Shawnee News-Star 11 Jun 2017 Becky Emerson Carlberg Somewhere in the grand scheme of things you will have attended one or dozens of conferences.   Seven days ago the OK Native Plant Society held its annual 'WOW!'"wonders of wildflowers"weekend outside of Pawhuska.   We did field trips into the tallgrass prairies to investigate native plants, so I [...]

Shawnee News-Star 11 Jun 2017

The Native Evening Primrose

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Somewhere in the grand scheme of things you will have attended one or dozens of conferences.   Seven days ago the OK Native Plant Society held its annual 'WOW!'"wonders of wildflowers"weekend outside of Pawhuska.   We did field trips into the tallgrass prairies to investigate native plants, so I suppose it could have been called a 'walking' conference.   On June 16th is the OK State Master Gardener Conference in Drumright.   The last day in May was the Native Plants Materials Conference at OSU. Over the years Dr. Mike Schnelle had taken the lead in presenting various plant themed symposiums: Asian Horticulture, Global Horticulture, Native American Horticulture and Tree Care Issues.

On the way into the auditorium I grabbed a cup of coffee.   Those around me should be happy I did not spill my morning wake-me-up coffee.   No, I waited until afternoon to kick over the mug and covered all my notes with the brown liquid. Liberated coffee smells very intense in a confined area under a chair.   People were looking around for the Starbucks.   In the nearly full room Dr. Schnelle, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, introduced us to 'Nativars.'   Nativars are cultivars of native plants.  The native plant world is buzzing about Nativars.   Get it? The bees did. A native plant is one that lives in a region, state, ecosystem, and habitat and has had no human intervention.  A cultivar is a variety of native plant species selected for certain traits and cultivated (grown.) Cultivars can be propagated from seeds or vegetatively produced from rooted cuttings, grafts or tissue culture.  The nativar has been cultivated vegetatively.   It is a clone of the parent plant and suffers from loss of genetic diversity; there has been no genetic recombination through sexual reproduction. Oftentimes the nativar has only a slight resemblance to others of the same species and many are thought to be mutations.   The jury is still out if pollinators are attracted to many nativars.   Diversity in nature is critical.

Some cultivated nativars mentioned, and note the plant industry is trademarking these 'natives', are:   Expresso TM Kentucky Coffee Tree, 'Fall Fiesta' Sugar maple, 'Viking' Aronia chokeberry, and Tiger EyesR Sumac.     In the case of the Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) some call the poor man's banana (don't go there). the Pawpaw nativar shows uniformity, predictability, less genetic diversity, may or may not be aggressive, is less fertile ( you went there, didn't you?), has less resistance and is sometimes shunned by pollinators. Just plant the darned regular run-of-the-mill Pawpaw.

Dr. Gerald Klingaman, Operations Director of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, Arkansas expounded about 'Conifers.'   We traveled in time from the spore-producing Equisetum (horsetails) to the 250,000,000 year old eight foot tall petrified stump of a Callixylon tree fern at East Central University in Ada and finished with contemporary trees.   Trees come in two types:   angiosperms and gymnosperms.     The more recent angiosperms cover their seeds with the ovule (apple) and the older gymnosperms produce naked seeds (pine cone).   These appeared 320 million years ago. The four groups of gymnosperms are the Ginkgo, Cycad, Gnetophyte and Conifer.   Ginkgos were resurrected and introduced in the 1600's to Europe from monasteries that had prevented the rare tree from going extinct.   Ginkgos had been widely distributed 65 million years ago.   The ancient Cycad (Sego palm) looks like a short robust fern and the weird gnetophyte relics have adapted to their own specific environments.   One family includes the single living fossil Welwitschia mirabilis. It looks like a four foot tall pile of thick strap-like leaves and only grows in deserts of nearly zero rainfall in Namibia and Angola, South Africa.

Conifers arose 190 million years ago.   The Norfolk Island Pine is not a true pine but an ancient conifer of the South Pacific saved from total extinction by commercial growers.   Wollemi pine (again not a true pine) is critically endangered and only found in New South Wales.   A propagation program has been set up to try to save the species.   Fewer than 100 trees are now growing in the wild.   The redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a maligned conifer that has taken advantage of barbed wire, no fires and bad land management.   The tree does not grow beyond the High Plains boundary in western Oklahoma.   It can be bushy or columnar and makes for a useful landscape plant.

Grandma and Grandpa Red Cedars

The nursery industry evolved through time as well.   Before World War I forsythia was produced in upstate NY and became popular.  The industry moved to northern Ohio and switched to conifers.   In the 1930's the broadleaf evergreens were replaced by container plants.   After World War II and the advent of rapid transportation, more plants hit the scene.   In the 1970's was the greenhouse and houseplant explosion that originated in Florida. By the 1980's flowering plants became the rage, followed by perennials that led the way to colorful bloomers in the early 2000's.   It has now gone full circle back to the native plants.

Missourian David Redhage, the president and CEO of the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Poteau, OK focused on 'OK Native Plants.'  Over 4000 species of native bees live in North America, but only 7.3% of the bees have been studied.   About 58% of 316 native species of bees are near extinction.   To encourage pollinators, think diversity and abundance, good habitat, and buffer zones such as hedgerows and riparian areas.

Kentuckian Bruce Hoagland explained 'Ecoregions.'    He is Professor of geography and Coordinator of the OK Natural Heritage Inventory linked with the OU Biological Survey.   They assess rare and endangered plant species and ecosystems and use the Conservation Ranking system.   This covers both global and state conditions based on a one to five scale.   One means critically imperiled, two is imperiled by rarity, three is very rare throughout or locally restricted, four is apparently secure and five is demonstrably secure.   The prairie plant Royal Catchfly (Silene regia) is ranked 4 and 5 globally, but in OK is 1 or 2.   It is native to central USA in the Mississippi basin, but not so common in OK.   Hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies love the plant.   In the travertine topography of Murray County grows the Chatterbox orchid, named because its bottom lip rattles in the wind.   It is rated G3G4S1.   The OK Beardtongue (Penstemon oklahomensis) is G3S3. Got it all figured out?

Green Milkweed and Milkweed beetle

During the Native Plants Panel Discussion, we discovered the OK native plant seed sources are Johnston Seed Company in Enid and Lorenz's OK Seeds in Okeene.   Bamert Seed Company in Muleshoe TX is good, but occasionally European wildflower seeds appear.   The most important milkweed for the first Monarch migrants is Asclepias viridis, the green milkweed.   The single plant that hosts the most wildlife is the oak. In the 1950's there was tremendous conversion of native grasslands to fescue.   To establish a native grass area, dig down 4-6 inches and remove soil with fescue or Bermuda.   Install Buffalo grass, but continue to remove weeds during time Buffalo becomes established.

David Redhage's second presentation was about 'Landscape Design Challenges.' The tap-rooted Compass plants take at least 3 years to establish and bloom.   He quipped that at Kerr he had Echinacea growing in 'God's version of a brick.'   Bruce Hoagland reappeared with 'Ecoregions Part II.' Ecoregions are ecosystems defined by their geography.     The Duck and Fletcher map of OK put together by two biologists in 1943 is still I use as a baseline when compared to ecosystems of today.   The land cover maps have present-day wheat belts and urban areas.   The Oklahoma Vascular Plants Database provides plant information in a searchable format.

Eric Rebek, Extension Specialist in Entomology and Plant Pathology, depressed us with facts about the 'Emerald Ash Borer.' Ash trees (Fraxinus sp.) form the backbone of the eastern woods.   In 2002 the Emerald Ash Borer showed up and now over 100 million ashes have died. The beetles can fly up to 5 miles, but usually confine themselves to a one mile radius. Movement of lumber and has aided the dispersal of the beetles. When ash trees are infected with beetle larvae that have damaged the food and water conducting vessels, the poor trees desperately try to stay alive by sending out bunches of short shoots.   Canopy dieback, splitting bark, D-shaped exit holes, and woodpeckers all indicate the Emerald Ash Borer is inside.   Treatment:   cut and remove the affected tree.   Healthy trees should be inoculated if they live10 to 15 miles within an infested area.   On October 14th 2016 one beetle was found at Grand Lake in Delaware County, OK.   They're here.

Jamie Csizmadia, the Landscape Arthitect of Olthia Prairie Gardens, was the final speaker.   'Sowing Native Seeds' can turn a 500 ft2 piece of property into a native plantscape. Using container plants may cost $4000 to $9000 dollars.   Seeds are much cheaper.   Seed balls can be hand sown or seeds can be mixed in potting soil and dispersed.

It was an awesome conference.   Go native!