Tag Archives: Nature

Earthyman Responds to a Customers Question on Advice on Planting Butterfly Milkweed : Asclepias Tuberosa Seeds

Question:  Hi.  I recently received 6 packets from you of Butterfly milkweed.  Could you provide some advice on planting?  I have a small flower garden ( full sun,) as well as 15 acres of various prairie plants and grasses. Began as all  switchgrass but I am slowly planting more and more grasses and forbs. Thanks.  Stan

Butterfly Milkweed

Response: Stan, you may start the seeds indoors after you have moist stratified them. Place the seeds in a zip lock back mixed with moist vermiculite. Leave them in a refrigerator for 30 days. Remove and plant in open flats or small pots with sterile soil medium at a depth of 1/8th to 1/4th inch. They must receive considerable light and warmth to adequately develop. Once they have started to form the white root, they can be transplanted to your garden or field. Keep the competition down from weeds and other plants. They prefer well drained to excessively drained soils in full sun. They do well in rocky poor soils with maximum exposure to the sun and wind. If you want to do a dormant seeding, you may spread the seed now or anytime the ground is exposed. Make sure your seeds are not on frozen ground as they may wash away. Wait until the ground thaws and spread your seed but only lightly cover with a sprinkling of soil or compost no deeper than 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Nature can then freeze and thaw offering the best stratification. Once plants are mature, you must be very careful when you attempt to transplant as the roots are very massive and at least 90% of the roots should be dug with plant and immediately transplanted. You should start seeing blooms the second year and thereafter the plants will grow much stronger and have many blooms in the following years. If your plants, for some reason die or disappear the following year after planting, they are probably in a poorly adaptable site for this species.

Thanks,

Howard aka “Earthyman”

To Purchase Butterfly Milkweed Visit our Website at Ion Exchange, Inc.

Helping You Create Your Own Natural Beauty

Howard Bright
800-291-2143
1878 Old Mission Drive
Harpers Ferry, IA 52146

Ion Exchange, Inc Website

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Tiny Climates Article By Earthyman

By Howard Bright, hbright@acegroup.cc

Have you ever thought about how little it takes to change the climate?  Pay attention the next time you walk down a lane, street or natural area.  They all will show you what nature does.  It may sound very simple but did you notice that the temperature dropped 10 degrees beneath the shade of a tree as you stopped to catch your breath on a hot 90-degree day?  Did you ever sit on the south side of hot sunny slope and feel the heat from the sun.  As you walked up the steep slope and down on the other side, you sat down on this north facing slope under a tree and now you actually experienced a chill as the temperature suddenly was reduced and no direct sunlight was found there.

Nature’s plants are finely tuned with these tiny climatic conditions known as microclimates.  That’s why we find plants such as Hepaticas, Snow Trilliums, Harebells and Trout Lilies on north facing slopes.  Ever noticed that the moss grows thick on the north side of a tree?  Ever noticed how your inner self-feelings can change as you face different directions.  Native Americans knew this and recognized the different directions in their everyday rituals in greeting the new day.

Tune your senses to your “tiny climate” and notice what is going on in your world and how easy it is to change your outlook on life.  Happy climate change to you!

Earthyman

http://ionxchange.com/

Wildflowers…Following Nature’s Design

By: Howard Bright aka Earthyman http://ionxchange.com/

In nature, certain species are found growing together and they form a specific community called a “plant community”. Native plants always grow in association with other native plantsto create plant communities that are essentially associations of indigenous species that have evolved over thousands of years and adapted to the specific geography, hydrology and climate of a particular area. The resulting “communities” are really groups of plants that exist together because of the given conditions.

We can use these native plant communities as a prescription from nature in designing our wildflower gardens or landscapes.  There are four broad categories of native plant communities here in the Midwest and hundreds of sub categories as we break each of them down into more specific site conditions.  It is important to recognize which one of the four categories you would like to create or reconstruct.  The four major plant communities of the Midwest are:

  • Prairies
  • Savannas
  • Wetlands
  • Woodlands

In this article, we are only going to discuss the Prairie sub communities.

Within each of these categories we narrow down our site conditions and begin our design of what native species of wildflowers, grasses and sedges will work best for our site. For instance, if we have an open area that gets full sunlight, we have a perfect opportunity to create a “Prairie”.  Within the Prairie Community, we can further break down our site conditions to reflect:

  • Wet Prairie
  • Wet-Mesic Prairie
  • Mesic Prairie
  • Dry-Mesic Prairie
  • Dry Prairie

Now this may sound too complicated for the normal gardener but it really isn’t.  Here are a few tips to allow you to identify where your site fits in.  First of all let’s talk about your soil.  You may say that you don’t know anything about soils and that’s o.k.  You can still come close to what your soil is like by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. When you walk across your site with tennis shoes on, do your feet get wet throughout the growing season?  If so, you can bet this is a site for a Wet Prairie Plant Community.
  2. Is the ground soggy at times but eventually dries out and then becomes soggy again?  This could be a good place to establish your Wet-Mesic Plant Community.
  3. Would your site be a good place for a vegetable garden, not too wet, not too dry with fertile rich soil?  Here I would select a Mesic-Prairie Plant Community.
  4. If you think your site is a little bit on the dry side but not extremely dry, you would choose a Dry-Mesic Plant Community.
  5. If your site is really dry and maybe has no topsoil, maybe rocky or sandy I would choose a Dry Prairie Plant Community.

Now, after you have decided which plant community you want to create, here are some examples of wildflowers and grasses to consider for each community:

1.     Wet-Prairie Plant Community

  • Swamp Milkweed
  • Swamp Aster
  • Turtlehead
  • Boneset
  • Blue Flag Iris
  • Marsh Blazingstar
  • Great Blue Lobelia
  • Monkey Flower
  • Mountain Mint
  • Buttonbush
  • Sneezeweed
  • Sweet Black-eyed Susan
  • Ironweed
  • Joe Pye Weed
  • Riddell’s Goldenrod
  • Blue Vervain
  • Mana Grasses
  • Wool Grass
  • Dark Green Bulrush
  • Bottlebrush Sedge.

2.  Wet-Mesic Plant Community

  • Canada Anemone
  • Sneezeweed
  • Boneset
  • Great St. John’s Wort
  • Wild Quinine
  • Nodding Onion
  • Great Blue Lobelia
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Sawtooth Sunflower
  • Blue Flag Iris
  • Blue Vervain
  • Mountain Mint
  • Swamp Milkweed
  • Prairie Cordgrass
  • Fox Sedge
  • Big Bluestem
  • New England Aster
  • Prairie Blazingstar
  • Marsh Blazingstar

3.  Mesic Plant Community

  • Anise Hyssop
  • New England Aster
  • Partridge Pea
  • Cream Gentian
  • Prairie Blazingstar
  • Foxglove Beardtongue
  • Wild Senna
  • Foxglove Beardtongue
  • Yellow Coneflower
  • Compass Plant
  • Pale Purple Coneflower
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Ox-eye Sunflower
  • White Prairie Clover
  • Purple Prairie Clover
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Canada Milkvetch
  • Prairie Coreopsis
  • Sweet Black-eyed Susan
  • Smooth Blue Aster
  • Golden Alexanders
  • Rattlesnake Master
  • Big Bluestem
  • Indiangrass
  • Little Bluestem
  • Prairie Dropseed
  • Canada Wild Rye

4.  Dry-Mesic Prairie Plant Community

  • Anise Hyssop
  • Sky Blue Aster
  • Smooth Blue Aster
  • Showy Goldenrod
  • White Prairie Clover
  • Purple Prairie Clover
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Stiff Goldenrod
  • Prairie Alum Root
  • Wild Bergamot
  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Ohio Spiderwort
  • Pale Purple Coneflower
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Yellow Coneflower
  • Leadplant
  • Partridge Pea
  • Little Bluestem
  • Sideoats Grama
  • Rough Dropseed
  • Canada Wild Rye

5.  Dry Prairie Plant Community

  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Sky Blue Aster
  • Silky Aster
  • Cream Wild Indigo
  • Partridge Pea
  • Flowering Spurge
  • Showy Sunflower
  • Old Field Goldenrod
  • Alumroot
  • Rough Blazing Star
  • Wild Lupine
  • Spotted Bee Balm
  • Large-flowered Beardtongue
  • Purple Prairie Clover
  • Ohio Spiderwort
  • Hoary Vervain
  • Lead Plant
  • Wild Senna
  • Little Bluestem
  • Side-oats Grama
  • Sand Love Grass
  • June Grass
  • Blue Grama

Remember, nature has these self-made recipes for your wildflower gardens and reconstuction areas.

 To Purchase Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Us At http://ionxchange.com/

Native Plant Communities Of Iowa Article

By: Howard Bright

The Plant Communities of Iowa are vast but we will limit them to four major communities knowing there are many subgroups of these four.  What is a plant community? In nature, certain species are found growing together and they form specific colonies of plants called  “plant communities”. Native plants always grow in association with others to create plant communities that are essentially associations of indigenous species that have evolved over thousands of years and adapted to the specific geography, hydrology and climate of a particular area. The resulting “communities” are really groups of plants that exist together because of the given environmental conditions. 

Why is it important to know about natural plant communities?  It is very important because we can use these native plant communities as a prescription from nature in designing our wildflower gardens or landscapes.  There are four broad categories of native plant communities here in the Midwest and hundreds of sub categories as we break each of them down into more specific site conditions.  It is important to recognize which one of the four categories you would like to create or reconstruct.  The four major plant communities of the Midwest are: Prairies, Savannas, Wetlands and Woodlands.

When the white man drove deeper through the hardwood forest driving westward until they eventually broke through the dark shadows of trees and the shrubs of that forest land and peered out onto the blinding light of the open prairie, it was a sight to behold waving in the wind and appearing as a sea of rolling grasses dotted with the colors of blooming flowers.  Indeed this was a strange land to these new visitors.  Steeping out onto this sea of grass, the pioneer disappeared and kept moving westward.  This land was covered with Buffalo, Elk, Deer, Bear, Cougars, Prairie Chickens, Beaver and all kinds of wildlife.

It wasn’t long before this land was discovered, occupied and changed forever. In the 1800s, Iowans reworked the face of their new state with a speed and to an extent perhaps unparalleled in human history.  At the beginning of the century, a blanket of prairie cloaked three-quarters of this “land between two rivers.”  Pothole marshes dotted the flatter north-central part of the state, while a network of streams laced the rolling hills elsewhere across Iowa.  Dense forests engulfed some valleys in the east and groves of bur oaks climbed out of the river corridors and onto the ridges to form savannas.

Thousands of Native Americans lived on the land, harvesting wild plants and animals, growing crops, and occasionally managing the vegetation with fire.  By 1900, however, Euro-American settlers had claimed nearly all of Iowa’s 36 million acres as farmland. Non-Indian settlement officially began on June 1, 1833, when pioneers first were allowed to claim new land in the 6-million-acre Black Hawk Purchase along the west side of the Mississippi River.  By 1846, when Iowa became a state, census records listed 96,088 people.  The population doubled to 192,914 by 1850 and topped one million before 1870.  In 1900, Iowa had 2.2 million people, compared to 2.9 million people today.  Most lived on the state’s 200,000 farms, working land where 95 percent of the prairie, two-thirds of the woodlands, and most of the wetlands had been converted to agriculture.  This dramatic, swift, almost complete change of diverse prairie to a monoculture of cropland profoundly altered the ecosystem.  Twenty-eight million acres of bluestem, dropseed, compass plants, coneflowers, gentians, and hundreds other species were transformed, in a relative eye-blink, into a patchwork of corn, wheat, oats, hay, and pasture.  Those plots have expanded to the huge roadside-to-roadside corn and soybean fields that we see today.

Before Iowa was settled a map depicts the vegetation that was present around 1850.  Note the majority of the landscape was tall grass prairie.  There were thousands of acres of wetlands, especially in Central and Northwest Iowa.  The Woodlands were confined to the steep areas along streams and in the Driftless area of Iowa.  Rolling and steeper hills were occupied by Savannas.

It only took 60 to 70 years to almost completely change the ecosystem of Iowa.  It is said that this was one of the quickest and largest annihilations of a natural ecosystem.  Oxen with wooden and steel plows developed by John Deere ripped up the prairie sod and crops were planted.

Glacial deposits occurred over the entire state of Iowa during a period of 2.5 million years and as recent as 10,000 years ago.  The only region not affected by glaciations is northeast Iowa where bedrock is exposed in many areas.

A multitude of events were occurring simultaneously during the last glacial period known as the Wisconsian Glacial Age.  Notably, while the older glaciers of the Nebraskan, Kansan and Illinoinian had long retreated and left their heavy loads across the state, a new glacier advanced from the north covering the north central and central pars of the state.  At the same time huge amounts of silt were blowing in from the northwest from the exposed glacial plains due northwest of Iowa’s western border. Loose materials much younger than the bedrock beneath dominate the present land surface across Iowa. These materials consist of sediment originating from ice sheets, melt water streams, and strong winds during a series of glacial events between 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago (Quaternary). This familiar “dirt” consists of pebbly clay, sand, gravel, and abundant silt, which over time have weathered into Iowa’s productive loamy soils. These easily eroded “Ice Age” deposits account for the gently rolling appearance of much of the Iowa (and Midwestern) landscape.

During the Ice Age, glaciers advanced down into the mid-continent of North America, grinding underlying rock into a fine powder like sediment called “glacial flour.” As temperatures warmed, the glaciers melted and enormous amounts of water and sediment rushed down the Missouri River valley. The sediment was eventually deposited on flood plains downstream, creating huge mud flats. During the winters the melt waters would recede, leaving the mud flats exposed. As they dried, fine-grained mud material called silt was picked up and carried by strong winds. These large dust clouds were moved eastward by prevailing westerly winds and were redeposited over broad areas. Heavier, coarser silt, deposited closest to its Missouri River flood plain source, formed sharp, high bluffs on the western margin of the Loess Hills. Finer, lighter silt, deposited farther east, created gently sloping hills on the eastern margin. This process repeated for thousands of years, building layer upon layer until the loess reached thicknesses of 60 feet or more and became the dominant feature of the terrain.

Even though the prairie is gone, it has left us with a black treasure, our soil.  Over the eons of time the plants that grew on the prairie formed the richest soil on this planet.  Millions of acres are blanketed with black earth known as prairie soils.

What makes soils the way they are?  How did Iowa end up being the most fertile land in the world?   A unique combination and interaction of all of these factors formed our soils.  How are the soils of Iowa different?  By changing just one factor, we affect a major change in the soil.

Factors that interacted to form our soils can be simplified to: Parent Material, Climate, Topography, Vegetation, Time and Human Beings.

Soils are conceived, as we are, from our Parent Material.  Parent materials are composed of the raw earth that lays exposed to the elements. Major parent materials in Iowa consist of bedrock, glacial deposits called glacial till, water deposited material or alluvial deposits, and wind blown silt known as “loess”.  In other parts of the world, soils may be formed in volcanic ash or rock.

Climate has a profound effect on our soils as they are influenced by rainfall, temperature, freezing and thawing, sunlight and day length.

The way the land lays called Topography greatly influences our soils.  From the steep hills along river corridors to the level bottomlands, slope of the land can change the characteristics of our soils.

Vegetation and Organisms dramatically affect our soils.  Within a very localized area, we can note the effect of our past vegetation and what influence it has had on soils.  From the deep rich organic prairie soils developed under the influence of the tall grass prairie to the soils developed under a woodland condition depth of topsoil and fertility vary greatly.

We probably forget about a factor that is ever present and that factor is Time.  It is obvious when we think about the sediment deposited by a river or stream, which is in geologic times, is extremely young.  What a contrast when we sit atop a rock out crop that has been exposed for eons of time.  The stream deposited material stays forever young while the bedrock of a long ago sedimentized ocean bottom gets older and older.  Soils can’t hide their age either.

On the recent geologic scene came Humans and they have now joined the forces of soil forming factors.  By plowing, the natural vegetation and protection of the soil has been removed increasing erosion to an alarming rate.  Topsoil is destroyed, texture of the soil, which allows infiltration of water, is altered, soil forming organisms are eliminated, fertility is diminished as organic matter is washed away and soil tilth is destroyed.  Man has and is having his influence on our soils.  Fallow land and row crops now occupy land that was once a lush sponge to absorb water and cleanse it.

Once we understand the importance of our geologic past, recent history and soil forming factors, we can start to put together nature’s puzzle.  This intricate puzzle laid down over the eons is now at our fingertips for those who pay attention.

What other questions do we need to ask to get this right combination of plants that will fit our site?

  • What direction is your site facing, called Aspect?  A north and northeasterly direction may receive much less sunlight on a steeper slope than those facing south or west on the same steepness of slope due to the angle of the sun.
  • Is your site level, rolling or steep?  Slope as a steep south slope may be hot and dry while a steep north slope may be cool and moist.
  • How much Sunlight does your site get?  If it is dense shade versus full sunlight, you will need entirely different plants to suit your situation.
  • What is the condition of the soil in regards to Soil Moisture?  Drainage of the soil can range from saturated to excessively drained.
  • What are the sizes of the particles that make up your soil, called Texture.   It could range from sand to clay which an important characteristic to note as some plants will not tolerate these conditions.  For detailed description of your soils contact your local NRCS office and get a soil survey report of your county.

Absorbing and understanding the characteristics of our landscapes and soils allows us to then classify our sites.  In site classification we will assign a general category to our site based on all the previously mentioned information.  There are basically five sites to consider:

  • Dry
  • Dry Mesic
  • Mesic
  • Wet Mesic
  • Wet

Next we need to decide which plant community we are dealing with.  It may be a pre-existing condition or one that we want to create.  It is usually best to take what nature has given us if we have that opportunity.  However, if you live in an urban area, your site may have been severely altered and you will have to decide what you want to create there.  As mentioned before, we have four categories of plant communities:

  • Prairie
  • Savanna
  • Wetland
  • Woodland

Once the plant community is determined, select the most appropriate species for your plant community.  Now you are using nature’s prescription for success in creating your native wildflower planting.

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Earthyman Article: Behold the Natural Beauty but Don’t Compare or Curse the Burdock

In Western traditions we are constantly comparing one thing to the other.  Which do you like better… brown or blue eyes, basketball or football,  chicken or fish?  Nature did not give us all the glorious scenes to judge one place or species over the other.  Why does one thing have to be better than another?   Think about it.  When we compare or try to make one thing better than another, our minds leave the natural beauty of the entity and go to a place of judgement and diminish the innate qualities of that which is being analyzed.

More examples that nature puts before us to admire but get turned around occur in the plant world.   One such example is the Common Burdock, known as a terrible weed, ugly and a plague for horses’ manes and tails.  Soon, a hatred is built up regarding this plant.  What did “The Great Spirit” have in mind when the Burdock was born into existence?  Certainly it is well equipped to survive as the seed heads cling to any thing that brushes up against it .  It is even more tenacious than velcro which by the way was invented as this natural clinging trait of Burdock was copied by man.  Certainly if we were hungry or starving we could dig the roots of Burdock and survive by eating them.

If we look closely to the flower of the Burdock, it holds its own natural beauty but it is not considered as a prize wildflower possession by any landscaper or gardener.  Truly the beauty is lost as we curse the power that the Burdock has over us.  We wage war against it by digging it, spraying it and killing it anyway that we can.  Can we change these natural traits or is “The Great Spirit” trying to tell us something?  When did we start to complain about this plant?  The more we complained, the more we got.  Right?  Nature’s signs go unheeded and the Burdock serves as a red flag that something isn’t right with the harmony of our use of the land.  As an early indicator, it makes itself obvious as we overgraze our pastures and pay no attention to the overuse of them.  Those who heed the warning sign back away and start treating the land with more respect and the Burdock starts to diminish over time.

Burdock is not less than, more than or uglier than.  It just is, so appreciate your football or basketball for what it is and as we adjust our lives to look beneath the surface and accept all diversity as beautiful in its own light.

Howard Bright

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hbright@acegroup.cc

Pollinator Week Is June 18 – 24 2012 Ion Exchange, Inc. Purchase Your Pollinator Seed Mix Now

Pollinator Week is June 18th to 24th!
Plant a garden that butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees will love as much as you!

http://ionxchange.com/products/POLLINATOR-MIX.html

Product Description

POLLINATOR SEED MIX

 

SPECIES PLS/LB

Big Bluestem 6.53
Golden Alexanders 0.25
Blue Vervain 0.15
Alumroot 0.02
Black-eyed Susan 0.44
Common Mt. Mint 0.01
Common Spiderwort 0.17
Foxglove Beardtongue 0.02
Ironweed 0.12
Maryland Senna 0.80
Fragrant Coneflower 0.10
Great Bue Lobelia 0.01
Purple Prairie Clover 0.15
Hoary Vervain 0.10
Swamp Milkweed 0.29
9.16

Pollination by Native Bees

According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, there are over 4000 species of native bees in the U.S. alone. Bees are the most predominant pollinators of flowering plants in nature, thus contributing a vital service to the ecosystem. Bees are referred to as “keystone organisms” because of this important role.

Some native bees have names that reflect how they build nests—leafcutter bees, mason bees, miner bees, carpenter bees, digger bees, etc.  Others are named for their behavior, which include bumble bees, sweat bees, and cuckoo bees. In addition, some bees are named for the types of plants they pollinate such as squash, sunflower and blueberry bees.

When honey bees are in short supply, the pollination needs of many crops can be filled by native bees. Research reflects that native bees can be major pollinators of agricultural crops and sometimes do the job more efficiently. For instance, the blue orchard bee is a primary pollinator of cultivated apples. Another important crop pollinator is the western bumble bee, which has been used to pollinate cranberries, avocadoes, and blueberries. Native squash bees are major pollinators of cultivated squashes. Some native bees are even commercially managed like honey bees to provide pollination services.   Great news for Iowa native plants and pollinators!

 

CRP Wildlife Food Plots

CRP wildlife food plot options now allow a food plot consisting of all native grasses and forbs.  Unlike traditional grain food plots, now additional pollen and nectar will be available.  Futhermore, a native food plot will not be disked and replanted every year or every other year like the alternative grain food plots. Thus, bees utilizing ground burrows will benefit!

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