Snakes in the garden

Sunday, October 20, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald What wild things dwell in that uncultivated, unkempt portion of your yard? You know the area I’m talking about — the one where you occasionally dump leaves or hastily pulled weeds, rather than walk around to the compost bin.

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From extinction to your yard: a most unusual palm

Saturday, September 28, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald There are lists of plants and animals thought to have gone extinct, only to be rediscovered happily living out their lives unseen by those who take note of such things. What a reason for celebration, to find out we were wrong about the end of the line for a living community! Organisms in this category are said to belong to a “Lazarus taxon” — having seemingly risen from the dead like the Biblical Lazarus.

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Ready, set, grow: Start an edible garden now

Saturday, September 14, 2013

As published in the Miami Herald Most of the country is winding its gardening down and focusing instead on the new school year and autumn preparations — composting those old annuals, collecting seeds, digging it all under to go fallow.

However, our extreme southern gardening is really just beginning. Now, finally, we can grow some fruit and vegetables without the fear of them frying to a crisp under the summer sun or rotting in our tropical summer downpours.

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A small tree for tough landscapes: joewood

Sunday, August 25, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald Joewood (Jacquinia keyensis) is a somewhat uncommon South Florida native shrub or small tree. Though found in the Keys, preferring the ecotone - transition area - between coastal thickets and hammocks (sometimes called maritime hammock), it is rare elsewhere, listed as "threatened" by the state. Besides southeast Florida, Everglades National Park and the Keys, it has also been documented in Lee County's coastal strand on the west...

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Let us praise the fauna of the compost pile

Sunday, August 18, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald Composting is good. Very good, in fact. You get to avoid tossing vegetable scraps in the garbage so the bin doesn't fill as quickly; there's less garden debris to dispose of; and the end result is a rich soil amendment you couldn't even buy. A compost bin is a simple box allowing for drainage and air circulation. I think all gardeners are clear on the "why" of composting, and I definitely want to go over the "how." But...

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The truth about bugs: It's all about perspective

Sunday, August 11, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald In the world of bugs, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Not all insects are horrible. In fact, most have some redeeming qualities (except maybe bed bugs). While a bee sting hurts, bees are the world's best pollinators. And even though roaches are extremely creepy in the house, they are fabulous decomposers. It all depends on perspective. And a plant's perspective is a very important one. These bugs can be the...

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Tree ferns bring tropical Australia to your garden

Sunday, July 28, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald Tree ferns look just like their names describe - tree-sized ferns, with a caudex, or trunk. They're so iconically tropical in appearance, you can't help but feel like you're in a Hawaiian rainforest when standing in their presence. You might also expect to see a dinosaur devouring the delicate fronds, since ferns in general look "primitive," and an arborescent example would certainly attract a large herbivorous reptile. The...

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A stinky family moves in

Sunday, July 21, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald They are nearly impossible to miss. They are neither plant nor animal, though they share traits of both. The bright-red globes have been popping up in gardens and mulched areas in South Florida and Gulf Coast areas for years. And they smell horrendous. Believe it or not, they are mushrooms. These fungi are commonly called lattice stinkhorn mushrooms, but are not the kind of mushrooms you would want to eat. The lattice stinkhorn mushroom (Clathrus crispus). ...

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Palms and their extreme ways of adapting

Sunday, June 30, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald Summer in Miami is not for the faint of heart. If the humidity does not make you weary, the mosquitoes definitely will. South Florida natives are tough but through air conditioning, bug spray and sunscreen, we have adapted to living in a sometimes harsh sub-tropical climate. While we have changed our environment, palms adapt to stressful conditions by reacting to the environment and changing their growth habits. Palms live on every continent, except ...

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Choose an ornamental for more than just good looks

Sunday, June 23, 2013

As published in The Miami Herald Beauty alone isn't always enough. If you're looking to plant an ornamental, find one that offers plenty of benefits besides a striking appearance. Years back I received a gift of a wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) dug right out of the ground and placed in a small pot. It's one of my favorite native plants, but there also happened to be an incidental and very small hitchhiker in that pot coming along for the ride: Hamelia patens, aka firebush....

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