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European alder , also called black alder, is a small to medium sized deciduous tree native to Europe, northern Africa and western Asia where it grows in wet areas along rivers, ponds and lakes as well as in low swampy sites. It was brought to North America in colonial times and has since become invasive from Quebec and Ontario, south to Delaware, Tennessee, and Iowa. European alder tolerates a wide range of soils and can grow in nutrient-poor soil because of its association with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Although European alder is important to many forms of wildlife including birds, mammals, insects, lichens, and various other plants, its tolerance for many soil types, rapid growth, and high reproductive capacity, make it a potential threat to native species. USDA Hardiness Zones 3-7 [click to continue…]

A native of southeastern United States, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, that also includes perwinkle, oleander, and milkweed. The plant grows 1-3′ tall and has linear dark green leaves that are 2-4″ long, hairy and have margins that curl slightly toward the underside of the blade. The foliage clusters towards the ends of the stems, looks attractive all summer and turns golden yellow in the fall. In spring, terminal racemes of starry, pale blue, 1/2″ flowers appear and persist for 3-4 weeks, attracting butterflies and other pollinators. Downy bluestar forms dense clumps, provides long season interest from spring to fall , and may be used as a hedge or low screen. The genus name, Amsonia, honors John Amson (1738–circa 1764) physician and amateur botanist in colonial Williamsburg. The specific epithet, ciliata, is the Latin word for the edge of the upper eyelid i.e. the eyelashes, and refers to the hairs on the leaves.

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The small appealing flower buds of the kangaroo paw plant are a must for the plant zoo! The best part is that there are many different colors of “paws” and many different plant heights from 12″ to 6′ so there is a plant to meet the needs of any garden. The tubular flower buds rise on leafless stems above a rosette of linear leaves and are covered with velvety colored hairs in yellow, orange, red, pink and purple resembling a paw, giving rise to the common name. The buds flare open at the tip and attract honey possums as well as nectar-feeding birds like hummingbirds, adding movement and interest to the plant zoo. The flowers appear over a long bloom time if the plants are deadheaded and are long lasting in the vase. There are 11 species and many hybrids of Anigozanthos and all do well in beds and borders of frost-free climates and may be grown in pots and wintered indoors in cooler ones. They are considered short lived plants but can be divided to prolong vigor. Photo Credit Forest & Kim Starr Wikipedia

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Also called kitten-tail, red hot cat’s tail, and strawberry firetail, this evergreen herbaceous perennial is native to Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti and is a member of the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae, that also includes pointsettia, castor bean, and rubber plant. The plants grow 3-5″ tall and have trailing stems bearing tiny, ovate, serrated leaves 3/4″ long. Periodically throughout the year, fluffy, fiery red catkins are produced above the foliage and are composed of feathery pistils of tiny female flowers all packed together. The plants are attractive in a rock garden or cascading over a wall or container. The genus name, Acalypha, comes from the ancient Greek word ἀκαλήφη (akalḗphē) meaning nettle. The specific epithet, pendula, is the Latin word meaning hanging and refers to the trailing nature of the plant.


Native to  parts of Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, this perennial corm is a member of the iris family, Iridaceae, that also includes gladiol a,freesia, and crocosmia. Plants produce goblet-shaped pale lilac flowers with yellow throat and creamy-yellow stamens in autumn or early winter.  The grass-like leaves appear after the flowers and persist to replenish the corm. Photo Credit: Meneerke bloem Wikipedia

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This evergreen shrub is native to the dry rocky hills of the Mediterranean area and  is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, that also includes beebalm, basal, and lavender. Plants grow up to 6′ from a fibrous root system and have scaly bark and gray-green needle-like  aromatic leaves 1/3 to 1.5″ long.  The pale blue to white flowers are 1/2″ long, 2-lipped, and appear in clusters of 2 or 3 from late winter to early spring.  Rosemary is hardy in zones 8-10 and like full sun and average, dry, well-drained soil that is neutral or slightly alkaline.  Reproduction is by cuttings, layering, or seed but since germination rates are very low and offspring from seed tend to be inferior, vegetative propagation is preferred.  The genus name, Rosmarinus, comes from the Latin words ros meaning dew, and marinus meaning pertaining to the sea and may refer for the plants ability to thrive in coastal areas.  The specific epithet, officinalis, indicates that the plant has medicinal qualities. [click to continue…]

Native to bogs, streamsides, wet meadows and moist mountain soils from the Rockies to the Coastal Range, wandering fleabane is also called subalpine fleabane, coastal fleabane, and mountain daisy.  It  is a herbaceous perennial in the  aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes sunflower, yarrow, and lettuce. Plants grow from 8-28″ tall and spread by rhizomes to form dense colonies.  They have lanceolate to spoon-shaped leaves and unbranched stems that bear one to several flower heads 1-2″ across and comprised of 30 to 80 blue, pink, or white ray flowers surrounding yellow disc flowers.  The genus name, Erigeron, comes from the Greek words ἦρι (êri)  meaning early referring to the early bloom time, and  γέρων (gérōn)  meaning old man, referring to the hairy appearance of the fruit that resembles the beard of an old man. The specific epithet, peregrinus, is the Latin word for foreign.

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Native to the tropical forests of eastern Brazil, this tender evergreen shrub is best grown in an indoor plant zoo of houseplants. Although it has beautiful foliage and striking, long lasting yellow bracted flowers, it is temperamental and is unlikely to produce flowers after the first ones fade. The large, glossy, dark green leaves with their prominent white veins resemble the coat of a zebra and will brighten up the interior of any room but you must provide the plant with temperatures over 65 F, high humidity, and just the right amount of water, Too little or too much water and the leaves will fall, the plant will become straggly and eventually perish.

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Also known as hounds berry, black nightshade is an annual or short-lived perennial native to wooded areas and disturbed sites of Europe and Asia but is found in the United States primarily along the West Coast. It is a member of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, that also includes peppers, potatoes, and eggplant.  Plants grow up to three feet in height and have erect, slender, purplish stems that can become woody with age. Low growing branches of young plants hug the ground at first but shoot upward just before flowering. The oval-shaped alternate leaves are 1.5-4″ long, are green on the upper sides and purplish on the lower side when young but become dark green and sometimes develop toothed margins as they mature. When temperatures are warm, clusters of 3-12 star-shaped flowers with 4-5 white petals and yellow anthers are produced. Each flower is about 1″ long and is attractive to pollinating insects and bees. The green berries that follow turn black as they age, contain 15 to 60 seeds, and are eaten by birds that spread the seeds. The root system is a fibrous, shallow taproot. Black nightshade is toxic to humans and livestock but historically has been specially prepared and used as food and medicine. In more modern times some cultivars have been developed that produce edible ripe berries but don’t eat the berries of any nightshade in the wild! In some areas, black nightshade is considered a serious horticultural weed. The genus name, Solanum, is from the Latin word solamen, meaning comforting or soothing, referring to the medicinal qualities of some species. The specific epithet , nigrum, is the Latin word meaning black, and refers to the color of the berries. Photo Credit Harald-Hubich-Wikipedia

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Native to temperate wetlands world wide, this perennial aquatic grass is a member of the grass family, Poaceae, that also includes corn, rice, and bamboo.  It is a vigorous grower and can form extensive stands in damp ground, standing in water 3′ deep, or as a floating mat.  With thick,  long, unbranched rhizomes, common reed grows up to twenty feet tall and has a leafy, hollow, unbranched stem. The broad, flat leaf blades are green to grayish green, deciduous, seven to twenty four inches long, and have rough margins.  The  purplish flowers are carried in large feathery  highly branched panicles six to twenty inches long from mid-summer to fall. As the panicles mature they develop long, silky hairs and appear gray. Photo Credit Wikipedia [click to continue…]