Latin for Gardeners: June 2019

June’s Native Maryland Plant

 Erigeron pulchellus Michx.

(ih-rij-uh-ron pul-KELL-us)

 Common Name: Robin’s Plaintain

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Some of you may know that I’m on a mission to try to grow and learn about every plant in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife publication: Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping. Although it’s unlikely I’ll ever plant every tree mentioned, I’ve got a good start on the other plants. This month I wanted to discuss an herbaceous plant in the guide that is seldom recommended or even mentioned in any other published book that I’ve read: Erigeron pulchellus is a native and very common wildflower. From the information I could gather online it tolerates dry shade, a difficult growing condition, and one I have in my yard; I was interested in its use as a groundcover. Erigeron spp. also has another common name, fleabane, this because it was once thought to thwart fleas.  I wanted to test out the dry shade claim, I read the ‘flea thwarting’ claim had already been disproved.

I planted three of the straight species and some of the selection, Lynnhaven Carpet, named for a river in Virginia where it was found growing and for its ability to cover the ground with its semi-evergreen, pubescent basal foliage. I have been observing it for over three years. It has grown well in both dry shade and in moist sun, although the flower faded and dropped a bit earlier on the plants growing in the shade. I can’t claim to have tested the plants ability to deter fleas, but I can assure you that it does not deter Mayflies - rather it attracts a diversity of pollinators!

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Erigeron pulchellus is not a traditional go-to plant and some people have called it a weed in my garden. However, I appreciate its early bloom, benefit to pollinators and the carpet that it has created under trees in my yard, providing weed suppression and erosion control.  Its fluffy seed heads wind-disperse so I am finding it in areas where I did not plant it. More erosion control I think to myself, and more food for pollinators - I’ll leave it for now.

 

~ Alison Milligan – Mstr. Gardener/Mstr. Naturalist/Mstr. Watershed Steward

Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP)

aligmilligan@gmail.com

Reports from the Field: Maintenance Corps at Mt. Moriah

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Our Maintenance Corps is getting to work! See the recap of the Corps’ most recent event from Team Lead and Master Watershed Steward Amy Clements below:

On Saturday, June 1, the WSA Maintenance Corps worked with Stewards and parishioners of Mt. Moriah AME Church on Bay Ridge Avenue in Annapolis. The original BMPs were installed as the capstone project of Jim Johnson and Betty Powell, Class 8 Master Watershed Stewards. Phil Colbert, a member of the current Master Watershed Steward class and a Mt. Moriah parishioner, is looking to build on the work done by the Class 8 Stewards.

 The stormwater conveyance we worked in on Saturday was planted along Bay Ridge Avenue which makes it highly visible to drivers and pedestrians. The group of 17 stewards and volunteers and the 2 WSA staff, Noelle and Josh, were able to make a huge difference at the site. We shoveled and disposed of the parking lot sediment which clogged the curb cut inlets. We removed many weeds, identified and welcomed volunteer native plants and cleared choking weeds from the remarkably healthy plants which have survived in this urban church lot. A few of the church volunteers cleared out the mid-parking lot BMP after seeing what we removed and what we kept in the street-side BMP.  We edged the planted area so the grass cutter would have an obvious line between garden and lawn. Steward Greg Brennan even divided and replanted some native seedlings!

 We did learn a few things on Saturday which might be helpful in future maintenance projects. Bring water in a big jug along with paper cups for those who don’t bring their own water. Bring a variety of snacks. Traffic cones are a necessity when the site is along a busy road like Bay Ridge Avenue. It is essential to have at least one person on site who can identify plants vs weeds and it was terrific having WSA support at this early maintenance project. Tools needed for these events are: flat shovels for removing sediment, flat rakes for smoothing or contouring the slopes and for removing leaves and debris, hand tools for weeding and a set of clippers – because who doesn’t need at least one set of clippers?

 The best part, as always, was working with so many enthusiastic volunteers. The Mt. Moriah folks removed all the bags of sediment, bags of weeds and took care of the removal of all trash. The Church was a great partner.

 A big thank you to the 10 Master Watershed Stewards, the 6 volunteers (including a munchkin, Nolan), the 5 members of Mt. Moriah AME congregation and the 2 WSA staff. You all made it a pleasure.

 The next event is going to be in Glen Burnie on Saturday, June 22 at 9:00 AM at the Empowering Believers Church, 7566 E. Howard Rd. Contact Amy Clements for information at clementsae@aol.com or 410-279-5554. Hope to see lots of you there!

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Mosquitoes Don't Have to Suck

They’re back! That buzzing sound you hear isn’t just in your mind; we have officially reentered mosquito season. As folks who work with and around water, we get a lot of questions about these insects and their control. Here are some facts and tips on how best to control these bloodsuckers!

“Fun” Facts:

  • Mosquito eggs are laid on or around water and both the larva and pupa stage are aquatic. 

  • Mosquitoes can breed in as little as one teaspoon of water.  

  • It can take as little as four days for mosquitoes to complete their life cycle from eggs to adults.

  • Both male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar and pollen as their main food supplies, however female adult mosquitoes will take blood meals in order to get the extra protein needed to lay eggs.  With one blood meal, a female mosquito can lay up to 300 eggs.

Taking a Bite out of Getting Bitten:

  • Mosquitoes cannot bite through clothing so you can reduce the chance of getting bit by wearing long pants and long sleeves.  

  • Clothing treated with the insecticide permethrin will deter mosquitoes (and ticks) from landing and feeding on you.  Make sure to read the directions on how to apply it to your clothing.

  • Protect open skin by wearing insect repellents. When selecting a repellent look for one with DEET, picaridin, Icaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. These are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration and are effective.

  • Always follow the directions on how to apply a repellent. Put on sunscreen first, then repellent, and never apply repellent under clothing or to pets.

  • Citronella candles, mosquito lamps, and butane-powered repellers have limited effectiveness. The repellent is found in their smoke or vapor so areas where the smoke or vapor does not reach are not protected.  They are best used in small areas over short-term periods, such as camping trips.

Bringing the Fight Home: Effective Ways to Control Mosquitoes in Your Yard.

Because they fly, large scale control of mosquitoes is difficult to achieve. Like many other best practices, control starts in your own backyard:

  • Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so removing standing water around your home will help reduce the number of new mosquitoes there.  

    • Clean gutters and make sure they drain well.

    • Corrugated drain pipe attached to downspouts hold water and are a prime place for mosquitoes to breed. Use a smooth drain pipe or cover the open end of a corrugated drain pipe with a piece of pantyhose secured with a rubber band.

    • Twice a week, check and remove water that may be standing in trash and recycling cans, flower pot saucers, children’s and pet toys, wading pools, tires, tarps or plastic sheeting.

    • Ensure that your rain barrels are properly maintained, and their screens are free of debris and there is no access to the interior of the barrel from the outside.

    • Use goldfish, mosquito fish (Gambusia sp.) or mosquito dunks containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) in ponds and rain barrels.  

    • Clean and add fresh water every three days to bird baths, pet dishes and pollinator water dishes.

  • Be kind to wildlife. Fish, spiders, beneficial insects, bats, and birds all feed on mosquitoes and provide some natural control.

  • Repair or replace window and door screens that have tears or gaps to prevent insects from coming inside your home.

  • Use fans to keep the air circulating when sitting outside on a porch, deck, or patio.

  • Do NOT use bug “zappers,” mosquito traps, or plants marketed as having mosquito repelling properties. Bug zappers kill beneficial insects and very few mosquitoes since they are on at night when most mosquitoes are not active. Mosquito traps attract more mosquitoes to an area. There are no plants that have been found scientifically to keep mosquitoes away.

Pesticides at Home and In Communities:

As we know, pesticides can be pests for our local waterways. As Stewards, it is always best to be up to date and educated on proper use and methodologies so that we can educate our greater communities.

Recently, Rusty Gowland (Class 4) had the opportunity to do just that. Per Rusty:

“I responded to a group that was seeking a group discount on mosquito spraying services for the summer by linking the poisoning of mosquitoes to the poisoning of the birds and frogs that eat mosquitoes and the fox and snakes that eat the birds and the frogs that eat mosquitoes, etc, etc.  I pointed out that we all have pesticides and herbicides that have accumulated through the food chain and in every single one of our own bodies; and that many of them were deemed safe at the time they were applied (e.g. glyphosate a.k.a. Roundup). 

For the sake of our backyard wildlife and for the uncertain links to nervous system and cancer related human impacts, we should be very careful to offer an “organic diet” in our yards.  It was picked up by many and I didn’t really have to remain in the conversation.  I watched as more and more people suggested that we cut back or eliminate chemicals in our community.”

This is a great approach when dealing with pesticides. Here are some more facts:

  • In Maryland, insecticides registered for use to control adult mosquitoes may include the following active chemical ingredients: naledpiperonyl butoxide, tau-fluvalinate, bifenthrin, and permethrin. (Source: Maryland Department of Agriculture) The latter three of these are in a class of chemicals called pyrethroids. They are broad-spectrum pesticides, meaning they do not target just one type of insect, and may kill or negatively affect bees and other beneficial insects. They are also toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms and should not be applied near a water way.   

  • Area-wide sprays or foggers are only effective temporarily, lasting 1-3 weeks depending on the chemical and the weather conditions. They do not prevent, or protect you from, new adult mosquitoes flying in from surrounding areas after sprays are applied. Repeated spraying of the same chemical can lead to insect resistance to the insecticide.

  • If someone you know is considering having a private company apply an insecticide to control mosquitoes, urge them to ask the company which chemical they are going to use and for a copy of the chemical label. Before spraying they may ask him/her to move children’s toys and pet bowls. They might also require the homeowner to avoid the area until the chemical has dried.  

  • If someone you know is applying insecticide to control mosquitoes around a home, remind him/her of the following guidelines: always follow the directions, wear the correct safety equipment, and follow the re-entry time instructions.  Apply first thing in the morning before bees and other insects become active.

  • There are situations in which local officials will conduct mosquito spraying in communities where there are concerns about the spread of mosquito-borne diseases (e.g. Zika Virus and West Nile Virus).

  • Most of these sprays are done late at night or in the early morning hours in order to reduce the chance of killing non-target insects. However, since these sprays are done from the street they might not reach places where mosquitoes are located, such as behind buildings or under porches.

  • The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Mosquito Control Program maintains a spraying schedule and a list of products used in their mosquito control products. If you would like your home to be excluded from being sprayed, you must fill out a “Request for Exemption Form” and mail it in to MDA. The form can be found on their website here.

  • Mosquito chemical control can be in the form of spraying insecticides that target the adults, larva, or both. Spraying insecticides should only be considered after non-chemical methods have been tried and proven inadequate.

Article originally compiled by Christa Carignan, Debra Ricigliano, and Mary Kay Malinoski. Reviewed by Emily Zobel and Jon Traunfeld, University of Maryland Extension 4/2018. Adapted for the WSA blog by Josh Clark. Original article and additional resources can be found here: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/controlling-mosquitoes