Pickerelweed (US) Pickerel Weed (UK)

Flower pickerel weed

Beautiful. Grows in clumps all summer long here along the edge of our tidal pond and even creates wonderful blue and green islands in the middle of the pond. Grown from seeds and rhizomes, they are regularly planted in water gardens here and across the pond. Young shoots, leaves and seeds are edible. Make sure you are collecting from clean water.


The “Panda” Factor

Insect ladybug

My son calls it “the deadly cuteness”…when a creature is totally irresistible- like a panda. To me, a ladybug is the ‘panda’ of the beetle family. If you think there is a cuter beetle, please let me know. One ladybug can eat more than 50 aphids in a day and more than 5000 in a lifetime! They also eat scale insects and plant mites so they are very popular with gardeners. During the Middle Ages, insects were destroying crops. Catholic farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. Ladybugs came to their rescue. The farmers called them “The Beetles of Our Lady” and their current names evolved from there.  The rest of the English-speaking world calls them ladybirds. FYI, boy ladybugs are called ladybugs also.

Another lovely invasive!

Flower yellow flag iris

This is the invasive yellow flag iris. The blue flag iris is not an invasive.  But I can’t find the one or two that have sometimes bloomed down in the marsh. The yellow flags have totally taken over the pond and marsh since John stopped mowing down there. I hate to say how lovely and cheerful they are. Since it would take me more than a lifetime to pull them up I will just have to enjoy them…

The deadly cuteness of invasives


Some invasives are really hard to hate. Japanese honeysuckle is lovely to look at, lasts for awhile in a vase and it’s fun to show kids how to suck the juice out of it.  Exotic honeysuckle replace native forest shrubs and herbaceous plants by their invasive nature and early leaf-out. They shade out herbaceous ground cover and deplete soil moisture. Seeds are readily dispersed by birds. Some research suggests that the plant inhibits the growth of other plants in its vicinity.

flower multiflora

What rose has more blossoms tumbling down in joyful waterfalls than the multiflora rose?

Native To: Eastern Asia (Amrine 2002)

Date of U.S. Introduction: Late 1700s (Amrine 2002)

Means of Introduction: Cultivated as an ornamental, for erosion control, and as a living fence (Amrine 2002)

Impact: Forms dense thickets that invade pastures and crowd out native species (Munger 2002)

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Bring on the pandas!

Tree bamboo

Did you know that naturalists refer to stands of bamboo in the metropolitan Washington area as “Dead Zones”?  Nothing can live in them! Nothing can eat them! Nothing else can grow in a stand of bamboo. I’ve walked past this one every day for years, never really considering how totally impenetrable it is. I think I hear birds calling from deep inside the stand but maybe they are all sitting on the top of the bamboo stalks.  I wonder if there are nests in the bamboo.  Obviously you can’t see very far into it. Wish we could chop it down and send it to the pandas at the National Zoo. Of course it would grow right back… But the pandas would be happy.

Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. One of the fastest growing plants on earth, there is a variety of bamboo that can grow 3 feet in a day. Bamboo has a higher specific compressive strength than wood, brick or concrete and a specific tensile strength that rivals steel. The new shoots are edible but read up on them before you proceed because they contain a toxin taxiphyllin that produces cyanide in the gut.

In the Chinese culture, bamboo, plum blossom, orchid and chrysanthemum are referred to as the “Four Gentlemen” and represent the four seasons. Because of their perseverance under the harsh conditions of winter, pine, bamboo and plum are referred to as the “Three Friends of Winter”.  Several Asian cultures believe humanity emerged from a bamboo stem.  IKEA sells bamboo plants for good luck.