They're beautiful, but ...

There are lots of plants blooming in early May. They're beautiful, but some of them spell trouble for native plants and wildlife.

Bush honeysuckles, several species from Asia and Europe, are in full bloom along roads, in wooded areas with scented white or pink or yellow flowers. They crowd out native plants, produce berries that are eaten by wildlife, but are too low in fat to be useful for migrating birds.

Paulownia is from China. These trees have huge purple blooms resembling wisteria. It grows in open areas, several are in bloom along I-270. This tough plant handles adverse soil and water conditions, and crowds out native plants.

Autumn olive is from Asia. It's a small tree with a silvery cast and small yellow flowers. It was planted widely after being introduced to this country in 1830. It invades open areas, preventing natural forest regeneration.

Non-natives such as these do not host the insects birds use to feed their young, nor do they produce food for wildlife later in the year. If you do a search for butterfly host plants, these will not be on the lists. Many nurseries are stocking natives or cultivars of natives. Ask for those and make your property wildlife-friendly.

Beautiful and native

Native columbine -- reddish bloom, early hummingbird nectar source

Berry-producing plants -- viburnum, blueberries, hollies, mainly white blooms to be followed by wildlife-friendly berries later in the year

Solomon seal, woods phlox, native bleeding heart and aniseroot in wooded areas

Mountain laurel -- Pennsylvania's state flower

Rhododendron -- two of the 30-plus North American native rhododendron are catawba (Rosebay) and maximum (Great Laurel). There are also many deciduous azaleas (azaleas are rhododendron, too) with beautiful blooms. If nurseries get requests for native plants, they will carry more of them.

Gypsy moths, blights and webs

Gypsy moth are hatched and Frederick County is heavily infested again with nearly 20,000 acres attacked by them. Spraying for this destructive insect has begun.

The wet, cool spring weather has encouraged a number of tree diseases, especially diplodia tip blight of pine, fire blight of fruit trees, and sycamore anthracnose.

Those silky webs that you see around the roadside are Eastern tent caterpillar.

Nature Notes for 5/17/2009