What's Inside:
• Native's: What's going on? •An Unlikely Relationship
• Meet the Natives: Purple Poppy Mallow
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Native Plant Philosophy and Tips from Hamilton Native Outpost


• Competition can be reduced in new plantings.  When significant shading occurs, mow the vegetation high.  See details in the Planting Timeline.

• Summer cover crop seed can be planted through mid-June during the transition period from non-native to native plants.  Pearl and foxtail millet, sorghum x sudangrass, and cowpeas among others are great options  

• RSVP for Hamilton Native Outpost's Diversity & Warm Season Grass Pasture Walk June 20th. 

• Although it is more risky, seeds of warm season grasses (except Eastern Gama Grass) can be still be planted through mid June if the soil moisture is good.  However, the later the planting the better the seedbed needs to be.  Thoughts on planting methods can be found in the Seeding Guide. 

• The arrival of fescue seedheads is an easy way to identify fescue plants.  To remove individual plants, dig them out or spray individual plants with glyphosate (always read and follow label directions).  Seed heads should be cut off and disposed of after May 31st.

• Sericea Lespedeza, an invasive plant, can be removed by digging it out by hand or with PastureGard.  PastureGard should be used when the plant is 11-14" tall; always read and follow label directions.

An Unlikely Relationship

The roots of a plant in the legume family withnodules
(the roundish bumps) where the Rhizobia bacteria live 
When I think of bacteria, I think of sick people.  Anthrax, leprosy, and bubonic plague as well as more minor infections all involve bacteria.  And to think about a fungus makes me think about mold growing on a loaf of bread that has gotten old.  To think that these microorganisms might form relationships with plants makes me concerned for the health of the plant!  However, while there are plant diseases caused by these microscopic organisms, other bacteria and fungi actually help out plants. 
Bacteria are the classic example of the unlikely relationships between microbe and plant.  It all starts when a legume plant sends out a message looking for available Rhizobia bacteria of a certain kind.  The Rhizobia respond to the call and move into the residence that the plant builds; this residence is called a nodule and looks like a small bump on the plant’s root.  The plant then starts feeding the bacteria.  In turn, the bacteria use their ability to take nitrogen from the air, and it gives that nitrogen to the plant.  While the air is nearly 80% nitrogen, plants cannot use the nitrogen directly from the air so the service that the bacteria provide is quite valuable to the plant.  In the end, both the plant and bacteria are happy and getting something from the other that they cannot produce by themselves. 
Certain fungi, referred to as mycorrhizae, have a similar relationship with plants.  They invade the plant’s roots and obtain food.  Producing food is what a plant does well as plants are one of the few organisms that produce their own food; most organisms eat other animals or plants as their source of food.  The fungus, on the other hand has a different specialty that is useful to the plant.  It has an ability to explore more soil than the plant’s roots in search of water and nutrients; the fungus’ mycelium are both more abundant and smaller than plant roots so they can explore more soil.  It then brings this extra water and nutrients to the plant.  Mycorrhizal fungi also have the ability to alter the chemistry of the soil to extract certain nutrients that the plant could not get on its own.  These fungi seem to be especially important in the acquisition of phosphorus.  Many plants, but not all, have a relationship with mycorrhizae, and wherever these relationships exist, they benefit both plant and fungus.   
Since not all plants form a relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria or water and nutrient-acquiring fungi, it is important to have a diversity of plants.  After the plant that hosts the microorganism uses the nutrients, they can be recycled in the soil and used by other plants that do not have the ability to form these relationships with bacteria and fungi.  For folks aiming to produce forage for livestock, these relationships are the equivalent of free fertilizer.  Having these plants means the production of more forage for livestock.  For wildlife enthusiasts, these microorganism-plant relationships produce food (e.g. foliage and seeds) that are more nutritious (e.g. higher in protein and minerals).  Landscapers, who are always concerned about blooms, should see more blooms where more nutrients are available; it is the equivalent of a bloom-booster fertilizer.  Lastly, those folks interested in restoring glades, prairies, and savannas should appreciate these relationships, if for no other reason, just because they are a part of our native grasslands.  A diversity of plants yields a diversity of relationships with microorganisms which, in the end, is beneficial to us humans.           

Meet the Natives:
Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata)

Purple Poppy Mallow is a perennial plant that has a low, creeping growth form and a fragrant flower.  Native Americans used the taproot of this species medicinally: a decoction of the roots as a pain killer; the smoke from a smoldering, dried root was inhaled for head colds, and a tea made from the boiled root was drunk for internal pains and also to bathe aching body parts.  Native Americans and early European settlers also ate the roots of poppy mallows, which reportedly taste similar to sweet potato when harvested in late summer or fall.  The leaves of Purple Poppy Mallow, like other members of the mallow family, are mucilaginous and have been used to thicken soups and other liquids.  The scientific name is Callirhoe involucrataCallirhoe is derived from a Greek work meaning beautiful flowering, and it is a name shared with an ocean nymph in Greek mythology.  The species name, involucrata, refers to the whorl of green, leaf-like structures just below the flower which is referred to as an involucre.

WILDLIFE: Bees are common visitors of this species and they are the primary pollinators.  Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus communis) caterpillars feed on the poppy mallows.  The foliage and roots are quite palatable to many species of plant-eating mammals including deer, rabbits, and groundhogs.  Because the leaves are green late into the winter and early int he spring, mammals often seek it out during these periods.
FORAGEPurple Poppy Mallow is very palatable to livestock.  It can be used as part of a forage mix on dry sites.  It stays green late into the winter and greens up early in the spring, so this species can be a mouthful of quality for livestock especially during that period.
LANDSCAPINGNative Americans evidently appreciated the beauty of the flowers of some of the poppy mallow species as do modern landscapers.  The foliage is attractive as are the magenta-colored flowers.  Because it is indeterminate, it also has a relatively long bloom period compared to other native species.  Purple Poppy Mallow readily recruits new plants from seed.
RESTORATION: Purple Poppy Mallow is found on dry sites such as edges of glades and upland prairies.  It often shows up after disturbance events.

To learn more about this plant or others, check out our new plant information and photo gallery on our website!
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