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Cardinal flower is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial native to North America where it grows in moist to wet areas such as stream and river banks, pond edges, marshes and swamps in eastern and southwestern US, Mexico, and Central America to northern Colombia. It is a member of the bellflower family, Campanulaceae, that also includes balloon flower (Platycodon), and ladybell (Adenophora). The common name, cardinal flower, refers to the bright red garments worn by Roman Catholic cardinals. [click to continue…]

Also called striped Jack-in-the pulpit, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the arum family, Araceae, that also includes skunk cabbage, calla lily, and elephant ear.  It is native to western China where it grows in oak forests and shrubby valley at high altitudes.  Plants grow from corms and are late to appear and flower.  The inflorescence emerges first in late spring to early summer and consists of a spadix with small flowers and a hood like 3-6″ spath that is white with green stripes on the outside, and  white with pink  stripes on the inside.  Two large leaves appear after the flowers and are three lobed, up to twelve inches long, and provide color in the fall. [click to continue…]

hardy ageratum & goldenrod combinationFor a fabulous late summer to fall combination pair the striking blue flowers of hardy ageratum with the bright yellow flowers of ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod. ‘Fireworks appears in spring with light green buds that persist all summer while hardy ageratum follows a bit later. In late summer the two burst into bloom with their complementary colors just as other plants are beginning to taper off. Both plants feature fuzzy flowers but ‘Fireworks’ carries them all over its long slender stems while hardy ageratum carries them in dense heads. The shiny silvery seed heads of ‘Fireworks’ continue to add interest after the flowers fade. Both plants do well in moist well-drained soil in full sun and attract butterflies. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Cannabis Pharmacy

In this revised edition of Cannabis Pharmacy, author Michael Backes, presents an overview of the uses of cannabis as medicine aimed at the layperson and designed to encourage further inquiry and productive discussion between patients and physicians. The information covered includes a historical and scientific look at cannabis as a medicine, how to use medical cannabis, the different varieties of cannabis, and the uses of cannabis for specific ailments. Although the author does not hold a medical degree, he has specialized in cannabis science and policy issues and works for a Southern California consultancy.
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Also called coffeeweed, hemp sesbania, and Colorado River-hemp, this semi-woody, native , tender perennial can be found in moist disturbed areas in the southeastern coastal plain into the piedmont from Virginia to Florida, west to Mississippi.   It is a member of the pe family, Fabaceae, that also includes lupine, mimosa, and black locust.  Historically, it has been used as a forage and cover crop but is now considered a serious weed in fields of soybean, cotton, sweet potato, and rice where it damages crops by growing over them. [click to continue…]

Hoary vervain is a herbaceous perennial and a member of the vervain family, Verbanaceae,  that also includes lantanas, verbena, and sandpaper vines.  It is native to the Midwest, the Great Plains, and Texas where it grows in meadows, fields,  and disturbed sites such as roadsides and railroad right-of ways. Plants grows in clumps two to four feet tall and have branched stems  with  two to four inch long ovate leaves that are directly attached to the stem and have coarsely toothed margins.  Both stems and leaves are covered with white hairs.  Small purplish flowers 1/2″ long appear in densely packed terminal panicles from May to September, (primarily in summer) when they bloom  a few at a time from the bottom  to the top of the panicle.  Plants spread by seed and rhizomes and often form colonies by self-seeding.  They make valuable garden plants especially in wildlife gardens where they are a larval host and nectar source for butterflies and provide seeds for small birds and mammals. Hoary verbena may become weedy, however, especially in dry poor disturbed soil. The generic name, Verbena, comes from the Latin word verbena referring to the leaves and twigs of some plants used in sacred ceremonies.  The specific epithet, stricta, is the Latin word meaning erect. [click to continue…]

Shakespeare’s Garden: Pear

PearPears are in the genus Pyrus and family Rosaceae. Shakespeare’s pear was probably the common pear (Pyrus communis) which is native to central and Europe, and southwest Asia. They are trees 25-30’ in height and have elliptic glossy dark green leaves up to four inches long. In fall the leaves turn yellow to red. The creamy white flowers have five petals and are sometimes flushed with pale pink. They are borne in corymbs in early spring. Pears like moist, well-drained soil and full sun. They are not as hardy as apples but are a bit less disease prone. [click to continue…]

Aquilegia skinneriMexican columbine is a clump forming perennial native to Mexico and New Mexico. It is a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes anemone, delphinium, and monkshood. The branching stems carry thin triternate blue-green leaves and nodding flowers with yellow-green spreading sepals and petals with short yellow-orange blades and long straight red spurs. The flowers are 1 ½” long and appear from spring to early summer. Plants easily hybridize and self-seed but do not usually breed true. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Bad Apple: A Story of Friendship

Bad AppleWhat does friendship mean? Edward Hemingway’s book, Bad Apple, explores the meaning of friendship, how we choose our friends, and how we stand up to peer pressure when others do not respect our choices. Written for children three to five years old, the theme of the book can be appreciated by people of all ages including adults. [click to continue…]

Asclepias-tuberosaThis clump-forming, long-lived, herbaceous perennial is native to eastern North America where it tends to grow on dry soil in full sun . It is a member of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae) that also includes bluestar (Amsonia), periwinkle (Vinca), and oleander (Nerium). The medium green leaves are lanceolate, two to five inches long, pointed, and spirally arranged on hairy stems. The bright orange to yellow flowers appear in umbels in late spring into summer. Each flower has five nectar cups with incurved horns. When a pollinator lands on the flower, its foots slips between the cups and catches bags of pollen on its legs. When the pollinator visits the next flower the foot slips again and the pollen bag is caught by another set of incurved horns. The flowers are followed by attractive spindle shaped seed pods three to six inches long that are filled with seeds bearing long silky hairs that facilitate dissemination by the wind. An excellent choice for a wildflower garden, border or cutting garden. The plant is important to bumblebees, lady beetles, and butterflies especially the monarch. The leaves provide food for monarch caterpillars in late spring, and the flowers provide nectar for the monarch adults from mid summer to early autumn. As a result of eating the leaves as caterpillars, monarchs take on a chemical that gives them a bad taste in each stage of their life cycle and their enemies learn to avoid them. Other butterflies that feed on butterfly weed include regal fritillary, great spangled fritillary, viceroy, grey hairstreak, and common sulfur. Hummingbirds also enjoy the nectar of the flowers. [click to continue…]