Shawnee News-Star Saturday September 1 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg If you use your imagination when looking across the fields, it appears that piles of snow have accumulated here and there. The illusion ends when you look at your car thermometer and see 97 degrees. Snow on the Mountain. Two types of plants go by this […]
Shawnee News-Star Saturday September 1 2018
Becky Emerson Carlberg
If you use your imagination when looking across the fields, it appears that piles of snow have accumulated here and there. The illusion ends when you look at your car thermometer and see 97 degrees.
Snow on the Mountain. Two types of plants go by this common name. They belong to two separate plant families. One group is in the same family as Poinsettias and the other are relatives of the carrot family. The carrot clan is a ground cover scientifically known as Ageopodium podograria. The plant leaves come in green, variegated green and white forms. The cover thrives in shade, invades where possible, grows only ankle high and requires water during dry spells. Also called ground elder, Bishop's weed or goutweed, this Eurasian transplant is grown as an ornamental in Oklahoma. During spring issue forth small white blossoms.
Butthis is not the spectacular native Snow on the Mountain now visible here and in bloom with the approach of autumn. Bloom may not be an accurate description, as the leaves of this herb, proper name Euphorbia marginata, draw the most attention. Some plants may have green leaves, variegated green with white or totally white, as with the ground elder of the same common moniker. As do their euphorb relatives the poinsettias, the actual blooms are quite small. The sap can be irritating. Perhaps a problem for us, this defense mechanism is good for the plant. The liquid has antifungal and antibacterial properties and rapidly seals minor plant wounds.
The euphorb Snow on the Mountains aren't the only white milky latex sap oozers. The African Pencil cactus has very toxic white sap, we've all heard about the infamous, but rather tame, Poinsettia sap and then there is the Plumeria. All of the Plumeria is rather poisonous. The bitter Frangipani sap contains mild toxic alkaloids. Tasting bad detours consumers intent on grazing the leaves, stems or flowers.
Our Snow on the Mountains are native to the central plains of Montana to Texas, although they have been planted in other areas. Most wildlife leave it alone, giving us the opportunity to appreciate its beauty. Mourning doves like to eat the seeds. One year a gardener grew Snow on the Mountain in her Norman front yard. She fertilized and watered the natives along with her fig trees and roses. Usually 3 to 6 feet tall, her enormous spurges topped 12 feet. Gigantic. This is a case in point of what some natives adapted to more austere growing conditions can do when given everything their hearts desire.
Another native now in bloom is the Wavy leaf thistle (Cirsium undulatum). Central and western North America is the home of this sunflower family member. Nectar, pollen, seeds and even thistle chaff are important to insects and birds, especially hummingbirds. In the spring the small birds use the fluff from last year's dead plants to line their nests. They now seek the nectar from this year's fresh flowers. Hummers are gearing up to migrate south. Some northern birds began their journey mid-August. Montana and Wyoming had their first snow advisories issued August 27th. By mid-September, our Ruby throats aim for Louisiana and Texas before flying across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and into Central America to overwinter. Keep your flowers going during this important time.
The beaver tree saga continues. Previously a beaver set its eyes on a cottonwood growing in a moist area by the road. Every day a larger bite was taken out of the trunk. The depression was sprayed twice with tree tar, but the beaver gamely accepted the challenge and both times gnawed away the gummy resin to expose new tissue down to the heartwood.
I thought the tree was a goner and decided to see how long it would take the beaver to topple its prize. Intervention once again occurred, this time in the form of metal. A tightly woven fence barrier was erected around the trunk of the cottonwood. The two layered wrapper stretched from the ground up high enough to thwart the beaver's teeth. I could only imagine what the beaver thought when it ambled up for a night's chew to find this strange impenetrable layer between it and its chosen tree. As I write this, there have been no new indentations or destruction of the wire. Beavers are smart and use tools. The beaver is no doubt now searching for a pair of wire cutters.
Despite the hot temps to remind us summer is hanging on, the angle of the sunlight is changing and the wildlife is beginning to shift into autumn mode. Notice the different colors. New to the scene are yellow Goldenrods, sunflowers, sneezeweeds, Black-eyed Susans and the Partridge peas. The eye-catching purples include the thistles, coneflowers, Liatris (Gayfeather), asters, Juniper berries, fruits of the pokeweed and Prairie larkspurs. The white roughleaf dogwood fruits and wild Clematis grow side by side with the red-tinged sumacs with orange-red fruits, Gaillardias (Indian blanket), a few Indian Paintbrushes, pink Naked ladies (Belladonna or Resurrection lily) and orange persimmon fruits.
Warning: The green candelabras of ragweed are standing tall and proud. The spikes are currently loaded with nearly invisible greenish yellow flowers sending forth itty bitty pollen grains. No pollinators are involved here because ragweed is wind pollinated. Pollen is lowest at 6 am but climbs to its strongest level midday. The grains can carry hundreds of miles if no rain.
The 50 species of Ragweed all fall in the genus Ambrosia. How ironic to be named Food of the Gods. The Gods have a heck of a sense of humor. Just one plant can produce one billion pollen grains. Grass and ragweed pollen are predicted to be VERY HIGH the next several days.
Cheer up. Ragweed pollen usually goes away with the first frost guesstimated to arrive end of October to early November. Only 60 days to go.
Or just wait 5 days and go to the Pottawatomie County Free Fair Sept 5-8.