Sending out 89 letters to all the B&N stores in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and North Carolina that are located in the Coastal Plain — all the retail outlets and college stores as well. Hope they all are as enthusiastic about ordering our book as were the retail and college bookstores in Williamsburg and the retail store off Jefferson Avenue.
Two more talks last week — the Prince George MGs were so receptive — Kathy’s article appeared in the Richmond paper and they bought copies of our book before I started to talk! And more after .. On Friday, a large crowd (96) of Hanover MGs bought fewer copies, but were very receptive to the “Plants for Pollinators” talk
Photographed in January, Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) retains its green leaves. The yellow flowers are one of the first plants to bloom in the spring, often colonies of them are seen in the swamps and marshes in early March. When the tall stems with flowers wither, the heart-shaped leaves remain as groundcover throughout most of the year.
Also known as Narrowleaf Sunflower by the narrow, strap-like leaves, generally less than ½ wide. Blooming August-October, the plant is covered with bright yellow flowers, achieving a bushy form. This perennial grows in swamps and other moist places, mostly near the coast in the southeastern counties of Virginia. With good conditions, the stems are over 6 feet tall – the height can be controlled by cutting the tops of the plant 12 inches or so in early spring. Flowering will occur, but the plant will be shorter.
This plant is featured on page 87 in “Wildflowers and Grasses of Virginia’s Coastal Plain”
Photographed in the Williamsburg Botanical Garden in January. The summer photo is by Jan Newton.
Clumps of tawny-orange grasses are seen all winter along the roadsides – Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus) usually indicates poor soil, growing in abandoned fields and disturbed, dry soil. It is easily confused with Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), which has bent bristles on each seed, while the bristles on the seeds of Broomsedge are straight. Both species grow together, and are labeled, in the Grass Garden.
At the Mid-Atlantic Horticulture Conference last week, several boxes of books were sold, I attended 10 classes in two days, and made a lot of good contacts for future presentations. The book was well received by everyone who had a close look at it
Broomsedge adds color to the winter landscape with clumps of reddish-orange stems and leaves, striking when sunlight catches the white, fuzzy seedheads. In the spring this perennial grass forms a stiff clump of light green stems 3 feet tall. Tufts of paired flowers are held against the stem by leafy bracts, opening in late fall. Attached to each seed is a straight bristle surrounded by silvery hairs, allowing distribution by the wind. Splitbeard Bluestem, A. ternarius, is similar a similar grass, but the flowers are obviously paired, each seed with a bent bristle, not straight.
This grass grows in open, sunny locations on dry soil, preferably loose, sandy, and moist sites such as abandoned fields, roadsides and clearings. While the primary native meadow grass in the northeast, the presence of Broomsedge often indicates poor soil, low in phosphorus, that has been overgrazed and nutrient-poor. Occurring in every county of Virginia, it is found throughout the eastern states, from Massachusetts to Ohio, Missouri and Kansas, south to Florida and Texas. Requiring low amounts of water, the grass can be used for residential landscaping and golf courses.
The Zabulon skipper is an eastern butterfly, which has been sighted in the Williamsburg area. Broomsedge is a nectar source and larval host for this butterfly and others. Small birds eat the seeds in winter when other food supplies are limited, and the grass provides cover for ground nesting birds such as quail and turkeys.
Almost everybody is familiar with the American Holly, also known as the Christmas holly. Although American Holly is a common understory tree in the Virginia coastal plain today, it was not among the species mentioned by Captain John Smith. Perhaps it had become temporarily uncommon due to the forest burning practices of the Native Americans. This holly has long been one of the most popular trees in the eastern United States, its foliage and berries being used for Christmas decorations and for ornamental plantings.
The flowers of the American holly are functionally only either male or female and a given individual tree bears only one type of flower; thus the presence of trees of both types is required if the trees with female flowers are to produce berries. The small white and very fragrant flowers appear in late spring and the berries that form on the trees with female flowers mature in the fall and persist into winter. Mature trees may grow from a single trunk or be multi-stemmed. The bark is smooth and light gray.
American Holly survives on a wide variety of soils, but growth is best on moist, slightly acid, well-drained ground such as upland pine sites and well-drained bottomland. It is known to tolerate air pollution. Although reported to be toxic to some animals, the fruits are eaten by numerous songbirds, bobwhite, and wild turkey.