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November 07, 2015

Saturday Gardening Thread: November Boogie [Y-not and KT]

Y-not: Good afternoon, morons! Welcome to your Saturday Gardening Thread brought to you by the Haw Berry wren:

You can learn more about the Eurasian Wren here. I don't know about you, but I'm ROTFLMAO that its scientific name is Troglodytes troglodytes. Troglodyte for a wren? Really? Someone had a sense of humor.

Name That Tree

Last week we had a tree identification challenge. There was some diversity of opinion about the tree in question, so I did a little follow up this week. It was also a good excuse to check out some of the online resources for tree identification that are out there.

I found that Google Image searches were not successful. I even tried it on a nicely preserved broadleaf tree leaf without luck. (The results keyed in on the coloration of the leaf rather than its shape.)

I then checked a few websites designed for the task. For example, Arbor Day has the WhatTree app. I liked that its first step involved identifying where the tree in question is found, but the subsequent questions used to ID trees were not uniformly helpful.

I found a better resource at the Ohio Public Library Information Network (or OPLIN). What Tree Is It? allows you to describe the tree by its leaf or its fruit. However, it wasn't clear how to answer the questions when it came to last week's tree (and its fruit, in particular).

The site seems to be down at the moment, but I thought Leafsnap.com looked helpful, as does this Leaf Key tree identification site.

Auburn University's Horticulture program maintains a Leaf ID site. I found it a little difficult to use myself. A little too much jargon, for one thing.

Those of you in warm climates might enjoy this palm tree identifier.

And those of you who want to ID a specific type of maple might like this site.

In any event, after doing some more searching, I think last week's tree is a bald cypress, as many of you thought. Commenter "kaf" was the first to guess bald cypress. Congratulations!

This week I thought I'd toss out another challenge:


TreeForID.jpg

Name that tree! (Answer next week.)

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?

November is upon us and that means soon most of us will be gathering with family and loved ones (not necessarily an overlapping group!) to express our gratitude for the bounty bestowed upon us by gorging ourselves and watching football. *burp* At Casa Y-not Thanksgiving is a decidedly low-key affair. Although I will pull out the "good china" and silver for the event, I don't generally do much more than that in terms of table decor. But the folks at Garden and Gun had a nice article about center pieces. That seemed gardening-related enough for me, so I thought I'd share it.

Fall-Arrangement-One.jpg

If any of you are particularly proud of the Thanksgiving centerpieces you make each year (or any table centerpieces you make yourself, especially those using things you've grown or collected yourself), I'd love to see them. Might be a fun "show and tell" thread. Send your pictures to me at bailesworth AT g mail DOT com.


Now, here's KT:

The Nannyberry Tree

Now that Halloween is over, I thought it would be nice to touch on a topic related to Thanksgiving. I started wondering what the Pilgrims might have eaten from the wild during those hard times before the First Thanksgiving. Of course there were blueberries, but we discussed those last year.

Would there be a fruit they could forage later in the season? We have discussed cranberries and high bush cranberries, too. But they require considerable sweetening to really taste good. It turns out that there is a native relative of the highbush cranberry that is sweet right off the bush or tree. It is the Nannyberry, Viburnum lent ago.

These berries seem to be pretty good for you. And Native Americans used the bark and leaves medicinally. But I found no evidence that nannyberries got their nickname because they were promoted by people who think like Bernie Sanders. So get the image below right out of your mind:

nanny-berries1.jpg

Everyone deserves free nannyberries

"Nannyberry" actually refers to nanny goats. Sometimes the plant is called "Sheepberry". The flowers, bruised twigs and sometimes the over-ripe fruit are said to smell like wet wool, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. "It is a durable and easy-to-grow plant throughout Minnesota because of its hardiness, its ability to grow in light or shade, and its adaptability across a wide range of soil textures, moisture levels, and soil pH."

v-lentago-flower-cluster.jpg

Spring flower clusters

Viburnum lentago naturally grows as a massive shrub. One of its valuable attributes is the ability to grow in wet soil, as at the edge of a swamp. It is often seen growing along roads near where water puddles after storms. It is also fairly drought-tolerant and tolerates compacted soils. It can be trained as an attractive single-trunked tree of up to 30 feet, or as a somewhat shorter multiple-trunked tree. One owner of a tree-form nannyberry said (on the Far North Forum at Gardenweb) "Everyone who sees it in the fall wants one." It looks like a nice lawn tree for cold-winter climates.

Spring bloom is profuse. The berries which follow turn from rose or red to blue-black in fall. Fruit not harvested can persist on the tree into winter, until eaten by birds.

colorful-fruit-stalks-and-foliage-of-nannyberry-in-autumn.jpg

Berries with fall foliage

The University of Connecticut states that the fruit is most appealing during the transition from rose (or red) to blue-black. They list two cutting-grown cultivars, the tall-growing "Deep Green" and "Pink Beauty", which has pink berries that eventually turn purple. These cultivars are hard to find.

Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide notes that nannyberries have excellent flavor as a trail snack, though the seeds are a nuisance. Like the highbush cranberry, nannyberries contain a single large seed. This book also includes an apparently famous recipe for a molded nannyberry pudding flavored with lemon zest, lemon juice and a touch of cinnamon. It is thickened with cornstarch rather than gelatin. Old-fashioned.

The authors also recommend this recipe for three other species of edible viburnum berries: Blackhaw (V. prunifolium), northern wild raisin (V. cassinoides) or hobblebush (V. alnifolium). There are reportedly no poisonous look-alikes for any of these species.

A simple nanny berry sauce, as featured on Punk Domestics, is more my speed. There are photos and preparation tips. This year, the same cook developed a quick single-layer nannyberry cake recipe. Let us know if you try it.

I have gotten the impression that some people who have posted recipes for Nannyberries were actually using Blackhaw Viburnum berries. Blackhaw is adaptable to hot or humid summers because of its resistance to mildew. It is not as hardy as Nannyberry, but apparently the plant never smells like wet wool. It is smaller-growing and some people think it is less graceful in form than the Nannyberry. The Eat the Weeds guy has a nice rundown on other edible native viburnums.

Viburnum x jackii, other species and modern hybrids

An accidental hybrid between the Nannyberry and Blackhaw was discovered in 1908 at the Arnold Arboretum (Harvard) by Professor J.G. Jack. It has characteristics of both parents, growing to a height of 10 feet. It appears to be unaffected by mildew in northern Ohio (unlike a nannyberry growing nearby), with less suckering. It is rated as hardy only to USDA Zone 4, while the Nannyberry is hardy to Zone 2 or 3, depending on the source of your information.
In 1925, V. x jackii was not considered to be more valuable (at the Arnold Arboretum) than either of its parents, which could be grown from seed. The arboretum staff seemed to love the Nannyberry (sheepberry), attributing much of the beauty of the arboretum during May and early June to its flowers. It had been "planted in large numbers along the drives and in the border plantations" of the arboretum. Viburnum x jackii may have been reassessed since 1925, at least for North Carolina. There is a profile of its features and garden culture here. Specialists think that this hybrid would be easy to train as a small tree because it has a central leader when young. A photo of one trained as a tree remains elusive.

F443-08.jpg

Michael Dirr, a specialist in hydrangeas, magnolias and viburnums, has produced a very informative site comparing what he considers to be the best species and cultivars of viburnum for gardens. Breeding and selection of new viburnum cultivars, including inter-species hybrids, has continued since V. Jackii was discovered. It may take 20 years from breeding to introduction of a new viburnum cultivar. With the introduction of new, superior cultivars, Sunset has dropped some species from its Plant Encyclopedia for Western Gardeners.

Mr. Dirr rates Viburnum lentago (the Nannyberry) as one of the "best of the best" viburnums in the category of small trees or large shrubs. Smaller-growing viburnums beat out the nannyberry in the categories of fragrant flowers (wet wool fragrance does not seem to impress him), showy flowers, showy fruit and distinctively-colored summer foliage.

If you are looking for a shrub or small tree for your yard, here is a Viburnum photo gallery by cultivar or species. Click on a photo to see more photos of the same cultivar. The gallery includes both very hardy deciduous cultivars and tender evergreens such as V. awabuki, V. suspensum and V. tinus.

There is a lot of diversity in this genus. Some of these plants are really beautiful.

Spring Azure Butterfly

Nannyberry, like many other viburnums, plays host to the caterpillars of the lovely little Spring Azure butterfly, Celastrina laden. Dogwood, ceanothus, wild buckwheat and blueberry are also hosts, along with some other shrubs and trees. The caterpillars feed mainly on buds, flowers and young fruits.

SpringAzurecater.jpg

Spring Azure Caterpillar

You may never see a Spring Azure caterpillar even it is feeding in your yard. These caterpillars often hide inside buds or other plant parts while feeding. And their color may change to effectively camouflage them, depending on the plant they are eating. Three color variations are seen here. Some species of ants may protect these caterpillars from predators and parasitoids in exchange for honeydew produced by special glands on the backs of the caterpillars. Better than having ants protect aphids for honeydew, in my opinion.

The adult butterflies exhibit sexual dimorphism, with females often darker in color than males, with more black markings.

P1030618.JPG

Female Azure Butterfly

There is also variability in the appearance of these butterflies from region to region. Spring Azures are often considered to be a complex of several subspecies. "All it takes for a spirited argument are 2 taxonomists and 1 azure."

Some form of Spring Azure flies in most regions of the country other than the warmest parts of some Gulf States, where gaudy tropical butterflies make up for their absence. Spring Azures are often the first butterflies which do not over-winter as adults to appear in the spring. There are two flights a year in most of its range. No matter which variation you see, these little blue butterflies are charming.

blue_butterfly_503.jpg

Male Azure Butterfly

A Hops Azure has recently been discovered in Colorado. A beer was named after it, with part of the proceeds from its sale going to further study of the butterfly. Beer to promote butterfly research! What a good excuse to drink during the day.

While relaxing with your butterfly-loving drinking buddies, you might like to propose the challenge below. There is a secret to getting an Azure or other Blue butterfly to sit on your finger or your nose. Do you know what it is?

74633846_f75ef35eb0.jpg

Can you do this?


Y-not: Thanks, KT!

To wrap things up, how about some November Boogie?

What's happening in YOUR gardens this week?

(Link to the Saturday Gardening Thread archives.)

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posted by Open Blogger at 02:30 PM

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