Gardening Partners

of Dickson County

March 2014 speaker, Rita Venable

Our speaker in March will be Rita Venable, talking about butterflies. Click here for more information.

The woods poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) that live on the north side of the house have emerged from the ground, but the leaf litter is still a challenge for their one inch of spring growth.

Woods Poppy

Woods Poppy

Clematis Photos

I forgot to include the clematis photos on the last post. This is a beautiful little Clematis in the Subgenus Viornae, of which there are many species. It scrambles along the road bank, and is easy to miss if you don’t look close. Interesting link to a website with more information.

Clematis foliage

The foliage, three leaves like garden clematis, but without the toothed edges

Clematis, probably in the Subgenus Viornae

The flowers mostly face down, but that leaves the color showing on the top.

Clematis, probably in the Subgenus Viornae

Clematis, probably in the Subgenus Viornae

Native Lily and Clematis

BR D879

Wildflowers are making a comeback from being sprayed with poison on this section of the roadway.

There is a section of Brazzell Rd. that Dickson Electric System sprayed with some kind of poison in the summer of 2011. This year the bank has begun to return to the condition it was in before the spraying, though some plants will never recover.

It appears that the large golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis) population was completely wiped out. Golden seal is listed as being of special concern in Tennessee because of commercial exploitation. Another native plant I no longer see here is Phlox pilosa. Others that have struggled to survive include various ferns (christmas, ebony spleenwort, and maidenhair) and shrubs, such as native azalea and Hydrangea arborescens, our native lacecap. The shrubs do an excellent job of stabilizing the road cuts at two different places on the road, but since they have been killed back the heavy rains make earth slides onto the roadway. The wildflower list from this site is extensive, including Jacob’s ladder, Indian pink, mayapple, trillium, wild asters, ditany, fire pinks, wild geranium, heuchera, iris, krigia, canada anemone (endangered), rue anemone, solomon seal, false solomon seal, toothworts, and the list goes on.

Canada lily

Canada lily

Yesterday when I was driving in, I spotted a canada lily in bloom and went back today with the camera. Lilium canadense is listed as threatened in Tennessee. I only found 2 plants. There used to be a few more, before the bank was sprayed. This flower is pollinated by butterflies, honeybees and leaf-cutting bees, and by ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Clematis, possibly viorna

Also found one of our native Clematis, probably in the sub-genus Viornae. It has rambled all over the bank.

A Good Neighbor

Note the "branch" in the center tree in the top half of the photo.

Note the “branch” in the center tree in the top half of the photo.

As I was walking back from getting the mail, I noticed a peculiar looking branch on a black gum tree, Nyssa sylvatica, beside the drive. (Of course, I walked right under this tree going to get the mail. This is why I always laugh when people say there aren’t any snakes around their house.) As I got  closer, the “branch” resolved itself into an eastern black kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula nigra. The TWRA website describes this snake as three to four feet in length, but this specimen seemed a tad longer than that. Further internet research uncovered a website reporting an EBK examined at the Louisville Zoo that measured 58.5″ in length, exceeding the Peterson Field Guide record of 58″.

Kingsnakes prey on rodents, rabbits, amphibians, birds, bird eggs, lizards, and other snakes. Their name derives from their ability to kill and eat other snakes, especially poisonous ones. Kingsnakes play an important ecological role in controlling venomous snakes.

For scale, the tree truck is about 6" in diameter.

For scale, the tree truck is about 6″ in diameter.

Because of their diet, I’m always glad when I find a kingsnake on patrol. Since I will not put poison out for mice (lots of owls are killed by eating poisoned mice), I keep mice traps out all the time. But emptying mouse traps is not exactly my favorite activity, nor is finding a mouse nest built in a sheep’s fleece I had just cleaned. I live on a dry ridge, prime copperhead real estate, so the kingsnakes do double duty by taking care of both the mice and other snakes.

Of course, they also eat other reptiles. There are  lots of  eastern fence lizardsSceloporus undulatus, and at least one species of  five-line skink Plestiodon sp. living around the house. I’ve never gotten close enough to examine the labial scales (along the upper lip between the nose and eye) or rear end scales to make a species identification on the five-lines. The lizards do bug patrol and the skinks also include baby mice in their diet, so it’s “Hello, skinks; goodbye, Orkin!” One day I stepped out on the deck and found a five-line running straight at me. He didn’t even slow down when he saw me, just kept coming. I looked back along his path to find a kingsnake coming to a screeching halt. I’m not sure how a snake can have an expression on his face, but somehow he managed to look a little ticked at having just lost his dinner.

Third Day of Spring

Yesterday morning it was 21° here, and then there was a light freeze again last night. The clove currant made it through without visible harm. Most of my blueberries had row covers, and the covered parts appear ok, though branches that were sticking out don’t look so good. I have several varieties and covered the ones farthest along. It will take a few more days to see how extensive any damage is.

The redbuds, however, didn’t make it. I have planted several trees around the house, which all have their own bloom time (genetic diversity is a necessity in changing conditions, especially climate change). None of them had open flowers, but the buds on some of them were much less developed than on others. They ranged from complete loss of flowers to about 50% survival. The trees, of course, will survive, but this is the first time in my life that native redbuds have been frozen while in bloom.

On a similar note, the phoebes (eastern phoebe, Sayornis phoebe, in the flycatcher family) have left. They are awesome insect hunters, and have nested at my house ever since I’ve been in Dickson. I had been wondering how long they could afford to stay, since there are no insects out yet.

The bright blooms made it through the freeze; the dark ones didn't.

The bright blooms made it through the freeze; the dark ones didn’t.