This marvelous display of July 4th color and majesty is from KeaNeato!’s post. It may be a day late on my blog, but beautiful just the same.
Posts Tagged ‘native plants’
Ok, so I admitted it in my last post – some of my favorite friends are trees. But please, if you’re one of human friends, don’t take it too personally. I have separate categories for my “friends” and the human category comes before the non-human.
My second most favorite tree is the red maple (acer rubrum). It along with the sugar maple (acer saccharum) top the list of ornamental native maples prized for both the shade and fall color they provide. While sugar maples provides us with all that lovely sugar maple syrup, the species has been hard hit by acid rain, and you can find numerous examples of trees that have taken a real hit over the last few decades. However, the red maple is a hardy tree that can withstand all sorts of punishment.
The four I’ve planted on my property provide passive solar protection to my home and driveway by shading them during the summer heat, and letting the sun through during the winter months. Now some get confused when I talk about red maples and envision their crimson-colored cousins, the norway or crimson king maples. In fact, the red maple is named so because its stems are a bright red color. It’s leaves in fact are green.
Of course the thing that is most attractive about the red maple is its fall foliage. While the sugar maples present a display of striking gold and orange, the red maple foliage is a combination of yellows, oranges, reds, and purples.
During my travels in Northern Thailand I was joined by others in assessing the micro and agricultural business opportunities for the Ahka people of Northern Thailand.
Until only a few years ago, there were not even roads leading to many of these villages, but a commitment on the part of King of Thailand (an avid agriculturalist himself) has lead to roads, electricity and communications systems being provided. In addition, the Thai government has invested a lot of time and effort to improve farming methods and opportunities for remote tribal peoples. However, many simply work as migrant tea harvesters. This does not provide enough to retain the youth of the communities, nor sustain their way of life.
I contacted an old friend Larry who has a couple of Ph.Ds in agriculture and has worked with various organizations including the Peace Corp in Honduras, Vietnam, Thailand, Bulgaria, and among the Navaho in the United States. In addition to being an astute biologist/horticulturalist, he has an amazing ability to quickly learn some of the world’s most difficult languages. Currently Larry works as a consultant and educator with ECHO in Fort Myers, Florida.
I explained the situation to him and here is some of his response:
Actually, tea is a good long-term, sustainable crop. The Vietnamese almost always plant tea or coffee and high-value fruit crops to have a regular cash income (they pick and cash in tea each day, using the money to go to the market!). Then they look at new crops and agricultural systems to augment their lives.
The Royal Thai Government has had a number of agricultural programs in the hills introducing farmers to fruit crops, tea, coffee, rubber and now African oil palm. My friend Rick, located in the highlands, has a better handle on some of those details that might be appropriate for your folk.
Other crops to consider for sustainable living might include perennial vegetable crops such as katuk (pak wan baan, in Thai), pak wan bah, dtamleung (ivy gourd – grows wild in many places), shallots (hawm daeng), garlic (gratium), moringa (marung) and asparagus (naw-mai farang). In addition, a myriad of medicinal plants grown in the area.
Fruit is also a good investment, even though it seems everybody plants and sells strawberries in the north. However, another fruit to consider might include citrus, avocado, lichee, longan, jack fruit, bread fruit. It might be too cold, but if the temp stays above 40 degrees F, mangosteen and durian are good crops too. The small Chinese tangerine that is common right now in all the markets is one that is currently imported for the most part, but I think would do well as a crop produced here. It would probably be best to seed them and then graft them to local root stock.
I’d be interested if anyone else has thoughts, resources or suggestions.
Last May I had the opportunity to hear Douglas Tallamy speak at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne. The lecture was sponsored by the Little River Wetland Project, of which I’m a member, and focused attention on the need to plants that sorts of things that will sustain the eco-systems in your area.
Tallamy is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, where he has written more than 65 research articles and has taught insect taxonomy, behavioral ecology, and other subjects. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities.
Doug won the Silver Medal from the Garden Writer’s Association for his book, Bringing Nature Home.
Over the years, I’ve been guilty of putting out bird seed to attract birds and thinking the things such as butterflies bushes are what these “lepridopterae” to my garden. While seeds and succulents are edible and I suppose appreciated to some degree, the truth is that both bird seed and the nectar of flowering shrubs are more a “dessert” than the main course. What birds are most interested and attracted to are insects, and what butterflies seek is the proper habitat for reproduction. However, if your plantings are from Europe and Asia – good luck attracting either.
That said, it begins to make sense that non-native plantings do little for local insects, butterflies and birds. According to Tallamay, ecologists suggest three reasons most native insects cannot, or will not, eat alien plants.
- There is no such thing as a “random sampling” of plants that have been imported, but instead they represent a subset selected because of their unpalatability to insects. That is to say, we consumers go for the “pest free” versions.
- Second, it takes time – long evolutionary time spans rather than short ecological periods – for insects to adapt to the specific chemical mix that characterizes such plants.
- Third, native insects are specialist and tend to eat only plants with which they share an evolutionary history – the Monarch butterfly’s dependance on milkweed serves as a prime example.
Of course the other problem with these foreign invaders is that they have been released from the constraints of their natural enemies and as such can outcompete most native plants. Some of the worst invaders in the Midwest include several honeysuckle species, autumn olive, privet, multiflora rose, burning bush, English ivy, Bradford pear, Japanese barberry and wisteria. Fortunately, enough people have become wise to the value of native plantings and so local garden centers are offering more and more options.
For those of you who can’t understand why your new plants always seem to be suffering, (or dying), and for those who wonder why destructive pests out number the butterflies you so desire, this is the book for you.
The authors lay the information out in encyclopedic style identifying non-native plants that are commonly found in the Midwest. Then they offer substitutes and explain their beneficial qualities including, what such plants might attract and resist. The book contains numerous photographs of plants, birds, insects and other creatures so identification is made simple.
The use of native plants ensures that what you’ve planted will actually thrive in your area. Native plants support the local birds, insects, and of course, those butterflies. Additionally, the improve air and water quality, reduce the need for pesticides, and provide vital food and reproductive sites for birds and insects.