Sunday, May 25, 2008

Yellow LadySlipper and the new axis of evil

I volunteer as a legacy steward at the Garden. Normally, I would have a discrete area of the Garden to keep clear of invasive species, such as garlic mustard, buckthorn and dame's rocket. But I am a volunteer without portfolio - I am a roving legacy steward and will be targeting areas specified by the Gardener as being of particular concern to her. The photo below was taken outside of the Garden, by the Back Gate, and shows what can happen when garlic mustard takes over:

Garlic mustard infestation
(Alliaria petiolata )

The individual flowers are actually sort of pretty -

Garlic mustard flower
(Alliaria petiolata )

Together with buckthorn (european and glossy), and dame's rocket, garlic mustard rounds out my new axis of evil.

Sadly, I think the battle is lost, and that the invasives will continue to spread and suppress germination of native species (through release of allelopathic substances from the roots) or crowd out diverse species. The Garden is likely to become not an exemplar of various native biomes in Minnesota, but a museum of what used to be. I say this after a month of intensive garlic mustard pulling in the Garden and in the buffer zone outside the Garden. The seeds of garlic mustard spread in the treads of shoes, bikes and wheels of motorized off trail vehicles. They also spread in the paws of dogs and the hooves of deer. Any one who loves the woods should wash the treads of their hiking shoes, wheels and brush off any packs or equipment that have rested on the ground. There is no campaign to promote this idea, and hundreds of people are unknowningly spreading the garlic mustard menace throughout the state. There are great messages getting out about cleaning off boats between different bodies of water, but it remains to be seen whether this is effective to halt the progress of fatal fish virus and other problematic species. The same message needs to get out to hikers, before areas like the Boundary Waters are affected.

However, during the last two days, the yellow lady's slipper has popped up and the crowds are beginning to descend. Won't be long before the Showy lady's slipper appears!

Yellow lady's slipper
(Cypripedium parviflorum (poss. pubescens)

A lot of other plants are blooming right now as well.

Red baneberry

(Prunus virginiana)

Jacob's ladder
(Polemonium caeruleum)

This is the wild version of the many heuchera propagated for gardens.

Early meadow rue
(Thalictrum dioicum)

Double wood anemone - probably a "garden variety," but the Gardener leaves it there because it is well-loved and dramatic. Last summer a U of M prof actually picked one while lecturing to a field class - unbelievable. Signs are all over that direct people not to pick or go off trail. There are always people who don't think the rules apply to them.
(Anemone nemorosa, poss. 'Bracteata Pleniflora')

Jack in the pulpit
(Arisaema triphyllum)

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