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Posts Tagged ‘weeds’

fall dandelion

Yup. Found this perky little fellow blooming for all it’s worth the other day. Seems to be pretty frost resistant, as we’ve had a few chilly nights. Guess that’s why they are so successful (especially in my yard…the neighbors hate me for this…oh, and the cottonwood tree in the spring, but that’s a whole ‘nother post).

Look, I’ll go out and spray RoundUp on poison ivy (because I can’t seem to kill it any other way…and I’ve tried pulling, cutting, and everything else short of toxic waste!) but I happen to like some color in my lawn. Nothing cheers me up like a field of yellow (rather than boring, uniform green grass). You’ve got to admire a plant that is so quickly adaptable to its environment (notice the ones that bloom lower after the first mowing).

I find it interesting that if you search for “dandelion” that the first thing that comes up in my smart browser (it’s so helpful it’s painful) is “dandelion+kill”….then “get rid of.” Must be a lot of foaming at the mouth over this little plant.

If you are looking for some good pictures and info on dandelions, check out this website.

(As always, please use commonsense before eating lawn-grown plants. Especially if you have dogs. And neighbors who spray or use Permagreen or whatever. Probably some extra zip you could do without). Basically, it’s a good leafy veg. In fact, it’s a multi-million business growing dandelions for the food supply (tell that to an irate neighbor) but mostly for European palates. Here’s some interesting info for farmers in Canada considering growing dandelions as a commercial crop…notice that you are NOT allowed to let them flower.

For your amusement, I offer up this wonderful series of Cruciferous Crusaders trading cards form the Leafy Greens Council…collect them all! Yeah, like this will make any kid eat more greens….Escarole Rex….yeesh!

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Gardens Gone Wild!

weed patch

OK, maybe, just maybe, it’s time for me to consider weeding the patch out back. This was meant to be either a vegetable or native plant garden this past year. As you can see, um, that didn’t exactly happen. I’m using the term “garden” very loosely here, although it does have a wooden boundary around it so that’s a good start 😉

Lately, it’s become a dumping ground for grass clippings, twigs, and pulled weeds. A few mildly good free plants popped up, though. I have a small clump of columbine, a weedy bit of yarrow, some straggling Virginia creeper and an indestructible pile of pokeweed. I’m trying to get rid of the pokeweed, as it gives me contact dermatitis (I know, it’s good food for wildlife but they can look elsewhere).

I have moved “the grand plan” back to next year. What grows well beneath a pine tree anyway? I’m taking all suggestions.

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Weeding for Wasps

A few weekends ago, I was out mucking about in what I loosely call a garden and noticed an odd thing. I had let the weeding go for quite a while and then we had buckets of rain, so the weeds were towering over my sad, rabbit eaten hostas. It was a bit overwhelming, so I just tucked in and started on a pulling rampage (yeah, I was in the zone!).

Suddenly, I notice what I think are yellow jackets hovering around where I’m weeding. Having been stung a number of times in the past and not particularly enjoying it, I backed off right away and thought maybe I had disturbed a nest. But, no, there were only two randomly buzzing around. So, I switched to the opposite side of the garden to get away from where they were.

In a few minutes, there were the wasps again! OK, this time I looked a little more closely and discovered they were not yellow jackets after all. But what were they?! They were not aggressive, but clearly followed right along where I was weeding. Then I realized: they were watching where I pulled the weeds and hunting for any stray insect I stirred up with my efforts. How cool is that!

A little searching has revealed that they may be (again, didn’t get close enough to take pictures!) sand wasps. According to the Missouri DOC website on bees and wasps:

Adults often catch flies on the wing and are remarkably fast and agile. Their habit of hovering uncomfortably close to a person for the purpose of catching flies attracted to that individual is often mistaken for aggression. But they are even-tempered wasps, and it is possible to feed them out of your hand by presenting them with a living fly not quite capable of flight. Sand wasps are occasionally mistaken for hornets or yellowjackets because of their banded color pattern.

Hmmmn, yeah, I think I might skip the feeding them out of my hand part….There is a great photo at this website (along with tons of other very nice insect photos).

So, how did they learn to hang around stinky, sweaty fly-attracting people? Intriguing!

I’m wondering if this description of bees may be similar in how they find food/prey:

The small hairs lining a bee, which it uses to collect pollen, picks up chemical traces and biological particles as well. Bees also inhale and consume large quantities of air and water for their size, picking up chemical traces in that manner too.

That article was about using bees to locate land mines, which is pretty interesting, too. But, maybe wasps are more sight/vision hunters instead, as they have to catch insects on the wing?

Other interesting wasp miscellany I found:

The great wasp hunt (for not so “great” wasps..very tiny lee-etle wasps!)

And here’s a clear runner up in the Darwin Awards: http://sify.com/news/offbeat/fullstory.php?id=13234894

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Knapweed Invasion

So, I am out looking around at the plants growing by the railroad tracks and I notice a bunch of purple flowers I had never noticed before. I shot a few photos (with my crummy camera) and think, “what pretty flowers” and head inside to ID them.

Imagine my horror when I discover the plant I thought was just lovely is……Spotted Knapweed! (Insert dramatic dum, dum, dum here) Eeek! It’s here in my own backyard (well, technically in the railroad right of way…)

And it’s making it’s way across the entire state of Ohio rapidly. According to most websites, it’s not surprising to find it along railroad tracks. In fact, that’s most likely how it spreads across the country. Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) was introduced into the U.S. around 1890-ish from contaminated alfalfa, hay or seeds. It has become a HUGE problem out West, but is now catching up here in the East.

It also alters the soil around itself by releasing toxins:

A chemical called catechin from spotted knapweed, which was documented in Colorado State research a year ago as a natural herbicide that is released by the plant’s roots to kill other plants, actually makes native plants that compete with spotted knapweed turn on themselves. The chemical triggers an internal reaction that leads native plants that compete with the weed to self destruct and allows the weed to take over more territory.

Most sites are pushing chemical controls, but there seems to be some promising biological controls (Wisconsin is experimenting with seed-head attacking flies) and you can also just pull it before it sets seed. Which, I suppose I will have to do as it does seem to be a rather large patch…

The OSU extention has some good info and pics and even mentions some folklore about the plant (although it’s undocumented). I expected to find articles about spotted knapweed causing problems with pasture and forage crops but there was also an odd comment that it negatively impacted Christmas tree growers (?!).

You know, it seems to me that this plant wasn’t here until we had a train derail right out back and spill its load of soybeans…maybe the seed was in the soybeans or maybe it came in on the treads of the heavy equipment used to clean up the spill. I wonder what it will look like next year out there…..

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This is comfy?!

Lawnchair Naturalist hard at work 

Inspired by a bent lawn chair, I am finally getting this blog up and running. Well, more like up and walking briskly. Since I spend most of my outdoor time poking around in my backyard, I want to talk about what I find there.

Sadly, it is not pristine wilderness with mountainous vistas…..more like a lot of weeds and railroad tracks. So, it’s going to be urban nature mostly. Although, there have been some surprises….. (more on that later).

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