Sunday, May 22, 2022

Native Plants for Wildlife: Details, Details

I was easy to convince that native animals and the plants they depend on are declining, hit by the double whammy of land development and competition from introduced species. DougTallamy's solution--that we all grow some native plants in our yards and foster native animals by tolerating insect damage --birds eat insects! -- also made sense to me. (See more on the logic: link). Thus, I reviewed my yard and found a few natives, but many more garden plants introduced from Eurasia, as well as a nice collection of exotic weeds. So I resolved last winter not to add any plant that wasn't native (for a while at least) and replace plants that died with natives. 

yard photo
The photo has several natives but as many nonnatives

Those were better as resolutions than as reality. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Beautiful, Invasive Dame's Rocket, Hesperis matronalis

Dame's rocket (Hesperis matronalis mustard family, Brassicaceae) is an obvious garden plant with its bright red-purple flowers. But it grew so well in North America it is now on noxious weed lists across the U.S.
dames rocket, Hesperis matronalis
dames rocket, Hesperis matronalis

Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Less Aggressive Iceplant, Sea-Fig, Carprobrotus chilensis, in California

I wrote last week about highway iceplant, Carprobrotus edulis (link). In 1970 as a new graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, I chose to write a paper about it. I had an Anthropology-Zoology major and writing a paper about a plant for Botany Department professor Herbert Baker was well out of my comfort zone. It is true, as I indicated last week, that I seized on iceplant as conspicuous, but there was more to it. During breaks, my roommates and I explored California, especially the coastline. I saw icesplant hanging off the cliffs at the edge of the Pacific and enjoyed incorporating my observatioins and photos into my assignment. Botanists go interesting places, for work.

Carpobrotus chilensis
Iceplant, Carpobrotus chilensis, California coast 1970
There's a pink flower in the center, 1/5 of the way down

Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Aggressive Highway Iceplant, Carprobrotus edulis, in California

Visiting coastal California, you can't miss iceplant (Carprobrotus edulis). It grows in big patchs of pointy green fingers, covering the ground in a monoculture. Probably every visitor and resident in California gets to know it. In 1970, I was a new graduate student taking a Genetic Ecology course  at the University of California, Berkeley, from Herbert Baker. He assigned a research paper about a plant. I had no idea what I was doing. I saw iceplant and chose that for my project. 

highway iceplant, Carprobrotus edulis
highway iceplant, Carprobrotus edulis

So I go way back with iceplant. Iceplant is from South Africa. It was brought to California a hundred years ago and widely planted to stop erosion. It did that pretty well, and was an easy, low maintenance plant, so roads departments and parks, and people generally, planted it all over the place. In 1970 it was very widespread and people were just starting to wonder if that was good thing.

iceplant in Berkeley 1970
Iceplant on the Berkely campus 1970 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Scarlet Flax, Linum grandiflorum, Spectacular!

Scarlet flax, Linum grandiflorum, flax family Linaceae, is a short plant with bright red flowers. I have admired it for years; last year I planted it. 

scarlet flax, Linum grandiflorum
scarlet flax, Linum grandiflorum 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Yard Plants in Monterey, California

I was in Monterey, California this week. I walked residential streets oogling the plants. Exotic plants with huge cascades of flowers, from places like Australia and South Africa. In full flower in April. And then I realized what I wasn't seeing: grass lawns.

Pride of Madeira, Echium candicans
Pride of Madeira, Echium candicans

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Native Plants for Wildlife: How to Know a Plant is Native?

As I wrote two weeks ago (link), I'm trying to support birds by growing plants that produce insects for them to eat. The evidence is strong that native plants will support the insects that live around us and that most exotic plants will not. 

BUT, to feature native plants in my yard, I have to know what plants are native. Or, alternatively,  know which of the plants in my yard are not native. That is suprisingly hard. 

garden flowers