Revegetation Efforts Should Focus on Native Plant Species

Propagating native plants in volumes large enough to produce commercial quantities of native seed is not always an easy, or inexpensive task, but using native plant species in revegetation efforts on federal and state lands should be the norm, not the exception.  This National Forest in Michigan is taking the needed long range approach to reseeding what may seem like small, insignificant disturbances, such as roadway culverts.  It only makes sense to me to support the native vegetation types in our national forests, even on the small projects. Doing nothing usually results in the presence of non-native plants that can be surprisingly difficult to control once they get established. Reseeding with plants not found in the area is to not appreciate the aesthetic or habitat value of the resource.

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Native Flowering Shrub for Western Landscapes

Fellow western blogger Big Sky Ken, made a stop at Ayers Natural Bridge and posted  his photos. The post reminded me of my stop there in July when the Holodiscus dumosus was in full bloom. Ocean Spray is a native Wyoming shrub that deserves much more attention and development for the landscaping market. It is covered with creamy sprays of tiny flowers in the middle of the summer. It can grow in very poor soil, preferring rocky slopes. The mature, native stand in the photo averaged 5 feet in height.

Holodiscus Dumosus at Natural Bridge, Wyoming

According to the US Plants Database, H. dumosus, sometimes called Rock Spirea, needs full sun;  is adapted to course and medium textured soils (won’t do well on the clayey soils);  has a high drought tolerance; low soil fertility requirements; and can take a slightly alkaline soil (which is basically all of our soils).

Holodiscus native shrub Wyoming

H. dumosus has a cousin, Holodiscus discolor, residing in neighboring states to the west, north, and south of Wyoming. H. discolor is not as drought tolerant; can grow in fine soils; and is less tolerant of alkalinity. This underscores the importance of  knowing which species you have obtained if you use it in  your landscape. While I have not grown this in my garden- yet, I would guess that either species would do well in the home garden, but since I have very sandy soil which dries out  quickly, I would prefer the local native, H. dumosus, since it is considered very drought tolerant.

Winter Watering in Wyoming and the High Plains

Last week we  had three days in a row above 40 degrees F. With no snow cover, this was a perfect time to water shrubs, trees and perennials in the yard. The forecast for Central Wyoming for the first week of 2012 looks good for another opportunity for winter watering.

In the high plains, winter winds can be very desiccating as they are often coupled with little or no snow cover (as opposed to mountainous areas). For this reason, there are two main reasons to water perennials in the winter.  The first is that dry soil heaves and contracts at greater rates than moist soil, damaging root systems. This is succinctly described in a UW Extension  publication called Winter Watering.

The second and related reason is that the very fine, microscopic root hairs responsible for a plant’s water absorption are very fragile. Exposure to dry air and cold quickly kills these very important parts of the root structure. Some amount of winter damage is probably unavoidable, but winter watering will help minimize this. Two very convincing reasons to pull out the hoses when temperatures move into the 40’s and water your perennials this winter.

How do you know when you have watered enough? Most resources I checked said to evenly moisten the soil to a depth of 8-12 inches.  Unless you have a very sandy soil or went into winter with an extended dry season, there is likely some residual moisture below 12 inches. Given the time restraints of winter watering – short days and limited hours where temps are above freezing, the goal of watering to 12 inches seems reasonable, but even if you can only water to 6 inches, I suggest you do it.

You can dig a few holes with a narrow spade to check your progress, or try the trick suggested on this Kansas State Research and Extension webpage of pushing a large screwdriver into the soil and feeling how deep it easily penetrates.

Wasn’t Poison Sumac After All

“It turns out the “poison sumac” (Rhus vernix) of my childhood, which I so diligently avoided, wasn’t poison sumac after all, although R. vernix does grow in Indiana.”

This is from my reply to a comment from Steve at Portraits of Wildflowers. Steve reports Rhus trilobata grows in Texas, but Rhus lanceolata is more reliable for bright reds in the fall.

Steve got me going on a Rhus hunt from his comment on making sumac-ade.  See my reply on my original post about Rhus and how it adds color to the autumn landscape.

I wanted to post some identifying photos to show a few of the sumac plants we discussed. I went to the USDA-ARCS Plants Database to make sure my images were accurate. Unfortunately there was no photo for the Prairie flame sumac Steve mentioned… maybe he’ll be able to add one.

Rhus trilobata, Skunkbush sumac, Squawbush sumac

Rhus trilobata, three lobed leaves

Rhus vernix, Poison sumac, Toxicodendron vernix

Poison Sumac has large alternate leaves with 9-13 entire leaflets

Rhus typhina, Staghorn sumac

Staghorn sumac has 11 to 27 leaflets with serrate margins

Photo Credits:

Rhus trilobata- USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Herman, D.E., et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Administration, Bismarck.

Rhus vernix – Ted Bodner @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / James H. Miller and Karl V. Miller. 2005. Forest plants of the southeast and their wildlife uses. University of Georgia Press., Athens

Rhus typhina – USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Herman, D.E., et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Administration, Bismarck.

Mountain Mahogany – Native Shrub of Wyoming

Native Shrub for Drought Tolerant Landscaping

There are two common Mountain Mahogany species in Wyoming;  Curlleaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) and True Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus).  Both would make nice ornamental shrubs or small  trees in low water use landscapes.  The seeds of C. montanus, shown here, are expertly designed for catching on passers by, working their way into hair, wool, fur, or shoes to travel to distant parts. I would think once it lands, that corkscrew like shape would also help it to burrow into the soil to await the next spring.

True Mountain Mahogany

True Mountain Mahogany Seeds

The year these photos were taken was 2008, apparently the moisture these plants received was perfectly timed for a very successful seed crop.

Hillside with Cercocarpus montanus

Hillside with Cercocarpus montanus

Cercocarpus ledifolius gets larger in these parts.  I love the way it is formed by the wind and tough conditions under which it grows- natural bonsai.

Cercocarpus ledifolius

Cercocarpus ledifolius, Curlleaf Mountain Mahogany

Both species have very hard wood, and I am guessing pioneers from the eastern US are  responsible for its moniker. Native Americans made tools and bows from these small trees. Both species are also important winter browse for deer and  antelope.

Amelanchier alnifolia Research to Help Diabetes

Well I have said here before, the native tree commonly called Serviceberry, Saskatoon berry, or June berry (Amelanchier alnifolia), is a small to mid sized, graceful, airy native tree of Wyoming. I think it would make a great specimen tree in the landscape, especially under areas with large, towering trees.

Over at Home Made Wilderness I saw a link to the article Berries Hold Promise for Diabetes where it is explained that some research will be underway to study the beneficial effects of Serviceberry on helping the pancreas to stabilize sugar levels.

Amelanchier alnifolia Wyoming Native Tree