Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly

Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly

According to Druid lore, hanging the plant in homes would bring good luck and protection. Holly was considered sacred because it remained green and strong with brightly colored red berries no matter how harsh the winter.  Most other plants would wilt and die.

Later, Christians adopted the holly tradition from Druid practices and developed symbolism to reflect Christian beliefs.  Today, the red berries are said to represent the blood that Jesus shed on the cross when he was crucified.  Additionally, the pointed leaves of the holly symbolize the crown of thorns Jesus wore on his head.

Several hollies are native to Florida.  Many more are cultivated varieties commonly used as landscape plants.  Hollies (Ilex spp.) are generally low maintenance plants that come in a diversity of sizes, forms and textures, ranging from large trees to dwarf shrubs.

The berries provide a valuable winter food source for migratory birds.  However, the berries only form on female plants.  Hollies are dioecious plants, meaning male and female flowers are located on separate plants.  Both male and female hollies produce small white blooms in the spring.  Bees are the primary pollinators, carrying pollen from the male hollies 1.5 to 2 miles, so it is not necessary to have a male plant in the same landscape.

Several male hollies are grown for their compact formal shape and interesting new foliage color. Dwarf Yaupon Hollies (Ilex vomitoria ‘Shillings’ and ‘Bordeaux’) form symmetrical spheres without extensive pruning.  ‘Bordeaux’ Yaupon has maroon-colored new growth.  Neither cultivar has berries.

Hollies prefer to grow in partial shade but will do well in full sun if provided adequate irrigation. Most species prefer well-drained, slightly acidic soils.  However, Dahoon holly (Ilex cassine) and Gallberry (Ilex glabra) naturally occurs in wetland areas and can be planted on wetter sites.

Evergreen trees retain leaves throughout the year and provide wind protection. The choice of one type of holly or another will largely depend on prevailing environmental conditions and windbreak purposes. If, for example, winds associated with storms or natural climatic variability occur in winter, then a larger leaved plant might be required.

The natives are likely to be better adapted to local climate, soil, pest and disease conditions and over a broader range of conditions. Nevertheless, non-natives may be desirable for many attributes such as height, growth rate and texture but should not reproduce and spread beyond the area planted or they may become problematic because of invasiveness.

There is increasing awareness of invasiveness, i.e., the potential for an introduced species to establish itself or become “naturalized” in an ecological community and even become a dominant plant that replaces native species. Tree and shrub species can become invasive if they aggressively proliferate beyond the windbreak. At first glance, Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), a fast-growing, non-native shrub that has a dense crown, might be considered an appropriate red berry producing species. However, it readily spreads seed disbursed by birds and has invaded many natural ecosystems. Therefore, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has declared it illegal to plant this tree in Florida without a special permit. Consult the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s Web page (www.fleppc.org) for a list of prohibited species in Florida.

For a more comprehensive list of holly varieties and their individual growth habits refer to ENH42 Hollies at a Glance: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg021

Miniature Plants with Sizeable Character

Water meal, the world’s smallest flowering plant.  Photo by Vic Ramey, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

Some of the world’s smallest flowering plants grow in aquatic environments.  And a number of these tiny aquatic plants grow natively right here in Florida!  Aquatic plants of all kinds display an amazing array of adaptations for growing in water.  They can tolerate drought, flood, flowing water, stagnant water, cold spring runs, and warm brackish marshes.  They grow in sun and shade and nutrient rich to nutrient poor waters.  Some of their adaptations include the ways in which they grow such as being rooted in bottom sediments, submerged, emerged, leaves floating on the surface, or completely free floating with their roots dangling into the water below.

The tiniest of aquatic plants are in this group of free floating plants.  Let’s take a look at five of these tiny (less than ½ inch wide) plant species in Florida.  They are most noticeable in slow moving waters, ponds, or coves protected from wind where many thousands of them form floating mats almost like paint on the water surface. Even though individual plants are small, some of these plant species are used by wildlife and invertebrates for food and cover.  Oftentimes, especially in small ponds, these tiny floating plants can cover the entire water surface resulting in the need for management, especially if the ponds are used for irrigation or livestock watering.

In this article we will look at the native species, but as you are probably aware, there are also non-native representatives of these tiny plants established in our waters, but that is a story for another time…

The images and text below are from the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Species website, list of Plants Sorted by Common Name.

Watermeal
“Water meal, native to Florida, is a tiny, floating, rootless plant. At 1 to 1.5 mm long, it is the smallest flowering plant on earth. It is occasionally found growing in rivers, ponds, lakes, and sloughs of the peninsula and central panhandle of Florida (Wunderlin, 2003).”

Water meal has a grainy feel and can be used as one clue in identifying this plant.  Photo by Ann Murray, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.


American Waterfern

“There are six species of Azolla in the world. American waterfern is the species commonly found in Florida. American waterfern is a small, free-floating fern, about one-half inch in size. It is most often found in still or sluggish waters. Young plants are, at first, a bright or grey-green. Azolla plants often turn red in color. American waterfern can quickly form large, floating mats.”

A large area of waterfern showing the reddish coloration. Photo by Vic Ramey, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

Close up of individual water fern plants.  Photo by Ann Murray, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.


Giant Duckweed

“Giant duckweed is a native floating plant in Florida. Though very small, it is the largest of the duckweeds…..frequently found growing in rivers, ponds, lakes, and sloughs from the peninsula west to the central panhandle of Florida (Wunderlin, 2003)…  Giant duckweed has two to three rounded leaves, which are usually connected. Giant duckweeds usually have several roots (up to nine) hanging beneath each leaf. The underleaf surface of giant duckweed is dark red.”

Close up of individual duckweed plants showing roots hanging freely below the plant.  Photo by Vic Ramey, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

A typical scene of duckweed in a quiet cove or pond.  Photo by Ann Murray, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.


Small Duckweed

“Small duckweeds are floating plants. They are commonly found in still or sluggish waters. They often form large floating mats…. Small duckweeds are tiny (1/16 to 1/8 inch) green plants with shoe-shaped leaves. Each plant has two to several leaves joined at the base. A single root hangs beneath.”

This is small duckweed, note the single root below each plant.  Photo by Vic Ramey, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.


Mudmidget

“Mud-midget, native to Florida, is another small duckweed, but this one has narrow, elongated fronds. The fronds are usually connected to form starlike colonies. The fronds are 5-10 mm long; the flowers are extremely small and difficult to see.  Mud-midget plants float just beneath the surface of the water and is frequently found growing in rivers, ponds, lakes, and sloughs from the peninsula west to the central panhandle of Florida (Wunderlin, 2003)….”

Mudmidget, Photo by Vic Ramey, University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

If you have any questions about aquatic plant identification or management options, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension County office.  And, for more information on Florida’s aquatic plants, please see the following resources used for this article:

UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Species

Plants Sorted by Common Name

USDA Forest Service – Duckweed

USDA Forest Service – Water Fern

Native Aquatic and Wetland Plant Fact Sheets 

Aquatic Plant Identification List with Pictures and Videos

 

NISAW 2017: Micro-Invasives can Cause Big Problems – Bacterial Pathogens

Fruits on HLB infected trees ripen prematurely, are small, and often drop from tree. Photo credit: Erik Lovestrand

If we look at the big picture when it comes to invasive species, some of the smallest organisms on the planet should pop right into focus. A microscopic bacterium named Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, the cause of Citrus Greening (HLB), has devastated the citrus industry worldwide. This tiny creature lives and multiplies within the phloem tissue of susceptible plants. From the leaves to the roots, damage is caused by an interruption in the flow of food produced through photosynthesis. Infected trees show a significant reduction in root mass even before the canopy thins dramatically. The leaves eventually exhibit a blotchy, yellow mottle that usually looks different from the more symmetrical chlorotic pattern caused by soil nutrient deficiencies.

HLB, referred to as “Yellow Dragon” in China, causes an asymmetrical pattern of chlorosis in citrus leaves. Photo credit: Erik Lovestrand

One of the primary vectors for the spread of HLB is an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. These insects feed by sucking juices from the plant tissues and can then transfer bacteria from one tree to another. HLB has been spread through the use of infected bud wood during grafting operations also. One of the challenges with battling this invasive bacterium is that plants don’t generally show noticeable symptoms for perhaps 3 years or even longer. As you would guess, if the psyllids are present they will be spreading the disease during this time. Strategies to combat the impacts of this industry-crippling disease have involved spraying to reduce the psyllid population, actual tree removal and replacement with healthy trees, and cooperative efforts between growers in citrus producing areas. You can imagine that if you were trying to manage this issue and your neighbor grower was not, long-term effectiveness of your efforts would be much diminished. Production costs to fight citrus greening in Florida have increased by 107% over the past 10 years and 20% of the citrus producing land in the state has been abandoned for citrus.

 

Many scientists and citrus lovers had hopes at one time that our Panhandle location would be protected by our cooler climate but HLB has now been confirmed in more than one location in backyard trees in Franklin County. The presence of an established population of psyllids has yet to be determined, as there is a possibility infected trees were brought in.

Another symptom of citrus greening is small, lopsided fruit that are often bitter. Photo credit: Erik Lovestrand

 

A team of plant pathologists, entomologists, and horticulturists at the University of Florida’s centers in Quincy and Lake Alfred and extension agents in the panhandle are now considering this new finding of HLB to help devise the most effective management strategies to combat this tiny invader in North Florida. With no silver-bullet-cure in sight, cooperative efforts by those affected are the best management practice for all concerned. Vigilance is also important. If you want to learn more about HLB and other invasive species contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

Winter is For Tree Planting

Winter is For Tree Planting

4H youth assist an IFAS Extension agent in planting a tree. July 2008 IFAS Extension Calendar Photo. 4H children planting a small tree. 4H Club, youth groups, planting. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham.

Florida has celebrated Arbor Day since 1886 and has one of the first Arbor Day celebrations in the nation, on the third Friday in January.  Trees establish a root system quickly when they aren’t expending as much energy on leaf development.  So in Florida that is in the winter months; hence the reason for a January date for Arbor Day.  However, installation anytime between October and March are suitable for most tree species.  Palms are the exception.  They require warm soil in order to root, so it best to plant them from April to August.

Planting and establishing trees is all about managing air and water in the soil.  Three of the most common causes of poor plant establishment or even death include installing too deeply, under watering, and over watering.  By selecting the appropriate species for the site, planting it at the correct depth, and irrigating properly trees should establish successfully.  As simple as that sounds, many trees fail before they ever mature in the landscape.

Here are the ten steps to proper tree planting:

  1. Look up for wires and lights when choosing a site. Make sure that the location is more than 15 feet from a structure. Call 811 for underground utilities spotting at no cost.
  2. Remove any synthetic or metal materials from the top of the root ball.
  3. Find the topmost root (where the trunk meets the roots) and remove root defects, such as encircling roots. Loosed the root ball.
  4. Dig a shallow container-sized hole.
  5. Carefully place the tree in the hole. Don’t damage the trunk or break branches.
  6. Position the topmost root 1-2 inches above the soil grade.
  7. Straighten the tree. Be sure to check from two directions.
  8. Widen the hole to add backfill soil.
  9. Water to check for air pockets and hydrate the root ball. Add 3-4 inch thick layer of mulch at the edge of the root ball, with little to no mulch on top of the root ball.
  10. Prune for structural strength and damage removal. Stake if necessary in windy areas or if required by code.

These are probably not the steps used by previous generations.  Twenty years of research has improved the techniques required for tree survival.  Every year more and more trees are removed from storm damage, pest infestations, and development.  Winter is time to add them back to both the urban and rural environments.  Celebrate Arbor Day.  Plant a tree.  But, install it properly.  Give your grandchildren the opportunity to enjoy it well into their adulthood.

Consider a Native Evergreen This Christmas

Consider a Native Evergreen This Christmas

eastern-redcedarThroughout history the evergreen tree has been a symbol of life. “Not only green when summer’s here, but also when cedar%20waxwing%20b57-13-103_vit’s cold and dreary” as the Christmas carol “O Tannenbaum” says.  While supporting the cut Christmas tree industry does create jobs and puts money into local economics, every few years consider adding to the urban forest by purchasing a living tree.  Native evergreen trees such as Redcedar make a nice Christmas tree that can be planted following the holidays.  The dense growth and attractive foliage make Redcedar a favorite for windbreaks, screens and wildlife cover.  The heavy berry production provides a favorite food source for migrating Cedar Waxwing birds.  Its highsouthern-redcedar salt-tolerance makes it ideal for coastal locations.  Their natural pyramidal-shape creates the traditional Christmas tree form, but can be easily pruned as a street tree.  Two species, Juniperus virginiana and Juniperus silicicola are native to Northwest Florida.  Many botanists do not separate the two, but as they mature, Juniperus silicicola takes on a softer, more informal look.  When planning for using a live Christmas tree there are a few things to consider.  The tree needs sunlight, so restrict its inside time to less than a week.  Make sure there is a catch basin for water under the tree, but never allow water to remain in the tray and don’t add fertilizer.  Locate your tree in the coolest part of the room and away from heating ducts and fireplaces. After Christmas, install the Redcedar in an open, sunny part of the yard.  After a few years you will be able to admire the living fence with all the wonderful memories of many years of holiday celebrations. Don’t forget to watch for the Cedar Waxwings.

Gardening for Pollinator Conservation Workshop – October 13th, Quincy FL

Gardening for Pollinator Conservation Workshop – October 13th, Quincy FL

Bee Balm CompressedA “Gardening for Pollinator Conservation” Workshop will take place Thursday, October 13, at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) in Quincy. Pollinators are important in conserving native plants, ensuring a plentiful food supply, encouraging biodiversity and helping maintain a healthier ecological environment – – – the so-called “balance of nature.” Come learn how you can conserve and promote pollinators in your own garden, all while beautifying your own little piece of Nature.

As in previous years, nursery vendors will be selling pollinator plants at the Oct. 13 workshop, making it convenient for you to put into practice what you learn at the workshop!  Registration is just $15 per person and includes lunch, refreshments, and handouts.

Check out the workshop details and register at: https://gardeningforpollinatorconservation.eventbrite.com/

What: Gardening for Pollinator Conservation

When: Thursday, October 13, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm EDT

Where: University of Florida/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, 155 Research Road, Quincy, FL. Located just north of I-10 Exit 181, 3 miles south of Quincy, off Pat Thomas Highway, SR 267.

Cost: $15 per person (includes lunch, refreshments and handouts)

Registration: https://gardeningforpollinatorconservation.eventbrite.com

For more information, contact: Gary Knox, gwknox@ufl.edu; 850.875.7105

For a printable Flyer click here: Gardening for Pollinators Workshop

Our workshop builds on previous successful pollinator workshops held at Leon Co. Extension last year and in Marianna in 2012. This workshop was developed as a collaboration of county faculty from several extension offices with folks from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission as well as UF/IFAS NFREC. Sponsors helping defray costs include Florida Native Plant Society – Magnolia Chapter, Gardening Friends of the Big Bend, Inc., Mail-Order Natives, and University of Florida/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!