English Ivy

Hedera Helix is more commonly known as English Ivy, common ivy or simply ivy. It is native to most of Europe and western Asia, ranging from Ireland to Ukraine. Colonial settlers brought the ornamental vine to the United States with them as early as 1727.

 

What it looks like  ivy-on-wall

 

Hedera Helix is a green vine with alternating leaves. There are two types of leaves. The first type is the  five lobed juvenile that grows out of  the creeping and climbing stems. The second it the mature unlobed leaf.

 

Flowers and Fruit     

ivy-getting-tall
Ivy is getting tall, and beginning to attach to the house

 

Mature ivy plants will produce flowers in late summer and into the fall. Flowers can grow up to 2 inches and are a greenish yellow color. Birds and insects are attracted to the flowers and black to orange fruit that ripens in winter. Birds and animals like and in their native environment depend on the fruit, but it is poisonous to humans.

 

English ivy is considered invasive to a lot of the areas it has been introduced. It is not very picky when growing conditions are concerned. It may grow up to almost a 100 feet long if is able to find adequate support such as a fence or house. It shoots out aerial rootlets that from matted pads that help to stick to buildings if it is not trimmed. Also if left to it’s own devices the roots could possibly do damage to porous materials, such as a wooden fence or house.

 

Where it likes to Grow    

ivy-before-trim
Before trim

 

If the vine is kept well maintained it can be grown as a groundcover or nice low kept shrubs or hedges. With the aid of a wire frame English ivy can even be sculpted into creative topiaries.

 

Ivy prefers cool, moist dark areas and will fill any empty corner that it can. Since it is an evergreen it can withstand cold winters up -9 degrees fahrenheit. Making it a good plant for U.S. hardiness zones 6 and up. It will also grow in full sun if it can get enough water, although it may not winter very well in the sun if it gets too dry.

 

A Caution 

ivy-after-trim
After trim

 

English ivy is a wonderful ornamental evergreen that can bring color to your yard all year around. It is however, important to keep it under control so that it does not take over your home and yard. Many areas consider it invasive for just this reason. It can cause hundreds of dollars of damage to your home in a single season if it is not trimmed or sculpted properly. I love nostalgic pictures of ivy covered houses but would not want it on my home or in my trees.
Give 2 J’s a call if your ivy or other plants have started taking over.

 

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Why Plant Native

Some of our past blog articles have talked about native plants like Butterfly Milkweed. A couple of them have talked about invasive species that are found all over our area and have been here for a very long time like Queen Anne’s Lace. But we haven’t talked about why native plants are important. So why plant native?

Why Natives

Natives as a general rule of thumb are adapted to their environment.  This makes them more hardy to their particular climate conditions. honey bee on butterfly milkweed

PROS:

  • Less water
  • More tolerant to drought (if the area frequently has them)
  • Provide homes and food for native insects and animals
  • Don’t require as much fertilizer
  • Don’t require as many pesticides
  • Root systems are designed for the area’s geography, stabilizing rocky terrain or river banks for example.
  • Native plants have also developed to withstand their regions climate like wind and sun.

 

How Invasive Species Affect the Environment

 

Invasive plants have not had the time to adapt to their new conditions in some cases. In other situations non-native plants compete with the native plants and even effect the animals and insects. Queen Annes Flower

CONS:

  • Need more water
  • Need more fertilizer
  • Need pesticides
  • Take over native species, in essence choking them out
  • Take away nutrients from natives
  • Take sunlight from natives
  • Don’t provide sufficient food or shelter for native insects and animals
  • Do not have natural controls in place to control their expansion
  • Run rampant on uninhabited property

 

Yard Scenario 1

 

In a yard that just consists of a grass lawn and all non-native plants on average there maybe about a dozen native insects present.

 

Yard Scenario 2

In a yard with a grass lawn and all native tree, shrubs and flowers there should be hundreds of mostly all native insects.

 

Why Insects are Important

 

It is estimated that 97% of native insects are beneficial. They provide food for birds , bats , fish and other native animals. Spiders and other predatory insects keep fly and mosquito populations under control, along with a horde of other nuisance pests.

 

Native Plants and Animals Create a Sustainable Ecosystem

 

Incorporating just 20% – 30% of natives into your homes landscaping will encourage more native insects and birds to take up residency.     chickadee

 

A single pair of chickadees need up to 9,000 caterpillars to produce a clutch of eggs.

One native oak tree supports the caterpillars of 500 native moth and butterfly species. caterpillar-monarch

 

If we stop planting and encouraging native trees to grow on our property the caterpillars won’t be present for the chickadees to feed on in the quantity they need to breed.

 

We have turned 54% of the continental U.S. into a mixture of suburban and urban development, another 41% is being used for some sort of agricultural pursuit.  This leaves only about 5% undeveloped and still wild. With numbers like that our individual yards and landscaping choices can make a big difference to the environment and ecosystem as a whole.

 

To be honest I grew up in a family that loved to garden but in reality this doesn’t mean that I know a whole lot about native plants. My family loves plants like  elephant ears and banana trees, these are both far from native and are no use to our visiting wild rabbits.

We try now to incorporate as many natives into our personal yard as we can along with companion gardening. But…. the elephant ears and banana tree are both fond childhood memories that I still continue to plant every year. Native or not I feel close to my grandpa ever year when we plant them.         wild rabbit

 

Planting native is a choice that is beginning to give a whole new meaning to the term “Victory Garden”.   

 

Daucus carota or Queen Anne’s Lace

Daucus carota or Queen Anne’s Lace is a native from Europe and southwest Asia that has been naturalized to North America and Australia. Here in NWA we can find it freely growing in fields and along roadsides from May to October.

 

Common Names    daucus-carota-848680_640

This plant has many common names wild carrot, bird’s nest and Bishop’s Lace  just to name a few. The most common Queen Anne’s Lace comes from a story involving Queen Anne of  England pricking her finger and a drop of her blood falling onto the piece of lace she was sewing.

 

Physical Appearance    Queen Annes Flower

Queen Anne’s Lace grows up to 4 feet tall. It has long fern type leaves that can be as long as 8 inches. The stem  is topped with a large white flat head created from many tiny blooms that may each have a purple center giving the head an appearance that resembles lace. Once the fruit begins to form the flowers fold inward giving the flower the appearance of a bird’s nest.

 

Similar Commonly Mistaken For Plants

 

This plant closely resembles several poisonous plants. If you ever decide to try harvesting Daucus carota for any reason edible or display please have an expert help. Simply coming in contact with some of the plants that resemble it may cause serious physical harm. Some commonly mistaken imitators are:

Poison Hemlock

Water Hemlock

Fool’s Parsley

 

Ancestor to the Carrot

 

This biennial ancestor to the domestic carrot  lives for 2 years. The first year of it’s life it spends getting bigger and growing a long edible taproot. The root is pale and thin with a woody appearance about as big around as a finger. The root  may be used in a tea or soups and stews along with the seeds. The leaves are also edible in the first year and can be used in salad. In the second year the plant has a taste that is to woody tasting for consumption.

 

The Romans once ate the root as vegetable. The Irish, Hindus and Jews used it as a sweetener. It has the second highest sugar content for a root vegetable, the first being beets.

 

As A Medicine queen-annes-lace-324582_640

 

It was used as a medicine before it was considered a food. Ancient people used the seeds medicinally and the leaves as an herb. Today Queen Ann’s Lace is know to be an antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, anti-psychotic, and an anti-oxidant. Researchers are working on using it to help with Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, Cancer and diabetes.

 

Invasive Weed

 

Queen Anne’s Lace provides a great habitat and food source for many insects and animals. As well as being great to use in companion gardening for boosting tomato production and keeping lettuce cooler. All of that being said the USDA has declared it a noxious weed that competes too much with true native plants.

 

For now we will continue to see Queen Anne’s Lace in Northwest Arkansas. It will continue to provide a food source for insects and a habitat for birds. Even as farmers battle to keep it out of their fields.