Trees and Monarch Butterflies

By Jannie Vaught

There are two topics to cover this week, the effect of our drought on our trees and the Monarch Butterfly migration.

The health of our native trees is evident as we travel out of town, and the many lost trees in town and also native shrubs and plants is a witness to the long and hard summer we experienced, and it hasn’t let up yet! Now continuing into our Autumn season. In 2013 the trees that have gone through the extreme drought in 2011 were beginning to show the stress and excessive die off. They have been using up their resources simply to survive. You will notice tip die off, wounds on the tree trunks, brown and yellowing leaves, limb loss. We have had a few significant rains and a flood last year, but it doesn’t fix the trees long term reduction of nutrients to fully recover.

What can we do with our trees on our property and town streets and parks?

Structural pruning by a trained Arborist is first. Remove any dead or sagging limbs that are around your house and roof. Fire mitigation. If they are fruit trees prune the centers to look like a cup and shorten the longer limbs. Watch for disease issues and treat accordingly. Young small trees can have a harder time, when you plant a young tree know you are making a minimal 3 year commitment to water through extreme drought and heat, sometimes even constructing a shade cloth over them. If you need to replace a lost tree, go native. And when watering go low and slow on the drip line where the feeder roots are not next to the trunk. A small low flow sprinkler set up at the drip line, use a timer and move until you’ve circled the tree. Use a tuna fish can set under the spray and measure the water collected, your looking for a good inch of water in the can. Now you know how long to set the timer for the move. In spring you can feed fruit trees, again use a quality feed with natural ingredients, such as Seaweed and Kelp, And for a natural insect or wound treatment Neem Oil is a safe way, remember they are stressed and too much can harm and not heal. If you haven’t found Tree Folks at take a minute and see what their doing.

On to Monarch Butterflies. Growing Milkweed, Texas has 37 native species of Asclepias. However, most are not ideally suited for cultivation. There are some issues with Tropical Milkweed not native to Texas. It stays green all year and some have noted that it can interfere with migration as a food source and slow or stop the migration. If it is green by December cut it back. As the milkweed has lost habitat, the Monarchs have lost habitat for food and egg laying areas. They are a Milkweed Butterfly exclusive.

Saving seeds: Pull follicles as soon as they turn brown. Placing a rubber band around the follicle will keep it from opening to quickly, This gives you time to collect. Place in paper bag and allow to dry and open. When dry place a pebble in the bag and shake to dislodge the seeds from fluff, cut a corner off the bag and pour out the seeds. Propagation Methods: Direct Sowing seed in spring when the soil warms. Vernalization of seed. Temperature treatment to mimic winter temps. in order to break dormancy. Place seeds in moist (not wet) potting soil and refrigerate for at 40 degrees for 30 days, remove and sow when soil is 60 degrees. Root Division/ Rhizome Cutting: Cut rhizomes 3 to 4″ long and plant horizontally. Cut tap root to 3″ long and plant vertically. Stem Cuttings: Make stem cuttings about 4-5″ and remove all but the top leaves. Apply rooting hormone and place in cutting media, perlite/vermiculite mixture. Species :Tropical Milkweed. Antelope Horn, Swamp Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Common Milkweed, Texas Milkweed, Butterfly Weed (A. Tuberosa), Green Milkweed. When we grow Milkweed we hake habitat for the Monarchs and many other Butterflies.

Support the Monarchs and tending to trees!

Growing green with Jannie

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