Black cohosh has medicinal value

Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemorsa) plant is in bloom in Frederick County. Black cohosh is a perennial herbaceous plant that is found in oak forests, preferring shady conditions. (Photo from Mike Kay)

It will grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet and retain its bloom for nearly a month. The cohosh should be in bloom until the middle of July in our area.

Black cohosh roots are made into a very popular herbal supplement that is featured in many health-food stores. This herb is thought to have wide-ranging medicinal value, especially assisting with symptoms of menopause. It is also a very popular cultivated flower, featured in many flower beds.

Two types of grasses

There are hundreds of different species of native and cultivated grasses growing throughout Maryland, but they can all be separated into one of two groups: cool-season or warm-season grasses, depending on when they grow.

Cool-season grasses normally grow in the spring and fall when temperatures range between 32 and 70 degrees. Warm season grasses grow when it's hot outside, from June until September.

Cool-season grasses are the most common turf grass mixtures in lawns. Some of the more common varieties include orchard grass, fescue, bluegrass, timothy and perennial rye. Cool season grasses are relatively easy and quick to become established, have a shallow root system, and retain a green color as long as it remains cool and adequate moisture is available. Because these grasses stay green for longer periods of time they are used more extensively where erosion control is desirable.

Warm-season grasses have a deep root system, are very drought-resistant and stay green during the summer, turning brown when temperatures drop in the fall and winter. Warm-season grasses are much more drought-resistant than cool -season grasses; therefore, they are the dominant native grass species in the more arid parts of the country, such as the Great Plains region.

These grasses take longer to become established, oftentimes requiring two to three seasons to reach this point. Some of the more common warm-season grasses include switch grass, little and big bluestem, gamma grass, deer tongue, Indian grass and poverty grass.

Warm-season grasses are preferred when planting for wildlife because they grow taller, are clumpy and have a rigid stalk. These characteristics provide overhead cover, travel lanes and winter shelter for field-dependent animals.

Cool-season grasses, on the other hand, usually display dense growth patterns that do not facilitate easy movement between the stalks, are shorter in stature and mat down when snow-covered. As such, these grasses provide less quality cover for birds and small mammals that nest or live in open fields.

The deep rooting and firm nature of warm-season grasses also helps slow down overland water flow and remove many nutrients from water before they can enter a stream or river, making warm-season grasses a desirable addition for water quality considerations.

Nature Notes for 7/14/2013