingested and the general health of the patient when they enter the ER.

Some alternate names for this condition are wild turnip poisoning, brown dragon poisoning, Indian turnip poisoning, bog onion poisoning, wake robin poisoning, and Arisaema triphyllum poisoning.

Source: NPIN, A.D.A.M.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Native Trees That Have Interesting Bark Features

(River birch bark image courtesy of Wikipedia)

It’s not always the blooms or foliage of a tree that make it interesting. There are times when the bark is a main focal point on the tree. These native trees of the United States all have interesting bark features that can work well in your landscape.

Cotinus obovatus Raf. (American Smoke Tree, Chittamwood, Cotinus americanus)

This tree gets up to 20 to 30 feet in height and spread. It has yellow-green blooms from May to June. It is named for the billowy hairs that are purple or pink in the summer. It has great fall color in the yellow/red/orange scheme. It is a good accent tree and has flaky attractive bark. It is an adaptable tree, preferring sun or partial shade and dry well-drained soil. Propagate by seed, root cuttings, softwood cuttings, and semi-hardwood cuttings.

Carya pallida (Ashe.) Engl and Graebn. (Sand Hickory)

The sand hickory tree grows up to 80 feet tall with a dense crown and straight trunk. Leaves have five to nine lance-like leaflets. They are compound and seven to 14 inches long. Flowers are yellow-green catkins if male and short small clusters if female. Fruits are thin-husked nuts that are dark brown when mature. Sand hickory trees have gray smooth bark at first and then dark furrowed bark as it matures.

Carya aquatica (Michx. f.) Nutt. (Water Hickory, Bitter Pecan)

This tree gets up to 65 feet tall and one foot wide. It has a narrow crown and prefers partial shade with wet soil. Its flowers are yellow and its fruits are nuts in thin husks. The seeds have a bitter taste, giving the name “Bitter Pecan”. Its bark is shaggy and scaly and lends texture to the tree. Its wood is difficult to work with and is used normally as a fuel source. It is a larval host plant for the Luna butterfly, funeral dagger butterfly, and giant regal butterfly. Propagate by seed.

Betula nigra L. (River Birch)

Known for its paper-like bark, this deciduous tree can grow up to 100 feet tall but is more typically 20 to 50 feet high. It is resilient to flood damage and is good in the tough clay soils found in Georgia. It prefers partial shade and moist neutral pH soil. Game birds love the birch’s seeds. This is a beautiful tree specimen in the yard with its unique paper bark. Propagate by seed or softwood cuttings.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

All about the Giant Redwood Tree

The Giant Redwood tree is also known as the Sierra redwood and the giant sequoia. Botanically, it is named Sequoiadendron giganteum, and is from the bald-cypress family of plants. It is an evergreen.

Giant Redwood Description

Cultivated, these large trees will get 60 to 100 feet tall. In the wild, they can grow much higher. After 100 years of age, the tree will be free of branches up to the 100 feet mark. Leaves are gray-green and scale-like with sharp points. The bark is thick, red-brown, and fissured. Cones are egg-shaped. It is cone-shaped in growth and will become flat-topped with age.

Growing Guide

These trees grow well in deep well-drained soil. They need full sun to partial shade, doing best in the partial shade. Propagate by seed and pretreat the seed with a day long soak and then one to two months of chilling. They can also be propagated by softwood tip cuttings and semi-hardwood cuttings. They are hardy in USDA hardiness zones of 5 through 9.


The variety ‘Glauca’ has blue tinted foliage. Cultivar ‘Pygmaeum’ has a shorter and shrubbier growth habit than a typical redwood. The ‘Pendulum’ variety will have droopy branches and a crooked trunk.

Name Selection

The name comes from a tribute to Sequioah. Sequoiah was the son of a Cherokee woman and British man, who created the alphabet for his people. He was born in 1770 and died in 1843. The ‘dendron’ part of the name comes from the Greek word for ‘tree’.

General Sherman

The largest living thing on Earth currently, is a giant redwood in Sequioa National Park named “General Sherman”. It is 275 feet high and 107 feet wide at the crown with 26 feet wide at the trunk. They estimate it to be 2,500 years old.

If there is room in your landscape for such a majestic tree, these do quite well. In fact, for the eastern portion of the United States, this variety will do better than the similar California redwood.

Source: Floridata, Giant Sequoia

Georgia Native Ferns that Prefer Wet Soil

These five native ferns of Georgia are all ones that will need to be planted in a very moist to wet soil. These are good ferns for a partially shaded marshy area of the yard.

Woodwardia areolata (L.) T. Moore (Netted Chain Fern, Chain Fern)

Netted chain fern grows 18 to 24 inches tall and looks much like the sensitive fern. There is a dull green leaf stalk with a red-brown lower section. A deciduous fern, you can propagate by spores located on the undersides of the fertile fronds. This fern prefers shaded areas and wet soils.

Woodwardia virginica (L.) Sm. (Virginia Chain Fern, Anchistea virginica)

The Virginia chain fern grows two to three feet long and three to four feet wide with fronds 18 to 48 inches long. Fronds are leather-like and deciduous with a dark brown stipe.  It prefers partial shade and wet or moist acidic soil. There are arching fronds and a loose structure in shade and a tight clustered growth with more sunlight.  It prefers wet locations.  To propagate the Virginia chain fern, do so by spores or rhizome division.

Thelypteris noveboracensis (L.) Nieuwl. (New York Fern, Tapering Fern, Dryopteris noveboracensis)

This fern gets up to two feet tall and needs an equal spacing. Its fronds taper towarde the base and it is resistant to deer. It prefers partial to full shade and mildly acidic to neutral soil. It is usually seen growing in moist woods. It is slow growing but easy to transplant. You can divide the root ball to propagate.

Osmunda cinnamomea L. (Cinnamon Fern)

This fern gets up to three to four feet tall and needs a two to three foot spread. It loves partial to full shade and moist acidic soil. It is also very long-lived and tough for a fern. There are bluish green fronds and the middle has a cinamon stick looking fiddles in the spring. Coarse antique-looking leaves make this a winner in the garden. You can propagate this by dividing the rhizomes.

Onoclea sensibilis L. (Sensitive Fern)

This fern gets up to 18 to 23 inches high and wide. It loves a full sun to partial shade environment and slight acidic moist soil. It is named for the fronds that are particularly sensitive with withering at the first sign of frost. You can propagate this by dividing the rhizomes in spring. It is a good spreader and there is very low maintanence in this fern. It is a tough plant, despite its “sensitive” name.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Southern Native Plants That Grow Without A Lot of Trouble

Gardeners like to toil the soil and tend to their plants, but there are some that would like some easier growing plants that tend to them. These native plants are all easy growing ones that will grow without a lot of trouble and maintenance. They are also all southern native plants.

Allium canadense L. (Wild Garlic, Meadow Garlic)

A member of the lily family, wild garlic has grass-like foliage and grows eight to 12 inches tall. Basal leaves adorn a flowering stalk of pink or white star-like clusters. It has an onion-like aroma. Blooms appear May through July. Grow a wild garlic plant in sunny spots and rich moist soils. Propagate by seed.  It can be a folk remedy for insect bites, coughing, ear infections, and scurvy. The brown bulb is edible and it will taste like an onion. Wild garlic is generally pest and disease free but some plants may have issues with slugs.

Linum virginianum L. (Woodland Flax)

The woodland flax is a perennial that grows one to two feet high. Stemless leaves are oval and small with star-like gold flowers. Flowers bloom June and July. It prefers sun or partial shade conditions and a moist slightly acidic soil. It is a generally care-free plant. Woodland flax makes for a good under-tree shade garden or woodland garden plant.

Scutellaria incana Biehler (Downy Skullcap, Hoary Skullcap)

This flower gets up to six to 18 inches high and has a spread of six to 12 inches. It loves full sun to partial shade and dry to wet well-drained soil. It does best on dry sandy or clay soils. It is a low maintenence plant with showy blue, violet, or white flowers from June to September. Interesting velvety foliage and no disease problems make this a great choice for your southern garden. You can propagate this by softwood cuttings.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Southern Catalpa

Also known as the Cigar tree or Indian bean, the Southern catalpa is botanically called the Catalpa bignonioides. It is from the trumpet-creeper family of plants and is native to the United States.

Southern Catalpa Description

Growing 25 to 40 feet tall and 25 to 40 feet wide at the crown, this tree has short and crooked branches. It has prominently veined heart-shaped leaves that are light green and deciduous. Flowers are clustered, 10 to 20 in a set. They are white and about two inches wide. There are cigar-looking pods for fruits. Bloom season is between May and June for this plant.

Growing Guide

The southern catalpa prefers to grow in partial shade lighting and wet or moist soils. Propagate by seed, softwood stem cuttings, hardwood stem cuttings. Seeds do not need pretreatment.


This tree is found throughout the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia. It is typically found in low woodland areas and in stream banks.


Kingdom         Plantae– Plants

Subkingdom    Tracheobionta– Vascular plants

Superdivision  Spermatophyta– Seed plants

Division           Magnoliophyta– Flowering plants

Class    Magnoliopsida– Dicotyledons

Subclass          Asteridae

Order   Scrophulariales

Family Bignoniaceae– Trumpet-creeper family

Genus  Catalpa Scop.– catalpa

Species            Catalpa bignonioides Walter– southern catalpa


There are some that consider this tree a bother. It has flowers that litter the ground, root suckers, and the leaves will smell bad when they are crushed. Caterpillars can defoliate the tree, but they are quick to recover.


The name ‘cigar tree’ comes from the fruit that look like cigars.

Source: NPIN

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Common Persimmon

The common persimmon is also known as the Eastern persimmon. Botanically, it is known as Diospyros virginiana. It is native to the United States and is a member of the Ebenaceae, or Ebony, family of plants. It is a low growing and shrubby tree.

Common Persimmon Description

This tree grows up to 15 feet high with large oval leaves and yellow bell-like flowers. The flowers are partially hidden. It grows in a spreading crown. Green leaves turn yellow-green in fall. There is large edible fruit that is orange. Trunks, when aged, are thick and dark gray-black, broken into scaly blocks. It is a deciduous tree.

Growing Guide

The common persimmon prefers to grow in partial shade and in rich moist soil. It does fine in dry soil and acidic soils too. Propagate by root cuttings and by stratified seed.  It may be grafted as any other fruit tree too. Seeds may need stratification, two to three months at 36 to 41 degrees. Germination is also improved by clipping the caps of the seed as well.


The persimmon fruit is an old favourite, sweet and tasting like dates. When it isn’t matured, it will have an astringent taste because of the tannin. Mature fruits are made into cakes, puddings, and some beverages.

Distribution of the Persimmon

This tree is found throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Wildlife Attracted

This tree attracts birds and small mammals for the fruits and it is also a larval host plant for the Luna moth. It is also a browse for a variety of wildlife.


The fruits are ripe and sweet and were eaten by the indigenous people of the Southeast.

Source: NPIN,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Planting and Growing Sundrops

Also known as Narrowleaf Evening Primrose or Oenothera fruticosa, the Sundrops perennial is an easy-to-grow drought-tolerant plant that attracts songbirds and hummingbirds. It is a common wildflower in the United States.

Plant Description

Growing up to three feet high with erect stems and yellow flowers, a sundrops plant is an herbaceous perennial.  Stems are hairy and have a reddish hue. Flowers are clear yellow with an orange stamen and moderately green leaves that will turn red after it gets cold. The leaves are oval, toothed, and also hairy. Flowers are in racemes, usually between three and ten at the branch edge.

Growing Guide

Grow the sundrops in full sun or partial shade with a wet or dry soil. Propagate by seeds in the fall, by root division in the spring, or stem tip cuttings also in the spring. It has a USDA hardiness range of 4 through 8. It does well in acidic soil.


  • Cherokee Indians once ate the leaves after boiling and then cooking in hot grease. 
  • Of the 125 species of evening primrose, many are weeds and only six are popular as a garden flower.
  • It is a flower on Connecticut’s Species of Special Concern list.


This flower does very good as a border plant or for edging. With the delicate nature of the plant, it really stands out in rock gardens. With the new-found interest in native gardening, the sundrops is getting attention as a low maintenance plant. It will die to the ground come winter but will rise again in the spring. Another use for it is for bringing hummingbirds to the landscape.

This flower, while a wildflower, looks great cultivated in a garden bed. The yellow on the flower looks like sunshine with its brightness. Bringing native species into your garden can help you increase the likelihood that native wildlife can survive.



Friday, September 9, 2011

Blue Native Wildflowers for your Garden

There are many times that a gardener or landscaper has a specific color theme in mind for their gardens. These native wildflowers are all in various shades of blue and are good starters to a native plant garden or a wildflower garden. Always check to make sure they are suited to your particular hardiness range and soil type.

Amsonia ciliata Walt. (Blue Funnel Lily, Bluestar, Fringed Bluestar)

The blue funnel lily is a member of the dogbane family and grows 15 to 24 inches high. Half-inch leaves run along the entire flower stem to the star-like 5-petaled pale blue flower. Leaves are smooth and smaller toward the flower part of the stem. Flowers occur from March through June. The blue funnel lily prefers partial shade and a dry well-drained soil. Propagate by root division or seed. If by seed, germination will improve after cold moist stratification. It was named for Dr. Charles Amson, a scientific traveler and physician from the 18th century.

Campanulastrum americanum (L.) Small (American Bellflower, Tall Bellflower)

The American bellflower grows three to four feet high with lavender-blue 5-petaled flowers blooming June through August. It does attract hummingbirds to the landscape. This bellflower prefers partial shade and moist neutral soil. Propagate by seeds. This was once Campanula americana but because of the flower’s unique structure was reassigned to its own genus and became Campanulastrum americanum. It attracts bumblebees, leaf-cutting bees, butterflies and Syrphid flies.

Gentiana saponaria L. (Soapwort Gentian, Harvestbells, Gentiana saponaria var, saponaria, Dasystephana saponaria)

Soapwort gentian grows eight to 20 inches tall. It is a perennial with light green lance-like leaves and bottle-like blue-violet flowers in a terminal or cluster. The flowers only open partially. Blooms arrive August through October. It prefers partial shade and acidic fertile soil. Propagate by division or seed. Divide the root crown in fall or early spring or sow seed as soon as they are mature.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Native Wildflowers that Need Acidic Soil

There are two types of plants; those that thrive in acidic soil and those that wither away and die. If you’ve an acidic soil garden area or landscape and need those plants that won’t wither, these are good native plant choices for you.

Asclepias tuberosa L. (Butterfly Milkweed, Orange Milkweed)

This fine milkweed gets up to two to three feet high and needs a spacing of around 14 to 18 inches apart. Its fire-orange blooms will appear from mid-summer to early fall, and they prefer full sun. Since it is a milkweed, butterflies will flock to this plant. It is drought tolerant and prefers mildly acidic soil. Don’t be alarmed if there aren’t blooms in the first years; it may take up to three years to see flowers. You will need to find an aphid killer, as milkweeds tend to have aphids. To propagate you may divide or direct sow seeds outdoors after frost. Remember Monarch larvae can only survive on Asclepias, therefore to have these incredible butterflies you will need to have some milkweeds around. WARNING: Parts of this milkweed are poisonous.

Chamaelirium luteum (L.) Gray (Fairywand, Blazing Star)

The fairywand is a perennial that grows up to four feet with 6-inch leaves. Dense and spiky, it has white flowers that fade to yellow. Blooms are on a four to eight inch raceme for male plants, female plants have a slightly shorter raceme. Flowers bloom from March to June. It has evergreen foliage. Plant a fairywand in partial shade and acidic rich soil. The name comes from the Greek meaning “on the ground lily”. It was used by Native Americans as a uterine tonic to strengthen the reproductive system.

Helianthus strumosus L. (Woodland Sunflower, Paleleaf Sunflower)

This sunflower grows up to seven feet high with narrow eight inch long leaves. Leaves appear white on their undersides and are oval in shape. Ray flowers are yellow and in clusters on branch tips. Some flower heads can be two to four inches wide and will bloom July through September. Woodland sunflower prefers any lighting and dry acidic soils. Propagate by seed, clump division and by stem cuttings. Clump division is the easiest for this particular plant.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Native Southern Plants From the Rose Family

The rose family of plants gives us many interesting flowers, trees, and shrubs. These native plants can make for an easier gardening experience with less watering and maintenance than non-native plants. These five selections are all native to the Southern portion of the United States, and are all from the rose family of plants.

Potentilla simplex Michx. (Common Cinquefoil)

A member of the rose family, the common cinquefoil grows under a foot tall with both flowers and leaves coming up on runners. Leaves have five parts to them and the yellow flowers are 5-petaled. Blooms occur during April through June. Cinquefoil prefers shade or partial shade and dry soils.

Sibbaldiopsis tridentata (Ait.) Rydb. (Shrubby Fivefingers)

This spreading carpet like plant only gets to four inches in height and is a member of the Rose family. Its dark green evergreen foliage gets red in the winter. Blooms are 5-petal and white or pink with a bloom season of June to July. Optimum growth occurs in partial shade with a well-drained acidic soil.  You may propagate this by division or by seed that is sown right after collection.

Malus angustifolia (Ait.) Michx. (Southern crapapple, wild crabapple, Malus angustifolia var. angustifolia, Pyrus angustifolia)

This deciduous sun loving tree has fragrant pink flowers. It is a member of the Rose family and its name means “narrow leaves”. This tree will get up to 30 feet tall, prefers sun but will live in partial shade, and has hard green apples as fruits. This will have a high heat tolerance.

Spiraea tomentosa L. (Steeplebush)

Steeplebush is a member of the rose family and is a deciduous shrub that grows three to six feet high. It has pink or rose-purple plumes of flowers from July to September. Foliage will turn yellow in the fall. It prefers any lighting conditions and moist acidic soils. It is a larval host to the Columbia silkmoth butterfly. Propagate by seed or softwood cuttings.

Fragaria virginiana Duchesne (Virginia Strawberry)

From the rose family, the Virginia strawberry grows up to 12 inches and is a low running perennial. Its blooms are 5-petal white flowers with red fruit. It will flower from May to June. It prefers sun or partial shade and dry soils. Propagate by seed or stolon division. Historically it’s been used for its fruit as an old time gout remedy and its leaves are a mild astringent. It is a larval host for the gray hairstreak butterfly and the grizzled skipper butterfly.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

White Blooming Native Wildflowers Grown in Shade

Got a shady spot you’d like a wildflower or prairie garden and looking for some white blooming natives? These native plants are all able to be grown in shade and thrive. Between the four of them here, they offer wide variety of types of bloom, foliage, and texture styles.

Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum (L.) Link (Feathery False Lily of the Valley, Smilacina racemosa)
This gets up to two to three feet tall and has a raceme of white flowers at the terminal end of the plant. Leaves are green and elliptical. Its bloom season is from April to May. Fall berries are a red-pink color. A member of the Iris family, it prefers moist acidic soil and partial to full shade. Propagate by seed or root division. It attracts wildlife as the berries are eaten by birds and small mammals while the leaves are browsed by deer.

Galium triflorum Michx. (Sweet-scented Bedstraw)
This perennial grows four feet long in a trailing growth pattern. Leaves are in whorls of six. Flowers are very small and star-like, with a green-white color. Galium triflorum blooms May through September with a sweet fragrance. It prefers partial shade or full shade conditions and wet or moist soils.  Propagate by seed or by rhizome division.

Gaultheria procumbens L. (Eastern Teaberry, Wintergreen, Checkerberry)
This small plant grows just under six inches with a 15 inch spread. It has white urn-shaped flowers in late spring, with red fall berries and aromatic evergreen foliage. The scent is a light wintergreen smell. It loves partial to full shade and very acidic soil. The berries can be a food source during the winter for turkeys, squirrels, chipmunks and grouse. Berries and leaves are eaten by bears and deer.

Maianthemum canadense Desf. (Canada Mayflower, Unifolium canadense)
A perennial that works well in rock gardens; Canada mayflower will grow three to six inches tall. It will have white clustered flowers May through June. Its foliage is shiny and textured. There is a pale red berry after flowering. It prefers partial to full shade and wet or moist acidic soil. Propagate by seed or rhizome division. The roots were a folklore good luck charm and Native Americans used Canada mayflower as an herbal remedy for sore throats and headaches. WARNING: Some parts of this are poisonous.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Yellow Native Wildflowers for your Garden

Working on a specific color scheme garden or is yellow just your favorite color? Then finding these yellow native wildflowers will be a perfect addition into your landscape.

Caulophyllum thalictroides (L.) Michx. (Blue Cohosh)
This perennial grows up to three feet tall and has small flowers in clusters. Flowers start out yellow and turn brown as they age. Blooms appear April through May. Usually found in streams, it prefers shade and moist well-drained soil. Expect lovely blue-green foliage and dark blue berries. You may divide in spring or fall to propagate. Native Americans used this as an herbal remedy for menstruation suppression and to ease childbirth pain. It was mixed with other herbs for abortive purposes. It should not be taken by pregnant women.

Chrysopsis mariana (L.) Ell. (Maryland Golden Aster, Heterotheca mariana)
The Maryland golden aster grows up to 12 inches high with yellow flowers throughout August, September and October. Leaves start out wooly and turn smooth as they age. It is a perennial. Plant a Maryland golden aster in sunny locations with wet or moist soil. Propagate by seed. Seed should be planted in the spring. Maryland golden aster is drought tolerant.

Coreopsis auriculata L. (Mouse-ear Coreopsis, Early Coreopsis, Lobed Tickseed)
This flower gets six to 12 inches high and needs spacing of nine to 12 inches. It loves full sun and has average water needs. Its bright yellow flowers will bloom late spring to mid-summer. You can deadhead to prolong the bloom time. Mouse-ear coreopsis has herbaceous foliage and is a slow spreader with low maintenance needs. To propagate you can divide root ball or direct sow seed outdoors directly in the ground.

Coreopsis lanceolata L. (Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Lance-leaved Coreopsis, Coreopsis crassifolia)
Growing one to two-and-a-half feet high with three to four inch long leaves, this perennial is evergreen. Ray flowers are yellow with four lobes and a daisy-like appearance. Blooms will appear from April to June. Lanceleaf coreopsis is fine in any lighting and prefers sandy dry soils. Propagate by seed or clump division.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sow Seeds Now for an Easy and Delicious Fall Garden

Late summer is the ideal time to start your fall garden. In most areas of the country, you can grow a "second season" crop of your favorite cool-season vegetables and lovely fall flowers. In mild winter areas, you can grow even more garden favorites for harvest in late fall, winter, even into next spring. Now is the time to gear up for some of the best growing weather of the year, which lies in the cool season ahead.

What to Grow
Many casual gardeners don't bother to plant later in the summer because they think of a garden as something to be planted in spring. The Home Garden Seed Association (HGSA) is out to change that mindset, along with the idea that growing plants from seed is difficult. The HGSA has found that "fear of failure" is the primary reason many home gardeners do not garden with seed, and it wants to forever dispel that fear. To help gardeners gain confidence with seeds, the HGSA has assembled a list of the Top Ten Fall Varieties that are EZ and fun to grow from seed:
Even where winters are cold, many vegetables can still be grown to maturity before first frost. In addition to the Top Ten listed above, try broccoli, carrots, cabbage, and arugula. When choosing varieties, select ones that are fast-maturing to ensure a harvest before the cold weather hits. Consider extending your planting season even more by growing crops under cold frames and row covers. Now is also a good time to start seeds of many flowering perennials. Sown in fall, many will be ready to start flowering by the following spring or summer.

In mild winter areas, you can grow an even wider selection of fall and winter crops, including onions, leeks, and parsley. Seeds of annual flowers that thrive in cool weather can also be sown now for fall and winter bloom, including alyssum, candytuft, calendula, lobelia, stock, and sweet pea.

When to Start
The key to growing vegetables for fall harvest is timing. Vegetables grown in this season need about 14 extra days to mature compared with spring-seeded crops due to fall's shorter days and less intense sunshine. When deciding the date to start your veggies, first determine your average first frost date. Check with a good, independent garden center. Then look at the seed packet for days to maturity. Add 14 days to that number, then use that figure to calculate back to seed-starting date.

Growing On
Remember that sowing seeds or setting out transplants in midsummer can be more stressful to young plants than seeding during cooler, often wetter spring weather. Be sure to keep the soil moist as seeds are germinating. Protect young seedlings with shade cloth or plant them near taller plants, such as corn or tomatoes to provide shade from the hot afternoon sun. Another option is to start seeds in containers in a spot with high, bright light and then transplant young seedlings into the garden. This works well for crops like lettuce and spinach, whose seeds don’t germinate as well when soil temperatures are high.

Fall Harvest
With a little effort in late summer, you'll have a splendid harvest of vegetables in fall. Cool weather-loving crops, such as kale, lettuce, spinach, and broccoli, will thrive in the lower autumn temperatures.

National Garden Bureau would like to thank member Home Garden Seed Association (HGSA) for this article. Their EZfromSEED Web site shows you everything you need to know about growing plants from seed.   
Let's Go Garden!

Any or all of this information may be reprinted, with credit given to National Garden Bureau.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Texas Native Trees that Grow under 50 Feet Tall

Sometimes size really does matter when you are looking for trees that come under a set height. This can be important for having a tree grow under a balcony or other landscaping themes where shorter trees are preferred. These are all trees that grow under 50 feet tall, all native to Texas.

Fraxinus cuspidata
Common Name: Fragrant Ash, Flowering Ash
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: A small tree that can be a large shrub, the fragrant ash can get to 20 feet high. Gray bark will have scales as it ages. Slender branches have dark-green leaves and white 4-petaled flower clusters. Fruits are samaras. Bloom season is May through June.
Planting Guide: Fraxinus cuspidata should be grown in partial shade and dry nearly neutral pH soil. It is cold tolerant.
Propagation: Fragrant ash is propagated by seed that is stratified in cold moist sand for 30 to 60 days. Sow after collection or after the stratification if planting in the spring.
History: It will attract butterflies and birds for its cover and nesting. It is also a larval host for swallowtail butterflies.
Warnings: This particular tree doesn’t have much problem with disease and pests.
Distribution: Fraxinus cuspidata is found in AZ, NV, NM and TX.

Rhus lanceolata
Common Name: Prairie Sumac, Lance-leaf Sumac, Prairie Flameleaf Sumac
Synonyms: Rhus copallinum var. lanceolata
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: Growing up to 20 feet high, prairie sumac is a deciduous tree with white flowers and red fruits. Leaves are green and then become red or orange in the fall season. Leaves are veined and pinnate in an alternate arrangement. Flowers bloom July and August in a panicle. Fruits are drupes.
Planting Guide: Rhus lanceolata prefers sunny spots and dry alkaline soil. It is both cold and heat tolerant.
Propagation: Prairie sumac is propagated by seed and semi-hardwood cuttings. Cuttings should be done in late summer. Seed will need to be collected September through October and then have 30 minutes to an hour of acid scarification.
History: It is a larval host to the Banded hairstreak (Satyrium calanus) butterfly and the Red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) butterfly.
            Leaves have tannin in them and can be used in tanning leather.
            Sumac-ade, a lemonade type drink, can be made from fruits of the prairie sumac soaked in water.
Warnings: If the soil is very rich the prairie sumac may get fusarium wilt when young.
Distribution: Rhus lanceolata is found in NM, OK and TX.

Sabal mexicana
Common Name: Mexican Palm, Rio Grande Palmetto, Texas Palm, Palma Di Micharos
Synonyms: Sabal texana
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: A slow growing tree, the Mexican palm grows to 50 feet tall and 3 feet in width for the trunk. Leaves are large and fan-like, blue-green in color. Fruits are in clusters and dark purple. A trunk will start to appear after the tree has aged to about ten years old. Blooms are white and occur March through May.
Planting Guide: Sabal mexicana prefers sun or partial shade with moist or dry soils. It is find in sandy or clay soils.
Propagation: Mexican palm is propagated by seeds. No treatment of the seeds is necessary but for best germination you can cold stratify for 30 days.
History: It attracts birds and wildlife as it is aromatic and has browsing fruits.
Warnings: The trunk won’t begin to really appear until it is at least 10 years old.
Distribution: Sabal mexicana is found in TX.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Self-Seeding Native Wildflowers and Plants

Want to have a meadow wildflower garden that you never need to replant? These are great self-seeding native wildflowers that will continue to give you bloom after bloom with out propagating or replanting. All are native to the United States that are profiled here.

Coreopsis grandiflora Hogg ex Sweet (Coreopsis, Largeflower Tickseed)
The largeflower tickseed grows one to two feet high and can have many stems to a plant. There are dissected linear leaves and bright yellow ray flowers. Blooms occur during May and June. Largeflower tickseed prefers partial shade and sandy soils. It can be propagated by division and by seed. It can self seed to the point of becoming invasive.

Coreopsis tripteris L. (Tall Tickseed)
This tickseed flower gets four to six feet tall and needs spacing of two to three feet. It likes full sun and is easy to grow in wet well-drained soil. Shorter flowers will appear in drier areas. It has bright yellow blooms mid-summer to fall. This is a self-seeding flower that will give you a longer lasting garden. Deadhead the flowers for optimum bloom time. It is also heat, drought, and humidity tolerant.

Impatiens capensis Meerb. (Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-me-not)
This flower gets two to six feet tall with an 18 to 24 inch spread zone. It likes shade and moist soil. There are pendent gold or orange blooms from July to October. It self sows, so deadhead to prolong bloom life. Butterflies and hummingbirds love jewelweed’s blooms, and so will you. This is an herbal remedy: crush leaves to put on bug bites, poison ivy, or razor burn. WARNING: Berries can be toxic if ingested.

Liatris spicata (L.) Willd. (Dense Blazing Star)
Another good pick for a bird or butterfly garden, this will grow up to four feet tall. It has violet to white flowers from July to September and will self sow freely. It prefers full sun or partial shade, moist acidic soil, and is very low maintenance.  Dense blazing star’s flowers look like a feather duster. It is a deer resistant plant. Propagate by seed that has been stratified.