Saturday, June 27, 2015

Monthly Native Plant Profile: #3 Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)

(Purple Praire clover, in a landscape setting)

Purple Praire Clover- Dalea purpurea

Purple Prairie Clover promises to be a future staple of Midwestern native plant gardens. Throughout it’s native range, it specializes in low fertility, droughty conditions in which it’s yellowish taproot branches through and underneath the roots of prairie grasses like Prairie Dropseed, Indian Grass, Little Bluestem, and Side Oats Grama. In the prairie the purple stands out amongst a sea of yellow flowers in early-mid summer, attracting many different kinds of native bees and honeybees.

It finds enough water to prosper from the shortgrass prairies of Arizona, to dry soil microclimate prairies in the East. Though, in mature succession of midwestern tall grass prairies, it again finds enough resources to cooperate in-between intensively rooted tall grasses. This means, in average midwestern conditions, plant Purple Prairie Clover in well drained soil of any texture, preferably silty or sandy, and watch it thrive without a drop of tap water. They grow to a height of 12"-16", and shouldn't be cut all the way to the ground as they form a semi-woody crown in the fall that will bud out new growth in the spring. The fuzzy seed heads also give an interesting texture/subject to a wintery landscape, and even more so with snow fall. The bloom period depends on the genotype your seed is grown from. Minnesota genotype as show to bloom in Southwest Ohio Early June through June. While more local genotype from Northwest Indiana Tallgrass Prairie Remnants blooms Early July through July. Always select seed sources closes to your local climate, as noted in a previous blog posts, non-local genotype can be the beginning of many complications ecological and aesthetically. 

Personally I've grown them from seed in 7" plugs, which now in their 3rd full season, have turned into the flowers pictured above, and in the video at the end of this blog post. I found that, they do indeed require no water, and are best appreciated up close, in the foreground paralleling a walkway or entrance. This will be one of the many plants Pioneer Landscapes grows at our Fall Native Perennial Plant Sale. Email to be reminded of the event, via email. 

(Purple Prairie Clover in one of it's natural niches, Somme Prairie Grove Chicago, Illinois)


(Purple Prairie Clover cooperating with native bee species and honeybees in an urban setting)

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Monthly Native Plant Profile: #2 Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

(Black Gum, Center-Background, to right of house)

Black Gum - Nyssa sylvatica 

This tree's native range is throughout the South, Midwest, and into North Eastern America. As the leaves mature, they grow a glossy coating, with delicate texture on numerous, thin branches and twigs. Black Bears as well as songbirds utilize the fruit where possible.

Black Gum isn't the strongest grain of wood available amongst our natives, but its growth habit lends itself to be safe next to 2-3 floor homes. Topping out at 50' in most conditions, the tree more so grows wide in a pyramidal tree formation. These means, unlike some of high and heavy branching native trees such as Hickory (Carya sp.), and Oak (Quercus sp.), this one is less likely to severely damage a home if a branch does break in a storm and contact the house. 

In the Cincinnati Metropolitan, Black Gum thrives naturally in sub 6.5 ph soils. In fact, when seen in local forest composition, Pioneer Landscapes uses Black gum as an acidic soil indicator when associated with other acidic soil obligates such as Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) or Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava). This doesn't mean these trees won't grow in landscape conditions in a ph higher than 6.5, it just goes to say that it hasn't been seen to naturally occur locally in forest compositions under those conditions. 

Black gum grows slow in drier, clay heavy soils, but is adapted to them. In fact, Black Gum doesn't care to much about water availability or soil texture ranging from high ridge conditions in sandy soils atop the Appalachian Mountain range, to high water table saturated conditions in clay soils in the glaciated plains of Southwest Ohio. What those two environments have in common are acidity, therefor that seems to be what allows Black gum to thrive without assistance from humans. It is also intermediate in shade tolerance reproducing in the understory of mature Sugar Maple-Beech forest types as a minority species. 

Doug Tallamy, has compiled data on 26 different moths and butterflies that use Black Gum and the Nyssa genus as host plants. If you're looking to brighten your yard, or choose an adapted tree for your sub 6.5ph soil type, consider black gum for its wildlife attributes, and natural beauty. 

(Plant a black gum from a sapling today, and 10-15 years from now.....)

(One of it's most shocking attributes is the burgundy fall color, exhibited in local genotype)

To learn more about the soil relationships with native trees, please email to register for our upcoming (June 20th, 21st, and 27th (9:30-12:30)) "Seeing Forests from the Soils" workshop. See details here.

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Also see our main website here

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Monthly Native Plant Profile: #1 Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)

Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)

This is one native shrub, that doesn't disappoint bird watchers, lay-gardeners, or native plant enthusiasts. The glossy dark green foliage stands out when in direct sunlight complemented by a textured ruffled appearance. It is often noted that the straight  growing pattern of the stems were utilized by Native Americans as arrow shafts, from which its name is derived. 

As is the case with most plants from the Viburnum genus, these shrubs respond well to rejuvenating pruning  making them a versatile plant for the formal or naturalistic home landscape. In their maturity they'll easily reach 10' tall, but can be maintained through proper pruning to as short as 4' in a horticultural setting.  They thrive in sub 6.5 ph soil, of which the Cincinnati Metropolitan has plenty of thanks to our glacial imports, upon which they occur naturally especially on the Illinoian till plain, associated with high water tables and the Pin Oak-Green Ash-Red Maple forest type. Riding around parts of Warren County, Eastern Hamilton County, and Clermont County you can see this shrub here and there, amongst seas of bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), though it outcompetes Bush Honeysuckle in the understory/edge of the aforementioned Pin Oak-Green Ash-Red Maple forest type depending on the water table (my hypothesis).

Local genotypes of Arrowwod bloom from Early May through May, then quickly sets berries to be mature by August for migrating birds to utilize. According to Doug Tallamy's studies, the Viburnum genus supports at least 97 species of native Moths/Butterflies as a host plant, who's caterpillars are instrumental in moving energy up the food change as they're the predominant species that can consume the vegetation. 

If you're interested in planting for wildlife attraction/support, and/or beauty, consider this shrub as a possible foundational backbone of your planting.

(Arrowood is adapted to growing on wood edges, partially shaded conditions, and in the open.)

(Leaves can turn a soft pink, while the berries remain a rich blue coveted by native birds in the fall.)

Follow Pioneer Landscapes on Facebook to receive Monthly and sometimes weekly educational video clips, pictures, and profiles on native plants and their habitats including these Nature In Humanity blog posts. 

Also see our main website here