Sunday, March 19, 2006

Orchids, Mustard, And Vegetables

Early this afternoon, on a pleasantly mild Sunday, Liz and I met up with some other members of the Johnson County Heritage Trust, which is involved in preserving natural areas in our county, to assess and start clearing, the garlic mustard from a new preserve consisting of forty acres of nice, hilly woods. Our group headed down a large ravine, marking clumps of garlic mustard with tree tape, and pulling as much as we could. It was alarming to see how many colonies of mustard were already present, and we soon had marking tape scattered down both sides of the ravine. It was especially distressing, as the area contained thousands of plants of Aplectrum hyemale, the Adam and Eve orchid, shown by their hibernal leaves lying on the leaf litter. This is exactly the type of wildflower that garlic mustard will totally wipe out. Also seen were early leaves of spring beauty and Dutchman's breeches, so undoubtedly this moist ravine is home to a multitude of spring flowers. We were able to get a start on the mustard, but thousands of plants were undoubtedly left. Seeing all those wild orchids in peril made me vow to take on the ravine as a project (I figure I've hand pulled 50,000 mustard plants from the garden portion of our woods in the last three years... what's a few more thousand weeds?)
Back home in the late afternoon sun, it was time for a garden stroll; the red-wing blackbird was down by the pond, singing Spring-Is-He-e-e-re, accompanied by the Wir-r-r-r of a flicker, the whistled spring call of the chickadee, blue jays calling across the valley, the sweet Peter call of a titmouse, and percussion was supplied by a downy and a hairy woodpecker. The hellebores are pushing up their shiny foliage and their flower buds, daffodils are appearing everywhere, by the thousands, and the Japanese butterbur (shown above), Petasites Japonicus Giganteum, has all its flowers open; strange, light greenish, vegetable-like clusters, looking like so many heads of cauliflower lying on the ground. The leaves are just starting to poke up through the earth, at this stage giving little hint at the gigantic plants that will soon emerge, to continue their battle to escape their bed and take over the garden path. They might take pause; I've just spent three hours destroying garlic mustard, and am not to be trifled with today.
A cold wind then came up all at once, tattering the warm afternoon, so it was time to go see if Liz might be interested in going to Hamburg Inn for a cheeseburger.Posted by Picasa

Ah, the lovely garlic mustard, Thlapsi arvense! We have it all over here as well. I read that each plant is capable of producing more than 15,000 seeds which are viable for about 20 years. So, I'm very busy trying to prevent this stuff from going to seed.
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