Register Now! 9th Annual Beekeeping in the Panhandle Conference on Friday May 6th & Saturday May 7th 2022

Register Now! 9th Annual Beekeeping in the Panhandle Conference on Friday May 6th & Saturday May 7th 2022

The University of Florida IFAS Extension and the Beekeeping in the Panhandle Working Group has once again teamed up to offer the 9th Annual Beekeeping in the Panhandle Conference on Friday May 6th and Saturday May 7th 2022 at the Washington County Ag Center Auditorium.

This year’s event will feature: Hands-on open hive experiences, presentations on the latest in research-based beekeeping management practices, interaction with expert beekeepers, vendors with beekeeping equipment, and hive products. Door prizes will be available as well!

The registration fee for the event will be $35 for one day or $55 for both days per person over 12, and $15 per day for kids 12 and under.

The activities will take place from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm Central each day and will include catered lunch.

Location: 1424 Jackson Avenue, Chipley, FL

Ways to register:

Registration link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/9th-annual-beekeeping-in-the-panhandle-conference-trade-show-tickets-269199873067

Or, drop by the Washington County Extension Office in Chipley.

For more information contact Washington County Extension Office at (850) 638-6180

Fall and Winter—Florida’s Tree Planting Seasons

Fall and Winter—Florida’s Tree Planting Seasons

This giant heritage live oak tree has been providing oxygen, habitat, and shelter for 900 years! Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

While many people think of planting trees in the spring, autumn and winter are ideal for these activities in Florida.  The cooler weather means most trees are no longer actively growing and producing new leaves and fruit, so there are fewer demands on a newly planted tree to start “working” right away.  The dormant winter season allows the trees to acclimate to their new environment and begin developing sturdy root systems.

However, a newly planted tree is only as valuable as the care it’s given when planted.  To ensure a successful tree, important steps to follow include proper placement, planting depth, mulching, and watering.

Proper tree planting practices can ensure a long-lived, healthy tree in the environment. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

Before digging, look up and around to make sure there are no overhead or underground obstacles within the reaches of the tree’s mature height or root system.  When digging the planting hole, make sure the hole is 2-3 times as wide as the root ball.  When planted, the topmost root flare (where the roots join the trunk) should be just above the surface of the adjacent landscape.  It is not necessary to fertilize a newly planted tree.  Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil, but do not place it against the tree’s trunk. Finally, water the tree daily, saturating the root ball, for 1-2 weeks then weekly for a year.

For more information on planting trees and good varieties of trees for Florida, visit this excellent resource from UF. As always, one should strive to plant the right tree in the right place.  For those who live in suburban or urban areas, considerations like tree size, leaf shed, and water requirements are big concerns.  For more information on size evaluation and plant selection, please visit this link from the UF Horticulture department.

Celebrate Florida Arbor Day

Celebrate Florida Arbor Day

Old Live Oak
Picture from National Wildlife Foundation

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is Arbor Day. Florida recognizes the event on the third Friday in January, but planting any time before spring will establish a tree quickly.

Arbor Day is an annual observance that celebrates the role of trees in our lives and promotes tree planting and care. As a formal holiday, it was first observed on April 10, 1872 in the state of Nebraska. Today, every state and many countries join in the recognition of trees impact on people and the environment.

Trees are the longest living organisms on the planet and one of the earth’s greatest natural resources. They keep our air supply clean, reduce noise pollution, improve water quality, help prevent erosion, provide food and building materials, create shade, and help make our landscapes look beautiful.  A single tree produces approximately 260 pounds of oxygen per year. That means two mature trees can supply enough oxygen annually to support a family of four.

The idea for Arbor Day in the U.S. began with Julius Sterling Morton. In 1854 he moved from Detroit to the area that is now the state of Nebraska.  J. Sterling Morton was a journalist and nature lover who noticed that there were virtually no trees in Nebraska.  He wrote and spoke about environmental stewardship and encouraged everyone to plant trees.  Morton emphasized that trees were needed to act as windbreaks, to stabilize the soil, to provide shade, as well as fuel and building materials for the early pioneers to prosper in the developing state.

In 1872, The State Board of Agriculture accepted a resolution by J. Sterling Morton “to set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit.” On April 10, 1872 one million trees were planted in Nebraska in honor of the first Arbor Day. Shortly after the 1872 observance, several other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day.  By 1920, 45 states and territories celebrated Arbor Day.  Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day during his presidency in 1970.

Today, all 50 states in the U.S. have official Arbor Day, usually at a time of year that has the correct climatological conditions for planting trees. For Florida, the ideal tree planting time is January, so Florida’s Arbor Day is celebrated on the third Friday of the month.  Similar events are observed throughout the world. In Israel it is the Tu B Shevat (New Year for Trees). Germany has Tag des Baumes. Japan and Korea celebrate an entire week in April. Even Iceland, one of the most treeless countries in the world observes Student’s Afforestation Day.

The trees planted on Arbor Day show a concern for future generations. The simple act of planting a tree represents a belief that the tree will grow and someday provide wood products, wildlife habitat, erosion control, shelter from wind and sun, beauty, and inspiration for ourselves and our children.

“It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetime the nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted.”

~Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 Arbor Day Message

Parasitic Plants of the Florida Panhandle

Parasitic Plants of the Florida Panhandle

There are many problems that can plague a plant in our environment, from fungi that love the humidity in North Florida to insects that chew through leaves. One less common but interesting source of stress for plants comes from…other plants?

Most plants are content to gather energy from sunlight and nutrients from the soil in which they sink their roots. Some species, however, have taken up thievery as a lifestyle. Parasitic plants are those that take the nutrients they need to grow from other plants. Some rely completely on their hosts for nutrients, others are able to produce at least some of their own, while yet more can live on their own but steal nutrients if another plant is conveniently nearby. Furthermore, there are some plants and similar organisms that may seem to be parasitic, but actually do no harm.

Mistletoe is a common sight especially in the winter when trees’ leaves have dropped. It relies on its host for water and nutrients, though it can produce energy from photosynthesis. Being evergreen has led it its adoption as a symbol Christmastime, and it has historically been important to other cultures such as the Celtic druids. Too much mistletoe can weaken a tree, and removing it can help to reinvigorate one that is struggling. Physical pruning is often the only method available for its removal, and this can be difficult on a tree of any size.

Yellow tendrils and white flowers of dodder.

Dodder has a strange appearance, looking like someone threw a batch of angel-hair pasta all over a plant. There are ten different species of dodder in Florida and they may be found on a variety of host plants. This parasite is leafless, takes all it needs from its host, and cannot survive independently.  Though it germinates from the ground, it has no true roots. Controlling an infestation of dodder involves removing affected plants or at least pruning off the branches that are hosting the parasite. Herbicides will kill it, but they will also kill the host.

Ghost Pipe flowers

Ghost Pipe may be seen flowering from early summer through autumn, typically in woodland areas. It does not take its nutrients directly from a tree, but instead from mycorrhizal fungi. These helpful fungi attach to a tree and act like extra roots, assisting to absorb nutrients in return for energy from the plant. The ghost pipe helps itself to both nutrients and energy and does not bother to photosynthesize for itself, which gives it its stark white appearance.

Lichen may grow profusely on trees, but does not harm the plant.

 

 

There are also plenty of harmless plants out there, such as Spanish moss and resurrection fern, which grow on trees but are not parasitic. Lichens, while not plants, are similarly prolific on the bark of trees, but do no harm.

For help in identifying a potential parasitic plant, contact your local Extension office.

False Foxglove:  A Unique Fall Wildflower

False Foxglove: A Unique Fall Wildflower

Fall is the absolute best season for wildflower watching in the Panhandle!  When mid-September rolls around and the long dog days of summer finally shorten, giving way to drier air and cooler nights, northwest Florida experiences a wildflower color explosion.  From the brilliant yellow of Swamp Sunflower and Goldenrod, to the soothing blue of Mistflower, and the white-on-gold of Spanish Needles, there is no shortage of sights to see from now until frost.  But, in my opinion, the stars of the fall show are the currently flowering, beautiful pink blooms of False Foxglove (Agalinus spp.).

False Foxglove in a Calhoun County natural area. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.

Named for the appearance of their flowers, which bear a resemblance to the northern favorite Foxglove (Digitalis spp.), “False Foxglove” is actually the common name of several closely related species of parasitic plants in the genus Agalinus that are difficult to distinguish by all but the keenest of botanists.  Regardless of which species you may see, False Foxglove is an unusual and important Florida native plant.  Emerging from seed each spring in the Panhandle, plants grow quickly through the summer to a mature height of 3-5’.  During this time, False Foxglove is about as inconspicuous a plant as grows.  Consisting of a wispy thin stem with very small, narrow leaves, plants remain hidden in the flatwoods and sand hill landscapes that they inhabit.  However, when those aforementioned shorter September days arrive, False Foxglove explodes into flower sporting sprays of dozens of light purple to pink tubular-shaped flowers that remain until frost ends the season.

False Foxglove flowering in a Calhoun County natural area. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.

In addition to being unmatched in flower, False Foxglove also plays several important ecological roles in Florida’s natural areas.  First, False Foxglove’s relatively large, tubular-shaped flowers are the preferred nectar sources for the larger-sized native solitary and bumble bees present in the Panhandle, though all manner of generalist bees and butterflies will also visit for a quick sip.  Second, False Foxglove is the primary host plant for the unique Common Buckeye butterfly.  One of the most easily recognizable butterflies due to the large “eye” spots on their wings, Common Buckeye larvae (caterpillars), feed on False Foxglove foliage during the summer before emerging as adults and adding to the fall spectacle.  Finally, False Foxglove is an important indicator of a healthy native ecosystem.  As a parasitic plant, False Foxglove obtains nutrients and energy by photosynthesis AND by using specialized roots to tap into the roots of nearby suitable hosts (native grasses and other plants).  As both False Foxglove and its parasitic host plants prefer to grow in the sunny, fire-exposed areas pine flatwoods and sand ridges that characterized pre-settlement Florida, you can be fairly confident that if you see a natural area with an abundance of False Foxglove in flower, that spot is in good ecological shape!

The Florida Panhandle is nearly unmatched in its fall wildflower diversity and False Foxglove plays a critical part in the show.  From its stunning flowers to its important ecological roles, one would be hard-pressed to find a more unique native wildflower!  For more information about False Foxglove and other Florida native wildflowers, contact us at the UF/IFAS Calhoun County Extension office.

 

Golden Fall in the Panhandle

Golden Fall in the Panhandle

Yellow Flower

Yellow Flower

Goldenrod

Each fall, nature puts on a brilliant show of color throughout the United States.  As the temperatures drop, autumn encourages the “leaf peepers” to hit the road in search of the red-, yellow- and orange-colored leaves of the northern deciduous trees.  Here in the Florida Panhandle, fall color means wildflowers.  As one drives the roads it’s nearly impossible to not see the bright yellows in the ditches and along the wood’s edge.  Golden Asters (Chrysopsis spp.), Tickseeds (Coreopsis spp.), Silkgrasses (Pityopsis spp.), Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) and Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) are displaying their petals of gold at every turn.  These wildflowers are all members of the Aster family, one of the largest plant families in the world.  For most, envisioning an Aster means a flower that looks like a daisy.  While many are daisy-like in structure, others lack the petals and appear more like cascading sprays.  So, if you are one of the many “hitting the road in search of fall color”, head to open areas.  For wildflowers, that means rural locations with limited homes and businesses.  Forested areas and non-grazed pastures typically have showy displays, especially when a spring burn was performed earlier in the year.  With the drought we experienced, moist, low-lying areas will naturally be the best areas to view the many golden wildflowers.  Visit the Florida Wildflower Foundation website, www.flawildflowers.org/bloom.php, to see both what’s in bloom and the locations of the state’s prime viewing areas.