Q: While hiking last fall, I saw a small, short blue-purple flower that I could not identify. do you recognize it?
A: Indeed, this is a native wildflower called branched blue curl (Trichostema dichotomum), a member of the Labiatae family. Found essentially statewide, these slow-growing annuals bloom in beautiful shades of deep blue-purple in late summer and early fall. They prefer open habitats (not too overgrown with trees, so they receive dappled sunlight), such as around rocky outcrops, in dry, sandy, low-fertility soils. Seeing them regularly around the river canyon always brings me joy.
Q: I have a wet part of my garden surrounding a natural depression that normally contains water, like a small pond. Far enough away from home to plant a tree. I would like to plant some in this area to increase interest and wildlife value. What kind of wood can handle that consistent humidity? Maybe something more unusual?
A: Some tree species can treat pond side soil. Mixing seeds is a great way to add value to wildlife while giving your plant a more natural look. However, some of these underused selections are not the go-to seeds of the mainstream and can be difficult to find in nurseries (which is a shame, because they are all interesting in their own right). If you want to get started, you can root cuttings or start seeds from on-site sources from which you can obtain a harvest permit.
Below are some suggestions.
- Alder A cousin of the birch found in moist areas, whose roots are able to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Alder (Alnus serrulata) is abundant, but several other species occur in more isolated areas of the state. They can sucker to help prevent erosion, and birds enjoy conifer-like seed cones.
- Kuroyanagi (Salix nigra) is found in every county in Maryland and ranks highly for wildlife support. It is rather weak and can grow rapidly, but rejuvenates easily if a storm causes aesthetic damage and is very easy to propagate from cuttings. It relies on willow pollen, which appears very early in the spring. Many caterpillars and other insects utilize it as a host plant, followed by insect-eating birds.
- bitter nut hickory (Carya cordiformis), also widely distributed in Maryland, is one of the hickory species (of seven that grow here) and is associated with the wettest lowlands. Hickory supports multiple species of moth caterpillars and grows very tall at maturity, although the pace of growth is generally slow. Young trees have very long taproots, so plant them in the ground as small seedlings or saplings to minimize stress from transplanting.
- bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) Technically not endemic to the counties of Maryland north of Calvert and Dorchester, but more commonly planted in the coastal plains and Piedmont than mentioned above, hence the familiar The feathery leaflets turn a bright copper-orange color in the fall. It is home to a variety of insect species and, like the hickory, the terminally branchless lower trunk that develops with age allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support nearby shrubs and flowering perennials. .
- Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) is an evergreen tree that grows in small patches along the coastal plains from Maine to Florida. (When possible, use locally sourced population genetics to best adapt to the weather. This can be challenging as they are very rare in Maryland.) Their own cozy multi-season interest.
If seeds that are readily available as substitutes or supplements are needed, swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) ). ), and red maple (Acer rubrum).
The University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center provides free gardening and pest information. extension.umd.edu/hgicClick “Ask Extension” to submit your question and photo.