Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"What is it?" Wednesday - Purple Flowers

I have a ton of these plants growing in the yard. There's even some bees in the photos:

This blooms all June and is quite popular with the bees and butterflies. If you want a hint (scroll down)
... it is also quite popular with Monarch butterflies.

What is it? Think about it and I'll post the answer next week.

Last week's answer to:

This beautiful yellow flower is commonly called Bird's-foot Trefoil  or Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus). It is a perennial that grows mostly in the Midwest but can be found over much of the continental US and Canada.  It has become invasive in some areas of North America and is considered especially problematic in the prairie and grassland regions of the Midwest.

Here locally in Columbus, it is common along the edges of the woods at the park I frequent. It's a beautiful contrast to the green of the woods.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Experiment: Vinegar, Salt and Poison Ivy

I have never been a huge fan of chemicals. I live on a property with a well and I realize that whatever I dump on the ground stands a possibility of making its way into my water supply and I'm not OK with that. Even if it doesn't make it into the well, I just don't like dumping toxins in my yard.

I am also not a huge fan of spending a lot of money. So, when my dad told me he had a weed killer recipe that was cheap and non-toxic, I was on board to try it out. The recipe is:
  • 1 gallon vinegar (I used white but apple cider vinegar works, too.)
  • 1 cup regular table salt
  • 1 Tablespoon dish detergent (I used Dawn and wound up pouring in more like 2-3 tablespoons)

Mix it all together and spray on weeds.  It should go without saying that it is not selective about what it kills, so be careful when spraying it around plants you want to keep.

So, as luck would have it, I found a patch of poison ivy in a flower bed in my yard last Saturday morning. The birds must have just stood there and pooped for 5 minutes because there sure were a lot of plants coming up. For those who don't know, poison ivy plants are primarily propagated by birds who eat the berries and then poop out the seeds. For some reason, I've had a bumper crop of poison ivy this year. Anyhow, here's the patch:

I decided to experiment with the weed killer on poison ivy. I'm not much into killing, even where plants are concerned, but I don't want this stuff growing in my yard. So, I sprayed half of the poison ivy to see if this week killer worked. Here's the half I sprayed:

The rest of Saturday was cloudy. When I came out in the afternoon, I saw that apparently I did not mix the weed killer too well because there sure was a lot of salt on the leaves.

 I shook things up and re-sprayed a bit more vinegar. I came out on Sunday morning and this is what I found - the plants were starting to die.

It should be noted that this patch of ivy is on the north side of a tree and gets maybe 2 hours of sun a day. I have tried this out on plants that live in full sun and had results within hours. Nevertheless, this was starting to die:

 By Monday night around sundown, it was really looking dead:

By the summer solstice (one week after initial application) the half I sprayed was totally gone.

I'm waiting to see if the half I sprayed re-grows, but I doubt they will since they were too young to really be established. I've seen similar recipes on the net and this site does a good job of explaining why vinegar and salt work:

I've got an ivy plant growing in a pot to see how fast it grows and how long it takes to start producing tendrills, etc.When it comes time to kill it off, I'm going to try this mixture on it, as an established plant, and see what happens.

For now, I'm hitting all of the small poison ivy plants in my yard with this stuff. So far, it seems to work.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"What is it?" Wednesday - Yellow Flower

I was walking in Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park again tonight and found this wildflower growing all over:

I'm not going to do a multiple  guess this week, but I will tell you it was growing in sunny areas and plants were anywhere from 1 to 2 feet high.

Let me know what you think it is! Answer will be next week.

Last week's answer:

The correct answer is c) Virginia creeper.

This was a photo of Virginia creeper just coming up out of a mulched area at the park. If you look at the photo closely, you can count more than 3 leaves. This would eliminate the possibility of it being poison ivy.
Virginia creeper's name is well-earned because it does creep. In fact, it does not stand up and make a bush the way poison ivy can. All of its leaves come from the ground. The vine crawls along the ground and produces leaves, and at some point, the plant anchors itself in the soil as it goes along. The exception, of course, is that Virginia creeper will climb once it finds something to climb on. But, if it can't find anything to climb up, it will just keep creeping along.

This is a photo of me separating Virginia creeper leaves. As you can see, they are anchored to the ground. The 3 leaf objects you see are young Virginia creeper leaves, not poison ivy. I know this because those leaves are attached to the same vine that has 5 leaves on it. (I also know because I planted it on purpose.)

Poison Ivy or Not?

These photos were sent by JC. He thought it was a look-a-like, and I agree:

He said it grew slowly and with sucker pads as opposed to tendrils. He mentioned it was not doing any damage to the wall and in winter it dies off. He was wondering what this plant was.

I've determined it is not poison ivy because:

  • The top photo shows single leaves on the vine and the fourth photo shows single leaves in the background, and poison ivy never has single leaves;
  • The second photo shows the leaves close up. The middle leaflet of the 3 does not have a rachis (stem). Every poison ivy plant I've seen has a rachis on the middle leaflet which is noticeably longer than the 2 leaflets on the side;
  • This plant has suckers  (tendrils with sticky disks on them, see photo 3) and poison ivy does not.

My vote is for young Boston ivy. According to, young Boston ivy can have either single or compound leaves.

I'll be honest, though.. I've never seen Boston ivy in person, so if anyone knows for sure, please let me know!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fire pink, Scarlet catchfly

Last week at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, I came across a Fire pink, Scarlet catchfly (Silene virginica) These short-lived perennials are a beautiful contrast to the deep green of the woods!

Silene virginica is listed as Endangered or Threatened in Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but not Ohio. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"What is it?" Wednesday - Plant L eafing Out

Below is a photo of  a plant that has just shot up some new sprouts and is starting to leaf out.

What is this? Is this:

a) A Buckeye tree sprout
b) Poison ivy
c) Virginia creeper

I'll post the answer next week!

Last week's answer:

The correct answer is c) A dead tree covered completely in poison ivy.

Every bit of green you see in the photo is poison ivy. The tree is entirely dead with about 8 or 9 vines running up it. The vines are 2-3 inches in diameter. Whoever eventually takes this tree down is not going to have fun!

In fairness, this tree is an ash tree and it did die due to the Emerald Ash Borer, but since the tree is completely dead with no leaves on its own, it would have been impossible to tell that from this photo.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Wildflower or Invasive? Dame's Rocket

Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)  blooms late spring into very early summer with flower colors including white, lavender, pink, deep purple and rose. Flowers have 4 petals and can produce showy raceme. This plant was blooming in Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park in late May. 

Although I've seen quite a bit of it in the park, I've also seen it growing in ditches and alongside woods all around Columbus.

Dame's Rocket seeds are sometimes included in "wild flower" mixes. However, as pretty as it is, it is actually considered an invasive species in Ohio. Cleveland Metro Parks have been working to eliminate it; read more at

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"What is it?" Wednesday: Living Tree or Not?

Below is a photo of a tree, part of which is clearly dead. Click to enlarge.

Is this:

a) An ash tree dying from the Emerald Ash Borer
b) A photo of two trees; the tall one is dead, the smaller one is alive.
c) A dead tree covered completely in poison ivy

Here's a photo of the leaves. Click to enlarge:

Let me know what you think it is!  I'll post the answer next Wednesday.