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UNI student helps return cropland to native prairie Article from The Gazette

Researchers assessing benefits of converting grasses to biofuel

Tall Grass Mix

WASHBURN — University of Northern Iowa professor Mark Myers considered it a “theoretical exercise” when he assigned his wildlife ecology and management students to develop a habitat management plan for a local site.

But, said Myers, Jarrett Pfrimmer, 25, of North Liberty, “took the assignment to heart,” and a year later, prairie grass was growing on 20 acres of former cropland along a Cedar River tributary.

“I did not think he could make it happen in that short a time,” said Myers, who is working with Pfrimmer on another major project with the potential to restore natural functions of the Cedar River watershed — research to determine the feasibility of native prairie as a biofuel.

Pfrimmer, who will complete work on his master’s degree next month, said he worked with the Black Hawk County Soil and Water Conservation District to line up cost-share funding for the stream buffer project.

The Boone native said he also took advantage of expertise at UNI’s Tallgrass Prairie Center to plan and execute the 120-foot wide buffer strips on both sides of Dry Run Creek, which flows past the UNI campus en route to the Cedar River.

Seeded a year ago, the native vegetation will become well established next year, greatly reducing erosion from the former farm fields, improving the quality of the water flowing into the Cedar and providing habitat for songbirds, pheasants and other wildlife.

The absorbent grass also will play a small role in reducing the crest of future Cedar River floods.

“Every little bit helps” when it comes to watersheds’ ability to store and slowly release floodwaters, said State Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, a leader in legislative efforts to improve watershed management.

Small-scale improvements like the two Black Hawk County projects can help create a mindset and policies “that will help buy down flood peaks for those of us downstream,” Hogg said.

In addition to the Cedar Falls stream buffer project, Pfrimmer has worked with Myers and others to assess the benefits of converting cropland into a prairie biomass production site at the 593-acre Cedar River Natural Resource Area about 10 miles south of Waterloo.

On flood plain land that had formerly been leased for row crop production, the researchers established 48 test plots, each seeded with one of four types of native vegetation ranging from switch grass alone to a mix of 32 species of grasses, legumes, forbs and sedges.

Those plantings were equally distributed among three distinct soil types, enabling the researchers to control all key factors contributing to the productivity of native grass not only as a source of energy but also as habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

The research got off to a rocky start with the historic Cedar River flood of 2008 wiping out the initial seeding. The plots were reseeded in 2009, burned in 2011 and finally harvested in April, compressed into 550-pound rectangular bales, with an average yield of 4 tons per acre.

About 150 of those bales were later pelletized for an upcoming test burn by Cedar Falls Utilities. “We’re looking to find out how well it burns for energy generation,” said Daryl Smith of the UNI Tallgrass Prairie Center, a partner in the research.

Researchers have suggested that cultivation of low-input, high-diversity grassland biomass could have significant energy and environmental advantages over corn-based ethanol, according to Myers.

While it remains to be seen whether the energy yield would justify conversion of marginal farmland to production of native vegetation for use as an energy source, biofuel production with diverse mixtures of native prairie vegetation “contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes,” the researchers concluded.

Grassland birds and butterflies quickly found and colonized the test plots, according to Myers.

Pfrimmer, who has led bird data collection efforts, will soon complete his master’s thesis on “Bird Use of Heterogenous Native Prairie Biofuel Production Plots.”

In each of the past two years, he has found at least 100 delicate nests hidden among the grass stems by species such as the sedge wren, dickcissel, grasshopper sparrow and lark sparrow. Pheasants and turkeys also have moved into the grass, he said.

“We are starting to see different bird communities established in the plots in accordance with their preferences for the vegetation mix and even the soil types,” Pfrimmer said.

Article taken From The Gazette Newspaper

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Earthyman Article on How to Do a Dormant Seeding

When and how to do a dormant seeding is a question that is often asked when sowing native seeds.  By following these simple guidelines, you can be successful using a dormant seeding.

Make sure your site is prepared and there is no sign of any growing live vegetation present.  An exception would be if you were planning on supplementing an existing planting to add more diversity.  After the ground temperature drops below 50 degrees, you can start sowing your seed usually in the Midwest this occurs at the end of October or the first of November.  Even if you have 2 inches of snowfall, the seed can be broadcast over the snow.  Any time in late fall or even winter, seeds can be broadcast.

You can check your soil temperature in your state by googling for soil temperatures for instance in Iowa, you may go to: http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/NPKnowledge/soiltemphistory.html

If you have a small area, one to two acres or less, broadcast your seed by hand.  In this instance the seed can be mixed with 10 to 20 parts of wet sand to 1 part seed by volume.  After you have thoroughly mixed your seed with the wet sand, divide it into 2 to 4 lots and go over the entire area with each lot.  The seed can then be broadcast by hand using an ice cream container under one arm and reaching in with the other hand to grab a handful of this seed matrix.  Cast it in a swinging motion just as you would feed chickens.  With the next lot of seed, walk in a different direction so as to get a more even distribution of the seed.  This is repeated with each lot and going a different direction each time.

Since this is a dormant seeding, we are depending upon Mother Nature to achieve good seed to soil contact which is the most important element in any kind of seeding.  Mother Nature will then rain, snow, freeze and thaw. This is just what we want as it will ensure the proper stratification of the seed to break the dormancy code and allow better germination in the spring.  Stratification is a process whereby we can either by Mother Nature or human treatment break the dormancy of seeds to enable germination.

Go to Native Wildflowers & Seeds Website for a variety of quality native seeds and seed mixes.   Ion Exchange, Inc. is a Native Plant and Seed Nursery for over 25 years.  They grow and market native wildflowers, grasses, sedges and rushes.

[IOWA-INSECTS] Monarch butterfly research story

Here in SE MN I noticed the same lack of Monarchs in mid-summer. We also had robust milkweeds with very few larvae. I heard from (entomologically oriented) folks in NE MN that in June they saw far more Monarchs than usual, but with their relatively low population of milkweeds the Monarch seemed to overload the larval food plant. Then in August the flight of Monarchs here in SE MN was the lowest I have every seen.

Joel Dunnette

 

On Tue, Nov 6, 2012 at 8:21 PM, Bruce And Georgeann <crazcoot@evertek.net> wrote:
I have been following this topic and want to ask about another angle of the past summer’s Monarch slump -at least it was in Nw Iowa.

The Monarch Butterflies, were a real concern here this year. We had quite good numbers showing up in early spring – in fact the dates were record early arrivals for us. And I witnessed egg laying in the pasture…even photographed eggs as they were so obvious. But the thing that really puzzled and concerned me was we had no egg hatches and no caterpillars all summer! I have never, in my life, “Not” seen a Caterpillar all spring, summer or fall!!!???!!! Why after finding eggs, I could later not find larva?

Then the summer was “scant” as far as Monarchs were concerned. Nearly none, just a handful all summer. This should not have been the case here, we had the largest crop of Asclepias (milkweeds) that I’ve ever seen here…we had A. tuberosa(Butterfly Milkweed) in record numbers…they were stunning all over the county…even the area farmers were asking me what that “orange plant” is showing up everywhere! We had way more A. syriaca (Common Milkweed) than I care to see here – the neighborhood is coated with seed parachutes from our pasture…not a real “good neighbor” relations maker with the local farmers. We also had a good share (but down slightly from past years) of A. verticillata (Whorled Milkweed) and a small compliment of A. incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) in the ditches out front.

I witnessed a lone Monarch laying eggs on some Common Milkweed outside the studio windows in late August and tried keeping an eye on them – they were gone after just 3 days!? I don’t know of “egg” eaters in the insect world but maybe something is going on? I know of parasitic wasps in caterpillars – but saw NO CATERPILLARS all summer (as I said before). I haven’t the foggiest idea what is going on?

This fall we had virtually no Monarch roosts here – we usually have 150-500 individuals roost here each fall. 13 was our high number in a roost this fall…”6″ was the other high day…”high” used very sarcastically…

Some folks following this have raised issue with the drought hurting the mid section of the continent’s Monarch survival…I’m sure that has some bearing. They also have raised issue with GMO crops. But it does nothing to explain a local phenomenon like we’ve been experiencing here…eggs laid but no hatching, no larva…with an abundance of food source for larva and adult stages. We do not spray insecticides here on the acreage, but I have no knowledge of GMO crops or spraying issues in the surrounding area, so I can’t speak to that.

Am I imagining things or is there anyone else raising these kinds of observations or concerns? …Bruce Morrison, SE O’Brien County

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Plant Sale! Plant Now and See Why Next Spring! at Ion Exchange, Inc.

Plant Sale! Plant Now and See Why Next Spring!

The mild weater is inviting you to put some plugs in the ground NOW, for a head start in the Spring!

We Can Help by Offering 25% Off**

As long as the ground isn’t frozen, you can still plant your plugs or store them outside in the plug flats and cover them lightly with a mulch. This is the way we over-winter our plugs, here at Ion Exchange, Inc Ion Exchange, Inc.

Click The Link Below To View Our Complete Sale Ad

Ion Exchange, Inc. Plant Sale Ad

Order Securely Online at our Website Ion Exchange, Inc. before they are gone!

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Telephone: 800-291-2143
Fax: 563-535-7231
Email: hbright@ionxchange.com

 

‘Prairie Therapy’ Soothes Psychiatrist, Autistic Son Article

When psychiatrist Elizabeth Reeve needs to unwind and recharge her mental batteries, she heads to the prairie.

Not the wild prairie, but the one she and her husband have painstakingly restored at their weekend home in southeastern Minnesota.

“It’s therapeutic — an opportunity to get outside and think in a different way,” she said.

She loves walking its five gently rolling acres and seeing what’s blooming and growing.

The prairie helps Reeve maintain the balance she needs to juggle a very full life. In addition to her practice, which focuses on autism and other developmental disabilities, she recently was named Minnesota’s Psychiatrist of the Year by her peers and published a book, a survival guide for kids with autism spectrum disorders and their parents.

It’s a subject Reeve knows not just clinically but personally, from raising an autistic son herself. Born during her residency, he’s now 24 and lives at home.

“Having a disabled adult child changes your perspective — it changes the whole plan,” Reeve said.

In a way, that changed plan helped lead Reeve’s family to the prairie. “We were looking for land to build on when we retired,” she said. “My son doesn’t drive. He has to live in an urban environment because he takes the bus. The long-term plan is he’ll have the house (in Minneapolis) and we’ll retire down here.”

Reeve and her husband, Mark Conway, alpine-ski-racing coach for the Minneapolis school district, were driving in the rural area when they saw a “for sale” sign. They liked the 1995-built house with its post-and-beam construction, and the 20 wooded acres surrounding it. The previous owner, who built the house, had already started a prairie restoration on what used to be a cornfield.

Reeve, an avid gardener, and Conway decided to buy the land and continue the restoration. Their work includes “burns,” torching the landscape to eliminate non-native plants. “The natives have deep roots; they’ll come back, but the noxious weeds are superficial,” Reeve said.

“You need a crew, so it doesn’t get out of control,” Reeve said. “The first year I was absolutely terrified. Afterwards it looked like a lava field.”

It was hard to imagine that the scorched earth would ever support life again. But before long, native plants began to reappear, denser and more vigorous than ever.

Last year, the couple did a second burn and Reeve took part, donning a firefighter’s suit, laying a “water line” around the perimeter, then using a flamethrower to ignite the landscape.

The two prairie burns have transformed their landscape dramatically, Reeve said. They now have 50 to 60 native species, including wildflowers, native grasses and medicinal plants.

“We’ve worked really hard to expand the diversity,” Reeve said.

She also harvests seeds, drying them and scattering them to produce more native prairie plants.

Reeve is fascinated by the variety of native species now thriving on their land. She points out a compass plant, so-named because it orients its leaves to point north-south, and a purple hyssop. “If you smell the leaves, they smell like licorice,” she said. When she finds a new one, she marks it with a little flag. “So in theory, I can find them again,” she said.

When Reeve isn’t tending the prairie, she’s tending their large garden.

“We don’t buy any vegetables,” she said. “There’s nothing better than out-of-the-garden fried red potatoes for breakfast.”

Does she ever, like, relax on weekends?

“This is relaxing,” she said with a smile.

Being outdoors in the natural world restores balance and well-being for their whole family, she said. Her adult son loves splitting wood. Her younger son, Luke, likes playing “Star Wars” on the prairie and helping reseed the native plants, sometimes both at the same time.

Kids, and in particular, kids with ADHD, benefit from being outside, doing physical things, Reeve said, rather than being inside playing with electronic devices all day. “Research shows that lack of (outdoor activity) decreases people’s creativity,” she said. “It’s not rocket science. People who get out and take a walk feel better than people sitting inside all day.”

Spending time in her prairie helped her write her book, she said, and she hopes to write a second. “I want to do a book for high-school students and young adults with autism — helping them live with it,” she said.

Even the drive back to workday reality, on rural roads vs. a crowded rush-hour freeway, is a relaxing transition, she said. “I’m absolutely fresher Monday after being here. It starts the whole week off completely differently.”

Article By Kim Palmer
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Ready To Start Your Own Prairie?

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‘Prairie Therapy’ Soothes Psychiatrist, Autistic Son Article

When psychiatrist Elizabeth Reeve needs to unwind and recharge her mental batteries, she heads to the prairie.

Not the wild prairie, but the one she and her husband have painstakingly restored at their weekend home in southeastern Minnesota.

“It’s therapeutic — an opportunity to get outside and think in a different way,” she said.

She loves walking its five gently rolling acres and seeing what’s blooming and growing.

The prairie helps Reeve maintain the balance she needs to juggle a very full life. In addition to her practice, which focuses on autism and other developmental disabilities, she recently was named Minnesota’s Psychiatrist of the Year by her peers and published a book, a survival guide for kids with autism spectrum disorders and their parents.

It’s a subject Reeve knows not just clinically but personally, from raising an autistic son herself. Born during her residency, he’s now 24 and lives at home.

“Having a disabled adult child changes your perspective — it changes the whole plan,” Reeve said.

In a way, that changed plan helped lead Reeve’s family to the prairie. “We were looking for land to build on when we retired,” she said. “My son doesn’t drive. He has to live in an urban environment because he takes the bus. The long-term plan is he’ll have the house (in Minneapolis) and we’ll retire down here.”

Reeve and her husband, Mark Conway, alpine-ski-racing coach for the Minneapolis school district, were driving in the rural area when they saw a “for sale” sign. They liked the 1995-built house with its post-and-beam construction, and the 20 wooded acres surrounding it. The previous owner, who built the house, had already started a prairie restoration on what used to be a cornfield.

Reeve, an avid gardener, and Conway decided to buy the land and continue the restoration. Their work includes “burns,” torching the landscape to eliminate non-native plants. “The natives have deep roots; they’ll come back, but the noxious weeds are superficial,” Reeve said.

“You need a crew, so it doesn’t get out of control,” Reeve said. “The first year I was absolutely terrified. Afterwards it looked like a lava field.”

It was hard to imagine that the scorched earth would ever support life again. But before long, native plants began to reappear, denser and more vigorous than ever.

Last year, the couple did a second burn and Reeve took part, donning a firefighter’s suit, laying a “water line” around the perimeter, then using a flamethrower to ignite the landscape.

The two prairie burns have transformed their landscape dramatically, Reeve said. They now have 50 to 60 native species, including wildflowers, native grasses and medicinal plants.

“We’ve worked really hard to expand the diversity,” Reeve said.

She also harvests seeds, drying them and scattering them to produce more native prairie plants.

Reeve is fascinated by the variety of native species now thriving on their land. She points out a compass plant, so-named because it orients its leaves to point north-south, and a purple hyssop. “If you smell the leaves, they smell like licorice,” she said. When she finds a new one, she marks it with a little flag. “So in theory, I can find them again,” she said.

When Reeve isn’t tending the prairie, she’s tending their large garden.

“We don’t buy any vegetables,” she said. “There’s nothing better than out-of-the-garden fried red potatoes for breakfast.”

Does she ever, like, relax on weekends?

“This is relaxing,” she said with a smile.

Being outdoors in the natural world restores balance and well-being for their whole family, she said. Her adult son loves splitting wood. Her younger son, Luke, likes playing “Star Wars” on the prairie and helping reseed the native plants, sometimes both at the same time.

Kids, and in particular, kids with ADHD, benefit from being outside, doing physical things, Reeve said, rather than being inside playing with electronic devices all day. “Research shows that lack of (outdoor activity) decreases people’s creativity,” she said. “It’s not rocket science. People who get out and take a walk feel better than people sitting inside all day.”

Spending time in her prairie helped her write her book, she said, and she hopes to write a second. “I want to do a book for high-school students and young adults with autism — helping them live with it,” she said.

Even the drive back to workday reality, on rural roads vs. a crowded rush-hour freeway, is a relaxing transition, she said. “I’m absolutely fresher Monday after being here. It starts the whole week off completely differently.”

Article By Kim Palmer
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Ready To Start Your Own Prairie?

Please Visit Our Website & Let’s Get Started Ion Exchange, Inc.

2013: Year of the Wildflower Article By National Garden Bureau

Wildflowers are one of Mother Nature’s loveliest gifts. Their changing panorama of colors, shapes, sizes and heights provides delight throughout the seasons. Wildflowers can be used anywhere. In the home landscape they are ideal for creating colorful beds and borders, as well as offering a lower-maintenance alternative for large areas or replacing turf grass. Wildflowers can be planted to cover large, open areas or assist in the recovery of a landscape that has been damaged or destroyed by the actions of people, a natural disaster, or the spread of invasive plants.

WHAT IS A WILDFLOWER?

Wildflower is not an exact term that is well defined. Some people say a wildflower is a plant that was not intentionally seeded or planted and grows without cultivation. Others classify a wildflower as any plant growing without the help of man regardless of the plant’s country of origin. Still others define a wildflower as a plant found in a specific geographic area that was grown from seed or plants also from that area.

Wildflowers and other plants that were growing before European settlement in what we now call the United States, Canada and Mexico are called native plants or indigenous species. Other plants, often referred to as exotics or aliens, were originally brought here from another part of the world. Many exotic species including flowers, grasses, trees and shrubs are among our favorite garden plants. A few, including some wildflowers, have escaped and become established as part of a local environment or naturalized. Some exotic species have even become invasive and are considered noxious weeds that need to be eradicated.

HISTORY OF WILDFLOWERS

Many of our favorite wildflowers have been growing in European gardens for centuries. Even some of our native wildflowers enjoyed more popularity in Europe than in the U.S. where they went unnoticed by gardeners. When early explorers came to North America, they discovered the bounty of plants growing in the New World. They eagerly brought many of these plants back to Europe where they were sought after by gardeners wanting something new and different for their gardens.

During colonial times, ornamental flowers were often grown in the Pleasure Garden or Pleasure-Ground, the designation for the flower garden. President George Washington had flower gardens at his home but most of his written notes were about the trees and shrubs he planted at Mt. Vernon, One native wildflower that Washington did plant and record was Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). He probably grew many foreign or exotic flowers since Washington avidly collected and traded plants with correspondents in Europe.

Cardinal Flower

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President Thomas Jefferson, an avid horticulturist, plant collector and seed saver, grew wildflowers in his garden. He also noted planting Cardinal Flower after it was recommended by his nurseryman friend, Bernard McMahon, who included it in his 1806 book “The American Gardener’s Calendar”, the first horticultural reference for American gardeners. While Cardinal Flower may have been one of the first trendy plants in the New World, it’s interesting that this North American native wildflower was introduced in Britain in 1626, more than 150 years before being mentioned in American references. McMahon noted “Here we cultivate many foreign trifles and neglect the profusion of beauties so bountifully bestowed upon us by the hand of nature.”

Other plants in Jefferson’s garden may have been from the 290 native plants described and collected by Meriwether Lewis during the Lewis and Clark Voyage of Discovery in the early 1800’s. More than half of the plants were new discoveries to white people including Lewis Flax (Linum lewisii) (one of many plant species named after either Lewis or Clark) and Scarlet Globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea). They also described Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata) and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Informal and wildflower gardens became fashionable with the publication of The Wild Garden in 1870 by England’s William Robinson who described them as “a delightful feature of a place”. This style of garden contrasted with the highly manicured and formal designs that had been popular in American and Europe. Wild gardens featured hardy, herbaceous plants, including both native and exotic species. They were designed and placed where they would thrive with little additional care.

The cottage and old-fashioned gardens of the 1800’s also included a few native perennial wildflowers but mostly focused on designs that included peonies, hollyhocks, phlox, roses, violets and other European favorites. By the end of the 1800’s many landscape designers began to emphasize hardy herbaceous plants in recognition of their lower maintenance. Noted horticulturist and botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey wrote, “The interest in native plants has never been so great as now.”

Wildflowers and native plants have continued to attract attention throughout U.S. gardening history. They are currently experiencing a resurgence in popularity by both gardeners and public officials for their beauty and their valuable contributions to the environment.

WHY PLANT WILDFLOWERS

A garden of wildflowers offers benefits to both the gardener and the environment. Once established, properly chosen wildflowers require less maintenance than traditional landscape plantings which can mean less watering, fertilizing, pest control and mowing. Some plants have deep root systems that prevent water run off and soil erosion, and enable them to withstand drought. Their growth also brings earthworms and beneficial soil microorganisms to enhance soil health. And colorful blossoms can be arranged into lovely, casual bouquets that brighten the home.

Flowers provide nectar and pollen sources for bees, butterflies and other pollinators, while ripened seeds are a food source for birds and wildlife. Current research suggests that native plants and flowers might be more attractive to native bees than exotic flowers. Even a small area in a garden or landscape planted with wildflowers that bloom at varying times throughout the growing season helps attract and support pollinators.

SOME POPULAR PERENNIAL WILDFLOWERS

Many of these beautiful yet hard-working plants are equally at home in garden beds and borders as they are in larger wildflower plantings and restoration projects. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), and black-eyed or brown-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia triloba and R. hirta) are among the popular wildflowers planted by American gardeners, all of which happen to be native to the U.S.

One of the most admired wildflowers is Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). It is native to the Midwestern prairies and dry, open woods of the Southeast but can be found in gardens from Maine to California because it is fairly adaptable to most types of soil and does well even in dry conditions. Plants flower from late spring to early fall attracting butterflies and bees to the large, purple, daisy-like flowers. After the long-lasting blooms drop their petals, the distinctive seed heads develop and provide food for goldfinches and other birds. (Zones 3-8)

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is native to a large part of the country including the Northeast, Midwest and Rocky Mountain region. Also called Beebalm, the whorls of pink to lilac colored flowers open in summer to attract bees, hummingbirds and a variety of other pollinating insects. It gets the name Wild Bergamot from the aromatic leaves that have a scent reminiscent of the bergamot orange tree of Europe. Monarda had many medicinal uses to the Native Americans. Today the leaves are often used to make tea. Plants do best in dry open areas and woodlands but can grow in moist soils as long as they are well drained. (Zones 3-9)

Eastern Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) despite its species name is native to the East and Midwest U.S. as well as eastern Canada. It is one of about 30 species of Columbine found in North America. Columbine is often found in a shady woodland setting though they have a deep taproot that enables them to grow in dry sites. The colorful red and yellow flowers that open in spring and summer are a favorite of hummingbirds. Blue Columbine or Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea) has beautiful blue and white flowers and is one of the many columbines found in the western U.S. It is the state flower of Colorado. (Zones 3-9)

New England Aster (Symphyotricum novae-angliae, previously Aster novae-angliae) is a favorite of many gardeners for the beautiful violet-purple flowers that cover the plant in fall. Its native range is from New England all the way west to the Rocky Mountains and as far south as Tennessee and North Carolina. Plants grow best in areas with full sun and moist but well-drained soils. Valuable in the garden and any wildflower planting for its late season color, New England aster is also a nectar source for Monarch butterflies as well as attracting native bees and pollinators. (Zones 3-7)

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is perennial in its native California but grown as an annual in colder climates. Spanish explorers who saw the California hillsides covered with the golden orange poppies called the area the Land of Fire. It was introduced into European gardens in the 1830’s. California Poppy has golden-orange, silky, saucer-shaped flowers that open during the day and close at night or on cloudy days. Plants bloom best in the cool weather of spring and fall. In mild climates it will bloom several times during the year. In colder climates, it may self-seed in the spring and flower again in the fall. California Poppy is the state flower of California. (Zones 8-10)

While some perennial wildflowers adapt to a range of growing conditions and will grow throughout the U.S., other wildflowers prefer a specific region of the country or very specific environmental conditions. Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata) is a delightful treasure with cute, yellow, daisy-like flowers that exude the smell of chocolate in the morning. However, it is native to the dry parts of Kansas, Colorado and south to Arizona into Mexico so it loves hot sun and poor dry soils. Grow it in soil that’s even halfway decent and it gets leggy and flops over. (Zones 5-9)

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja sp.) is another much admired wildflower that seems to grow without care in its native environment that ranges throughout North America depending on the species. It derives its name from the striking orange-crimson spikes that appear in spring and resemble a brush dipped in paint. However, Indian Paintbrush can be difficult to grow from seed and establish in the garden. They are considered hemi-parasitic which means they need to grow in close proximity to other wildflowers and grasses. Indian Paintbrush produces roots that attach themselves to a range of plants that grow nearby to obtain some nourishment. Without these host plants, Indian Paintbrush declines and eventually dies. It is a challenge for even experienced gardeners but could surprise you if planted in the right conditions. (Zones 3-9)

HOW TO GROW WILDFLOWERS

Liberty Hyde Bailey once said “A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”

Growing wildflowers requires the same type of care as traditional ornamental plants. Start with high quality seed and healthy plants. Be sure to select varieties that are suited to your conditions. Wildflowers will grow and bloom best when the environmental conditions meet their requirements. Sun exposure, availability (or lack) of moisture, and soil type all affect plant growth.

HOW TO CHOOSE WILDFLOWERS

Before purchasing seed or plants, think about what you are trying to achieve with your planting. If you want only native wildflowers in your garden find out what is native to your region and what type of growing conditions are needed. Do you want to attract bees and other pollinators or encourage butterflies to visit your garden? Look for plants that produce the type of flowers preferred by these insects. Are you interested in a garden that is filled with color from spring to fall? Choose a mix that has a variety of flowers and bloom times.

Some wildflowers have very specific soil, water, light, temperature and fertility requirements and won’t grow outside of a specific geographic range or set of conditions. Others are easier to grow because they have adapted to a wide range of environments. Does the plant like full sun, partial sun or a shaded location? Does it require constant moisture or will the plant survive periods of drought during the year? Does the plant like rich, fertile soil or does it grow better in a poor soil with lower fertility. Choose plant varieties that are matched to the conditions of your site.

Many types of wildflower mixes are available from seed suppliers. Some mixes contain only native wildflowers and may be formulated to grow in a defined geographic region or climate. Other mixes contain varieties that are both native and exotic. Some mixes have a balance of annual and perennial species to provide fast color and long-term beauty. Other mixes contain mostly annual flowers for a quick-growing wildflower garden. Not all of the wildflowers contained in mixes will grow in every garden but there are usually enough different types in each mix to provide a nice variety. Remember that successful wildflower gardens are created over many years as plants that are best adapted to your garden conditions become established and thrive.

There are many sources available to help you find the best native wildflowers for your garden. The Xerces Society (www.xerces.org) has several fact sheets and publications that suggest good native plants for geographic regions in the U.S. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has an extensive database of commercially available native plants that can be searched to provide recommendations by state (www.wildflower.org). Local native plant societies and government organizations are also good sources of regional information.

PREPARING THE SOIL

The next step in creating an eye-catching field of flowers is to prepare the soil by removing weeds and other unwanted vegetation. If the soil is compacted, till lightly so the soil is loose and germinating seeds can put down roots. A bow rake is great for loosening the top layer of soil. Digging or roto-tilling too deep will bring up weed seeds and other plants that will need to be removed later to avoid competing with the wildflower seeds. While it may not be practical or necessary to amend the soil before planting wildflowers, you can add organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure before planting depending on the site.

PLANTING FROM SEED

Wildflower seed and seed mixes can be planted in either spring or fall. Spring rains help seeds germinate and plants get established before many weeds have a chance to grow. In warm climates, fall is a good time to plant wildflowers when cooler temperatures and winter moisture provide better conditions for seed germination and growth. In cold climates, a dormant seeding of wildflowers can be done in the fall when temperatures are low enough that seed will not germinate until weather warms up the following spring, similar to what happens in nature. Some seeds, especially many of our native perennial wildflower species, need a chilling period to break their dormancy. This is provided naturally by the change in temperatures from winter into spring.

Scatter seeds by hand or with a small spreader. Seeds can be raked into the soil or lightly covered with soil. Water thoroughly right after planting and keep seeds and seedlings moist for about 4-6 weeks. Gradually reduce watering as seedlings develop. Identify and remove weed seedlings as soon as possible since they will compete with wildflowers for water, nutrients and space. For dormant seeding, watering after planting seeds is not necessary.

CARE OF THE WILDFLOWER GARDEN

A wildflower planting just like a colorful meadow created by Mother Nature will look different from month to month and year to year. Annual flowers are more abundant at first because they grow and flower quickly. In following years perennial plants become established and start flowering, in addition to annual flowers that may reseed themselves.

The first year is a time to help wildflowers get established. Not all seeds will germinate right away but may be waiting for the right environmental conditions before they begin to grow. This is especially true with perennial wildflowers so don’t get discouraged or be disappointed if you don’t have that instant flower meadow. For more immediate results you may want to combine seeding wildflowers with planting a few container-grown plants. Plants will quickly get established and compete with weeds that may appear. Be sure to identify and remove weeds when they are small to prevent them from spreading Depending on needs of your wildflowers provide additional water if rainfall is sparse, especially during periods of extended hot temperatures. Avoid cutting flowers after they bloom so they can go to seed. Seed will drop to the ground and spread to fill in your planting.

During the second year, you may see new plants grow from seeds that didn’t germinate the first year. Water if rainfall is not adequate, especially in the spring. Additional water may be needed in the summer during extreme or extended periods of hot weather. Continue to remove weeds as they appear. As wildflowers become established the need to weed should taper off. Fill in bare spots with additional seed or container-grown plants.

After the third year and beyond your wildflower planting should require minimal maintenance. Remove large weeds that may move in. You may want to move plants that have grown too close and are crowding each other. Use them to fill in bare spots or sow additional seed to cover those spots. Additional water may be needed in the summer during extreme or extended periods of hot weather. Fertilizing is generally not required. In a garden setting, you can mulch around established plants with compost or well-rotted manure. Cutting or mowing wildflowers in fall to a height of about 6 inches will keep the planting looking neat and help spread seeds. Periodically disturbing the soil by digging or raking can also help regenerate a wildflower garden by creating good soil contact with seeds that have fallen to the ground.

Some wildflowers, especially prairie plants and grasses, benefit from being burned every few years. Fire occurs in many ecosystems as a way to get rid of woody plant invaders that move into a site as part of natural plant succession. Fire also helps break the dormancy of some seeds and stimulates the growth of other species. However, burning should only be done by someone with the understanding and expertise to do it safely and effectively. In the home landscape mowing, hoeing, digging and other means of soil disturbance can achieve the same goal.

WHERE TO BUY WILDFLOWERS

Gardeners have many choices when creating a wildflower garden. Local nurseries and garden centers sell both seeds and live plants. Retail, Internet, and catalog seed companies sell wildflowers as individual species and mixes. Many seed companies also sell mixes for a variety of special uses—wildflowers for cutting, fragrance, partial shade, attracting butterflies or pollinating insects, and more.

Digging plants from the wild is not recommended and might be illegal. State and federal laws protect some native plant species that are threatened or endangered. Collecting seed must be done carefully. Removing too much seed could reduce or destroy a wild plant population.

The National Garden Bureau has several members that sell wildflowers including many North American native wildflowers. Choosing the right plants for your wildflower garden will create a beautiful landscape to be enjoyed for many years.

For More Information

Please consider our NGB member companies as authoritative sources for information. Click on direct links to their websites by selecting Member Info from the menu on the left side of our home page. Gardeners looking for seed sources can use the “Shop Our Members” feature at the top of our home page.

Photos can be obtained from the NGB website in the area labeled “Image Downloads”.

The National Garden Bureau recognizes Janis Kieft of Botanical Interests Inc., as the author of this fact sheet and Gene Milstein and Diane Wilson of Applewood Seed as expert contributors. Photography was contributed by Applewood Seed Company.

This Article “Year of the Wildflower” Fact Sheet is provided as a service from the National Garden Bureau.

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The Birth of a Butterfly You Tube Video by jamesmenful

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2013: Year of the Gerbera Article

Few flowers capture the hearts of people more than Gerbera Daisies since the daisy shape is such a familiar form and is easily drawn by artists of all abilities. Combine the pleasing shape of Gerbera with bright luminous colors and you have an irresistible plant for today’s gardens. Gerbera is an extensive genus and a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). There are approximately 30 species in the wild, extending to South America, Africa and tropical Asia. The meanings of Gerbera flowers come from those attributed to the general daisy family. These meanings include innocence and purity. Daisies are also a classic symbol of beauty. In addition, Gerberas hold an added meaning of cheerfulness, which stems from the assortment of colors available.

HISTORY

Gerbera, as we know it today, is probably originating from crossings between Gerbera jamesonii and Gerbera viridifolia. Both of these species are native to the southern part of Africa, in particular South Africa. The Gerbera genus was classified in 1737 by Gronovius and named after the German botanist, Traugott Gerber, who travelled extensively in Russia and was a friend of Carolus Linnaeus. In 1884 a rich gold deposit was discovered near Barberton, South Africa. Robert Jameson, a Scottish businessman, formed a mining company to search for gold in the Barberton area in the Kaap Valley. Near the mining operation wild Gerbera plants grew in profusion. Mr. Jameson, an amateur botanist, took interest in the wild Gerbera plants and brought some plants back with him when he returned to his residence in Durban, South Africa. These plants would later become known as the Transvaal or Barberton Daisy. The plants were initially given to the local Botanic Garden in Durban and then in 1888 sent to Kew Gardens in England. Only one plant survived the journey but fortunately another botanist, Harry Bolus, had previously sent a large number of plants to Kew in 1886 and suggested naming the species after Robert Jameson. The lead botanist at Kew, Joseph T. Hooker, agreed and soon work began in England on the development of the modern Gerbera.

BREEDING

In the beginning of the 20th century, the breeding of Gerbera accelerated when a large range of crosses were made by Adnet in France and Lynch in England. However, during the two world wars, not much breeding was done but in the early 1970’s the breeding of Gerberas accelerated again. Cut Gerbera were the main interest but Gerbera for bedding use were developed. Then in the late 1970’s breeding of potted plants began.

The first gerbera for potted plant usage began with the release of Gerbera jamesonii ‘Happipot’, an open pollinated series bred by Sakata Seed Corporation, in Yokohama, Japan. ‘Happipot’ was available in five colors and was a big hit with consumers who had never seen daisy-type flowers in colors other than white. In the early 1990’s Sakata improved on the ‘Happipot’ series with the introduction of the world’s first F1 hybrid pot Gerbera series, ‘Skipper’ and ‘Tempo’. ‘Skipper’, was a mini type for 4-inch/10 cm. pots and ‘Tempo’ was bred for slightly larger pots.

In the late 1980’s Daehnfeldt Seed Company, based in Odense, Denmark, raised the bar with the introduction of Gerbera ‘Festival’ series. ‘Festival’ offered bright colors and in an expanded color range. Initially, all Gerbera were available with green centers but in the mid-1990’s Daehnfeldt released varieties with dark centers which added a new dimension Gerbera, which increased appeal. Additional flower forms, such as semi-double and spider types, were later introduced to pique the consumer’s interest and offer her more beautiful flower forms.

FLOWER FORMS

Gerbera species bear a large flower head with rayed petals in pink, orange, yellow, gold, white, red, cream and bi-colors. The center of the flower is either green or black. The flower head has the appearance of a single flower but is actually composed of hundreds of individual flowers. Gerbera flowers are diverse and their flower heads range from 2.5 to 8 inches/6–20 cm. in diameter.

Single flowers: The main class of flowers is the single type with two layers of flower petals.

Semi-double flowers: The semi-doubles are often seen in cut flower types and some series of pot types. Semi-double flowers have extra rows of mini petals around the center eye, giving the blooms added bulk and interest.

Double flowers: Unique full flowers have 5-7 layers of flower petals that completely cover the flower head.

Spider flowers: Featuring a unique flower form with thinner and more pointed flower petals resembling sea urchins.

CUT FLOWERS

Many consumers have their first encounter with Gerbera as cut flowers since Gerbera is the fifth most used cut flower in the world (after rose, carnation, chrysanthemum, and tulip). Gerberas as cut flowers offer a rich color palette and beautiful flower forms from single to semi-double.

VEGETATIVE INTRODUCTIONS

Originally, pot type Gerberas were grown from seed This changed when an outdoor patio type from tissue culture called Gerbera jamesonii ‘Giant Spinner’ was introduced. It offers enormous pink & white flowers (8-inches/20 cm.) with a vigorous plant habit suitable for 10-inch/25 cm. pots. Additional vegetative lines from tissue culture soon followed. Florist de Kwakel B.V. introduced the ‘Landscape’ Series, a cross between potted Gerbera and cut flower types, with large flowers targeted for patio pots and large tubs. These larger flowers met a consumer need for home grown Gerbera cut flowers. The ‘Garvinea’ series is another recent introduction that has a more botanical-look with an abundance of smaller flowers on disease resistant plants.

HOME GROWING

It is not surprising that consumers would want to enjoy Gerberas in mixed containers throughout the summer growing season. Gerberas do well outdoors if given the proper care and conditions.

Media: Plant in coarse and well-drained media that is slightly acidic pH 5.5 – 6.5. A high pH results in iron chlorosis characterized by yellow striping of the upper foliage. A pH below 5.5 causes excess manganese to accumulate in the lower foliage characterized by black spotting or patches.

Exposure: Gerberas require morning sun in warmer southern climates and full sun in cooler northern locations. Do not plant them against a brick wall or near surfaces that reflect intense heat.

Moisture: Water early in the morning to allow rapid drying of foliage. Allowing moisture to remain on the leaf surface overnight invites diseases like powdery mildew.

Fertilizer: Incorporate a slow release fertilizer into the media and supplement with a liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks.

Flowering: Gerberas flower based on the amount of light the plant receives into its center. Remove excess foliage from the center throughout the season to maximize light penetration and flower production.

Diseases: Gerberas are subject to various root rots so allowing the media to dry slightly in between watering aids in keeping the root system healthy. However, do not allow the plants to wilt severely as it damages the root system making it more susceptible to fungal pathogens.

Powdery Mildew appears as whitish spots that quickly spread until the entire leaf surface is covered. The white powdery growth is a fungus that over time becomes gray to tan/brown felt like patches. Leaves may become stunted, curled, chlorotic and eventually wither and dry up.

Conditions of moderate temperatures and high humidity (>80%) help develop the disease. Under warm days and cool nights water condenses on the leaves allowing spores to germinate. Mildew pathogens are host specific and the mildew that attacks Gerbera Daisies will not spread to melons or zucchini.

Prevention and control

The use of baking soda is a kitchen-remedy that helps control powdery mildew but will not eliminate it.

Mix 1 tablespoon each of baking soda and horticultural oil (dormant oil/vegetable oil) or a few drops of liquid soap to 1 gallon of water. Spray weekly making a new mix each time. It will not eliminate the disease but helps to control it. Be sure to water the plants the day before and do not apply in full sun. As always testing the plant’s sensitivity by applying to a small area first is best.

Neem Oil is also effective in controlling infections of powdery mildew. Mix 1 oz (2 tablespoons) of Neem oil and an approved spreader sticker or a few drops of dishwashing soap to one gallon of water. The spreader sticker causes the solution to form a film on the leaf surface as opposed to droplets. Spray once a week for two weeks. A rotation of Neem oil and baking soda is the safest control method.

If using commercially available fungicide sprays, always follow label directions to make sure the product is approved for specific plants. Early detection works best. Once the disease takes hold, it is difficult to control.

Cultural preventatives

remove the infected leaves
do not crowd the plants
provide good air circulation
keep plants well watered and stress free
grow resistant plants when available
avoid excess nitrogen application as succulent new growth is more susceptible.
Insects: There are several insects that attack Gerberas including aphids, whiteflies, thrips, spider mites and leaf miners.

Aphids are insects that eat the sap from gerbera daisy leaves, which causes the leaves to turn yellow. Ladybugs and spiders are the aphid’s natural predators. You can spray a soap solution on the leaves of the gerbera daisy to keep aphids away, or apply an insecticide for aphids from your local garden supply store.

Whiteflies also eat plant juices and saps, and lay eggs on the underside of the leaves. The best way to control whiteflies is spraying insecticide not only on the top, but on the underside of each leaf of your gerbera daisies. You should also avoid planting healthy plants next to infected ones.

Thrips cause damage by eating leaves and also act as vectors bringing diseases from other plants they have previously eaten. Thrip infestation can also cause the flowers of the Gerbera daisy to have a distorted shape. Green lacewings are a natural predator, or you can use a soap shield to get rid of thrips.

Spider mites damage gerbera daisies by sucking the sap from their leaves to the point where the leaf yellows or even drops off. Like many other gerbera daisy pests, the predators for spider mites include lady bugs and pirate bugs.

GROWING GERBERAS FROM SEED

Most gardeners find it easy and convenient to purchase finished plants at the garden center. However, growing Gerberas from seed is a fun exercise for the entire family and allows the hobbyist to order some unique varieties not readily available at garden centers. Below are some basic tips to consider when deciding if this is worth doing.

Select a lightweight, sterile and well-drained media consisting of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. The soil should retain sufficient moisture to germinate the seed but not be saturated. Optimum pH is 5.8-6.2.
Place the media in flats or pots that have drainage holes. Make shallow rows in the flats about twice the depth of the seed’s diameter and cover lightly with extra media or coarse vermiculite. Another option is to use peat blocks or Jiffy pots but be sure to guard against planting too deep.
Moisten the media thoroughly but do not oversaturate so that water does not ooze when pressed with your thumb.

Cover the flats with a clear plastic germination dome or clear plastic wrap and place about 18 inches/46 cm. under fluorescent lights.
Check the flats daily to ensure that there is sufficient moisture and do not allow the media to become dry, especially when Gerbera seeds are beginning to germinate.

Once seedlings emerge and the cotyledons are up and lying flat, allow the media to dry down in between watering. A lack of oxygen at the root level results in gnarled and stunted seedlings. Transplant as seedlings begin to touch to avoid stretched and spindly plants.

Gerberas do best with a calcium nitrate-based fertilizer that also contains some magnesium. Formulations such as 15-5-15 Cal/Mag at 150-200 ppm Nitrogen are ideal. Alternate as needed with an acidic formulation such as 20-10-20 to control the pH. A pH above 6.2 results in microelement deficiencies, especially iron and boron. A pH below 5.5 increases uptake of manganese with black spotting beginning on the lower foliage. Supplemental applications of magnesium applied every 14 days promote healthy green plants. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate) into 1 gallon of water or combined with a gallon of fertilizer solution. Professional fertilizer formulations are available at some garden centers or may be purchased on line.

Provide light up to 14 hours per day. Lighting longer than 14 hours causes excessive plant stretching.

Gerberas flower based on the amount of light received into the plant crown. Depending on conditions, flowering occurs in 18-20 weeks from sowing. A hobby greenhouse or sunny windowsill that provides higher light levels will hasten plant development and flowering.

Article Is From the National Garden Bureau, Inc., Website

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