Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Johnson Grass

This plant seems to be able to infiltrate my "grass island" every year. It sneaks in among the pampas, zebra and other ornamental grasses and is fully grown and unseen at times. Patches of johnson grass in the field in late summer provide a beautiful purple haze background for other blooming weeds. The botanical name means sorghum from Halepa, the area of Syria from which it is thought to have originated. It can be used for hay or pasturage for cattle and can be fatal to cattle if consumed after the leaves have been frozen. Cut hay and silage need to be cured for six weeks before being used.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tussock Moth

This white-marked tussock moth caterpillar was taking a walk on the back gate so I grabbed a leaf for him and set him on a post. I think he is just delightful, every time I see one I think of the little truck that sweeps the streets in town. Take a larger look at him and see those brushes on his lower sides. He has a lot of interest going for him at this stage of his life, as a moth he is a dark gray with tan and black mottling. He feeds on the foliage of trees and shrubs and will pupate in a cocoon spun of silk and hair attached to bark, tree branches or other supports.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Smooth Parasol Mushroom

After days and days of rain what did we expect? Mushrooms and fungi! These little beauties were poking their very white and smooth heads out of the grass. This is one of the many lawn mushrooms and they grow very well when the lawn is too wet. Most people don't want them in their lawns and eradicate them but they are actually beneficial to the lawn by helping to break down organic materials which add nutrients to the soil. Most of the mushrooms found in our lawns and gardens are not poisonous but never eat a raw mushroom unless you know it is okay to do so. If you click on the picture showing the top of the mushroom you will see some very tiny insects on the edge. Unfortunately I did not see them when I was taking
the picture or you would have a close up of them. I also wanted to show the gills under the cap. Oh, the things the rains brings. Little wonders to delight us like the smooth parasol mushroom.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fleabane

There are several varieties of fleabane and all are members of the aster family. They are found across the United States and Canada. It blooms early summer through September in Kentucky. Some varieties have pink flowers and hybrids are available at nurseries in other colors. With their small daisy-like appearance they are beautiful as a display on their own or provide interesting "filler" for floral arrangements.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cicada Killer

The Cicada Killer Wasp is nearly two inches in length and digs holes in lawns, gardens, flower beds and other sunny places. This is a solitary wasp and not like the social wasps such as hornets, yellow jackets and paper wasp. To construct a burrow the female wasp uses her mouth to loosen the soil and then kicks it out into a u-shaped pattern around the entrance. She digs six to ten inches deep and sometimes six inches horizontally. The female uses her sting to paralyze a cicada and then takes it to her burrow. At the end of the burrow are three to four cells, each has one or two cicadas placed in it with one egg. A single burrow can have ten to twenty cells. The female rarely stings humans and the male who is aggressive in defending the nest area has no sting at all. You will see this wasp in late July and they are usually gone by mid August. They took an area in the front corner a few years back and I let them have it, just mowed around it for a few weeks. I didn't know at first what they were and their size is impressive.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dogday Harvestfly

The Dogday Harvestfly is a member of the cicada family and is known for it's song, which is compared to a circular saw cutting through wood. The body is approximately one and one quarter inches long and the wingspan can exceed three inches in width. It takes three years for the cicada nymph to mature. During this time it is living underground feeding off the juices of tree roots, mostly of pine trees. Once mature and above ground the adult does not eat. A new generation hatches each year in the same area. The name is taken from the time of the year it is seen, during the hot"dog days" of summer. Photo by Shannon Gritton.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Honeyvine Milkweed

Honeyvine Milkweed has heart shaped leaves, shiny seed pods and white, vase shaped flowers that bloom in clusters of five. The vine grows ten to twenty feet in length and when the seed pods are mature they split open to release brown oval seeds that have a tuft of silky hair attached to one end. I helped to release a lot of these seeds as a child. It has been recommended by beekeepers as a good source of pollen for honey production. Monarch butterflies will feed on this plant although it does not have the milky sap like that of common milkweed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Broom Sedge

Broom Sedge is a familiar plant in Kentucky. It grows in pastures and along roadsides. It is green to pale green in color during the growing season and the leaf blades are flat and tapered. It has spike like clusters that are narrow with a protruding hairy bristle. To see the colorful beauty of this plant, wait for a wintry day and pull the stem from one of the sheaths to see colors that range from yellow to copper to bright orange red. To make a broom, tie large handfuls of the stems together, beat out the hairy spikelets and trim the edges, it's ready to use. The "hay man" tells me if I have broom sedge growing, I need to lime the field.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Green Heron

This Green Heron is just one of the "fishermen" at the pond. The green heron is classified as a common, stocky, wading bird. It stands 15-18 inches high and is found along creek banks, ponds, marshes and lake edges across most of North America. It is a tool using bird. It will drop it's bait, insects, earthworms, feathers, berries, onto the surface of the water and then grab the small fish that swim too close. It also eats dragonflies, snakes, frogs and small rodents. When fishing it will stand motionless and strike at it's prey by extending it's neck. Their nest is a very loose basket of sticks placed in a small tree, usually over water and if you ever see the nest you will wonder how the eggs can remain in it. He may be classified as common but to me he is a very amazing bird. Photos by Shannon Gritton

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cocklebur

This plant has male and female flower heads. The female heads are the burs and each bur has two seeds inside it. One of those seeds will germinate the following year and the second seed will remain dormant until the second year or even later. The thick yellow sap from this plant has been used as a hair dye. It is poisonous to animals and the burs will clump together in the stomach and intestines. The great virtue of cocklebur is that it led to the invention of Velcro. A Swiss engineer upon finding cocklebur stuck to his pant leg put the burs under a microscope and then found a way to weave nylon so that the hooks on one side grabbed the loops on the other side.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wild Carrot, Queen Anne's Lace, Bird Nest, Bee's Nest


The name, Wild Carrot, comes from the carrot-like taproot. Most of what I have read does not recommend is as tasty eating. It is also known as Queen Anne's Lace and there are stories about a Queen Anne pricking her finger as she was doing her needlework and a drop of blood fell onto a flower cluster, hence the red or purple flower at the center of each cluster. You are seeing the plant here as Bird's Nest or Bee's Nest. When the seeds ripen the flowers contract into the shape of a hollow cup or nest. This young grasshopper has the same coloring as the flower cup and viewed from the top of the flower you most likely would not see him.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ivyleaf Morningglory

Did you know that there are several different morningglorys? They have different shapes of leaves, different colors of flower and some have huge root systems that are edible. The one pictured is Ivyleaf Morningglory. There will be one to five blooms per plant and it blooms June through September. This showy morningglory can be used as an ornamental vine. I think this one seems to be glowing. Click on the picture and tell me if I'm wrong.

Monday, September 14, 2009

White Crownbeard, White Wingstem, Frostweed

I do like this showy wildflower. It always finds a place in and around my pine trees. I prefer the name Frostweed, for the fabulous display this plant gives after the fall season has left us. When this plant has gone to seed and lost it's leaves, the sap in the plant recedes into the roots. On the morning after a hard frost/freeze the stems split and exude the sap that then freezes into fascinating sculpture-like shapes. I can remember the first time I saw this happen and had to go tromping across the field to investigate. Hopefully I will get pictures this year to post. Click on the picture for a larger view.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Great Blue Lobelia, Ladies' Tobacco, Indian Tobacco

This magnificent wild flower is known by several names and has an interesting history. This particular plant was close to three feet in height with bluish to purple flowers touched with white. Lobelia likes moist soil and it was growing along the wet weather creek. It is also known as Ladies' Tobacco and has been smoked as a medicine for asthma and bronchial conditions. Various Native American tribes used it as a sacred tobacco in ceremonies. I did look around for another plant but could not find one. I think it amazing that something so beautiful just grows on it's own. Lobelia can be grown in average garden soil if kept watered.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wild Petunia

This lovely little flower bloom is a wild petunia. They range in color from light blue to violet and sometimes white. They are shaped like cultivated petunias but smaller and the blooms do not flare like regular petunias. It blooms June into September. A few of these plants are growing on the top of the culvert close to the driveway coming to the house. They are growing in an area that receives light shade, but they will do fine in full sun. This is the first year I recall seeing them here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wingstem, Yellow Ironweed

Wingstem, sometimes called Yellow Ironweed, is classified as a wildflower. It likes to grow in moist fertile areas. There are several plants growing along the wet weather creek. Butterflies and bumblebees like this plant. The leaves are bitter and not consumed by the like of deer and rabbit and I am sure that Dug (the ground-hog) won't be bothering them either. Speaking of Dug, he was out for a sunning and a snack this afternoon but scurried back home as soon as he heard me. I know he is fattening himself up for the winter.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Grandoggie Mandy Lynn

Mandy Lynn is a very intelligent Sheltie, and most Shelties are. She is actually my son's dog but came to live with me about a year ago. Shelties or Shetland Sheepdogs are very good companions, love to play and usually get along well with other animals. They like to go for walks and know that you need to go along with them to keep yourself in shape. I walk most every day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Musk Thistle

This is musk thistle and it ranks in the top ten of Kentucky's most troublesome weeds. The flower heads sit atop long stalks and bloom June through September. There are other members of the thistle family growing here as well and they all have prickly leaves. The book, Weeds of Kentucky" states,"raw, peeled stems of musk thistle have a taste similar to artichokes and are tender and flavorful when cooked." I have not tried that, yet. Tourist to this area always ask what this beautiful purple flower is. Another view of musk thistle is used as my profile picture. Photos by Shannon Gritton.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bearded Beggarticks

Bearded Beggarticks look like a flower to be grown in a cutting garden. This plant is under two feet in height and covered with radiant yellow flowers. It blooms August through October. The name Beggarticks comes from the seeds, which will stick to clothing if you brush against the plant. They also stick very well to fur, as the Grandoggies seem to be wearing some type of sticking seed every day now. Be sure to click on the picture for a larger view.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Goldenrod

Goldenrod is a very showy plant that blooms late summer and can be seen in bloom past frost. It grows three to four feet tall. For many years people believed that it was a cause of allergies, but it has been given a reprieve on that sentence. The very name of this plant describes it, golden flowers atop a rod of green. There are roughly one hundred species of goldenrod and thirty of them are known to grow in Kentucky, it is also the state flower for Kentucky. Placing it in a wild garden with wild blue asters would present a beautiful display. Look for them growing along the roadsides.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Indian Strawberry, Mock Strawberry

This pretty little plant is not a true strawberry. The blooms are yellow, the fruit is spongy and not edible. It is from Asia and it works as a ground cover and can even be used in hanging baskets. It is growing around the "little house", which is supposed to be my workshop. There is a wild strawberry (woodland strawberry) and you will know it by white flowers and fruit that is said to be very tasty.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mallow

How truly gorgeous this flower is! It is just one member of the mallow family and this one is a relative to the hibicus. Other relatives include the hollyhock. There are several of these plants growing along the wet weather creek. I think that only common mallow is classified as a weed. I thought it interesting that this one is snowy white and Shannon took a picture in the same group a few days earlier that was pink. They are providing an abundance of beauty without any help from me at all.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Dug



Meet Dug. Dug is the ground-hog in residence. He leads a very idyllic life here. Days are spent munching on the good greens, clover and grass and who knows, maybe an occasional weed. He is getting himself ready for winter. After the first frost he will head into the burrow and spend about three months down below. Did you know that he can swim and climb a tree? He seems to be meditating in this picture but I assure you, he is very alert. He is funny when you see just his head poking out of his hole. And he is watching you and listening to you, just check out those ears. Ground-hogs are also called wood-chucks and I have never figured that one out as the closest thing he would do to wood is maybe nibble on the bark of a tree. Photos by Shannon Gritton.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ironweed

"The corn is as high as an elephants eye" and this Ironweed seems to be singing "anything you can do, I can do better." I have always been impressed by the majesty of this purple beauty. Ironweed normally grows from 3' to 5' tall but this one is an exception and it blooms late August into October. If you live in the eastern United States look for it around lakes and streams and lowland areas. Ironweed is also classified as a wildflower so give it some consideration for a place in the wild garden.






Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Smartweed

This plant is growing at the edge of the pond and there is some in the fence row and down by the culvert. The flower heads can range from white to pink to purple. It has relatives with different names. It can even grow in water and is then called water pepper. Some Smartweeds have a peppery sensation on the tongue and the juice from the plant will create moisture in the eyes, nose and mouth, making them "smart", therefore the name, smartweed.. There is a very long list of medicinal uses for this plant including soaking the plant in vinegar and then wrapping it around the head to cure headache. People have put the leaves into their beds to keep the fleas out. Sure glad those days are gone.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Yellow Nutsedge



My good friend Vicki brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers from her garden yesterday and I commented on the weed she had added. I did pull it up slightly from the bouquet for the picture taking. The weed is Yellow Nutsedge and it does make for a fabulous filler in a bouquet. It has long spiky leaves and look at those flowers (they are called spikelets), now tell me where in the flower blooming world are you going to find one with this much character.
Yellow Nutsedge is also called Northern Nutgrass and is considered to be a troublesome weed. It competes for space in the fields of crops and can reduce the yield of certain crops. Some peoples of the world grow it for it's tubers, which are said to have a taste similar to that of almonds. It can also be cooked, ground into flour and can even make a refreshing drink.