What’s the big deal about native plants, anyway?

By Osnat Amir – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Lesser Celandine is non-native to the U.S. and is now classified as a nasty invasive. Urban Ecology Center takes it as its case study in this blog post to illustrate why we should care about growing native plants and why we need to be so careful about growing non-native ones.

I’ll just quote a bit of a summary paragraph, but you should read the whole post.

They write:

So, we’ve got an aggressive plant with no natural predators to keep its population in check. This plant emerges sooner than native spring ephemerals, and therefore has the advantage of size when competing for space and resources with native plants. It crowds out native plants, leaving them with no room or resources. The native plants (that support our wildlife populations) begin to die off because they have nowhere to grow. The native wildlife that only eat the native plants are now suddenly left with very little food on the table. Fewer native plants to eat translates into fewer native animals who can survive. The diversity and size of wildlife populations quickly declines. The situation starts to look pretty grim, doesn’t it? And (in Cleveland, at least) it all started with a pretty garden plot in two homes.

Invasive Plant to Watch: Lesser Celandine, Urban Ecology Center

All I have to do is look out my window to see uncountable stands of extremely invasive and aggressive Chinese privet, which is taking over my land and crowding out beneficial natives and which doesn’t respond to *anything* except *digging the damned roots up,* to be reminded of how bad it can suck when someone unthinkingly or unknowingly introduces a non-native species to a region and that species escapes their backyard and starts running unchecked.

The consequences can be *disastrous* and *hideously expensive.* Please, folks, do your research.

ETA: Interesting discussion in the comments of the Facebook snippet of this post.

Thea Summer Deer and Wisdom of the Plant Devas, chicken poop, Ghost Pipe, Emily Dickinson

I don’t really have time for a real blog post, never mind a book review [*], but I wanted to make a quick recommendation for Thea Summer Deer’s blog and book, Wisdom of the Plant Devas. This is going to sound like some woo-woo stuff to some folks, and I freely admit to being one of those who was extremely skeptical about flower essences and homeopathy and such for a very long time. And despite my work with and interest in herbs, I don’t write about herbal medicine much because I’m not qualified to and I don’t want anybody taking my advice on anything when it comes to *consuming* herbs. You need to get that information from someone with formal qualifications whom you have vetted. Herbs can heal but they can also kill.

But I’ve taken the long way round to giving some of the more woo-woo-sounding stuff a second, slower look over recent years, and I’ve backed way, way up on my tendency to scoff and think “can’t be bothered” when I encounter it. And I recently stumbled across her blog, and from there her book, when looking for information on the very rare and very weird Ghost Pipe,[**] which my mother recently called to tell me she found growing on her property.

I also don’t have time to quote or really review the book right now, but I’ve never seen anything quite like it. While I regularly bristle at Westerners co-opting concepts like karma and devas and using them shallowly and irresponsibly, what emerges from her work as she’s talking about the spirits of the plants is authenticity, a hell of a lot of knowledge and experience, and a deep, deep respect. She talks about and works with these plants like an old-school rootworker who happens to be conversant in Chinese medicine. Don’t be turned off by the occasional New-Age-seeming imagery or mentions of contemporary Wicca-esque stuff. This book is a lot deeper than its cover. She cites her sources even on the blog like an actual scholar instead of a typical lazy blogger, though both are very readable and never stuffy or dry; the blog has lots of thought-provoking and free info; and the book itself is surprisingly affordable.

Definitely worth a look if you’re into this kind of thing at all.


[*] Still scrambling to deal with twingey back, hurricane recovery, communication backlog, order backlog, injured rooster (who hates people), sick hen (whose most visible symptom is extraordinarily stinky and runny poop, and the chicken hospital is inside our house, so I’m scrubbing in there multiple times a day), a partner who’s thrown *his* back out now, the usual everyday garden/land/home maintenance, my own trainwrecks of grief (please, loved ones, stop dying), and supplier issues (when pandemics, hurricanes and such happen, the stuff I need to make the things folks order doesn’t always show up when it’s supposed to, or at all in rare cases, and this is an aspect of my shipping/handling times, too).

Sorry there’s poop in the picture, but she did that after I stabilized the camera but before the photograph was actually saved on my phone. And it startled me, and I unstabilized the camera, hence the lousy photo quality. But Hi Top the Usually Genial, Now the Seriously Grumpy Mascot of Seraphin Station lives. Not exactly in splendor at the moment, but God willing, in gradually improving health. Really, really smelly gradually improving health.

[**] Also known as ghost plant, corpse plant, or Indian pipe, it seems like kind of a wildflower and kind of a fungus. In fact it’s technically a mycotrophic wildflower, which exists only in a three-way symbiotic relationship. It has no chlorophyll but gets nutrients from tree roots, but it does so indirectly via myccorhizal fungi growing near the roots. It’s ghost white, but if you pick it, it will turn black. Basically, it’s weird as hell and extremely cool. Read more about its medicinal uses at American Herbalists Guild. Emily Dickinson even wrote about it in an unpublished poem you can see at the Morgan Library and Museum’s website. Read a bit more at the blog Emily Dickinson’s Garden. For a scientific but very readable explanation of how the nutrient situation shapes up, see Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month for October 2002.

vetiver and nicotine

This unassuming bucket of sludge and grass? Takes some effort, but it’ll be perfumery gold down the road.

vetiver

Not sure I can say the same about midcentury factory dressers that lived in a smoker’s bedroom for 50 years. Lot of effort – not sure about the reward.

dressers

 

I know what I’ve said about Murphy’s Oil Soap before and how you shouldn’t use it on your wood furniture unless you don’t like wood and are trying to punish it for some reason. But I’ve tried about half of what I had in my initial arsenal of ideas on this wood to get the stench out and I just might try Murphy’s before it’s all said and done. This is not your typical “regular maintenance” type of situation, though. Matter of fact, it’s approaching a “kill it with fire” or at least a “use it for kindling” level of situation.

non-toxic gardening fun

rain
Worms have been at the tomatoes but it keeps on raining, and you have to reapply neem oil after it rains, so today I finally spent a few hours hand-picking worms off my plants and spraying every darned leaf, top and underside.

And now it’s raining again. Whee!

video goofiness: squash

Julia (and anybody else who doesn’t do Facebook), you should be able to see this without having to sign in or anything… and you may in fact be able to play it without leaving this page at all… maybe. I think, anyway.

Even though I have paid for domains and hosting, I still haven’t been able to make all the sites and companies and blogs and apps  and machines play nice together, so I still can’t post videos here on the blog… because I’m not yet actually using the subdomain and hosting I’m paying for here.

So this is still technically a “free site/blog” and you can’t post videos here with one of them. So FB it’s gotta be for now.

But I wanted you to see this, Julia, since you were the giver of the seedling gifts! (I don’t think we’ll have any watermelon, though. What bits were doing well after transplant pretty much got wiped out by the chickens.

 

NatGeo on organic farming in the U.S.

From 2018 but still a good read if you’re even vaguely interested in where your food and herbs come from and how much they cost.
One not surprising factor: it takes years to transition a farm from regular to organic and in those years, the farmer is going to lose money, for many reasons, including yields will be much, much lower and organic land management demands crop rotation, so you can’t plant the most profitable things at the most profitable times.

One surprising factor: Capitalism may just save us on this one. Big brands are starting to step in to help farmers transition to organic without losing their incomes/farms in the process.

We don’t have enough organic farms. Why not?