Making It Grow Minute

Amanda McNulty of Clemson Extension Service shares gardening tips and techniques.

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Moths and Yucca

Jun 1, 2019
Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I'm Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Some hummingbird moths, so named because of their size, visit yucca flowers at night to enjoy their nectar. But the important pollinators are yucca moths. Relatively small white insects, the female moth enters yucca flowers and uses special mouthparts called tentacles to collect pollen, which she rolls into a ball to transport. She lays her eggs in the ovary of a yucca flower, and then places some of the fresh pollen onto the female stigma.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I'm Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Some yuccas deservedly have the name Spanish Bayonet or dagger because of the sharp points at the ends of their leaves. But we have two native yuccas that are much less threatening and still have beautiful blossoms. Both Yucca filamentosa and Yucca flaccida are smaller and have somewhat softer foliage than their big relatives, and flowering stalks that top out at five feet. The leaves have threads, filaments, along the leaf margins, like fabric unraveling.

Spanish Bayonet

May 30, 2019
Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I'm Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Like Yucca aloifolia, Spanish Bayonet, the plant called Spanish Dagger, Yucca gloriosa, also is native only to the lower southeastern states. Although it has a similar size and flower display, its leaves aren't quite so stiff and have a less lethal point at the end. John Nelson tells me the margins of Yucca gloriosa leaves are smooth and won't cut your fingers.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I'm Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Many people who have cut grass with push lawnmowers think that there should be a special place in the hell for yucca plants, as they have backed into them and suffered a painful stab wound. As a matter of fact, an Australian hospital reports it has treated dozens of persons with serious ear injuries incurred while working around yucca plants. The most dangerous yucca we have in South Carolina is Yucca aloifolia, or Spanish Bayonet.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I'm Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Right now, striking plants that are grown in many yards, and in cemeteries, and along roadsides are capturing our attention. Yuccas are tough, hardy plants that can persist for years and years without care and right now are blooming their hearts out. With flowering panicles that can be three feet by two feet and supported on stalks that can reach twelve feet in height, their masses of showy white blossoms top the charts for the WOW factor.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The small ground nesting bees fall into several categories – mining bees, orchard bees, or digger bees are among them,  and all are important pollinators. They are absolutely no threat to humans or pets – even though several hundred may construct their burrows in the same area, that’s because the ground conditions are perfect.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Cycads have been used as emergency food in many cultures. In Florida, however, Seminole Indians relied on starch made from the native cycad, Zamia floridana, as a primary source of calories. This plant, which covered portions of Florida, became the backbone of the arrowroot flour industry which flourished from 1850 to the 1920’s.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Cycads have been used for food in many cultures around the world.  A cycad native to Florida, Zamia floridana, or coontie, was almost eliminated by the production of cycad flour; mills churned out 15 tons of arrowroot flour a day.  Since cycads contain extremely dangerous neuro-toxins that cause horrific symptoms in humans decades after consumption, the plant material must be processed with great care to render it safe. 

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Sago palms are actually cycads, which are grouped with gymnosperms like pine trees. They are among the oldest seed plants to evolve on our planet.   Cycad fossils date back to almost 300 million years ago and once flourished worldwide.  They were the dominant plant group during the Mesozoic; the period sometimes called both the age of the dinosaur and the age of the cycads.

The Ancient Cyads

Feb 18, 2019
Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Sago palms are the most readily available cold hardy cycads that we can grow in most of South Carolina. Well-established cycads will usually survive temperatures down to 15 degrees, but their beautiful, stiff, pinnately-compound leaves which normally stay green and live through winter are killed when we have unusually low temperatures. It’s best to let those dead leaves most of our sagos now have remain on the plants as they can give some protection to the growth points.

Poikilohydry?

Dec 29, 2018

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Fellow Extension agent Chase Smoak and I like to learn new botanical words (he already knows a lot more than me). But I had a good one for him the other day. Poikilohydry is the process that occurs in lichens, mosses and liverworts which absorb moisture from their surroundings. When they dry out, they stop photosynthesizing, but when they rehydrate, start using sunlight to make carbohydrates again.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. If you have lichens growing on in your yard, be delighted. They’re considered indicators of healthy air. They lack roots and get their carbon dioxide, water and all nutrients, except the carbohydrates the algal partner manufactures, from the surrounding atmosphere. As a result, air-borne pollutants become concentrated in them.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. If you have lichens growing on in your yard, be delighted. They’re considered indicators of healthy air. They lack roots and get their carbon dioxide, water and all nutrients, except the carbohydrates the algal partner manufactures, from the surrounding atmosphere. As a result, air-borne pollutants become concentrated in them.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. A northern relative of our southern reindeer mosses, which as far as I can tell no creatures eat routinely, is an important food in the arctic regions. Lichens can survive in that harsh part of the world as they stop physiological processes in winter, when there’s no liquid water. When snows and ice thaw in spring, this organism, a combination of a fungus and an alga, hydrates and photosynthesis and growth start again.

Reindeer "Moss"

Dec 26, 2018

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. When going to the landfill in Calhoun County, I pass through an area with extremely sandy soils. The roadsides are practically covered with a particular lichen we’ve always called reindeer moss. However, lichens are not mosses, which are in the plant kingdom, but are placed in the Kingdom Fungi. A lichen is an example of a mutualistic relationship between a fungus and an alga or cyanobacteria. The fungus makes up the body of the lichen.

Lichens

Dec 24, 2018

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Often people call the office and tell us that lichens are killing their plants. Lichens however, live independently of the surface, or substrate, they’re growing on-- they don’t have any root-like structures to extract nutrients. When growing on woody plants, they’re simply using them as a way to be in the sunlight. Lichens can be just as healthy growing on tombstones, walls, or rocks.

Malignant Mistletoe?

Dec 22, 2018

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Although our eastern American mistletoe does do harm to our urban trees and our timber industry, the fact that it can only grow on hardwoods spares our pine plantations, and its seeds must be spread by animals. Out west, however, dwarf mistletoe species, in the genus Arceuthobium, grow and parasitize certain conifers including pines.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Our Eastern American mistletoe has the scientific name Phoradendron leucarpum. The first name comes from Greek words – phor meaning thief and dendron meaning tree – and it is parasitic -- taking nutrients from the host tree.

More on Mistletoe

Dec 20, 2018

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Our Christmas custom of hanging mistletoe in our houses dates back to Norse traditions and more recently to Victorian times. It’s amusing when you learn that the name has Anglo Saxon origins meaning dung on a stick. All mistletoes, which are found nearly worldwide, are dioecious, with male and female flowers occurring on separate plants. The female plants with their transparent white fruits are preferred for decorations.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Parasitic plants with the common name mistletoe occur almost worldwide and in many cultures were associated with myths and pagan religious rites. The Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer wrote a comparative study of mythology and religion. In his book The Golden Bough which is one of the common names for mistletoe, he wrote extensively about the European mistletoe, Viscum album.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. While filming at Historic Columbia recently, I learned that it wasn’t until the 1850’s that British and American Christians began seriously decorating their homes for Christmas. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, brought his Germanic holiday traditions to England. Along with decorating a tree came the custom of hanging mistletoe over a doorway.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. As our native dogwoods, Cornus florida, became susceptible to numerous diseases, horticulturists looked for alternatives. One Asian species does have some resistance to certain diseases and has become a popular substitute for our native small understory tree. Cornus kousa is a lovely tree with some differences. It blooms after the leaves have emerged, so you don’t get that airy aspect of our Cornus florida.

Dogwood Cultivars

Nov 30, 2018

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. A cultivar is a named variety of a particular plant that was selected or breed and vegetatively propagated to have special characteristics, so all the plants with that name are exactly the same. It used to be that people often planted seedling dogwoods in their yards.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. This is the best time of year to add new plants to your yard, make it a family affair to give a gift to nature over the holidays. Our native dogwoods, Cornus florida, have suffered from years of higher temperatures and lower rainfall as well as disease pressure.

Dogwood Anthracnose

Nov 28, 2018

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Dogwood anthracnose, with the frightening name Discula distructiva, was first identified in north eastern forests in 1978. This disease has now has caused the death of over fifty percent of those trees growing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a huge hit for wildlife as dogwood fruits were a major part of the mast supply. Mast is the fruits and seeds of woody trees and shrubs that birds and mammals use for food.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. You deserve kudos if you consistently keep you backyard feeders filled with a variety of foods, and make sure that birds have a constant source of fresh water, especially during freezing weather. But our native wildlife existed here long before we did, taking advantage of natural sources of sustenance and drink. Mast is the word for the seeds, nuts, berries, buds, acorns and other forest produce that birds and animals rely upon for food.

Native Dogwood Trees

Nov 26, 2018

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Riding up to Clemson recently, the sides of the highways were showing good fall color from the large hickories, tulip poplars, and maples. A smaller tree that was adding to the beauty was our native dogwood, Cornus florida with reddish burgundy leaves. Dogwoods are happiest at the edges of woodlands. In those settings, they have their shallow roots established in soils rich in leaf mold; soils that can hold water but offer good drainage.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Baccharis halimifolia, groundsel bush or salt myrtle, is native to the coastal areas of all states bordering the Atlantic and was apparently once found only near the coast. With impressive salt resistance, ability to thrive in dry or moist soils, and massive seed production it has since expanded its range dramatically.

Beautiful Baccharis

Nov 23, 2018

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Although there are still acres and acres of cotton still in the fields I pass by on my commute from Saint Matthews to Sumter, another plant is taking the stage for its white, silvery appearance. Sea myrtle, groundsel, or salt bush are some of the common names for this plant which has the scientific name of Baccharis halimifolia; most people I know just call it baccharis.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. In parts of the state where cotton was grown, the fall of the year brought not only color in autumn leaves but also roadsides that were often white with cotton that blew out of the wagons that steadily traveled from the fields to the gins. Farmers had to frequently empty the cotton-picking machines into wire cotton wagons and transport them to the gin, where each one had to be logged in.

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