Longer version of Permethrin article appears on PennLive.com yesterday

tickGood old John, didn’t even tell me he was running it yesterday, just found it by happenstance late in the afternoon.

Here’s a fool-proof way to fight ticks this summer | Bob Quarteroni

By Bob Quarteroni. If I’d tried this last year, I’d have been covered with more ticks than the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has ornaments.
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Nature at your feet: My article for this Sunday’s CV Outdoors page

nightshade(picture is nightshade)

By Bob Quarteroni

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” Henry David Thoreau

He’s right. You can find endless, fascinating examples of the natural world in your own backyard, or front yard, or even growing out of the cracks of your sidewalks.

To illustrate this, a look at five examples of nature at our doorstep, all found around my house at New Sullivan Street in Swoyersville, showing that you don’t have to look far to find nature, you just have to look at what’s at your feet.

 

PURSLANE

This ordinary looking weed taking over my sidewalk looks just like another unwanted guest to be pulled or zapped.

But looks can be deceiving. This is purslane, a gourmet delight.

Listen to the New York Times: “It’s not a summer icon like sweet corn, but you don’t have to wait for purslane, with its pleasant crunch and lemony tang. (It is) delicious, versatile, inexpensive and packed with nutrients like vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids.”

And the Eat the Planet blog gushes, “The plant has many culinary uses, just about anything you can think of. It can be eaten raw or cooked. It can be put it salads, and sandwiches…. The taste is slightly savory and sour so it goes well with many dinner and lunch foods, like vegetables and meats.”

HEAL ALL

I have several mints in my yard – especially gill-over-the-ground which has essentially taken over the lawn despite my best efforts – but my favorite is heal all.

True to its name, heal all has been revered as a medicinal herb for centuries. it has been used for everything from minor cuts to internal bleeding, from treating diarrhea and high blood pressure to fevers, weaknesses of the heart and liver and even internal bleeding.

Today, a tea made from its leaves is used as a folk remedy to treat anxiety, depression and mood swings.

Scientific analysis has revealed that it has an antibacterial action and studies are being conducted to see if it could be used to treat diabetes, AIDS, and cancer.

FROGHOPPER

No, this is not what it looks like.

What this frothy little mass is is a home for a bug – a true bug – named froghopper or spittlebug. Froghoppers are small, brown insects. Their larvae are more commonly seen coated in a mass of froth – referred to as cuckoo spit – on plant stems, as this one in my yard. This froth protects the larva from predators as it feeds on young leaves and shoots, and it also stops it from drying out and it does little damage to the plant.

But when the bugs emerge, they are, according to National Geographic News, the “World’s Greatest Leaper.”

‘It has more jumping prowess than fleas, out hops the springiest grasshoppers, and clears the high bar more quickly than bush crickets…It is a mere 0.2 inches long but employs a novel catapult mechanism to launch itself upwards of 28 inches into the air,” the News said.

BITTERSWEET NIGHTSHADE

When you find out that a plant draped over your fence was used in England to counterattack witchcraft, it makes it a lot more interesting.

Although not the same plant as the legendary and highly toxic deadly nightshade or belladonna, bittersweet nightshade is somewhat poisonous and has caused the death of pets and livestock and, though more rarely, sickness and even death in children who have eaten the berries which, along with the leaves, contain the toxin solanine.

But as for that bittersweet name, the Poison Garden website begs to differ.

“On the two occasions I have chewed, but not swallowed, a single berry, I found the bitterness to be extreme…. I am led to speculate that anyone who succeeds in being poisoned…must have had some impairment of the sense of taste.”

GARLIC MUSTARD

To live here is to know – far too intimately -– garlic mustard, which is relentless in advancing and taking over large swaths of land.

That’s because garlic mustard releases compounds from its roots which prevent the growth of grass, herbs and seedlings. Utilizing this tactic, it has been reported as advancing 20 feet a year in some spots.

It was introduced here by Europeans for food in New York in 1868. It was originally used as a vegetable because of its high concentrations of vitamin A and C. It lends a garlicky flavor to food and its juice has antiseptic properties.

However, “Its crushingly negative impact on native plants and native forest ecosystems renders these very minimal uses quite trivial and unimportant,” according to the Penn State Kensington Virtual Nature Trail page.

 

Common St. John’s Wort an Uncommon medical miracle…

commonCommon St. John’s Wort, lovely flower with a ton of medical uses, especially with depression.

St. John’s wort Facts

St. John’s wort is a type of herbaceous plant that belongs to the family Hypericaceae. This plant is native to Europe, but it can be found around the world today. St. John’s wort inhabits pastures, meadows, woodlands, deforested areas and habitats disturbed by fire. It grows on well-drained, moist soil, in sunny areas or in the partial shade. St. John’s wort spreads quickly and easily occupies new habitats. It is classified as invasive species in numerous countries. Despite its invasive nature, St. John’s wort is one of the most respected and most commonly used types of medical herbs.

Interesting St. John’s wort Facts:

St. John’s wort has multi-branched, reddish stem that can reach 1 to 3 feet in height.
St. John’s wort develops strong taproot and numerous lateral roots. Taproot usually grows 2 to 5 feet below the ground.
St. John’s wort has narrow, oblong, light green leaves. They are oppositely arranged on the branches.
St. John’s wort produces yellow or orange flowers covered with black dots on the edges of petals. Flowers are star-shaped, gathered in flat-topped clusters.
St. John’s wort blooms at the beginning of the summer and attracts numerous insects (mostly bees and bumblebees) that are responsible for the pollination.
Fruit of St. John’s wort is reddish-brown capsule divided in three sections filled with dark seed.
St. John’s wort can be propagated via seed, cuttings or via division of root.
St. John’s wort leaves are covered with numerous oil glands that are nearly transparent when leaves are oriented toward the sun. Latin name of the plant, Hypericum perforatum (perforatum means perforated in Latin), refers to “see-through” leaves of St. John’s wort.
According to old European tradition, St. John’s wort is harvested on the 24th of June. This date is celebrated as St. John’s day in Eastern Orthodox church, hence the name – St. John’s wort.
St. John’s wort contains numerous compounds that are effective in treatment of depression, anxiety and mood swings during menopause, among many other disorders.
St. John’s wort needs to be consumed cautiously because it reduces activity of birth control pills and drugs used in treatment of AIDS, anxiety, insomnia, arrhythmia and hypercholesterolemia (when consumed simultaneously

Our most common lobelia may also be our prettiest: Indian Tobacco

lobelia·

Indian Tobacco, our most common lobelia, though without any swollen seedpods. Could be too early or another lobelia I haven’t run across before, but I’ll stick with Indian tobacco, I think.

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Irregular, tubular flowers in racemes arising from leaf axils in the upper part of the plant; usually only 1 or 2 flowers are open on a raceme at a time. Flowers are pale blue or white, about 1/3 inch long. The lower lip is 3-lobed, the lobes pointed at the tip and all about the same size, the base yellowish with a tuft of white hairs. The upper lip is 2-lobed, the lobes mostly erect and smaller than the lower lobes. A curved style sits between the upper lobes. The calyx behind the flower has 5 narrow prong-like lobes.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 2 to 3 inches long, ½ to 1½ inches wide, hairy, toothed around the edges, generally oval with a pointed tip and little to no leaf stalk, alternately attached. The stem is hairy to varying degrees and usually branched.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a globular capsule about 1/3 inch across, the calyx lobes projecting from the top. The inflated capsule is where the Latin name comes from.

[photo of seed] Inside the capsule are numerous tiny, oval, semi-translucent golden brown seeds. The surface is covered with a network of fine ridges and shiny scales.

Notes:

Indian Tobacco is pretty easy to identify by the racemes arising from the leaf axils, and the inflated capsules. The Lobelia genus was once in its own Lobeliaceae family, then was moved to the Campanulaceae (Bellflower) family but is now back in Lobeliaceae

Dave’s Garden to the rescue: Mystery plant is New Jersey Tea

Two of the good folks at davesgarden.com ID’d my mystery plant from Deep Hollow at New Jersey Tea.

And In the Natural History of Wild Vines and Shrubs, Donald Stokes talks about the unique flower shape of New Jersey Tea which intrigued me as well :”One of the most puzzling aspects of New Jersey Tea is the shape of the flower. Each of the five little petals that project out at the centeflowersr of a blossom looks like a miniature ladle, with a narrow base that broadens broadly at its tip, forming a small cup.”

Forget Superman, froghoppers are the REAL supper critters.

froghopper 

No, this is not what it looks like.

What this frothy little mass is is a home for a bug – a true bug – named froghopper or spittlebug. Froghoppers are small, brown insects. Their larvae are more commonly seen coated in a mass of froth – or cuckoo spit – on plant stems, as this one in my yard. This froth protects the larva from predators as it feeds on young leaves and shoots, and it also stops it from drying out.

But when they emerge, they are, according to National Geographic News, the “World’s Greatest Leaper.”

‘It has more jumping prowess than fleas, out hops the springiest grasshoppers, and clears the high bar more quickly than bush crickets…It is a mere 0.2 inches long, but employs a novel catapult mechanism to launch itself upwards of 28 inches into the