Hibiscus dasycalyx seeds
I’ve had these seed heads on my desk since the summer. I collected them while working in various gardens. The first seed is Clematis pitcheri, commonly called purple clematis, purple leatherflower, or bluebill. Here’s a link to photos of the lovely nodding purple flowers. This clematis is a climbing, twining vine that begins with purple flowers that turn into fluffy Dr. Seuss-looking puffs and then into these stunning seed heads. The star shaped head is fragile, with the individual paddle-shaped seeds breaking off the stem.
The second seed head is from the Hibiscus dasycalyx, or the Netches River Rosemallow. It is a hibiscus that is native to Texas, and is protected because it is only found wild in 3 places along the Netches River. It has beautiful white flowers with red centers. You can see photos here. It grows in wet conditions. The seeds are sweet fuzzy teddy bears and I’m officially scared of screwing up their propagation.
I also saved some Asclepias purpurascens that I’ve put in the fridge to stratify. They are over year old, so I’m not too hopeful. Reference pictures here. I love milkweeds and always try to propagate and distribute them to fellow gardeners.
Is it obvious that I’m dreaming of Spring?
Here is a lovely native plant that deserves a place in any garden with a little space. The fall color is striking, the bark looks like cinnamon sticks and the shrub produces clouds of white flowers.
I’m excited to report that some of my little Asclepias tuberosa aka butterfly weed have started to bloom. I really didn’t expect them to the first year. Butterfly weed is in the milkweed family, which means that it is the food source for the monarch butterfly caterpillars. Milkweed is a truly fascinating plant. The flowers have a kind of trap system in place which causes the pollinator’s leg to slip in a crack and land on a sticky clump of pollen. When the animal tries to wrench its leg out of the crack it pulls the pollen out as well. The downside is that sometimes the insect isn’t able to pull itself free, or pulls itself free, but leaves a leg behind. Yikes! Nature is rough.
If you were following me around last summer you might have seen me reach into various gardens and swipe some milkweed seed pods. You might also have seen a mortified 10 year old girl with me. Poor kid. She didn’t get a normal mom.
After taking a propagation class this winter, I was inspired to set up my lights and heat mat at home. While the Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) and the Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) sprouted easily, the Asclepias purpurea end (purple milkweed) did nothing.
I moved the tiny seedlings out of their initial trays into roomier pots I made out of newspaper. These are easy to make (I guess a tutorial is in order) and are great because you can plant them directly into the soil.
I have enough of these guys to have a mini plant sale. Anyone interested in some native plants that are the host plant of the monarch butterfly?
Here’s a great article, which highlights how important and beautiful designing gardens with native plants can be.
A lot has been going on with my volunteer gardening at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Besides working one day at the Osborne garden, I am now working one day in the Native Flora garden. It’s a nice mix of formal beds and action-packed nature. The Native Flora garden attracts all kinds of insects, birds and butterflies, that it’s almost as much a study of animals as plants when I’m there. Below is one of the many praying mantis I saw one morning.
Earlier in the summer, when I was in the Osborne garden, I noticed bright red fruit on one of the trees. The tree was a cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) tree, which is actually related to dogwoods and not cherries. As many of you know by now, my first question was, “Are they edible?” The answer is a hesitant yes, unless you are from Iran, in which case you get a hearty yes. I read that you could make jam with the berries, so I got permission to gather a bunch that had fallen to the ground. The ones on the trees aren’t quite ripe.I followed a recipe I found online for jam, which I can’t say was a complete success. The taste was wonderful. Cooking the fruit took out the mouth-puckering tannin feel that the raw fruit has. The recipe I used called for way too much water. My preference in making jams and preserves is to cook the fruit as little as possible. What I ended up with was a delicious fruit syrup. Perfect for pouring over yogurt or ice cream.
Next year, I will stick with a more traditional jam recipe. If you run across one of these trees, do give the fruit a try.
One of the fun things about gardening at Brooklyn Bridge Park is all the different spaces. There are fields with regular grass and trees, wetland areas, tidal pools, bamboo thickets and native grass meadows. These photos are from when I was weeding in one of the native grass areas. There is a walking bridge above connecting Brooklyn Heights to the park. This particular area is filled with native grasses and sedges, which was a good challenge in identification for me. I had to pull the weeds and invasive grasses, but leave the native stuff. It was really tricky at first, but eventually I was able to really see the differences in coloration and blade texture.When I got home I ordered a copy of the book Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast. It was recommended to me to help in weed identification. And if that doesn’t prove my nerdiness, check out these cool “bird’s nest” mushrooms I saw while weeding. It’s a lousy phone photo where I was trying to get too macro, but if you squint you can see them. There are a few light orange circles that are the mushrooms. When the mushroom wants to spread its spores, the top comes off to expose them. They are the tiny black disks that look like bird’s eggs sitting in a nest. C’mon, you have to admit they are cool!!