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Monday, April 30, 2012

Pink Blooming Shrubs

I caught a glimpse of pink while driving the other day, and was quite excited to get a better look at our native azalea! Rhododendron periclymenoides (Pinxster Azalea) is blooming in the woodlands near you.  This is another great plant to add to your list of shrubs to purchase at one of the upcoming plant sales.  

This beautiful native azalea makes me wonder why they ever created the cultivars.  The unique flower, and leggy quality makes it such a showcase plant.  It is not evergreen, but with a bloom like this, does it really need to be?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

May Apple's In Bloom

Found my first Podophyllum peltatum (May Apple) in bloom on April 29.  The trend is continuing with most of our plants blooming early.  If you know of a secret spot for wild orchids you may want to check on them soon as they will probably be in bloom as well.  

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.  The beginning of May is almost upon us! Can you believe it!?  This spring is flying by, and TLC is keeping busy on the home front.  Be sure to check in at our website for some of our great upcoming May events.  

I know I have already mentioned it, but the native plant sale season is upon us.  Delaware Nature Society had some great native plants at their sale; Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, The Brandywine Conservany, and The London Grove Friends Meeting Plant Sale are all around the corner.   We'd be happy to help if you are looking for plant recommendations!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A neat but poisonious plant

Caulophyllum thalictroides or Blue Cohosh is a great plant that I just caught in bloom.  This plant is typically found in part to full shade and in moist, rich woodlands.  It is a simple plant, but the leaves and shape make it quite stunning.  Once the yellow flowers pictured are done, it will have beautiful blue berries, don't eat these berries as they are poisonous!!


Herbalists will use the root of the blue cohosh for various purposes, but I am opposed to the digging and disturbing of any native, wild plant!  If it is garlic mustard or lesser celandine, feel free to pull at your heart's content! 

I know it may not look like much, but in the backdrop of a woodland setting it is quite a neat plant to happen across.  Look for this, and a very similar looking plant, early meadow rue if you take any jaunts this weekend!

Friday, April 27, 2012

TLC Celebrates Arbor Day

TLC was out on at Stateline Woods Preserve today celebrating Arbor Day with volunteers from ING.  We planted a mixture of trees along our border to create a nice hedge that will grow to provide habitat for many bird species that prefer hedgerows.  

The trees that were planted today were a mixture of canopy, sub-canopy, and understory trees.  A few of the species that were planted were:  Betula lenta (Sweet Birch), Celtis Occidentalis (Hackberry), Nyssa sylvatica (Black Gum), Quercus coccinea (Scarlet Oak), and a few other oak species.   I hope you stop by Stateline Woods over the weekend to see our newest planting area.

Thanks again to all of our volunteers from ING for their help today!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rain Garden Workshop

I have given a few teasers over the last couple of weeks, but on April 9 TLC hosted a rain garden workshop at our offices.  We had a full house of 9 participants who attended a morning lecture followed by an afternoon of hands-on training. The morning lecture space was graciously provided by the Chester County Conservation District, as we do not have a large enough meeting room.  We installed the rain garden outside of TLC's offices in the afternoon.  A few key points that our participants learned from the rain garden workshop:

A rain garden is a useful tool for storm water management that helps to collect and infiltrate storm water runoff back into the soil.  

Rain Gardens are shallow depressions in the ground.

Rain gardens should not be placed in an area that typically holds water because this is indicative of an area with slow infiltration.  If all you have are areas that pool water, than you can use your rain garden to aid in evapotranspiration by planting appropriate plants.  

Plant selection can make or break a rain garden.   Pick a combination of plants that together offer good ground cover, are evergreen,  bloom throughout the season, spread fairly well, are perennial or vigorous re-seeders, and plants that re-seed themselves well in areas of disturbance. ALWAYS USE NATIVE PLANTS!

It is important to appropriately calculate the amount of storm water you wish your garden to contain.

Rain gardens should be built on fairly flat land and have areas that create the inflow of storm water, and the outflow in the event of a higher than typical rainstorm.

There are of course many, many more points to planting a rain garden, but they were some of the general highlights.  

Here are some pictures from our workshop.  As the garden continues to grow, we will post more photos.

Thank you to Claudia West from North Creek Nurseries for her assistance with the planting and workshop, North Creek Nurseries for the plants, Chester County Conservation District for the use of the meeting space, and The Willowdale Town Center for allowing us to install the rain garden.

Rain Garden 2 Weeks After Installation

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Trillium and Jack in the Pulpit

Jack in the pulpit
The old adage of "leaves of three let them be, does not quite apply to all plants.  Jack-In-the-Pulpit and our native trillium's both have leaves of three.  The two plants look fairly similar and can be easily confused.  

While hiking down the PA Grand Canyon I spotted both plants growing side by side and proceeded to give a dissertation as to how you can tell the plants apart--much to the chagrin of my hiking buddies, though on unknown person hiking on the trail was appreciative of the knowledge!

Trillium with closer look at the veins
I spent some time yesterday looking at some blooming trillium and helping with the identification of the trillium vs. jack-in-the-pulpit, so I thought I would share it with everyone.  The most distinguishing factor between the two plants are the veins in their leaves.  The trillium has veins that run almost parallel to the main vein of the leaf, where the Jack-in-the-pulpit veins run more perpendicular.  

 This is a great time of the year to get out and look for trillium blooming in your woodlands.  If you find any plants, it is important to think about ways to protect them from deer browse.  Our trillium populations have decreased over the years because they are quite tasty morsels for the deer.  You can either use cages to protect a small population or explore other deer exclosure and repellent options. 

Happy Trillium hunting!! Speaking of leaves of three--everyone knows that poison ivy is a reddish color at this time of the year right?!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


We at TLC wish you a very happy Earth Day! 

Check out the first user of the newly cleared Red Clay Greenway Phase 1.  This is a juvenile Black Vulture who was not very happy with us for disturbing him.

We have been asked numerous times about our Earth Day plants for 2012.  TLC actually celebrates Earth Day every day through our programs and mission.  

Here are some past and future programs that we held in the month of April to celebrate the entire month.
Composting Workshop at Vincenti Preserve on Tuesday, April 3
Full Moon Owl Prowl at Bucktoe Creek Preserve on Thursday, April 5
TLC Rain Garden Workshop on Monday April 9
  • Check back to our blog the week of April 23 to see more information about our rain garden workshop.
TLC Red Clay Greenways Volunteer Day on Saturday, April 14
TLC Volunteer Day at The Stateline Woods Preserve Sunday, April 15

Wild Foraging Walk at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve on Sunday April 15,
TLC Member's Only Movie Preview: The River of No Return at Theatre N on Thursday, April 19
TLC Field Trip to the Susquehanna on Friday April 20
TLC Corporate Volunteer Days with ING on Thursday April 26 and Friday April 27
TLC Children's Monthly Bird Walk at Bucktoe Creek Preserve on Saturday, April 28
TLC participates in Good Kids Day at the Kennett YMCA on Saturday, April 28
TLC leads a girl scout hike at Paradise Farms in Downingtown on Saturday, April 28
TLC Children's Art and Nature at Bucktoe Creek Preserve on Sunday, April 29

and a teaser for our exciting May events:
Dean Karnazes at the Chester County Historical Society on Monday, May 7, 2012
Dean Karnazes Pre-Race Run and BBQ at Stateline Woods Preserve on Tuesday, May 8, 2012
The Stateline Loop 9K/5K Trail Race on Saturday, May 12, 2012

For more information about any and all of our events, go to our website:


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another great shrub

Have you been in the woods lately and noticed a beautiful white flowering shrub that does not quite look like a dogwood? This plant is probably Viburnum prunifolium (Blackhaw or Possumhaw Viburnum).  This native viburnum is very happy this spring, and I have noticed more blooms from V. prunifolium than I have any other year.  This great native woodland understory shrub is definitely one that should be used more in the landscape, especially if you have a shady area that is begging for something to be planted.  It has beautiful reddish leaves in the fall, and gets the white flowers in the spring.  It has a fairly long lasting bloom, and is not prone to deer browse. It produces beautiful fruits that change from a greenish pink to blueish black when they  reach maturity.  The berries attract wildlife to your yard, and can also last through the winter for some extra winter color.

It is also important to note that if you are managing your woodland for invasives V. prunifolium has great similarity to common privet which is one of our invasive shrubs.  I learned early on that this is not a great volunteer day project because the plants do look very similar unless you make yourself familiar with the differences.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Deer Fencing: Pros and Cons

Deer fencing and deer exclosures seem to be buzz words as of late, so I thought I could go over some of the pro's and con's of using this method to assist with deer control.

Pros: The deer exclosures do a reasonably good job of keeping deer out of an area.  Over a period of time the reduction (or elimination) of deer pressure will result in a wide diversity of plants.  The natural seedbank has the ability to remain dormant for a long period of time.  The reduction of deer browse allows these dormant seeds the ability to actually grow.  Another benefit seems to be that the dispersal of invasive plant seeds that would otherwise be disturbed, or carried by the deer seems to disappear.  If you are able to do a good job of removing the invasives from your deer fencing when it is first installed, you should notice a reduction in the invasive species that show up in the area.  The native seed bank is healthier, and does not allow the invasive plants to take as much hold as they would if they did not have the competition from the natives.

Notice the difference on the outside of the fence and the inside of the fence.
Cons:  It may not seem like it, but there are a few cons to deer fencing.  One of the major, and most prohibitive con is the cost of the fencing.  Deer fencing, the installation, and maintenance of the fencing is not inexpensive.   This is an important fact to consider up front.  Another important fact is that while deer fencing is great at ASSISTING with deer control, but should not be the only method that you use.  You should still have a properly managed deer hunt on your property (or talk to your neighbors about coordinating a deer hunt if you are putting an exclosure around your entire property).  The last fact to consider is that while installing a fence will decrease (or eliminate) deer pressure in that area, it will effectively increase deer pressure in another area.  You should be cognizant about this when installing a deer fence and be sure to work with your neighbors, or your surrounding property to continue to manage the deer.  

To sum up my thoughts about deer fencing, I believe that it can be used as an effective management tool, and a learning tool to individuals who may not be aware of how intense the deer pressure is in our area.  If you have a large enough property, it may be prudent to fence off smaller areas of the property to watch the results and keep an active deer management program in place on your property.  Also keep in mind that you must remove the invasives that are in the fenced in area in order to see proper results, and you must stay on top of invasive management while the native plants begin to grow.  If it is properly installed and maintained it can be used as a great accent to your deer management program, however it should never be used as the only type of deer management on your property.

Here are some great examples of the difference between a woodland that has been actively browsed by deer, and a woodland that is in a deer exclosure.  The brilliant white flower: Trillium Grandiflorium (Great White Trillium) is a plant that you rarely see in a woodland with deer pressure.  They are picky to begin with, and if they find a spot they like, they are typically browsed by deer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Plant Reveal

The plant that was shown yesterday is Aquileg1ia canadensis (American Columbine).  This is a beautiful spring flower that is very showy in it's native form.  You can actually purchase this flower in various colors, but I prefer the natural red and yellow color.  It is a great plant in your garden, and a nice change from the bleeding heart which everyone has in their garden.  Yesterday, I noted that this plant does not like competition, this is important to note when you plant it.  Make sure you pay close attention to what the leaf looks like because this plant will hop around your garden to find a spot where it will not face competition . It is a woodland plant, so it prefers partial shade.   My A. canadensis typically jumps over to very close to where the sidewalk crosses the garden.  Another of my favorite native alternatives to bleeding heart is Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchmen's breeches).   This is the plant that is pictured today.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Whats Blooming right now?

This plant is one that I have probably mentioned,  but keep an eye out for it in the woods near you. The bloom is probably starting to pass, though most years it would just be peaking at this moment.  This is a great spring ephemeral, and I would recommend planting it in your garden, though once I identify it, I'll tell you what to pay attention to when planting this plant.

The hint is that this plant does not like much competition, so it is typically found in a spot where little else is growing.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Look into the Sycamore trees and check out all of the large nests. There are at least thirty five nests throughout the grove of Sycamores (though not all are pictured here!)

Can you spot the bird in the nest?
 This is a blue heron rookery above an old quarry site.  Some days you can see the heron's standing tall on the nests.  The herons will return year after year to the same site which is typically chosen for it's proximity to food sources and protection from predators.  They will travel up to nine miles to forage for food. This is a great time to see the nests before the trees leaf out.  If you do spot a rookery (or any other nest for that matter), remember to observe it from afar as to not disturb the nesting birds!

While we are on that note, I cannot tell you the location of this rookery, but just keep your eyes open when you see a clump of sycamore trees that are surrounding some water, this is prime location to find a great blue heron rookery.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Friday the Thirteenth

Reason's why Chester County is my favorite place on earth is because of days where you see a sight like the one in this photograph.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this to me is the reason that I work in the field of conservation and live in Chester County.  There are not too many more beautiful places on earth in my opinion.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My soapbox

Though pretty this shrub is INVASIVE AND SHOULD BE REPLACED!!
I'm surprised that I have not yet climbed up onto my soapbox, but I have heard and seen so many mentions of this plant over the last week the time has come.  Contrary to popular belief, Butterfly Bush (or Buddleia davidii) IS NOT A GOOD PLANT FOR BUTTERFLIES.  It is highly invasive though I have heard so many of my friends say, "as long as I keep it under control it does not spread." I assure you it spreads as one showed up in my garden last spring, and there is not a single butterfly bush on my property! 

Check the nearest open area that is not mowed, and you will find a butterfly bush growing happily and continuing to spread.  I will concede that the flowers are pretty, and that it seemingly attracts butterflies and moths.  However, this plant does not support the larval stage of ONE of the sixty plus Lepidoptera species that are native to PA.  To these insects, this is just a pretty smelling plant that gives them little to no nutritional or life value!!! Please do not perpetuate this myth by planting this plant on your property.  If you have been talked into planting it on your property, I recommend replacing it with another plant.  

If you are really offended by this plant, or at least you have become offended after you have read this blog, please help me on my crusade to stop magazines, and nurseries from selling this plant.  Once a year, I submit my woes of Butterfly Bush to Birds and Blooms and repeatedly ask them to stop touting the plant.  As a general rule of thumb, the Birds and Blooms magazine has many great articles with the exception of the invasive plants that they continue to tout.  Stop in your local nursery and ask them to stop selling the plant.  If you as a buyer stop buying the plant, the market for the plant will disappear.  If you are a homeowner who uses a landscaper, make sure to tell him that you do NOT want butterfly bush on your property.  

Some awesome alternatives that will support the larval stage of different butterflies include:

Asclepias Tuberosa
Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly weed (or as I call it THE MONARCH FLOWER)  This beautiful orange flower will grow in full sun and reaches about 1 foot in height. It is a member of the Asclepias family, which is the only family of plants that will support the larval stage of the monarch butterfly.   Depending on  your area all of the Asclepias are wonderful plants!

Asimina triloba Paw-Paw.  This great fruiting tree has a neat brown flower and produces some of the most amazing fruits once it is approximately seven years old. It is also one of the two native species that supports the larval stage of the zebra swallowtail.  

Some great nectar plants: 

Clethra Alnifolia
Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet clethera or sweet pepperbush) This is a great alternative for butterfly bush. It is a shrub with white flowers that can be grown anywhere from sun to shade but prefers moist soils.

Cornus racemosa (gray dogwood) or Cornus amonum (Silky dogwood) are both plants that can be grown in sun to shade and dry to wet soils.  They are also great alternatives to butterfly bush. 

There are many great native alternatives to butterfly bush, and there are many great upcoming native plant sales in our area.  

Check your local papers for a full listing, but a few in our area: London Grove Meeting Plant Sale (May 12--not all native, but typically has a great selection); Brandywine Conservancy Native Plant Sale (May 12 and May 13), Bowman's Hill Native Plant Sale (May 6th and May 7th) and Delaware Nature Society Native Plant Sale (April 28 and April 29).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The flower is:

Erythorium americanum (Trout Lily) can be found in rich moist woods and typically blooms in April, though like everything else, it is a little early this year.  The similarity in the mottled leaf to the scales of a trout is how the plant got it's common name.  This small unique lily is pollinated by ants, and is a pleasant, colorful surprise in the spring woodland garden.  It takes seven years for a pollinated seed to become a mature plant, and only plants with two leaves will flower.   

Look for these flowers in a woodland near you while they are still around! These can also be great additions to a woodland garden for some great spring color.  They are not super aggressive, so be careful about what other plants you put in an area where you put the trout lily.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I almost missed the blooming season but

This flower is yet another great spring ephemeral. I almost missed it in bloom, but I hope you can guess the flower of the week.  If you look closely at the leaf, it will give you a hint as to the name of the plant!  Tomorrow all will be revealed!

Yesterday, we had a successful Rain Garden workshop.  Here is the "just" installed picture.  I will be adding more as the planting progresses.  I hope that everyone that attended the workshop learned from the experience.  A special thanks to Claudia West from North Creek Nurseries for being my co-presenter at the workshop and providing the plants, The Willowdale Town Center for allowing us to install the rain garden, and the Chester County Conservation District for the use of their meeting room for the morning session of the workshop. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Article of Interest

I hope that you are enjoying your long (hopefully) weekend if you were able to get off either Friday or Monday.  

I found this article about sparrows that change the pitch of their song in order to adapt to noise pollution near a city.  I heard a graduate student speak about some studies she was doing about warbler songs near the beltway in DC about five years ago, and thought it was a very interesting concept.  If anyone is interested in learning more, here is a link to the article:

We at TLC are buckling our seat belts for an upcoming extremely busy six weeks culminating in our Stateline Loop 9K/5K Trail Race on May 12, 2012.  Check out all of our amazing education programs and the exciting events surrounding our fourth annual race at our website:

You can just see the buds on our stately oak at Stateline Woods!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Beware where you walk!

A friend shared a great photograph with me this morning.  She almost stepped on a ground nest while out and about.  I thought it would be prudent to mention that there are quite a few ground nesting birds that you should be on the lookout for while hiking on this beautiful weekend. 

 Some of the ground nesting birds to look for that will actually nest in a road way or gravel trail include: Horned Lark (I almost stepped on a Horned Lark nest during a breeding bird survey) and Kildeer.  

Other ground nesting birds include but are not limited to: Ovenbirds, American Tree Sparrow (they nest on or near the ground), White Throated Sparrows (on or near the ground), Kentucky Warbler (very pretty and uncommon), American Woodcock, Black and White Warblers, Roughed Grouse, Eastern Towhee, and House Sparrow.  All birds prefer a specific habitat from woodland to grasslands, and everything in between.  No matter where you walk, note that you may encounter a ground nesting bird.  This is one of the reasons that its paramount to make sure that you are aware of where your pets and your feet are traveling.  You want to minimize disturbance of any ground nesting birds!

As a general housekeeping item, I wanted to let you know that taxonomy of Lesser Celandine has changed.  I noted in my post that it was Ranunculus fiaria, however, the new name of Celandine is Ficaria verna.  As more information is learned each day about the various species in taxonomic orders, they need to be rearranged to better suit their characteristics.  Basically it adds up to always having to update your field guides and plant books to make sure that you have the most up-to-date names.  Or what I tend to do is just write the new name into my field guide. This tends to be a lot of writing because I bought my favorite field guide used on Amazon: The Illustrated Guide to Wildflowers and Shrubs by William Carey Grimm.  My book has a 1993 copyright date!  I'll leave you with my great photograph!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Peep season!!

Just to clarify, I'm not talking about the marshmallow fluffy ones that come in Easter baskets, though if you like those, they can be blown up in the microwave for a little extra peep fun; and I have an awesome peep cake recipe that I'd be happy to share.  

However, I am actually referring to the live peeps that are frequenting feed stores in our area at the moment, and rumor has it there were some peeps running amok in the Unionville Post Office.  Even if you do not have the space, or the time to deal with chickens, it is worth a visit to your local feed store to check them out.  If you decide to purchase them, I recommend the Aracana's (they lay green and blue eggs!) and Rhode Island Reds as my chickens of choice.  Both are very consistent egg layers.

On another note, there have been some sporadic Glossy Ibis sightings in the state of DE, and since beach season is almost upon us, you may be frequenting the state.  It pays to keep your eyes open for these neat shore birds.  This photograph is actually of a White Ibis, and it was taken in FL, but the body type is identical to the Glossy Ibis, the difference is the Glossy Ibis have dark brown/black coloration.  There have also been sporadic sightings of the White Ibis, so keep your eyes peeled!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Purple plant ID

Hepatica Americana or Round Lobed Hepatica blooms from mid-March through April.  This plant has hairy flower stalks that emerge from last year's burgundy-brown tinted leaves.   New leaves appear only after the flowers bloom. 

Light blue to lavender or white flowers are easy to find in the forest litter, 1 inch across, on 8-inch tall stalks. The flowers have numerous stamens, are without true petals, the petal-like 5-9 sepals surrounded by 3 bracts.  Round-lobed Hepatica grows in dry or moist upland woods.  

Interestingly the leaves were used for liver disease by early medical practitioners who subscribed to the practice that the shape of the plant would dictate what part of the body they were able to cure.  The liver-like shape of the leaves made hepatica a shoo-in to be used as a diuretic and as an astringent.   I can find no theory as to whether or not it worked. So, just a side note, if you want to practice any early settler medicine, note that the leaves are poisonous, so I would not overdose my patients. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Blooming in Purple

I found this plant in bloom while walking along a road the other day.  This plant is one that is not necessarily rare, but I have not seen it very often.  

Do you happen to know what it is from the photos?  I even showed it to you in bloom with the flowers for easier identification.  The full reveal of the plant will be found tomorrow!

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