Welcome to the Art Barn

Welcome to the Art Barn!  This is Beech Hollow’s new building to host our guests for educational talks, workshops and hands on garden crafts.  The Art Barn will also host shows of nature photography and other environmental or nature based artworks.

Images from our Spring Fling:

 

 

 

 

 

Build a Bug Rod puppets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo show of Virginia Linch’s pollinator pictures:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building a Rustic Lattice:

 

 

 

 

 

Not to mention more styling face (or hand) paint:

 

 

 

 

 

Andrea Greco and the Gardening for Wildlife Workshop:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why does Beech Hollow have an Art Barn?

Because a picture or an activity is worth a thousand words…

and learning about pollinators is a lot of fun.


Who needs fireworks? Native Azaleas and Tiger Swallowtails

Have you been to a wild azalea grove?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year there are a couple of azalea groves I love to visit in early spring. One is in the Boat Rock preserve in South Fulton County, and another is in the back acreage of our forest at Beech Hollow. And every year the groves are fireworks of flowers and Tiger Swallowtails.

The Tiger Swallowtails always seem to be one of the first butterflies to be up and out in the cool of early spring, and the azaleas are one of the few nectar sources available at the very beginning of spring. It is truly delightful to sit and watch the yellow winged males and the blue-black winged females delicately sip nectar all the while fanning their wings, slowly working their way across the azalea grove in loopy arcs.  There are plenty of native bees visiting the flowers as well; they flit past the arched stamens and pistil to burrow down into the corolla and access the nectar.  Those stamens and the pistil don’t come close to brushing the bees as they pass.

Here’s the thing: How would the bees pollinate the azaleas? The anthers and pistils flare out, well away from the nectar. Bees that access nectar alone won’t necessarily make contact with the stamens or pistil. In 2015, Mary Jane Epps, Suzanne E Allison, and Lorne M Wolfe published a paper about wing pollination by tiger swallowtails of Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) in the Blue Ridge. Very cool! Could our Piedmont Azaleas be pollinated in the same way?

Last spring, Jessi and I decided to take a look for ourselves in our grove of Piedmont Azalea (Rhododendron canescens) up by the boulders in the back of Beech Hollow. While we sat, a male Tiger Swallowtail was on patrol at the grove, waiting for a female. He looped around the grove, from flower to flower, fanning his wings as he nectared. He was such a pale yellow that it was hard to tell if he had gathered any pollen on his wings. Then a female swallowtail came by, and:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above, on the left, female Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) with her wings brushing the anthers of Piedmont Azalea.  On the right, several minutes later,  the same female with pollen visible on her wings.

This is an observation, not a scientific study. But it does appear that the same type of wing pollination that was recorded by scientific study in Flame Azaleas may also be occurring in Piedmont Azaleas.

That same spring at Boat Rock Preserve in Southwest Fulton County my husband Michael Williams was taking photos in the Piedmont Azaleas and caught this critter, a Hummingbird Clearwing moth, (possibly Hemaris thysbe) hard at work in the  azalea flowers:

I wonder if this species is also capable of wing pollination?

Here is the citation for the 2015 article on wing pollination:

Epps, Mary Jane, Allison Suzanne E., and Wolfe, Lorne M. Reproduction in Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum, Ericaceae): A Rare Case of Insect Wing Pollination. The American Naturalist, vol 186, No. 2. August 2015.

 


The Monarchs are Coming

March 17: Spring has warmed the mountains of Michoacán in the State of Mexico.  As I write this, the noon temperature in that alpine forest is 74 degrees Fahrenheit. The monarch butterflies that have been hibernating in tall fir trees have started leaving their mountain roosts to voyage north on their yearly migration in search of milkweed host plants for their young.  By the end of March, all of them will have left Mexico to journey north.
 
As early as this January and February, Monarchs have already been sighted on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Mississippi, and throughout much of Florida.  They will be in the Georgia Piedmont soon, and as you read this, fragile orange wings are flapping and fluttering against air currents to make their way here. By the time the Monarchs have reached Beech Hollow in late March and early April, the journey will have been roughly 1500 miles.

Why do they migrate?  The timing of the butterflies’ northward migration follows the seasonal availability of the larval host plants that monarchs need to feed their young.  They will migrate only as far north as the milkweed grows.  However the timing of the southward migration has the insects traveling well ahead of cold winter temperatures that they cannot survive.  And as they travel south during the late summer through the fall, there are still plenty of nectar plants for them to forage on to fuel their journey to the alpine forests in Mexico.  How’s that for travel planning? From the summer range in southern Canada to Mexico’s alpine forests, the total journey averages 2500 miles.

Rough timing of Monarch migration stops: When the female Monarch arrives in the southern United States between February through April, she will lay her eggs, and only upon Milkweed plants. Her caterpillars feed on the Milkweed, grow, pupate, and hatch. It takes anywhere from 4-7 weeks for the second generation of butterflies to mature enough to take up this generational relay. 
 
This second generation of new Monarchs flies into the northern United States and Southern Canada in late spring.  When the butterflies arrive, the females lay the eggs of generation number three on Milkweed plants.

In August and September, Monarch generations three and four will start flying southward, retracing their flights back to the mountains in Michoacán and the State of Mexico.  When the butterflies arrive, they overwinter in large fir trees and wait for the return of spring.

Habitat needs:  A garden with native plants which provide nectar for the adult butterflies is important.  Even MORE important for Monarch butterflies is the availability of their larval host plant: Milkweed. Supporting their full life cycle by providing host plants for their caterpillars will ensure the return of these intriguing insects year after year.  Milkweed species that are recommended by the GPCA (Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance) and native to the state of Georgia are: 

  • Clasping Leaf milkweed, Asclepias amplexicaulis
  • Poke Milkweed, Asclepias exaltata
  • Pink Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata
  • Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa
  • and Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias verticillata

Please Provide Water, everyone needs clean water, even insects.  A ceramic plant saucer with large pebbles or a sand ramp in it will allow butterflies to approach the water without being drowned.
 
Minimize use of toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, which can sicken or kill unintended, or “non-target,” wildlife.  If you must use a pesticide, be aware of your larval host plants and other pollinators, apply pesticides carefully to avoid destroying your beneficial insects.

Websites with additional information:

https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/Monarch_Butterfly/migration/index.shtml

http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/monarch.html

https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/Monarch_Butterfly/biology/index.shtml#migrgen

Annual generational lifecycle:

https://monarchlab.org/biology-and-research/biology-and-natural-history/breeding-life-cycle/annual-life-cycle/

Western Monarch Information:

https://www.westernmonarchcount.org/about/

 

 

 

 


Out and About at the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden

Carol Vanderschaaf at the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden.

Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden

In 2005, Carol Vanderschaaf started the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden with Phil Edwards and the Dekalb Master Gardener Association along with Catherine Kuchar of the Audubon Society.  Together, they planted over 40 different species of native plants and shrubs.

Over the following years, the garden has not only added plants, but also been the site of outdoor environmental classes on pollinator syndromes and environmental stewardship for students at Mary Lin School.

Ilex verticillata, Winterberry, provides excellent forage for songbirds.

This past October (2017), Beech Hollow and Scout Troop 586 scheduled a workday at the

Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden. The Scouts removed invasive plants from the garden, with adult help and supervision.

While we were hard at work, the Georgia aster was in bloom, and the Heart’s a Busting was dangling berries, to entice the birds to stop by and eat.

Cub Scout Troop 586 finishing a hard day’s work at the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden.

The brilliant scarlet fruits of the Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, made a gorgeous splash of color under the oak trees. For birds, Winterberry and Heart’s a Busting fruits are the plant equivalent of a neon sign that says “Eat at Joe’s.”

Job well done, thank you, scouts!

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden, a short timeline:

2005

Carol Vanderschaaf started the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden with Phil Edwards and the Dekalb Master Gardener Association along with Catherine Kuchar of the Audubon Society.  They planted over 40 different species of native plants and shrubs.

2008 through 2012,

EcoAddendum engaged the students at Mary Lin School in both learning to garden, in pollinator syndromes and environmental stewardship.  The students and Carol Vanderschaaf install more plants.

2013 through 2016,

Environmental programming continued with Lauren Sandoval and Trees Atlanta.  Each year volunteers planted new native plants.

2017 and ongoing:

Beech Hollow Farms and the Freedom Park Conservancy along with volunteer groups will continue the maintenance and planting of natives at the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden.

Here is a partial list of plants that have been planted at the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden over the past several years:

Native plants for birds and/or butterflies:
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgida or Rudbeckia hirta
Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
Golden Fleece Goldenrod, Solidago rugosa
Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis
Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata

Native plants for birds:
American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana
Blueberry, Vaccinium spp
Yellow root, Xanthorhizza simplicissima

Native plants for butterflies:
Butterfly Weed (not Bush),  Asclepias tuberosa
Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium fistulosum
St. John’s Wort, Hypericum frondosum
Pink Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata
Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata

 


Out and About at the CRNRA

Working in Public Spaces

For several years Beech Hollow has been working in public spaces around the Atlanta Metro Area helping out with native plant installations.  We thought we would put up a couple of posts about these native plant projects.

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA):

Island Ford monument sign with deer proof planting.

BHF have been working with the staff at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) for the past few years to plant and maintain native Georgia plants in two areas at the Island Ford Visitor’s Center.   The front entrance area has proved to be the toughest to re-vegetate, as the deer have been relentlessly munching plants down to the ground and have even pulled out whole root balls just days after we planted them!

Jeff with a fist full of invasive plants.

Despite the overabundant, graceful pests we have had deer proof successes in a very sunny area that is only irrigated by rainfall.  Plants like Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccafolium), American Aloe (Manfreda virginica), and Splitbeard Bluestem (Andropogon ternarius) are quite happily flowering in the poor, often dry soils of the driveway median.

We will continue working with Park staff and volunteers to reestablish native plant populations along the edges of the entrance and near the historic Hewlett Lodge Visitor Center building in the coming year.  Come out and lend a hand, or just visit to check out our plantings, hike the numerous trails, and see the natural beauty that will make you forget you’re in a large city.

 

Just in case you are curious, here is the list of approved native plants for the CRNRA:

Shrubs:

New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus

Georgia Basil, Clinopodium georgianum

Cedar Glade St Johnswort, Hypericum frondosum

Maple-leaf Viburnum, Viburnum acerifolium

Perennials:

Tall Thimbleweed, Anemone virginiana

Bird’s foot Violet,
Viola pedata

Barren Strawberry, Waldsteinia lobata

Green and Gold, Chrysogonum virginianum

Woodland Phlox, Phlox divaricata

Pussytoes, Antennaria plantaginifolia

Blue-eyed grass,
 Sisyrinchium spp

Eastern beardtongue, Penstemon laevigatus

Hoary skullcap, Scutellaria incana

Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa

Rattlesnake master, Eryngium yuccifolium

Narrow leaved Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum tennuifolium

Coreopsis, Coreopsis grandiflora

Cornel leaf Aster, Doellingeria infirma

Goldenaster, Chrysopsis mariana

Red disk Sunflower, Helianthus atrorubens

Blue Mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinuum

Georgia aster, Symphyotrichum georgianum


What’s not to love? Beautiful Hawthorns with Bountiful Berries

Crataegus-marshallii-DSC_0209Our native hawthorns are beautiful early bloomers, starting in late March and going through April and May. Hawthorns start blooming very soon after the early trees, when the plums and other fruit trees are putting on their show, providing much needed early bee and butterfly support with their offerings of pollen and nectar.

Dwarf Hawthorn, Crataegus uniflora

Dwarf Hawthorn, Crataegus uniflora

But the pollinator support doesn’t stop there. Hawthorns are among the top larval host plants in Doug Tallamy’s list of “Best Bets: What to Plant” to support butterflies and moths. They are number twelve out of the top twenty woody plants. The link to that list is here.

The height and cover provided by hawthorns for cup-nesting songbirds is pretty much perfect. Many songbirds nest between 5-15 feet off of the ground, and need a shrub that gives them good site with plenty of camouflage. Hawthorns are thorny, so are roses and some apple species. Does that mean you should avoid the Hawthorn in your shrub layer? No! Birds such as the Brown Thrasher will nest in thorny shrubs or greenbriar tangles, here’s a link to nest watch. Thorns would add a layer of protection from some egg and nestling predators.

Mockingbird nest in Parsley Hawthorn, Crataegus marshallii

Mockingbird nest in Parsley Hawthorn, Crataegus marshallii

The haws, or pomes, are also an important addition to your garden to support migratory birds like Cedar Waxwings. But if you’ve ever heard of Haws or Mayhaw jelly, people have been using the fruit of the hawthorn as well, from the cuisine of various Native American tribes through the traditional foods of the Deep South. One of our favorite blogs “Eat the Weeds” has an article on Hawthorns here .  Colonists used haws, both Marshallii and uniflora are species recorded as being used as food by colonists and Native Americans.

The Hawthorn is closely related to the rose and apple, the flowers of hawthorns reminiscent of plum or apple blossoms and the fruits often resembling rose hips.  The scarlet berries are so prolific on our Parsley Hawthorn that the winter resident birds can never finish the fruit during the winter, it often takes a flock of famished Cedar Waxwings to polish them off.  Flower quantity and berry set are greater if planted in the sun.

Crataegus-uniflora-berries-IMG_9758

Fruit of the Dwarf Hawthorn, Crataegus uniflora, smells like an apple.

The Hawthorn species that we grow are Crataegus marshallii and Crataegus uniflora.  Both of these species are tough, preferring well drained sites.  They can easily handle full sun to dappled or open shade.  Right now Crataegus marshallii is blooming now in front of our location in Scottdale GA.  The flowers are gorgeous; marshallii has plentiful flower clusters that hold about a dozen inch wide blooms.

We now have Crataegus uniflora germinating; hoping it will be a good size in two years.  But this species will never get beyond shrub sized. The common name for this species is Dwarf Hawthorne; its height ranges from 3-6 feet tall. The Dwarf Hawthorne has flowers that are singular, about quarter-sized, and matt white.   The fruits are nickel sized pomes that smell like apple and have the color of a really ripe golden delicious apple with a pink blush when fully ripe.


Welcome to our Sunny Beeches!

2017 BHF web poster

Learn about Native Bees, Butterflies and Native Plants at Beech Hollow Farm.  We now have presentations about bees and butterflies and how to support them in your gardens (free) on Saturday mornings.  We also have mid-day projects, classes in Nature Journaling with writing, spore prints, and art, that get you into our forest.  And if I don’t say so myself, it sure is pretty down there in the hollow.

Please take a look at our spring offerings:

2017-BHF-Spring-Classes


The Marvelous Monarch Migration (Part 1)

Female Monarch Butterfly laying egg on Asclepias tuberosa.

Female Monarch Butterfly laying egg on Asclepias tuberosa.

Why marvelous? Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) travel thousands of miles every year, following the seasons.  These amazing butterflies overwinter on large trees in the mysterious forests of the mountains of Michoacán and the State of Mexico.   With the arrival of spring, these seemingly delicate creatures fly thousands of miles northward into the southern United States.

Monarch egg on underside of Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) leaf.

Monarch egg on underside of Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) leaf.

There the female Monarch butterfly lays her eggs on Milkweed plants, ONLY on Milkweed plants. Her caterpillars feed on the Milkweed, grow, pupate, and hatch, as the second generation of butterflies to take up the generational relay.

This second generation of Monarchs flies northward into the northern United States and Southern Canada in late spring. When they arrive, the females lay the eggs of generation number three on Milkweed plants.

Very immature Monarch caterpillar on underside of Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) leaf.

Very immature Monarch caterpillar on underside of Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) leaf.

In August and September, Monarch generations three and four start flying southward, retracing their flights back to the mountains in Michoacán and the State of Mexico. When the butterflies arrive, they overwinter in large trees to wait for the return of spring.  There is more information at this Forest Service website.

How to help the Monarchs on their journey:

Feed your Monarchs (Part 2):  A Garden with Native Plants which provide nectar for the adult butterflies is important. Even MORE important for Monarch Butterflies is the availability of their larval host plant: Milkweed. Supporting their full life cycle by providing host plants for their caterpillars will ensure the return of these intriguing insects year after year.

Monarch caterpillars munching on Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed.

Monarch caterpillars munching on Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed.

Monarch Home Sweet Habitat (Part 3): everyone needs clean water, even insects. A ceramic plant saucer with large pebbles or a sand ramp in it will allow butterflies to approach the water without being drowned.

Minimize use of toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, which can sicken or kill unintended, or “non-target,” wildlife. If you must use a pesticide, be aware of your larval host plants and other pollinators, apply pesticides carefully to avoid destroying your beneficial insects.

Monarch-butterfly-chrysalis

This is a Monarch Butterfly chrysalis at Beech Hollow Farm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adult Monarch, generation three or four, southward bound to the mountain forests of Michoacan. The flower the butterfly is nectaring on is the Georgia Aster.

Adult Monarch, generation three or four, southward bound to the mountain forests of Michoacan. The flower the butterfly is nectaring on is Symphyotrichum georgianum, the Georgia Aster.


Gentle Native Bee? Or aggressive ground nesting wasp?

Spring has indeed sprung, and early this year.  And with the lovely weather, the buds are blooming, and the native bees have started buzzing.

One thing we gardeners should make ourselves more aware of is the difference between yellow jackets, an aggressive ground nesting wasp, and soil nesting bees. We want to have our gentle native bees, who are excellent pollinators, healthy and happy in our gardens.  But what is the difference between a yellow jacket wasp and a ground nesting bee?

There are many species of ground nesting bees in North America.  They are gentle, mostly solitary bees (rarely live in groups), and only sting if you smack them.  We have native ground nesting bees who specialize in squash pollination, and there are ground nesting bees who pollinate our tomatoes and blueberries more efficiently than honey bees.  All we have to do to encourage their excellent services is a.) give them a little room to nest in (they are tiny and don’t take up much space) and b.) don’t poison them! 

Here is a link to a video I took of a very large yellow jacket colony in an Atlanta Park:

Yellow jackets are predatory wasps, and an important member of the checks and balances that exists in nature’s food web. Without predatory wasps, we would be over run with devastating insect damage to every living plant on the planet.  But they are aggressive, so none of us wants a huge yellow jacket nest near our house.  More info at this wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_yellowjacket

For comparison, here are a couple of ground nesting bee nest entrances on the website Bugguide:

http://bugguide.net/node/view/668896

http://bugguide.net/node/view/178216

And here is a Wikipedia article on the ground nesting bee family:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halictinae

In the photos of the bee nests, notice how there is one teensy hole, about 3/8’s of an inch across?  With one little bee head peering out?  She is guarding her eggs, her babies.  It’s actually very touching.  The ground dwelling bee won’t come out and lance you all over with horrid stinging welts if you are mowing your grass.  She is just going to mind her own business.  Give her some respect and some space, she’ll give you tomatoes and squash in return.  Not a bad deal, eh?