Posts Tagged ‘John Manion’

2013 Fall Plant Sale: Get to Know the Native Ornamental Grasses

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Get to Know the Native Ornamental Grasses

guest blogger: Betsy Fleenor

Landscaping with ornamental grasses is a popular trend. They offer nesting sites and cover for wildlife, excellent erosion control, unusual texture, and four-season interest.

 A darker side to this trend is the growing realization that the grasses that are the easiest to purchase are rarely native and can be harmfully invasive. This would include pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana), maiden grass (Miscanthus spp.), ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea), and fountain grass (Pennisetum spp.).  Maiden grass and fountain grass have made it to the top of some state’s invasive plant lists. 

The alternative is to use native grasses which serve the same function in the landscape, are less invasive and extremely drought resistant. 

Please note that natives grasses, like all plants, need to be sited and used correctly: River oats (Chasmathium latifolium) are well behaved in the shade with average to dry soil. But give it moisture, enriched soil and a bit of sun and it will soon spread beyond its bounds. In a few years Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) can seed around. 

For the last couple of years, the Native Plant booth has featured a variety of native grasses at the Fall Sale. Since they are often hard to find, our offering serves as a sampler to introduce them to you. Though our quantities are small, if customers are interested in a large planting of native grasses, we can put them in touch with sources that can readily supply them.

This year we will have the following grasses at our booth:

Andropogon ternarius – Splitbeard Bluestem

Chasmanthium latifolium – River Oats

Chasmanthium sessiliflorum – Longleaf Wood Oats

Eragrostis elliottii – Elliot’s Lovegrass

Muhlenbergia capillaris – Muhly Grass

Panicum virgatum – Switchgrass

Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ – Shenandoah Switchgrass

Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Bluestem

Sorghastrum elliottii – Weeping Indian Grass

Sporobolus junceus  – Pineywoods Dropseed 

All are in limited quantities so we hope you will shop for them as early in the sale as possible.

A Weed Worth Extra Effort

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

A Weed Worth Extra Effort

guest blogger: Betsy Fleenor, Native Plant Group

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberose) is one of the most important butterfly plants you can have in your garden. Not only do their bright orange flowers attract a wide variety of butterflies, but milkweeds are the only host plants for the Monarch butterfly. Upon hatching, Monarch caterpillars must eat the leaves of milkweed plants or starve to death.

Milkweeds used to be abundant in fields and along roadsides. But the increasing loss of their habitat – coupled with herbicide spraying along roadsides, has caused numbers to decline just when Monarchs are really struggling.
According to Monarch Watch*, the three lowest overwintering populations of Eastern Monarchs on record have been recorded in the last 10 years.

How can we help? By planting milkweeds in our yards. Their presence gives the remaining Monarchs a chance to successfully complete their life cycle while brightening and beautifying our gardens. 
 

This is where the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Native Plant Group comes into play. As the volunteer group growing the native plants offered at the plant sales, this is a plant we need to feature. We always have some to sell, but only in limited numbers. This is because butterfly milkweed loves summer.
 

At the April sale, the plants haven’t emerged from the ground. In order to hurry them along they must be forced in the greenhouse. But we have had limited success with this method.  To get them looking good in April is quite problematic. Milkweeds don’t like to be rushed. They also have a tendency to rot over the winter when in pots.

No problem – we’ll sell them at the fall sale. Unfortunately, by October, the plants are likely to already be dying back for the winter. This means that some years they have dropped all of their leaves by sale time. It is hard to sell a pot of dirt with a bare stick in it. Other times the leaves they do have are beginning to yellow which makes them look unattractive or diseased to many plant sale shoppers.

Knowing the plants were too important not to get their due, the Natives Group came up a daring idea last spring. Milkweed is in its glory in the summer, the hotter the better. So we bought 400 starter plants in May and nurtured them through the summer. At the end of July, we put out the word.
We offered them to a relatively small group of Birmingham Botanical Gardens volunteers to gauge their interest. Plants were to be ordered ahead of time. Would this trial balloon fly?

Within just two days our 400 plants were snapped up and many more had to be told we had sold out. Running out of plants is a happy problem, but for the sake of the Monarchs, we wish we would have had enough for everyone interested.
 

As we talked to those who ordered the plants, our local butterfly experts and Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens staff, we were struck by how much people care about the plight of butterflies and how eager they are to do what they can to help. We have also realized anew that butterfly weed can be quite hard to find at local nurseries and when present, it is often in small quantities.
 

Based on this year’s extremely successful sale, we will plan to repeat the summer butterfly milkweed sale next year, with hopes to have an even larger number of plants available to an even larger target group.

*Monarch Watch – http://www.monarchwatch.org/

To learn more about this year’s Fall Plant Sale, visit www.bbgardens.org/fallplantsale. Proceeds from all plant sales at The Gardens benefits its educational mission, including Discovery Field Trips, which has provided free, science-based programming to Birmingham city schoolchildren for over a decade.

Bibb County Glades

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Bibb County Glades

guest post by intern Ian Hazelhoff

On June 1, I was fortunate to attend the annual Bibb County Glades field trip for the Certificate in Native Plant Studies program.  Fred Spicer and John Manion led the charge on a spectacularly overcast day prime for botanizing.  Several other enthusiastic individuals, ranging from Master Gardeners to The Gardens’ Director of Library Services, Hope Long, filled in the ranks of our troop.  Insect repellant was applied, wide-brimmed hats adjusted, and introductions were shared.  In total, the fieldtrip itinerary listed three glade sites and concluded with a tour of the Cahaba River’s largest lily site.  Ambitious and driven by a unanimous desire to see some of the nation’s rarest plant species in habitats as unique as separate planets, we entered the glades.

To comprehend fully how this beautiful suite of rare plants can exist in such obscurity takes an understanding of this unique landscape.  The Bibb County Glades sit perched on small veins of a rock named Ketona dolomite, which possess higher concentrations of magnesium than more regionally common formations of limestone. Species that thrive in magnesium rich soils are prevalent.  The glades are also an “ecotone” region, where full forest environments gradually transition to more open, grassy areas.  Nestled within this gradient are species specialized to thrive with exposure to more light and wind.  Without a complete tree canopy, the glades represent an assemblage of highly specialized succession species existing in near total isolation. 

In areas with Ketona dolomite based substrate, magnesium and often aluminum levels are so high as to be toxic to many more common species found in the region.  As a historical note, Fred Spicer pointed out that seams of Ketona dolomite were once found scattered throughout Jefferson County, AL, however, these were the first to be mined during Birmingham’s steel boom.  Dolomitic limestone is a precursor material for steel production, and to think that it also supports the livelihood of some of the rarest plants on Earth!  With visions of steel furnaces and open pit mines at the helm, I quickly became aware of the true importance and special nature of the Bibb County Glades. 

As the fieldtrip came to a close, I found myself traveling the winding waterside road to see one of my home state’s secret treasures: Cahaba lilies blooming in their prime.  Pockets of lilies, with proud green stalks and exuberant white flowers, dotted the river’s center.  John Manion was quick to point out that the heaviness of the lily’s seed allows it to sink and become lodged between rocks on the river’s bed.  Cool water, sand, and fields of aquatic botanical wonder - not bad for a day at the office.

To learn more about the Certificate in Native Plant Studies series, and to register for any of its core classes, electives or field trips online, visit www.bbgardens.org/plantstudies.

Photos: Beth Maynor Young

Native Ferns and Their Relatives

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Dan Jones brings “Native Ferns and Their Relatives” to the Certificate in Native Plant Studies series

Do you have an interest in ferns, yet find learning about them daunting? Would you like a to gain an understanding of where they fall in the world of plants, how to distinguish one from another, which ones are native and how to use them in your landscape? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then THIS this is the class for you! Dan “The Fern Man” Jones, Ph.D. and his wife Karen are two of the principle players in the ongoing development of The Gardens’ Fern Glade – one of the most comprehensive collections of its type in the country. Dan is a wonderful instructor that this will be the third time we have invited him to teach this class!

The class will be held on Saturday, July 13, 8:30 – 12:30 p.m. To learn more about this and everything that the Certificate in Native Plant Studies series has to offer, and to register online, visit www.bbgardens.org/plantstudies.

New interns join The Gardens for the Summer of 2013

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

New interns join The Gardens for the Summer of 2013

Three new interns join The Gardens for the summer of 2013: Caroline Rowan, Ian Hazelhoff and Reid Pearlman. The group joined Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion on Tuesday for some work in The Gardens, and The Gardens Blog had its first opportunity for introductions.

Caroline Rowan (above) is entering her Junior year at Birmingham-Southern College and is a graduate of Mountain Brook High School. She is majoring in Biology with a minor in Urban Environmental Studies and Psychology. After graduation she plans on perusing a career in field biology. Caroline’s passion for nature and learning makes Birmingham Botanical Gardens a great environment for her summer internship. She credits The Gardens as one of the first places to spark her interest in the natural world. Caroline has grown up with The Gardens as a part of her life and is excited to now be working here. As she experiences life at The Gardens she hopes to uncover more of her interests and pursuits. Caroline will be focusing on the George Ward Park replanting project and will be evaluating the reforested area. She will also be exploring other aspects of the Gardens. Her internship is a 10-week program funded by Little Garden Club and Red Mountain Garden Club.

Ian Hazelhoff (above) is the 2013 Shades Valley Rotary Club intern at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. As a recent graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, he is eager to implement ideas in the landscape of Birmingham. A Birmingham native, he attended The Altamont School.  During his time at Sewanee,  he studied plant physiology, water policy, ecology and forestry. Forest dynamics and ecology training have led him to fascination with how natural systems interact with the urban landscape. He believes that effective landscape design and use brings the inherant value of the land to the forefront. He believes that sound environments and green space can increase economic value of their surroundings while providing ecosystem services for communities.  He hopes to be progressive in his approach to design in projects this summer.  
Reid Pearlman has been interested in plants since he was a child. He enjoys spending time outdoors, especially if he is fishing, hiking or botanizing. Reid will be entering his senior year at Vestavia Hills High School this fall. Reid plans to attend college and graduate school and work in the field of botany or medicine.  

Glade Hopping in Bibb County

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Glade Hopping in Bibb County

by: Hunter McBrayer

I recently had the opportunity to botanize at the Bibb County Glades in Bibb County, Alabama, with a small group of plant enthusiasts from The Gardens.  We rendezvoused with Tom Diggs, a doctoral student at The University of Alabama at Birmingham studying evolutionary biology.  Tom’s research is on the unique array of plants growing at The Glades and the reasons so many of them are endemic to the area. 

The Bibb County Glades are truly a remarkable anomaly in the Alabama landscape.  Largely ignored by humans until 1992, the glades were considered a treeless barren by most people of that region until Jim Allison, a botanist from Georgia, explored the area.  He noticed that several familiar looking plants, upon closer inspection, were unknown species.  He continued exploring the area and eventually discovered eight new species of plants; a rare occurrence in today’s world of plant exploration.  

Many factors contribute to the fact that the area holds so many endemic plants, but most scientists agree that the primary reason for such a high degree of endemism is the unique substrate on which they grow. Ketona limestone, a very specific type of dolomitic limestone, is the primary geological formation underlying The Glades’ very thin soil; the type of limestone contains very high levels of magnesium.  In addition to the preceding factor, arid climate has contributed to the unique evolution of plants that thrive there. One third of Alabama’s twenty-four endemic plant species are found growing at The Glades, which collectively comprise approximately 250 acres.  

Although some of these plants were already past flowering, we still had the opportunity to view several of them in flower.  This list includes Coreopsis grandiflora var. inclinata, reclining large-flowered tickseed; Dalea cahaba, Cahaba prairie clover; Croton alabamensis var. alabamensis, Alabama croton (a somewhat ubiquitous plants The Gardens); and Spigelia alabamensis (syn. Spigelia gentianoides var. alabamensis,  gentian pinkroot. We were also able to examine a population of a new species in the genus Trautvetteria, tassel-rue, which as of yet has not been assigned a name; at present, it is being referred to as Trautvetteria species 1. 

Due to the unique character of this area and its rare flora, conservation is of upmost importance.  To that end, The Nature Conservancy has acquired 480 acres and named it the Kathy Stiles Freeland Bibb County Glades Preserve.  The Preserve is located along a very picturesque section of the Little Cahaba River and makes a delightful day trip; when there take time to appreciate Alabama’s unique natural heritage.

Spigillia gentianoides var. alabamensis

Croton alabamensis, Alabama croton

Trautvetteria species 1

Botanical Bonanza at the Talladega National Forest

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Photographing Phlox sp. and Rudbeckia sp.

Botanical Bonanza at the Talladega National Forest

by: Hunter McBrayer

I was recently invited to visit the Oakmulgee District of the Talladega National Forest on a botanizing trip with Birmingham Botanical Gardens Executive Director Fred Spicer and Kaul Wildflower Garden curator John Manion. Being a plant nerd, I jump at any opportunity to join two knowledgeabe plantsmen whenever invited.  

The Oakmulgee District is an expanse of land spanning 157,544 acres from Southeast Tuscaloosa County to Northeast Dallas County, Alabama.  Within this region there is a high degree of biodiversity, and it is predominantly covered in large savannas of Pinus palustris, longleaf pine.  The area is managed by the United States Forestry Service, who utilizes frequent prescribed burns to control encroachment of non-native invasive plant species, and to create the ideal habitat for proper growth and development of longleaf pine.  The Oakmulgee District is public land that can be used for hiking, hunting, bird watching and other forms of recreation.  

Although the area is abundent with longleaf pines, there are numerous fascinating micro-ecotones, transition areas between habitats.  These transition areas provide rich habitat for countless species of plants and animals, most of which are native to Alabama and the Southeast United States.  Among these are the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker,  Picoides borealis (a species associated with longleaf pine); a host of orchids,  and five different species of magnolia, including the less-than-common Magnolia acuminata, cucumber magnolia, and Magnolia pyramidata, pyramid magnolia. 

While there we explored a large, active beaver pond that showcased many aquatic plants, including Peltandra virginica, green arrow arum, Nuphar advena (syn. N. lutea), spatterdock, Nymphaea odorata, white water lily, Utricularia cornuta, horned bladderwort, as well as numerous species of Carax, sedges. 

Aside from providing a plethora of native plants and animals, the region possesses abundent areas of interest for nature lovers and photographers.   This was not the first time I had the opportunity to visit this area, and surely it will not be the last.

Examining Utricularia cornuta,horned bladderwort

Pinus palustris, longleaf pine

Platanthera ciliaris, yellow fringed orchid

Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn

The Gardens Lunch and Learn series continues to grow! The second seminar in this FREE series welcomed even more people to the Hodges Room. Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion led a discussion titled “Using native plants in your landscape garden design.” The free series will continue throughout the summer, continuing on July 11 with “Collecting rainwater for reuse in your landscape and inside your home” with Jefferson County Extension Agent Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Scott Kubiszyn of Nature’s Tap. All Lunch and Learn seminars are 11:30 – 12:30 p.m. Drinks and dessert are provided. To learn about all of the Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn opportunities this summer, visit www.bbgardens.org/classes.  Join us!

To learn more about the Certificate in Native Plant Studies Program, which has just completed its first full year, and how you can participate, visit www.bbgardens.org/plantstudies.

Bog Trotting in Alabama

Monday, June 18th, 2012

  

Bog Trotting in Alabama

Hunter McBrayer, Rotary Club of Shades Valley 2012 Intern 

Within a few days of beginning my Rotary Club of Shades Valley summer internship with the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, I had the pleasure of being invited to accompany Fred Spicer, Executive Director, and John Manion, Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator, at the biannual meeting of Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance (APCA) in Spanish Fort, Alabama. This is an organization with whom The Gardens has been involved since APCA was formed in 2009. 

As a recent graduate of The University of Alabama with a degree in Biology, and my primary interest being the conservation of Alabama’s native flora and its habitats, I was thrilled for the opportunity to attend this event and meet several people involved in plant conservation. Knowing that the trip would involve an exploration of one of our state’s unique treasures, Splinter Hill Bog, I was especially excited. 

Alabama, partly due to its varied physiography, is the fifth most biodiverse state in the US. We have a high rate of endemism, that is – the number of species that are found naturally occurring only in our state. There are 24 plants endemic to Alabama, several of which I’ve been able to observe and study. 

Splinter Hill Bog, a 2,100 acre tract of land near Perdido in Baldwin County, AL, is one of our states many distinct properties managed by The Nature Conservancy. 

In addition to is diverse habitats and populations of several fascinating plants, Splinter Hill Bog is perhaps most known as possibly the largest population globally of pitcher plants, the insectiverous (insect-eating) plants in the genus Sarracenia. In addition to wild orchids and other species of insectiverous plants growing there, the most abundant and visually striking of these is Sarracenia leuocophylla, the white-topped pitcher plant. (shown below)

Being predominantly a longleaf pine ecosystem, one of the important ways The Nature Conservancy manages this property is the use of prescribed burns to remove encroaching competitive plants…something that would have occurred naturally in times past.  

This outing was one of the most fascinating and eye-opening experiences in which I’ve had the pleasure to participate.

What’s in bloom at The Gardens? 4.9.12

Monday, April 9th, 2012

What’s in Bloom at The Gardens? 4.9.12

As Spring continues to bloom at The Gardens, the Kaul Wildflower Garden continues to be a gorgeous spot. Above, Kalmia latifolia blooms. Below are many more of the things that can be seen around The Gardens today.

Chionanthus virginicus

Erigeron sp.

Aquilegia sp.

Phlox divaricata

Rhododendron austrinum

Rudbeckia sp.