Native Plants

Poison Ivy : An Unlikely Ally

Poison Ivy might be the most hated plant around. Although it is a difficult plant to love, this plant has some surprising virtues, and plays an important role in native landscapes. The thing is, this plant is not really here for human beings. It’s here for everybody else. Read the full article to learn more about native plant species Toxicodendron radicans, and its beneficial role for wildlife, insects, and soil.

Violets : A Native Plant, A Natural Food Coloring

The Common Blue Violet is a beautiful, edible, native “weed” that can be found in most unsprayed lawns in the Eastern United States. In this article, I show you how to use violet flower petals to make beautiful culinary creations, including Violet Salt, Violet Sugar, Violet-Rimmed Mocktails, and Violet Sugar Cookies. These recipes carry the joy of spring forward into the whole year. It is my hope that by raising awareness of the benefits of this native plant we can encourage more people to ditch the chemicals. Let’s let lawns go wild: for the violets, for the people, and for the pollinators.

The American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) and Family

The American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) is an almost mythical native tree. Legend has it that prior to the 1900s, a squirrel could travel from Georgia to Maine just by hopping from chestnut branch to chestnut branch, without ever touching the ground. Now the American Chestnut Tree is blighted, but thanks to hybrid chestnut trees we can still enjoy chestnut harvests in our home orchards. Read the full article to learn more about the American Chestnut and for chestnut storage techniques and recipes!

The American Hazelnut (Corylus americana) : A Versatile Native Nut

The American Hazelnut (Corylus americana), also known as American Filbert, is a small tree or shrub in the Birch family. Although our native hazelnut is a different species than most hazelnuts available commercially, it is widely reported that the nuts produced by our native tree taste very similar to the more widely available European species. Read the full article to learn more about this amazing native food plant!

Native Plants of the Deep Woods

Many powerful native plants thrive in the deep shade of the forest canopy. These plants are just as important to the forest ecosystem as the large trees that so often receive all the glory. Yet most of the time, when land that was previously cleared is reforested, little to no attention is paid to the understory. The native plants that once carpeted the forest floor do not return once the new trees have grown tall enough to shade them unless someone comes back to replant them. Many of these woodland plants are slow-growing, delicate plants that require very specific habitats, protection, and patience. These plants require and deserve our respect. In this article, we explore fourteen candidates for the understory of your forest garden.

Pawpaw : The Indiana Banana

A pawpaw fruit may not look creamy and tropical from the outside. In fact, it looks more earthy, like a freshly dug potato. The intoxicatingly tropical scent beckons you to look closer, and when you do, you’ll find this fruit filled with rich and creamy mango-banana flavored custard. The experience is uniquely tropical for an Indiana native tree fruit. In fact, the pawpaw is the only member of its plant family to survive this far north. Its true name is Asimina triloba, of the family Annonaceae. Its relatives are all tropical, and include the Custard Apple, Soursop, and Chermioya. The pawpaw itself is native to most of the Eastern United States.

The American Persimmon

Diospyros virginiana, the American persimmon, is one of my personal favorite fruits. And, it’s a wonderful native tree! The American persimmon tree is native to a large part of the United States, including south and central Indiana. It is related to the commercially available Asian Persimmons (Diospyros kaki), and to several other trees commercially grown for fruit and timber. This is a low-maintenance tree that is easy to grow organically, and the fruit is an important food source for local wildlife (and for local fruit-loving people).

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